The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino:
I went up the ladder. “Cosimo,” I began, “you’re over sixty-five—how can you continue to stay up there? What you wanted to say you’ve said, we’ve understood, you had great strength of mind, you did it, now you can come down. Even those who’ve spent their whole life at sea, at a certain age they disembark.”
Of course not. He said no with his hand. He hardly spoke anymore. He got up every so often, wrapped in a blanket up to his head, and sat on a branch to enjoy a little sun. He went no farther. There was an old woman of the people, a saintly woman (maybe an old lover of his), who went to clean and bring him hot food. We kept the ladder leaning against the trunk because there was always a need to go up to help him, and also because we hoped that he would at any moment decide to come down. (Others hoped; I knew what he was like.) There was always a circle of people around in the square who kept him company, discussing among themselves and sometimes addressing a remark to him, although they knew he had no desire to speak.
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