Puslapio vaizdai

Nothing disperses small gazers like asking sank down on her stiffened knees and mumbled a few questions; on big ones it has a precisely out a prayer, perhaps for some long-lost love of opposite effect.

her own, perhaps for the father of the sturdy And now I had another companion, a loqua- babe clinging to her skirts, and to whose arm cious matron, who had two sons away in Amer- she still clung. Soon we placed a bit of money ica. She eagerly inquired if I were American, in the boy's little, grimy hand, and the grandand, on learning that I was English, her es- mother-or great-grandmother-croaked out her teem for me diminished. Perhaps, however, I thanks, and told us that Tonino could not talk, had heard of America, she added, with a benevo- being not yet two years old. Certainly Tonino lent smile. To these poor people the States are was a splendid little fellow, and his lips parted in a sort of earthly paradise, teeming with golden an amiable, confiding smile as his fingers closed possibilities–England merely a station on the over his coin. His manly costume of trousers, way. I asked if her sons were figurinaj. At first braces, and shirt only gave fuller emphasis to his they were, she said, now they had other employ- rounded, baby limbs. As the couple tottered ments. They were good lads, sent her money away, the poor old woman in her feeble agedness occasionally, and talked of returning soon. As looked as though her sole hold upon life was to how they earned their living-well, they did through that infant, whose strength lay all before earn it. They could not get their bread for no- him. thing, even in America si sa.

The gloaming was almost over now, the All this time the others of the party had been chestnut-woods fast losing their color; so, hurup in the campanile. This is not lofty, so the riedly going down another narrow street and up view is little more extended than from the loggia a steep vineyard-path, we scrambled to the ruins below. Hearing a voice raised in loud indigna- of Castruccio's fortress, which are so thickly set tion, I glanced upward. I beheld a black and about with trees and vines that nothing is to be withered arm, easily recognizable as the property seen when you get there. of our traveled cicerone, protruding from one of A fresh crowd of men, women, and children the embrasures, and vehemently sawing the air. was in waiting to escort us to the town-gate. I learned afterward that it was the subject of We asked one woman if she too had been in taxes which had aroused the old man's wrath. America. “No,” she said with a sigh; adding, The government taxes are heavy enough, but the as she glanced around at her companions,“ but municipal dues are those that excite most dis- we would all go directly if we could.” And her content. Worst of all is the focatico, or hearth- companions nodded and echoed the wish. tax, paid by every head of a family, and which But who was this whom we suddenly caught seems to be levied in a very arbitrary manner. sight of, sitting on the wall with folded arms outThe old fellow was still speaking of his wrongs side the gate? Surely this respectable, blackwhen my friends came out of the tower. At a coated, straw-hatted man, with shaven cheeks climax in his narrative he suddenly tore his cap and a gray goatee beneath his chin, could be no from his head, and cast it far from him. That native of Ghivizzano! But, in spite of his transwas a great relief to his feelings; he became atlantic appearance, he was only a returned figucalm, and the stout woman took up the doleful rinaio. He began to talk to us immediately, strain, and inveighed in her turn against the for and spoke of his travels. He knew English catico. And now the vesper prayer was over, well, had sold plaster images in the States, sold and the scanty congregation joined our crowd fish at San Francisco, lived at Montevideo, and outside. From the shadowy arch of a side-door had been to all the East Indian Presidencies. appeared a vision of age and infancy worthy of Like all the rest, he spoke enthusiastically of a painter's canvas. A haggard, bent, and with- America, but objected to the climate of the East ered crone, on whose wrinkled visage there yet Indies. Things had gone well with him, he said ; lingered in some strange way traces of long-past he liked wandering about the world, and but for beauty, came tottering down the step holding by his family and his farm down there among the the hand a plump darling of a baby boy, with chestnuts he should be ready to go away again laughing eyes, gleaming little teeth, and a thick to-morrow. There was plenty of business capacrop of curly brown hair. The one was so fee- city in his keen old face; also, if his eyes did not ble, the other so young, both trod so uncertainly, belie him, a turn for sharp practice. In his way that it was hard to say which supported the he was a praiser of past times. Those were the other. Half leading, half led, withered feet and days for business, when he was young, he exbaby toes stumbled toward the loggia till they claimed, with an expressive flourish of his arms. reached one of the dismal stones covering what Especially in California ; there, indeed, one made was, till a year or two ago, the general grave-pit money. Now—with a contemptuous movement for Ghivizzano's dead. Here the poor creature of his under lip—now affari went badly. Affari


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were at an end almost everywhere. We thought taken after long reflection and careful considwe had heard something like this before from eration of ways and means, for even the wealthy men in other ranks of life. Then he gave us families shrink from rushing lightly into the exsome information about Ghivizzano. It con- pense and trouble inevitable to a change of tained, he told us, fifty-seven families; nearly all abode. How, then, is it that here in Italy the had houses of their own, their pasture, their very classes to whom expense is no trifling thing, scrap of land. Few were exactly poor, none ex- and whose incomes are reckoned by francs, not actly rich. Wasn't he rich? Well, he had no- pounds, are precisely those who are continually thing to complain of; he might have been worse transferring their lares and penates to fresh quaroff. But the taxes were terrible, and the com- ters—now east, now west, to the north, or the mune harassed them sadly. No-Ghivizzano south of the town? It can hardly be in search was not a commune in itself, only a fraction of of comfort, for, even with plenty of money at your that of Coreglia, and one had to tramp all the command, it takes a certain time to adapt yourway up in the hills there to pay the focatico, etc. self to a new home, and, with the probability of Did all his fellow figurinaj come back with their changing again within six or twelve months, it is pockets as full as his own ? Certainly not; one hardly worth while to remedy its defects or fit had to know how to do business! The Ghi- your belongings to their new position. But, as vizzano men weren't as successful as some oth- a rule, Italians are ignorant of the first elements

Did we see that village right away up there of material domestic comfort. The houses are upon the hillside across the river? Well, that made to be let, not to make their inmates comvillage had grown rich, positively rich, by the fortable; and when the builder of middle-class trade. The trade wasn't what it once was, when dwellings has placed the kitchen in convenient he was young—but what else could one do with proximity to the dining-room—and generally to all one's boys ?

the entrance-door of your flat-he conceives that And, indeed, with the swarms of tiny chil- every requirement has been fulfilled. I am indren that we had seen surging round the corners clined to think that the continual “flitting" of and overflowing the doorways of Ghivizzano, it people of small means, here in Florence, merely was plain that many of these human figures shows that most houses are so comfortless that would have to earn their bread by figures in it is seldom possible to change for the worse. plaster.

And as people with a national disregard for comfort and home elegance care little for harmony between wall-papers and furniture, and seldom

possess any carpets worth mentioning, few of the II.

obstacles which-mere expense apart-surge up ITALIAN MOVING.

in the ordinary householder's mind at the idea

of moving have much power over the Italian It is impossible to live long in any Italian city paterfamilias when he decides to give his landwithout being struck by the perpetual changes lord warning. Indeed, when his purse is low, a of habitation of all one's friends and acquaint- move is almost a measure of economy, owing to ances. With the exception of the local aristocra- the prevailing Florentine method of rent-paying. cy, who generation after generation are born, live, As I have said, houses let from the 1st of May and die in the same massive family mansions, and the ist of November, but this by no means no one seems to care to pass more than one or implies that your rent only falls due at those two years in the same house. And as for the dates. You positively have to pay it over eight small-fry of seamstresses, milliners, and work- months in advance, that is, about the middle of people of all kinds, once a year is hardly often February or August, for the term beginning with enough to make a fresh list of their addresses. the following May or November. Thus by givThe great “flitting” days here in Florence are ing notice and avoiding actually fixing another the ist of November and the ist of May; so, for apartment bill a week or so before leaving his a week or so before and after these dates, the old one, the impecunious Florentine can stave off streets are encumbered by vans, carts, and hand- the evil day of payment at least two months. barrows, piled with miscellaneous articles of fur- So, from this and other causes, it sometimes hapniture-piled so high too, and so lightly secured, pens that you see one family tumbling into their that it is marvelous how they escape ruin, or new quarters the very day that its old occupants reach their haven unwrecked. Naturally, more are tumbling out; and great are the confusion, people move in the spring than in autumn, when, turmoil, litter, bad language, and general mixing what with rain, wind, and mud, it is difficult to up of rickety possessions thereby occasioned. avoid more or less damage to all your goods Yet after all there is little of the genuine anxiety and chattels. In England a move is only under- or excitement manifested by northerners on similar occasions. The dramatic gestures, the pagan nurse your baby, button your boots, and be geninterjections that apparently mean so much, are erally depended upon for all manner of odd jobs. for the most part mere conventional expressions Not long ago an article appeared in a welland modes of speech. As a rule, no one is out known London paper containing some very sweepof temper, no one in a hurry. Life is long and ing strictures upon Italian servants, which, though moving short, might well be the motto of the doubtless entirely unexaggerated, would have had upholsterer and carpenter, who are the usual greater value had the writer mentioned what part superintendents of these domestic changes. For of Italy was the scene of her woful experiences. the extent of their zeal is to get the beds you The Boot comprises so many different races, difsleep in, the tables you eat on, transferred to the ferent degrees of civilization, that what is pernew house from the old within the hours of their fectly true of one part of the peninsula fails to working-day. Other things will right themselves give any correct view of another. For instance, naturally in course of time; these are the sole in Florence, by no means famous for good seressentials, and your Florentine paterfamilias vants, the present writer has never, during a residemands but little more. His children are revel- dence of many years, had the ill luck to fall in ing in the general disorganization of domestic with any such desperate“ ne'er-do-wells” as those matters, and if his wife be in despair, well, he described in the paper on “ Italian Servants vercan always slip off to his café out of hearing of sus English.” There is one point which, it seems her shrill grumblings. And—as many of my to me, English employers do not sufficiently take readers may know—the soft Italian tongue does into account in dealing with their Italian servants not always issue very softly from the feminine -namely, that it is best to be content with modimouth.

fying certain of their national characteristics, Then, as for the servants, they enjoy the without wasting time and temper in vain enupset almost as much as the children. Disorder deavors to convert them into the well-trained, is their natural element. Unlike English domes- noiseless domestics of an English household. tics, who object to doing anything but their own Taken at their worst, they have the qualities of work, Italian servants throw into extra and ab- their defects, and that is why they are so active normal labor all the zeal which they can seldom and helpful in the (to them) delightful business be persuaded to devote to their daily duties. To of a change of house. them it is a positive treat to go without their Now, to give a good notion of a move conregular dinner for once in a way; a delightful ducted on the approved Florentine principle, it variation to refresh themselves with slices of ham will be as well to relate my personal experiences or sausage from the nearest shop, seated on a while shifting our belongings from a noisy street pile of bedding, or a case of crockery, and carry- on the south side of the Arno to our present ing on sportive conversation with gay young lovely home on the sunny second floor of an hisfacchini (porters) and carpenters.

toric palace with the finest garden in FlorenceAnd here let me say en passant that, although a garden as yet untouched by the local modern Italian maid-servants are but too commonly lazy, mania for prim beds and rockwork, set about untidy, slipshod wenches, doing as little as they with noble trees, radiant with flowers, and musican, and only blossoming into energy on festa cal with bird-voices and the splashing of foundays, when - leaving everything at sixes and tains. sevens-they sally forth in gaudiest festival array, The first question to be settled was whether and although the best of them seldom accom- to employ railway-vans, and thus effect an expeplish more than half of the daily tasks of a ditious move regardless of breakages, or to conBritish handmaiden, yet, an Italian man-servant fide entirely in my upholsterer and let him transis the very best in the world. He will do three fer our chattels in far slower but also far safer times as much work as an English indoor-man, fashion. And, as everything had to be carried for here men are kept not for show, but for use, down the one hundred and two stairs of the old and English or American people wintering in apartment and up the sixty-seven stairs of the Italy would spare themselves much annoyance new at the opposite end of the town, it seemed by conforming to the customs of the country, and better to give up all idea of the reckless innovaengaging men instead of women for kitchen and tion of moving everything at once, and content parlor work. For, if chosen intelligently, your one's self with easy-going, old-fashioned ways. Italian man-servant is a treasure. He may fail Accordingly, my worthy upholsterer is summoned to lay the table with consummate elegance, cer- from his littery shop in Via Romana, where pertainly he will not keep your silver at its highest petual quilting of cotton counterpanes is carried polish, but, besides his regular work, he will on, and he is requested to name his price and say always be ready and willing to assist the other in how many days he can undertake to strip our servants. He will make your beds if required, rooms and put all things in order in the new




home. His wrinkled, smiling visage, not unlike over a small fire in a curtainless, carpetless room, that of a benevolent frog, and which nature cer- speculating as to whether the chairs and tables tainly designed for a comic actor rather than an carried down stairs a couple of hours earlier had upholsterer, instantly expands into a broader grin reached their destination before the storm broke. than usual. How long would he take? He Only later did we ascertain that they had gone shifted from one leg to the other, scratched his no farther than the archway. No oil-cloth was head, enjoyed the comic aspect of British haste, forthcoming to cover the contents of the cart, and finally committed himself to the opinion that and the men, we were told, were too heated by all might be done in four or five days, provided their exertions to be able to venture through the the weather held up.

streets in the rain ! Florentines cherish the deWe were in October, so continued fine weath- lusion that wet weather is so extraordinary an er was far from certain, but perhaps if we began occurrence that no provision need be made at once, since the new apartment was already at against it. Even for pianos no covered carts are our disposal, we might be settled before the au- used; they are paraded through the town exhibtumn rains set in. So it was finally arranged iting their silk and varnish to all beholders, and that he should begin in a day or so, and that he merely fastened by leather straps to small trucks. was to provide the necessary carts and horses. So once more we had to resign ourselves to This he undertook, twinkling more merrily than fate, and for a whole week the rain beat against ever as he bade us farewell; and on the appoint- our panes, and all that could be done was to ed morning we were aroused at a very early hour hang pictures in the new home, arrange the few by the arrival of four men and a boy, and much articles already there, and bid beaming Signor creaking and banging, rustling of straw and clat- Giovanni (whose smiles began to seem fiendish) ter of crockery told us that the dismantling pro- profit by the delay to complete necessary alteracess had begun. This energy promised well, and tions of window-cornices and curtains. already we imagined ourselves installed in our Complete! we little knew how far from comnewly papered south rooms overlooking that pletion all these things were. bright garden, and we briskly rose and proceeded Only at the end of twelve miserable days to the packing of books and dresses with a feel- were we able to surrender the keys of our old ing that there was not a moment to be lost. home, and bid good-by to our southern view,

Going out an hour or so later, we were in across closely-clustered roofs, of fair Bellostime to witness the starting of the first load. But guardo and the ilex avenue of Poggio Imperialewhere were the horses and wagons which im- only at the end of four months did we see the agination had shown us standing all this time be- last of carpenters and upholsterers in our new neath the archway at the bottom of our hun- abode; for, as soon as we were encamped—I dred and two steps ? All hat was to be seen may not say settled—in the palace was a moderate-sized hand-cart, easily propelled den, our comic upholsterer deserted us, and went by two men. We were—so to speak—about to to beam elsewhere upon other people's carpets be moved in a wheelbarrow! No wonder that and curtains. The only result to be attained by that perfidious old man of the comic countenance stern messages and supplicating appeals was an had twinkled so merrily on being invested with occasional flying visit at the oddest hours from the responsibility of choosing vans and horses ! one or other of his sons. But we were already sufficiently imbued with the Coming home wearied out in the dark winter spirit of the land of our adoption to resign our- afternoons, and hoping for an interval of rest selves to fate and the upholsterer, and hope for and solitude before dinner, we would be startled, great results from small commencements. on entering our bedroom, by a voice as from the

And for the first two days all went smoothly skies, and behold the airy Beppo—the tasteful enough, and the cheery presence of Signor Gio- member of Signor Giovanni's family-perched vanni the upholsterer at least gave animation to on a ladder, putting up bed-curtains that had

As for the small boy, edict of banish- been in his hands for weeks. Another time, still ment had to be pronounced against him. We later in the day, we found the stout Cesarehad had misgivings of him from the first, and he whose figure was so valuable in the stretching soon justified them. With the reckless abandon of carpets-nailing a forgotten trimming on our of youth he had pounced upon a carefully packed favorite arm-chair. basket of English crockery, and, choosing to A propos to carpets, the Anglo-Saxon mind imagine it empty, hoisted it upside down on his has to abandon all accustomed grooves of thought head. One instant, and the floor was scattered with regard to these useful elements of comfort. with fragments of sponge- and soap-dishes quite In England-until Oriental rugs and Indian matunmatchable at this distance from the Strand. ting came in fashion-we had a fixed idea that

Then a steady rain set in, and we shivered they should be cut to fit the rooms for which they

th the gar

his men.

were intended. In Italy, on the contrary, it is con- is a thin, wiry man, with a sour mouth and selfsidered great waste to cut off corners and edges. asserting nose of the particular kind of retroussé These can be turned under, you know, ready for which experience disposes me to regard as siguse in case you have bigger rooms the next time nificant of the intensest conceit. This worthy you move. And so, always with an eye to future has his merits: he is quick, active, and tolerably changes, your upholsterer can not see the neces- punctual, and if he would confine himself to his sity of fitting your carpets to your present floors. special business, and note down his measureWhen you indignantly show him that all these ments, he would be a very satisfactory carpenter hillocks and protuberances prevent your furniture and joiner. But, unfortunately, he is apt to confrom standing firmly against the walls, that every sider himself a slighted genius, and thinks that he, piece is toppling forward, you are smilingly asked and he alone, should have the supreme command to have patience. Then, in a twinkling, little in all that is going on. He had a severe attack wedges and chips of any sort of wood your car- of wounded pride on finding that wardrobes penter may have left about are inserted beneath which he had made were, in the course of the the tottering legs, and you are triumphantly move, taken down and put together again by the begged to observe that all is now as it should be. profane fingers of Signor Giovanni and his minAnd gradually you come to think so also, and re- ions. He could have done it all in half the time, nounce struggling against the inevitable, at least he said, without help from any one. This man's as regards the laying of carpets.

wife is a needlewoman, and, happening to want But on one point you must be inflexible, or a cradle trimmed in a particular fashion, we told madness might be the result.

him to send us his wife to do it under our own Florentine carpenters and cabinet - makers superintendence. He promptly offered to trim take measurements as accurately as can be de- the cradle himself, and I had to acknowledge a sired, but they seldom conform to them, and I weak preference for needles and thread rather shudder to think of the time and energy required than hammer and nails before being allowed to to have a curtain-cornice made to fit, and when obtain his wife's services. She came; but to my it does fit to have it put up in a straight line. amazement her husband came too; and, as he

It is a very complicated proceeding. First of bullied her into executing my orders according all, iron clamps have to be inserted in the wall, to his own peculiar interpretation of them, the and, as neither upholsterer nor carpenter will result was not completely satisfactory. He, howundertake this job, you have to secure the at- ever, was highly delighted with the achievement, tendance of an ironsmith with the clamps, and and confided to one of the servants that he knew of a mason to fasten them to the wall. Then that he could fit ladies' dresses far better than the carpenter has to prepare the wooden frame- his wife. This man's burning desire is to be work to which cornice and vallance are to be first fiddle on all occasions, and we have had to nailed. The mason can do his share of the per- leave off engaging him as waiter on company formance independently; but, if you can not as- nights, simply because he tries to usurp the reins semble upholsterer, carpenter, and smith at one of government, and, instead of helping our serand the same time, dire confusion follows. The vants, orders them about in a totally absurd and clamps are too short, or the board too narrow, or exasperating manner. the cornice too long. All preliminary flourishing And now, having said so much of the trouof the foot-rule has been in vain if your trinity bles of our move, this paper may fittingly concan not discuss the matter on the spot. And clude with a description of the house in which one day the carpenter is engaged, the next the they came to an end. Possibly we may have to upholsterer misses his appointment, the third no move again some day, but meanwhile we consmith is forthcoming, and so on till you despair sider ourselves settled, and love our picturesque of ever seeing the pile of curtains in the corner abode in spite of its sundry defects. Then, too, hung up in their appointed places. When at it is an historic palace, for its owner and our last, after long delay, you are invited to come and landlord is the most noble Count Ugolino della see how elegantly they have been draped, you Gherardesca, lineal descendant of him who met find, to your horror, that the whole erection is his death in the Hunger Tower of Pisa. Over hopelessly crooked, that all must be done over the principal entrance is a huge coronet sculpagain.

tured in stone, but close beside the gate by But here so many harrowing recollections which we tenants enter is a marble slab recordcrowd upon my mind that it is best to turn to ing that here, in the days of Savonarola, dwelt pleasanter subjects.

Bartolommeo Scala, Secretary to the Republic, This moving tale would be incomplete with- and husband to a daughter of the house of Gheout some mention of another prominent charac- rardesca. Pushing open this heavy gate, we find ter in it. Let me introduce my carpenter. He ourselves in a graveled court divided from the

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