Signor Formica, by E. T. A. Hoffmann


Of the new mishap which befalls Signor Pasquale Capussi. Antonio Scacciati successfully carries out his plan in Nicolo Musso’s theatre, and flees to Florence.

Signor Pasquale was only too well aware who had been at the bottom of the mischief that had happened to him and the poor Pyramid Doctor near the Porta del Popolo, and so it may be imagined how enraged he was against Antonio, and against Salvator Rosa, whom he rightly judged to be the ringleader in it all. He was untiring in his efforts to comfort poor Marianna, who was quite ill from fear — so she said; but in reality she was mortified that the scoundrel Michele with his gendarmes had come up, and torn her from her Antonio’s arms. Meanwhile Margaret was very active in bringing her tidings of her lover; and she based all her hopes upon the enterprising mind of Salvator. With impatience she waited from day to day for something fresh to happen, and by a thousand petty tormenting ways let the old gentleman feel the effects of this impatience; but though she thus tamed his amorous folly and made him humble enough, she failed to reach the evil spirit of love that haunted his heart. After she had made him experience to the full all the tricksy humours of the most wayward girl, and then suffered him just once to press his withered lips upon her tiny hand, he would swear in his excessive delight that he would never cease fervently kissing the Pope’s toe until he had obtained dispensation to wed his niece, the paragon of beauty and amiability. Marianna was particularly careful not to interrupt him in these outbreaks of passion, for by encouraging these gleams of hope in the old man’s breast she fanned the flame of hope in her own, for the more he could be lulled into the belief that he held her fast in the indissoluble chains of love, the more easy it would be for her to escape him.

Some time passed, when one day at noon Michele came stamping upstairs, and, after he had had to knock a good many times to induce Signor Pasquale to open the door, announced with considerable prolixity that there was a gentleman below who urgently requested to see Signor Pasquale Capuzzi, who he knew lived there.

“By all the blessed saints of Heaven!” cried the old gentleman, exasperated; “doesn’t the knave know that on no account do I receive strangers in my own house?”

But the gentleman was of very respectable appearance, reported Michele, rather oldish, talked well, and called himself Nicolo Musso.

“Nicolo Musso,” murmured Capuzzi reflectively; “Nicolo Musso, who owns the theatre beyond the Porta del Popolo; what can he want with me?” Whereupon, carefully locking and bolting the door, he went downstairs with Michele, in order to converse with Nicolo in the street before the house.

“My dear Signor Pasquale,” began Nicolo, approaching to meet him, and bowing with polished ease, “that you deign to honour me with your acquaintance affords me great pleasure. You lay me under a very great obligation. Since the Romans saw you in my theatre — you, a man of the most approved taste, of the soundest knowledge, and a master in art, not only has my fame increased, but my receipts have doubled. I am therefore all the more deeply pained to learn that certain wicked wanton boys made a murderous attack upon you and your friends as you were returning from my theatre at night. But I pray you, Signor Pasquale, by all the saints, don’t cherish any grudge against me or my theatre on account of this outrage, which shall be severely punished. Don’t deprive me of the honour of your company at my performances!”

“My dear Signor Nicolo,” replied the old man, simpering, “be assured that I never enjoyed myself more than I did when I visited your theatre. Your Formica and your Agli — why, they are actors who cannot be matched anywhere. But the fright almost killed my friend Signor Splendiano Accoramboni, nay, it almost proved the death of me — no, it was too great; and though it has not made me averse from your theatre, it certainly has from the road there. If you will put up your theatre in the Piazza del Popolo, or in the Via Babuina, or in the Via Ripetta, I certainly will not fail to visit you a single evening; but there’s no power on earth shall ever get me outside the Porta del Popolo at night-time again.”

Nicolo sighed deeply, as if greatly troubled. “That is very hard upon me,” said he then, “harder perhaps than you will believe, Signor Pasquale. For unfortunately — I had based all my hopes upon you. I came to solicit your assistance.”

“My assistance?” asked the old gentleman in astonishment “My assistance, Signor Nicolo? In what way could it profit you?”

“My dear Signor Pasquale,” replied Nicolo, drawing his handkerchief across his eyes, as if brushing away the trickling tears, “my most excellent Signor Pasquale, you will remember that my actors are in the habit of interspersing songs through their performances. This practice I was thinking of extending imperceptibly more and more, then to get together an orchestra, and, in a word, at last, eluding all prohibitions to the contrary, to establish an opera-house. You, Signor Capuzzi, are the first composer in all Italy; and we can attribute it to nothing but the inconceivable frivolity of the Romans and the malicious envy of your rivals that we hear anything else but your pieces exclusively at all the theatres. Signor Pasquale, I came to request you on my bended knees to allow me to put your immortal works, as far as circumstances will admit, on my humble stage.”

“My dear Signor Nicolo,” said the old gentleman, his face all sunshine, “what are we about to be talking here in the public street? Pray deign to have the goodness to climb up one or two rather steep flights of stairs. Come along with me up to my poor dwelling.”

Almost before Nicolo got into the room, the old gentleman brought forward a great pile of dusty music manuscript, opened it, and, taking his guitar in his hands, began to deliver himself of a series of frightful high-pitched screams which he denominated singing.

Nicolo behaved like one in raptures. He sighed; he uttered extravagant expressions of approval; he exclaimed at intervals, “Bravo! Bravissimo! Benedettissimo Capuzzi! ” until at last he threw himself at the old man’s feet as if utterly beside himself with ecstatic delight, and grasped his knees. But he nipped them so hard that the old gentleman jumped off his seat, calling out with pain, and saying to Nicolo, “By the saints! Let me go, Signor Nicolo; you’ll kill me.”

“Nay,” replied Nicolo, “nay, Signor Pasquale, I will not rise until you have promised that Formica may sing in my theatre the day after tomorrow the divine arias which you have just executed.”

“You are a man of taste,” groaned Pasquale — “a man of deep insight. To whom could I better intrust my compositions than to you? You shall take all my arias with you. Only let me go. But, good God! I shall not hear them — my divine masterpieces! Oh! let me go, Signor Nicolo.”

“No,” cried Nicolo, still on his knees, and tightly pressing the old gentleman’s thin spindle-shanks together, “no, Signor Pasquale, I will not let you go until you give me your word that you will be present in my theatre the night after tomorrow. You need not fear any new attack! Why, don’t you think that the Romans, once they have heard your work, will bring you home in triumph by the light of hundreds of torches? But in case that does not happen, I myself and my faithful comrades will take our arms and accompany you home ourselves.”

“You yourself will accompany me home, with your comrades?” asked Pasquale; “and how many may that be?”

“Eight or ten persons will be at your command, Signor Pasquale. Do yield to my intercession and resolve to come.”

“Formica has a fine voice,” lisped Pasquale. “How finely he will execute my arias.”

“Do come, oh! do come!” exhorted Nicolo again, giving the old gentleman’s knees an extra grip.

“You will pledge yourself that I shall reach my own house without being molested?” asked the old gentleman.

“I pledge my honour and my life,” was Nicolo’s reply, as he gave the knees a still sharper grip.

“Agreed!” cried the old gentleman; “I will be in your theatre the day after tomorrow.”

Then Nicolo leapt to his feet and pressed Pasquale in so close an embrace that he gasped and panted quite out of breath.

At this moment Marianna entered the room. Signor Pasquale tried to frighten her away again by the look of resentment which he hurled at her; she, however, took not the slightest notice of it, but going straight up to Musso, addressed him as if in anger — “It is in vain for you, Signor Nicolo, to attempt to entice my dear uncle to go to your theatre. You are forgetting that the infamous trick lately played by some reprobate seducers, who were lying in wait for me, almost cost the life of my dearly beloved uncle, and of his worthy friend Splendiano; nay, that it almost cost my life too. Never will I give my consent to my uncle’s again exposing himself to such danger. Desist from your entreaties, Nicolo. And you, my dearest uncle, you will stay quietly at home, will you not, and not venture out beyond the Porta del Popolo again at night-time, which is a friend to nobody?”

Signor Pasquale was thunderstruck. He opened his eyes wide and stared at his niece. Then he rewarded her with the sweetest endearments, and set forth at considerable length how that Signor Nicolo had pledged himself so to arrange matters as to avoid every danger on the return home.

“None the less,” said Marianna, “I stick to my word, and beg you most earnestly, my dearest uncle, not to go to the theatre outside the Porta del Popolo. I ask your pardon, Signor Nicolo, for speaking out frankly in your presence the dark suspicion that lurks in my mind. You are, I know, acquainted with Salvator Rosa and also with Antonio Scacciati. What if you are acting in concert with our enemies? What if you are only trying with evil intent to entice my dear uncle into your theatre in order that they may the more safely carry out some fresh villainous scheme, for I know that my uncle will not go without me?”

“What a suspicion!” cried Nicolo, quite alarmed. “What a terrible suspicion, Signora! Have you such a bad opinion of me? Have I such an ill reputation that you conceive I could be guilty of this the basest treachery? But if you think so unfavourably of me, if you mistrust the assistance I have promised you, why then let Michele, who I know rescued you out of the hands of the robbers — let Michele accompany you, and let him take a large body of gendarmes with him, who can wait for you outside the theatre, for you cannot of course expect me to fill my auditorium with police.”

Marianna fixed her eyes steadily upon Nicolo’s, and then said, earnestly and gravely, “What do you say? That Michele and gendarmes shall accompany us? Now I see plainly, Signor Nicolo, that you mean honestly by us, and that my nasty suspicion is unfounded. Pray forgive me my thoughtless words. And yet I cannot banish my nervousness and anxiety about my dear uncle; I must still beg him not to take this dangerous step.”

Signor Pasquale had listened to all this conversation with such curious looks as plainly served to indicate the nature of the struggle that was going on within him. But now he could no longer contain himself; he threw himself on his knees before his beautiful niece, seized her hands, kissed them, bathed them with the tears which ran down his cheeks, exclaiming as if beside himself, “My adored, my angelic Marianna! Fierce and devouring are the flames of the passion which burns at my heart Oh! this nervousness, this anxiety — it is indeed the sweetest confession that you love me.” And then he besought her not to give way to fear, but to go and listen in the theatre to the finest arias which the most divine of composers had ever written.

Nicolo too abated not in his entreaties, plainly showing his disappointment, until Marianna permitted her scruples to be overcome; and she promised to lay all fear aside and accompany the best and dearest of uncles to the theatre outside the Porta del Popolo. Signor Pasquale was in ectasies, was in the seventh heaven of delight. He was convinced that Marianna loved him; and he now might hope to hear his music on the stage, and win the laurel wreath which had so long been the vain object of his desires; he was on the point of seeing his dearest dreams fulfilled. Now he would let his light shine in perfect glory before his true and faithful friends, for he never thought for a moment but that Signor Splendiano and little Pitichinaccio would go with him as on the first occasion.

The night that Signor Splendiano had slept in his wig near the Pyramid of Cestius he had had, besides the spectres who ran away with him, all sorts of sinister apparitions to visit him. The whole cemetery was alive, and hundreds of corpses had stretched out their skeleton arms towards him, moaning and wailing that even in their graves they could not get over the torture caused by his essences and electuaries. Accordingly the Pyramid Doctor, although he could not contradict Signor Pasquale that it was only a wild freakish trick played upon him by a parcel of godless boys, grew melancholy; and, albeit not ordinarily superstitiously inclined, he yet now saw spectres everywhere, and was tormented by forebodings and bad dreams.

As for Pitichinaccio, he could not be convinced that they were not real devils come straight from the flames of hell who had fallen upon Signor Pasquale and upon himself, and the bare mention of that dreadful night was enough to make him scream. All the asseverations of Signor Pasquale that there had been nobody behind the masks but Antonio Scacciati and Salvator Rosa were of none effect, for Pitichinaccio wept and swore that in spite of his terror and apprehension he had clearly recognised both the voice and the behaviour of the devil Fanfarelli in the one who had pinched his belly black and blue.

It may therefore be imagined what an almost endless amount of trouble it cost Signor Pasquale to persuade the two to go with him once more to Nicolo Musso’s theatre. Splendiano was the first to make the resolve to go — after he had procured from a monk of St. Bernard’s order a small consecrated bag of musk, the perfume of which neither dead man nor devil could endure; with this he intended to arm himself against all assaults. Pitichinaccio could not resist the temptation of a promised box of candied grapes, but Signor Pasquale had besides expressly to give his consent that he might wear his new abbot’s coat, instead of his petticoats, which he affirmed had proved an immediate source of attraction to the devil.

What Salvator feared seemed therefore as if it would really take place; and yet his plan depended entirely, he continued to repeat, upon Signor Pasquale’s being in Nicolo’s theatre alone with Marianna, without his faithful satellites. Both Antonio and Salvator greatly racked their brains how they should prevent Splendiano and Pitichinaccio from going along with Signor Pasquale. Every scheme that occurred to them for the accomplishment of this desideratum had to be given up owing to want of time, for the principal plan in Nicolo’s theatre had to be carried out on the evening of the following day.

But Providence, which often employs the most unlikely instruments for the chastisement of fools, interposed on behalf of the distressed lovers, and put it into Michele’s head to practise some of his blundering, thus accomplishing what Salvator and Antonio’s craft was unable to accomplish.

That same night there was heard in the Via Ripetta before Signor Pasquale’s house such a chorus of fearful screams and of cursing and raving and abuse that all the neighbours were startled up out of their sleep, and a body of gendarmes, who had been pursuing a murderer as far as the Spanish Square, hastened up with torches, supposing that some fresh deed of violence was being committed. But when they, and a crowd of other people whom the noise had attracted, came upon the anticipated scene of murder, they found poor little Pitichinaccio lying as if dead on the ground, whilst Michele was thrashing the Pyramid Doctor with a formidable bludgeon. And they saw the Doctor reel to the floor just at the moment when Signor Pasquale painfully scrambled to his feet, drew his rapier, and furiously attacked Michele. Round about were lying pieces of broken guitars. Had not several people grasped the old man’s arm he would assuredly have run Michele right through the heart. The exbravo, on now becoming aware by the light of the torches whom he had been molesting, stood as if petrified, his eyes almost starting out of his heady “a painted desperado, on the balance between will and power,” as it is said somewhere. Then, uttering a fearful scream, he tore his hair and begged for pardon and mercy. Neither the Pyramid Doctor nor Pitichinaccio was seriously injured, but they had been so soundly cudgelled that they could neither move nor stir, and had to be carried home.

Signor Pasquale had himself brought this mishap upon his own shoulders.

We know that Salvator and Antonio complimented Marianna with the finest serenade that could be heard; but I have forgotten to say that to the old gentleman’s very exceeding indignation they repeated it during several successive nights. At length Signor Pasquale whose rage was kept in check by his neighbours, was foolish enough to have recourse to the authorities of the city, urging them to forbid the two painters to sing in the Via Ripetta. The authorities, however, replied that it would be a thing unheard of in Rome to prevent anybody from singing and playing the guitar where he pleased, and it was irrational to ask such a thing. So Signor Pasquale determined to put an end to the nuisance himself, and promised Michele a large reward if he seized the first opportunity to fall upon the singers and give them a good sound drubbing. Michele at once procured a stout bludgeon, and lay in wait every night behind the door. But it happened that Salvator and Antonio judged it prudent to omit their serenading in the Via Ripetta for some nights preceding the carrying into execution of their plan, so as not to remind the old gentleman of his adversaries. Marianna remarked quite innocently that though she hated Antonio and Salvator, yet she liked their singing, for nothing was so nice as to hear music floating upwards in the night air.

This Signor Pasquale made a mental note of, and as the essence of gallantry purposed to surprise his love with a serenade on his part, which he had himself composed and carefully practised up with his faithful friends. On the very night preceding that in which he was hoping to celebrate his greatest triumph in Nicolo Musso’s theatre, he stealthily slipped out of the house and went and fetched his associates, with whom he had previously arranged matters. But no sooner had they sounded the first few notes on their guitars than Michele, whom Signor Pasquale had thoughtlessly forgotten to apprise of his design, burst forth from behind the door, highly delighted at finding that the opportunity which was to bring him in the promised reward had at last come, and began to cudgel the musicians most unmercifully, with the results of which we are already acquainted. Of course there was no further mention made of either Splendiano or Pitichinaccio’s accompanying Signor Pasquale to Nicolo’s theatre, for they were both confined to their bed beplastered all over. Signor Pasquale, however, was unable to stay away, although his back and shoulders were smarting not a little from the drubbing he had himself received; every note in his arias was a cord which drew him thither with irresistible power.

“Well now,” said Salvator to Antonio, “since the obstacle which we took to be insurmountable has been removed out of our way of itself, it all depends now entirely upon your address not to let the favourable moment slip for carrying off your Marianna from Nicolo’s theatre. But I needn’t talk, you’ll not fail; I will greet you now as the betrothed of Capuzzi’s lovely niece, who in a few days will be your wife. I wish you happiness, Antonio, and yet I feel a shiver run through me when I think upon your marriage.”

“What do you mean, Salvator?” asked Antonio, utterly astounded.

“Call it a crotchet, call it a foolish fancy, or what you will, Antonio,” rejoined Salvator — “at any rate I love the fair sex; but there is not one, not even she on whom I foolishly dote, for whom I would gladly die, but what excites in my heart, so soon as I think of a union with her such as marriage is, a suspicion that makes me tremble with a most unpleasant feeling of awe. That which is inscrutable in the nature of woman mocks all the weapons of man. She whom we believe to have surrendered herself to us entirely, heart and soul, whom we believe to have unfolded all her character to us, is the first to deceive us, and along with the sweetest of her kisses we imbibe the most pernicious of poisons.”

“And my Marianna?” asked Antonio, amazed.

“Pardon me, Antonio,” continued Salvator, “even your Marianna, who is loveliness and grace personified, has given me a fresh proof of how dangerous the mysterious nature of woman is to us. Just call to mind what was the behavior of that innocent, inexperienced child when we carried her uncle home, how at a single glance from me she divined everything — everything, I tell you, and, as you yourself admitted, proceeded to play her part with the utmost sagacity. But that is not to be at all compared with what took place on the occasion of Musso’s visit to the old gentleman. The most practised address, the most impenetrable cunning — in short, all the inventive arts of the most experienced woman of the world could not have done more than little Marianna did, in order to deceive the old gentleman with perfect success. She could not have acted in any better way to prepare the road for us for any kind of enterprise. Our feud with the cranky old fool — any sort of cunning scheme seems justified, but — come, my dear Antonio, never mind my fanciful crotchets, but be happy with your Marianna; as happy as you can.”

If a monk had taken his place beside Signor Pasquale when he set out along with his niece to go to Nicolo Musso’s theatre, everybody would have thought that the strange pair were being led to execution. First went valiant Michele, repulsive in appearance, and armed to the teeth; then came Signor Pasquale and Marianna, followed by fully twenty gendarmes.

Nicolo received the old gentleman and his lady with every mark of respect at the entrance to the theatre, and conducted them to the seats which had been reserved for them, immediately in front of the stage. Signor Pasquale felt highly flattered by this mark of honour, and gazed about him with proud and sparkling eyes, whilst his pleasure, his joy, was greatly enhanced to find that all the seats near and behind Marianna were occupied by women alone. A couple of violins and a bass-fiddle were being tuned behind the curtains of the stage; the old gentleman’s heart beat with expectation; and when all at once the orchestra struck up the ritornello of his work, he felt an electric thrill tingling in every nerve.

Formica came forward in the character of Pasquarello, and sang — sang in Capuzzi’s own voice, and with all his characteristic gestures, the most hopeless aria that ever was heard. The theatre shook with the loud and boisterous laughter of the audience. They shouted; they screamed wildly, “O Pasquale Capuzzi! Our most illustrious composer and artist! Bravo! Bravissimo!” The old gentleman, not perceiving the ridicule and irony of the laughter, was in raptures of delight. The aria came to an end, and the people cried “Sh! sh!” for Doctor Gratiano, played on this occasion by Nicolo Musso himself, appeared on the stage, holding his hands over his ears and shouting to Pasquarello for goodness’ sake to stop his ridiculous screeching.

Then the Doctor asked Pasquarello how long he had taken to the confounded habit of singing, and where he had got that execrable piece from.

Whereupon Pasquarello replied, that he didn’t know what the Doctor would have; he was like the Romans, and had no taste for real music, since he failed to recognise the most talented of musicians. The aria had been written by the greatest of living composers, in whose service he had the good fortune to be, receiving instruction in both music and singing from the master himself.

Gratiano then began guessing, and mentioned the names of a great number of well-known composers and musicians, but at every distinguished name Pasquarello only shook his head contemptuously.

At length Pasquarello said that the Doctor was only exposing gross ignorance, since he did not know the name of the greatest composer of the time. It was no other than Signor Pasquale Capuzzi, who had done him the honour of taking him into his service. Could he not see that he was the friend and servant of Signor Pasquale?

Then the Doctor broke out into a loud long roar of laughter, and cried. What! Had he (Pasquarello) after running away from him (the Doctor), with whom, besides getting his wages and food, he had had his palm tickled with many a copper, had he gone and taken service with the biggest and most inveterate old coxcomb who ever stuffed himself with macaroni, to the patched Carnival fool who strutted about like a satisfied old hen after a shower of rain, to the snarling skinflint, the love-sick old poltroon, who infected the air of the Via Ripetta with the disgusting bleating which he called singing? &c., &c.

To which Pasquarello, quite incensed, made reply that it was nothing but envy which spoke in the Doctor’s words; he (Pasquarello) was of course speaking with his heart in his mouth (parla col cuore in mano ); the Doctor was not at all the man to pass an opinion upon Signor Pasquale Capuzzi di Senigaglia; he was speaking with his heart in his mouth. The Doctor himself had a strong tang of all that he blamed in the excellent Signor Pasquale; but he was speaking with his heart in his mouth; he (Pasquarello) had himself often heard fully six hundred people at once laugh most heartily at Doctor Gratiano, and so forth. Then Pasquarello spoke a long panegyric upon his new master, Signor Pasquale, attributing to him all the virtues under the sun; and he concluded with a description of his character, which he portrayed as being the very essence of amiability and grace.

“Heaven bless you, Formica!” lisped Signor Capuzzi to himself; “Heaven bless you, Formica! I perceive you have designed to make my triumph perfect, since you are upbraiding the Romans for all their envious and ungrateful persecution of me, and are letting them know who I really am.”

“Ha! here comes my master himself,” cried Pasquarello at this moment, and there entered on the stage — Signor Pasquale Capuzzi himself, just as he breathed and walked, his very clothes, face, gestures, gait, postures, in fact so perfectly like Signor Capuzzi in the auditorium, that the latter, quite aghast, let go Marianna’s hand, which hitherto he had held fast in his own, and tapped himself, his nose, his wig, in order to discover whether he was not dreaming, or seeing double, whether he was really sitting in Nicolo Musso’s theatre and dare credit the miracle.

Capuzzi on the stage embraced Doctor Gratiano with great kindness, and asked how he was. The Doctor replied that he had a good appetite, and slept soundly, at his service (per servirlo ); and as for his purse — well, it was suffering from a galloping consumption. Only yesterday he had spent his last ducat for a pair of rosemary-coloured stockings for his sweetheart, and was just going to walk round to one or two bankers to see if he could borrow thirty ducats”——

“But how can you pass over your best friends?” said Capuzzi. “Here, my dear sir, here are fifty ducats, come take them.”

“Pasquale, what are you about?” said the real Capuzzi in an undertone.

Dr. Gratiano began to talk about a bond and about interest; but Signor Capuzzi declared that he could not think of asking for either from such a friend as the Doctor was.

“Pasquale, have you gone out of your senses?” exclaimed the real Capuzzi a little louder.

After many grateful embraces Doctor Gratiano took his leave. Now Pasquarello drew near with a good many bows, and extolled Signor Capuzzi to the skies, adding, however, that his purse was suffering from the same complaint as Gratiano’s, and he begged for some of the same excellent medicine that had cured his. Capuzzi on the stage laughed, and said he was pleased to find that Pasquarello knew how to turn his good humour to advantage, and threw him several glittering ducats.

“Pasquale, you must be mad, possessed of the devil,” cried the real Capuzzi aloud. He was bidden be still.

Pasquarello went still further in his eulogy of Capuzzi, and came at last to speak, of the aria which he (Capuzzi) had composed, and with which he (Pasquarello) hoped to enchant everybody. The fictitious Capuzzi clapped Pasquarello heartily on the back, and went on to say that he might venture to tell him (Pasquarello), his faithful servant, in confidence, that in reality he knew nothing whatever of the science of music, and in respect to the aria of which he had just spoken, as well as all pieces that he had ever composed, why, he had stolen them out of Frescobaldi’s canzonas and Carissimi’s motets.

“I tell you you’re lying in your throat, you knave,” shouted the Capuzzi off the stage, rising from his seat. Again he was bidden keep still, and the woman who sat next him drew him down on the bench.

“It’s now time to think about other and more important matters,” continued Capuzzi on the stage. He was going to give a grand banquet the next day, and Pasquarello must look alive and have everything that was necessary prepared. Then he produced and read over a list of all the rarest and most expensive dishes, making Pasquarello tell him how much each would cost, and at the same time giving him the money for them.

“Pasquale! You’re insane! You’ve gone mad! You good-for-nothing scamp! You spendthrift!” shouted the real Capuzzi at intervals, growing more and more enraged the higher the cost of this the most nonsensical of dinners rose.

At length, when the list was finished, Pasquarello asked what had induced him to give such a splendid banquet.

“To-morrow will be the happiest and most joyous day of my life,” replied the fictitious Capuzzi. “For know, my good Pasquarello, that I am going to celebrate tomorrow the auspicious marriage of my dear niece Marianna. I am going to give her hand to that brave young fellow, the best of all artists, Scacciati.”

Hardly had the words fallen from his lips when the real Capuzzi leapt to his feet, utterly beside himself, quite out of his mind, his face all aflame with the most fiendish rage, and doubling his fists and shaking them at his counterpart on the stage, he yelled at the top of his voice, “No, you won’t, no, you won’t, you rascal! you scoundrel, you — Pasquale! Do you mean to cheat yourself out of your Marianna, you hound? Are you going to throw her in the arms of that scoundrel — sweet Marianna, thy life, thy hope, thy all? Ah! look to it! Look to it! you infatuated fool. Just remember what sort of a reception you will meet with from yourself. You shall beat yourself black and blue with your own hands, so that you will have no relish to think about banquets and weddings!”

But the Capuzzi on the stage doubled his fists like the Capuzzi below, and shouted in exactly the same furious way, and in the same high-pitched voice, “May all the spirits of hell sit at your heart, you abominable nonsensical Pasquale, you atrocious skinflint — you love-sick old fool — you gaudy tricked-out ass with the cap and bells dangling about your ears. Take care lest I snuff out the candle of your life, and so at length put an end to the infamous tricks which you try to foist upon the good, honest, modest Pasquale Capuzzi.”

Amidst the most fearful cursing and swearing of the real Capuzzi, the one on the stage dished up one fine anecdote after the other about him.

“You’d better attempt,” shouted at last the fictitious Capuzzi, “you only dare, Pasquale, you amorous old ape, to interfere with the happiness of these two young people, whom Heaven has destined for each other.”

At this moment there appeared at the back of the stage Antonio Scacciati and Marianna locked in each other’s arms. Albeit the old gentleman was at other times somewhat feeble on his legs, yet now fury gave him strength and agility. With a single bound he was on the stage, had drawn his sword, and was charging upon the pretended Antonio. He found, however, that he was held fast behind. An officer of the Papal guard had stopped him, and said in a serious voice, “Recollect where you are, Signor Pasquale; you are in Nicolo Musso’s theatre. Without intending it, you have today played a most ridiculous rôle . You will not find either Antonio or Marianna here.” The two persons whom Capuzzi had taken for his niece and her lover now drew near, along with the rest of the actors. The faces were all completely strange to him. His rapier escaped from his trembling hand; he took a deep breath as if awakening out of a bad dream; he grasped his brow with both hands; he opened his eyes wide. The presentiment of what had happened suddenly struck him, and he shouted, “Marianna!” in such a stentorian voice that the walls rang again.

But she was beyond reach of his shouts. Antonio had taken advantage of the opportunity whilst Pasquale, oblivious of all about him and even of himself, was quarrelling with his double, to make his way to Marianna, and back with her through the audience, and out at a side door, where a carriage stood ready waiting; and away they went as fast as their horses could gallop towards Florence.

“Marianna!” screamed the old man again, “Marianna! she is gone. She has fled. That knave Antonio has stolen her from me. Away! after them! Have pity on me, good people, and take torches and help me to look for my little darling. Oh! you serpent!”

And he tried to make for the door. But the officer held him fast, saying, “Do you mean that pretty young lady who sat beside you? I believe I saw her slip out with a young man — I think Antonio Scacciati — a long time ago, when you began your idle quarrel with one of the actors who wore a mask like your face. You needn’t make a trouble of it; every inquiry shall at once be set on foot, and Marianna shall be brought back to you as soon as she is found. But as for yourself, Signor Pasquale, your behaviour here and your murderous attempt upon the life of that actor compel me to arrest you.”

Signor Pasquale, his face as pale as death, incapable of uttering a single word or even a sound, was led away by the very same gendarmes who were to have protected him against masked devils and spectres. Thus it came to pass that on the selfsame night on which he had hoped to celebrate his triumph, he was plunged into the midst of trouble and of all the frantic despondency which amorous old fools feel when they are deceived.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:55