Foreign News: A Copper Ladle

Leonarda Cianciulli, wife of a Government clerk, had 14 children. On her husband's mean pay it was hard to get food, soap and candles to light their rustic home amid the ricefields and stunted mulberry trees of the Po Valley. But she had imagination. To the villagers of Correggio she was known as a poetess and fortune teller; lovelorn women came up the canal path to her whitewashed door, with a few coppers for the cards.

When Faustina Setti, 50-year-old frugal spinster, plunked down her savings (30,000 lire) on the promise that the poetess...