I cut the thick skin, which easily falls apart and discloses the luscious quarters, plump, juicy, and waiting to melt in the mouth. I look for a moment at the rich pulp in its soft incasement, and then try a delicious morsel. I nod. My gardener again shrugs his shoulders, with a slight smile, as much as to say, It could not be otherwise, and is evidently delighted to have me enjoy his fruit. I fill capacious pockets with the choicest; and, if I have friends with me, they do the same. I give our silent but most expressive entertainer half a franc, never more; and he always seems surprised at the size of the largesse. We exhaust his basket, and he proposes to get more.
When I am alone, I stroll about under the heavily-laden trees, and pick up the largest, where they lie thickly on the ground, liking to hold them in my hand and feel the agreeable weight, even when I can carry away no more. The gardener neither follows nor watches me; and I think perhaps knows, and is not stingy about it, that more valuable to me than the oranges I eat or take away are those on the trees among the shining leaves. And perhaps he opines that I am from a country of snow and ice, where the year has six hostile months, and that I have not money enough to pay for the rich possession of the eye, the picture of beauty, which I take with me.
There are three places where I should like to live; naming them in the inverse order of preference,—the Isle of Wight, Sorrento, and Heaven. The first two have something in common, the almost mystic union of sky and sea and shore, a soft atmospheric suffusion that works an enchantment, and puts one into a dreamy mood. And yet there are decided contrasts. The superabundant, soaking sunshine of Sorrento is of very different quality from that of the Isle of Wight. On the island there is a sense of home, which one misses on this promontory, the fascination of which, no less strong, is that of a southern beauty, whose charms conquer rather than win. I remember with what feeling I one day unexpectedly read on a white slab, in the little inclosure of Bonchurch, where the sea whispered as gently as the rustle of the ivy-leaves, the name of John Sterling. Could there be any fitter resting-place for that most, weary, and gentle spirit? There I seemed to know he had the rest that he could not have anywhere on these brilliant historic shores. Yet so impressible was his sensitive nature, that I doubt not, if he had given himself up to the enchantment of these coasts in his lifetime, it would have led him by a spell he could not break.