Andrea Delfin

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In that Venetian alley which bears the friendly name of "BellaCortesia", there was, in the middle of the past century, thesimple, one-story house of a common family; over its low portal,framed by two wooden spiral columns and a baroque ledge, residedan image of the Madonna in a niche, and an eternal flame flickeredhumbly behind its red glass. Entering the lower corridor, onewould have found oneself at the foot of a broad, steep staircase,which, without any bents, went straight up to the rooms upstairs.Here also, a lamp burnt day and night, which hang by shiny,delicate chains from the ceiling, since daylight could only enterinside, whenever the front door happened to be opened. But inspite of this everlasting gloom, the staircase was the place whereSignora Giovanna Danieli, the owner of the house, liked to sit themost. Since the death of her husband, she inhabited the inheritedhouse together with Marietta, her only daughter, and let a fewunneeded rooms to quiet lodgers. She maintained that the tearsshe had cried for her dear husband had weakened her eyes too muchto be still able to withstand direct sunlight. But the neighbourssaid about her that the only reason for her continued presence atthe top of the stairs, from morning until nightfall, was to enableher to start a conversation with everyone leaving or entering thehouse and not to let him pass, before he had payed his dues to hercuriosity and her talkative nature. At the time when we are nowabout to make her acquaintance, this could hardly have been thereason for her preferring the hard seat of the stairs over acomfortable armchair. It was in August of the year 1762. Forhalf a year, the rooms she used to let were empty, and she hadonly little contact with her neighbours. Furthermore, night hadalready fallen, and a visit at this time of day would have beenquite unusual. Nevertheless, the little woman sat persistently ather post and thoughtfully looked down the empty corridor. She hadsent her child to bed and had placed a few pumpkins by her side,to take out the seeds before she would go to sleep. But all kindsof thoughts and ideas had made her forget her task. Her handsrested in her lap, her head was leaning against the banister; ithad not been the first time that she had fallen asleep in thisposition.Today, it had almost happened to her again, when three slow, butforceful, thumps to the front door suddenly made her start."Misericordia!" said the woman, as she was getting up, butremained standing there motionlessly, "what's this? Have Idreamt? Could it really be him?"
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