THE GOLOSHES OF FORTUNE 121
the grape-vines held each other by their green fingers ; pretty half-naked children were keeping a herd of coal-black pigs under a clump of fragrant laurels by the wayside. If we could reproduce this scene accurately, all would cry, ' Glorious Italy ! ' But neither the theologian nor any of his travelling companions in the carriage of the vetturino thought this.
Poisonous flies and gnats flew into the carriage by thousands. In vain they beat the air frantically with a myrtle branch—the flies stung them nevertheless. There was not one person in the carriage whose face was not swollen and covered with stings. The poor horses looked miserable, the flies tormented them wofully, and it only mended the matter for a moment when the coachman dismounted and scraped them clean from the insects that sat upon them in great swarms. Now the sun sank down ; a short but icy coldness pervaded all nature ; it was not at all agreeable, but all around the hills and clouds put on the most beautiful green colour, so clear, so shining—yes, go and see it in person, that is better than any description. It was a glorious spectacle ; but the stomachs of all were empty and their bodies exhausted, and every wish of the heart turned towards a resting-place for the night; but how could that be won ? To descry this resting-place all eyes were turned more eagerly to the road than towards the beauties of nature.
The way now led through an olive wood : he could have fancied himself passing between knotty willow trunks at home. Here, by the solitary inn, a dozen crippled beggars had taken up their positions : the quickest among them looked, to quote an expression of Marryat's, like the eldest son of Famine, who had just come of age. The others were either blind or had withered legs, so that they crept about on their hands, or they had withered arms with fingerless hands. This was misery in rags indeed. ' Eccel-lenza, miserabili ! ' they sighed, and stretched forth their diseased limbs. The hostess herself, with bare feet, untidy hair, and dressed in a dirty blouse, received her guests. The doors were tied up with string ; the floor of the room was of brick, and half of it was grubbed up ; bats flew about under the roof, and the smell within------