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Alexandre Dumas weaves the compelling story of Siamese twins who are separated physically but never in spirit. They’re raised by two different families, but are still able to ‘feel’ the emotions of the other, even at a distance. On the island of Corsica they become entwined in the long-running feud between the Orlandi and the Colonnas–a dispute that had its beginnings in a dispute over the ownership of a chicken! Most of the two families have now been eliminated through the ongoing blood-feud, but the twins, unbeknownst to each other, are being manipulated to settle the fate of the two clans once and for all. The result is a stunning climax of swordplay and violence!
In the beginning of March, 1841, I was travelling in Corsica.
Nothing is more picturesque and more easy to accomplish than a journey in Corsica. You can embark at Toulon, in twenty hours you will be in Ajaccio, and then in twenty-four hours more you are at Bastia.
Once there you can hire or purchase a horse. If you wish to hire a horse you can do so for five francs a-day; if you purchase one you can have a good animal for one hundred and fifty francs. And don’t sneer at the moderate price, for the horse hired or purchased will perform as great feats as the famous Gascon horse which leaped over the Pont Neuf, which neither Prospero nor Nautilus, the heroes of Chantilly and the Champ de Mars could do. He will traverse roads which Balmat himself could not cross without crampons, and will go over bridges upon which Auriol would need a balancing pole.
As for the traveller, all he has to do is to give the horse his head and let him go as he pleases; he does not mind the danger. We may add that with this horse, which can go anywhere, the traveller can accomplish his fifteen leagues a day without stopping to bait.
From time to time, while the tourist may be halting to examine some ancient castle, built by some old baron or legendary hero, or to sketch a tower built ages ago by the Genoese, the horse will be contented to graze by the road side, or to pluck the mosses from the rocks in the vicinity.
As to lodging for the night, it is still more simple in Corsica. The traveller having arrived at a village, passes down through the principal street, and making his own choice of the house wherein he will rest, he knocks at the door. An instant after, the master or mistress will appear upon the threshold, invite the traveller to dismount; offer him a share of the family supper and the whole of his own bed, and next morning, when seeing him safely resume his journey, will thank him for the preference he has accorded to his house.
As for remuneration, such a thing is never hinted at. The master would regard it as an insult if the subject were broached. If, however, the servant happen to be a young girl, one may fitly offer her a coloured handkerchief, with which she can make up a picturesque coiffure for a fête day. If the domestic be a male he will gladly accept a poignard, with which he can kill his enemy, should he meet him.
There is one thing more to remark, and that is, as sometimes happens, the servants of the house are relatives of the owner, and the former being in reduced circumstances, offer their services to the latter in consideration of board and lodging and a few piastres per month.
And it must not be supposed that the masters are not well served by their cousins to the fifteenth and sixteenth degree, because the contrary is the case, and the custom is not thought anything of. Corsica is a French Department certainly, but Corsica is very far from being France.
As for robbers, one never hears of them, yet there are bandits in abundance; but these gentlemen must in no wise be confounded one with another.
So go without fear to Ajaccio, to Bastia, with a purse full of money hanging to your saddle-bow, and you may traverse the whole island without a shadow of danger, but do not go from Oceana to Levaco, if you happen to have an enemy who has declared the Vendetta against you, for I would not answer for your safety during that short journey of six miles.
Well, then, I was in Corsica, as I have said, at the beginning of the month of March, and I was alone; Jadin having remained at Rome.
I had come across from Elba, had disembarked at Bastia, and there had purchased a horse at the above-mentioned price.
I had visited Corte and Ajaccio, and just then I was traversing the province of Sartène.
On the particular day of which I am about to speak I was riding from Sartène to Sullacaro.
The day’s journey was short, perhaps a dozen leagues, in consequence of detours, and on account of my being obliged to climb the slopes of the mountain chain, which, like a backbone, runs through the island. I had a guide with me, for fear I should lose my way in the maquis.
It was about five o’clock in the afternoon when we arrived at the summit of the hill, which at the same time overlooks Olmeto and Sullacaro. There we stopped a moment to look about us.
“Where would your Excellency wish to stay the night?” asked the guide.
I looked down upon the village, the streets of which appeared almost deserted. Only a few women were visible, and they walked quickly along, and frequently looked cautiously around them.