Published online by Cambridge University Press: 26 May 2022
The house stood on a hillside, overlooking the town in the valley and the long stretch of mountains beyond. From the country road that climbed through the hill's woods in a wide curve, you stepped right into the middle story, as if it were at ground level — so deeply was the little white house nestled into the slope.
But perched up there it had a freer view out over the terraced garden and across the broad expanse below, gazing down with many bright window-eyes and with boldly protruding bays — extensions of original rooms that had been found too confining. This undeniably made for whimsical architecture, but it gave the house an impression of grace and lightness — almost as if it were just resting there.
From the top floor above the central bay, a balcony jutted far out over the tree-planted, wintry garden, enclosed by a stone wall, old and moss-covered. The balcony door stood wide open, despite the early morning hour, and on the threshold, its backside carefully pointed back into the warm room, sat a small, aged, female dog blinking sleepily at the hungry birds that occasionally flitted by, observing them as a spoiled child of the house might look out at begging street folk. Of course, she herself was the result of the widest range of dog breeds treating themselves to nothing less than an aristocratic love-tryst, as evidenced by her dachshund legs, her pug torso, and her terrier head — a diversity capped off by the piglet-style, curly tail at her other end. But by far the most remarkable thing about the little monster was the fact that its name was Salomo. That astonished everyone except the daughter of the family, who had insisted on that name of masculine and royal wisdom, even after Salomo had come straying her way in a highly pregnant state, whereupon he had given birth to four healthy pinschers.
The birds were carrying on with a tremendous racket. Finches and blue tits, robins and linnets, warblers and others flocked together around the suet that had been put out on the balcony — free hanging to discourage the contending field sparrows — along with a bowl of water, set above a few glowing coals on a potsherd to keep it from freezing.