My Cousin Rachel
carrozzas that had been waiting there had driven off. The siesta hour was over, and the streets were crowded once again. I plunged into them and was lost at once. About me were dark courts and alleyways, tall houses touching one another, jutting balconies, and as I walked, and turned, and walked again, faces peered at me from the doorways, passing figures paused and stared, all wearing upon them that same age-old look of suffering and passion long since spent which I had first noticed on the beggar girl. Some of them followed me, whispering as she had done, stretching out their hands, and when I spoke roughly, remembering my fellow passenger from the coach, they drew back again, flattening themselves against the walls of the tall houses, and watched me pass on, with a strange smoldering pride. The church bells began to clamor once again, and I came to a great piazza where the people stood thickly, clustered together in groups, talking, gesticulating, having, so it seemed to my alien eyes, no connection with the buildings fringing the square, austere and beautiful, nor with the statues remotely staring with blind eyes upon them, nor with the sound of the bells themselves, echoing loud and fateful to the sky.
    I hailed a passing carrozza, and when I said doubtfully the words “Villa Sangalletti” the driver answered something which I could not understand, but I caught the word “Fiesole” as he nodded and pointed with his whip. We drove through the narrow crowded streets, and he shouted to the horse, the reins jingling, the people falling back from us as we passed among them. The bells ceased and died away, yet the echo seemed to sound still in my ears, solemn, sonorous, tolling not for my mission, insignificant and small, nor for the lives of the people in the streets, but for the souls of men and women long since dead, and for eternity.
    We climbed a long twisting road towards the distant hills, and Florence lay behind us. The buildings fell away. It was peaceful, silent, and the hot staring sun that had beaten down upon the city all day, glazing the sky, turned gentle suddenly, and soft. The glare was gone. The yellow houses and the yellow walls, even the brown dust itself, were not so parched as they had been before. Color came back to the houses, faded perhaps, subdued, but with an afterglow more tender now that the full force of the sun was spent. Cypress trees, shrouded and still, turned inky green.
    The driver drew up his carrozza before a closed gate set in a long high wall. He turned in his seat and looked down at me over his shoulder. “Villa Sangalletti,” he said. The end of my journey.
    I made signs to him to wait, and, getting out, walked up to the gate and pulled at the bell that hung there on the wall. I could hear it jangle from within. My driver coaxed his horse into the side of the road, and climbing from his seat stood by the ditch, waving the flies away from his face with his hat. The horse drooped, poor half-starved brute, between his shafts; he had not spirit enough after his climb to crop the wayside, and dozed, with twitching ears. There was no sound from within the gate, and I rang the bell again. This time there was a muffled barking of a dog, becoming suddenly louder as some door was opened; the fretful cry of a child was hushed shrilly, with irritation, by a woman’s voice, and I could hear footsteps approaching the gate from the other side. There was a heavy dragging sound of bolts being withdrawn, and then the grind of the gate itself, as it scraped the stone beneath and was opened. A peasant woman stood peering at me. Advancing upon her, I said: “Villa Sangalletti? Signor Ashley?”
    The dog, chained inside the lodge where the woman lived, barked more furiously than before. An avenue stretched in front of me, and at the far end I could see the villa itself, shuttered and lifeless. The woman made as though to shut the gate against me, as the dog continued barking and the child cried. Her

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