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The honest Englishman at Lucca 14/01/2011

Posted by florencecapital in Uncategorized.
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c. 1900

The sacristan [at San Frediano], who takes his charge seriously, will tell you the merits of a great silver cross, the Croce dei Pisani, which Lucca took from Pisa in Castruccio’s day, and never returned. He will show you, too, the best thing that Civitale ever did, and the smallest, a portrait in relief of the head of Pietro di Noceto, a sharp-faced humanist. But of all he had to say or do I prefer his story of the travelled Englishman – not Mr. Ruskin – who made a drawing of Ilaria upon her bier, and promised a copy to the sacristan. The Englishman went away, the copy never came. ‘Then,’ said the sacristan, ‘I knew that some serious thing had occurred; for this signore was an Englishman.’

God bless the man! I wish I had his faith in Englishmen. But the fact is, he was right. He inquired, he told me, of every traveller who came through Lucca, describing minutely (as all Tuscans can) the person and habits of the illustrious. His name he had never known. By these means he did discover that his Englishman had started in a ship for Leghorn, had died on the voyage out, and been buried at sea. If the drawing of Ilaria was not in his portmanteau the mischief was in it. There was no scruple of doubt in the sacristan’s loyal mind.

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