Saturday, 29 November 2008

ii

Presently I came upon a somewhat large village, and in it I particularly noticed a picturesque-looking inn, whose appearance seemed to promise a far greater amount of comfort to the traveller than is generally found in similar localities. Outside the door and under a veranda, over which was trained a vine, were placed some rough tables, at which several persons were seated. The appearance of a stranger seemed to excite in them no little surprise. They evidently regarded me with great curiosity, and a gentlemanly-looking priest, who was conversing with the landlord, whispered something in his ear which induced him to raise his cap as I passed, and the same courtesy was then repeated by almost all present, his reverse among the number.

I returned their salutation, and without further notice continued on my way. Presently the valley somewhat opened out, and to my great satisfaction I found that the pathway I had chosen rose towards the ruins, which now stood out plainly before me. The road, however, was longer than I had anticipated, for, owing to the clearness of the atmosphere, the ruins appeared to me less distant than they really were; and before I had reached them, evening had already begun to set in.

A more glorious sunset than I watched that evening, I think, I never beheld. The sun, as he sank behind the mountains, seemed to cast over the whole of the western Alps one immense mantle of the richest purple, which, becoming darker and darker, would have subsided into the deepest black had it not been for the myriads of stars which gradually shone out as the light of day faded away. So completely was I absorbed in the scene before me that for some time I totally forgot the ruins which had tempted me to the spot, and at whose base I was seated.

Before I had fully recollected the object of my visit, I turned round, and glancing casually at the heavy masses of masonry which frowned in the dark above me, I resolved on visiting them another day, and, rising from my seat, prepared to retrace my steps homewards. Another attraction, however, chained me to the spot. Although, a short time before, the whole space of the heavens had been equally covered with stars, it now appeared to me that towards the east many of them had faded, or rather melted away, in a brighter hue of the sky, which was evidently spreading itself above the mountains on the Lecco side of the lake. Brighter and clearer became the heavens and a silver hue gradually developed itself, and lighted up the mountains on the eastern side of the lake, bringing into strong relief the rugged fantastic tops of the Res├ęgone – that mountain so graphically described by Manzoni at the commencement of his admirable tale of the “Promessi Sposi.”

There was now no longer any doubt...

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