The pleasing tales told of this pretty animal’s amical disposition towards man are strictly true, I hear; and it is no longer ago than yesterday I was told an odd anecdote of a young farmer, who, carrying a basket of figs to his mistress, lay down in the field as he crossed it, quite overcome with the weather, and fell fast asleep. A serpent, attracted by the scent, twined round the basket, and would have bit the fellow as well as robbed him, had not a friendly lizard waked, and given him warning of the danger.
Swift says, that in the course of life he meets many asses, but they have not lucky names. I have met many vipers, and so few lizards, it is surprising! but they will not live in London.
All the stories one has ever heard of sweetness in language and delicacy in pronunciation, fall short of Siennese converse. The girls who wait on us at the inn here, would be treasures in England, could one get them thither; and they need move nothing but their tongues to make their fortunes. I told Rosetta so, and said I would steal from them a poor girl of eight years old, whom they kept out of charity, and called Olympia, to be my language mistress, “Battezata com’ e, la lascieremo Christiana[AC],” was the answer. It is impossible, without their manners, to express their elegance, their superior delicacy, graceful without diffusion, and terse without laconicism. You ask the way to the town of a peasant girl, and she replies, “Passato’l Ponte, o pur barcato’l Fiume, eccola a Sienna[AD].” And as we drove towards the city in the evening, our postillion sung improviso verses on his sweetheart, a widow who lived down at Pistoja, they told me. I was ashamed to think that no desk or study was likely to have produced better on so trite a subject. Candour must confess, however, that no thought was new, though the language made them for a moment seem so.
[Footnote AC: Being baptized as she is, we will leave her a Christian.]
[Footnote AD: The bridge once passed, or the river crossed, Sienna lies before you.]
This town is neat and cleanly, and comfortable and airy. The prospect from the public walks wants no beauty but water; and here is a suppressed convent on the neighbouring hill, where we half-longed to build a pretty cottage, as the ground is now to be disposed of vastly cheap; and half one’s work is already done in the apartments once occupied by friars. With half a word’s persuasion I should fix for life here. The air is so pure, the language so pleasing, the place so inviting;—but we drive on.