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Garibaldi’s Worshippers
by [?]

The road from Genoa to Spezia is one of the most beautiful in Europe. As the Apennines descend to the sea they form innumerable little bays and creeks, alongside of which the road winds–now coasting the very shore, now soaring aloft on high-perched cliffs, and looking down into deep dells, or to the waving tops of tall pine-trees. Seaward, it is a succession of yellow-stranded bays, land-locked and narrow; and on the land side are innumerable valleys, some waving with horse-chestnut and olive, and others stern and rock-bound, but varying in colour from the bluish-grey of marble to every shade of porphyry.

For several miles after we left Genoa, the road presented a succession of handsome villas, which, neglected and uncared for, and in most part untenanted, were yet so characteristically Italian in all their vast-ness–their massive style and spacious plan–as to be great ornaments of the scenery. Their gardens, too–such glorious wildernesses of rich profusion–where the fig and the oleander, the vine and the orange, tangle and intertwine–and cactuses, that would form the wonder of our conservatories, are trained into hedgerows to protect cabbages. My companion pointed out to me one of these villas on a little jutting promontory of rock, with a narrow bay on one side, almost hidden by the overhanging chestnut-trees. “That,” said he, “is the Villa Spinola. It was from there, after a supper with his friend Vecchi, that Garibaldi sailed on his expedition to Marsala. A sort of decent secrecy was maintained as to the departure of the expedition; but the cheers of those on shore, as the boats pulled off, told that the brave buccaneers carried with them the heartfelt good wishes of their countrymen.” Wandering on in his talk from the campaign of Sicily and Calabria, my companion spoke of the last wild freak of Garibaldi and the day of Aspromonte, and finally of the hero’s imprisonment at Varignano, in the Gulf of Spezia.

It appeared from his account that the poor wounded sufferer would have fared very ill, had it not been for the provident kindness and care of his friends in England, who supplied him with everything he could want and a great deal he could by no possibility make use of. Wine of every kind, for instance, was largely sent to one who was a confirmed water-drinker, and who, except when obliged by the impure state of the water, never ventured to taste wine. If now and then the zealous anxiety to be of service had its ludicrous side–and packages arrived of which all the ingenuity of the General’s followers failed to detect what the meaning might be–there was something very noble and very touching in this spontaneous sympathy of a whole people, and so Garibaldi felt it.

The personal homage of the admirers–the worshippers they might be called–was, however, an infliction that often pushed the patience of Garibaldi’s followers to its limit, and would have overcome the gentle forbearance of any other living creature than Garibaldi himself. They came in shoals. Steamboats and diligences were crammed with them, and the boatmen of Spezia plied as thriving a trade that summer as though Garibaldi were a saint, at whose shrine the devout of all Europe came to worship. In vain obstacles were multiplied and difficulties to entrance invented. In vain it was declared that only a certain number of visitors were daily admitted, and that the number was already complete. In vain the doctors announced that the General’s condition was prejudiced, and his feverish state increased, by these continual invasions. Each new arrival was sure to imagine that there was something special or peculiar in his case to make him an exception to any rule of exclusion.

“I knew Garibaldi in Monte Video. You have only to tell him it’s Tomkins; he’ll be overjoyed to see me.” “I travelled with him from Manchester to Bridgeport; he’ll remember me when he sees me; I lent him a wrapper in the train.” “I knew his son Menotti when at school.” “I was in New York when Garibaldi was a chandler, and I was always asking for his candles;” such and suchlike were the claims which would not be denied. At last the infliction became insupportable. Some nights of unusual pain and suffering required that every precaution against excitement should be taken, and measures were accordingly concerted how visitors should be totally excluded. There was this difficulty in the matter, that it might fall at this precise moment some person of real consequence might have, or some one whose presence Garibaldi would really have been well pleased to enjoy. All these considerations were, however, postponed to the patient’s safety, and an order was sent to the several hotels where strangers usually stopped to announce that Garibaldi could not be seen.