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Chat with an American at Castelnuovo 16/03/2011

Posted by florencecapital in Uncategorized.
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c. 1900

At the inn, where I was waited upon by a woman more beautiful than any who can be now ministering to Mahomet – the young wife of my young host – I found a portly inhabitant of the place, smoking a cigar out of one corner of his mouth, who had a look in his eyes – quick and highly intelligent – very different from his fellows. I was not at all surprised when he asked me in fluent American if I was going around much. He talked Tuscan, at pleasure, with an American intonation, not at all agreeable; but when he turned to the language of his later adoption there was no tinge of latinity about it. A pleasant, friendly, most satisfied man, he was pleased with everything he had done in life; glad that he had gone out to Harrisburgh in Pennsylvania and stayed there for fourteen years, ‘making money and getting drunk’ – for he confessed to both pursuit; again he was glad that he had left it and returned to what he owned to be an existence rather than a career. It was quiet, but he had got to like it; there was no whisky, and he was glad of it. Two thousand dollars, he supposed, would buy up Castelnuovo, cotton mills and all; well, he hadn’t bought it yet. Instead, he was there in his shirt-sleeves, smoking Tuscan cigars, happy and not drunken. I should have liked to tell him – but did not – how much I thought he had taken the wiser part. Harrisburgh might be good, and whisky; but the green uplands of the Garfagnana must needs be better, and a crack with a friend in the piazza, and a flask of Vernace cooled with a little spring water. I did hint at their excellence, even at their superiority. ‘I guess you are right’, says he, ‘I find them better’. Tuscan still, at the heart, you see, this large, cocksure, genial man; but also a rare creature – a Tuscan who knew himself to be so, having been taught the stern discipline of Harrisburgh, and much whisky.

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