13. Meeting William Henry Little

We then went down to the inn and ordered dinner. Just as we were seated at the table, the door opened and a small figure with legs slightly bent outwards appeared and approached our table. The face was black as ebony, The head covered with frizzy hair; and when the black bowed to us with a sweet smile, his wide-slit mouth and lower lip revealed a row of dazzling white teeth. Besides, the newcomer seemed to be of a jolly nature; He sat down straight across from me, then motioned to the waiter and, pointing to his wide-open mouth with the index finger of his right hand, indicated in a way that was easy to understand that he wanted to eat. He also asked for a mezza bottiglia (half a bottle), but drank it before his food arrived. I observed him closely in everything and was soon convinced that he was an extremely interesting person whom I resolved to get to know better.

When the last drop of the mezza bottiglia had disappeared from his pretty mouth, I poured him some of our wine, whereupon he, without making any objection, slipped a clear <<Thank you>> with the sweetest smile. “Ah, you speak English,” I said to the curly haired boy; “It is very pleasant for me to talk to you and to be able to make your acquaintance.” The one thus addressed showed his thirty-two dazzling whites with a smug, benevolent smile, and then likewise expressed his delight at having found someone to converse with. He was traveling with his master, came from New York, where he was a citizen and father of three children, and initially wanted to go to Paris <<which he was very curious to see>> with his master. We talked for a long time about Uncle Tom, about New York and his trip, until suddenly I heard my traveling companion, whom I had completely forgotten, snoring in a most decided way. The good man had, as one usually finds in corpulent persons, the dreadful habit, as soon as he closed his eyes, of letting out a snoring resembling the tree-rending hurricane in a dark oak forest. Yes, if he fell asleep deeply, that was not enough for him; then he would make sounds like a heavy boxcar going over a stick bridge or a new stone highway; Then he would start barking like a dog being beaten, or he would scream like a tomcat in love, not remembering the locomotive-like whistle with which each note was interspersed. When my American friend heard this touching symphony, his nose, eyes and mouth opened wide with fear and terror. But when I said to him that this was my traveling companion who had fallen asleep, he almost felt astonished and admiringly like Munchausen’s teacher, who was so astonished by the learning of the little pupil that he opened his mouth up to his ears, whereupon then these got into his windpipe and caused the poor schoolmaster to suffocate miserably. When we left, the black man wrote his name in my diary; His name was William Henry Little.