With a wildly excited Bendico bounding ahead of him he went down the short flight of steps into the garden. Enclosed between three walls and the side of the house its seclusion gave it the air of a cemetery, accentuated by the parallel little mounds bounding the irrigation canals, and looking like the graves of very tall, very thin giants. Plants were growing in thick disorder on the reddish clay; flowers sprouted in all directions: the myrtle hedges seemed put there to prevent movement rather than guide it. At the end a statue of Flora speckled with yellow-black lichen exhibited her centuries-old charms with resignation; on each side were benches holding quilted cushions, also of grey marble; and in a corner the gold of an acacia tree introduced a sudden note of gaiety. Every sod seemed to exude a yearning for beauty soon muted by languor.
But the garden, hemmed and almost squashed between these barriers, was exhaling scents that were cloying, fleshy and slightly putrid, like the aromatic liquids distilled from the relics of certain saints; the carnations superimposed their pungence on the formal fragrance of roses and the oily emanations of magnolias drooping in corners; and somewhere beneath it all was a faint smell of mint mingling with a nursery whiff of acacia and a jammy one of myrtle; from a grove beyond the wall came an erotic waft of early orange blossom.
It was a garden for the blind: a constant offence to the eyes, a pleasure strong if somewhat crude to the nose. The Paul Neyron roses, whose cuttings he had himself bought in Paris, had degenerated; first stimulated and then enfeebled by the strong if languid pull of Sicilian earth, burnt by apocalyptic Julys, they had changed into objects like flesh-colored cabbages, obscene and distilling an almost indecent scent which no French horticulturist would have dared hope for. The Prince put one under his nose and seemed to be sniffing the thigh of a dancer from the Opera. Bendico, to whom it was also proffered, drew back in disgust and hurried off in search of a healthier sensation amid dead lizards and manure.
But the heavy scent of the garden brought on a gloomy train of thought for the Prince: "It smells all right here now; but a month ago ..."
He remembered the nausea diffused throughout the entire villa by certain sweetish odors beore their cause was traced: the corpse of a young soldier in the Fifth Regiment of Sharpshooters who had been wounded in the skirmish with the rebels at San Lorenzo and come up there to die, all alone, under a lemon tree...
An excerpt of The Leopard, by Giuseppe di Lampedusa, translated by Archibald Colquhoun, pages 14 -- 15.