TO TERNI. BORGHETTO.
May 25th. - We were aroused at four o'clock this morning; had some eggs and coffee, and were ready to start between five and six; being thus matutinary, in order to get to Terni in time to see the falls. The road was very striking and picturesque; but I remember nothing particularly, till we came to Borghetto, which stands on a bluff, with a broad valley sweeping round it, through the midst of which flows the Tiber. There is an old castle on a projecting point; and we saw other battlemented fortresses, of mediaeval date, along our way, forming more beautiful ruins than any of the Roman remains to which we have become accustomed. This is partly, I suppose, owing to the fact that they have been neglected, and allowed to mantle their decay with ivy, instead of being cleaned, propped up, and restored. The antiquarian is apt to spoil the objects that interest him.
Sometimes we passed through wildernesses of various trees, each contributing a different hue of verdure to the scene; the vine, also, marrying itself to the fig-tree, so that a man might sit in the shadow of both at once, and temper the luscious sweetness of the one fruit with the fresh flavor of the other. The wayside incidents were such as meeting a man and woman borne along as prisoners, handcuffed and in a cart; two men reclining across one another, asleep, and lazily lifting their heads to gaze at us as we passed by; a woman spinning with a distaff as she walked along the road. An old tomb or tower stood in a lonely field, and several caves were hollowed in the rocks, which might have been either sepulchres or habitations. Soracte kept us company, sometimes a little on one side, sometimes behind, looming up again and again, when we thought that we had done with it, and so becoming rather tedious at last, like a person who presents himself for another and another leave-taking after the one which ought to have been final. Honeysuckles sweetened the hedges along the road.
After leaving Borghetto, we crossed the broad valley of the Tiber, and skirted along one of the ridges that border it, looking back upon the road that we had passed, lying white behind us. We saw a field covered with buttercups, or some other yellow flower, and poppies burned along the roadside, as they did yesterday, and there were flowers of a delicious blue, as if the blue Italian sky had been broken into little bits, and scattered down upon the green earth. Otricoli by and by appeared, situated on a bold promontory above the valley, a village of a few gray houses and huts, with one edifice gaudily painted in white and pink. It looked more important at a distance than we found it on our nearer approach. As the road kept ascending, and as the hills grew to be mountains, we had taken two additional horses, making six in all, with a man and boy running beside them, to keep them in motion. The boy had two club feet, so inconveniently disposed that it seemed almost inevitable for him to stumble over them at every step; besides which, he seemed to tread upon his ankles, and moved with a disjointed gait, as if each of his legs and thighs had been twisted round together with his feet. Nevertheless, he had a bright, cheerful, intelligent face, and was exceedingly active, keeping up with the horses at their trot, and inciting them to better speed when they lagged. I conceived a great respect for this poor boy, who had what most Italian peasants would consider an enviable birthright in those two club feet, as giving him a sufficient excuse to live on charity, but yet took no advantage of them; on the contrary, putting his poor misshapen hoofs to such good use as might have shamed many a better provided biped. When he quitted us, he asked no alms of the travellers, but merely applied to Gaetano for some slight recompense for his well-performed service. This behavior contrasted most favorably with that of some other boys and girls, who ran begging beside the carriage door, keeping up a low, miserable murmur, like that of a kennel-stream, for a long, long way. Beggars, indeed, started up at every point, when we stopped for a moment, and whenever a hill imposed a slower pace upon us; each village had its deformity or its infirmity, offering his wretched petition at the step of the carriage; and even a venerable, white-haired patriarch, the grandfather of all the beggars, seemed to grow up by the roadside, but was left behind from inability to join in the race with his light-footed juniors. No shame is attached to begging in Italy. In fact, I rather imagine it to be held an honorable profession, inheriting some of the odor of sanctity that used to be attached to a mendicant and idle life in the days of early Christianity, when every saint lived upon Providence, and deemed it meritorious to do nothing for his support.