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Messer Marco Polo

Chapter 3
And so Marco Polo went into the wine-shop to see and hear the strange foreign
people.
It was a dark, long room, very high, full of shadows between the flaming torches
on the wall. At one side of it was a great fire burning, for all it was the first night of
spring. At one end of it were the great barrels of liquor for the thirsty customers;
black beer for the English and the Irish, grand, hairy stuff with great foam to it,
and brown beer for the Germans; and there was white wine there for the French
people, and red wine for the Italians, asquebaugh for the Scots, and rum from the
sugar cane for such as had cold in their bones. There was all kind of drink there
in the brass-bound barrels -- drink would make you mad and drink would make
you merry, drink would put heart in a timid man and drink would make fighting
men peaceful as pigeons; and drink that would make you forget trouble -- all in
the brass-bound barrels at the end of the room. And pleasant, fat little men were
roaming around serving the varied liquor in little silver cups, and fine Venetian
glasses for the wine, and in broad-bellied drinking-pots that would hold more than
a quart.
And there was such a babel of language as was never heard but in one place
before.
Some of the drinkers were dicing and shouting as they won, and grumbling and
cursing when they lost. And some were singing. And some were dancing to the
Irish pipes. And there was a knot around the Indian conjurer.
But there was one man by himself at a table. And him being so silent, you'd think
he was shouting for attention. He was so restful against the great commotion,
you'd know he was a great man. You might turn your back on him, and you'd
know he was there, though he never even whispered nor put out a finger. A fat,
pleasant, close-coupled man he was, in loose, green clothes, with gold brocade
on them. And there were two big gold ear-rings in his lobes. He smoked a wee
pipe with the bowl half-ways up it. The pipe was silver and all stem, and the bowl
no bigger than a ten-cent piece. His shoulders were very powerful, so you'd know
he was a man you should be polite to, and out of that chest of his a great shout
could come. He might have been a working-man, only, when he fingered his
pipe, you'd see his hands were as well kept as a lord's lady's, fine as silk and
polished to a degree. And you'd think maybe a pleasant poet, which is a scarce
thing, until you looked at the brown face of him and big gold ear-rings. And then
you'd know what he was: he was a great sea-captain.
But where did he come from? You might know from the high cheek bones and
the eyes that were on a slant, as it were, that it was an Eastern man was in it. It
 
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