These are the area I wanted to visit for a long time.
The Gioconda Smile
I have dreamt to be there and to walk along the old country roads where “the huge white oxen would still be dragging their wains along…”, as I read the Joconda smile, a short story, written by Aldous Huxley in my pre-med years from an English textbook.
The story was about Henry Hutton, a prosperous English landowner, flirts with Miss Janet Spence, an unmarried woman in her late thirties. After toying with her affections, Hutton hurriedly departs to take home his young Cockney mistress, Doris, and then to return to his wife, who is an almost complete invalid. In an effort to change the routine, and to provide some secret spice to daily events, Hutton invites Miss Spence to dine with them.
Although Mrs. Hutton begins the meal in fine spirits, saying “I do really feel rather better today,” she unwisely eats a plate of stewed currants that the doctor has forbidden.
Soon after, Hutton brings his wife her medicine, and Mrs. Hutton, now feeling ill, retires to her bed. After Miss Spence leaves, Hutton tells his wife that he is going to see a neighbor about a war memorial but actually slips away with Doris, his mistress. He returns home to find that his wife has died during his absence.
After his wife’s death, Hutton vows that he will control his lusts and desires, including his foolish affair with Doris. Within a week, however, he and Doris are again together. In an impetuous moment, he proposes marriage to Doris—a marriage that must be kept secret for a “decent interval.”
During a visit to Miss Spence, Hutton is shocked when she openly declares her love for him, claiming that “I think everyone has a right to a certain amount of happiness, don’t you?” Unable to reply, Hutton flees into the night. Soon he and Doris are in Florence, where he continues to find himself unable to control himself.
Meanwhile, Miss Spence, angered at Hutton’s marriage to Doris, is spreading the rumor in England that Hutton murdered his wife in order to marry Doris. After his wife is exhumed, an autopsy finds lethal amounts of arsenic in her body. Extradited to England, Hutton is tried, found guilty, and executed for the murder of his wife.
The story ends with an exhausted Miss Spence admitting to Dr. Libbard that she herself poisoned Mrs. Hutton. The bemused doctor writes her a prescription for a sleeping draft.
The next is a paragraph from the original text when Mr. Hutton was agonizing over his incoming death during his last night.
His eyes filled with tears; he wanted so passionately to live. "Just to be alive." Poor Emily had wished it too, he remembered: "Just to be alive." There were still so many places in this astonishing world unvisited, so many queer delightful people still unknown, so many lovely women never so much as seen. The huge white oxen would still be dragging their wains along the Tuscan roads, the cypresses would still go up, straight as pillars, to the blue heaven; but he would not be there to see them.
This last sentence impressed me so much and so long!
I wanted to find out the Tuscan roads and to stay there while reminiscing the protagonist’s monologue.
Tuscan or Tuscany was found to be the region of northwest central Italy bordering on the Ligurian and Tyrrhenian seas; capital Florence…
Please see the well-known portrait of the Gioconda, the scenery of Tuscan roads and the huge oxen.
Oxen in Tuscan roads
Kwan Ho Chung - January 15, 2021