Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Dying Man

Montgomery Carmichael was a British consular official and then consul in Livorno from 1890 to 1922. After retiring, he lived in Livorno until his death in 1936. He published his Tuscan Towns, Tuscan Types and the Tuscan Tongue in 1901. This is the last of three posts, from a chapter of the book, with the unlucky end of this story.

Old postcard, Piazza Carlo Alberto, LivornoPoor “Cialì”! He managed to wind himself very closely about my heart-strings. Most keenly did I realise this one terrible night last December. I saw — a familiar enough sight — a company of the masked Misericordia Brothers running full tilt down the main street with their easy-springed hand ambulance cart, foot-passengers and traffic willingly making an avenue for them, as when a fire-engine tears along the London streets. The light of a fitful gas-lamp revealed the form of a prostrate human being in the cart, and then lit up with momentary horror the ghastly features of poor “Cialì” contorted with the anguish of mortal pain. I saw, with a pang at my heart, a sign which showed me it was a very serious case. These Misericordia Brothers, for all they are a religious confraternity, are a very practical set of people. One of the Brothers was running alongside, holding the dying man's wrist, and keeping his fingers upon the flickering pulse; in his left hand he held a large stop-watch, so that if the sufferer died upon the road the police could be informed of the exact moment of death. I followed swiftly towards the hospital ; but before many moments were over the pace of the runners slackened, for the poor pulse had ceased to beat for ever.
It seems that two pot-valiant Welsh firemen had got into an altercation with a sober Tuscan seaman. A real or fancied insult to the girl on the man's arm was the cause of it The blood which gets into a Tuscan's head upon the venom motions of mad jealousy is more deadly than any drink: out came the inevitable knife. But “Cialì,” the peacemaker, was near at hand. He rushed up — too late alas ! — to quench the flames, for the insensate Tuscan no longer knew what he did, and poor “Cialì” received, just above the heart, the terrible blade that was meant for a far unworthier breast. And so he died, a martyr to his love of Great Britain, and in heroic devotion to her offscourings.
“Cialì’s” funeral was a great affair. All the waterside population turned out. Many British seamen were present; most of them took a turn at carrying the coffin the five long miles to the Campo Santo. Best of all, an English captain who had known him for years, and like everybody else used him as “unpaid factotum,” brought a Red Ensign, and covered the coffin with it. Borne to his grave by British seamen and covered with the Union Jack! The tingling sensations of an honest, simple pride must surely have caused him to turn in his coffin. If the poor fellow could but have known of the honours that awaited him in death, how exultantly he would have marched into the undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveller returns. May his soul rest in peace!

First of three parts - Second of three parts - Third of three parts

Montgomery Carmichael, “In Tuscany”
John Murray, London 1901


See also: In Tuscany - Leghorn “la Cara”
“In Tuscany” by Montgomery Carmichael is available here.

11 comments:

Jack said...

VP, what a terribly sad story!

Luis Gomez said...

Really sad!

Randy said...

I have to agree. Love the old photo too.

Genie -- Paris and Beyond said...

What a sad ending to this story, and now I will go back to read the first two.

I just read that the ebook is available for free as an Android offering...

Bises,
Genie

PerthDailyPhoto said...

Oh no VP what a sad way for poor Ciali to meet his end, but I guess he was doing what he loved best and probably from somewhere was watching his own funeral pleased as punch with the ceremony of it.

Birdman said...

Thanks for the story share today.

brattcat said...

somehow i think ciali did know. this has been wonderful, vp. thank you.

Kaori said...

Oh how sad...but the passage from the story had me enthralled.

Cezar and Léia said...

congratulations for this important post!Very well elaborated!
Léia

JM said...

Yes, what an end!

Dina said...

What a story! I try to imagine those times.