THE PRICE OF ORANGES
If ever a northern wanderer could be suddenly transported to look down upon the Piano di Sorrento, he would not doubt that he saw the Garden of the Hesperides. The orange-trees cannot well be fuller: their branches bend with the weight of fruit. With the almond-trees in full flower, and with the silver sheen of the olive leaves, the oranges are apples of gold in pictures of silver. As I walk in these sunken roads, and between these high walls, the orange boughs everywhere hang over; and through the open gates of villas I look down alleys of golden glimmer, roses and geraniums by the walk, and the fruit above,—gardens of enchantment, with never a dragon, that I can see, to guard them.
All the highways and the byways, the streets and lanes, wherever I go, from the sea to the tops of the hills, are strewn with orange-peel; so that one, looking above and below, comes back from a walk with a golden dazzle in his eyes,—a sense that yellow is the prevailing color. Perhaps the kerchiefs of the dark-skinned girls and women, which take that tone, help the impression. The inhabitants are all orange-eaters. The high walls show that the gardens are protected with great care; yet the fruit seems to be as free as apples are in a remote New England town about cider-time.
I have been trying, ever since I have been here, to ascertain the price of oranges; not for purposes of exportation, nor yet for the personal importation that I daily practice, but in order to give an American basis of fact to these idle chapters. In all the paths I meet, daily, girls and boys bearing on their heads large baskets of the fruit, and little children with bags and bundles of the same, as large as they can stagger under; and I understand they are carrying them to the packers, who ship them to New York, or to the depots, where I see them lying in yellow heaps, and where men and women are cutting them up, and removing the peel, which goes to England for preserves. I am told that these oranges are sold for a couple of francs a hundred. That seems to me so dear that I am not tempted into any speculation, but stroll back to the Tramontano, in the gardens of which I find better terms.