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The Strange Man’s Sorrow
by [?]

“When I first knew Spezia, it was a very charming spot to pass the summer in. The English had not found it out A bottle of Harvey sauce or a copy of ‘Galignani’ had never been seen here; and the morning meal, which now figures in my bill as ‘Dejeuner complet–two francs.’ was then called ‘Coffee,’ and priced twopence. I used to pass my day in a small sail-boat, and in my evenings I played halfpenny whist with the judge and the commander of the forces and a retired envoy, who, out of a polite attention to me as a stranger, agreed to play such high stakes during my sojourn at the Baths.

“They were excellent people, of unblemished character, and a politeness I have rarely seen equalled. Nobody could sneeze without the whole company rising to wish him a long and prosperous life, or a male heir to his name; and as for turning the trump card without a smile and a bow all round to the party, it was a thing unheard of.

“I thought if I could only secure a spot to live in in such an Arcadia, it would be charming, but this was a great difficulty. No one had any accommodation more than he wanted for himself. The very isolation that gave the place its charm excluded all speculation, and not a house was to be had. In my voyagings, however, around the Gulf, I landed one day at a little inlet, surrounded with high lands, and too small to be called a bay, and there, to my intense astonishment, I discovered a small villa. It looked exactly like the houses one sees in a toy-shop, and where you take off the roof to peep in and see how neatly the stairs are made and the rooms divided; but there was a large garden at one side and an orangery at the other, and it all looked the neatest and prettiest little thing one ever saw off the boards of a minor theatre. I drew my boat on shore and strolled into the garden, but saw no one, not even a dog. There was a deep well with a draw-bucket, and I filled my gourd with ice-cold water; and then plucking a ripe orange that had just given me a bob in the eye, I sat down to eat it. While I was engaged, I heard a wicket open and shut, and saw an old man, very shabbily dressed, and with a mushroom straw hat, coming towards me. Before I could make excuses for my intrusion, he had welcomed me to Pertusola–‘The Nook,’ in English–and invited me to step in and have a glass of wine.

“I took him for the steward or fattore, and acceded, not sorry to ask some questions about the villa and its owner. He showed me over the house, explaining with much pride how a certain kitchen-range came from England, though nobody ever knew the use of it, but it was all very comfortable. The silk-worms and dried figs and salt-fish occupied more space, and contributed more odour, perhaps, than a correct taste would have approved of. Yet there were capabilities–great capabilities; and so, before I left, I took it from the old gentleman in the rusty costume, who turned out to be the proprietor, a marquis, the ‘commendatore’ of I don’t know what order, and various other dignities beside, all recited and set forth in the lease.

“I suppose I have something of Robinson Crusoe in my nature, for I loved the isolation of this spot immensely. It wasn’t an island, but it was all but an island. Towards the land, two jutting promontories of rock denied access to anything not a goat; the sea in front; an impenetrable pine wood to the rear: and there I lived so happily, so snugly, that even now, when I want a pleasant theme to doze over beside my wood-fire of an evening, I just call up Pertusola, and ramble once again through its olive groves, or watch the sunset tints as they glow over the Carara mountains.