I told the priest that I should accept with pleasure the courteous offer of his company on the road the next day, and requested him to bid the landlord prepare the bed for me at once, as I was too much fatigued that evening to think of supper. After a little more conversation – which I carried on with some difficulty, for though I understand Italian perfectly, I am but little in the habit of conversing in the language – I bade him goodnight, and, seeking my bed, was soon fast asleep.
It was late before I awoke the next day, and when I left my chamber I found my breakfast ready for me, spread on a little table under the verandah. My landlord obsequiously attended on me during the meal, and persisted in conversing with me, somewhat to my annoyance, as I did not understand one word in ten that he uttered. Possibly if I had asked him to desist it would have been useless, as I should have had great difficulty in explaining myself in his patois, so I submitted to his chattering with the best grace I could.
Breakfast over, I paid the reckoning, and after bidding the landlord adieu, strolled about in the immediate vicinity of the inn. I also visited the water-mill, from which I obtained a good view of the ruined castle. The longer I gazed at it, the greater became my curiosity to know something of its history; and I resolved, on our road to Ponte, to question the priest on the subject. I had hardly formed this resolution when someone touched me on the shoulder, and on turning round I found his reverence standing beside me; for so absorbed had I been in my meditations that I had not heard his approach. He was evidently prepared for his walk, for he had a staff in one hand and a bundle in the other.
“My successor has arrived,” he said, “and I have made over to him the duties of the cure; so when you are ready we will start for Ponte, unless there are any other spots in this neighbourhood you wish to visit, and in that case I shall have much pleasure in accompanying you, if you will allow me.”
“ I am quite ready,” I said, turning from the spot. “Perhaps some other day I may again visit this locality, but at present I ought to return home, as I am afraid my friend will be getting anxious about me.”
We now started on our journey. I found my companion extremely intelligent and courteous; but I experienced considerable difficulty in conversing with him, for though I understood him perfectly, I could not from want of practice, explain my meaning very easily. At last I asked if he understood French, as I could speak more fluently in that language than in Italian.
“I understand it, I admit,” he said. “By all means let us converse in French” (which he spoke well); “but why should we not talk in Italian? You speak the language admirably.”I sincerely hoped he...