A WEEK AT LEGHORN
We left Rome with such a nostalgic pang in our hearts that we tried to find relief in a name for it, and we called ourselves Romesick. Afterward, when we practised the name with such friends as we could get to listen, they thought we said homesick. Being better instructed, they stared or simpered, and said, "Oh!" That was not all we could have asked, but Rome herself would understand, and, while we were seeking this outlet for our grief, she followed us as far as she could on her poor, broken aqueducts. At places they gave way under her, and she fell down, but scrambled up again on the next stretch of arches, like some fond cripple pursuing a friend on crutches; when at last our train outran them, and there was no longer an arch to halt upon, she gave up the vain chase and turned back within her walls, where we saw her domes and bell-towers fading into the heaven to which they pointed.
It was a heaven of better than absolute blue, for there were soft, white clouds in it, and the air that our Sunday breathed under it was, at the beginning of April, as bland as that of an American May-end. The orchard trees were in bloom - peach and plum, cherry and pear - whenever you chose to look at them, and all nature seemed to rejoice in the cessation of the two days' strike which had now enabled us to drive to the station instead of walking and carrying our bags and bundles. There were so many of these that we had taken two cabs, and at the station our drivers attempted to rejoice with nature in an overcharge that would have recouped them for the loss suffered in their recent leisure. But as we were then leaving Koine, and were not yet melted with the grief of absence, I had the courage to resist their demand. Long before we reached Leghorn I was so Romesick that I would have paid them anything they asked.
When we emerged from the suburbs upon the open Campagna, we passed through many fields of wheat, more than we had yet seen on the grassy waste, but there were also many flocks of sheep feeding with the cattle in pastures. Now and then we passed a wretched hut which seemed to be the dwelling of the shepherds we saw tending the flocks, and here and there we came upon a group of farm buildings, all of straw, whether for man or beast, set within a sort of squalid court, with a frowzy suggestion of old women and children about the doors of the cottages. We saw no men, though there must have been men off at work in the fields with the younger women.
As we drew near Civita Vecchia the sea widened on our view, wild with a wind that seemed to have been blowing ever since the stormy evening in 1865 when, after looking at the tossing ships in the harbor, we decided to take the diligence for Leghorn, rather than the little steamer we had meant to take. From our pleasant train we now patronized Civita Vecchia with a recognition of its picturesqueness, unvexed by the choice that then insisted on itself, though the harbor was as full of shipping as of old. There was time to run out for a cup of coffee at the station buffet, where there had been neither station nor buffet in our young time: but doubtless then as now there had been the lonely graveyard outside the town, with its sea-beaten, seaward wall. We buried there the last of our Roman holidays under a sky that had changed from blue to gray since our journey began, and mournfully set out faces northward in the malarial Maremma.
If the Maremma is as malarial as it is famed, it does not look it. There were stretches of hopeless morass, with wide acreages under water, but mostly, I should say, it was rather a hilly country. Now and then we ran by a stony old town on a distant summit like the outcropping of granite or marble, and there were frequent breadths of woodland, oak and pine and, I dare say, walnut and chestnut. Evidently there had been efforts to reclaim the Maremma from its evil air and make it safely habitable, and the farther we penetrated it the more frequent the evidences were. There were many new buildings of a good sort, and of wood as well as stone; when we came to Grosetto, where we had spent a memorable night after being overturned in the Ombrone, in the attempt of our diligence to pass its flood, we were aware, in the evening light, of a prosperity which, if not excessive for the twoscore years that had passed, was still very noticeable. I should not quite say that the brick wall of the city had been scraped and scrubbed, but it looked very neat and new, and there was a pleasant suburb under it where the moat might have been, and people were coming and going who had almost the effect of commuters; at least, they seemed to have come out to their homes by trolley. We resisted an impulse to dismount and go up to the inn in the heart of the town where we had spent that "night of memory and of sighs."
But we searched the horizon round for the point on the highway where our diligence had failed of the track between the telegraph-poles and softly rolled with us in the muddy waters, like an elephant taking a bath, but, so far from finding it, we could not even find the highway. We began to have our doubts of what we had always believed had happened, and remained as snugly as we could in our compartment, where, to tell the truth, we were not very snug. In too fond a reliance on the almanac, the Italian government had cut off the steam which ought to have heated it, and the cold from the hills, on which we saw snow, pierced our rugs and cushions; but, if we had known what we were coming to in Leghorn, we should have thought ourselves very enviable.