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A Set of Six

he was communicative. I would not go so far as to call it garrulous--but distinctly
He had tried various climates, of Abbazia, of the Riviera, of other places, too, he told me,
but the only one which suited him was the climate of the Gulf of Naples. The ancient
Romans, who, he pointed out to me, were men expert in the art of living, knew very well
what they were doing when they built their villas on these shores, in Baiae, in Vico, in
Capri. They came down to this seaside in search of health, bringing with them their trains
of mimes and flute-players to amuse their leisure. He thought it extremely probable that
the Romans of the higher classes were specially predisposed to painful rheumatic
This was the only personal opinion I heard him express. It was based on no special
erudition. He knew no more of the Romans than an average informed man of the world is
expected to know. He argued from personal experience. He had suffered himself from a
painful and dangerous rheumatic affection till he found relief in this particular spot of
Southern Europe.
This was three years ago, and ever since he had taken up his quarters on the shores of the
gulf, either in one of the hotels in Sorrento or hiring a small villa in Capri. He had a
piano, a few books: picked up transient acquaintances of a day, week, or month in the
stream of travellers from all Europe. One can imagine him going out for his walks in the
streets and lanes, becoming known to beggars, shopkeepers, children, country people;
talking amiably over the walls to the contadini--and coming back to his rooms or his villa
to sit before the piano, with his white hair brushed up and his thick orderly moustache,
"to make a little music for myself." And, of course, for a change there was Naples near
by--life, movement, animation, opera. A little amusement, as he said, is necessary for
health. Mimes and flute-players, in fact. Only unlike the magnates of ancient Rome, he
had no affairs of the city to call him away from these moderate delights. He had no affairs
at all. Probably he had never had any grave affairs to attend to in his life. It was a kindly
existence, with its joys and sorrows regulated by the course of Nature--marriages, births,
deaths--ruled by the prescribed usages of good society and protected by the State.
He was a widower; but in the months of July and August he ventured to cross the Alps
for six weeks on a visit to his married daughter. He told me her name. It was that of a
very aristocratic family. She had a castle--in Bohemia, I think. This is as near as I ever
came to ascertaining his nationality. His own name, strangely enough, he never
mentioned. Perhaps he thought I had seen it on the published list. Truth to say, I never
looked. At any rate, he was a good European--he spoke four languages to my certain
knowledge--and a man of fortune. Not of great fortune evidently and appropriately. I
imagine that to be extremely rich would have appeared to him improper, outre--too
blatant altogether. And obviously, too, the fortune was not of his making. The making of
a fortune cannot be achieved without some roughness. It is a matter of temperament. His
nature was too kindly for strife. In the course of conversation he mentioned his estate
quite by the way, in reference to that painful and alarming rheumatic affection. One year,
staying incautiously beyond the Alps as late as the middle of September, he had been laid