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In Corsica
by [?]

Once, no doubt, Corsica was a savage, untamed, untrimmed kind of country, and a man’s life was little safer than it is to-day in the neighbouring island of Sardinia. There were brigands and bandits and families engaged in the private warfare of the vendetta, so that things were as lively and exciting as they get in parts of Virginia at times. Killing was certainly no murder, and even yet the vendetta flourishes to some extent. There is nothing harder than to get a high-spirited southern population ready to acknowledge the majesty of the law. The attitude of the inland Corsican, even to this day, is that of a young East-Ender whom I knew. When he was asked to give evidence against his particular enemy, he replied, “But if I do, they’ll jug him, and I won’t be able to get even with him.” He preferred handling the man himself.

Yet nowadays Corsica has greatly changed from what it was in Paoli’s time. French justice is a fairly good brand of justice after all. The magistrates administer the law, and the system of military roads all over the island makes it easy for the police to get about. When a criminal gets away from them he has to take to the hills and to keep there. It is such solitary fugitives who still give the stranger a notion that the country is essentially criminal. But he is a bandit, not a brigand. He may rob, but he does not kidnap. His idea of ransom is what is in a man’s pockets, not what his Government will pay to prevent having his throat cut. After all, there is such a thing in England as highway robbery, and in Corsica robbery is usually without violence. If a bandit is treated as a gentleman he will be polite, even though he points a gun at a visitor’s stomach and requests him to hand over all he happens to have about him.

I went to Corsica from Leghorn with a friend of mine who knew no more of the island than I did. We landed at Bastia, where, by the way, Nelson also landed and was severely repulsed, and found the town one of the most barren and uninviting places in the world. It is hot, glaring, sandy, stony, sun-burnt, a most unpleasing introduction to one of the most beautiful and interesting islands in the Mediterranean, or, for that matter, in the world. For the island is fertile and is yet barren; it is mountainous and has great stretches of plain in it along the eastern shore. Though it is but fifty miles across and little more than a hundred long, there is a real range of rugged high mountains in it, two of them, Monte Cinto and Monte Rotondo, being nearly 9000 feet high, while three others, Pagliorba, Padre and d’Oro are over 7000 feet. The rocks of these ranges are primary and metamorphic, and the scenery is bold. Yet it is kindly and gracious for the forests are thick. On the peaks, and in the recesses of the loftier forests, a wild black sheep, the mufflon, can still be hunted. And the tumbling streams and rivers are full of trout. There are few better trout streams in Europe than the Golo, which runs into the sea on the east coast through a big salt-water lagoon called Biguglia. When I saw it the stream was in fine order, and I longed to get out of the train to throw a fly upon it. For the island is now so civilised that a railway runs from Bastia across the summit of the island by the towns of Corte and Vivario down to Ajaccio. But when I and my friend were there the train only ran to Corte. We had to drive from there across the summit to Vivario, whither the rail had reached, in the western slope of the hills. Corte sits queen-like on the summit of the island, and is quiet and ancient. Yet some day it will be, like Orezza with its strong iron waters, a health resort. The French go more and more to Corsica, and the intruding English have what is practically an English hotel at Ajaccio. There is another in the forests of Vizzavona.