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    The Wash-tub

    Автор книги Somerset Maugham

    Время прослушивания 03:46, Дата публикации

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    Positano stands on the side of a steep hill and is a very picturesque place. In winter its two or three modest hotels are crowded with painters, male and female, but if you come there in summer you will have it to yourself. The hotel is clean and cool and there is a terrace where you can sit at night and look at the sea. Down on the quay there is a little tavern where you can have macaroni, ham and fresh-caught fish, and drink cold wine. One August, tiring of Capri where I had been staying, I made up my mind to spend a few days at Positano, so I hired a fishing-boat and rowed over. I arrived at Positano in the evening. I strolled up the hill, my two bags following me on the heads of two sturdy Italian women, to the hotel. I was surprised to learn that I was not its only guest. The waiter, whose name was Guiseppe, was an old friend of mine, and at that season he was boots, porter, chambermaid and cook as well. He told me that an American signore had been staying there for three months. "Is he a painter or a writer or something?" I asked. "No, signore, he's a gentleman." Odd, I thought. No foreigners came to Positano at that time of year. I could not imagine anyone wishing to spend three months there; unless it was somebody who wanted to hide. And since all London had been excited by the flight earlier in the year of an eminent, but dishonest, financier, the amusing thought occurred to me that this mysterious stranger was perhaps he. I knew him slightly and hoped that my sudden arrival would not disturb him. "You'll see the Signore at the tavern," said Giuseppe, as I was going out. "He always dines there." He was certainly not there when I arrived. In a few minutes, however, a man walked in who could be no other than my fellow-guest at the hotel and I had a moment's disappointment when I saw that it was not the hiding financier. A tall, elderly man, bronzed after his summer on the Mediterranean, with a handsome, thin face. He wore a very neat suit of cream-coloured silk and no hat. His gray hair was cut very short, but was still thick. There was ease in his bearing, and elegance. He looked round the half-dozen tables at which the natives of the place were playing cards or dominoes and his eyes rested on me. They smiled pleasantly. He came up. "I hear you have just arrived at the hotel. Giuseppe said that as he couldn't come down here to introduce me you wouldn't mind if I introduced myself. Would it bore you to dine with a total stranger?" "Of course not. Sit down." He turned to the maid who was laying a cover for me and in beautiful Italian told her that I would eat with him. He made a very good cocktail and with added appetite we began our dinner. My host had a pleasant humour and his fluent conversation was agreeable. "You must forgive me if I talk too much," he said presently. "This is the first chance I've had to speak English for three months. I don't suppose you will stay here long and I mean to make the most of it."