After the first day's experience we decided that it was vastly more pleasant to take our meal while going uphill at a foot-pace, than in the swing and jolt of a descent, so the route and the pace of the horses had to be regulated in order to give us a good hour's ascent about noon. Fortunately hills are plentiful in this part of Italy, and in the keen air we generally made an end of the vast store of provisions we laid in, and the generous fiascho was always empty a little too soon. Our drive came to an end at Fano, whither we had gone on account of a strange romantic desire of Sir John to look upon an angel which Browning had named in one of his poems. Ah! how vividly I can recall our pursuit of that picture. It was a wet, melancholy day. The people of Fano were careless of the fame of their angel, for no one knew the church which it graced. At last we came upon it by the merest chance, and Sir John led the procession up to the shrine, where we all stood for a time in positions of mock admiration. Sir John tried hard to keep up the imposition, but something, either his innate honesty or the chilling environment of disapproval of Guercino's handiwork, was too much for him. He did his best to admire, but the task was beyond his powers, and he raised no protest when some scoffer affirmed that, though Browning might be a great poet, he was a mighty poor judge of painting, when he gave in his beautiful poem immortality to this tawdry theatrical canvas. 'I think,' said Sir John, 'we had better go back to the hotel and order lunch. It would have been wiser to have ordered it before we left.' We were all so much touched by his penitence that no one had the heart to remind him how a proposition as to lunch had been made by our leading Philistine as soon as we arrived, a proposition waved aside by Sir John as inadmissible until the 'Guardian Angel' should have been seen and admired."
"I plead guilty," said Sir John. "I think this experience gave a death-blow to my career as an appreciator. Anyhow, I quite forget what the angel was like, and for reminiscences of Fano have to fall back upon the excellent colazione we ate in the externally unattractive, but internally admirable, Albergo del Moro."
Menu -- Lunch.
Astachi all'Italiana. Lobster all'Italiana Filetto di bue alla Napolitana. Fillet of beef with Neapolitan sauce. Risotto alla spagnuola. Savoury rice.
Menu -- Dinner.
Zuppa alla Romana. Soup with quenelles. Salmone alla Genovese. Salmon alla Genovese. Costolette in agro-dolce. Mutton cutlets with Roman sauce. Flano di spinacci. Spinach in a mould. Cappone con rive. Capon with rice. Croccante di mandorle. Almond sweet. Ostriche alla Napolitana. Oyster savoury.
The Ninth Day
"Since I have been associated with the production of a dinner, I have had my eyes opened as to the complicated nature of the task, and the numerous strings which have to be pulled in order to ensure success," said the Colonel; "but, seeing that a dinner-party with well-chosen sympathetic guests and distinguished dishes represents one of the consummate triumphs of civilisation, there is no reason to wonder. To achieve a triumph of any sort demands an effort."
"Effort," said Miss Macdonnell. "Yes, effort is the word I associate with so many middle-class English dinners. It is an effort to the hosts, who regard the whole business as a mere paying off of debts; and an effort to the guests, who, as they go to dress, recall grisly memories of former similar experiences. It often astonishes me that dinner-giving of this character should still flourish."
"The explanation is easy," said Van der Roet; "it flourishes because it gives a mark of distinction. It is a delicious moment for Mrs. Johnson when she is able to say to Mrs. Thompson, 'My dear, I am quite worn-out; we dined out every day last week, and have four more dinners in the next five days.' These good people show their British grit by the persistency with which they go on with their penitential hospitality, and their lack of ideas in never attempting to modify it so as to make it a pleasure instead of a disagreeable duty."
"It won't do to generalise too widely, Van der Roet," said Sir John.