THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN
get any information in an Italian village, you go to the priest, and if he is out, or busy, or checking off some poor devil’s sins—and he has plenty of it to do—then hunt up the sacristan.
“There must have been an extra load of peccadilloes on hand that night, for I didn’t find his reverence, nor the sacristan, nor anybody connected with the church. What I did find was a chap squatting against one side of the door with a tray on his lap filled with little medals and rosaries—and a most picturesque-looking chap he was. His feet were tied up in raw hides; his head bound in a red cotton handkerchief, over which was smashed a broad-brimmed sombrero; his waist was gripped with another to match; his lank body squeezed into a shrunken blue jacket, and his shambly legs wobbled about in yellow breeches. The sombrero shaded two cunning, monkey eyes, a hooked nose, a wavering mouth, and a beard a week old. It was his smile, though, that tickled my funny-bone, and this happened when he held up the tray for my inspection—one of those creepy, oily smiles that spread slowly over his dirty, soapy face, like the swirl of oil and turpentine which floats over a basin of suds when you wash your brushes.