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    Other Tuscan Cities

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    Chapter 20
    Previous Chapter

    I had scanted charming Pisa even as I had scanted great Siena in
    my original small report of it, my scarce more than stammering
    notes of years before; but even if there had been meagreness of
    mere gaping vision--which there in fact hadn't been--as well as
    insufficieny of public tribute, the indignity would soon have
    ceased to weigh on my conscience. For to this affection I was to
    return again still oftener than to the strong call of Siena my
    eventual frequentations of Pisa, all merely impressionistic and
    amateurish as they might be--and I pretended, up and down the
    length of the land, to none other--leave me at the hither end of
    time with little more than a confused consciousness of exquisite
    quality on the part of the small sweet scrap of a place of
    ancient glory; a consciousness so pleadingly content to be
    general and vague that I shrink from pulling it to pieces. The
    Republic of Pisa fought with the Republic of Florence, through
    the ages so ferociously and all but invincibly that what is so
    pale and languid in her to-day may well be the aspect of any
    civil or, still more, military creature bled and bled and bled at
    the "critical" time of its life. She has verily a just languor
    and is touchingly anæmic; the past history, or at any rate the
    present perfect acceptedness, of which condition hangs about her
    with the last grace of weakness, making her state in this
    particular the very secret of her irresistible appeal. I was to
    find the appeal, again and again, one of the sweetest, tenderest,
    even if not one of the fullest and richest impressions possible;
    and if I went back whenever I could it was very much as one
    doesn't indecently neglect a gentle invalid friend. The couch of
    the invalid friend, beautifully, appealingly resigned, has been
    wheeled, say, for the case, into the warm still garden, and your
    visit but consists of your sitting beside it with kind, discreet,
    testifying silences. Such is the figurative form under which the
    once rugged enemy of Florence, stretched at her length by the
    rarely troubled Arno, to-day presents herself; and I find my
    analogy complete even to my sense of the mere mild séance,
    the inevitably tacit communion or rather blank interchange,
    between motionless cripple and hardly more incurable admirer.

    The terms of my enjoyment of Pisa scarce departed from that
    ideal--slow contemplative perambulations, rather late in the day
    and after work done mostly in the particular decent inn-room that
    was repeatedly my portion; where the sunny flicker of the river
    played up from below to the very ceiling, which, by the same
    sign, anciently and curiously raftered and hanging over my table
    at a great height, had been colour-pencilled into ornament as
    fine (for all practical purposes) as the page of a missal. I add
    to this, for remembrance, an inveteracy of evening idleness and
    of reiterated ices in front of one of the quiet cafés--quiet as
    everything at Pisa is quiet, or will certainly but in these
    latest days have ceased to be; one in especial so beautifully, so
    mysteriously void of bustle that almost always the neighbouring
    presence and admirable chatter of some group of the local
    University students would fall upon my ear, by the half-hour at
    a time, not less as a privilege, frankly, than as a clear-cut
    image of the young Italian mind and life, by which I lost
    nothing. I use such terms as "admirable" and "privilege," in this
    last most casual of connections--which was moreover no connection
    at all but what my attention made it--simply as an acknowledgment
    of the interest that might play there through some inevitable
    thoughts. These were, for that matter, intensely in keeping with
    the ancient scene and air: they dealt with the exquisite
    difference between that tone and type of ingenuous adolescence--
    in the mere relation of charmed audition--and other forms
    of juvenility of whose mental and material accent one had
    elsewhere met the assault. Civilised, charmingly civilised, were
    my loquacious neighbours--as how had n't they to be, one asked
    one's self, through the use of a medium of speech that is in
    itself a sovereign saturation? There was the beautiful
    congruity of the happily-caught impression; the fact of my young
    men's general Tuscanism of tongue, which related them so on the
    spot to the whole historic consensus of things. It wasn't
    dialect--as it of course easily might have been elsewhere, at
    Milan, at Turin, at Bologna, at Naples; it was the clear Italian
    in which all the rest of the surrounding story was told, all the
    rest of the result of time recorded; and it made them delightful,
    prattling, unconscious men of the particular little constituted
    and bequeathed world which everything else that was charged with
    old meanings and old beauty referred to--all the more that their
    talk was never by any chance of romping games or deeds of
    violence, but kept flowering, charmingly and incredibly, into
    eager ideas and literary opinions and philosophic discussions
    and, upon my honour, vital questions.

    They have taken me too far, for so light a reminiscence; but I
    claim for the loose web of my impressions at no point a heavier
    texture. Which comes back to what I was a moment ago saying--
    that just in proportion as you "feel" the morbid charm of Pisa
    you press on it gently, and this somehow even under stress of
    whatever respectful attention. I found this last impulse, at all
    events, so far as I was concerned, quite contentedly spend itself
    in a renewed sense of the simple large pacified felicity of such
    an afternoon aspect as that of the Lung' Arno, taken up or down
    its course; whether to within sight of small Santa Maria della
    Spina, the tiny, the delicate, the exquisite Gothic chapel
    perched where the quay drops straight, or, in the other
    direction, toward the melting perspective of the narrow local
    pleasure-ground, the rather thin and careless bosky grace of
    which recedes, beside the stream whose very turbidity pleases, to
    a middle distance of hot and tangled and exuberant rural industry
    and a proper blue horizon of Carrara mountains. The Pisan Lung'
    Arno is shorter and less featured and framed than the Florentine,
    but it has the fine accent of a marked curve and is quite as
    bravely Tuscan; witness the type of river-fronting palace which,
    in half-a-dozen massive specimens, the last word of the anciently
    "handsome," are of the essence of the physiognomy of the place.
    In the glow of which retrospective admission I ask myself how I
    came, under my first flush, reflected in other pages, to fail of
    justice to so much proud domestic architecture--in the very teeth
    moreover of the fact that I was for ever paying my compliments,
    in a wistful, wondering way, to the fine Palazzo Lanfranchi,
    occupied in 1822 by the migratory Byron, and whither Leigh Hunt,
    as commemorated in the latter's Autobiography, came out to join
    him in an odd journalistic scheme.

    Of course, however, I need scarcely add, the centre of my daily
    revolution--quite thereby on the circumference--was the great
    Company of Four in their sequestered corner; objects of regularly
    recurrent pious pilgrimage, if for no other purpose than to see
    whether each would each time again so inimitably carry itself as
    one of a group of wonderfully-worked old ivories. Their charm of
    relation to each other and to everything else that concerns them,
    that of the quartette of monuments, is more or less inexpressible
    all round; but not the least of it, ever, is in their beautiful
    secret for taking at different hours and seasons, in different
    states of the light, the sky, the wind, the weather--in
    different states, even, it used verily to seem to me, of an
    admirer's imagination or temper or nerves--different complexional
    appearances, different shades and pallors, different glows and
    chills. I have seen them look almost viciously black, and I have
    seen them as clear and fair as pale gold. And these things, for
    the most part, off on the large grassy carpet spread for them,
    and with the elbow of the old city-wall, not elsewhere erect,
    respectfully but protectingly crooked about, to the tune of a
    usual unanimity save perhaps in the case of the Leaning Tower--so
    abnormal a member of any respectable family this structure at
    best that I always somehow fancied its three companions, the
    Cathedral, the Baptistery and the Campo Santo, capable of quiet
    common understandings, for the major or the minor effect, into
    which their odd fellow, no hint thrown out to him, was left to
    enter as he might. If one haunted the place, one ended by
    yielding to the conceit that, beautifully though the others of
    the group may be said to behave about him, one sometimes caught
    them in the act of tacitly combining to ignore him--as if he had,
    after so long, begun to give on their nerves. Or is that
    absurdity but my shamefaced form of admission that, for all the
    wonder of him, he finally gave on mine? Frankly--I would put it
    at such moments--he becomes at last an optical bore or

    [Illustration: THE LOGGIA, LUCCA.]


    To Lucca I was not to return often--I was to return only once;
    when that compact and admirable little city, the very model of a
    small pays de Cocagne, overflowing with everything that
    makes for ease, for plenty, for beauty, for interest and good
    example, renewed for me, in the highest degree, its genial and
    robust appearance. The perfection of this renewal must indeed
    have been, at bottom, the ground of my rather hanging back from
    possible excess of acquaintance--with the instinct that so right
    and rich and rounded a little impression had better be left than
    endangered. I remember positively saying to myself the second
    time that no brown-and-gold Tuscan city, even, could be as
    happy as Lucca looked--save always, exactly, Lucca; so that, on
    the chance of any shade of human illusion in the case, I
    wouldn't, as a brooding analyst, go within fifty miles of it
    again. Just so, I fear I must confess, it was this mere face-
    value of the place that, when I went back, formed my sufficiency;
    I spent all my scant time--or the greater part, for I took a day
    to drive over to the Bagni--just gaping at its visible attitude.
    This may be described as that of simply sitting there, through
    the centuries, at the receipt of perfect felicity; on its
    splendid solid seat of russet masonry, that is--for its great
    republican ramparts of long ago still lock it tight--with its
    wide garden-land, its ancient appanage or hereditary domain,
    teeming and blooming with everything that is good and pleasant
    for man, all about, and with a ring of graceful and noble, yet
    comparatively unbeneficed uplands and mountains watching it, for
    very envy, across the plain, as a circle of bigger boys, in the
    playground, may watch a privileged or pampered smaller one munch
    a particularly fine apple. Half smothered thus in oil and wine
    and corn and all the fruits of the earth, Lucca seems fairly to
    laugh for good-humour, and it's as if one can't say more for her
    than that, thanks to her putting forward for you a temperament
    somehow still richer than her heritage, you forgive her at every
    turn her fortune. She smiles up at you her greeting as you dip
    into her wide lap, out of which you may select almost any rare
    morsel whatever. Looking back at my own choice indeed I see it
    must have suffered a certain embarrassment--that of the sense of
    too many things; for I scarce remember choosing at all, any more
    than I recall having had to go hungry. I turned into all the
    churches--taking care, however, to pause before one of them,
    though before which I now irrecoverably forget, for verification
    of Ruskin's so characteristically magnified rapture over the high
    and rather narrow and obscure hunting-frieze on its front--and in
    the Cathedral paid my respects at every turn to the greatest of
    Lucchesi, Matteo Civitale, wisest, sanest, homeliest, kindest of
    quattro-cento sculptors, to whose works the Duomo serves
    almost as a museum. But my nearest approach to anything so
    invidious as a discrimination or a preference, under the spell of
    so felt an equilibrium, must have been the act of engaging a
    carriage for the Baths.

    That inconsequence once perpetrated, let me add, the impression
    was as right as any other--the impression of the drive through
    the huge general tangled and fruited podere of the
    countryside; that of the pair of jogging hours that bring the
    visitor to where the wideish gate of the valley of the Serchio
    opens. The question after this became quite other; the narrowing,
    though always more or less smiling gorge that draws you on and on
    is a different, a distinct proposition altogether, with its own
    individual grace of appeal and association. It is the
    association, exactly, that would even now, on this page, beckon
    me forward, or perhaps I should rather say backward--weren't more
    than a glance at it out of the question--to a view of that easier
    and not so inordinately remote past when "people spent the
    summer" in these perhaps slightly stuffy shades. I speak of that
    age, I think of it at least, as easier than ours, in spite of the
    fact that even as I made my pilgrimage the mark of modern change,
    the railway in construction, had begun to be distinct, though the
    automobile was still pretty far in the future. The relations and
    proportions of everything are of course now altered--I indeed, I
    confess, wince at the vision of the cloud of motor-dust that must
    in the fine season hang over the whole connection. That
    represents greater promptness of approach to the bosky depths of
    Ponte-a-Serraglio and the Bagni Caldi, but it throws back the
    other time, that of the old jogging relation, of the Tuscan
    grand-ducal "season" and the small cosmopolite sociability, into
    quite Arcadian air and the comparatively primitive scale. The
    "easier" Italy of our infatuated precursors there wears its
    glamour of facility not through any question of "the development
    of communications," but through the very absence of the dream of
    that boon, thanks to which every one (among the infatuated) lived
    on terms of so much closer intercourse with the general object of
    their passion. After we had crossed the Serchio that beautiful
    day we passed into the charming, the amiably tortuous, the
    thickly umbrageous, valley of the Lima, and then it was that I
    seemed fairly to remount the stream of time; figuring to myself
    wistfully, at the small scattered centres of entertainment--
    modest inns, pensions and other places of convenience clustered
    where the friendly torrent is bridged or the forested slopes
    adjust themselves--what the summer days and the summer rambles
    and the summer dreams must have been, in the blest place, when
    "people" (by which I mean the contingent of beguiled barbarians)
    didn't know better, as we say, than to content themselves with
    such a mild substitute, such a soft, sweet and essentially
    elegant apology, for adventure. One wanted not simply to hang
    about a little, but really to live back, as surely one might,
    have done by staying on, into the so romantically strong, if
    mechanically weak, Italy of the associations of one's youth. It
    was a pang to have to revert to the present even in the form of
    Lucca--which says everything.


    If undeveloped communications were to become enough for me at
    those retrospective moments, I might have felt myself supplied to
    my taste, let me go on to say, at the hour of my making, with
    great resolution, an attempt on high-seated and quite grandly
    out-of-the-way Volterra: a reminiscence associated with quite a
    different year and, I should perhaps sooner have bethought
    myself, with my fond experience of Pisa--inasmuch as it was
    during a pause under that bland and motionless wing that I seem
    to have had to organise in the darkness of a summer dawn my
    approach to the old Etruscan stronghold. The railway then
    existed, but I rose in the dim small hours to take my train;
    moreover, so far as that might too much savour of an incongruous
    facility, the fault was in due course quite adequately repaired
    by an apparent repudiation of any awareness of such false notes
    on the part of the town. I may not invite the reader to penetrate
    with me by so much as a step the boundless backward reach of
    history to which the more massive of the Etruscan gates of
    Volterra, the Porta all' Arco, forms the solidest of thresholds;
    since I perforce take no step myself, and am even exceptionally
    condemned here to impressionism unashamed. My errand was to spend
    a Sunday with an Italian friend, a native in fact of the place,
    master of a house there in which he offered me hospitality; who,
    also arriving from Florence the night before, had obligingly come
    on with me from Pisa, and whose consciousness of a due urbanity,
    already rather overstrained, and still well before noon, by the
    accumulation of our matutinal vicissitudes and other grounds for
    patience, met all ruefully at the station the supreme shock of an
    apparently great desolate world of volcanic hills, of blank,
    though "engineered," undulations, as the emergence of a road
    testified, unmitigated by the smallest sign of a wheeled vehicle.
    The station, in other words, looked out at that time (and I
    daresay the case hasn't strikingly altered) on a mere bare huge
    hill-country, by some remote mighty shoulder of which the goal of
    our pilgrimage, so questionably "served" by the railway, was
    hidden from view. Served as well by a belated omnibus, a four-in-
    hand of lame and lamentable quality, the place, I hasten to add,
    eventually put forth some show of being; after a complete
    practical recognition of which, let me at once further mention,
    all the other, the positive and sublime, connections of Volterra
    established themselves for me without my lifting a finger.

    The small shrunken, but still lordly prehistoric city is perched,
    when once you have rather painfully zigzagged to within sight of
    it, very much as an eagle's eyrie, oversweeping the land and the
    sea; and to that type of position, the ideal of the airy peak of
    vantage, with all accessories and minor features a drop, a slide
    and a giddiness, its individual items and elements strike you at
    first as instinctively conforming. This impression was doubtless
    after a little modified for me; there were levels, there were
    small stony practicable streets, there were walks and strolls,
    outside the gates and roundabout the cyclopean wall, to the far
    end of downward-tending protrusions and promontories, natural
    buttresses and pleasant terrene headlands, friendly suburban
    spots (one would call them if the word had less detestable
    references) where games of bowls and overtrellised wine-tables
    could put in their note; in spite of which however my friend's
    little house of hospitality, clean and charming and oh, so
    immemorially Tuscan, was as perpendicular and ladder-like as so
    compact a residence could be; it kept up for me beautifully--as
    regards posture and air, though humanly and socially it rather
    cooed like a dovecote--the illusion of the vertiginously
    "balanced" eagle's nest. The air, in truth, all the rest of that
    splendid day, must have been the key to the promptly-produced
    intensity of one's relation to every aspect of the charming
    episode; the light, cool, keen air of those delightful high
    places, in Italy, that tonically correct the ardours of July, and
    which at our actual altitude could but affect me as the very
    breath of the grand local legend. I might have "had" the little
    house, our particular eagle's nest, for the summer, and even on
    such touching terms; and I well remember the force of the
    temptation to take it, if only other complications had permitted;
    to spend the series of weeks with that admirable
    interesting freshness in my lungs: interesting, I
    especially note, as the strong appropriate medium in which a
    continuity with the irrecoverable but still effective past had
    been so robustly preserved. I couldn't yield, alas, to the
    conceived felicity, which had half-a-dozen appealing aspects; I
    could only, while thus feeling how the atmospheric medium itself
    made for a positively initiative exhilaration, enjoy my illusion
    till the morrow. The exhilaration therefore supplies to memory
    the whole light in which, for the too brief time, I went about
    "seeing" Volterra; so that my glance at the seated splendour
    reduces itself, as I have said, to the merest impressionism;
    nothing more was to be looked for, on the stretched surface of
    consciousness, from one breezy wash of the brush. I find there
    the clean strong image simplified to the three or four
    unforgettable particulars of the vast rake of the view; with the
    Maremma, of evil fame, more or less immediately below, but with
    those islands of the sea, Corsica and Elba, the names of which
    are sharply associational beyond any others, dressing the far
    horizon in the grand manner, and the Ligurian coast-line melting
    northward into beauty and history galore; with colossal
    uncemented blocks of Etruscan gates and walls plunging you--and
    by their very interest--into a sweet surrender of any privilege
    of appreciation more crushing than your general synthetic stare;
    and with the rich and perfectly arranged museum, an unsurpassed
    exhibition of monumental treasure from Etruscan tombs, funereal
    urns mainly, reliquaries of an infinite power to move and charm
    us still, contributing to this same so designed, but somehow at
    the same time so inspired, collapse of the historic imagination
    under too heavy a pressure, or abeyance of "private judgment" in
    too unequal a relation.


    I remember recovering private judgment indeed in the course of
    two or three days following the excursion I have just noted;
    which must have shaped themselves in some sort of consonance with
    the idea that as we were hereabouts in the very middle of dim
    Etruria a common self-respect prescribed our somehow profiting by
    the fact. This kindled in us the spirit of exploration, but with
    results of which I here attempt to record, so utterly does the
    whole impression swoon away, for present memory, into vagueness,
    confusion and intolerable heat, Our self-respect was of the
    common order, but the blaze of the July sun was, even for
    Tuscany, of the uncommon; so that the project of a trudging quest
    for Etruscan tombs in shadeless wastes yielded to its own
    temerity. There comes back to me nevertheless at the same time,
    from the mild misadventure, and quite as through this positive
    humility of failure, the sense of a supremely intimate revelation
    of Italy in undress, so to speak (the state, it seemed, in which
    one would most fondly, most ideally, enjoy her); Italy no longer
    in winter starch and sobriety, with winter manners and winter
    prices and winter excuses, all addressed to the forestieri
    and the philistines; but lolling at her length, with her graces
    all relaxed, and thereby only the more natural; the brilliant
    performer, in short, en famille, the curtain down and her
    salary stopped for the season--thanks to which she is by so much
    more the easy genius and the good creature as she is by so much
    less the advertised prima donna. She received us nowhere
    more sympathetically, that is with less ceremony or self-
    consciousness, I seem to recall, than at Montepulciano, for
    instance--where it was indeed that the recovery of private
    judgment I just referred to couldn't help taking place. What we
    were doing, or what we expected to do, at Montepulciano I keep no
    other trace of than is bound up in a present quite tender
    consciousness that I wouldn't for the world not have been there.
    I think my reason must have been largely just in the beauty of
    the name (for could any beauty be greater?), reinforced no doubt
    by the fame of the local vintage and the sense of how we should
    quaff it on the spot. Perhaps we quaffed it too constantly; since
    the romantic picture reduces itself for me but to two definite
    appearances; that of the more priggish discrimination so far
    reasserting itself as to advise me that Montepulciano was dirty,
    even remarkably dirty; and that of her being not much else
    besides but perched and brown and queer and crooked, and noble
    withal (which is what almost any Tuscan city more easily than not
    acquits herself of; all the while she may on such occasions
    figure, when one looks off from her to the end of dark street-
    vistas or catches glimpses through high arcades, some big
    battered, blistered, overladen, overmasted ship, swimming in a
    violet sea).

    If I have lost the sense of what we were doing, that could at all
    suffer commemoration, at Montepulciano, so I sit helpless before
    the memory of small stewing Torrita, which we must somehow have
    expected to yield, under our confidence, a view of shy charms,
    but which did n't yield, to my recollection, even anything that
    could fairly be called a breakfast or a dinner. There may have
    been in the neighbourhood a rumour of Etruscan tombs; the
    neighbourhood, however, was vast, and that possibility not to be
    verified, in the conditions, save after due refreshment. Then it
    was, doubtless, that the question of refreshment so beckoned us,
    by a direct appeal, straight across country, from Perugia, that,
    casting consistency, if not to the winds, since alas there were
    none, but to the lifeless air, we made the sweltering best of our
    way (and it took, for the distance, a terrible time) to the Grand
    Hotel of that city. This course shines for me, in the retrospect,
    with a light even more shameless than that in which my rueful
    conscience then saw it; since we thus exchanged again, at a
    stroke, the tousled bonne fille of our vacational Tuscany
    for the formal and figged-out presence of Italy on her good
    behaviour. We had never seen her conform more to all the
    proprieties, we felt, than under this aspect of lavish
    hospitality to that now apparently quite inveterate swarm of
    pampered forestieri, English and Americans in especial,
    who, having had Roman palaces and villas deliciously to linger
    in, break the northward journey, when once they decide to take
    it, in the Umbrian paradise. They were, goodness knows, within
    their rights, and we profited, as anyone may easily and cannily
    profit at that time, by the sophistications paraded for them;
    only I feel, as I pleasantly recover it all, that though we had
    arrived perhaps at the most poetical of watering-places we had
    lost our finer clue. (The difference from other days was
    immense, all the span of evolution from the ancient malodorous
    inn which somehow did n't matter, to that new type of polyglot
    caravanserai which everywhere insists on mattering--mattering,
    even in places where other interests abound, so much more than
    anything else.) That clue, the finer as I say, I would fain at
    any rate to-day pick up for its close attachment to another
    Tuscan city or two--for a felt pull from strange little San
    Gimignano delle belle Torre in especial; by which I mean from the
    memory of a summer Sunday spent there during a stay at Siena. But
    I have already superabounded, for mere love of my general present
    rubric--the real thickness of experience having a good deal
    evaporated, so that the Tiny Town of the Many Towers hangs before
    me, not to say, rather, far behind me, after the manner of an
    object directly meeting the wrong or diminishing lens of one's

    It did everything, on the occasion of that pilgrimage, that it
    was expected to do, presenting itself more or less in the guise
    of some rare silvery shell, washed up by the sea of time, cracked
    and battered and dishonoured, with its mutilated marks of
    adjustment to the extinct type of creature it once harboured
    figuring against the sky as maimed gesticulating arms flourished
    in protest against fate. If the centuries, however, had pretty
    well cleaned out, vulgarly speaking, this amazing little
    fortress-town, it wasn't that a mere aching void was bequeathed
    us, I recognise as I consult a somewhat faded impression; the
    whole scene and occasion come back to me as the exhibition, on
    the contrary, of a stage rather crowded and agitated, of no small
    quantity of sound and fury, of concussions, discussions,
    vociferations, hurryings to and fro, that could scarce have
    reached a higher pitch in the old days of the siege and the
    sortie. San Gimignano affected me, to a certainty, as not dead, I
    mean, but as inspired with that strange and slightly sinister new
    life that is now, in case after case, up and down the peninsula,
    and even in presence of the dryest and most scattered bones,
    producing the miracle of resurrection. The effect is often--and I
    find it strikingly involved in this particular reminiscence--that
    of the buried hero himself positively waking up to show you his
    bones for a fee, and almost capering about in his appeal to your
    attention. What has become of the soul of San Gimignano who shall
    say?--but, of a genial modern Sunday, it is as if the heroic
    skeleton, risen from the dust, were in high activity, officious
    for your entertainment and your detention, clattering and
    changing plates at the informal friendly inn, personally
    conducting you to a sight of the admirable Santa Fina of
    Ghirlandaio, as I believe is supposed, in a dim chapel of the
    Collegiata church; the poor young saint, on her low bed, in a
    state of ecstatic vision (the angelic apparition is given),
    acconpanied by a few figures and accessories of the most
    beautiful and touching truth. This image is what has most vividly
    remained with me, of the day I thus so ineffectually recover; the
    precious ill-set gem or domestic treasure of Santa Fina, and then
    the wonderful drive, at eventide, back to Siena: the progress
    through the darkening land that was like a dense fragrant garden,
    all fireflies and warm emanations and dimly-seen motionless
    festoons, extravagant vines and elegant branches intertwisted
    for miles, with couples and companies of young countryfolk almost
    as fondly united and raising their voices to the night as if
    superfluously to sing out at you that they were happy, and above
    all were Tuscan. On reflection, and to be just, I connect the
    slightly incongruous loudness that hung about me under the
    Beautiful Towers with the really too coarse competition for my
    favour among the young vetturini who lay in wait for my approach,
    and with an eye to my subsequent departure, on my quitting, at
    some unremembered spot, the morning train from Siena, from which
    point there was then still a drive. That onset was of a fine
    mediaeval violence, but the subsiding echoes of it alone must
    have afterwards borne me company; mingled, at the worst, with
    certain reverberations of the animated rather than concentrated
    presence of sundry young sketchers and copyists of my own
    nationality, which element in the picture conveyed beyond
    anything else how thoroughly it was all to sit again henceforth
    in the eye of day. My final vision perhaps was of a sacred
    reliquary not so much rudely as familiarly and "humorously" torn
    open. The note had, with all its references, its own interest;
    but I never went again.
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