At about 5 o’clock we arrived at the top of the hill which overlooks Olmeto
and Sullacaro. Here me stopped for a moment.
“Where does your signoria intend to take lodgings?” asked my guide.
I cast my eyes upon a village lying at the foot of a hill, and which seemed
almost deserted; a few females only appeared in the streets, walking very fast,
and looking carefully around.
In consequence of the hospitable custom of which I have spoken before, I had
but to make choice of one among the hundred or hundred and twenty houses which
composed the village. I sought to discover the dwelling which seemed to offer
the best chance for comfort. My eyes rested upon a square, stone mansion, built
like a fortress, with machicoulis, a sort of iron grating, before the windows.
This was the first time I had seen these domestic fortifications, but I must
also say that the province of Sartene is the classical ground of the vendetta.
“Ha! very well,” said the guide, following with his eyes the direction of my
hand, “we will go to Madame Savilia de Franchi’s. Very wellvery well, indeed;
your signoria has made a good choice, and I see that you do not lack
Let me not forget to mention that in the eighty-sixth department of France,
the Italian language is constantly spoken.
“But,” said I, “is there not some impropriety in going thus to ask
hospitality of a lady, for, if I understand you right, this house belongs to a
“Without any doubt,” answered he, quite astonished, “but what impropriety can
your signoria suppose there could be in so doing?”
“If this lady is young,” replied I, from a feeling of propriety, or perhaps,
excuse me, of Parisian self-esteem, “cannot my presence at night under her roof
expose her to observation?”
“Expose her?” answered the guide, evidently trying to give some meaning to
this expression, which I had Italianized with the usual importance which
characterizes us Frenchmen, when we conclude to run the risk of speaking a
“Ah! certainly,” exclaimed I, beginning to feel a little impatient; “this
lady is a widow, is she not?”
“Well, will she be disposed to receive a young gentleman at her house?”
In 1851 I was thirty-six years and a half old, and I took great pleasure in
giving myself the title of young gentleman.
“If she will receive a young gentleman?” repeated the guide; “well, what
difference can it make to her, if you are young or old?”
I saw that I should get nothing out of him by this mode of questioning.
“How old is Madame Savilia?” said I.
“Ah!” exclaimed I again, always pursuing my own ideas; “that is very well
indeed. She has children, no doubt?”
“Two sonshaughty young gentlemen.”
“Shall I see them?”
“You’ll see one of themthe one who lives with her.”
“And the other?”
“The other lives at Paris.”
“What is their age?”
“Both of them?”
“Yes, they are twins.”
“And what is their profession?”
“The one who is at Paris will be a lawyer.”
“And the other?”
“The other will be a Corsican.”
“Ah, ha!” exclaimed I, finding this answer the more characteristic as it was
made in the most natural tone. “Well, then, let us go to the house of Madame
Savilia de Franchi.”
We then continued our journey.
In ten minutes we entered the village. I then observed a circumstance, which
I had not been able to discover at a distance from the top of the hill. Every
house was fortified like that of Madame Savilia, not exactly with machicoulis,
the poverty of their proprietors no doubt not permitting this luxury in their
fortifications; but the lower part of the windows were simply guarded by thick
planks, provided with openings large enough to pass a gun through. Other windows
were furnished with bricks. I inquired from my guide what these loopholes were
called here; he said they were called “aretiere,” and this answer proved to me
that the Corsican “vendetta” is of older date than the use of firearms.
As we advanced in the streets, the village took a more profound aspect of
solitude and sadness. Several houses appeared to have sustained a siege, and
bore numerous marks of bullets.