Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. V. Nineteenth Century
The House of the Daughter of Hippocrates
By Leigh Hunt (17841859)
IN the time of the Norman reign in Sicily, a vessel bound from that island for Smyrna was driven by a westerly wind upon the island of Cos. The crew did not know where they were, though they had often visited the island; for the trading towns lay in other quarters, and they saw nothing before them but woods and solitudes. They found, however, a comfortable harbour; and the wind having fallen in the night, they went on shore next morning for water. The country proved as solitary as they thought it; which was the more extraordinary, inasmuch as it was very luxuriant, full of wild figs and grapes, with a rich uneven ground, and stocked with goats and other animals, who fled whenever they appeared. The bees were remarkably numerous; so that the wild honey, fruits, and delicious water, especially one spring which fell into a beautiful marble basin, made them more and more wonder, at every step, that they could see no human inhabitants.
Thus idling about and wondering, stretching themselves now and then among the wild thyme and grass, and now getting up to look at some specially fertile place which another called them to see, and which they thought might be turned to fine trading purpose, they came upon a mound covered with trees, which looked into a flat, wide lawn of rank grass, with a house at the end of it. They crept nearer towards the house along the mound, still continuing among the trees, for fear they were trespassing at last upon somebodys property. It had a large garden wall at the back, as much covered with ivy as if it had been built of it. Fruit-trees looked over the wall with an unpruned thickness; and neither at the back nor front of the house were there any signs of humanity. It was an ancient marble building, where glass was not to be expected in the windows; but it was much dilapidated, and the grass grew up over the steps. They listened again and again; but nothing was to be heard like a sound of men; nor scarcely of anything else. There was an intense noonday silence. Only the hares made a rustling noise as they ran about the long hiding grass. The house looked like the tomb of human nature amidst the vitality of earth.