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Il Conde Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Set in Naples, Italy, early in the 1900’s, “Il Conde” is a tale told by an anonymous narrator about his brief companionship with a northern European aristocrat whom he knows only as the Count. Like the narrator himself, the Count emerges as a man of the world and a person distinguished by cultivated tastes, impeccable manners, and fastidious sensibilities.

The narrator meets the Count while both are viewing art works in Naples’s National Museum. After discovering that they both are guests in the same quietly refined Neapolitan hotel, they spend three evenings enjoying pleasant meals together. During their conversations, the narrator learns that three years earlier the Count left northern Europe in order to seek relief from a dangerous rheumatic disease by living in small hotels and villas on the warm Gulf of Naples. A middle-aged widower who is virtually exiled by his affliction, the Count returns home during the summers to visit a married daughter in her Bohemian castle; it is the only hiatus in his pleasant, tastefully subdued, and orderly life. To leave the south for longer periods, he believes, would mean forfeiting his life to his disease.

Called away from Naples to attend a sick friend, the narrator returns ten days later to find the Count shaken and dispirited, although he is not prone to unbalanced emotions. The Count reveals the cause of his distress. After seeing the narrator to his train, the Count walked through a park toward a villa where a public concert was in progress. On reaching a secluded spot, however, he was accosted by a young knife-wielding Neapolitan who demanded his wallet, watch, and rings. The Count had prudently left most of his money safely locked in the hotel, and the watch he wore chanced to be a cheap substitute for a valuable one that was being cleaned. He bravely refused to part with his rings, however, which were gifts from his father and his wife. After...

(The entire section is 501 words.)