Monday, 29 December 2008

vi

I sincerely hoped he would remember the falsehood when he next went to confession, and would receive a severe penance for it, which he richly deserved. I thanked him, however, for the compliment, which I attributed to a kind wish on his part to encourage me.

“Have you been long in Italy?” he inquired.

“A very short time,” I replied; “and with the exception of the cities of Turin and Milan, and the neighbourhood of Lake Como, I have seen nothing of the country.”

“Do you not greatly admire the lake and the scenery around it?” he asked.

“Immensely,” I replied. “I had no idea that so lovely a spot existed on the face of the globe.”

“I am delighted to hear you say so, though I am by no means surprised. I have lived here for more than twenty-five years, and of course am so well accustomed to the scenery; yet I can assure you it appears to me, at the present time, as beautiful as it was on the first day of my arrival. Turn which way you will, some fresh attraction seems to spring up before you.”

“But lovely as it is by day,” I remarked, “it is occasionally equally lovely by night. I never saw anything more exquisite than the sunset yesterday evening, and the rising of the moon afterwards. I was completely enchanted by it, and quite forgot how late it was, and the distance I was from home.”

“To watch the full moon rising over the Res├ęgone is always a great treat to me,” said my companion. “Had you a good view of it yesterday evening?”

“Admirable!” I replied. “I was standing at the time by an old castle, so there was nothing to interfere with my view.”

“You could not have been in a better position. At the same time you showed yourself to be either a very bold man or a stranger to the locality,” said the priest, adopting a certain mock gravity in the concluding sentence.

“How so?” I asked.

“Because that spot has a very bad reputation. I can assure you that you would have had great difficulty in persuading any of the peasantry in the vicinity to have kept you company.”

“I did not know there were robbers in these parts,” I remarked. “I have frequently heard my friend say, that the peasantry in the neighbourhood were remarkable for their integrity.”

“Nor did he in any way exceed the truth when he said so,” my companion replied. “A more honest community than our peasantry it would be impossible to find in any part of Europe; but I did not allude to robbers when I spoke. There are various indistinct traditionary rumours respecting the old ruins being haunted by the ghost of a certain necromancer...

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