Hillary Nanspian of Chimsworthy was a big, brisk, florid man, with light grey eyes. His face was open, round, hearty, and of the colour of a ribstone pippin. He was, to all appearance, a well-to-do man. But appearances are not always to be trusted. Chimsworthy, where he lived, was a farm of two hundred acres; the subsoil clay, some of the land moor, and more bog; but the moor was a fine place for sheep, and the bog produced pasture for the young stock when the clay grass land was drought-dry. Hillary had an orchard of the best sorts of apples grown in the West, and he had a nursery of apples, of grafts, and of seedlings. When he ate a particularly good apple, he collected the pips for sowing, put them in a paper cornet, and wrote thereon, 'This here apple was a-eated of I on ——,' such and such a day, 'and cruel good he were too.' (Cruel, in the West, means no more than 'very.')
The farm of Chimsworthy had come to Nanspian through his wife, who was dead. His brother-in-law was Taverner Langford of Langford. Taverner's mother had been a Hill, Blandina Hill, heiress of Chimsworthy, and it went to her daughter Blandina, who carried it when she married to her Cornish husband, Hillary Nanspian.
As I went over Ponte S. Angelo I was wont to look over the parapet at the opening of the sewer that carried off the dregs of that portion of the city where I was residing. One day I looked for it, and looked in vain. The Tiber had swelled and was overflowing its banks, and for a week or fortnight there could be no question, not a sewer in the vast city would be free to do anything else but mischief. I did not go on to the Vatican galleries that day. I could not have enjoyed the statues in the Braccio Nuovo, nor the frescoes in the Loggia. I went home, found Messrs. Allen's letter, packed my Gladstone bag, and bolted. I shall never learn who got the microbe destined for me, which I dodged.
I went to Florence; at the inn where I put up—one genuinely Italian, Bonciani's,—I made an acquaintance, a German Jew, a picture-dealer with a shop in a certain capital, no matter which, editor of a bric-à-brac paper, and a right merry fellow. I introduce him to the reader because he afforded me some information concerning Provence. He had a branch establishment—never mind where, but in Provence—and he had come to Florence to pick up pictures and bric-à-brac.
Our acquaintance began as follows. We sat opposite each other at table in the evening. A large rush-encased flask is set before each guest in a swing carriage, that enables him to pour out his glassful from the big-bellied flask without effort. Each flask is labelled variously Chianti, Asti, Pomino, but all the wines have a like substance and flavour, and each is an equally good light dinner-wine. A flask when full costs three francs twenty centimes; and when the guest falls back in his seat, with a smile of satisfaction on his face, and his heart full of good will towards all men, for that he has done his dinner, then the bottle is taken out, weighed, and the guest charged the amount of wine he has consumed. He gets a fresh flask at every meal.