Tuesday, April 11

Gentlemen!

Gentlemen cut a figure wherever they go, and it is easy to spy out the differences between those who wish to appear as gentlemen and those who deserve the title. On a particular day in February, there were several of them chasing pigeons in Piazza San Marco, in Venice, Italy.

One of the gentlemen was an undergraduate student from Kansas who came with his fiancee and her brother; they fell over laughing at the end of the square after having run through the pigeons and tourists, scattering both without prejudice to the left and right. Vendors with bags and hats and postcards were sitting on high stools next to their booths, and Japanese tourists were holding up Basilica San Marco with disposable cameras and forced perspective shots. The Germans were not amused.

Another of the gentlemen was waiting tables at Gran Caffe' Quadri, over-enthusiastically waving away the marauding fowl that claimed quarter at the tables of wrinkle-resistant, travel mix-and-match separated Americans. This gentleman wore a white jacket and a black tie, shiny shoes, and a very Italian and charming smile. Rolling clouds in variegated shades of onyx and alabaster were waiting until 3 p.m. to relieve the weeping sun of its high and lonely calling, and the ubiquitous and marauding pigeons were patrolling the square.

The last gentleman was chasing pigeons in a very subtle, English way--for he was English of the most intolerably charming kind; the kind that carry canes and wear white linen suits. Of course, he wasn't wearing linen because it was February and in any Venetian February it is observed by all that none wear linen. Knowing this, he wore something inconspicuous and dark-colored, and carried a very subdued cane; the very cane with which he advanced upon the pigeons in a very stately manner, unaware that the massive continuity of pigeons was not disturbed even by his dignified vanguard. The Englishman strode into the midst of the pigeons and they fluttered accordingly. He circumvented an Australian couple posing for a photograph and headed across the square to Caffe Florian.

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