Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: Castellinaria - and Other Sicilian Diversions
Author: Jones, Henry Festing, 1851-1928
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Castellinaria - and Other Sicilian Diversions" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                               CASTELLINARIA
                     AND OTHER SICILIAN DIVERSIONS


                                    BY
                           HENRY FESTING JONES

                          [Picture: Title page]

                      LONDON:  A. C. FIFIELD    1920

                       _First Published_ . . . 1911
                          _Re-issued_ . . . 1920

                                    AL
                              CARO * COMPARE
                           ALBERTO * AUGUGLIARO
                            DI * MONTE * ERICE
                                   ALLA
                              CARA * COMARE
                         GIUSEPPINA * AUGUGLIARO
                                    E
                                A * TUTTI
                         GLI * AMICI * SICILIANI
                                   CHE
                               GAREGGIANDO
                                    IN
                    CORTESIA * OSPITALITA * AFFEZIONE
                              HANNO * FATTO
                           DELLA * LORO * ISOLA
                          UNA * SECONDA * PATRIA
                                   PER
                         L'AUTORE * RICONOSCENTE



PREFACE


It is probable that every book contains, besides misprints, some
statements which the author would be glad to modify if he could.  In
Chapter V of _Diversions in Sicily_ it is stated that the seating
arrangements of the marionette theatre in Catania would be condemned by
the County Council, which I believe to be correct, but, on visiting the
theatre since, I find I was wrong in saying that there are no passages; I
did not see them on my first visit because the audience hid them.

Again, in Chapter XVI it is stated that Giovanni Grasso enters in the
third act of _La Morte Civile_, whereas he enters in the second act.  I
have since seen the play several times, and, though it is tedious, it is
not so much so as to justify a spectator in thinking any of its acts long
enough for two.

In Chapter IV I say that the Government makes an annual profit of
3,000,000 pounds sterling out of the lottery, but I do not say whether
this profit is gross or net.  There is a paragraph in the _Morning Post_,
12 September, 1911, which states clearly that never since the union of
Italy has the State lottery been so productive as in the present year of
Jubilee; the gross yield has been 3,715,088 pounds, and the net gain,
after deducting commissions and prizes, 1,489,180 pounds.

In Chapter XV it is stated that the words of the play in Signor Greco's
marionette theatre in Palermo are always improvised except in the case of
_Samson_.  This is incorrect.  The words of the long play about the
paladins are improvised, but they have in the theatre the MSS. of several
religious plays by the author of _Samson_, who was a Palermitan, Filippo
Orioles.  All who are interested in the legends, folklore, popular
entertainments, superstitions, and traditions of the people of Sicily are
under deep obligations to Giuseppe Pitre, of Palermo, Professore di
Demopsicologia, for his numerous volumes treating of those subjects.  In
_Spettacoli e Feste Popolari Siciliane_ he gives the little that is known
of Filippo Orioles, who died in 1793 at the great age of one hundred and
six years.  The subject of the most famous of his plays is the Passion of
Jesus Christ, and its title in English signifies The Redemption of Adam.
It has had an immense success throughout Sicily; it has been copied in
MS. many times, printed continually, performed over and over again in
theatres, in churches, in the public squares, and in private houses.  It
was written for living actors, and Signor Greco considers it too long for
a performance by marionettes, so when they do it in his teatrino they
treat it even more freely than our London managers treat a play by
Shakespeare.  Copies are difficult to procure because their owners keep
them jealously.  Professore Pitre has, however, lately added to our
obligations by publishing a reprint of the play: _Il Riscatto d'Adamo
nella Morte di Gesu Cristo_; Tragedia di Filippo Orioles, Palermitano;
Riprodotta sulla edizione di 1750; con prefazione di G. Pitre.  Palermo:
Tipografia Vittoria Giliberti, Via Celso 93.  1909.  A copy of this
reprint is in the library of the British Museum.

Many of the friends who have helped me to write this book are named in
the following pages, many more are unnamed.  I hereby tender my thanks to
all of them.

I specially thank Signor Cesare Coppo, of Casale-Monferrato, who,
although he is not a Sicilian, has helped me in a manner which I will
only hint at by saying that he could give a better account than I can of
Peppino Pampalone, of Castellinaria.

To an English friend, Mr. Joseph Benwell Clark, I am indebted for the
drawing on the title-page and on the cover.  When any of the audience
leaves Signor Greco's marionette theatre in Palermo to smoke a cigarette
or to drink a glass of water between the acts he receives a ticket with a
picture of two fighting paladins, which he gives up on returning.  I
brought away one of these tickets as a ricordo of the marionettes.  The
picture is not very clear, because it is printed from a wood-block that
has been a good deal worn.  Mr. Clark has made from it a drawing which
looks more like what the artist originally intended, and I trust that
Signor Greco will not be angry with us for assuming his permission to
reproduce the picture.

In correcting the proof-sheets I have had the assistance of my sister,
Miss Lilian Isabel Jones, and of my friend Mr. R. A. Streatfeild.  I am
much obliged to them both for the care which they have exercised.

I must not conclude without saying that Castellinaria still remains as in
Chapter II of my previous book, "not so marked on any map of Sicily."

   _September_, 1911



CONTENTS
                            CASTELLINARIA
              CHAPTER                                                 PAGE
                    I.  CHANGES IN THE TOWN                             17
                   II.  FESTA RIMANDATA                                 36
                               PALERMO
                  III.  MARIONETTISTS AT HOME                           53
                   IV.  MALAGIGI                                        66
                    V.  ARGANTINO                                       73
                   VI.  THE ESCAPE FROM PARIS                           82
                               CATANIA
                  VII.  THE BUFFO'S HOLIDAY                             93
                               TRAPANI
                 VIII.  THE NASCITA                                    115
                              MOUNT ERYX
                   IX.  THE COMPARE                                    129
                    X.  COMPARE BERTO                                  135
                   XI.  BERTO'S WEDDING                                142
                              TRABONELLA
                  XII.  SULPHUR                                        151
                 XIII.  OMERTA AND THE MAFIA                           157
                  XIV.  MALA VITA                                      165
                            CASTELLINARIA
                   XV.  THE CARDINALESSA                               177
                  XVI.  THE CORPORAL                                   185
                          EARTHQUAKE ECHOES
                 XVII.  TOTO CARBONARA                                 203
                        TURIDDU BALISTRIERI                            208
                        RAILWAY PORTERS                                216
                        GIUSEPPE PLATANIA                              220
                        GIULIO ADAMO                                   222
                        CECE LUNA                                      223
                        FUGITIVES AND VICTIMS                          227
                          THE SLOPES OF ETNA
                XVIII.  LAVA                                           233
                  XIX.  S. ALFIO                                       242
                   XX.  THE NAKED RUNNERS                              248
                               CATANIA
                  XXI.  HOLY WEEK                                      261
                               ORTIGIA
                 XXII.  O FOUNTAIN ARETHUSE                            289


CASTELLINARIA


CHAPTER I
CHANGES IN THE TOWN


Enrico Pampalone entered the world with a compliment to his godfather,
for of all the days in the year he chose to be born on my birthday.
Peppino sent me a telegram at once, then a formal invitation to the
christening, then a letter, an extract from which I translate:

    With immense joy I inform you that Brancaccia has given to the light
    a fine, healthy boy.  Mother and child are well and send you their
    salutations.  We are all beside ourselves with delight at this happy
    event and my father is talking of his grandson all day long.  In
    accordance with your promise, you ought to hold the baby at the
    baptism, but, as I absolutely cannot permit you to undertake so long
    a journey for this purpose, I am sending you a formal document and I
    beg you to return it to me at once signed with your name in order
    that the ceremony may take place with as little delay as possible.

    We are all looking forward to the pleasure of seeing you playing with
    your godchild which you will be able to do on your next visit.

The formal document was to the following effect:

    WHEREAS I the undersigned have undertaken the duty of acting as
    godfather to Enrico the new-born son of Giuseppe and Brancaccia
    Pampalone of the Albergo della Madonna (con giardino) Castellinaria
    Sicily AND WHEREAS I am detained in London for several weeks and
    desire that the baptism of the said infant shall not be delayed on
    that account NOW I DO HEREBY APPOINT Luigi Pampalone the father of
    the said Giuseppe Pampalone to be my substitute for me and in my name
    to hold the said Enrico Pampalone his grandson at the sacred font on
    the occasion of his baptism and to do all such other acts and deeds
    as may be necessary in the promises as fully and effectually as I
    could do the same if I were present in my own person I hereby
    agreeing to ratify and confirm all that the said Luigi Pampalone
    shall do by virtue of this writing AS WITNESS my hand this day of

I filled up the date, signed the document, and returned it to Peppino,
and he told me all about the ceremony.  By virtue of the christening I
became the padrino of Enrico, who became my figlioccio, and I also became
the compare of Peppino and Brancaccia and in some spiritual way a member
of the family.  Peppino sent me a post-card every week, and so I learnt
that the baby was the finest ever seen, and weighed more and ate more
than any baby that had ever been born in Castellinaria.  Then there came
information about the first tooth and the first intelligent, if
unintelligible, sounds.  Soon he was three months old, then six, then a
year, and still I had not seen him.

When at last I returned to Sicily, he was more than a year old, and came
down to the station to meet me.  He laughed as soon as he saw me, threw
away his india-rubber ball, and signified that he was to be given to me.
Whatever he wants is always done at once and, as he never wants anything
unreasonable, the method is working out admirably.  I took him from
Brancaccia, and he nestled down in my arms, all the time gazing up at me
with an expression of satisfied wonder, as though at last he understood
something that had been puzzling him.  Peppino was present, but effaced
himself by helping Carmelo with what he calls my "luggages."  I suppose I
exchanged the usual greetings with the parents, but they did not count, I
had seen them since their marriage; this time I had come to see Enrico.
There was some difficulty about getting into the carriage, because they
thought I could not do it unless they took him away, and he did not want
to be taken away.  When we were settled, and Carmelo was driving us up
the zig-zags, I said:

"Of course you don't expect me to know much about babies, not being
married or anything--but isn't he an unusually fine child for his age?"

Brancaccia was much flattered and replied that recently, when they had
bought him some new clothes, he took the size usually sold for babies of
twice his age.  This made Peppino laugh at his wife, and say that the
compare might not know much about babies, but he knew how to get on the
right side of Ricuzzu's mother.

"Why do you call him Ricuzzu?" I asked.

"Ricuzzu is Enrico in Sicilian."

"Then I shall call him Ricuzzu also."

"Of course, yes."

The motion of the carriage soon sent the child to sleep.  I handed him
back to Brancaccia, and looked at her as she sat with him in her arms.
She was more beautiful than before, because of something that has eluded
the skill of all the painters who have striven to capture it for their
hortus siccus of the Madonna and Child, something that Enrico had
awakened in her heart, and that I saw glowing in her eyes and throbbing
in all her movements.

"Isn't he like Peppino?" asked Brancaccia.

"He is the very image of Peppino," I replied; but I noticed that he also
had Brancaccia's blue eyes, and was promising to have her black hair.

We arrived at the Albergo della Madonna (con giardino) and Peppino took
me up to my room.  Brancaccia had been before us, and had put an enormous
bunch of flowers in water on the table to greet me.  I went out on the
balcony, just to make sure that the panorama was still there, and, after
putting myself straight, descended into the garden, where I found Peppino
waiting for me, and where we were to have tea in the English
manner--"sistema Inglese," as Brancaccia said.

The English system is not always in working order at a moment's notice,
so we had time for a walk round.  The afternoon breeze was conducting a
symphony of perfumes, and, as we strolled among the blossoms that were
the orchestra, we could identify the part played by each flower;
sometimes one became more prominent, sometimes another, but always
through the changing harmonies we could distinguish the stately canto
fermo of the roses, counterpointed with a florid rhythm from the zagara.
If Flaubert had been writing in Sicilian, he could have said "una corona
di zagara," or, in English, "a wreath of orange-blossoms," and he need
not have worried himself to death by trying to elude the recurrent "de"
of "une couronne de fleurs d'oranger."  There was also music of another
kind coming from a passero solitario (the blue rock thrush) who was
hanging in a cage in a doorway.  We spoke to him, and he could not have
made more fuss about us if we had been the King of Italy and the Pope of
Rome paying him a visit.

I said, "Aren't you pleased with your beautiful garden, Peppino?"

He replied, "Yes, and other things too.  Sometimes I am cross with my
life; but I think of Brancaccia and the baby, and I look around me, and
then I says to myself, 'Ah, well, never mind!  Be a good boy!'"

Presently we came to a fountain which, when I turned a tap, twisted round
and round, spouting out graceful, moving curves, and the drops fell in
the basin below and disturbed the rose-leaves that were sleeping on the
water.  I also found an image of the Madonna and Bambino in a corner,
with an inscription in front promising forty days' indulgence to anyone
who should recite devoutly an Ave before it.  I understood this as well
as one who is not a Roman Catholic can be said to understand such a
promise, and better than I understood another image to which Peppino
called my attention.  It was a small coloured crockery S. Giuseppe,
standing on the top of the wall and looking into the garden, protected by
a couple of tiles arranged over him as an inverted V, and held in place
by dabs of mortar.

I said, "Why do you keep your patron saint on the wall like that?"

He replied that it had nothing to do with him.  The land over the wall
belongs to the monks, and they put the saint up to gaze into the garden
in the hope that Peppino's father might thereby become gradually
illuminated with the idea of giving them a piece of his land; they wanted
it to join to their own, which is rather an awkward shape just there.
The influence of S. Giuseppe had already been at work four years, but
Peppino's father still remained obstinately unilluminated.

Carmelo brought the tea and set a chair for Ricuzzu, who has his own
private meals like other babies but likes to sit up to the table and
watch his father and mother having theirs, occasionally honouring their
repast by trying his famous six--or is it seven?--teeth upon a crust,
which he throws upon the ground when he has done with it.  So we all four
sat together in the shade of the Japanese medlar-tree and talked about
the changes in the town since my last visit.

First Peppino repeated something he had told me last time I was there,
before Ricuzzu was born.  It was about the horror of that fatal night
when he heard his father crying in the dark; he went to his parents' room
to find out what was the matter, and heard the old man babbling of being
lost on Etna, wandering naked in the snow.  Peppino struck a light, which
woke his father from his dream, but it did not wake his mother.  She had
been lying for hours dead by her husband's side.

When the body was laid out and the watchers were praying by it at night,
the widower sat in a chair singing.  He was not in the room with the
body, he had his own room, and his song was unlike anything Peppino had
ever heard; it had no words, no rhythm, no beginning and no end, yet it
was not moaning, it was a cantilena of real notes.  It seemed to be a
comfort to him in his grief to pour these lamenting sounds out of his
broken heart.  All the town came to the funeral, for the family is held
in much respect, and there were innumerable letters of condolence and
wreaths of flowers.  When it was over, Peppino wrote a paragraph which
appeared in the _Corriere di Castellinaria_:

    A tutte le pie cortesi persone che con assistenza, con scritti, con
    l'intervento ai funebri della cara sventurata estinta, con adornarne
    di fiori l'ultima manifestazione terrena desiderarono renderne meno
    acre it dolore, ringraziamenti vivissimi porge la famiglia PAMPALONE.

He showed me this and waited while I copied it.  When I had finished he
went on, talking more to himself than to me:

"The life it is not the same when we are wanting someone to be here that
is gone away.  When we were young and this person was living, things it
was so; now we can understand this person who is gone, and things it is
other.  This is not a good thing.  Now is the time this dear person
should be living; now would we be taking much care."

For many weeks they feared lest the father might follow the mother, but
he began to take a new interest in life on the day when Peppino brought
home his bride, and when Ricuzzu was born he soon became almost his old
self.

"Things it is like that," said Peppino; "the young ones are coming to dry
the eyes that have tears in them because the old ones are going away."

Brancaccia's attention was occupied by the tea and the baby, and by
trying to follow Peppino's talk.  He has been giving her English lessons
and, though she has not yet got much beyond saying, "Me no speakare
l'Inglese," she is quick enough to know what he is talking about,
especially as she has heard most of it before.  She now said a few words
in dialect, evidently reminding him of something, and he at once began to
tell me about their wedding tour.  He had told me some of it last time I
was there, and how he had wanted to take his bride to England and show
her London, but they had not time enough, and that journey has been put
off for some future occasion.  They went to Venice, which was a
particularly suitable place, because his cousin Vanni was there with his
ship, the _Sorella di Ninu_, unloading a cargo of wine; they crossed by
night to Naples, and Peppino showed Brancaccia Pompeii and all the
sights; then they went to Rome for a few days and on, through Florence,
to Venice.  They stayed there a week, and then Vanni, having unloaded his
wine, took them down the Adriatic and brought them safely home again.

"It was sun," said Peppino, "and we was in Venice, Sammarco Place, where
is--how speak you the colomba?--Excuse me, it is the dove.  And there was
different other people also--love-people, the young ones that go to the
field in the spring to take the flower Margherita, and to be pulling the
leaves to know the future, plenty many; also sposi, and some that bring
the macchina to make the picture, and the bride was to be standing with
the colomba in the hand.  She put the grain in the hand, and would have a
colomba that was with his feet in her finger and eat the grain; but the
bridegroom was not clever to take the photograph and the colomba
was--what is it?--he was finish his grain and flied away, and she was
telling to her sposo:

"'Now you are not clever to take the photograph and you shall be obliged
to pay for another packet of grain.'

"In the second time, not only a colomba was in the hand but also another
one was stopping in the hat very large with the colomba, too large, I am
not certain that the bridegroom was able to take all the photograph."

Whereupon Brancaccia interposed, producing the result, and I exclaimed:

"Why, it is Brancaccia herself!  I did not know you meant that this
happened to you.  I thought you were telling me about other sposi, not
about yourselves."

Then they laughed together, and I saw that Brancaccia, by showing me the
photograph, had let out more than was intended, unless perhaps it was all
intended; either way, no harm was done, and I was allowed to put the
picture in my pocket.

Carmelo came to clear away the tea, and I said:

"It seems to me, Peppino, that you have a new waiter.  What has become of
Letterio?"

"Ah! you do not know about Letterio.  Now I shall tell you."

At this point it became necessary for Brancaccia to disappear somewhat
suddenly with the baby.

"It was festa," said Peppino, "and Letterio was drinking and his friends
were telling to drink some more, and he was drinking plenty much.  Then
was he going out in a very hurry and was telling that he would be married
very directly and was meeting a girl and was telling: 'Please, you, marry
me this day.'  And the girl was telling: 'Go away, Letterio, you are a
drunk man.'  And he was finding another girl and they was telling the
same things--plenty girls--all that day.  Afterwards many weeks are
passing and Letterio don't be asking to be married, he was telling always
that he would not be married never, never, never; also with the suspicion
that no girl would take him.  Excuse me, it is like the man who was fell
down from the horse and was telling that he was go down--was not fell
down.  And it was festa again and Letterio was drinking plenty much again
and was going on the street again and was meeting a girl again and was
telling: 'Please, you, marry me very directly.'  And the girl was
replying: 'Yes.'"

"But surely," I exclaimed, "surely they were not so silly as to get
married when he was sober, were they?"

It seemed, however, that they were.  To save the expense and avoid the
chaff that would have attended a marriage in Castellinaria, they went to
the next village for a couple of days and returned married.

"But when the man," said Peppino, "must be finding the courage in the
bottle, this is not a good thing.  The courage for the happy marriage
must be in the heart.  We know that good wine it is sincero, it makes to
be speaking the truth; yes, very likely.  But the wine it is sometimes
traditore, it can also be telling the--what is bugia?  Excuse me, it is
the lie."

"And so Letterio is married?"

"Look here, he was married.  Now I shall tell you.  Oh! what a bad woman
she was!  Impossible to keep her in the albergo.  'Please go away,
Letterio; I am very sorry; you and your wife also.'  And went away, to
his home in Messina and his wife also.  In the winter was coming the
disaster, the terremoto, the earthquake, and the city was finished to be
consumed and the train was bringing the fugitives all day and all night.
I was down to the station, Brancaccia was making ready the beds, Carmelo
was driving them up and was bringing more and then more--broken people,
also whole people, all without nothing, very undressed, and the albergo
was became a hospital, a refugio, and the doctors were committing
operations upon them in the bedrooms and were curing them and curing them
till they died and went away in the cimitero--Oh! it was very
pitiful--and sometimes they were repairing them and sending them away in
the train.  And I was making the journey with the hopeness to un-dig
Letterio.  During three days was I searching the mournful ruins of
Messina but I don't be finding Letterio, nor alive nor dead, nor his
wife, and I am unhappy; also Brancaccia is unhappy.  This is why she was
now going away with Ricuzzu."

"Oh! I thought probably the baby had--"

"Yes, many times that is the explication, but this time it is other; it
is that she don't like to be hearing the story of Letterio.  I shall tell
you that Brancaccia is a gentle person, very tender in the heart."

"Yes," I agreed, "of course she is.  But are not you both making too much
of this?  You could not have known there would be an earthquake in
Messina.  If there was to be one it might have been in some other city,
and they would not have been destroyed."

"Look here; perhaps she was not a so bad woman; perhaps some day she
would be making a little Ricuzzu and would be learning to be a good
woman."

"She might learn very slowly or not at all; and think of her poor husband
all the time!"

"Let us talk of something other.  Do you remember Alfio Mascalucia?"

"Perhaps; what did he do?"

"You were always calling him Bellini."

"In the barber's shop opposite?  Of course, I remember him, but I had no
idea he had such a magnificent name or I never should have dared to take
liberties with it."

I remembered him very well.  I remembered going into the shop one day and
he was alone, busy writing at a table in the corner.  He said he was
composing a polka.  He had ruled his own staves because, like Schubert,
he could not afford to buy music paper; he wanted all the money he could
save to pay a publisher to publish his polka--just as we do in
England--and if it succeeded his fortune would be made.  I felt a sinking
at the heart, as though he was telling me he had been gazing on the
mirage of the lottery until he had dreamt a number.  He had filled about
two pages and a half with polka stuff, but had not yet composed the
conclusion.

"You see, what I must do is to make it arrive there where the bars end"
(he had drawn his bar lines by anticipation); "that will not be
difficult; it is the beginning that is difficult--the tema.  It does not
much matter now what I write for the coda in those empty bars, but I must
fill them all with something."

I said, "Yes.  That, of course--well, of course, that is the proper
spirit in which to compose a polka."

As I had shown myself so intelligent, he often talked to me about his
music and his studies; he had an Italian translation of Cherubini's
_Treatise_, and had nearly finished all the exercises down to the end of
florid counterpoint in four parts.  His professor was much pleased with
him, and had congratulated him upon possessing a mind full of resource
and originality--just the sort of mind that is required for composing
music of the highest class.  He explained to me that counterpoint is a
microcosm.  In life we have destiny from which there is no escape; in
counterpoint we have the canto fermo of which not a note may be altered.
Destiny, like the canto fermo, is dictated for us by One who is more
learned and more skilful than we; it is for us to accept what is given,
and to compose a counterpoint, many counterpoints, that shall flow over
and under and through, without breaking any of the rules, until we reach
the full close, which is the inevitable end of both counterpoint and
life.

I called him Bellini because he told me that the composer of _Norma_ had
attained to a proficiency in counterpoint which was miraculous, and that
he was the greatest musician the world had ever known.  This high praise
was given to Bellini partly, of course, because he was a native of
Catania.  London is a long way from Catania, and in England perhaps we
rather neglect Italian music of the early part of last century.  Once, at
Casale-Monferrato, I heard a travelling company do _I Puritani_; they did
it extremely well, and I thought the music charming, especially one
sparkling little tune sung by Sir Giorgio to warn Sir Riccardo that if he
should see a couple of fantasmas they would be those of Elvira and Lord
Arturo.  Alfio may have been thinking of the maxim, "Ars est celare
artem," and may have meant to say that Bellini had shown himself a more
learned contrapuntist than (say) Bach, by concealing his contrapuntal
skill more effectually than Bach had managed to conceal his in the _Mass
in B minor_.  While my hair was being cut I examined the polka with
interest; it was quite carefully done, the bass was figured all through
and the discords were all resolved in the orthodox manner; after the shop
was shut he came over to the albergo and played it to us on the piano in
the salon.  I should say it was a very good polka, as polkas go, and
certainly more in the manner of the Catanian maestro than in that of the
Leipzig cantor.

"And what about Alfio?" I asked.  "Did he also marry a bad woman?"

Then Peppino told me the story of the Figlio di Etna.  He called him this
because he came from a village on the slopes of the volcano, where his
parents kept a small inn, the Albergo Mongibello, and where also lived
his cousin Maria, to whom he was engaged.  In the days when he used to
talk to me about his counterpoint, Alfio was about twenty-four, and
always so exceedingly cheerful and full of his music that no one would
have suspected that his private life was being carried on in an inferno,
yet so it was; a widow had fallen in love with him, and had insisted on
his living with her.  "And look here," said Peppino, "the bad day for
Alfio was the day when he went to the house of the widow."  He was too
much galantuomo to resist; he had not forgotten Maria but he thought she
could wait, and besides, he was at first flattered by the widow's
attentions and amused by the novelty of the situation; but he never cared
for the widow, and soon his chains became unbearable.  As Peppino said,
"There don't be some word to tell the infernalness it is when you are
loved by the woman you hate."  He exercised his contrapuntal ingenuity by
devising schemes for circumventing this troublesome passage in the canto
fermo of his life without breaking any of the rules, and finally hit upon
the device of running away.  So many men in a similar difficulty have
done the same thing, that his professor, and even the stern Cherubini
himself, would have condemned the progression less on account of its
harshness and irregularity than because of its lack of originality.  He
scraped together about fifty francs and disappeared to Livorno where he
soon found work in a barber's shop, cutting hair, trimming and shaving
beards and whiskers, and making wigs for the theatre.  He wrote the widow
two letters containing nothing but conventional compliments, and
displayed his resource and originality by posting one in the country and
sending the other to a friend in Genoa who posted it there.

After about three months of freedom, counterpoint and hair-dressing, he
was sent for to return to his village for a few days and vote; Peppino
anticipated my inquiry about the money for the journey by protesting that
he knew nothing about the details of politics.  However it may have been
managed, Alfio got leave from his employer, went home and voted.  He said
nothing about the widow, but he promised Maria to return and marry her in
a year, when he should have saved enough money.  He did not know how he
was going to do it, but he had to say something.  Then the silly fellow
must needs go for a day to Castellinaria to salute his friends in the
barber's shop there--just as murderers seem never to learn that it is
injudicious to re-visit the scenes of their crimes.  Naturally the widow
heard of his being in the town, they met in the street and had a terrible
row.  What frightened poor Alfio most was a sort of half persuasion that
perhaps he had behaved badly to her.  But he did not relent; he returned
to his village, bade farewell to his family, embraced his adorata mamma,
renewed his promise to Maria, went down to Catania, entered the station
and turned pale as he saw the widow sitting in a corner with a parcel and
a bundle.

"Where are you going?"

"I am coming with you."

He had let out that he would return to Livorno in a few days, and she had
resolved to accompany him, wherever he might be going.  She had sold all
her furniture in a hurry and come to Catania, knowing that he must start
from there.  She waited for him inside the station when it was open,
outside when it was shut; she had to wait four days and four nights.  She
refused to leave him.  She bought her own ticket and travelled with him.
They settled down in Livorno--if that can be called settling down which
was a continual hurly-burly; the only repose about it appeared in the
bar's rests to which poor Alfio's counterpoint was now reduced.  He grew
irritable, abused her and beat her; but she was one of those women who
love their man more passionately the more he knocks them about.  Maria
sent him a post-card for his onomastico, and the widow got hold of it.
This led to his leaving the house for a few nights, but she had always
taken his money for housekeeping, so he had not enough to leave the town,
and she came to the shop in the daytime and made such a disturbance that
he was frightened into returning.  He dreamt of disguising himself in one
of his own theatrical wigs and escaping so, but the idea was too like
some of those contrapuntal combinations which, as Cherubini says, may be
employed in a study-fugue, but which in practical music, as in practical
life, have to be weeded out by artificial selection.

Then his mother fell ill, and the family sent him the money to go home to
embrace her.  The widow had put some of his money by for an emergency.
She was not going to lose sight of him again, especially now that she
knew about Maria; she bought a ticket and came too.  They spent the night
at her brother's house in Catania and Alfio was to go next day to his
village.  She said she would come too, he said that nothing would induce
him to take her with him.  She implored and stormed and spat and swore,
knowing all the time she could not appear in his village as belonging to
him, and fearing that he intended to manipulate his going home alone into
a way of escape.  She pretended to acquiesce but, in the morning, as he
was passing through the Quattro Canti she was there, disguised as a man
in her brother's clothes, and before Alfio could recognise her she had
stabbed him in the back and he fell down dead.

"But, Peppino," I exclaimed, "this is a worse tragedy than the other.
What a horrible woman!"

"The Padre Eterno was very angry that day when he made the bad woman."

"Where is she now?"

"In prison."

"That is no satisfaction to poor Alfio."

"No; and not satisfaction to his family.  His mother died of grief during
that they were telling her his murder."

"And Maria?"

"Maria is telling that she would becoming a monkey-woman."

"What do you mean?"

"How do you say in English the lady-priest, the monaca?"

"Oh! yes,--a nun.  But it seems a pity she should take such a serious
step.  It is a dreadful story, Peppino."

"Yes; and I am fortunate because I also meet the bad woman."

"Was Alfio's widow a friend of yours?"

"No; I meet her in London."

"I'm glad she did not stab you."

"Not the widow--some other woman."

"I don't quite understand."

"It is difficult to understand--difficult to be sure when it is the bad
woman.  The bad woman is like mosquitoes--not wanted but would not go
away."

"Tell me what happened."

"When I was in London, I was at this place where is the--please, what is
campo?  No, not campo, but where is the beast with the horn in the
head--the cervo?"

"Ah! yes, the deer.  You mean the Zoological Gardens."

"No, no.  This place where is the villa with the red palazzo and the
chief labours of painting and beds and chinesy images are over the place
where is coming the fire in the winter-time, and on the wall is also the
armatura and the deer it is in the trees on the side of the river."

"I believe you mean Hampton Court."

"Yes, and was telling to the lady--she was a very kind lady--"

"But please, what lady?  Alfio's widow was not at Hampton Court?"

"She was the wife of the plumber."

"I am afraid I am very stupid, Peppino, but I don't seem to get hold of
it.  Who is the plumber?"

"I meet him at Margate; also his lady, his wife; they invite me to their
house; I accept their invitation."

"But Margate is not Hampton Court."

"No, they inhabit Hampton Court; they go to Margate for the
villeggiatura, for the--how do you say?--for the baths of the sea."

"Oh, now I understand.  You met them at Margate and they invited you to
call on them at their house at Hampton Court."

"Of course, yes.  And when I arrive, the husband, the plumber, he went
away with his tools for his work in a sack, and his lady she says to me,
'Please sit down.'  And we talk together.  She was a very kind lady.  And
presently--she was on the sofa by the window and I was in a chair by the
fire--presently her husband return.  I was like a fish not in his water,
but oh! it was my salvation.  Why must he be leaving us together?  She
was a very kind lady.  And then to be returning without noise, so soon
and so sudden.  Do you think--?"

I did not know.  It looked rather like it, but the psychology of the
Hampton Court plumber resembles the Italian music of the early part of
last century in that it is but little studied among us.  So I
congratulated him on his escape, and inquired whether any of Alfio's
compositions had been published.

"Alfio don't be writing no compositions."

"He told me he was composing music."

"Alfio never compose something.  Too busy.  Look here, the student that
shall be always making the exercise he don't be never composing the
music."

"But that polka?  Don't you remember he came over to the albergo and
played us his polka?"

"Alfio don't write the polka.  His professor gave him the polka to copy
for study."

"Oh! I see.  Well, now don't you think we have had enough tragedies?  Has
nothing pleasant happened in the town since--?  What a stupid question!
Here is Brancaccia bringing the answer."

Brancaccia not only brought the baby, she also brought to show me the
clothes in which he had been christened, just as on my last visit, before
he was born, she had brought and shown me the clothes in which she had
been married.  I have a confused recollection of fine muslin and
embroidery and pretty gay ribbons.  I remember more clearly her necklace
of Sicilian amber which has been in the family for generations and, in
the natural order of things, will one day be passed on to the wife of
Ricuzzu.  Each piece of amber is circular, flat underneath and convex
above, and is surrounded with a fine golden band whereby it is joined to
the next, side by side.  The two smallest, at the back of the wearer's
neck, near the clasp, are about as big as threepenny bits, and the pieces
increase in size through sixpences, shillings, florins, half-crowns,
until the one in the middle on her breast is nearly as large as a
five-shilling piece.  They are all sorts of colours, honey-yellow, rich
orange, Venetian red, brown sherry, some clear and some clouded, some
have insects in them, some when held properly in the sunlight, have a
fluorescent, hazy tinge like the blue in a horse's eye, some are a
peacock-green and others a deep purple.  The largest piece is green, and
has objects in it which Brancaccia says are cherry-blossoms.  Peppino
accepts his wife's view because it amuses him to call this piece The
Field of Enna, where Proserpine was gathering flowers when Pluto carried
her off, and these are the flowers she was gathering.  But he knows that
this kind of amber is called Simetite, because it is the fossilised resin
of some prehistoric tree that used to grow on the upper reaches of the
river Simeto which rises at the back of Etna, beyond Bronte, and falls
into the sea near Catania; whereas Castrogiovanni, which is the modern
Enna, is not on the Simeto.  Castrogiovanni is, however, not far from the
upper part of another river, which falls into the Simeto near the sea.
And he argues that if The Field of Enna was washed down the
Castrogiovanni river it may still have exuded from a tree of the same
kind as those that used to grow on the Simeto, and in any case it had to
pass through the mouth of the Simeto before reaching the sea, and so it
may be called Simetite.  Having got into the sea, it was thrown up in a
storm or found in a fisherman's net.

Then I must be shown the mule, with his beautiful harness, and the new
cart which Ricuzzu had received as a birthday present from his
grandfather; so we went to the stable.  The cart was painted with the
story of Orlando's madness, showing first how he had gone to bed in his
boots; or rather how he lay outside a bed that was too short for him with
all his armour on, like a lobster on a dish.  This occurred in the house
of a contadino who was standing with a lighted candle in his hand and had
brought his wife.  They did not know to whom they were speaking, and were
telling him that the room had been occupied last by a knight and his lady
and that the lady, in gratitude for their hospitality, had given the
contadina a bracelet, saying that she had received it as a present from
Orlando.  And Orlando was exclaiming:

"Show me that bracelet."

In the second picture the contadina had brought the bracelet, and Orlando
was sitting up, contemplating it and saying:

"It is the bracelet which I gave to Angelica.  The last occupants of this
bed must have been that fatal woman and her husband Medoro.  I am Orlando
Paladino."

These were the two panels on one side of the cart.  On the other side,
the third picture showed Orlando, who had got off the bed, and was
standing up delivering a long "Addio" in the manner of Othello--one could
almost hear the words: "Orlando's occupation's gone."  The contadino and
his wife were furtively leaving the room, perhaps because poetry bored
these simple folk, but it may have been because Orlando, having no
further use for his arms, was punctuating his speech by throwing away
first la Durlindana, next his shield, then his helmet, his cuirass, front
and back, his leggings, and his shirt.

In the last picture he had nothing on but a pair of short white drawers;
he had gone quite mad and had knocked down the house; its fall revealed a
smiling landscape across which peasants and sheep were escaping, and the
trees shook with the violence of his fury.  He was catching some of the
peasants and throwing them away, shouting and cursing that fatal woman,
and struggling to drown the music and the drum, which made a crescendo
till the curtain fell.  I should have recognised it even if the pictures
had not had titles, because I had recently seen it in a marionette
theatre.

The harness cost as much as the cart, and it took a month to make it.  It
was of leather, wood and metal, tasselled with gold and silver and wool
of many colours; here and there were sparkling bits of looking-glass, and
little pictures of ladies; here and there circles and crescents of blue
and red felt, and little pictures of cupids and angels.  Other spaces
were covered with silver tinsel and spangles.  There were spread eagles
and horses' heads and two bouquets of artificial flowers.  There was a
St. George and the Dragon carved in wood and painted, there were bells
and ribbons, and two trophies of coloured feathers, one for the head and
another for the back, each more magnificent, and three or four times
larger, than the plume which the maresciallo dei carabinieri wears with
his gala uniform.



CHAPTER II
FESTA RIMANDATA


One day the bells were ringing for the festa of S. Somebody, but it was
not really his day.  Peppino told me that his proper day had been stormy
or unsympathetic or the people had had some crops to get in or something
else to do, and so the saint had had his festa shifted; or it may have
been because some greater festival had fallen on S. Somebody's day owing
to the mutability of Easter or for some other reason.  I had been wishing
I could have been at Castellinaria for the first anniversary of Ricuzzu's
birth, I ought to have wished to be there for the festa of S. Enrico, but
I did not know when it fell, nor did Peppino; but if festas might be
transferred in this easy way, perhaps we might keep it now and find out
afterwards to what extent it had been shifted.  It would have been no use
consulting the baby--besides, he would have been sure to agree--so as
they were not very busy in the albergo it was decided that next day we
would keep the onomastico of Ricuzzu and his padrino by driving down to
the shore, throwing stones into the sea, and perhaps eating a couple of
peperoni with a drop of oil and vinegar and a pinch of salt.

Next morning the mule, the cart and the harness were brought out; it was
the first time they had all been used together, and when Peppino and
Carmelo had harnessed the little beast, he trotted up and down in the
sunshine as proud as though he had been clothed in a rainbow and
freshened up with dewdrops.

I said: "Do you keep the onomastico of the mule also?  It seems to me
that he is as much pleased with himself as anyone.  He looks as though he
thought everything belonged to him.  What is his name and when is his
day?"

"We call him Guido Santo," replied Peppino.  "We will make it his festa
also and afterwards we shall be discovering his day in the calendario."

"And if it comes to that," I said, "why shouldn't we include you and
Brancaccia?"

"Bravo!" shouted Peppino, "and Carmelo also.  Festa rimandata per tutti!"

A chair for Brancaccia and the baby was tied in the cart among a
multitude of parcels and baskets about which I thought it better not to
inquire.  Peppino and I sat on the floor in front, like the driver and
his mate on an illustrated post-card, with our feet dangling down between
the shafts among the mule's hind legs.  Carmelo started us off and got in
behind, and we drove to the sea, not the way to the station and the port,
but by the road that descends on the other side of the headland.  We
passed by groves of lemon, star-scattered with fruit and blossom and
enclosed in rough walls of black lava; by the grey-green straggling of
the prickly pears and by vines climbing up their canes.  We caught
glimpses of promontories dotted with pink and white cottages and of the
thread of foam that outlines the curve of the bay where a train was
busily puffing along by the stony, brown beach, showing how much a little
movement will tell in a still landscape.  Behind the shimmering olives,
first on one side, then on the other as we turned with the zig-zags of
the dusty road, was the purple blue of the sea flecked with the white
sails of fishing-boats and with the crests of whiter waves.  Every one we
met looked at us and admired the splendour of the cart and the sparkling
newness of the harness until they caught sight of Brancaccia and the
baby, and then they saw nothing but their beauty.  We met the man who was
riding up from the fishing village with baskets of fish for the town
because it was Friday.  Peppino and Carmelo disputed as to the amount he
was carrying, and agreed at last that it must be about a hundred
kilogrammes, partly by the quantity and partly because it had been good
weather for fishing; when it is bad he cannot bring more than thirty,
forty or fifty.

Peppino told me that our mule was the offspring of an ass and a mare.
These, he says, are better than those born of a horse and a she-ass.
Mules can be male or female, and Guido Santo was a male but, except for
the fact that the males are stronger than the females, the sex of a
creature that is incapable of reproducing itself is not a very
interesting subject.  Our mule was still young, and had not yet learnt
the use of corners, nor how to pass things in the road.  Carmelo often
had to get down and continue his education.  After one of these lessons
he lighted his pipe with a sulphur match which tainted the morning air
and offended Ricuzzu; but almost immediately we came to a forge and the
blacksmith was striking a piece of iron on his anvil.

"Ricuzzu bello," said Brancaccia, "listen to the pretty music."

And Ricuzzu listened and laughed; the pleasant acid flavour of the note
as it followed us corrected the sulphur, and he put up his face for a
kiss.  Brancaccia knew how to smooth away his troubles and how to deserve
his thanks.

We passed a boy singing, and I said how pleasant it was to hear a real
Sicilian melody sung by a modern Theocritus about the delights of his own
country.  But Peppino soon put a stop to that.  The boy was one of a
theatrical company that had arrived in the town from Piedmont where the
song was popular; he did not know all the words, but it contained these:

    Mamma mia, dammi cento lire
    Che in America voglio andar.
    Mother darling, give me a hundred lire
    For I want to be off to the States.

"Are they acting here?" I asked.

"They are reciting _Il Diavolo Verde_.  You don't will go and see this
evening?"

"If Brancaccia is not too tired, let us finish up Ricuzzu's festa by a
visit to the theatre."

The baby was wide awake all the time, observing everything, and much
interested.  I said:

"I believe Ricuzzu understands that we are keeping his onomastico."

"Of course, yes," replied Peppino; "Ricuzzu very intelligent."

"I believe he even understands that it is not S. Enrico's day, and
appreciates the idea of keeping his festa when it is convenient for
everyone."

"Of course, yes; the idea is the thing.  Always it is the idea.  Did you
know the idea of the girl who went to confess?"

"What is that?"

"Not now.  Please expect.  I am too much busy with Guido Santo.  Please,
when we shall be there."

On arriving at the shore we first found a cove where Brancaccia and
Ricuzzu could be comfortable while Peppino, Carmelo and I went a little
way off into a secluded place behind the rocks, undressed and bathed.  We
swam round and saluted the mother and child in their cove, but could not
get near enough to splash them because the water was only a few inches
deep near the shore and the proprieties had to be observed.  When we were
tired of swimming we came out and dressed.  Then I took the baby while
Peppino and Brancaccia went round into our dressing-room and he
superintended her bath.  Carmelo, in the meantime constructed a fireplace
among the rocks and got his cooking things and all the parcels and
baskets out of the cart.  Peppino and Brancaccia returned, and we found a
shallow, shady pool with a sandy bottom, undressed Ricuzzu, and put him
into it.  I observed that the baby's clothes were reefed with safety
pins, but I said nothing about it, thinking the reefs could be let out
when he had attained twice the age he was when they were bought.  The
proprieties did not matter with this bather, who soon learnt how to
splash us.  It may have been his padrino's vanity, but I thought he
laughed loudest when he succeeded in splashing me.

The couple of peperoni had swelled into a regular colazione.  First, of
course, we had pasta, this time it was called lingue di passeri
(sparrows' tongues), they have fifty different names for it according to
its size and shape, but it is always pasta.  Carmelo made a sauce for it
over his fire with oil, onions, extract of tomatoes, and certain herbs;
the recipe is a secret which is to be imparted to Ricuzzu when he is
fifteen, but I think Brancaccia has already guessed it, though she is not
supposed to know.  As a rule, I try to get only half as much pasta as a
Sicilian takes, and of that I can only eat half, but on this occasion,
either because of Carmelo's cooking or the sea breeze, or the presence of
Ricuzzu, I ate it all, and it made me feel like Rinaldo after the
terrible fight in which he kills the centaur and stands at the wings
panting for breath.

The pasta was followed by bacon and figs--an unexpectedly delicious
combination; the bacon is uncooked and cut very thin, the figs are fresh
and ripe, but it would not do in England because, although one could
probably find the bacon in Soho, our figs never attain to Sicilian
ripeness.  Carmelo then surpassed himself with a pollo alla cacciatora,
after which we had a mixed fry of all sorts of fish.  Peaches out of the
garden and cheese followed.  Also we drank Peppino's own wine made from
the grapes he had planted with his own hands and trodden with his own
feet, and there was coffee with the cigarettes.

I said: "I did not know Carmelo was a cook, I thought he was a coachman."

"Also is he a cook.  Also the nurse of Ricuzzu.  Also a waiter.  Very
good boy Carmelo.  We took him when Letterio went away."

"And Brancaccia is not afraid to have him as Ricuzzu's nurse?"

"Afraid?  No.  Why?"

"Because he has been in prison for stabbing his friend."

"Oh yes, in prison.  But his friend was a bad man, was taking away
Carmelo's girl."

"Did the friend marry Carmelo's girl?"

"Yes, and Carmelo got another girl.  Plenty girls very fond of Carmelo.
Look here, the girls always are liking the boy that has been in prison."

"Yes; well, of course, one can understand that.  By the by, what was that
about the girl who went to confess?"

"Did you know what is confess?  All right, I shall tell you.  The box is
inside for the priest behind the railings, and the other place that is
open is for the man or the woman that have sinned.  And the girl is
coming and is saying:

"'My father, I have sinned.  I had the idea to rob my sister of a hen,
but I would not do it.  What is this?'

"The father was telling, 'It is a very bad idea.'

"And the girl was repeating that she don't be doing the wickedness, only
the idea.

"'Never mind,' was telling the father, 'it is the idea that is the thing,
and you would be fined with five francs to the church to make the Messa
and the church would give the Messa for the sin and the sin would be
delivered after the Messa.'

"The girl takes from her pocket the five francs and put to the railings.
The father is telling:

"'It is not possible to touch.  Please give me from the door.'

"The girl was answering:

"'Never mind; you have the idea to take the money and it is the idea that
is the thing.'

"Did you understand?  All right, please take to eat.  Some more fish?"

"No, thank you," I replied.

"Please take some more pollo."

"Thank you, Peppino, I have eaten too much already."

"Please take to the drink."

"I have had quite enough, thank you."

"Some more wine?  Do not think about Letterio.  You shall not be meeting
your dolce cuore--your sweetheart, this day.  You have not yet taken one
glass."

"Excuse me, I have drunk quite as much as is good for me--much more than
a glass--nearly a bottle."

"It is good till you shall drink the three glasses of Noah.  Did you know
what is the glass of Noah?  All right, I shall tell you."

Then he told me about Noah and the Devil.

The patriarch Noah was working in his field one day when the Devil came
along, put his arms on top of the gate, and looking over, said in a
friendly way:

"Good morning, Mr. Noah."

"Good morning, Mr. Devil," replied Noah.  "And what can I do for you?"

"Do not let me interrupt; you seem busy this morning."

"Yes," replied Noah; "I am planting the vine."

"Oho!" said the Devil, "but this is rather interesting."

So he slipped inside the field and took a seat on a large white stone.
Noah went on with his work.

A lion was prowling round and came through the gate which the Devil had
carelessly left open.  The Devil killed the lion and watered the vine
with its blood.

"I wish you wouldn't do that," said Noah testily.

The Devil paid no attention.  A monkey dropped down from a tree and came
skipping up to them to see what was going on.  The Devil killed the
monkey and watered the vine with its blood.

"Can't you leave the poor beasts alone?" said Noah, who had always
deprecated cruelty to animals, and was beginning to lose his temper.

The Devil paid no attention.  A pig was wallowing in the mud close
by--there had been a good deal of rain lately.  The Devil killed the pig
and watered the vine with its blood.

This was too much for Noah.  He shouted: "Haven't you got any work of
your own to do, you lazy devil?"  He was so angry he forgot to say "Mr."
"You had better go home; your dinner will be getting cold."

"'Hot' you mean," replied the Devil, looking for his hat, which had
fallen behind the large white stone.  "What an ungrateful husbandman you
are!  I have been helping you to make your wine.  When you have drunk the
first glass, you will feel strong and behave furiously.  When you have
drunk the second glass, you will forget how to think for yourself, you
will imitate other people and behave foolishly.  When you have drunk the
third glass--Need I continue?  I think not.  Good morning."

Whereupon the Devil put his hands into his pockets, tucked his tail up
under his left arm and swaggered away, thinking of his next job and
whistling "La Donna e Mobile."

"And the glass of Noah," said Peppino in conclusion, "was containing one
bottle.  Did you understand?  All right; I give you a medal."

"I hope it will be a real medal and not like the idea of the girl."

"We shall see.  Please take to drink the milk of Ricuzzu."

The baby had had one bottle of milk, but there was another ready for him.
I said:

"My dear Peppino, I could not eat or drink another mouthful of anything.
I could not even eat a slice of Ricuzzu himself; besides, I don't believe
Carmelo knows how to cook babies--not so as to make them really tasty."

Brancaccia understood enough to know we were talking about Ricuzzu.  She
left off clearing away, and snatched the baby out of Carmelo's arms,
whispering to me: "I know it is all right, but I shall feel safer if I
have him."

Peppino, who was lying on his back, observed her agitation out of the
corner of his eye and said to me, maliciously speaking Italian so that
she should understand:

"If you would like to eat the baby, please say whether Carmelo shall boil
him or cut him up and stew him alla cacciatora."

"Thank you, no.  I prefer Ricuzzu alive."

"You are a bad papa," said Brancaccia, "and the compare is a good man."

So she gave me the baby as a reward and slapped her husband's cheek as a
punishment.  Peppino naturally retaliated, and in a moment they were
rolling over and over and bear-fighting like a couple of kittens at play,
while Carmelo and I sat and laughed at them, and the baby crowed and
clapped his hands and grew so excited I could scarcely hold him.

There came a pause and Peppino said: "My dear, if you will leave off
boxing my ears I will tell you a secret."

Brancaccia instantly desisted and went and sat apart to recover herself.

Peppino continued: "I knew the compare would refuse to eat the baby.  He
does not like our Sicilian dishes.  Every time he comes to see us it is a
penitenza for him, because he cannot eat food grown in our island.  But I
know what I shall do.  I shall send a telegram to London: 'English
gentleman starving in Castellinaria.  Please send at once one chop, one
bottle of stout.'

"Look here," he continued, suddenly sitting up and becoming serious.  "It
is the clime.  Here is the country not adapted to the beast, few rain,
few grass, few beefs, few muttons, and all too thin and the land is good
only for the goats and we must be eating such things that are doing bad
to the stomaco--the little chickens and the poor fishes and the
pasta--not other.  In England shall be falling always the rain and plenty
grass shall be growing and the beefs and the muttons shall be fat and
much nourishment shall come to those who are eating them."

I said that if I could have chops and stout instead of the few odds and
ends which Carmelo had managed to scrape together for our ridiculously
inadequate luncheon, of course I should stay at Castellinaria and never
go home any more.

So that was settled for the time, and Brancaccia, having put herself
tidy, proposed a visit to the grottoes.  Carmelo packed up his kitchen
and took it off to the cart.  On the way he met his cousin, borrowed his
boat and came rowing in it--for Carmelo is also a fisherman.  We got in
and rowed round the promontory and into the caves.  The baby was a good
deal puzzled, he thought he was indoors, and yet it wasn't right, but he
was pleased.  When we were tired of the grottoes we rowed back, restored
the boat to Carmelo's cousin, packed ourselves into the cart and Guido
Santo took us up the zig-zags to Castellinaria after a day which we all
enjoyed very much; Ricuzzu, who understood least, perhaps enjoyed it
most, but then this baby enjoys everything.  If we could have remanded
his festa for a few years, instead of only a few days or weeks or
whatever it was, he might have understood more and enjoyed less.

Ricuzzu did not come to the theatre, he was supposed to be tired, so
Brancaccia put him to bed and, leaving him with Carmelo, accompanied
Peppino and me to see _Il Diavolo Verde_.  We took our seats while the
fiancee of Don Giuseppe, assisted by her lady's-maid, was endeavouring to
make up her mind.  The difficulty was that Don Giovanni, the brother of
Giuseppe, had sent her a case of jewels and, like Margherita, in _Faust_,
she could not resist the temptation to try them on in front of a
looking-glass.  We saw in the glass the reflection of a devil in green
with pink trimmings.  He appeared to be standing behind her, looking over
her shoulder, but he was not really present; it must have been a magic
mirror.  Don Giovanni came and denounced his brother who, he said, was a
bastard and no gentleman, proving his words by the production of their
father's will written on a sheet of brown paper which he always carried
in his belt.  This convinced the lady, and she went off with Giovanni.
Don Giuseppe, who had been carried away by armed men, escaped and
returned to meditate on the crisis of his life.  Remembering that the
green devil was a retainer of his family, he summoned him and laid the
case before him.  This time the devil really came and told Giuseppe that
there was a way out of his trouble, but that it would involve (1) the
perdition of two souls, (2) the shedding of blood, (3) sacrilege, (4)
perjury, and (5) all his courage.  Don Giuseppe agreed and the curtain
fell.

The next act was in the cemetery in front of the tomb of the father of
the two brothers.  Don Giuseppe and the green devil came in, carrying
another will, engrossed on brown paper, but not executed, a bottle of
ink, and a quill pen.  They stood in front of the door of the tomb and
spoke some sacrilegious words.  The door opened and revealed the corpse
of the father like a Padre Eterno, standing upright, clothed in white,
with a white face, a flowing white beard and white kid gloves.
Brancaccia was, I believe, really as much frightened as Don Giuseppe
pretended to be and I did not like it.  The green devil encouraged his
master to approach the corpse, which he did, first dipping the pen in the
ink-bottle.  He offered the pen and held in a convenient manner the new
will which would put everything straight, begging his father to sign it.
The corpse slowly raised its stiff right arm, took the pen in its hand
and signed the will; it then dropped the pen on the ground, lowered its
stiff right arm and the door of the tomb closed.  Except for this, it did
not move and it did not speak at all.  It was a ghastly scene and the
house was as still as though it had been empty.

In the next act we returned to Don Giovanni whom we found playing dice
with Fernando at an inn.  When Fernando had lost his money and his
jewellery and his lands and his castle and his furniture, he played for
his wife, and Don Giovanni won her also.  Whereupon Fernando wrote two
letters to his wife, one, which they sent by a messenger, told her to
come to the inn at once, the other was for Don Giovanni to give to her
when she came.  Fernando then went away, leaving the coast clear, and the
lady entered.

DON GIOVANNI: Donna Inez, I love you.

DONNA INEZ: Silence, Sir.  I am here to meet my husband.  Where is he?

DON G (_giving her the second letter_): He left this for you.

DONNA I (_reads_): "Dear Inez: We have been playing dice.  Don Giovanni
has won.  You now belong to him.  Your affectionate husband, Fernando."
It cannot be!  'Tis false!  My husband would never behave in so
ungentlemanly a manner.

GIOV: On the contrary, Madama.  And is not this his handwriting?

IN: Now that I look at it again, it is.  Ah, Cielo!  Betrayed!  Surely,
Sir, you do not expect me to consent?

GIOV: Certainly I do.

IN: Never.  I am a Spanish lady of high degree.

GIOV: Inez, I love you.  Be mine.

IN: Are you of noble birth?

GIOV: Yes.

IN: Are you valorous?

GIOV: Yes.

IN: Don Giovanni (_hiding her face_), I love you!

GIOV: My own, my beautiful one!

IN: There is, however, one little difficulty about which, of course, you
could have known nothing.  Some years ago I foolishly took an oath.  I
swore I would be true to my husband during his life.

GIOV: Well, but--let me see--yes, I did bring my sword with me.  Suppose
I were to step round and run him through the heart--if you don't mind
waiting?

IN: I'm afraid it would be troubling you?

GIOV: Not at all.  Any little thing of that kind.  So glad you mentioned
it.

IN: Thanks.  I suppose you could not manage to bring it off within sight
of the window?

GIOV: I don't see why not.  Anyhow, I'll do my best.

                                                             [_Exit_ GIOV.

IN: Waiter! (_Enter_ WAITER.)  Lay the cloth for two (_She meditates
while the waiter lays the cloth_.  Exit WAITER.)  Being a Spanish lady of
high degree, the only course open to me is suicide.  Fortunately, this
ring contains a dose of poison strong enough for two, otherwise I should
have had to die unavenged or to send round to the chemist's for more.
(_She pours out two glasses of wine_, _splits the contents of her ring
between them_, _and goes to the window_.)  Ah! here they come.  It is
annoying that they are so far off.  I cannot distinguish them in the
dark; however, they are fighting.  Now one is killed and the other is
coming in.  I wonder which it will be.

_Enter_ DON GIOVANNI.

GIOV: There! my own, my beautiful one.  I'm afraid you did not have a
very good view, but your poor husband was such a damned bad swordsman
that I inadvertently killed him before I could get him as near as I
intended.

IN: Well, I confess I should like to view the body, just to make sure you
have not killed the wrong gentleman--if you've no objection?

GIOV: None whatever.  You'll find him in the gutter up the street, under
the third lamp post.  (_Exit_ DONNA INEZ.  DON GIOVANNI _observes the two
glasses of wine and smells them suspiciously_.  _Re-enter_ DONNA INEZ.)

IN: Perfectly satisfactory and I thank you.

GIOV: My own, my beautiful one!  I love you!  Be mine.

IN: Shall we not first have a little supper?  You must be fatigued after
your exertions.  And see! here is a nice glass of wine for you.

GIOV: After you, Madama.  (DONNA INEZ _hesitates to drink_.)  You see, my
beautiful one, I have had some experience in these matters, and now I
never drink anything poured out for me by a lady unless she drinks some
of it herself.

IN (_aside_): Being a Spanish lady of high degree I cannot possibly
refuse.  I can only trust that as he is of noble birth and valorous, he
won't be such a blackguard as not to drink.  (_Drinks_.)

GIOV: Brava!  But--do you know?--after all, I think I should prefer a
fresh bottle, if it's quite the same to you, my beautiful one.  (_He
empties his glass upon the floor_; _the wine flows about the stage in a
stream of fire_.  DONNA INEZ _dies in agony_.  _Exit_ DON GIOVANNI
_laughing_.  _Curtain_.)

During the applause that followed, Brancaccia rose, exclaiming:

"Such a thing could not possibly happen."

She collected her wraps and we left the theatre, although the play was in
nine acts and we had only seen three.  As soon as we got home, she
retired.  I said to Peppino:

"I wish we had not gone to that play.  I am sure Brancaccia has been
frightened by it."

"No," said he, "not frightened."

"But she's gone away to recover herself?"

"Look here, Brancaccia don't be thinking of the drama.  She don't be
thinking of nothing--only the baby.  She go to see if Ricuzzu is
sleeping."



PALERMO


CHAPTER III
MARIONETTISTS AT HOME


                                           ALESSANDRO GRECO TO THE AUTHOR.
                                                       MARIONETTE THEATRE,
                                                    PIAZZA NUOVA, PALERMO,
                                                           4 _June_, 1909.

    MY DEAR ENRICO,

    Since I last wrote to you there has been a continual to-do and no
    time for writing letters.  What has been the to-do?  Is it possible
    you have forgotten my telling you that I am studying to be a singer
    and that I take lessons every day?  Now listen to this: Here in
    Palermo, a new opera was performed recently for the benefit of the
    victims of the earthquake at Messina.  The story was taken from a
    great German romance and the music was composed by an Italian who is
    now in America.  I was asked to sing as a supplementary tenor.  We
    had a month of rehearsals and in the end the performance was
    splendidly successful.  O my dear friend!  If you had seen me on the
    stage!  I was dressed as a warrior with a wig of curly hair and a
    pair of moustaches.  I also received applause, and, when I appeared
    before the audience to bow my acknowledgments, I thought: "Oh, if
    only my dear friend were present, how he would be applauding me!"
    You will understand after that whether I have had any time to write
    to you; but now that things have calmed down a little and there is
    less going on I can write to you as much as you like.

    As you know, I am always busy in the teatrino; the other evening we
    repeated Samson, that play which you once saw here.  If you will
    believe me, I was thinking of you the whole time because I remembered
    that when we gave it two years ago you were present.

    Just now in the _Story of the Paladins_, Orlando is throwing away his
    arms and running about naked in the woods, mad for love of Angelica;
    and soon we shall have the burning of Bizerta and the destruction of
    the Africans.  This will finish in July and we shall then begin the
    _Story of Guido Santo_.

    What have you done with that photograph of myself which I gave you
    and which you put into your cigarette-case?  Is still there, or have
    you lost it?  I have often promised to send you another but have not
    done so because when you come to Palermo in September I hope we shall
    be photographed together, you and I.  Nevertheless I send you this
    one now, it was taken by an English lady who came to the teatrino
    last summer; you see me getting into a rage with a paladin, I am
    talking seriously to him and swearing at him because he will not let
    me dress him properly.

    I will not prolong this letter, I do not wish to bore you; but I
    promise you that I will never fail to let you know of my doings and I
    count on you to tell me of yours.

    Costantino, Sansone, Rinaldo, Rosina, Angelica, Ferrau, Pasquino,
    Onofrio and all the other marionettes embrace you and send you their
    kind regards.

                                                  I am and always shall be
                                                  Your affectionate friend
                                                 ALESSANDRO GRECO (Buffo).

On arriving at Palermo, I went to the teatrino at about ten at night; not
seeing the buffo in his usual place keeping order at the door, I guessed
he must be on the stage and, knowing the way, passed through the
audience, dived under the proscenium, crept along a short passage,
mounted a ladder and appeared among them unannounced.  The father, the
buffo and his brother, Gildo, were so much astonished that they dropped
their marionettes all over the stage and shouted:

"When did you come?"  "Why did you not write?"  "Why did you not
telegraph?"

Thereby spreading their astonishment among the audience, who saw no
connection between these ejaculations and the exploits of Guido Santo.
They soon recovered themselves, however, picked up their paladins and
managed to bring the performance to its conclusion, and we shut the
theatre and proceeded upstairs to the house.  On the way the buffo took
me aside into his workshop to show me two inflammable Turkish pavilions
which he was making; Ettorina in her madness was to fire them in a few
days, one in the afternoon and the other at the evening repetition, as a
conclusion to the spectacle.  I inquired:

"Who was Ettorina, and why did she go mad?"

"I will tell you presently," replied the buffo, "we must first go
upstairs."

As we went up I asked after the singing and he promised to take me to the
house of his professor to hear him have a lesson.  Papa and Gildo had
preceded us and we found them with the young ladies, Carolina and
Carmela, and the child, Nina, who is as much a buffa as her brother
Alessandro is a buffo.  In a moment, the air was thick with compliments.

PAPA: And how well you are looking!  So much fatter than last year.

MYSELF (_accepting the compliment_): That is very kind of you.  You are
all looking very well also.  Let me see, Buffo mio, how old are you now?

ALESSANDRO: Guess.

MYSELF: Twenty-five.

ALESS: Bravo.  I completed my twenty-fifth year just three weeks ago.
And you?

MYSELF: I have also completed my twenty-fifth year, but I did it more
than three weeks ago.

ALESS: I see.  You have twenty-five years on one shoulder; and how many
more on the other?

MYSELF: Twenty-five.

ALESS: It seems to me you are making a habit of attaining twenty-five.
Are you going to do it again?

MYSELF: I have begun, but I shall put off completing it as long as
possible.  If you want to know my exact age I will give you the materials
for making the calculation.  I went to the Great Exhibition of 1851.

GILDO: Tell us about it.  I have often seen pictures of it in the
illustrated papers, but I have never spoken to anyone who was there.  Was
it very beautiful?  Were there many people?  Did you see Queen Victoria?

MYSELF: I can't tell you much about it.  I was asleep and when I woke up
I was so hungry that I cried till my mother took me into a side room and
gave me my dinner.  Then I went to sleep again until they took me home.
I have been to many exhibitions since, but I never enjoyed one so much.
You see, this one did not bore me.

ALESS: You should not have had your dinner there.  I went to the
exhibition in Palermo and the food in the restaurant was not wholesome.

GILDO: Yes, but you must remember that Alessandro is very particular
about his food.  He can only eat the most delicate things and must have
plenty of variety.

MYSELF: I did not have much variety in those days.  I took my restaurant
with me, the one at which I was having all my meals.

GILDO: Oh well, if one can afford to travel like a prince--

MYSELF: Gildo!  I was not six weeks old and--

PAPA: I have now made the calculation and I find you are my senior by six
years.  I hope that when I have caught you up I shall carry my age as
lightly as you carry yours.  Do I explain myself?

ALESS (_to me_): I think you look older.  I should have said you were a
well-preserved man of sixty-four or (_stretching a point in my favour_)
perhaps sixty-five.

MYSELF (_feeling sure that here must be another compliment_): Thank you
very much.

BUFFO: Not at all; it does you great credit.

GILDO: Now me, please.  Ask me my age.

MYSELF: Well, Gildo, and how old are you?

GILDO: A hundred and seventy-four next birthday.

MYSELF: Santo Diavolo!  You don't look it.  You must have been very busy
since last autumn when, if I remember right, you were only twenty-one.

CAROLINA (_tapping my right arm to attract my attention_): Signor Enrico,
Signor Enrico, why do you not ask me my age?

CARMELA (_tapping my left arm_): Signor Enrico, Signor Enrico, you have
not asked me my age.

MYSELF: Because I know how old you are.  You are both of you the age that
charming young ladies always are, and you do not look a day older.

NINA: I'm fourteen.

CARO and CARM (_comparing notes_): Did you hear what he said?  He said we
are charming young ladies.

NINA (_insisting_): I'm fourteen.  Do I look it?

MYSELF: I can compliment you on looking a little older.  Since last year
you have grown out of being a child, but you have hardly yet grown into
being a young lady like your sisters, though you are quite as charming.

ALESS (_taking the opportunity to begin_): First you must know that Carlo
Magno is now dead and the Pope is shut up in Paris and is being--

CARO: Signor Enrico, Signor Enrico, do you drink marsala in London?

MYSELF: Marsala is known in London, but we do not drink it every day as
you do in Palermo.

GILDO: In England people drink tea; everything is so different in
England.

MYSELF: That is quite true, Gildo.  In England what is like that
(_holding my hand out with the palm up_) in Sicily is like this (_holding
it with the palm down_:_ Peppino Pampalone taught me this gesture_).

GILDO: And that is why in London the people walk on their feet, whereas
in Palermo they walk on their hands, as you have no doubt observed.

ALESS: Si; e ecco perche in Londra si mangia colla bocca, ma qui, in
Palermo, si mangia nella maniera che ti faro vedere da un diavolo nel
teatrino.  But I was telling you about the Pope.  He is shut up in Paris,
where he is guarding the Christians against the--

CARO: Signor Enrico, do you ever see the sun in London?

GILDO: Yes, they see the sun in London, but only on three days of the
week; on the other days they send it to be cleaned.

CARM: Then it is not the same sun as ours?

GILDO: It is a different sun.  Our sun is made of gold and remains always
bright.  The sun of London is made of copper and, being constantly
exposed to the air, it tarnishes more rapidly even than the breastplate
of Carlo Magno, and you know what a lot of cleaning that wants.

PAPA: All this is very interesting, but listen to me.  I have something
to say.  When I was a boy at school--are you attending?  Very well, then,
I may proceed.  When I was a boy at school, we had a professor who told
us that in consequence of--

CARO: Signor Enrico, Signor Enrico, what is the English for Grazie?

MYSELF: It means Thank you.

CARM: Signor Enrico, Signor Enrico, what is the English for Buona notte?

MYSELF: Buona notte in English is Good night.

ALESS:--and Paris is being besieged by four Turkish emperors, namely,
Rodoferro di Siberia, Balestrazzo di Turgovia, Leofine di Cina and
Bracilone d'Africa, and they have two hundred thousand men--

GILDO: Now me, please.  Teach me to speak English.  What did you say is
the English for Grazie?

MYSELF: Thank you.

GILDO: And Buona notte?

MYSELF: Good night.

GILDO (_tentatively_): Thank you.  Good night.

MYSELF: Bravo, very good.

CARO: What does that mean?

MYSELF: Very good means--

PAPA:--and this professor of ours told us that in consequence of certain
natural--do I explain myself?--of certain natural causes, it is rare for
a human being to live more than one hundred years.  It is therefore
unlikely that--

ALESS:--and Paris is being besieged by--

MYSELF: Yes, I know, Buffo, by four Turkish emperors and they have two
hundred thousand men.  I should think it must be rather a serious
situation.  But I want to hear about Ettorina.

ALESS: It is a very serious situation, but do not be alarmed because--

PAPA:--it is therefore unlikely that Gildo will ever reach the age of one
hundred and seventy-four.  Do I explain myself?

CARO: Signor Enrico, Come sta? what does it mean?

MYSELF: It means How do you do?

CARO (_trying her hand_): How do you do?

MYSELF: Brava.  Very good.

(_Nina did not ask to be taught English_._  She was following the
conversation with sympathetic illustrative gestures not caring two straws
whether anyone observed her_, _just as she did not care whether anyone
observed that she was breathing_; _and_, _just as she could not stop
breathing_, _so she appeared unable to stop her gestures_._  She was as
incessant and as resourceful as the orchestra in_ Hansel and Gretel.)

CARM: Signor Enrico, Signor Enrico, Io t'amo.

MYSELF: Oh! but this is so sudden.

ALESS:--do not be alarmed, because--

CARM: What does it mean in English?

MYSELF: Oh, I beg your pardon.  It means--

ALESS:--do not be alarmed, for it is the will of heaven that--

PAPA: I may even go further and say it is unlikely that Gildo--

CARO: Signor Enrico, do you know what Carmela is doing?

MYSELF: She is making lace on a pillow, no doubt for her wedding
trousseau.

CARM (_demurely_): Not for my wedding.  No one will ever want to marry
me.

MYSELF: Oh, come now, you don't expect me to believe that?

ALESS:--it is the will of heaven that they shall all escape--

MYSELF: Well, if this is not for you, perhaps it is for Carolina's
wedding?

ALESS:--that they shall all escape to Montalbano--

CARO (_demurely_): Not for my wedding.  I shall never marry.  I shall
stay at home and look after my dear papa and my dear brothers.

NINA (_recklessly_): That's all very pretty, but I'm going to get
married.  (_She was sitting on the edge of the table swinging her legs_.)

ALESS:--that they shall all escape to Montalbano through the subterranean
road which the devils--

MYSELF: Why don't you tell me about Ettorina?  Come to Ettorina.

ALESS: One moment, if you please--which the devils will make on Wednesday
evening--

CARM: You have not yet told me what it is in English.

MYSELF: What what is in English?

CARM: Io t'amo.

(_By the time I had given the information Papa_, _who had been proposing
my health in a speech of which I caught little except an occasional_ Do I
explain myself? _had begun perorating towards a close and was about to
crown his remarks with a brindisi in verse_.)

PAPA: Questa tavola--

GILDO (_taking the words out of his mouth_):

                --oggi e assai piu bella.
    Enrico!  Bevo alla salute di tua sorella. {60}

ALESS:--which the devils will make on Wednesday evening by command of
Argantino the--

PAPA (_beginning again_):

    Questa tavola non e sporca ma e netta.
    Enrico! mangia, e non dare a loro retta. {61a}

MYSELF (_obediently taking a pear_._  It was a fine pear with a maggot in
it_;_ they wanted me to take another but I knew that those with maggots
are usually the best_.  _Not seeing why I should not be a poet also_, _I
put it thus_):

    Animale
    Non fa male. {61b}

GILDO (_instantly raising his glass_):

    Ora che ho mangiato non sono piu a dieta;
    Bevo alla salute d'Enrico che e poeta. {61c}

ALESS:

    Anch'io voglio brindar, da povero precoce,
    Ad Enrico che sentir vuole la mia voce;
    Da un anno non ti vedo, O caro fratello!
    Vieni oggi, ti faro sentir l'_Otello_. {61d}

MYSELF (_bowing my acknowledgments_): Thank you very much.

GILDO: What did you say?  Does that mean Good night?  Is that what you
said before?

MYSELF: Very much means Molto, Thank you means Grazie, and Good night
means Buona notte.

GILDO: Let me try.  Very much thank you good night?

MYSELF: Bravo, Gildo!  You are making progress.

(_Nina was not so much preoccupied with her comments as to be unable to
take a line of her own when there was nothing particularly inspiring in
the conversation and_, _just now_, _she had laid her head down in an
empty plate and was unostentatiously putting out her tongue and making
faces sideways at me_.)

GILDO (_taking a fig in one hand and raising his glass with the other_):

    Oggi mi voglio mangiare un fico;
    Bevo alla salute del Signor Enrico. {62}

(_I had to drink each time_, _not much_--_merely to acknowledge the
compliment_--_excusing myself by saying I had not the energy to drink
more_.)

MYSELF: My dear Buffo, when you have sufficiently got into the habit of
being twenty-five to approach the age Gildo says he is, you will not have
so much energy as you have now.

ALESS: Yes, I shall.

MYSELF: No, Buffo mio.

ALESS: We will make a bet about it, but you will lose.

GILDO (_to Aless_): By that time Enrico will not be here to pay if he
does lose, so you will not win.

MYSELF: Bravo, Gildo.

GILDO (_bowing his acknowledgments_): Thank you very night--Why do you
laugh?  That is what you say.  Why do you laugh?

PAPA (_taking his revenge about the brindisi_): Don't talk so much,
Gildo.

ALESS (_taking his about the bet_): You have been talking all the
evening, Gildo.  You are as bad as a conjurer in the piazza.

(_Gildo proclaimed a general silence and_, _as a guarantee of good
faith_, _pretended to skewer his lips together with a tooth-pick_.)

ALESS (_whispering to me_): Argantino is the Prince of the Devils and has
commanded them to make the subterranean road from Paris to Montalbano--

PAPA: May I speak one word?

MYSELF (_graciously_): Yes, Papa.  You may even speak two words.

PAPA: I--

ALESS and GILDO (_shouting_): One!

PAPA:--have--

ALESS and GILDO: Two!  There now, shut up.  You've spoken your two words.
Silence.

CARO: Signor Enrico, last year you only stayed in Palermo four days; this
year you will, of course, stay at least a month.

MYSELF: I am sorry, my dear young lady, but it is impossible.

ALESS:--and they will all escape and--

MYSELF: Please, Buffo, how many kilometres is it from Paris to
Montalbano?

ALESS: I do not remember, but it is a long way.

CARO: Why do you not stay a month?

CARM: Yes, why are you going away?

MYSELF: My dear young ladies, I must go to Calatafimi.

CARO: But why do you go to Calatafimi?

CARM: Yes, why do you not stay with us?

(_Nina did not speak_.  _She merely gazed at me as though she could not
mind her wheel_, _Mother_.)

MYSELF: I have friends at Calatafimi whom I have promised to go and see
and I cannot--

ALESS:--and arrive in safety at Montalbano.

MYSELF: I believe you told me once that Montalbano is Rinaldo's castle in
Gascony.  Did the devils make a subterranean road right across France?
It is a long way, you know.

ALESS: The devils must do as Argantino commands them.

MYSELF: If he is the Prince of the Devils of course they must; but this
seems rather a large order.  Come to Ettorina.  Why don't you come to
Ettorina?

ALESS: One moment, if you please; first you must know that--

CARO: Signor Enrico, who are your friends at Calatafimi?

MYSELF: I know a baritone singer and his father and mother, two or three
landed proprietors and the custode of the Temple of Segesta who lives at
Calatafimi and is great friend of mine.  I also know another--

CARM: It is not true.  How many ladies do you know at Calatafimi?

MYSELF: Well, let me see.  I don't think I can exactly--

CARO: Tell us about the young ladies of Calatafimi, you like them better
than you like us.

(_Here sobs were heard_;_ Nina's head and shoulders had fallen over the
back of her chair_, _her hair had come down an she was weeping gently but
inconsolably_.)

MYSELF: I shall be back in three days.

(_Whereupon Nina recovered herself and fixed her eyes on the ceiling with
an expression of beatific joy such as is worn by S. Caterina da Siena
when the ring is being put on her finger in the pictures_._  Nina's hair
had now to be done up and it is magnificent hair_, _lustrous_, _black_,
_wavy thick and long--for a girl of fourteen_, _wonderful_._  Her two
sisters did it up as though it usually came down about this time of the
evening and she submitted in the same spirit_._  It was no concern of
ours_.)

PAPA: It is now one year since you were last in Palermo and it seems like
yesterday--do I explain myself?

GILDO (_so that everyone could hear_): I have kept all your post-cards in
a secret place.  No one suspects that I have received them.

ALESS: You must know that before Malagigi died he--

CARO: Signor Enrico, why do you wear spectacles?

MYSELF: In order that I may more clearly contemplate your beauty.

CARO: I do not believe you.

CARM: Signor Enrico, why do you wear your hair so short?

MYSELF: In order that--

CARO: Signor Enrico, why do you wear that little beard, that barbetta?

CARM: Signor Enrico, why do you wear--?

ALESS: Why do you wear a coat and waistcoat?

GILDO: Why do you wear boots?

PAPA: Why do you--?

NINA: I can tell you why he does all these things.  It is to make the
young ladies of Calatafimi go mad for love of him as the daughter of
Cladinoro went mad for love of Ruggiero Persiano.

MYSELF: I have never heard of Ruggiero Persiano.  Who was he, a paladin?

NINA: Yes; a cavaliere errante.

MYSELF: Then who was the daughter of Cladinoro?

NINA: Ettorina.

MYSELF: Do you mean to say that Ettorina went mad for love of Ruggiero
Persiano?

NINA: Yes.

MYSELF (_rising to go_): Finalmente!

ALESS: Yes, but first you must know--

MYSELF: All right, Buffo, never mind about that; at last I know who
Ettorina was and why she went mad and that will do for the present.
Thank you very much and good night.

GILDO: That is what I said.  Why did you laugh when I said that?

MYSELF: Say it again, Gildo, and I won't laugh this time.

GILDO: Thank you very night and good much.

MYSELF: Bravo.  If you go on at this rate you will soon be speaking
English like a native.

I took leave of the young ladies, and Papa, Alessandro and Gildo
accompanied me to the albergo, where they left me.  As I approached my
bedroom door I looked up over it half-expecting to see there the words
which, years ago, I had seen written over the entrance to a Tuscan
monastery:

    O beata Solitudo!
    O sola Beatitudo!



CHAPTER IV
MALAGIGI


Next morning I called on the buffo in his workshop.  His two combustible
Turkish pavilions were finished, ready to be fired by Ettorina, and he
was full of his devils.  I inquired why we were doing Guido Santo so
soon; it was only a year since my last visit to Palermo, when I had
witnessed his lamented end after a fortnight of starvation in prison,
and, at this rate, the story would be over in fourteen months instead of
lasting eighteen.  The buffo said they had made the experiment of
shortening it.  If one has to shorten a story, probably the _Paladins of
France_ with its continuations would suffer less from the process than
many others.  At all events it could scarcely grow longer, as a work of
art so often does when one tries to shorten it.

The devils were naturally among the dramatis personae of the teatrino,
but they had to be got ready and repaired and provided with all things
necessary for them to make the subterranean road.  I said:

"I am not sure that I quite followed all you told me last night."

"There was perhaps a little confusion?" he inquired apologetically.

"Not at all," I replied politely; "but I never heard of Argantino before.
Did you say he was the son of Malagigi?"

"That is right.  He did not happen to be at Roncisvalle, so he was not
killed with Orlando and the other paladins.  An angel came to him and
said, 'Now the Turks will make much war against the Christians and, since
the Christians always want a magician, it is the will of heaven that you
shall have the rod of Malagigi, who is no longer here, and that Guido
Santo shall have la Durlindana, the sword of Orlando.'  And it was so,
and Argantino thereafter appeared as a pilgrim."

"I remember about Malagigi; he made all Rinaldo's armour."

"Excuse me, he made some of his armour; but he did not make his helmet,
nor his sword Fusberta, nor his horse Baiardo.  First you must know that
Rinaldo was one of the four brothers, sons of Amone, and their sister was
Bradamante."

"I saw her die at Trapani.  The Empress Marfisa came and found her dying
of grief in a grotto for the loss of her husband, Ruggiero da Risa."

"Precisely.  She was Marfisa's sister-in-law because she married
Marfisa's brother Ruggiero da Risa."

"Then who was the cavaliere errante, Ruggiero Persiano?"

"He was the son of Marfisa and Guidon Selvaggio, and this Guidon
Selvaggio was the son of Rinaldo."

"Had Bradamante no children?"

"Guido Santo is the son of Bradamante and Ruggiero da Risa."

"I heard something about Guido Santo at Castellinaria the other day--let
me see, what was it?  Never mind.  I hope he left children."

"I told you last year that he never married."

"Oh yes, of course; that is what I was thinking of.  One cannot remember
everything at once and pedigrees are always confusing at first.  Then it
is for love of Bradamante's nephew by marriage, Ruggiero Persiano, that
Ettorina has now gone mad?"

"Bravo.  And Malagigi was Bradamante's cousin."

"How was that?"

"Amone had a brother Buovo, and Malagigi was the son of Buovo.  Therefore
Malagigi was the cousin of Rinaldo and of Bradamante.  And that is all
you need know about the pedigree for the present.  Malagigi was Emperor
of Magic.  Other magicians only commanded a devil or two each, but
Malagigi dominated all the hosts of the inferno, all the devils, harpies,
serpents, gorgons, hydras, furies and also the monster Briareus."

"Just as the buffo dominates all the marionettes in the teatrino," I
interpolated.

He bowed and proceeded: "Rinaldo's helmet used to belong to Mambrino."

"I have read about it in _Don Quixote_."

"Ah! but that was not a real helmet; that was only a barber's basin
because Cervantes wanted to laugh at Don Quixote.  Rinaldo slew Mambrino
and took his helmet, but Mambrino was a giant and his helmet was too
large for Rinaldo, so Malagigi took it down into the laboratory of the
inferno and altered it to fit."

"And do the audience see all that done on the stage?"

"Most of it; and what they do not see they imagine.  Fusberta, Rinaldo's
sword, formerly belonged to another giant, Atlante.  Malagigi always
intended it for Rinaldo, but he was a wise magician and knew that people
do not value things unless they pay for them, so he would not let him
have it till he had earned it by killing Atlante."

"It's rather like what you told me last year about Orlando's dream and
his going to the river-bank where Carlo Magno and that other giant,
Almonte, were fighting, and his killing Almonte and his taking his sword
and horse and armour."

"I did not say that Orlando had a dream; it was Carlo Magno who had the
dream about a young man whom he did not know, and I told you that
afterwards, when Orlando came and helped him to fight Almonte, Carlo
Magno recognised him as the young man in his dream."

"Sorry, Buffo; my mistake.  But it is rather like it, isn't it?"

"About his taking the giant's sword it is rather like it, but that is not
a bad thing in the teatrino, the people must not be puzzled by too much
variety."

Then he told me about Baiardo, Rinaldo's horse, who formerly belonged to
Amadigi di Gaula, to whom he was given by Berliante, another magician,
who found him in the desert.  After the death of Amadigi, Berliante chose
but seven devils, put them inside Baiardo and turned him loose in the
forest, saying: "This horse can only be dominated by a man as strong as
Amadigi."  After this, several things happened, of which I only remember
that Baiardo kicked all the sense out of Isolier, a Spanish cavalier who
was trying to tame him with his sword, not knowing the right way to do
it, and a nameless Englishman was involved in a duel.  At last Rinaldo
came and, after working hard at Baiardo for an hour, struck him a blow
between the eyes with his mailed fist and thus tamed him.  Then Rinaldo
mounted him and boasted of his triumph, shouting in his humorous way:
"Now Baiardo is carrying eight devils."

"And so you see Rinaldo getting Baiardo is not at all like Orlando
getting his horse Vegliantino; besides, Baiardo is red, the colour of
fire, and Vegliantino is white all over, without one black hair."

"Why do you call Orlando's horse Vegliantino?  Last year he was
Brigliadoro."

"One moment, if you please.  Almonte called him Brigliadoro because he
had a golden bridle; but when Orlando took him he called him Vegliantino
because he was so wide-awake--only slept with one eye at a time--always
kept the other open.  You have good horses also in England.  I read in
the _Giornale di Sicilia_ that your King Edward has a good horse who won
the great race this year, but I do not remember his name.  It was not a
reasonable name."

"The name was Minoru.  Do you think that a bad name for a good horse?"

"I think Vegliantino is better."

"Perhaps it is.  Let us return to Malagigi.  Are you not going to tell me
why he is no longer giving the Christians the benefit of his services as
magician?"

So he told me about Malagigi, who, it seems, had a quarrel with Carlo
Magno, in the course of which Malagigi boasted:

"You are the Emperor of the World, but I am the Emperor of the Inferno."

Carlo Magno did not quite like this and responded by cursing Malagigi,
saying that he would not go to heaven when he died.  One would think that
Malagigi must have had the substance of this remark addressed to him
before by persons who had not troubled to wrap it up in the imperial
language employed by Carlo Magno.  If so, it had never made any
impression on him, but now he began to think there might be something in
it.  He had been a good man on the whole and a Christian, nevertheless,
as a sorcerer he had no doubt diabolised a little too freely.  To be on
the safe side, he determined to repent and, as these things do not get
over the footlights unless they are done in the grand manner, he began by
burning his magical books, all except one, and they were the books of
Merlin, whose disciple he had been.  He next dropped his name of
Malagigi, because it had been given him by the devils in council, and
called himself Onofrio.  He still kept on terms with his confidential
private devil, Nacalone, whom he now summoned and to whom he spoke these
words:

"Convey me to some peaceful shore where I may repent of my sins and die
of grief in a grotto."

When we came to this--I could not help it, I was full of small complaints
that morning--I exclaimed:

"But, my dear Buffo, this makes consecutive fifths with his cousin
Bradamante dying of grief in the grotto at Trapani."

He admitted that it would have been better if one of them had had the
originality to die in bed as a Christian or an ordinary man does, or to
be killed in mortal combat, but there it was, it was the will of heaven
and could not be altered.  It seemed rather an invitation to the
shortener of the story, but the same people do not come to the theatre
every night and those who had missed the death of Bradamante would be
pleased to see Malagigi die.

The nearest peaceful shore with a suitable grotto known to Nacalone
happened to be in Asia; he put his master on his back and flew off with
him apologising for carrying him so far, but there was not really much
trouble about it, because his wings were strong and the journey was
accomplished in safety.

Malagigi sat repenting in his Asian grotto, like S. Gerolamo in the
pictures.  He found a stone with a hole in it into which he stuck a cross
made of two pieces of wood tied together with dried grass, and to this
cross he prayed.  In the intervals of prayer and repentance he gathered
the herb malva, dried it, powdered it, mixed it with water into paste,
formed it into cakes, baked them in the sun and ate them.  When his time
came, he died, and gradually his corpse became a skeleton, but his spirit
still dwelt within because it was so ordained.  His dying did not
surprise me--to be born is to enter upon the path which even magicians
must tread and which leads to the inevitable door--nor was I alarmed
about his spirit remaining inside his skeleton--it gave him a touch of
originality after all and differentiated his death from that of
Bradamante whose soul I had seen extracted by an angel; but I could not
help being seriously uneasy about his burning all his books.  Each book
had a devil chained inside it, and when Malagigi opened a book its devil
used to appear for instructions.  As long as he was repenting, they might
perhaps be trusted to behave themselves; but after his death, in spite of
its being somewhat equivocal, I was afraid that all these devils, and
Merlin had an extensive library, would escape and be free to do as they
chose.  The buffo assured me, however, that no harm would come of it, and
as he knew what was ordained by the will of heaven I was ready to take
his word; besides, there was still the one unburnt book and this was the
home of Nacalone, who might be powerful enough to avert disasters.  So
Malagigi's body remained in the grotto, dead and yet not dead.

Then a time came when his son Argantino happened to be travelling in Asia
with his second cousin Guido Santo.  Accompanied by Costanzo, a Turk,
whom Argantino had defeated and baptised, the two knights came to the
dreadful enchanted grotto and entered it to see whether perhaps it might
contain anything good to eat.  Costanzo did not enter, they sent him off
to collect a quantity of wood to make a fire because it was a chilly
evening.  When their eyes had become accustomed to the dim light, they
discerned a tomb whereon was this inscription:

    IN HOC LOCO PAX.

Guido knelt down to pray, saying: "I perceive here a sepulchre."

"Yes," replied Argantino kneeling by his side; "I wonder who in this
peaceful grotto is sleeping his last long sleep."

Presently the tomb opened by a miracle and a voice disturbed their
devotions:

"Malagigi parlera."

The two cousins trembled with horror as a skeleton rattled up from the
sepulchre and spoke thus:

"I am the great magician Malagigi, and in obedience to the command of
heaven my spirit has here waited for this day.  To you, O my son
Argantino! I confide the one book of magic which remains to me.  To you,
O Guido! I confide the horse Sfrenato."

Here he delivered the two compliments to the two paladins; but for the
moment Sfrenato took the magical book and carried it in his mouth as a
cat carries her kitten.

"And now, listen to me.  Terrible times are in store for the Christians
and it is God's ordinance that you two shall preserve the faith.  Swear
to me therefore, O Guido! that you will"--and so forth.

When he had concluded his address, his prophetic spirit was exhausted, as
might perhaps have been anticipated, for the speech was of portentous
length, and the skeleton clattered down again into the tomb, which closed
by another miracle while a ball of fire ran along upon the ground across
the stage and back again.  Then Guido took his oath and spoke thus to
Argantino:

"Let us now depart.  And you Turks! all of you, tremble! for Guido shall
be your destruction."

With this he vaulted upon Sfrenato, who curveted and whinnied with joy at
recognising his master.  And so the two paladins continued their journey;
but before leaving the neighbourhood they naturally made arrangements
with the local marble-mason to have the tomb closed in a proper and
hygienic manner.

"And all this," said the buffo, "happened only last Friday, and why did
you not come in time to see it?  It was very emotional."



CHAPTER V
ARGANTINO


As I had missed the emotional interview at the tomb the buffo generously
arranged that there should be a private repetition of the scene specially
for the young ladies and me; but it could not be that afternoon because
it would take time to prepare and we had the appointment to go to his
professor's house for his singing lesson, and that also would take time.
Before singing one does a few exercises, the effect of which is to warm
up the throat and awaken the voice, because the warmer the throat, the
better the quality of the voice, and this had to be got through before
anyone could be allowed to listen.  At the proper moment I was taken to
the professor's house and introduced into the studio where the buffo, who
had taken off his collar to do the exercises, sang extracts from his
repertorio, which includes _Otello_, _Rigoletto_, _I Pagliacci_ and
_Cavalleria Rusticana_.

After he had sung one of his pieces, I made him my compliments and
congratulated his professor on the result of his teaching, whereupon they
made their excuses--I had come on an unfortunate day, the voice was
suffering from fatigue and the piano was out of tune.  I had not observed
the fatigue, but they were right about the piano and I agreed with the
maestro, who said it was time to order a new one.  Not only was it out of
tune enough to curdle the milk, but they had endeavoured to distract
attention from its defects by crowding its lid with rubbish till it
resembled the parlour chimney-piece in a suburban villa or the altar in a
second-rate church.

As some old harridan when bidden to the christening of her great-niece
fumbles among such ornaments of her gioventu tempestosa as have been
refused by the pawnbroker, and choosing the least suitable decks herself
out therein, thinking thus to honour the festa--even so on this piano
were accumulated artificial flowers, photographs in metal frames, a
sprinkling of glass vases in wire cages that jangled, a couple of
crockery pigs to bring good luck and a few statuettes and busts.

"Please, Buffo," I inquired, "who is that silver saint upon the piano?"

"It is not a saint," he replied, "it is only un musicista qualunque."

"It looks about the shape of Mozart," I said, wondering what he was doing
in that galley.

"I do not remember his name," said the buffo, "it is written on him in
front; it is not a reasonable name."

He brought me the bust and I, thinking that, to harmonise with the
musical atmosphere of the studio, it should have been Leoncavallo or
Mascagni, found that it was even more out of tune than the shameless
piano it had been standing on.  It was BETKOVEN, with every letter
distinctly legible through the thick silver paint with which it was
covered.

These foreign names are so puzzling.  At an afternoon party in Palermo I
once had a conversation with a gentleman who told me that Bellini was the
king of opera-writers and the emperor of composers.  To pass a few hours
with people who consider Bellini to have written the last note in music
is as restful and refreshing as to dream away an August afternoon in a
peaceful backwater, forgetting that there is a river running to the sea.
After Bellini, the gentleman mentioned Beethoven, who, it seems, studied
in Italy, and that is why his music is so melodious.  The more accessible
writers on Beethoven know as little about this studying in Italy as they
know about the Palermitan spelling of his name, but it must be right,
because how otherwise could he have acquired his astonishing power of
producing the true Italian melody?  And there is another German musician
who is even more melodious and more Italian in style than Beethoven and
therefore a greater musician.

"Did he also study in Italy?" I asked.  "And what was his name?"

"They all come here to study, and his name was Sciupe."

I divined that this German melodist could only be either the Viennese
Schubert or the French Pole Chopin, but with my English pronunciation I
failed to make the distinction.  Then a young lady, who had been sitting
near, proposed to clear the matter up by playing a piece composed by
Sciupe, and if I would listen attentively I should understand why he is
known as the German Bellini.  By this time I had made up my mind that it
must be Schubert and was expecting one of the songs transcribed by Liszt,
but she played Chopin's Funeral March and told me that the composer had
written besides a number of operas and conducted them at Berlin.  I
acquiesced in what appeared to be the will of heaven, saying:

"Oh! yes, of course.  How stupid of me!"

The buffo has a fine voice and has got far beyond appearing to have
learnt his songs diligently and to be delivering them correctly.  I
suspect, however, that he did not pass that way.  He will soon have
assimilated all that can be taught about singing, and for the rest he is
naturally an actor, one of those few who are born with the strange power
of appearing to experience inwardly what they express outwardly, a power
that his life among the marionettes has strengthened and perfected.  But
as to predicting his future, which is what he wanted me to do, I suppose
that only an expert, and perhaps not even an expert, can tell from
hearing a singer in a small room how he will sound on the stage; and the
voice is not everything, there is the appearance and the question of how
his personality will affect the public, and the further question of how
he will stand the life and amalgamate with his fellows.  So, like a good
Sicilian, I told him that there never was such a magnificent voice, that
I had never heard anyone sing so well and that I was sure he would
eclipse all previous tenors, which made everything quite satisfactory.

The next day we had our private performance, and it began with Guido
Santo and Argantino at the dreadful enchanted grotto of the great
magician Malagigi.  I was glad to see Argantino; it was nearly as good as
seeing Malagigi in his habit as he lived because, although the son only
had one diabolical book, yet in his personal appearance he strikingly
resembled the father, being indeed the same marionette and distinguished
chiefly by his wings, which he inherited from his mother Sabina who was a
witch.  Argantino always wore his wings even when he used to wear armour,
and on his shield he bore the portrait of a devil so that everyone should
know at a glance the kind of man he was.  After the angel tells him he is
to do the magic for the Christians he appears clothed as a pilgrim with
wings, and in this way, although it is the same marionette and both
Malagigi and Argantino are magicians, confusion is avoided--at least the
buffo said that was the intention.

There was another thing I should have been sorry to miss.  I had hitherto
supposed the dictionaries to be right in defining a miracle as an event
contrary to the established course of nature, but the buffo took me
behind the scenes to study the miracle by which the tomb opened.  There
were three or four strings so arranged that if anyone pulled them the
tomb could not remain closed.  The buffo pulled them and the tomb opened.
Nothing less contrary to the ordinary course of nature could be imagined.
It would be interesting to know whether other miracles would similarly
falsify their definition if one could have a buffo to take one behind and
disclose the secret of how they are performed.

The second scene was a Ballo Fantastico, which was given to take the
taste of the tomb and the skeleton out of our mouths.  It was done by a
heavy Turk who danced cumbrously; presently his arms detached themselves
and became transformed into devils who danced separately; then his legs
followed their example; then his head descended from his trunk and, on
reaching the stage, became transformed into a dancing wizard carrying a
rod of magic and beating time to the music; then, while the body was
dancing by itself, various devils came out of it followed by several
serpents that floated among the devils; after which it developed a head,
a neck, wings and a tail, so that it became transformed into a complete
dragon, and the wizard mounted upon its back and rode about wizarding all
the other creatures.  Altogether the original Turk became transformed
into sixteen different marionettes.

After this we had a funambolo or rope-dancer.  The curtain rose
disclosing his rope ready for him, he entered and, after bowing
profusely, leapt up and sat first on the rope, then on a seat at the
back.  Here he played with his pole, holding it first with one hand then
with the other, then balancing it on his head and doing tricks with it.
Then he walked along the rope forwards and backwards and danced, doing
his steps with great care and precision.  After which he sat down to
recover his breath.  Then he rope-walked again, doing impossible
things--that is, they would have been impossible if he had not been
sustained by many invisible strings, which the buffo manipulated with
wonderful skill.  I liked the funambolo even better than the wizard, he
was extraordinarily lifelike.

In the evening I became transformed into an ordinary member of the public
and saw the devils make the subterranean road.  The performance contained
a great deal besides about Periglio, a Turkish paladin, who, having been
accused by the son of the Emperor of China of helping the Christians, was
condemned to be beheaded.  The father of his accuser with the other three
Emperors came to see him die; they stood at corners relentlessly
smoothing their beards and curling their moustaches with their right
fists and crying "A Morire!"  Periglio in chains was led on, blindfolded.
The solemn headsman followed, carrying his axe, and, as the boy left off
turning the handle of the mechanical piano, the cornet blasted a
broken-hearted minor ninth over the last chord of the funeral march and
prolonged it till--well, after all it was a mistake; Periglio had not
really helped the Christians; his brother proved that, on the contrary,
he had done them as much damage as any Turk among the allied armies of
200,000 men.  So he was pardoned, and one of his friends gaily kicked the
executioner off the stage.  The brothers embraced and then, with their
hands on their breasts, bowed to the audience to acknowledge the
applause; but they did not know they were brothers, they had not yet
recognised each other; that was to be another emotional moment to come
later on.

The kicking the executioner off the stage and the embracing and bowing of
the brothers were so absurdly natural that I inquired about them, and it
seemed that Gildo had thought of these effects and carried them out.

"But then," said the buffo, "Gildo is an artist.  You should see him with
Truffaldino."

"What is Truffaldino?  Another cavaliere errante?"

"He is the paladin who is a buffo.  You should see him toss his crown
from one side of his head to the other and put both his hands on his
heart when he makes love to Angelica.  He only plays the fool a little
the first night, and more and more as the drama proceeds, until he dies
by being pulled to pieces by four horses.  It is all done by Gildo, and
the audience laugh every night that Truffaldino appears."

Then we were taken to Vienna, where Guido Santo and Argantino had
arrived, but we only saw Argantino.

"Where is Guido?" I asked.  "I want to see him."

"Yes, well, you won't see him this evening," replied the buffo.  "He's
only in the next room, but he's much too busy to come."

"What is he doing?"

"Baptising Christians--those who couldn't make up their minds before
whether they would be converted or not."

"Very well, we won't interrupt him."

So I had to be content with Argantino, who came with his book, his rod of
magic and his wings.  After flying about for some time in a hall with
columns, he settled down, and someone entered and told him the
disquieting news about Pope Gregorio III being shut up in Paris.  But,
knowing that it was the will of heaven that the inhabitants should not
perish, he summoned his confidential family devil Nacalone by opening the
book, just as a rich man of to-day liberates infernal power by opening
his cheque-book.  Nacalone was as comic as the mask Pasquino, and tumbled
to show his willingness to obey.  He had a string to his back so that he
could be turned upside down and made to stand on his head.  He received
his instructions and flew off to execute them.

The Viennese columns disappeared and the devils, plenty of them, all with
wings and tails and horns, were shown, as in a vision, working at the
subterranean road.  Two were sawing a block of stone; some flew up to use
their hammers and do work in the upper parts of the tunnel; one, who was
perhaps nervous or perhaps more of an artist and wanted to look the part
of a modern Palermitan workman, used his legs to climb a ladder to reach
his work; others were digging up the ground and knocking down the walls;
a devil wheeled an empty Sicilian cart, painted with paladins, rapidly
across the stage and after a moment wheeled it back slowly because it was
now heavily laden with tools and cement; another kept coming with a
basket of stones on his shoulder and emptying them down in heaps.  It was
a busy scene and much applauded, especially the cart.  The Viennese
columns hid it from view.

The buffo was very proud of this scene, and no wonder.

"There is nothing like it in Dante.  But then," he continued, "there
would not be likely to be.  What is Dante?  As versification, as
language, his poem is fine, splendid, supreme, above all other poetry
books; but as sense, what is it?  And then again, why should Dante go
about to make me believe in devils?  Me! the ruler of all the devils in
the teatrino!  As though I did not know more about devils than anyone.
Dante is the Emperor of Words, but the buffo is the Emperor of Deeds.
And then his obscurity!  As a theme for discussion Dante is as obscure as
religion.  One says: 'It is so.'  While another says: 'It is not so.'  As
men discuss a melon and one says: 'Inside it is red.'  While another
says: 'Inside it is white.'  Who can bear testimony to the truth of
Dante's words?  We cannot cut his poem open and see his inner meaning.
Whereas I have cut my inferno open for you.  I have shown you what it is
like inside, and you can bear testimony to the truth of the subterranean
road."

The buffo told me that the Christians in Paris were not armed, but they
all got safely away to Montalbano.  During the siege, the Pope directed
the defence, and the people, following his commands, threw their
furniture over the walls with the intention of damaging the enemy; but
the Turkish Emperors had made a study of the art of war and taught their
men how to hold their shields over their heads, and thus they warded off
the chairs and tables and were able to creep along under cover, approach
the city, climb up the walls and descend into the piazza.  The first who
entered went round to open the gates and let the rest in.  As soon as
they had recovered from their surprise at finding that the inhabitants
had all escaped, they began to commit sacrileges.  Balestrazzo, Emperor
of Turgovia, occupied the principal church of Paris as a stable for his
horses.  Rainello, a nephew of the traitor Gano di Magonza, wishing to do
a bravery, went into a church and cried with a loud voice:

"Take down that crucifix; it is only wood; if it had been a god I should
not have denied the faith.  Take it away.  There is only one God and
Mahomet is his prophet."

With this he leapt on the altar, drew his sword, and was about to hew the
crucifix into pieces when a thunderbolt struck him.  As he was the first
to lay hands upon the sacred images, so he was the first to be struck.
But he recovered; he did not die of the thunderbolt; it was the will of
heaven that he should live to be killed by Guido Santo.

It was a pity that I had to go to Calatafimi and could not stay for all
this, but before I went I had the satisfaction of seeing Ettorina go mad.
At first she was hardly more than slightly unhinged, yet she was mad
enough to enter the enemy's camp by night.  The sentinel had just been
awakened by the corporal, but she paid no more attention to them than
they to her.  Nor did she shrink from making consecutive fifths, or
downright octaves, with Costanzo as she crossed the stage, going away to
fetch a quantity of wood to light a fire because it was a chilly evening;
but, as the buffo pointed out, she had a sufficient dramatic reason to
justify the licence.  Presently, like the laden Sicilian cart, she
staggered back with her faggots and disappeared.  In a few moments we saw
the fitful glare from the conflagration she had kindled dancing on the
combustible pavilion which took up all the back of the scene.  Various
Turkish soldiers entered to investigate the cause of the unwonted light,
but they did not return to report, she killed them all, one after the
other; and this gave time which the buffo utilised by applying a match
from below, and, while the pavilion blazed and the audience applauded,
Ettorina in her burnished armour went as mad as Tilburina in her white
satin till the curtain fell.



CHAPTER VI
THE ESCAPE FROM PARIS


Although I had to miss a great deal that it would have been interesting
to see on the stage, I spent a couple of mornings with the buffo in his
workshop helping to make the scene of the people escaping, which was
perhaps even better than being among the audience later.  I think he is
most happy when he is holding up the mirror to nature and reproducing
modern Palermitan life as it appears to him.  He enjoyed the devils and
the subterranean road, but the inhabitants of Paris in modern costume,
each saving his most precious object and escaping with the Pope through
the subterranean road to Montalbano, was a larger canvas and gave him
more opportunities.  As a creative artist he is in the fortunate position
of being up to a certain point his own impresario, stage-manager and
performer.  Nevertheless he has to rely on the co-operation of his father
and Gildo, and there is always the public to be considered, therefore it
is possible that some of the things we made and contemplated in the
workshop did not get so far as to be presented on the stage.

There was a sluggard carrying a mattress under each arm; and a drunkard
carrying a bottle of wine, a real glass bottle that would catch the light
and make an effect.  Another man had on his back a table and was carrying
a plate, a knife, fork, spoon and napkin; he was a glutton.  The masks
Pasquino and Onofrio were making a comic escape and talking in dialect;
Pasquino was carrying his wife Rosina on his shoulder and a pillow in his
hand, and Onofrio was saving an article of crockery made at Caltagirone.
And because the buffo was studying to become a singer he had made a
musician:

"But I cannot show his voice," he complained.

"He might be practising a solfeggio," I suggested, "which you could sing
for him."  But this was not treating the buffo's voice with proper
respect.  "Or put a piece of music-paper in his hand and make him a
composer."

"Bravo!  But what is written on the music-paper?"

I said: "_Stornelli Montagnoli_."

He began to hum meditatively:

                       [Picture: Music in the Play]

"No," he said, "that won't do.  In the first place it is not yet known in
Palermo, and when it is, it will be so popular that no one in particular
will think of saving it."

"Very well then," I replied, "make it that he has just discovered an
entirely new resolution of the dominant seventh and has written it down
before he forgets it."

"All right.  And this is the painter; he has his easel and a picture
which he has only just begun; that is more precious to him than all the
pictures he has finished because it is so full of hope."

"Bravo, Buffo.  And where is the miser?"

"Oh Caspita!" he exclaimed.  "How clever you are!  Of course there must
be a miser.  We will make him at once."

So we selected an old man marionette who happened to have nothing
particular to do at the moment, and got a piece of sacking out of which
we made a bag and filled it--not with gold--

"No," said the buffo, "that must be one of the things the people do not
see, they must imagine the gold."  Then we loaded the miser with his bag
and added him to the crowd of fugitives.

And he had made a woman saving a mouse-trap; she was a suffragette.  That
was because he had read in the _Giornale di Sicilia_ that in England a
meeting of suffragettes had been dispersed by letting mice in among them.
The buffo's suffragette had argued thus:

"In all the world there are mice; Montalbano will be no exception.  How
do I know what sort of house I shall have there?  It will probably be
over-run with mice.  If I take this trap with me, at least I shall be
able to catch some of them."

It turned out that she had to sleep on the floor in someone else's house
like a fugitive from Messina, and the mouse-trap came in very handy.

And he had made a chemist who was saving a medicine chest and a few
instruments.  The chemist had argued thus:

"In Montalbano there will be no order.  Here in Paris the restaurants are
well-managed and the food is good.  How can I tell what sort of food they
will give us there?  Very likely we shall have to depend a great deal
upon chance.  I will take these instruments and medicine and earn money
by curing those who will be sure to be upset by the badness of the food."

And a man came weeping; his father had died the day before and there had
not been time to bury the body, but it had been put into a coffin and the
undertaker's men were laughing because the son was rich and had promised
to pay them extra for carrying the body to Montalbano and burying it
there; but the son did not see they were laughing, he was in front to
show them the way.

Two boys came along, each saving a marionette, one had Orlando, the other
Rinaldo; they forgot that they were escaping and stopped to make the
paladins fight; a third boy came and said they were his marionettes and
the others had stolen them, and the boys left Orlando and Rinaldo lying
on the stage and began to fight among themselves till their three mothers
followed.

"Be quick, be quick, you silly boys, be quick," shouted the mothers,
hustling everything before them--boys, marionettes and all--as an autumn
hurricane sweeps away the fallen leaves.

"What is that man doing?" I inquired.

"Which man?"

"The one standing in the corner there--he seems to have a camera."

"Yes, that's right.  He has been sent by the Cinematograph Company to
reproduce the scene for their show."

"Oh! I see.  That's a capital idea; the people will like that."

"Yes, won't they?"

And two men were dragging a heavy bundle along on the ground between
them, and I asked:

"What's in the bundle?"

"Clothes," he replied.

And there was a woman carrying a hen in a basket, and the hen escaped
from the basket, laid an egg in the middle of the stage and cackled back
into Paris; but the woman saved the egg and said: "Better an egg to-day
than a hen to-morrow."

Another woman was carrying her baby on one arm and leading a child by the
hand, and the child was crying because it had to walk too fast and was
tired.

"This is the astronomer," said the buffo.

"Is that his umbrella under his arm?  It seems too long and too bright."

"No; that is Halley's comet which he has predicted for next spring.  He
does not want to leave it behind, the Turks might destroy it and he would
lose his reputation."

There was the boy from the barber's shop opposite; he had been playing
with a black kitten when the alarm came and he joined the fugitives just
as he was, in his white tunic with the kitten in his arms and a comb
stuck in his bushy hair.  And there came a troop of old women, chattering
and shuffling along and understanding no more about it all than I should
have understood if I had not had my buffo, my programme raisonne, to
explain it.

Then I said: "Buffo mio, we have had a musician and a painter, where is
the poet?"

"Here he comes."  And there came a pale, Alfred de Musset youth with long
hair, a roll of paper and a quill pen.  "Do you know what he is saying?
He is saying: 'Better to embrace and be betrayed than to suffer and die
in ignorance.'"

"Is that the philosophy of the buffo?" I inquired.

"It is the philosophy of the poet," he replied.

"Isn't it rather beyond the public?  Will they understand?"

"The public won't hear that; it is only for you and me.  There are many
things we do not tell the public because they are the public; but we
understand because we are artists."

"Very well.  And then if we have a poet we must have a critic--won't this
one do? he has a book; perhaps he is going to review it, or perhaps it is
his encyclopaedia to save him from making mistakes."

"If you like, he shall be the critic; only then you ought to tell me what
he is saying."

"He is saying: 'I despise everything because it is not something else.'"

"Bravo, bravo!  That is better than what the poet said."

"O my dear Buffo, I am not going to admit that.  Besides, it is not true
of all critics."

"What I said is not true of all poets."

"Well, if we don't like what we have made them say, let us have someone
to follow and show them where they are both wrong."

"All right.  Let me see.  That will be when they have had time to think
it over.  That will be the Cold Dawn of the following morning.  We will
now make the Aurora."

So we found a disengaged lady marionette and began to dress her in a
piece of cobwebby grey muslin from which the last few spangles had not
yet dropped.  I said:

"I'm not at all sure that this is not going too far.  Do you think we can
really show the Cold Dawn of the following morning escaping out of Paris
by the underground road?"

"She must go; she will be wanted at Montalbano to show some of the people
that they have saved the wrong things."

"Very true.  Yes.  That is what people so often do when they travel, they
leave behind them the things they want most and take a lot of other
things that are useless.  Now, that resolution of the dominant seventh
was hardly worth saving--at least it was not really new."

"Where did you get it from?"

"I stole it out of the works of the musician whose bust was on your
maestro's piano the other day, the one with the Dutch name who lived in
Vienna."

"I hope you invented what the critic said?"

"Not exactly.  Your poet reminded me of something in Walt Whitman and I
twisted it round and gave it to the critic."

"What's Walt Whitman?  Is he another Dutchman?"

"He was an American poet, but his mother had a Dutch name."

"Did he come to the teatrino?"

"He never came to Europe.  I wish he had been to the teatrino.  He would
have liked your Escape from Paris, but perhaps he would not have cared so
much for the paladins.  He wrote something about them."

"What did he say?"

"If he had seen the end of the story, when the angel takes Guido Santo's
soul out of his mouth, I believe he would have said that instead of
flying up to heaven he flew across the Atlantic with it and installed it
'amid the kitchenware' to animate all the machinery and things in one of
the Exhibitions held by the American Institute in New York."

"Is that what he said?"

"No.  What he said was that all that world of romance was dead:

    Passed to its charnel vault--laid on the shelf--coffin'd with crown
    and armour on,
    Blazon'd with Shakespeare's purple page,
    And dirged by Tennyson's sweet sad rhyme.

"Well, it is not true.  But of course if he never came to the teatrino he
could not know.  Americans do come to the teatrino.  I never know which
are Americans and which are English; for the English come too.  They come
in the winter and the spring, and when they are pleased with some stage
trick--"

"I suppose you mean with some miracle?"

"Of course," he replied; "it is the same thing.  When they are pleased
with some stage miracle, they clap their hands and applaud."

"That is nice and sympathetic of them."

"Yes, and they shout out loud and cry: 'Bravo, very good night.'"

"No, Buffo!  Is that really what they say?"

"Yes, they shout: 'Bravo, very good night,' and it is a pleasure to hear
them."

"I should think so.  I must come in the winter next time and hear them
say that."

"They all ask me some questions.  I know what they mean, but I cannot
speak to them, and, if you please, will you write down for me in English
what I shall tell you, so that I can show them the paper?"

"Certainly, my dear Buffo, any little thing of that kind.  If any of them
come to see the Escape from Paris, I should think they will have a good
many questions to ask.  For instance, there is the Aurora"--He was
finishing her off by putting a silver fillet round her hair and a shining
star upon her forehead--"I cannot help it, but I still feel unhappy about
her.  She does not explain herself."

"That will not signify.  We must leave room for the imagination to
play--not too much, but it is a mistake to be too exact.  There must be
some mystery which the public can take in any way they choose.  It is
like the nuts on the bicycle, they must not be left loose, but they must
not be screwed too tight."

I gave way, saying: "I suspect you are right.  It flatters the spectators
to feel that they are helping the performance by using their imagination.
And if they don't understand--well, they can think they do and that
flatters them again.  And there is another reason why we must not tell
the public everything--it would take too long."

"Ah yes!  We must not bore the public or they will not come again to the
teatrino, and then where would the money come from to pay for my singing
lessons?"

So we let the Cold Dawn follow among the rest.  There were half a dozen
rollicking blue-jackets off the warship in the port, they had been
spending the evening with their girls and were escaping with them.  When
I objected that Paris was a sea-port town only in a Bohemian sense, he
replied that that was enough for him; and when I said that if the sailors
really had a ship anywhere near, they would have done better to escape by
sea, he complained that I was being fastidious.

There were soldiers arm-in-arm and singing, they had been interrupted
while drinking in a wine-shop in a side street off the Via Macqueda and
were saving the marsala which they had not finished.

After them came the maresciallo dei carabinieri in the uniform he wears
for a festa, with a plume in his three-cornered hat.  He was a broad,
beefy fellow, taller than the soldiers, being made of a marionette who is
usually a giant.  He came swinging along, all so big and so burly,
followed by a lady, showily dressed, who walked mincingly and was saving
a pair of pink satin shoes and a powder-puff.  She kept calling to him to
stop, she wanted to speak to him.  But he would not listen, he was not
going to pay any attention to her--not in his gala uniform, it would not
have been proper.  Besides, there were people looking.

A blind musician with a broken nose and a falsetto voice was led by his
mate who carried a 'cello.  An interrupted wedding party followed, and
school-children with their professors, sick people out of the hospital
with doctors and nurses to help them, and a rabble of water-sellers,
shoe-blacks, pedlars and men pushing carts.

Then followed the paladinessa Ettorina still mad, so mad that they were
dragging her along and forcing her to escape while she struggled to get
free and did not want to go, because a mad person does not understand
danger.  And paladins and warriors came--Amantebrava, Lungobello,
Ottonetto and many more whose names I do not remember.

Last of all came Pope Gregorio III.  He was not one to leave the city
till the last of his flock had been saved.  He wore his tiara and was in
white robes with a red cross front and back; he carried his crosier in
his left hand and on his right thumb was a diamond ring which sparkled as
he blessed the people.  So he passed with his Secretary of State, his
cardinals, his bishops, his monsignori, his acolytes, his chamberlains,
his Guardia Nobile and his Swiss Guard; some carried lighted candles,
some carried banners and others crosses; some were swinging incense and
others were intoning the psalm _In Exitu Israel_.  The solemn pomp of the
procession disappeared into the opening of the subterranean road and the
sound of the singing could no longer be heard.  They were all safely
gone.  The stage was empty.  Yet the curtain did not fall.

Then came a poor mad boy, a sordo-muto, who had been overlooked.  He was
in a great hurry, making frightful inarticulate noises and running this
way and that, being too much alarmed to go straight.  Before he had found
the mouth of the tunnel the curtain fell and we did not see what became
of him.  He may have been left behind after all.



CATANIA


CHAPTER VII
THE BUFFO'S HOLIDAY


I do not remember who started the idea that the buffo should come to
Catania with me; it grew up, as inevitable ideas do, without any of us
being sure whether he suggested it, or Papa, or Gildo, or one of the
sisters, or I, and it became the chief subject of conversation in the
Greco family for days.

It would not be true to say that he had never been away from Palermo,
because when he was a boy all the family went to try their fortune in
Brazil and stayed there five years running a marionette theatre; when
they returned to Palermo, they left behind them in South America the
eldest son, Gaetano, who still keeps a teatrino there.  But the buffo saw
no more of South America than he has seen of Sicily and, except for this
five years in Brazil and an occasional day in the country round Palermo,
had never been outside his native town.  But he knew that Catania was on
the other side of the island and near the sea, and expected it to be
hotter than Palermo because of the propinquity of Etna.  He paid no
attention to my assurances that the temperature would be about the same
and said he should bring his great-coat, not on account of the heat, but
because he hoped that if he was seen with it he might be taken for an
English tourist.

We did not start from Palermo together.  I had to go to Caltanissetta,
which is on a line that branches off at S. Caterina Xirbi from the main
line between Palermo and Catania.  We arranged to meet at the junction
three days after I left Palermo.  I got there from Caltanissetta just
before the train from Palermo arrived, and the buffo was looking out of
the window.  As soon as he saw me on the platform he got down and came to
me saying:

"Oh! I am so glad to see you again; now everything will be all right.  I
have been wretched ever since you went away.  I have not been able to eat
by night or to sleep by day for thinking of you.  And this has been going
on for two whole months; but now I shall recover."

So we got into the train and pursued our journey.

"I see you have brought your great-coat," I said.

"Yes," he said, "if I am to be an English gentleman I shall have to wear
it in Catania."

"But won't it do if you carry it over your arm?" I inquired.

"No," he said, "because then they would see my other coat, and that is so
dilapidated they would suspect the truth."

"Your clothes are quite good enough for any English gentleman anywhere,"
I pointed out.

"They are not so good as yours," he replied; "the teatrino is dirty and
they soon wear out.  My great-coat appears to be fresh because I seldom
put it on.  I shall use it in Catania to conceal the shabbiness of my
other clothes."

"You need not be so particular.  My father when he travelled in Italy did
not pay so much attention to his personal appearance."

"You have never told me about your father.  Did he travel for some
English firm?  Was it tiles? or perhaps sewing-machines?  They pay
better, I believe."

"He did not travel for any firm.  He was a barrister, an avvocato, and
travelled for recreation during the Long Vacation.  I can tell you how he
used to dress, because just before I left London I copied part of a
letter he wrote to my mother, and I have it in my pocket."

This is the extract from my father's letter which I read to the buffo; it
is dated Hotel des Bergues, Geneva, 1 October, 1861:

    Reading the _Times_ of Friday this morning I saw a letter signed G.U.
    which I have no doubt is a mistake for J.U. and means John Unthank
    and which signifies he and his family are in Paris.  It is a letter
    complaining of the shabby costume of Englishmen and is a foolish
    letter but it will have the effect of making me furnish myself with a
    new wideawake or something of that sort at Paris for my present
    wideawake has got another hole in it and is really very bad though I
    don't know why it should wear so fast as I take great care of it and
    am rather disappointed that it should fall to pieces.  Mr. Unthank
    pointed out to me on the Lake of Como that my dressing-gown which I
    always wear travelling is out at elbows which indeed I find it is but
    that fact seemed to grieve Mr. Unthank less than the shabbiness of my
    hat and he offered to give me a new one that is a wideawake of his
    own which had been newly lined and not worn as he said since it was
    lined if I would throw my old wideawake away.  I consented but I left
    Milan before he had an opportunity of performing his promise.

"It was kind of your father's friend to offer him his old hat; don't you
think so?"

"Yes, very kind of him.  But, you see, he had his reasons."

"Of course, he did not want to be seen with anyone so badly dressed."

"That is what he says in his letter to the _Times_.  I copied that in the
British Museum.  He does not mention my father by name, he merely speaks
of well-dressed Englishmen in Paris (by which he means people like
himself) frequently seeing a respectable professional man disguised as an
omnibus conductor or cab-driver and 'being compelled to stand talking
with a vulgar-looking object because they have unfortunately recognised
an old acquaintance and not had time to run across the road to avoid
him.'  My father, no doubt, thought of Mr. Unthank's conversations with
him at Como and Milan and said to himself, 'That's me.'  The cap fitted
him and he put it on."

"Excuse me; your father cannot have put the cap on, he says he had to
leave Milan too soon for that."

"O my dear Buffo, I am so sorry.  When I said the cap, I did not mean the
wideawake, I was only using an English idiom."

"I see, I understand.  We also have a similar expression, but it is not
about hats, it is about boots, I think, or coats.  I will find out and
tell you."

"My father does not say he 'had to leave'; he only says he left; and my
mother, who agreed with his friends and thought his taste in dress
deplorable, believed that he ran away to escape from Mr. Unthank's hat."

"Oh! but a hat is always worth something.  I should have waited for the
hat.  Was it really a very bad one?"

"I do not remember it, I should think it must have been pretty bad.  The
dressing-gown was awful.  It was maroon, and his friends called it his
wife's mantle.  After he left off wearing it, it was given to us children
for dressing up.  It was no use for anything else and it was not much use
for that.  So you see, Buffo, you need not trouble about your clothes if
you want to appear English.  You do not look in the least like a
cab-driver."

"Perhaps not; but I think it will be safer for me not to be an
Englishman.  All this about your father's dressing-gown happened half a
century ago, and the letter and the article in the _Times_ must have done
some good because the English gentlemen who come to the teatrino do not
dress like that now.  You are always beautifully dressed."

"Thank you very much, Buffo, but if that is more than merely one of your
Sicilian compliments, it only shows that I inherit my ideas about dress
from my mother rather than from my father."

"I think I had better be a Portuguese gentleman from Rio, a friend of
yours, over on a visit, and you shall be a Sicilian."

"We will be a couple of cavalieri erranti like Guido Santo and Argantino
on their travels.  But I do not think it will quite do for me to be a
Sicilian.  I cannot talk dialect and I cannot gesticulate.  And then, am
I not too well dressed?"

"That will not matter; you shall be an aristocratic Sicilian, they are
often quite well dressed.  And as for the dialect and the gesticulation,
it is now the fashion among the upper classes to speak Tuscan and not to
gesticulate.  It is considered more--I cannot remember the word, I saw it
in the _Giornale di Sicilia_, it is an English word."

"Do you mean it is more chic?"

"It is not exactly that and chic is a French word.  One moment, if you
please.  It is--we say lo snobismo."

"I see.  Very well; I will play the Sicilian snob, but I never saw one so
I shall have to do it extempore as Snug had to play the part of Lion."

"What is Snug? another American poet?

"He was a joiner and lived in Athens at the time when all the good things
happened.  But his father, the author of his being, as we say, was an
English poet and cast him for the part of Lion in _Pyramus and Thisbe_."

"What is Thisbe? a wandering knight?"

"No.  Thisbe was the lady loved by Pyramus and was acted by Flute the
bellows-mender.  It's all in that poet who said what I told you when we
were making the Escape from Paris--you remember, about holding the mirror
up to nature."

"I wish I could read your English poets.  I like everything English.  The
Englishmen who come to the teatrino are always good and kind--tutti
bravi--I wish I were an Englishman--a real one I mean, like you."

Here were more compliments, so I replied: "I wish I were a Sicilian
buffo."

"Ah! but you could not be that," said he.  "Now I could have my hair cut
short, grow a beard on my chin, a pair of spectacles on my eyes and heels
on my boots and then I should only have to be naturalised.  But you could
never be a buffo--not even an English one."

"No; I suppose not.  You see, I'm too serious.  Gildo says I take a
gloomy view of life."

"Yes," he agreed, "why do you?"

"I don't know," I replied.  "My poor mother--my adorata mamma, as you
call her--used to make the same complaint.  She thought I inherited my
desponding temperament from my father."

"As you inherited your taste in dress from her."

"Just so.  But I think I am like Orlando and your other paladins, and
that I am as I am because it was the will of heaven."

"That is only another way of saying the same thing," observed the buffo;
which rather surprised me because I did not know he took such a just view
of the significance of evolution.

On arriving at Catania we went to the albergo and, instead of following
the usual course and giving his Christian name and surname, Alessandro
Greco, he preferred to specify his profession and describe himself as
"Tenore Greco."  They posted this up in the hall under my name, with the
unexpected result that the other guests ignored him, thinking the words
applied to me and that I was a tenor singer from Greece.

The first thing to be done was to go out and get something to eat, and as
we went along the buffo expressed his delight with the appearance of
Catania.  He had no idea that such a town could exist outside Palermo or
Brazil.

"It is beautiful," he exclaimed, "yes, and I shall always declare that it
is beautiful.  But, my dear Enrico, will you be kind enough to tell me
why it is so black?"

"That, my dear Buffo," I replied, "is on account of the lava."

"But how do you mean--the lava?  What is this lava that you speak of, and
how does it darken the houses and the streets?"

To which I replied as follows: "The lava is that mass of fire which
issues from Etna and then dissolves itself and becomes formed into black
rock, and, as it is excessively hard, the people of Catania use it for
building their houses and for paving their streets."

I do not remember expressing myself precisely in these words, but the
buffo wrote me an account of his holiday and this is what he says I said.
It seems that I continued thus:

"This house, for example, is built of lava, this pavement is lava, those
columns are lava, that elephant over the fountain is sculptured in lava,
this is lava, that is lava, everything is lava; even those--"

"Stop, stop," interrupted the buffo, "for pity's sake stop, or I shall
begin to think that you and I also are made of lava."

We reached the Birraria Svizzera and sat down.

"Are you hungry, Buffo?"

"I am always hungry.  My subterranean road is always ready."

"That's capital," I replied.  "And what particular fugitive would you
like to send down it now?"

"Seppia and interiori di pollo," he replied without hesitation.

Now the first of these is cuttle-fish and looks as though the cook in
sending to table something that ought to have been thrown away had tried
to conceal it by emptying a bottle of ink into the dish; the second is
un-selected giblets.  So I replied:

"Very well; but I don't think I'll join you.  No one will believe I am a
Sicilian unless I eat maccaroni, and perhaps I will have a veal cutlet
afterwards; that will be more suited to my subterranean road."

"You had better have what I have," said he, "it is exquisite."

"Not to-day," I replied gently.

So we ate our dinner and discussed what we should do during the evening.
He wanted to go to the marionette theatre, and I was not surprised, for I
remembered that the vergers of Westminster Abbey and of Salisbury
Cathedral spend their holidays making tours to visit other cathedrals;
cooks go to Food Exhibitions; Scotch station-masters come to London and
spend their time in the Underground railways; and English journalists
when they meet on an outing, say to one another:

"It is a foggy morning; let us go in and split three or four
infinitives."

So I took him to the Teatro Sicilia and introduced him to the proprietor,
Gregorio Grasso, a half-brother of Giovanni Grasso, and we went behind
the scenes to study the difference between the Catanian and the
Palermitan systems.  He was first struck by the immense size of the place
as compared with his own little theatre; next by the orchestra which,
instead of being a mechanical piano turned by a boy, consisted of a
violin, a guitar and a double-bass played by men; and finally by the
manner of manipulating the figures, which distressed him so seriously
that he forgot he was a Portuguese gentleman and began to give Gregorio a
lesson to show him how much better we do things in Palermo; but it came
to nothing, because a method that produces a good effect when applied to
a small and fairly light marionette will not do when applied to one that
is nearly a metre and a half high and weighs about fifty kilogrammes; it
is like trying to play an elaborate violin passage on the horn.  Soon we
were politely invited to go to the front, where we were shown into good
places, and the performance began.  In the auditorium there was the
familiar, pleasant, faint crackling of melon seeds and peanuts which the
people were munching as at home, and a man pushing his way about among
them selling lemonade, and water with a dash of anise in it.

The buffo thought the marionettes of Catania were magnificent,
well-modelled and sumptuously dressed; but their size and their weight
make it impossible for them to move with the delicacy and naturalness
which he and his father and brother know so well how to impart to those
at home.  They may start fairly well, but sooner or later the figure will
betray to the public the fatigue of the operator who is standing
exhausted on the platform behind, no longer capable of communicating any
semblance of life to the limbs of the puppet.  He did not, however,
arrive at this conclusion all at once, for, in the course of the
performance when I asked him how it was that the marionettes of Catania
were not more expressive, he replied:

"I suppose it must be on account of the lava."

The figures appear against the back-cloth and the operator cannot reach
forward to bring them nearer to the audience, thus the front part of the
stage is free--or rather it would be free, but the public are permitted
to stray on to it, and thus the stage presents a picture of marionettes
with two or three live people sitting at each side.

"Buffo mio," I said, "does it appear to you to be a good plan that the
public should go on the stage and mingle with the paladins?  It is not
allowed in our own theatre at home."

"I am not sure that it is a bad plan," he replied, "it is true we do not
allow it in Palermo; but one moment, if you please, there is something
coming into my head.  Ah! yes, it is about holding up the mirror to
nature.  Now here, in Catania, this stage presents a truer mirror of
nature than ours in Palermo.  For have you not observed in life that,
with the exception of a few really sensible people like you and me, most
men are merely puppets in the hands of others?  They do not act on their
own ideas nor do they think for themselves; also they adopt any words
that are put into their mouths.  Now, it seems to me that the proportion
of real men compared with marionettes is not greater on this stage than
we observe it to be in life, and therefore we may say that the proprietor
of this theatre is following the advice of your poet."

He noticed that one of the chief characteristics of the Catanian
marionettes comes into evidence when they are fighting.  Two of them take
up their positions opposite each other, sidling round and round like
fighting cocks preparing to set to; they raise their scimitars, cross
them and rub them one against the other, like butchers sharpening their
knives; after a certain time spent in this sword exercise, they cross the
stage and, turning suddenly round, face one another and strike; the
consequence of this manoeuvre is that they both fall to the ground.  We
were looking on at such a duel and when the climax came the buffo rose to
his feet and clapped his hands expecting the rest of the public to join,
but to his surprise they remained cold, and declined "to crown his
applause with their acquiescence," as he expressed it.  He turned
wonderingly to the young man who was selling lemonade and said, speaking
with difficulty in broken Tuscan, as a Portuguese gentleman from Rio
might be expected to do:

"Tell me, Caro mio, why do not the public join me in applauding?"

"My dear Sir," replied the young man, "it is out of the question.  You do
not seem to be aware of the identity of the marionette who has just been
killed.  He is a Christian and the brother-in-law of Rinaldo.  He is
Ruggiero, a very noble youth.  The public do not applaud, because they
are sorry for his death and, besides, it would be an insult to Rinaldo if
they were to applaud at the death of his brother-in-law."

On hearing this the buffo borrowed my handkerchief and wiped away two
tears, one from each of his eyes, then he returned it politely and began
mumbling to himself.

"What are you saying?"  I inquired.  "Why do you speak so low?"

"Oh, it's nothing," he replied, "I was merely reciting a prayer for the
repose of the soul of poor Ruggiero."

                                * * * * *

The next morning I was down before him and had nearly finished my coffee
when he came slowly and sadly into the dining-room.  I said:

"Good morning, Buffo mio, and I hope you have had a good night and slept
well after your long journey and your evening at the theatre."

He sat down, put his arm on the table and mournfully rested his head on
his hand.

"My dear Enrico," he said, "I have passed a night of horror.  I did not
get to sleep at all, and then I was continually waking up again--"

"Nonsense, Buffo," I exclaimed.

"But it's not nonsense.  Ah! you do not know what it is to lie awake all
night, sleepless and trembling, between sheets that are made of lava, and
to hear footsteps and the clanking of armour and to see Rinaldo shining
in the dark and threatening you as he holds over you his sword, Fusberta,
and shouts in your ear: 'How dare you applaud when my brother-in-law is
killed?'"

He seemed to enjoy his coffee, however, and to be ready for plenty of
exertion.  He wanted a piece of lava to take home with him, and would it
not be possible to pick up a piece if we went to the slopes of Etna?  So
we made inquiries and were told where to find the station of the
Circum-Etnea Railway and started soon after breakfast for Paterno.  The
soil was black with lava and the wind was tremendous and carried the
gritty dust into our mouths and down our necks.  In that way he got
plenty of lava to take home, but he wanted a large piece, and we could
not stop the train and get out and break a piece of rock off, besides, we
had nothing to break it with.  We were like that old sailor in the poem
who was surrounded by water, water everywhere, but not a drop of a kind
to satisfy his immediate requirements.  It was just as bad at Paterno;
from the station to the town all our energies were required to get along
in the blinding wind and the stinging dust and then we had to have our
luncheon.

"And what would you like for colazione, Buffo?"

"Seppia and interiori di pollo, if you please."

But he had to be a Sicilian and eat maccaroni with me, because the inn
could not provide what he wanted.  Altogether the day was perhaps
something of a failure, and we returned without the piece of lava.

In the evening we went to the Birraria Svizzera, and he ate his seppia
while I got through my maccaroni.  When his interiori di pollo came I
said:

"I will do my best to eat what you eat, not exactly but as nearly as I
can.  Instead of a veal cutlet I will have part of an esteriore di pollo.
It rather surprises me that you should always eat the same things.  Gildo
said you like plenty of variety."

"So I do," he replied.  "Look at my plate.  Can you imagine a more
delicious variety?"

I looked and said: "Certainly there is variety; I doubt whether our
English fowls could show so much.  But--well, as long as you like it--"

Being rather tired after our day in the country we did not go to any
theatre, we stayed in the Birraria till bed-time talking and listening to
the music.

                                * * * * *

Next day was the last of the buffo's holiday, and I proposed another
excursion, but he said:

"Suppose we pretend that we have come to Catania on an excursion, and
then we can spend the day in the city.  I want to buy some things to take
home with me for my sisters."

Accordingly we looked in the shop-windows and chose three ornamental
combs made of celluloid for the three sisters, a snuff-box for papa, made
of dried bergamot skin smelling so as to scent the snuff, and a pair of
braces for Gildo.  It seemed a pity that the buffo should not have
something also, so he chose for himself a handkerchief with a picture of
the elephant of lava over the fountain in the piazza and he gave me in
return a metal pencil-case.  Then the question of the piece of lava had
to be taken up again.  We consulted the landlord, who produced a
bit--exactly what was wanted and only one franc fifty.  We had been
wandering about in search of it and there it was all the time in the same
house with us.

"What on earth are you going to do with it, Buffo?"

"Why, everyone who goes to Catania brings home a piece of lava."

"Yes, but what do they want it for?  It might be a neat chimney ornament,
but you have no fireplace in your house.  Or you might use it as a
paper-weight, but in your family you scarcely ever write a letter."

He looked at me sadly for a moment and then said:

"I thought you were an artist and now you are being practical.
Usefulness is not everything.  This piece of lava will be for me an
object of eternal beauty, and when I contemplate it I shall think of the
happy time we have spent here together."

I said: "O Buffo! don't go on like that or you will make me cry."

In the evening we went to the Teatro Machiavelli and saw a performance by
living players.  In the first act a good young man introduced Rosina to
the cavaliere, who congratulated him on having won the affections of so
virtuous and lovely a girl.  The cavaliere gave a bad old woman one
hundred francs, and in return she promised to procure him an interview
with Rosina.  The bad old woman persuaded Rosina to enter a house in
which we knew the cavaliere was.  The good young man asked the bad old
woman what she had done with his girl; of course she had done nothing
with her, but we heard shrieks.  The good young man became suspicious,
broke open the door of the house and, on learning the worst, shot the bad
old woman dead and was taken by the police.

"This seems as though it were going to be a very interesting play," said
the buffo when the curtain had fallen.

"Yes," said I, "what do you think will happen next?"

"You ought to know that," he replied; "it's no use asking me.  I never
saw a Sicilian play in Rio."

"Of course not; I was forgetting.  I should say that the good young man
will be acquitted because it was justifiable homicide or that he will
return after a short term of imprisonment; in any case I think he will
marry Rosina and live happily ever after."

"I see," he replied.  "You think it will be a comedy.  People who take a
gloomy view of life naturally expect something cheerful in the theatre.
But what if it is a tragedy?  And how are you going to dispose of the
cavaliere?  Is he to carry his wickedness through your comedy?"

"You want it to be a tragedy because you are a buffo, I suppose.  Now let
me think.  If you are right--"

Before I could see my way to a tragic plot, the curtain rose on Act II.
The women of the village were going to Mass, but Rosina, reduced to
ragged misery, fell on the steps, not worthy to enter.  The cavaliere
came by and offered her money, which she indignantly spurned.  A good old
woman, who happened to be passing, scowled at the cavaliere and kindly
led Rosina away.  An old man returned from America, where he had been for
twenty years to escape the consequences of a crime the details of which
he ostentatiously suppressed.  This was his native village; he began
recognising things and commenting on the changes.  Rosina came to him
begging.  He looked at her and passed his hand over his eyes as he said:

"My girl, why are you begging at your age--so young, so fair?"

"Ah!  Old man, I am in ragged misery because my father committed a
crime."

"A crime!  What crime?"

So Rosina told him about it and the escape of the criminal to America.
The tears in her voice were so copious that her words were nearly
drowned, but that did not signify; we were intelligent enough to have
already guessed the relationship between them and we knew that she must
be supplying the details which he had suppressed.

He struggled with his surging emotions as he watched her delivering her
sad tale and we felt more and more certain that we must be right.  There
came a pause.  She buried her face in her hands.  The old man spoke:

"Twenty years, did you say?"

"Twenty years."

"And what was your mother's name?"

"Concetta."

"Dio mio!  And your name?"

"Rosina."

"Mia figlia!"

"Mio padre!"

Here they fell into each other's arms and the orchestra let loose a
passage of wild allegria which it had been holding in reserve.  The
revelation of the cause of the ragged misery followed and was nearing its
conclusion when the cavaliere happened to pass by.  Rosina pointed him
out to her father, who first made a speech at him and then shot him dead.
Rosina wept over his body, although she hated him, and the curtain fell.

"That was very beautiful," said the buffo.  "Do you still think it will
be a comedy?  I still believe it will be a tragedy."

"I am not sure," I replied, "but we shall soon know.  Did not the old man
listen well?"

"Yes.  It was like life.  Did you observe how he made little calculations
for himself while she told him the story?"

"Yes, and one could see it all agreed with what he knew."

"He was like your father reading his friend's letter.  The cap fitted him
and he put it on."

"Bravo, Buffo!"

"And when he made as though he would stroke her hair and drew back
because he was not yet sure--oh, it was beautiful!  But there was one
thing I did not quite understand.  Why did the cavaliere fall dead?"

"Because the father shot him," I replied.

"He aimed in the other direction."

"I also noticed that the old man fired to the right and the cavaliere
fell on his left, but that was only because of a little defect of stage
management.  It does not do to be fastidious.  You must not forget that
they are doing the play as Snug the joiner did Lion, it has never been
written.  It will go more smoothly next time."

"Thank you.  You see, I am not a regular theatre-goer.  There is another
thing that puzzled me.  You remember the bad old woman in the first act
who was shot?  Should you think I was being too fastidious if I asked you
why she rose from the dead and led Rosina kindly away in the second act?
No doubt it will be explained presently, but, in the meantime, if you--"

"She did not rise from the dead; it was a different woman."

"It was the same woman."

"Anyone could tell you are a Portuguese or an Englishman or whatever you
are--a foreigner of some kind; no Sicilian would make such an objection.
It was the same actress, but a different character in the drama.  That
was either because they have not enough ladies in the company, or because
the lady who ought to have taken one part or the other is away on a
holiday, or because the lady who acted wanted to show she could do a good
old woman and a bad old woman equally well."

"Thank you very much.  You can hardly expect--But hush! they are
beginning the third act, which will explain everything."

The curtain rose again.  The background represented an elegant circular
temple built of sponge cake, strawberry ice and spangles; it stood at the
end of a perspective of columns constructed of the same materials, and
between the columns were green bushes in ornamental flower-pots--all very
pretty and gay--"molto bellissimo," as the buffo said.  The orchestra
struck up a jigging tune in six-eight time in a minor key with a refrain
in the tonic major, and a washed-out youth in evening dress with a
receding forehead, a long, bony nose, an eye-glass, prominent
upper-teeth, no chin, a hat on the back of his head, a brown greatcoat
over his arm, shiny boots, a cigarette and a silver-topped cane, entered.
I whispered:

"Is he dressed well enough for an Englishman?

"Yes," whispered the buffo, "but this is no Englishman.  Don't you see
who it is and where we are?  This is the good young man in paradise.  His
punishment has been too much for him and he has died in prison."

"But, Buffo mio," I objected, "it's a different person altogether; it's
not a bit like him."

"It may be a different actor--I think it is--but it is the same character
in the drama.  That is either because they have too many men in the
company, or because the actor who did the good young man in the first act
has gone home to supper and another is finishing his part for him, or
because--I can't think of any other reason just now, and I want to hear
what he is saying."

Except for his clothes, the creature on the stage was little more than a
limp and a dribble, but there was enough of him to sing a song telling us
in the Neapolitan dialect that his notion of happiness was to stroll up
and down the Toledo ogling the girls.  When he had finished acknowledging
the applause he departed and his place was taken by a lady no longer
young, in flimsy pale blue muslin, a low neck and sham diamonds.  There
lingered about her a hungry wistfulness, as though she were still hoping
to get a few more drops of enjoyment out of the squeezed orange of her
wasted life.

"And this must be Rosina," whispered the buffo; "Dio mio, how death has
aged her!"  Seeing I was about to speak, he interrupted me: "It does not
do to be fastidious.  No real Sicilian would make any objection."

The lady sang a song telling us in the Neapolitan dialect that her notion
of happiness was to stroll up and down the Toledo ogling the men.  When
she had finished acknowledging the applause she departed and, almost
immediately, they both came on together.

"I told you so," exclaimed the buffo triumphantly; "they have met in
paradise and are happy at last."

They performed a duet in the Neapolitan dialect and showed us how they
strolled up and down the Toledo ogling one another.  After they had
finished acknowledging the applause the curtain fell and we all left the
theatre.  I said:

"I do not know whether you are aware of what you have done, but by making
that temple of spangled pastry into heaven you have wrecked your
tragedy."

"Oh, I gave up my tragedy as soon as I saw where we were, and the play
ended quite in your manner, didn't it? like the Comedy of Dante.  Or do
you mean that you have any doubts about that last act taking place in
heaven?"

"I have many doubts about that."

"I admit, of course, that it would have been more satisfactory, and much
clearer as a comedy, if we could have seen them both die before they went
to paradise."

"Would you like me to tell you the plain, straightforward, honest, manly,
brutal truth about it?"

"Very much indeed, if you don't mind; but I should not like you to strain
yourself on my account."

"All right, Buffo, I'll be careful.  Now listen.  I don't believe that
the last act, as you call it, had anything to do with the story.  It was
a music-hall turn added at the end of the play merely to close the
entertainment and send the audience away in good spirits."

"But that wrecks your comedy.  And if the play was neither comedy nor
tragedy, what was it?  You cannot expect a simple Portuguese gentleman
from Rio to understand your Sicilian dramas all at once."

"And we have not time now to discuss the question exhaustively, for if
you do not go to bed immediately you will never be up to-morrow in time
to catch your train back to Palermo, and if you are late what will papa
say and what will the public think when they find nothing ready in the
teatrino?"

"That is true.  Good night and thank you very much for my holiday and for
all you have done for me."

"Prego, prego; I thank you for giving me the pleasure of your company."

"Not at all."

"But I assure you--"

"If you go on like this I shall begin to cry, and then I shall not sleep
at all, and that will be worse than sitting up to discuss the play.  So
good night, finally."

"Good night, Buffo.  You will forgive me if I do not see you off in the
morning; I do not want to get up at half-past five.  I wish you Buon
viaggio.  Give my love to papa and Gildo and my respectful compliments to
the sisters.  Have you got your lump of lava and all your other goods?
That's right.  Sleep well and do not dream of Rosina and the good young
man."

"Arrivederci."



TRAPANI


CHAPTER VIII
THE NASCITA


Once I was at Trapani in September, and observed in a small shop in a
back street some queer little dolls' heads made of wax.  They seemed to
form a set, some women and some men, and there were hands of wax to
match.  I did not think much about them, one cannot very well investigate
everything one notices in a Sicilian town, and, as I turned away, these
little heads were driven out of mine by Ignazio Giacalone, who was coming
down the street.  He is a young avvocato whom I have known since he was a
student.  He told me that he was going to be married next day, and
invited me to his wedding.

In the evening another friend of mine, also an avvocato, Alberto Scalisi,
came to the albergo to take his coffee and, as we all sat smoking and
talking, something was said about an article on the Nascita written by
him and recently published in _L'Amico_, a Trapanese Sunday newspaper.  I
knew nothing about the Nascita, but I knew something about the avvocato
whose acquaintance I had made a few years previously at the house of my
friend Signor Decio D'Ali, with whom I had been dining.  After dinner
many guests, including the avvocato Scalisi, came to the house to
rehearse a play they were preparing for a charity performance; they were
all amateurs, and I never saw amateurs act so well.  The Signora Decio
D'Ali and the Avvocato Scalisi were the best; his was a comic part, and
he did it with so much natural humour that I was anxious to read his
article whatever the Nascita might be, as to which they gave me some
preliminary information.  They reminded me of the Presepio, the
representation of the Nativita at Bethlehem, which it is the custom in
many places to make at Christmas; there is a most elaborate one, treated
as though the event had happened in modern times, preserved in the
convent of S. Martino, in Naples; there is one in the Musee de Cluny in
Paris, _L'Adoration des Rois et des Bergers_, Art Napolitain XVIII
siecle.  I was most familiar with such things in the chapels on the Sacro
Monte at Varallo-Sesia, where the figures are the size of life.  When
they saw I had got hold of the idea, they told me that in Trapani it is
the custom in the homes of the sailors to celebrate the 8th September by
making a representation of the house of S. Joachim as it appeared on the
occasion of the birth of his daughter, the Madonna, and to keep it on
view for three weeks, till S. Michael's day.  They do not do this in any
other town, and the avvocato's article was about one he had seen.

Next morning about 7.30 Ignazio's father most politely called for me in a
carriage and pair and, accompanied by two other guests, we drove to the
house of the bride's family, where there was a crowd of people, and we
were all presented; then we proceeded to the Municipio, where the civil
part of the marriage was performed; after which we returned to the
bride's house and went through the religious service at an altar that had
been erected in one of the rooms.  We admired the presents and the
flowers, partook of refreshments and exchanged compliments till it was
time to go, and I carried away with me a copy of _L'Amico_ given me by
the Avvocato Scalisi, who was one of the guests.

While reading his article I recognised that the little waxen heads and
hands must be part of the raw material for a Nascita, and in my mind I
identified certain figures in the museum which Conte Pepoli was then
arranging in the disused convent of the Annunziata as remains of old
examples of the Nascita and of the Nativita.  Nothing would do for it
then but I must see a Nascita, and the difficulty was how to proceed.
One cannot very well go round knocking at all the doors in a Sicilian
town and asking if they have made a Nascita; the Avvocato Scalisi had
gone off to another wedding or to defend a mafioso, or to transact
whatever business falls to the lot of a Trapanese avvocato.  Mario, my
coachman, takes no interest in anything to do with religion in any shape,
so he was no use, and everyone else I spoke to was very kind about it but
evidently did not know how to help me.

I considered what I should do if at Hastings or Grimsby or Newlyn I
wanted to get inside a fisherman's cottage, and it occurred to me that I
should consult the parson.  I knew a priest at Trapani whose acquaintance
I had made at Custonaci, but I did not know where he was.  I boldly
stopped a couple of strange priests in the street and asked if they knew
my priest; they did, and one of them took me to his house.  It was rather
mean of me to call upon him merely to ask him to help me to find a
Nascita, I ought to have wanted to salute him and enjoy his company; but
he did not appear to think it rude, and we went together to the old part
of the town where the sailors live and asked at a house where he knew
they always used to make a Nascita, but this year there was none.  They
told us of another likely house, but again we were disappointed.  We
tried several more without success, and at last I exclaimed:

"What a lack of faith!"

But my priest replied that that was not the explanation; it was lack of
money, because these things cannot be made for nothing.

We could not then call at more houses because he was busy with his own
affairs; it was his dinner-time, or he had to go to a wedding or a
funeral or to do whatever it is that Trapanese priests do in the
afternoon, so we postponed our search till the evening, when he returned
with his brother, another priest, who knew a family who had made a
Nascita, and we went to their house.

We were shown into a large room, at the end of which, on a long table,
was a sort of rabbit hutch or doll's house, all on one floor, about
eighteen inches high, with the front off showing that it was divided into
eight square compartments, so that the whole hutch was about twelve feet
long, the width of the room.  These compartments were the rooms of
Joachim's house or flat, as we should say, and the figures in them were
about eight inches high.  In the arts actual size counts for little and,
as with the marionettes, I soon accepted the dolls as representatives of
men and women and felt as though I were present at some such family
festival as Ignazio's wedding, and the rooms, all leading one into the
other, contributed to the illusion.

We were asked to begin with the entrance.  The front part of it had been
let to a cobbler who was sitting at his bench mending a shoe, and if it
had been real life he would have been singing.  Behind him was a garden
of artificial flowers with a fountain of real water that was not playing
that evening.  A door led through the side wall into the second
compartment, which was a salone.  The porter, in evening dress, was
introducing a married couple, also in evening dress, who had been invited
and were accompanied by their baby in the arms of the wet-nurse.  This
compartment was divided by a partition with an open door through which
one saw an alcove, or back room, with a buffet loaded with sweets, cakes,
and ices, at which the guests were to refresh themselves as they passed.
At Ignazio's wedding footmen carried the refreshments about on trays.  A
door in the side led to the third compartment, where children were
dancing to a toy piano with four real notes.  I struck one and it
sounded.  A lady doll was playing, and I looked at her music, but the
notes were too small for my eyes, so I asked our hostess what music it
was, and she replied that it was a selection from the _Geisha_.  I
remembered then that there had recently been in the town a travelling
opera company performing that work which is so popular in Italy that one
often hears the boys whistling the airs in the streets.  A surname is not
of much practical use in Sicily, and some of my friends have not mastered
mine, but by those who know it, and who also know that it is the same as
that of the composer of the _Geisha_, I have sometimes been credited with
the music of his opera, a compliment which it distresses me to be
compelled to decline.  In the alcove behind were musicians playing
guitars.  I did not strike a note on a guitar, feeling sure that it would
be out of tune with the piano.

A door in the side wall led to the fourth room, where S. Joachim was
entertaining four kings who wore their crowns.  These kings have nothing
to do with Gaspare, Melchiorre, and Baldassare, who fall down and worship
the infant Jesus, opening their treasures and presenting unto him gifts,
gold and frankincense and myrrh, on the occasion of the Nativita.  Those
three were led from the East to the manger at Bethlehem by the miraculous
star; these in Joachim's room came in response to the usual cards of
invitation sent by the family, just as the relations and guests came to
Ignazio's wedding.  The Madonna had, I think my priest told me, forty
kings and sixty condottieri in her pedigree.  Invitations had been issued
to all their descendants, and no doubt all had accepted, but, owing to
want of means on the part of the artist who made this Nascita and want of
space in the rabbit hutch, only four kings could be shown.  It is not
everyone who can entertain so many as four kings; there were none at
Ignazio's wedding.  In this room there was also a monsignore with red
buttons to his sottana, he had an attendant who, my priest told me, was a
seminarista.  In the alcove behind was Joachim's bed, and the empty cup
from which he had drunk his morning black coffee stood on the table by
his bedside.

The door leading to the fifth room was partly concealed by a notice with
these words: "E Nata Maria," and, accordingly, here we found the new-born
child in an elaborate cradle attended by three angels who were planted on
the floor in front of her, rather a Christmas-cardy group.  Four queens
with crowns had come, no doubt they were the wives of Joachim's kings,
and there was a Jewish priest whom I took to be Simeon, he had a
head-covering with horns such as Caiaphas wears at Varallo.  My priest,
however, assured me that Simeon was not a priest, he was only "un uomo
qualunque"; and he would have it that the figure represented Melchizedek.
This occasion must not be confused with a subsequent one when the _Nunc
Dimittis_ was improvised by Simeon, who, he said, could not have lived
long enough to be present on both occasions.

"Reverend Father," I objected, "pardon me if I give you an example which
points in the other direction.  The best man or, as you would say, the
compare at my grandfather's wedding not only lived to perform the
ceremony of marrying my father and mother, but lived long enough also to
marry my brother."

The priest wavered, but was not convinced; he repeated that this was
Melchizedek and that he always appears at the birth of the Madonna, and I
was so much under the spell of the Nascita that I could not remember
precisely when Melchizedek lived.  Whoever this personage was, he had
passed into this room from Joachim's room on the day of the Sacred Name
of Maria, that is on the Sunday after the birth, and he had officiated at
the baptism.  On the floor was a bath of water with cinnamon, in which
the baby had been washed and with which the guests were to cross
themselves.  S. Anna was in her bedroom in the alcove behind, but not in
bed, she got up and sat in a chair on the ninth day after the birth.

Through the door in the side the guests were to pass to the sixth room,
where there were nuns engaged in household duties, mending the linen,
darning the stockings, and so on.  One was working a sewing-machine, and
in the alcove behind was their bedroom.

The side door led to the seventh room, where there was another nun
ironing and directing the servants who were making quince marmalade and
extract of pomidoro and discharging similar autumnal duties; behind was
the servants' bedroom.

Lastly we came to the eighth room, which, like the front entrance, filled
the whole compartment and had no alcove.  This was the kitchen and
dining-room in one.  The hospitable board was spread with such profusion
that there was not room on it for another egg-cup.  Here Joachim was to
entertain the kings and queens to dinner later on.  Three Turks and one
female servant were controlling affairs, making the cuscuso and preparing
the maccaroni.  There were young chickens in a corner; I inquired for
their mother, and was told she was busy making the soup; then I saw that
a saucepan was simmering on the stove.  The walls were hung with brightly
polished copper cooking utensils and there were baskets of maccaroni on
the floor.

The three principal rooms were carpeted with tissue-paper advertisements
of a new bar in the Via Torrearsa which has lately been opened by
relations of our host.  Each room was lighted by a naked candle kept in
place upon the floor by a drop of wax.  All the walls were hung with
wall-papers, originally designed for larger apartments, and adorned with
pictures, among which I observed Carlo Dolci's _Ecce Homo_.  The Avvocato
Scalisi saw, or says he saw, two saints flanking an advertisement of
cod-liver oil, and in Joachim's room was a portrait of Pope Pius X
blessing the company which included besides the kings a couple of
officers in uniform.  But then the Avvocato Scalisi is a humorist, and
the trouble with humorists is that they are too fond of assuming all
their readers to be humorists also, whereas they sometimes have a reader
of another kind who is puzzled to know whether what they say is to be
taken seriously or not.

We were about to make our compliments preliminary to departure, when our
host produced a tray with marsala and biscuits, so we sat down for a few
minutes and I observed what I took to be a little waxen paladin among the
wine-glasses.  He was, however, no paladin, though he wore armour and a
helmet; he was S. Michele waiting to arrive on his festa, the 29th
September.  It was now the 20th and, partly to please me and partly
because it did not much matter for a day or two, he arrived at once.  He
had wings, but they wanted repairing, so I carried him carefully from the
tray and deposited him in the corner of the room in which the baby lay.

My priest found several other examples of the Nascita and took me to see
them before I left Trapani.  The differences were slight; in one case
there were only three rooms; in another the rooms were divided so as to
vary in size; in another the rooms had windows at the back with
balconies.  Sometimes the guests were reading the _Giornale di Sicilia_,
and I saw opera-glasses on the table in one room and in another the
gentlemen had deposited their tall hats on the sofa.  There were
book-cases full of books and the bedrooms were furnished down to the most
insignificant but necessary details.  S. Joachim in one of the houses was
entertaining only three friends, and they had no kingly marks upon them;
they were perhaps descendants of the condottieri.  I thought afterwards
of going back to inquire, but one cannot very well return to a house
where one has seen a Nascita and ask to be allowed to look again to make
sure whether or not the guests have hung up their crowns on the hat pegs
of the umbrella-stand at the front entrance.  There was something about
these gentlemen, something in their costume as they sat at a round table
with S. Joachim, a queer 1830 feeling that put me in mind of Mr. Pickwick
and his three friends sitting in their private room at the "George and
Vulture," George Yard, Lombard Street, except that they were only
drinking coffee.

In the garden at the entrance to one house was a baby taking the air in a
perambulator and a band of eight musicians with a conductor.  There was
real water with a tap and a basin in the kitchen so that the guests might
wash their hands after dinner.  There was a mouse-trap in the corner of
the kitchen.  In one room the guests were playing cards, in another
eating ices, and I observed a toy piano with the extended compass of six
notes.

In all the kitchens there was a Turk for the cuscuso.  It is made with
fish, semolina, and onions in a double saucepan which in England is
called a steamer.  In the bottom part water is boiled; in the top part,
over the holes, they put a layer of chopped onions, and over that the
semolina which has been previously made into very small balls by damping
it.  The onions prevent the semolina from falling through the holes into
the water, and the steam of the water coming through cooks the semolina
and the onions.  The fish are put into the water at the right moment and
are boiled while the semolina is being steamed.  It is all served
together like bouillabaisse, the semolina answering to the bread, and
extract of pomidoro is added.  One would not be likely to meet with
cuscuso in the houses of the well-to-do; one might get it in the albergo
by insisting on it, but they would rather not provide it because, like
the Discobolus in Butler's poem _A Psalm of Montreal_, it is vulgar.  I
have eaten it only once when I dined with my compare Michele Lombardo, a
jeweller, to whose son I stood as padrino at his cresima, and I do not
care to eat it again, not because it is vulgar, but because I did not
find it nearly so good as bouillabaisse.  The recipe for it has
penetrated to Trapani from Africa as a result of the constant intercourse
between Sicily and the French colony of Tunis, the fishermen of Trapani
going over to the African coast not only for fish, but also for coral and
for sponges.

My priest was inclined to treat the Nascita with tolerant contempt; he
muttered the word "Anacronismo" several times and, since I have
ascertained that Melchizedek was a contemporary of Abraham, I think he
should not have done so.  I said that the anachronisms did not disturb
me.  I told him that in the marionette theatre in Palermo, when
Cristoforo Colombo embarks from the port of Palos in Spain to discover
America, a sailor, sitting on the paddle-box of the piroscafo, the
steamboat, sings that Neapolitan song _Santa Lucia_.  I passed over the
anticipation of steam and contented myself with asking the buffo whether
the song had been composed so long ago and also whether its popularity
had extended from Naples into Spain.  He replied that it had extended to
Palermo and that his audience connected it in their minds with the sea,
and as for the date of its composition he had made no inquiries, but he
knew it was older than "O Sole Mio"; we do not go to the arts for
accurate archaeological details.

"I will make you a paragon," said the buffo.  "When I was returning from
Catania I looked out of the side windows of the train and saw that the
telegraph posts, as we passed by, were some distance apart.  But I made
friends with the guard, who took me into his van, and when I looked at
them again out of the back window of the train they seemed to get closer
and closer together in the distance until, far away, there appeared to be
no space between them; but I knew that there was always the same space
between them.  So it is with the centuries, when they are in the distant
past it is difficult to distinguish in what century any particular event
happened.  History may settle such points, but the arts come to us from a
country of the imagination whose laws of time and space are not as our
laws.  Art is trying to get the people to realise that a thing happened,
not to teach them precisely when."

I quoted this to my priest, and he admitted its justice; also he was so
polite as to waive his objection about anacronismo, which, I then saw,
had only been started in consideration of my being a professor; not that
I am really a professor but he had introduced me to our host as one, and
I had accepted the distinction so as to avoid the dreary explanation that
would have been forced upon me after a disclaimer.  He having waived his
anacronismo so generously, it was now my turn to trump up an objection
which I could deal with afterwards as circumstances might require.  In
making my choice I did not forget his cloth and, imitating as well as I
could his tone of tolerant contempt, muttered the word "Irriverenza"
several times.  He saw what I meant at once and, in his reply, somewhat
followed my lead.

"Where," he asked, "is the irreverence in making S. Joachim's friends
arrive in tall hats and dress clothes?  Why should they not read the
_Giornale di Sicilia_ and play cards?  Where is the irreverence in making
the children celebrate his daughter's birth by dancing to a piano?  Why
should not the Madonna have her baby-linen made on an American
sewing-machine?"

As he took this line so decidedly and we had given up the anacronismo, I
gave up the irreverence at once and agreed with him that there is no
reason against any of these things being done if it helps the spectators.
The arts are concerned more with faith than with reason, more with the
spirit than with the flesh, more with truth than with fact, and we can
never get away from the intention of the artist.  Even in that Art of
Arts which we call Life, our judgment must always be influenced by the
spirit in which we believe that a thing is done.  I have read somewhere
that one coachman will flick flies off his horse with the intention of
worrying the flies, while another (Mario, for instance) does the same
thing with the intention of relieving the horse.  When a modern Frenchman
in the spirit of the _Scenes de la Vie de Boheme_ paints the guests in
modern evening dress at a _Marriage in Cana of Galilee_ we are offended.
The Nascita is not done by such an artist; it is peculiarly a woman's
subject, being a picture of home life with a birth for its occasion, and
is usually made by a girl who has never heard of Bohemia.  She has seen
trains in the railway station and ships in the port, but probably has
never herself travelled in either.  Her father or her brother has perhaps
been fishing for sponges off Sfax and may have returned with stories of
the wonders of Tunis, and so she may have heard of a boulevard, but she
is not affected by it.  She makes her Nascita as the medieval painters
made their pictures, and is not seeking to attract attention or to
astonish or to advertise herself or to make money.  Sicilians are all
artists, and the Nascita is the girl's pretext for making as close a
representation as she can of the life to which she and her friends are
accustomed.  It is for her what the Shield of Achilles was for Homer,
what the Falstaff scenes in _King Henry IV_ were for Shakespeare, or what
the Escape from Paris was for my buffo in Palermo.



MOUNT ERYX


CHAPTER IX
THE COMPARE


Michele Lombardo, a goldsmith of Trapani, came to me one day and said he
wished me to be his compare.  I at once had a vision of myself as a black
man riding round a circus on a bare-backed horse and jumping through
hoops.  That was because, at the time, all my knowledge about a compare
was derived from a conversation I had had in the house of the Greco
family at Palermo.  Among the photographs grouped on the wall was one of
a pleasant-looking nigger in European costume.  I asked who he was, and
Carolina said he was an African, a compare.  I asked what she meant and
she said that her father had held the African's niece at its cresima.
The African's name was Emanuele, but she had never known his family name.
I asked whether he had a profession and she replied:

"Faceva cavallerizza."

I knew no more about cavallerizza than about a compare or a cresima.  She
explained the first by saying that the horse goes round and Emanuele on
the horse's back performs gymnastics.  That is, he used to do so, but he
went to Paris, where a duchess saw him performing and, on account of his
agility and his attractive physiognomy, fell in love with him.  She was
an Egyptian duchess and wore diamonds because she was rich.  She was so
rich she could do as she liked in other respects besides diamonds, and,
liking to marry Emanuele, she did so and made him padrone of a grand
hotel in Madrid or Vienna, I forget which, but it was a hotel of the
first class, frequented by Russian princesses and American millionaires.

I told Michele about this and he assured me that his proposal concealed
no equestrian circus and no Egyptian duchess; to become his compare I
should only have to hold his eldest son Pietro, aged seven, at his
cresima.  Here was an opportunity of solving the mysteries of the cresima
and the compare, which Michele, who took my consent for granted, assured
me would solve themselves as we proceeded.  We went to the bishop's
palace and were shown into his private chapel, where the sagrestano
entertained us with conversation while we waited.  Only once before had
he ever approached an Englishman, and that was at Messina.  He was a very
rich Englishman and a devout son of the Church; his card with his name
and address was still preserved as a ricordo in the sagrestano's house.
This gentleman afterwards died in Naples under dramatic circumstances.
He had stepped out one evening to take a mouthful of air, and on
returning went upstairs to his room; as he put his latch-key into the
door he fell down dead.  By his will, which was found in the drawer of
his writing-table, he bequeathed all his great wealth to the church of S.
Antonio.  I wanted to know whether this church is in Messina, or Naples,
or England; or, it might be in America or Australia, for they sometimes
speak of an Inglese Americano and of an Inglese Australiano.  Once I took
some of my superfluous luggage to a forwarding agent in Palermo to have
it sent to England by piccola velocita.  It included a figure of Buddha
which I had bought in a curiosity-shop in Malta.  The clerk declined to
forward the image because it was a product of art, and such things may
not be sent out of Italy.  I said it was a product of religion; he
accepted my correction and proposed to describe it in the form he was
filling up as a Madonna.  Again I objected, pointing out that anyone
could see it was not a lady; it was Buddha.  He was as puzzled as I had
been over the compare.  I attempted a short sketch from memory of
Buddha's life and works, and was so far successful that the figure
travelled to London as a Cristo Indiano.

The arrival of the bishop cut short the sagrestano's reminiscences.
There also came a woman with a baby in arms who was to receive its
cresima at once, in case it might not live to reach Pietro's discreet age
of seven.  The bishop in magnificent vestments of brocade and gold stood
with his back to the altar; the woman with the baby knelt before him to
his right and the sagrestano put his hand on the baby's shoulder; Pietro
knelt to the bishop's left and I put my hand on his shoulder.  The
ceremony, it seems, is a partial repetition of the baptism, or a
performance of a part omitted from the baptism, or it is an addition to
the baptism--for I did not understand so fully as Michele said I should.
Unless accelerated, as in the case of the baby, it takes place when the
child is old enough to have mastered the more elementary teaching of the
Church but does not yet understand enough to be confirmed; and it
consists in the bishop's using a great many words and gestures and making
the sign of the Cross in oil on the child's forehead.  Almost before the
oil was on, the sagrestano wiped it off with cotton-wool and the bishop,
after cleaning his thumb with half a lemon which the sagrestano had
thoughtfully placed on the altar, held out his ring to be kissed by the
woman and by Pietro.

In this way I became compare of Michele Lombardo and padrino of Pietro,
who is my figlioccio.  Being Michele's compare I am in a way related to
all the family and, when I arrive at Trapani, Michele brings as many of
his children as he can gather to salute me.  Last time he brought five
and said:

"Excuse my not bringing more."

In calling Emanuele her compare, Carolina Greco was not speaking very
strictly; the relationship exists between her father and Emanuele's
brother, whose child he held; but family relationships are so close in
Sicily, and they speak so loosely about them, that a compare of one
member of a family may be said to be compare of them all.

A compare is, however, primarily he who holds a child at its baptism, and
this, no doubt, is why S. Giovanni Battista is padrone of compari.  Thus
I am Compare di Battesimo of Peppino and Brancaccia at Castellinaria.  It
was the grandfather who actually held Ricuzzu at the baptism, but he did
it as my deputy, and the spiritual relationship of compare which exists
between Peppino and myself is closer than that of padrino and figlioccio
which exists between Ricuzzu and myself.

The first step in establishing the relationship of Compare di Battesimo
is usually taken at the wedding of the parents, when he who holds the cup
or tazza containing the ring becomes Compare di Anello of the bride and
bridegroom and also receives the privilege, or undertakes the obligation,
of holding the first baby at its baptism.  At Ignazio's wedding someone
held the tazza with the ring and handed it to the priest at the right
moment, but I did not see this done because between the happy couple and
myself the lady-guests interposed a forest of hats, but I saw the tazza
among the wedding presents and thought it was an ash-tray till one of
them corrected me.  There must have been a Compare di Anello also at the
wedding of S. Joachim and S. Anna, and this person, whoever he was, ought
to have appeared, and perhaps did appear, in the Nascita as padrino of
the Madonna at her baptism, but I did not visit a Nascita on the Day of
the Sacred Name of Maria, so I did not see the baptism.

A fourth kind of compare is the Compare di Parentela; the name is used
for those relationships by marriage which have no special name.  The
brother-in-law, for instance, though he may be a compare is not
necessarily one, he is a cognato; but the parents of a husband and the
parents of his wife are compari to one another, and the husband's cugino,
or cousin, is compare of the wife and so on.

There is yet a fifth kind--the Compare di San Giovanni.  The first time I
saw Turiddu Balistrieri after his escape from the earthquake at Messina
(see Chapter XVII post) it seemed an occasion proper to be solemnised in
some way, and we determined to become compari to one another, but as
there was no wedding and no baptism or cresima we did not know how to
proceed.  We consulted an expert in Catania, Peppino Fazio, who said it
was an exceptional case.  This did not alarm us because exceptional cases
are treated tenderly in Sicily.  Our expert took time to consider and in
a day or two gave his opinion:--The relationship could be established by
our going into the country on the 24th June, the day of S. Giovanni, and
exchanging cucumbers or pots of basil.  Nothing could be simpler, and
accordingly on the 24th of June, 1910, Turiddu and I went into the
country.  He was in Catania, so he spent the day on the slopes of Etna.
I was staying with friends at Bath, so I went for a walk on Lansdown.  In
choosing our tokens we had regard to the arrangements of the postal
union; he sent me a few dried leaves of basil and an elaborate drawing of
an emerald-green plant in a gamboge pot tied round with a vermilion
ribbon as a sign of goodwill and friendship.  He drew the design out of
his own imagination and coloured it with paints which we had bought
together in Naples.  I might have sent him a volume of Keats containing a
_Pot of Basil_ in an equally transmissible form, but as he does not read
English he would not have understood; so I sent him a young cucumber
about three inches long.  The ceremony was complete, and we are as good a
pair of compari as any in the island.

Thus there are five kinds of compari, namely:--

1.  The Compare di Battesimo.

2.  The Compare di Cresima.

3.  The Compare di Anello.

4.  The Compare di Parentela.

5.  The Compare di San Giovanni.

It may be said that there are more kinds; the woman who washes the cap in
which a baby is baptised becomes comare, but I do not know whether this
is so anywhere but in Catania.  And the word is sometimes used in a
figurative sense as a term of endearment in addressing a partner or any
intimate friend, and sometimes with the intention of inspiring confidence
in addressing a stranger in a lower station of life.  When two plump
gentlemen and one thin one entered the yard of the "White Hart" where Mr.
Samuel Weller happened to be burnishing a pair of painted tops, the thin
gentleman advanced.

"My friend," said the thin gentleman.

"You're one o' the adwice gratis order," thought Sam, "or you wouldn't be
so wery fond of me all at once."  But he only said, "Well, Sir."

A Sicilian Mr. Perker might have said, "Compare" instead of "Amico," and
one is expected to believe that no unworthy suspicion would have crossed
the mind of a Sicilian Sam Weller.

Between compari there is such complete trust and devotion that no request
is ever refused; there is also the conviction, based first on intuition
and afterwards on experience, that no request which ought to be refused
will ever be made--a conviction which is, I suppose, an element in all
friendship.  A compare is received in the house as a member of the family
and is looked upon as a relation closer than a brother.  One can choose
as compare a friend in whom one has confidence, whereas there is no
choosing a brother, and cases have been known in which brothers did not
agree.  But any compare taking advantage of his position would be a
contemptible traitor and among the sulphur-miners would provide material
for a play at the Teatro Machiavelli.  Talking it over with Peppino
Pampalone he told me that sometimes things do go wrong, so that they say
there are three relations more dangerous than enemies--the cognato (the
brother-in-law) the cugino (the cousin), and the compare.  And they say:

    Dagli amici mi guardi Iddio
    Che dai nemici mi guardo io.

    May God protect me from my friends
    For I can protect myself from my enemies.

Peppino says: "If it is the man that would robber you in the street, this
man would put his life in danger because every movement of this man you
are looking.  But if it is a friend then is it other; then you are
depending in him that he is coming to salvare you, you are embracing him,
kissing him, don't be regarding the revolver that shall be in his pocket
and sometimes would kill you.  If it would not be Bruto, he would not
succeed to take the life of Cesare.  Did you understand?"

But these are exceptional cases.



CHAPTER X
COMPARE BERTO


In 1901 I spent ten days on Mount Eryx, now usually called Monte San
Giuliano, near Trapani, where I went to see the nocturnal procession of
_Noah's Ark and the Universal Deluge_ (_Diversions in Sicily_, Chapter
X).  During those days I made the acquaintance of about twenty young men
of whom Alberto Augugliaro, the son of the professor of mathematics in
the Ginnasio, was the chief.  I have seen him nearly every year since,
first as a student at Trapani, then at the University of Palermo, and
again when he was at home on the Mountain for the holidays, in
villeggiatura, or doing the practical work for his diploma in the
chemist's shop of his uncle.  When he became qualified, his uncle handed
the shop over to him and he is now established in it.

One starry September evening in 1909 we were walking together in the
balio (the garden on the top of the Mountain), and I asked whether, as he
was now over thirty, it was not time for him to think of getting married.
He confessed that negotiations were in progress.  I inquired the lady's
name, and he came close to me, took my arm and whispered a word in my
ear.  If he had shouted the word it would have reached no other ear but
mine.  We were alone upon the Mountain; the Ericini were sleeping within
their walls of stone; over their tiled and terraced roofs the stars were
pacing through the night; in front of us and to our right and left, far
below, encircled by its mountainous amphitheatre, the spacious plain was
cooling after the heat of yesterday; behind us, the sea was drowsily
patting the shore round the foot of Monte Cofano and along by happy
Bonagia, swaying idly in and out of the harbours of Trapani and among the
islands--Levanzo, Favognana, and distant Marettimo.  Berto need not have
whispered the word; but it was a secret--it was the name of his lady.

Soon after Christmas he announced in the most open manner, that is to say
on a post-card, that the preliminaries were over and that his engagement
to Giuseppina had been made public; I sent congratulations to them both
and he replied in a letter which, omitting the formalities, runs thus in
English:

    I, on my part, and Giuseppina, on hers, are extremely contented
    because we both love you with that love which is strong and powerful
    enough to raise the heart and to transport us above the breathable
    air; and, as our thoughts frequently fly to you, our distant English
    friend, we make you a proposition, but you will understand that we
    lay no obligation upon you and we do not ask you to take any trouble.
    Here it is in two words: It is our most vivid desire that you should
    become our compare: that is, that you should hold the tazza
    containing the ring at our wedding.  I repeat, it is our most vivid
    desire that you will accede to our request for this honour and we
    shall be most grateful to you if you will content us.  It is for you
    to send your answer which we await with anxiety.

Now, I cannot be more dear to Berto than he is to me--I am not sure about
the breathable air, but he is one of the best fellows I know--so I wrote
saying I was more flattered, honoured, and pleased by his request than I
could express in words.  Moreover, it fell out very conveniently because
the ceremony was to take place in the following April at a time when I
intended to be in Sicily.  Then came the difficulty about the wedding
present, and whether there was any special duty for a compare to perform
besides holding the ring.  I remembered Ignazio's ash-tray and asked
whether perhaps I ought to bring something of the kind from London.
Berto replied that the tazza is a sacred object belonging to the church
and is lent for the ceremony and, as I did not seem to know much about
it, he kindly informed me that the customs of his country on the occasion
of a wedding are as follows:

    The father and the mother of the bridegroom and the father and the
    mother of the bride invite the relations and friends, who all offer
    presents of greater or less value according to the degree of
    relationship and friendship.  The ring is chosen by the bridegroom in
    consultation with the bride.  The compare, of his own accord, offers
    a present to the couple, more usually he offers it only to the bride.

    All this I have told you merely as information with regard to the
    customs of my country; it is not necessary for you to give any
    present but, if you wish to do so, do as you wish.  Wedding presents
    are lifelong records of relationship and of friendship.

    If I am to speak frankly, loyally and sincerely to you as the friend
    I have always been to you, I recommend you to bring some present for
    the bride because, as you who have travelled so much must know, in
    small places not to receive a present from the compare would be to
    provoke the remark among all who talk that the bride and bridegroom
    were not complimented by the compare.  I tell you this because you
    are my dearest friend and not because I wish to be critical.  Bring
    anything you choose and be sure that whatever may be offered by you
    will be accepted by my bride.  For me--nothing.  I have sufficient in
    the thought and the comfort of your friendship.

So I consulted my sister, who recommended me to visit a jeweller's shop.
There is one in Regent Street where I take my sleeve-links to be repaired
when I have the misfortune to break them.  She approved and I went and
explained the situation to the young man, who was very kind about it and,
after a few false starts, cordially advised one of a line of gold
pendants much in vogue to be worn with a light chain.  He had an
apparently inexhaustible stock, and I became as confused and helpless as
when some change is necessary in my spectacles and the oculist wants to
know whether I see better with this or with that.  I have no idea how
long I was there, but in the end I selected a meaningless object of a
design which the young man assured me was original and exclusive, and
which I hoped would appear fairly unobjectionable to the recipient.
After which, not being at all content to leave Berto resting solely on
the thought and comfort of my friendship, I chose for him a dozen silver
teaspoons.  My sister, to whom I showed these articles, approved and, of
her own unprompted generosity, added a piece of Irish lace as a special
gift from herself to the bride, though she is unacquainted with any of
the family except from my description.  Thus loaded I travelled to
Trapani and went up the Mountain in the public automobile, arriving on a
Thursday morning early in April, 1910, the wedding being fixed for the
following Saturday.

Berto met me at the Trapani gate of the town and took me to the Albergo
Sicilia, where I had stayed when I was on the Mountain in 1901.  Signor
Bosco has died since, and his widow keeps on the inn with the help of
some members of her family of six daughters and four sons.  One of these
sons is Peppi, a blacksmith, who plays a trombone in the municipal band.
Another is Alberto, one of the chauffeurs who drive the automobile up and
down the Mountain.  Alberto and one of his sisters appeared as children
in the procession of the _Universal Deluge_.  They were sitting at the
feet of Sin and holding one another's hands to represent the wicked
population destined to destruction.  Alberto is now married.  His wedding
took place in the morning, and at three o'clock in the afternoon three
hundred guests were entertained at dinner in the Albergo Sicilia, after
which they danced till dawn and, as the wedding was in December, they
must have been rather tired; but it was an exceptional case.

In the afternoon Berto came for me and took me to the house of his bride
to pay my respects.  The house belongs to her; she has two brothers and a
sister all married and settled, and on Berto's marriage he will leave the
house of his parents and go and live in his wife's house.  We entered
through a door that led through a high blank wall into a courtyard where
there were flowering plants in pots, and steps leading up to the
living-rooms on the first floor over a basement which is used partly as
stabling and partly as storage.  This is the form of most of the houses
on the Mountain, and the blank wall and courtyard give them an air of
seclusion.  We went up the steps and were received by the bride and many
of her relations, some of whom I had already met, for Giuseppina is a
cousin of Berto's mother.  They showed me over the house; the rooms all
led into one another and, though they were not in a row, it was rather
like going over S. Joachim's house when it is being prepared for the
family festa of the Nascita.  It would have been still more like it if we
had come in by the other front door, for the side we entered is on a
street that goes up-hill and the house is at a corner with another front
door in the other street at the top of the hill and level with the
living-rooms.  This other front door leads straight into a hall, which
will be occupied by the musicians on the evening of the wedding, from
this one passes to the dining-room where the servants are to dance, then
to the salone where the guests are to dance.

We sat in the salone, about twenty of us in a circle, talking the usual
talk, and one of the young ladies asked me whether we had compari at an
English wedding.  I said we had something of the kind.  She inquired what
I should be called if I were compare at an English wedding, and, seeing
no way out of it, I modestly murmured:

"In England I should be called the Best Man."

This naturally led to a torrent of compliments, which I battled with for
some moments, and finally subdued by asking to see the rest of the house.
We went to the room which had been arranged as the buffet; the walls were
adorned with large looking-glasses, and in the middle was a table for the
cakes and sweets.  The buffet is to be my bedroom next time I come to the
Mountain.  We passed through two other saloni and then inspected two
bedrooms, one for the happy couple, the other for Berto's mother, who is
to stay with them for the first few days.  The presents were arranged on
a table by the side of the nuptial couch, which had arrived that morning
from Palermo together with the rest of the bedroom suite, very handsome,
and made of Hungarian ash.  The presents were rather as I have seen
wedding presents in England, plenty of spoons and forks, gold brooches,
rings, bracelets, some set with diamonds and some with other stones, and
I was glad I was not really back in Regent Street choosing my pendant.

We went into the courtyard and into the stable where we saw Mille-lire
the donkey, who is scarcely bigger than a Saint Bernard dog and only cost
thirty-five lire.  It was Berto who gave him the name of Mille-lire to
signify that his value far exceeds his price.  He has a cart to match and
can take four people, but I think they must be rather small people.  He
shares his stable with thirty-eight chickens, old and young, and two
ducks, who all come out into the courtyard to be fed in the sun.  There
are also three pigeons, making a total of forty-four creatures.  In
addition there are two cats who live in the house and two tortoises who
live in the courtyard.  Tortoises are found wild among the rocks in the
mountains and the peasants bring them up to the town and sell them.
These came from Monte Asparacio, which is near Cofano; they cost forty
centimes each, and bring good luck to the house.  On Mount Eryx there is
a convent of nuns of S. Teresa, to whom flesh is forbidden, but the
prohibition does not extend to tortoises, which the nuns eat with tomato
sauce.  When the nuns begin to feel the infirmities of age they are no
longer limited to this strange meat, the prohibition is withdrawn, and
they live like other old ladies, eating what they choose.  I have no idea
how many fourpenny tortoises would make a meal for a healthy young nun on
Monte San Giuliano, where one's appetite is sharpened by the air.  They
occasionally add a few snails, which are also permitted; there is a kind
of snail which is found underground and is considered a luxury by others
besides the nuns of S. Teresa.

After the stable and the courtyard we went to the terrace whence, over
the roofs and cupolas and among the towers and belfries of the town,
there is a view of the sea and the plain.  Then we visited the kitchen
and saw the oven for baking the bread.  All the well-to-do families on
the Mountain possess land on the campagna where they grow their own corn;
they take it to the mill to be weighed and ground, and fetch back the
flour which is also weighed; they know that if they leave a hundred
kilograms of grain they must receive ninety-nine of flour, and in this
wasted kilogram of flour lurks the true reason why the miller wears a
white hat.  They bake their own bread and sometimes make their own
maccaroni at home.  They grow their own grapes and make their own wine.
They have olive trees for oil, and goats whose milk they drink,
considering it lighter and more digestible than cows' milk.  Berto's
sister has a private goat of her own, who lives down in the country and
comes up every morning, a journey of three-quarters of an hour, and she
milks it herself.  Thus they pass their lives very close to Mother Earth,
and the seasons sensibly affect their comfort.  They have little use for
money except to buy coffee, fish, sugar, meat, and clothes, or the stuff
of which they make their clothes, and some of them raise their own linen
and wool.  But they want money when there is a family festa; Berto told
me he had spent 700 lire merely for the sweetmeats and cakes at his
wedding.

All Friday and most of Saturday I spent in being presented to various
members of the family and in making preparations.  Berto recommended me
to visit the barber on Saturday afternoon and, as a good Sicilian, I
followed his advice and went to the salone of Peppino.  When Samuel
Butler first came to Mount Eryx in 1892 to see whether he could identify
the localities with those described as Scheria and Ithaca in the
_Odyssey_, he slipped in the street and put his ankle out of joint.  The
doctor was away, and his foot was set by Peppino, who is a barber-surgeon
with a salone close to the spot where the accident happened.  Accordingly
Peppino is the barber I employ when I am on the Mountain.  While he was
attending to me I observed a change in the salone, and, on asking where
the looking-glasses were, was told they had been lent to Berto to
ornament the buffet of his wedding festa.

After the barber, I had my dinner, as I found there would be no
opportunity to do so when once the wedding ceremonies had begun, and then
I dressed.  In the meantime a cloud began to collect on the Mountain and
the wind began to blow.



CHAPTER XI
BERTO'S WEDDING


A Sicilian wedding is conducted either on system _a_, when the happy
couple go away for their honeymoon and the ceremony is performed in the
morning, or on system _b_, when they do not go away but have a ball at
home, and then the ceremony is performed in the evening.  The wedding of
Ignazio proceeded on system _a_, that of Berto and Giuseppina on system
_b_.  As for Alberto Bosco, his wedding was either a combination of _a_
and _b_ or an exceptional case.

Berto's brother Nicolao came to fetch me at 5.30 p.m. and took me to the
house of the bride's brother in the piazza, where the bride was waiting.
Her dress was of pale grey crepe trimmed with dull silver embroidery and
she wore zagara in her bonnet.  Exceptional cases being excepted, it may
be said that brides only wear white silk and a veil and wreath of orange
blossom, as Ignazio's bride did at the religious ceremony, when the
wedding is conducted on system _a_.  I failed to discover any rule about
a cortege of bridesmaids, if there is such a rule it is probably elastic.
The other ladies wore dresses as for a dance in England in the country in
the winter.  The gentlemen, like the guests at the Nascita, wore evening
dress.  And of course we all had cloaks or over-coats.

When we were about to leave the house, Peppi Bosco, with his trombone and
the rest of the municipal band, began to play, and to the strains of
their music we crossed the piazza in the fog.  The bride was conducted by
her brother, the bridegroom came next escorting a lady cousin, I
followed, as compare, with Berto's mother, and the others came after.  We
entered the municipio and went upstairs into a large room.  The sindaco
sat behind a table, the bride and bridegroom sat facing one another in
two armchairs on the opposite side of the table and we ranged ourselves
about the room.

The sindaco had often before sat at that table and received other wedding
parties, nevertheless he appeared at a loss, or perhaps he disapproved of
matrimony.  At any rate he was not going to acquiesce in the proceedings
until he had dwelt, as elderly people will, on the serious nature of the
duties the young people were proposing to undertake.  He went so far as
to put clearly before them aspects of the case which they might have
overlooked and to read them legal extracts of a discouraging nature.
They were unmoved, and the sindaco, still dissatisfied, asked Berto
point-blank whether he really wished, under the circumstances, to take
Giuseppina to be his wife.  Berto replied in the affirmative.  Concealing
his surprise, the sindaco turned to Giuseppina and asked her whether she
wished to be married to Berto.  She said she did; and indeed it was the
reason why we were all there, as the sindaco must have known if he had
given the matter a thought, for the wedding had been the talk of the town
since Christmas; but the law does not regard hearsay evidence.  Finding
there was no help for it, he pronounced the necessary words and, no doubt
with a view of disclaiming personal responsibility should he hereafter be
taxed with marriage-mongering, invited them to sign the book with a pen
made entirely of gold in the form of a feather, which he afterwards
offered them as a wedding present with his best wishes and a paper on
which his clerk had neatly engrossed the legal extracts.

We descended into the piazza now vacated by Peppi Bosco, who had been
playing in it with his municipal music during the ceremony, and, forming
ourselves into a procession as before, walked down the principal street
of the town, and I was thinking of many things.  As we passed the club I
remembered how once in the winter Berto had taken me there and introduced
me to all the notabilities of the place and I had wondered how the fog
agreed with the billiard table.  We passed the farmacia where Berto
spends his time making up prescriptions and gossiping with his friends.
We went on down the street and my thoughts wandered to other subjects.
In the first place there was my hat, or rather Berto's uncle's hat, for,
though I had remembered about the guests at the Nascita wearing evening
clothes, I had forgotten that they brought their cylindrical hats, and
Berto had borrowed one for me, which was so small I had to hold it on.
And the wind blew and roared and shook the shutters and banged the
windows and doors and smashed the glass down on to the roughly paved
streets, and the dense, chilly cloud went through the cracks and
penetrated into every house and damped the beds and discoloured the
whitewash of the walls.  And I had Berto's mother on one arm and could
not keep his uncle's hat on my head.  At last I took it off and carried
it under my other arm, putting on my head a cap which I happened to have
in my pocket.

We came to the steep part of the street near the salone of Peppino and I
thought of his looking-glasses that were temporarily adorning the future
bedroom of Berto's compare, and I thought of Butler's accident and of the
authoress of the _Odyssey_ writing her poem up here three thousand years
ago.  And what are three thousand years to Time in his flight?  An
interval that he can clear with a flap or two of his mighty wings.  No
one knows how often he has flapped them since these narrow roughly paved
streets began to give the town its irregular shape; no one knows anything
of the prehistoric incarnations of her who has reigned here as Phoenician
Astarte, as Greek Aphrodite, as Roman Venus, and who now reigns here as
Italian Maria.  We were adding one more to the processions that during
unnumbered ages have passed along the streets of Mount Eryx worshipping
the Mystery of Birth.

We turned down by the Palazzo Platamone and at last reached the Matrice.
The floor was hidden by the people standing on it and the ceiling by
thousands of wax candles hanging from it.  The organ was playing
antiphonally with Peppi Bosco, who had preceded us with his trombone and
his municipal music.  We went into the sagrestia and I did not at first
recognise the Arciprete Messina who received us, for I had not previously
seen him in his vestments, but he knew me.  We had met in the street when
he was wearing his ordinary clothes the day before and I had told him I
had his photograph taken by Butler, who wanted his face because it is
particularly round, like that of so many of the Ericini, and Butler used
to say they are descended from the Cyclopes who formerly lived
here--Cyclopes means circle-faced, not one-eyed.

After signing the register we left the sagrestia, pushed our way through
the people, and stood outside the altar-rails in a circle, the arciprete,
Berto, Giuseppina, myself and another priest.  I held an old silver
tazza, on which the ring was placed.  The music was tremendous and had to
be made to play piano.  The arciprete read the words and, at the proper
moment, I handed the tazza, from which he took the ring and gave it to
the bridegroom, who placed it upon the bride's finger.  And the Madonna
di Custonaci sat over the altar with the Child at her breast smiling down
upon our little circle and giving her blessing to Berto and Giuseppina
who, with the sanction of their relations and friends, were taking the
first step on the path that leads to motherhood.

We were not in the church ten minutes, and the music became forte again
as our procession passed out into the fog.  We went to the bride's house
and entered by the door that leads into the courtyard which was occupied
by Peppi Bosco, who had again preceded us with his trombone and municipal
music.  The bride retired and, after a few moments, reappeared among the
guests, escorted by Berto and accompanied by someone bearing a large
tea-tray piled up with sugared almonds, which she ladled to us in
handfuls with a silver coffee-cup.  On whatever system a Sicilian wedding
is conducted it would be incomplete without sugared almonds, and they are
sent in boxes to all friends who are unable to attend.  Several boxes
were given to me for my near relations who, by virtue of my having become
compare of Berto and Giuseppina, are now in a manner related to them.
And the bride also gave me for my sister a special gift of a handkerchief
embroidered by someone in the neighbourhood.

After the almonds, the music began in the front hall and we danced.
There were waltzes, polkas and contraddanze, also games involving dances.
I did not try to dance the waltzes or the polkas, they were quite
different from those I used to be taught; Berto said they were dancing
the ballo figurato.  Nor did I dance the tarantella, which I never was
taught in any form, but I saw it danced by Berto's mother and a brother
of the bride.  I danced in three contraddanze, first with Berto's mother,
then with his bride, then with his sister.  One of the dancers called out
in French what we were to do, and the mistakes we made added to the
amusement.  Frequently there was a promenade, the partners walking
arm-in-arm round the room, which gave time to recover ourselves when we
had got into any great confusion.  Sometimes he who directs the
contraddanza is so fertile in invention that he can make it last two
hours.  I do not think any that I danced lasted above half an hour, and
they always ended by our promenading away to the buffet, which was under
the joyous direction of Berto's father.  Here we ate sweetmeats and cakes
and drank rosolio, which is any kind of light liqueur.

Berto's brother Nicolao took me away at 3 a.m., and I wanted someone to
show me the road because the cloud was still on the Mountain, and they do
not keep the streets lighted all night.  But the rest danced for another
hour and then departed, leaving Berto's mother to attend to the bride and
to stay in the house.

Next day at noon we all called to inquire and I remained to dinner at
two.  While we were at table we heard the drum beating a Saracen rhythm
and went to the window.  It was the festa of S. Francesco da Paola; he
was coming out of his church and going up to the balio on the top of the
Mountain.  The fog had cleared away, leaving a few light clouds whose
shadows chased one another across the campagna and out to sea, where they
played with the islands that were swimming in it, each separate and
distinct in the brightness like those on a China plate.  S. Francesco
turned his back to the islands; he had not come out to bless the sea.
Nor had he come to bless Cofano; he knew it was beyond his power to make
that rocky wilderness to blossom as a rose.  The translucent mountains
stood back in a rugged amphitheatre before him, reverently saluting the
throne of Venus; he acknowledged their salute, but he did not bless the
barren mountains; he remembered the words of his Master: To him that hath
shall be given, and from him that hath not shall be taken away even that
which he seemeth to have.

Good old San Cicciu da Paola turned his eyes away from the mountains and
looked down upon the exuberance of the campagna.  Every patch was a
mother's breast suckling the young bread and wine and oil, making the
little figs to swell on their branches and the big blobby oranges to grow
bigger and blobbier among their leaves.  The salad was pushing, pushing
up through the soil; peaches, apples, pears, medlars and plums were
forming inside their faint pink and snowy blooms; there were almonds and
blossoming pomegranates, asparagus and tomatoes, artichokes in disorderly
tufts and beans combed into tidy rows.  In the hollow places, like marshy
pools reflecting the sky, lay beds of pale blue flax to be woven into
wedding sheets for Mount Eryx.

San Cicciu looked upon it and saw that it was good, and he blessed all
that fertility.  He was doing for the campagna what the Cyclopean
arciprete had asked the Madonna to do for Berto and Giuseppina.



TRABONELLA


CHAPTER XII
SULPHUR


Caltanissetta is a busy town of some 45,000 inhabitants near the middle
of the island and about 2000 feet above the sea.  It depends for its
prosperity on almonds, grapes, olives and sulphur, especially the last,
for there is much sulphur in the pores of the rock.  I have several
friends there of whom one, Beppe (Giuseppe) Catena, is an engineer with
an interest in Trabonella, the largest sulphur mine in the neighbourhood,
and another, Gigino (Luigi) Cordova, is an advocate.  Sometimes Beppe is
in the town and sometimes Gigino and I go to Trabonella and find him
there.  It is an hour's drive along a road that winds among rolling
hills.  Through the depressions between the near hills other hills
appear, and through their depressions higher hills, and beyond these are
higher hills again until the view is bounded by the Monti delle Madonie
where the snow lingers until May.  It must have been some such country as
this that was in the mind of him who first spoke of the sea running
mountains high.

I do not know whether it is more beautiful in spring or in autumn.  I
know that in spring the grass under the orange trees is spotted with
purple flowers, and that crimson vetch incarnadines the hills, as though
Lady Macbeth had dipped her little hand into their multitudinous green;
the hedges bloom with rosemary and scarlet geranium, the banks with sweet
pea and brilliant mesembryanthemum, and the rough places are full of
asphodel; there are a few eucalyptus trees and now and then a solemn row
of cypresses; we may pass a hut of grey thatch and perhaps a few horses
or a sprinkling of tethered goats; sometimes we see a herd of bullocks
tended by a boy who has come out this morning in black sheep-skin
leggings up to his hips, and I think he learnt his song from happy
nightingales that set the April moonlight to music.

But in autumn the prospect is as fair.  The harvest is over; the earth,
bronzed by the summer heat, is resting after her labour and nature is
making variations in the ochres and umbers that in spring were half
hidden, huddled together in the steep places where nothing will flourish;
the stubble shows in lines of pale yellow on the brown earth among
patches of almost colourless green and other patches black with burning
which change the value of the olives, pistachios, carubas and aloes; here
and there is a shrivelled thistle, here and there a lone pine; sometimes
we see a string of mules winding in and out on its way home, losing and
finding itself among the undulations like a little fleet of fishing boats
that rise and fall with the swell, and I think Schubert must have passed
this way when he felt stirring within him the mellow loveliness of the
second Entr'acte to _Rosamunde_:

                           [Picture: Rosamunde]

We need not choose one or the other, we need only wait to have both; for
spring is the modulation to the dominant, the awakening, the going out in
search of adventure, while autumn is the return to the tonic, the coming
home in search of repose, the falling asleep; the first leads to the
second as naturally as youth leads to age.

Last time Gigino and I went to Trabonella it was spring, and we took with
us his young brother Michelino, aged thirteen, who had never been there
before.  We arrived in the afternoon and found Beppe, who took us round,
and we showed Michelino the works.  Empty trucks were gliding down a
sloping railway into the mine, while others were gliding up filled with
the harvest of the deep.  We saw the broken pieces of rock being put into
great furnaces and we watched the treacly sulphur that was melted out of
the pores and came oozing through a tap into a mould.  It is then
purified and made into shapes like candles, and I thought of Kentish
giants handling such bars of sulphur to fumigate the hops in the glow of
an oast-house fire.  We introduced Michelino to the overseers, directors
and managers and to the doctor.  We returned to the hut where Beppe
lives, and dined out of doors in the yard behind.  It all seemed to me
very healthy and like the accounts one reads and the illustrations one
sees of life in a new country, with the advantage that Caltanissetta is
only about eight kilometres away.  But Beppe objected that the nearness
of Caltanissetta was no advantage because it induces a feeling of "Well,
it doesn't matter; I can always go to town for that," and so they put up
with much that they might remedy if they were really beyond the reach of
civilisation.  Consequently he was not able to treat us as we deserved.
We replied that we were glad it was so, because he was treating us much
better.

After dinner we joined the other managers and directors in a room of a
larger building; a mandoline and guitar were brought and some of them
played.  Presently Michelino sang.  He surprised me by the beauty and
power of his young voice and by his management of it, also by his musical
intelligence and by his complete self-possession.  He sang the tenor
songs of many operas and other popular melodies, especially I remember
his singing the _Stornelli Montagnoli_, which is so beautiful that the
buffo said it would save itself in the Escape from Paris.  To all this
the guitar-player vamped an accompaniment which Michelino relentlessly
silenced by a gesture when it became unbearable.  It was absurd to see
him lording it over the company, nearly a dozen of us and the youngest
nearly old enough to be his father.  When it was time to retire, beds
were found for the visitors and I passed a comfortable night in Beppe's
hut.

Next day we were taken into the mine to see what goes on underneath the
freedom of the rolling hills.  We dived down in a lift, ever so deep into
the darkness, and probably it was dangerous, but when I go down lifts and
see over mines, as when I wander among the tottering ruins of Messina, I
have learnt to hope that the accident will be some other day.  We saw
nearly naked men, monsters of the abyss, crouching in cavernous places,
pick-axing the sulphurous rock in the dim light of their miner's lamps,
while others were bringing broken pieces along the low, dark galleries
and sending them up in the trucks to the light.  And the workers were
groaning and moaning as they worked.  Day after day, always the same
monotonous groaning and moaning, always the same monotonous pick-axing
the rock in the dim light, always the same monotonous sending up the
broken pieces.  It was very hot in some places and very cold in others,
and I was glad to follow the broken pieces up and return to the fresh air
and the sunshine.

Beppe told me that Trabonella is the largest sulphur mine in Europe, that
the total length of its galleries is thirty kilometres, which is about as
far as from the Albert Hall to Windsor Castle.  They employ a thousand
miners, and the boys begin work outside the mine at twelve and inside at
fifteen.  There has been an alteration in the law; formerly they began
younger and were deprived of the little education for which they now have
time, and the hard work so deformed their tender bodies that they could
not pass the army test.  This is their modulation to the dominant, their
awakening to life.  It is not a pleasing prospect; nor is the early
autumn of ill-health and decrepitude to which it naturally leads any more
pleasing.  They pass their lives in the dark, morally and physically, and
frequently a sudden fall of rock cripples, if it does not destroy, the
victim; then there are broken pieces of a different kind to be taken
along the low dark galleries and brought up to the light.

I was in Caltanissetta one Saturday evening and saw the funeral of two
who had been killed in this way that morning.  First came a band playing
a funeral march, that was all the more melancholy because the instruments
were distressingly discordant, as though in their grief the men had not
had time to tune them.  Then came comrades carrying candles, and comrades
bearing first one coffin, then the second, plain wooden coffins with no
pall.  Others carried chairs on which the coffins were rested when the
bearers were changed.  There were no priests.  But there were priests the
next day for the wedding of another comrade.  Beppe told me that about 90
per cent of their funerals are conducted without priests and about 90 per
cent of their weddings are conducted with priests.

They told me of one sulphur-miner who, having seen enough funerals, left
the mine and went to Palermo in search of work.  He was taken on by a
contractor who was levelling a piece of high ground, on which blocks of
dwellings have since been erected behind the Teatro Massimo, and began
work at six o'clock one morning.  Five minutes later he was killed and
buried by a fall of earth.

In the mine they are in constant fear of this death.  They work very hard
and the air is bad; they come up to sleep, to eat and to gamble.  The air
they sleep in cannot be much better than that in the mine, for they are
laid out in close huts on shelves, like rolls of stuff in a draper's
shop.  They hardly know the difference between youth and age, between
spring and autumn.  They scarcely get a glimpse of the landscape except
on Saturdays and Sundays, and then they are intent upon something else.
After their week of labour they feel the necessity of expansion; they
receive their wages and go to Caltanissetta; those who are married sleep
with their wives, while those who are unmarried sleep quite alone as the
soldiers did after the death and burial of l'Invincible Monsieur
d'Malbrough.  They become free human beings for two days.  I have seen
the piazza full of them on Sunday morning--so full that I thought it
would have been easier to walk across it, treading on their heads, than
to push through the crowd.  Unfortunately their notion of the life of a
free human being does not stop at loafing about in the piazza.  They also
go to the wine shops, where they offer one another the means of
forgetting that their oases of rest lie in a desert of drudgery, and
sometimes this becomes the means of their forgetting everything else as
well.

Gigino has written a paper upon the connection between alcoholism and
crime.  He told me that the consumption of alcohol in Sicily is less than
in northern countries, but that there is more crime.  I naturally
inquired whether it would not tend to lessen the crime if the Sicilians
would drink rather more.  He replied that, as so often happens at the
beginning of any inquiry, there are other considerations and I must not
be in a hurry.  As for the sulphur-miners, they need not drink more, but
if they would spread fairly over the week the amount they consume during
Saturday and Sunday, then, although they would risk incurring the
consequences of chronic alcoholism, they would avoid those of acute
alcoholism.  For the need of expansion causes them to drink more than
they can stand all at once, then they quarrel and commit murders.  So
that many of those who begin life as boys in the mine, and week after
week escape the falling rocks, live to be killed in a drunken brawl, and
one does not know which prospect is the more ugly.

I asked whether their condition could not be improved by raising their
wages.  They asked whether I wished to dislocate the commerce of the
world by raising the price of sulphur.  I had no such desire and, indeed,
did not know, till they told me, that sulphur enters into so many
manufactures as it does.  Here again in seeking to ameliorate conditions
with which one is imperfectly familiar one must not be in a hurry.  It is
not altogether a question of raising their wages, they receive from four
and a half to five francs a day, which, for five days, amounts to between
twenty-two francs fifty and twenty-five francs a week; there are many
labourers who receive less and do more with it.  Of course, they would
like more wages--everyone would like more wages--but what the
sulphur-miners really want is the intelligence to use wisely what they
have and also some change, if it were possible, in the conditions under
which their work is done.  Beppe assured me that the question is not
being overlooked, but it has roots which extend further and are more
complicated than the galleries in the mine--roots which are tangled with
the roots of other questions affecting other interests, and these again
affect others.  So I bowed before the other considerations and hoped that
with the changes that are continually taking place in Sicily something
may soon be done for the sulphur-miners, trusting that in the meantime we
are not paying too dearly for the advantage of getting our sulphur so
cheap.



CHAPTER XIII
OMERTA AND THE MAFIA


When the drunken sulphur-miners quarrel and kill one another on Saturdays
and Sundays, the murderers are seldom brought to justice because of
Omerta; a word which is said to be derived from uomo and to signify
manliness in the sense of power of endurance, the power, for example, of
keeping silence even under torture; hence it comes to be used for an
exaggeration of that natural sense of honour, that Noblesse Oblige or
Decency Forbids, which makes an English schoolboy scorn to become a
sneak.  It may be false and foolish, it may be noble and chivalrous,
whatever it is, they say, it has such a firm growth among them because
the history of Sicily is the history of an island which has for centuries
been misgoverned by foreigners, and the people have lost any faith they
may ever have had in professional justice.  If one were to be involved
with a Sicilian in committing a crime, one might be perfectly certain
that he would never turn King's evidence, he would say, "Io son uomo, io
non parlo" ("I am a man, I know how to hold my tongue") and he would
rather die than betray an accomplice who is his friend and probably his
compare.  Nor need the criminal fear that the victim or anyone in the
secret whether accomplice or not, will blab.  A man with a wound on his
face, made obviously by a knife, will swear to the police that in drawing
a cork he fell and cut himself with the bottle.  He does not intend his
assailant to go unpunished, but he will not have the police interfering
if he can prevent it; he means to look after his own affairs himself.  If
a murder has been committed a crowd will collect round the murdered
man--a crowd that includes the police and also the murderer--but no one
has any idea who committed the crime, not even those who saw it done, and
not even the dying man, who may carry his assumption of ignorance so far
as to call his murderer to his side, embrace him affectionately and give
him a Judas-kiss which bears a double meaning; for the police and the
general public it is evidence that there can have been no ill-feeling
between the two, while for the friends of the murdered man it confirms
their suspicions as to the one on whom the vendetta is to be executed.
So many have told me this that I cannot help thinking that, if it really
is done as often as they say, it must by now have lost some of its power
of deceiving the police.  Probably it was done on some occasion which
took the public fancy, and they keep on repeating it because it makes a
dramatic close.

Giovanni Grasso has a play called _Omerta_:_ La Legge del Silenzio_.  Don
Andrea has been murdered by or at the instigation of Don Toto
(Salvatore), who is an overbearing bully, nevertheless Saru (Rosario) has
been sent to prison for the crime and, during his absence, his girl has
married Don Toto.  The play opens with the return from prison of Saru,
acted by Giovanni.  He comes to the house of his mother, with whom Don
Toto and his wife are living.  The length of the play is provided by the
disappointments attending his return: his setting up for himself and
painting paladins on Sicilian carts; a scene of passionate tenderness
with his mother, during which he convinces her of his innocence, but
refuses to reveal the name of the murderer which he has learnt in prison;
a beautiful interview with Pasqualino, his young brother, who shows he is
the right sort of boy by declaring of his own accord that he hates Don
Toto; a magnificent interrupted quarrel with Don Toto, and scenes with
the police and with the priest to whom Saru refuses to give any
information about the murder.  Towards the end Saru staggers in wounded.
They all try to make him tell the name of his murderer, but he will not.
Finally, he is left alone with Pasqualino to whom he gives his revolver
with these dying words:

"For Don Toto, when you shall be eighteen."

Pasqualino understands, kisses the pistol and accepts the obligation,
saying:

"I will see to it."

The others return and ask Pasqualino whether Saru told him anything
before he died, and Pasqualino, concealing the pistol in his bosom as the
Spartan boy concealed the fox, bravely answers:

"Nothing."

One may object to the play on the ground that it breaks off instead of
coming to a conclusion--one is left wishing to see Pasqualino, grown up
and acted by Giovanni, executing the vendetta--but it is a good play and
shows what is meant by omerta.  The dramatic critic of the _Times_ (2
March, 1910), on the morning after Giovanni produced it in London, opened
his notice of it thus: "Omerta must make things very difficult for the
Sicilian police."  This is precisely what they intend.

Without omerta the mafia would hardly flourish, and the mafia is not so
easy to understand.  I suppose the reason why Sicilians explain it badly
is that they understand it too well.  The inquiring outsider cannot see
the trees for the wood, and the explaining insider cannot see the wood
for the trees.  They labour to make clear things with which I am
familiar, and take for granted things which are strange to me, treating
me rather as my father treated the judges before whom he was arguing some
legal point.  Their lordships interrupted him:

"Yes, Mr. Jones, you say this is so and that is so, but you do not
produce any authority in support of your statements."

"Authority, my lord?" exclaimed my father, as though perhaps he might
have forgotten something: then, leaning over the desk, he said, in a
stage whisper: "Usher, bring me _Blackstone_--or some other elementary
work."

Thus we do not make much progress, but by degrees one picks up a few
ideas about it.

My friend Peppino Fazio, of Catania, allowed me to copy and translate
part of an article he wrote in a newspaper.  He is speaking of Palermo as
long ago as 1780:

    The Albergheria was the quarter that harboured those men who were
    most ready with their hands and most quarrelsome; they were expert
    also in using their knives, with which they fenced by rule and
    according to art; they obeyed a certain code of chivalry of their
    own, not permitting the weak or the unarmed to be bullied, treating
    as criminals those who used fraud and treachery, and not brooking the
    intervention of the police.  They were men whom an exaggerated
    sentiment of honour and of individual courage had decoyed from the
    path of social conventions, but in whom there was a fundamental
    notion of right conduct and a generosity at times magnanimous.  They
    held each other in great mutual respect, free from any element of
    servility or cowardice, not recognising grades, nor conferring any
    right to command--a respect that was the more profound according as
    its object was the more distinguished for acts of valour and grandeur
    of soul.  It was the tacit homage that one pays to heroes, poets,
    artists and to every kind of genius.

    These men, slowly degenerating, have produced the mafia, which is
    associated with bullying, blackmailing and crime.  The word mafia has
    been applied in this bad sense only in more recent times, as we are
    assured by those who have studied the subject.  The ancestors of the
    mafiosi used to call themselves Cristiani--that is Men in the sense
    of men of courage and silence.

    The Cristiano carried in one pocket his rosary and in the other his
    knife.  Outside his own class he recognised the higher social
    distinctions and, while preserving his own self-respect and never
    stooping to obsequiousness, felt for the galantuomini (that is for
    the townspeople) and for the signori (that is for the patricians) a
    real submission which he displayed both in acts and words by
    protecting their persons and their reputations; so that no thief or
    evil-liver dared to commit any crime against one who was known to be
    protected by a Cristiano.

One recognises about this something of the chivalry of Robin Hood and of
more modern highwaymen.  The conditions of life in the albergheria are
not identical with those of life in the open country, either in England
or in Sicily, nor with those of life in the orange-groves of the Conca
d'Oro round about Palermo.  Both in the Conca d'Oro and in the open
fields the guardians employed to protect the crops are all mafiosi and
are able to prevent the employment of any who are not.  The conditions in
a sulphur-mine again are different.  Confusion arises unless one knows
which conditions are present to the mind of him who is trying to explain
the mafia.  Besides which, the words mafia and mafioso are still often
used in a good sense.

There was something mafioso about Michelino when he was singing to us at
the mine, keeping us all in order and silencing the guitar with a wave of
his hand.  There is something of it in a girl who is not ashamed of her
beauty and does not blush to be admired.  It was the mafiosita of Guido
Santo, the mule, at Castellinaria, that sunny morning when he trotted up
and down in his new harness before taking us to the shore, which put it
into our heads to make it also his festa.  There is something of it in
the attitude of King Henry VIII, with his hat on one side and his arm
a-kimbo, as he appears in a full-length portrait by Holbein.  There was a
good deal of it in the conduct of Giovanni in his Teatro Machiavelli on
one occasion when a lady music-hall singer failed to please; the public
hissed her and made such an uproar that she could not proceed.  Giovanni
was, or pretended to be, furious.  He behaved to his audience as Nino
Bixio behaved to his men on the Sicilian expedition.  He came on and
abused them with gesticulation and language; he swore and stormed at
them; he appealed to their sense of chivalry; he threatened to come down
among them and teach them manners; he declared that they should hear her.
He made the piano-man play; he went and fetched the lady; he stood by her
side, frowning, with his arms folded, ready to break out, the
personification of angry determination and suppressed energy.  The people
acquiesced and listened.  When the singer had finished, they applauded;
and they were applauding not only her, but also Giovanni because he had
dominated them.  It is a small theatre and their numbers may have been
four or five hundred--it would depend upon the programme and the kind of
evening it was--but if it had been the Teatro Bellini he would have
subdued them just as well, unless there had been present someone to
resist him with a stronger personality, and his experience had taught him
that the chances were against that.

An imposing personality is a useless possession unless there are others
willing to be imposed upon, and it is this willingness to be dominated
quite as much as the love of dominating that makes the mafia possible.
If I may "quote from memory":

    Surely the pleasure is as great
    Of being beaten as to beat.

Possibly the Sicilian charm contains among its many ingredients a trace
of this love of being dominated which, in England, we associate more
particularly with women, spaniels and walnut trees; and if it were not
so, history might contain less about the misgovernment of the island by
foreigners.

The mafia is not like the Neapolitan Camorra, it is not an organised
society such as one reads about in books for boys, nor is it a recognised
trade union with a president, secretary, officers and so on.  It is
rather an esprit de corps, and no more a secret society than omerta is a
secret society; nevertheless, they speak of the mafia as being more
highly organised in some districts than in others, and there are secret
societies whose members are mafiosi, so that for a foreigner to speak of
the mafia as a secret society would appear to be an excusable error.

Among every collection of men, and even in a herd of bullocks, one is
always the acknowledged leader, and in a sulphur-mine it naturally
happens that one man has a more dominating personality, more prepotenza,
than any of the others; this capo-mafioso takes the lead and is king.
When, as often happens, he is a man with a respect for law and order,
willing to be useful to the managers, the mafia can and does supplement
in an amateur fashion the deficiencies of professional justice.  If
Giovanni Grasso were really a worker in a sulphur-mine, as he sometimes
appears to be on the stage, he would certainly take the lead, and no one
who knows him will believe that he could ever be capable of a bad action.
But few men can safely be trusted with absolute power.  Sometimes this
capo-mafioso is a villain who glories in a record of crime, a
brow-beating bully who will stick at nothing.  Here is a situation for a
melodrama--the Wicked Despot.  He does as he chooses with those around
him, who fear lest he should treat them as Don Toto treated Don Andrea
before the opening of _Omerta_, and as he treats Saru in the course of
the play; and they not only fear, they also admire an unscrupulousness of
which they feel themselves to be incapable.  They refer their disputes to
him and execute his orders.  They do not pay him money for adjudicating
between them, it is enough for him to have the satisfaction of being
asked to arbitrate and, by giving his decision and seeing that it is
carried out, he consolidates his power.  But he exacts from them a
percentage of their winnings at cards as tribute, and they pay it
willingly so as to keep on good terms with him.  Of course, under the
throne of any of these tyrants, among those who have sufficient daring,
conspiracies are continually surging and, sooner or later, whether he is
a good or a bad man, he has to give way to a stronger--perhaps a fresh
arrival, who takes the public fancy.  Sometimes there are two with
apparently an equal power of dominating; they agree not to quarrel
openly, but, between themselves, each is on the look-out for an
opportunity to annihilate the other's influence.

One Saturday, in the street at Caltanissetta, Beppe showed me marks of
bullets on the wall.  He said that only a week before there had been a
row among a score of men with revolvers about some question of precedence
among the mafiosi in a neighbouring mine arising out of the terms
proposed for ending a strike.  One of the men was killed and several were
wounded, but the question of precedence could not be settled that day
because the survivors were all put into prison.

According to the plays, the prisons are to the mafiosi what the ganglia
are to the nerves, and give the prisoners an opportunity for talking
matters over, thus providing an effective means of continuing the plot of
the drama.  And though the criminals feel secure in the knowledge that
omerta will prevent their confederates from giving information, yet the
police, of course, know who is who all the time, just as the police in
London know who are the criminals; the law, however, is jealous of the
rights of the people and does not move on suspicion.  And too much of the
modern police methods would not combine well with the requirements of
melodrama.

Beppe assured me that in his mine the mafiosi are mostly good fellows and
do not do any harm, except among themselves when they quarrel, get drunk
and murder one another.  He admits that the making use of them in the
management of the men is like playing with fire, but he agrees with all
who have gone into the matter that a stranger falling among them,
wherever he might meet them, would be treated with the most extreme
respect and courtesy.  This is not because they are afraid of giving
themselves away, distrusting the stranger's omerta, it is because they
have a real self-respect and wish to pass in the eyes of the world for
men of good position.  The presence of a stranger among them is a
challenge to their chivalry and to their oriental sense of hospitality.

Anyone wishing to study the mafia from books might begin with _La Mafia e
I Mafiosi_, by Antonio Cutrera, Delegato di Pubblica Sicurezza (Palermo.
Alberto Reber, 1900), and continue with _La Mala Vita di Palermo_ (_I
Ricottari_), by the same author.  If he will also read all the numerous
books by other authors cited in the notes to these two works he ought to
gain a fair knowledge of the subject.



CHAPTER XIV
MALA VITA


Sicilians sometimes claim that much of what has been stated in the
foregoing chapter is now out of date, and that, with the advance of
civilisation, the power of the mafia and the respect for omerta are
giving way to confidence in the police.  And they go on to regret that
Giovanni Grasso should have so much success with his plays in foreign
countries, because they contain a great deal of mafia and mala vita which
he presents with so much realism that foreigners are encouraged in the
idea that all Sicilians are for ever sleeplessly going about with knives
in their belts seeking to execute vendettas.  But most theatre-goers know
by this time that melodramas are not made up of the events of ordinary
life.  A man does not discover every day that he has been deceived by his
wife or that his sister has been betrayed by his compare; when he does
make such a discovery he may be pardoned if he loses his self-control.
Anyhow, the sleepless vendetta notion is so ludicrously contrary to the
fact that Sicily can afford to take the risk.  One might as well treat
seriously the complaint against the marionettes, that the swaggering talk
of Orlando and Rinaldo encourages the boys to behave in real life as
though every fancied insult must be wiped out with blood.  The boys
certainly do fight--they can be seen fighting in the fish-market, one
armed with a basket for his shield and another with a stick for his
sword, his Durlindana.  But boys fight, even in England, with no
marionettes to inflame their imaginations, and sometimes they cut one
another; still, no one would take too seriously the exclamation of that
schoolmaster who, on being called to deal with some such incident,
hurried from his study muttering:

"Knives, knives--dangerous weapons; would to heaven they had never been
invented!"

What was he going to do at dinner-time?  And if the marionettes are to be
abolished, what is the Sicilian boy to do when it is time for him to sit
down to his evening meal of romance?  It is even possible that if he were
starved of his marionettes he would more frequently substitute the
dangerous weapon for the stick.

We see Sicilian life only in bits at a time and any bit we see may turn
out on investigation to be only a bit of acting; and, whether real life
or acting, we see it through the veil of romance which is held in front
of it by their language and by their gestures, which cause their acting
to appear more real--that is, which help it to be more deceptive.  By
their language I do not mean merely their words and their grammar--we
also have a grammar, and our dictionary contains words as many and as
expressive as theirs--the romance is rather in their attitude of mind and
the consequent use they make of their words.  I have read with disgust in
an English newspaper an account of a squalid Pentonville murder which, as
described in a contemporary Italian journal, appeared worthy to be set to
music by Puccini.  We are like the audience in Giovanni's
theatre--dominated by the imposing romance of the language, and we prefer
to be so dominated.  Or we are like the audience in the teatrino at
Palermo, when the buffo performs a miracle; as soon as we get behind "la
mala vita" and see it as "the life of the criminal classes" we have
caught a glimpse of how the illusion is worked.

By their gestures I mean something about which in England, in France and
even in Northern Italy, nothing is known.  It is true that we Northerners
can and do communicate with one another in gesture, but in England we
mostly omit gesture and use speech, while in France and Northern Italy
the gesture is only slight.  A Sicilian sometimes omits words, but if he
omits gestures it is only by exercising great self-control.  When he is
talking naturally, every muscle of his body is at work helping him to
express his meaning.  It is as though he had not yet learnt to trust
speech, everything must be acted too, as half-educated people have not
yet learnt to trust the written word and if they read must read aloud.
At a cinematograph show, when a letter or telegram or the title of the
piece is shown on the screen, a murmur goes round the hall; it is the
people reading the writing out loud to assure themselves of its meaning.
So the talking Sicilian is telling everything twice, once with his voice
and once with his gestures and there is so much oil in his backbone that
there is nothing creaky, awkward or grudging in his movements; the
gestures are made with an exuberance, an intensity and a natural
unconscious beauty which seem to lift the matter above the plane of
ordinary life.  So habitual is this gesticulation that it is often
useless.  I have been behind the scenes in a marionette theatre, watching
the man declaiming for the figures.  His energy was tremendous, no wonder
he drank out of a black bottle from time to time.  I knew he was hidden
from the audience and thought he might be suggesting movements for the
marionettes to the man who was manipulating them, but that man could not
see him either and was improvising the movements of the figures unaided.

The gesticulating Sicilian, however, is not more deeply moved by what he
is describing than the phlegmatic Englishman is when he is quietly
telling something.  I have sometimes ventured to laugh at the Sicilian
for his unnecessary vehemence, and he has stopped in the middle of it all
and joined in the laughter.  It would be extremely interesting to see
Giovanni Grasso in the part of an English gentleman, a Wyndham or a
Hawtrey part.  I believe he would succeed because I believe he would
succeed in anything he set his mind to do, but for him to reproduce an
Englishman's tranquillity would be as much of an effort as it would be
for an English actor to reproduce a Sicilian's mobility.

Their power of acting is not confined to those who are actors by
profession; the love of improvising little scenes in daily life may be
said to be characteristic of them.  To suppose that they do this from a
love of lying would be to simplify unduly; they have the artist's power
of seeing a thing in two senses at once, and they assume that they will
not be misunderstood, at all events, they are not going to give it all
away by explaining, and if the stranger is taken in--well, as a rule, it
does not very much signify.  Just as omerta makes things difficult for
the Sicilian police, so this love of acting makes things difficult for
the foreign traveller.  There is a story in the form of a dialogue
between a foreigner in Palermo inquiring of a native about a tree that
was clipped into a fantastic shape.  It can hardly be given in English
because it turns on the double meaning of "naturale," which means
sometimes "natural" and sometimes "naturally," but if it be added that
"scusi" = "excuse me"; "quest' albero" = "this tree"; "e" = "is"; "o" =
"or," any reader will be able to understand it:

FOREIGNER: Scusi, Signore; quest' albero e artificiale o naturale?

PALERMITAN: Artificiale.

FOR: Oh, artificiale?

PAL: Naturale.

FOR: E naturale?

PAL: Artificiale.

FOR: (_getting irritated_): Scusi, Signore; quest' albero e artificiale o
naturale?

PAL: Artificiale, naturale.

And then the foreigner goes home and writes a book about his travels,
saying that the natives are so stupid they do not even know whether their
trees are clipped into odd shapes by nature or art.  But the apparently
grave and courteous Palermitan knew what he was doing all the time and
was enjoying it as a child enjoys committing a harmless piece of
mischief.

If one were to pierce through it and understand them as they may be
supposed to understand themselves, one would not necessarily be in a
position to give an opinion about the mafia, for, besides those who speak
of the growing confidence in the police, there are others who assert that
the improvement, if any, is slight and only on the surface, and that the
spirit of the mafia is not confined to the mala vita, but extends to the
upper classes and influences even the administration of justice and the
elections.  When the natives differ on such a point, a mere foreigner can
hardly decide; but I have more frequently heard the opinion expressed in
favour of improvement.  Certainly, in the Teatro Machiavelli, when
murderers are taken by the police it is often done now with the approval
of the audience, which they tell me would not have been the case some
years back.

Before writing about the mala vita one ought at least to have seen a man
murdered in the street.  I have never seen this, nor have I ever even
seen the body of a murdered man lying in the street.  All that I know
about the mala vita in Sicily has been gathered from conversation, books
and plays.  Lest it should be thought that in thus disclaiming practical
knowledge of the subject I am inspired by omerta--as a traveller may shut
his eyes to unpleasant incidents out of regard for his hosts--I will here
collect together all the occasions when I have thought myself to be in
the immediate neighbourhood of the mala vita.

At Castellinaria the barber who keeps the shop opposite the Albergo della
Madonna--the shop in which Alfio Mascalucia was assistant--always seemed
to me to be a man one would readily trust with all one's possessions.  He
must be now over forty, married and with a family.  Peppino told me the
other day that in his youth, meaning between the ages of eighteen and
twenty-six, this barber had been a notorious ricottaro and had often been
in prison for crimes of various kinds.  When I heard this, his extremely
courteous manner reminded me of the Robin Hood side of the Cristiani, and
of the oriental hospitality of the mafiosi towards strangers.  I asked
Peppino whether I ought to discontinue my custom.  He said not unless I
was dissatisfied with him as a barber.  Then I realised that I must have
forgotten where I was for the moment.

Carmelo and his brother Rosario at Castellinaria have both been in prison
for attempting to murder, but they can neither of them be said ever to
have belonged to the class of habitual criminals.

In the Teatro Machiavelli Peppino Fazio gave me as a ricordo one of the
knives used by the mafiosi.  The blade doubles on the handle, so that
when open it is about twice as long as when shut; some are as long as
twenty-four inches when open, mine is only eighteen.  Being intended for
the theatre, it has never been sharpened or pointed but, except for this
it is a real mala vita knife.  They told me there would be nothing to
fear so long as I continued the life of blameless respectability which
had no doubt become habitual to me--or some nonsense of that kind--but
that if I should happen to be caught by the police in doubtful
surroundings and searched, even this knife, in spite of its arrested
adolescence, might get me into trouble.

"So you had better be careful," said one of them; "but if you do get put
into prison, let us know and you shall be treated as well as any
ricottaro.  I will bring you a good dinner every day."

"Yes," said another, "and I will bring you cigarettes."

"And I," said a third, "will fetch your linen and bring it back to you
nicely washed and ironed."

Whenever I show my knife to any of my English friends, for I am happy to
say I got it safely home, they always exclaim that it is an entirely
prosaic object.  And so it is.  It is as unromantic as an escape of gas.

Several times I have been in a theatre when the performance has been
interrupted by a disturbance among the audience, but I have never seen it
develop into a serious row.

Once in Palermo my bedroom looked over a small piazza, and one night I
heard talking and looked out.  I saw a crowd and distinguished a man
disputing from below with another man on a balcony about fifteen feet
from mine, and there was a woman in the room behind him.  The dispute was
all in dialect, but evidently they were very angry.  Presently the man on
the balcony drew a revolver, it shone in the doubtful light, and he
threatened the man below; but nothing further happened and presently the
crowd dispersed, the man on the balcony retired and all was quiet.
Perhaps this was the prelude to a murder, and I may have read about it
afterwards in the newspaper without knowing how near I had been to the
crime.

There was one other occasion when I thought I was going to see something
of the mala vita.  On the cliff at Castellinaria are some remains of
polygonal buildings which have been made a national monument.  The
custode's cabin is just below, in a sheltered place where Peppino and I
sometimes go and sit after supper.  One moonlight evening, it was rather
late, but the lamp was still shining in the cabin and the custode was
still hanging about, I heard someone approaching and, looking up, saw,
against the sky, a sinewy, slight woman in a long black dress with a
black shawl over her head.  She was coming rapidly along the edge of the
cliff with a shuffling, swaying motion, and as she came she was
continually rearranging the shawl over her head and chattering volubly to
herself in a hoarse, coarse, raucous voice.  The custode glanced at her
as she drew near and I thought he flinched.  I do not know how I knew it,
but I was sure she was his wife.  She was beside herself with passion.
She must have found out something--something about some other woman.  I
felt as I have felt at an Ibsen play--as though I were looking through
the keyhole into a room where dirty linen was about to be washed.  She
shook and trembled all over like an express train approaching a country
station.  Reason told me that Peppino and I were safe, we were on the
platform; nevertheless accidents do happen and there was the poor custode
on the line.  She drew up in front of us, and her draperies swirled round
her with the suddenness of her stopping.  She became silent and still,
while she looked at me as though fixing my appearance on her brain for
this life and the next; she looked at Peppino in the same way and at the
custode.  Then the chattering began again and the restless rearranging of
her shawl over her head.  Suddenly she turned, poured herself into the
cabin and exploded.  It was not as with an earthquake, for the walls were
left standing and the roof and foundations were unshaken, and an
earthquake, they say, seems to last for an eternity, whereas this woman
seemed to take but a moment to complete her work of desolation.  She
pounced upon something among the debris and laughed hysterically as she
hid it in her bosom.

The storm was over.  She was transformed into a rather beautiful and
extremely graceful woman of about thirty.  She exchanged a few words of
friendly chaff with her husband, smiled at Peppino and bowed to me as she
passed out, went up the path against the moonlit sky and faded into the
night.

All this was about a pack of cards.  She had promised to lend the cards
to a neighbour that evening; her husband was to have brought them home
early in the day; he had forgotten to do so and she had come to fetch
them.  So there was no murder and no dirty linen, but the cabin had to be
tidied.

What would this woman do had she the motive and the cue for passion that
I had supposed for her?  If her husband ever does entertain another lady
in his cabin and his wife hears of it, I hope I may not be in the
neighbourhood.  But if I were to be there and to witness the crime,
omerta would forbid me, as a good Sicilian, to say anything about it.  I
should have to forget the claims of justice and go to prison, if
necessary, rather than give such information as might lead to the
conviction of the person or persons guilty.

Lastly, there was the lady in the restaurant-car--but perhaps she ought
not to be included in the list.  Let her have the benefit of the doubt
and a chapter to herself.



CASTELLINARIA


CHAPTER XV
THE CARDINALESSA


One day, as I was travelling through the island by rail, I lunched in the
restaurant-car and divided my attention between the colazione, the view
and the other lunchers.

At the table in front of me sat three gentlemen; beyond them, at a
separate table, sat a distinguished-looking lady, quietly but well
dressed in foamy white musliny stuff, with a good deal of lace and a few
touches of pale green.  She had a lovely hat and a veil, which she wore
in such a way that I thought how well she would look in a motor-car.  She
did not appear to be much over thirty, and she was alone except that she
had a little dog, whom she fed from her plate and who was evidently very
fond of her.  She was not strictly beautiful, her face depended for its
charm more on its expression than on the regularity of its features, but
there was about her a certain indescribable combination of dignity and
vivacity that was curiously attractive, and that soon attracted the three
gentlemen, who, I presently became aware, had entered into conversation
with her.  Possibly they had asked the waiter to introduce them while I
was looking out of the window.  Certainly they cannot have met her
before, because I heard them ask her her nationality, and she told them
that her father was an Italian, a native of Rome, and that her mother was
French.  And where was she going?  To some place whose name I did not
catch.  Then she must change at the junction.  Yes, but there would be no
difficulty because she was accustomed to travelling, she had travelled in
China, India, Egypt and America.  No doubt she was gifted by nature with
that happy temperament which enables its possessor to make friends
easily, and her extensive travels had provided opportunities for its
cultivation.  I supposed the three gentlemen to be accountants or
advocates or perhaps engineers; but I thought from her manner that she
would have been just as much at her ease if they had been carabinieri.  I
heard her tell them she was twenty-two; she must have been very young
when she began her travels.

While the waiter was making out our bills, one of the gentlemen begged
her to grant him a favour.  She smiled in her frank open way as an
encouragement to him to name it, and he declared that he should consider
it an honour if she would permit him to pay for her luncheon.  The lady
accepted his generosity, and granted his request with a smile of such
queenly condescension that I had a vision of great Elizabeth stepping
upon Raleigh's cloak.

Presently this gentleman went and sat by himself at a table for two and
the lady joined him.  This appeared to me a little odd; he might just as
well have sat at her table, or have invited her to sit at his with the
other two gentlemen, there was room and it would have been less marked.
But they seemed to prefer to start a little colony of their own, as it
were, on neutral ground.  The gentleman made another proposal: A glass of
wine?  With pleasure.  So the waiter brought it, and then the lady
accepted a cigarette.

At the junction the lady and the gentleman both got out, and I saw him
help her into her train, which started first for the place whose name I
had not caught.  Then he got into his train, which was labelled
"Castellinaria," and I went on without changing.  A few days later,
however, I returned to the junction, changed there and followed the
accountant to Castellinaria, where I was going to see my friend Antonio,
who happened to be engaged there on an engineering job.  In the evening I
told him about the lady in the restaurant-car.  He laughed and said:

"But this lady is a particular friend of mine.  She is often here, she
returned two days ago and told me all this herself, only last night.  If
you would like to make her acquaintance I will take you to see her."

So we went to her hotel, which was not the Albergo della Madonna.  She
received us in her bedroom, for which she apologised charmingly--so
charmingly as to make it appear the most natural thing in the world to be
received by her in her bedroom.  She remembered seeing me in the train,
and begged me to sit down.  She had a visitor--a gentleman.  It was the
gentleman who had paid for her luncheon in the restaurant-car.  I was
introduced, and he was, as I had supposed, an accountant.  The lady was
less elaborately clad than on the occasion of our previous meeting.  Just
as her other costume was precisely what it should have been for a
restaurant-car, so this was precisely adapted to her present
surroundings.  She evidently understood dress.  And very pretty it was to
see her busying herself about the room, entertaining her guests and
playing with her little dog.  He was not the only little dog she had ever
had.  Her previous companion, who had been given her by a Neapolitan
gentleman, died, and she wept for six weeks and was inconsolable until
another friend gave her this one.  She thought first of calling him
Vesuvio, which was the name of his predecessor, but could not bring
herself to do so.  Then she had the inspiration to call him Etna, which
suited him better, because he was a trifle bigger; it was also a kind of
complimentary reference to her first love.  While she told us this she
was making coffee with a spirit lamp on the chest of drawers.  She had a
speciality for making coffee, and really it was quite drinkable.

She gave us the story of her life.  She was the niece of a cardinal, in
whose person were accumulated all the apostolic virtues, and her mother
was a French lady of noble birth and almost incredible beauty, who, when
Mary, or Mery as she prefers to write it, was about two months old,
married the cardinal's coachman and had eleven more children.  When one
draws a conclusion from insufficient data, it is always satisfactory to
discover, as one too seldom does, that one was right.  I had been right
about the gentleman being an accountant, and here I was right again in my
surmise that the lady was exceptionally highly connected, so highly that
one could overlook her mother's mesalliance with the coachman.  Her uncle
was only a bishop at the time of her birth, he became a cardinal soon
after Mery's mother married the coachman, and then he forced the coachman
to legitimise Mery, and in this way the coachman became Mery's legal
father; and all this was part of a scheme to accelerate the
ecclesiastical preferment of her uncle.  Ah! but he was an ambitious man
and aspired to the throne of S. Peter.  His scheme failed, however, owing
to the wicked intrigues of the Jesuits.

Parts of this might have borne, I do not say amplification, for it was
quite long enough, but a word or two of elucidation.  I have no doubt
Mery would have been quite ready to explain everything, for she had
nothing to conceal and the subject would have done as well as any other
to display her feminine charm, but I did not interrupt, because I have
observed that when a thorough woman of business undertakes to elucidate a
point of law, she does it so much in the manner of Mrs. Nickleby that she
not infrequently leaves it more obscure than she finds it.  Mery did not
expressly say she was a woman of business, she, in fact, disclaimed any
such pretension, but she did it with a delightful mock modesty that
forbade us to take her words literally.

No expense was spared over Mery's education.  She was sent to a convent
at Marseilles and the nuns were very kind to her, not because of her
ecclesiastical connection, but because they were holy women with large
and noble hearts.  Before her education was completed, however, she was
sent for to return home, and oh, what a home it was!  Her mother's health
had broken down because the cardinal beat her, her legal father drank
instead of protecting his wife, the younger children were uncared-for and
the elder children, though they were growing up, had not Mery's business
capacity and powers of management.  She put her shoulder to the wheel,
did the marketing, the cooking and the cleaning; she washed and mended
the children's clothes and saw to everything.  She hated the life, but
woman was born to suffer and she did her duty.

In time her next sister married a music-hall singer--I should say a
dramatic artist.  Mery, who was now entering upon the heyday of her youth
and beauty, was naturally introduced to the friends of her sister's
husband.  Every man in the company fell in love with her; all the
bachelors proposed, and without her natural firmness, reinforced by the
teaching of the holy nuns, she could scarcely have escaped matrimony.
There was another thing that helped to save her--she was waiting for her
anima gemella.  I may here say that her anima gemella has not yet crossed
her path and that her real age is twenty-seven.  She told us this in
confidence and it is not to go any further.  For people in
restaurant-cars she is any age she thinks proper at the moment, they do
not matter, but she will never deceive her friends.

Her sister's husband was a man of real insight; he divined that Mery was
a heaven-inspired dancer, and devoted himself to the development of her
genius.  She did not say he had taught her to dance; she said he
encouraged and developed her natural genius for dancing.  She made her
debut with a success which the newspapers declared to be even more
"phenomenal" than that which attends the debut of every artist.
Engagements followed, and soon she was dancing practically all over the
globe, creating a furore wherever she went and leaving the younger
children's socks to wash and darn themselves.  Her mother was too ill and
her legal father too drunk to know what she was doing or where she was
doing it, but His Eminence heard and was so much scandalised that when
she danced into the Eternal City the doors of the Vatican were closed to
her.  Cardinals are delightful men, most of them--and Mery knows because
she is on terms of intimacy with every member of the College--but too
frequently they have a fault; they do not understand the artistic
temperament.  Nevertheless, if her uncle could have heard the cheers that
greeted her in Shanghai and New York, and the encores that called her
back in Cairo and Calcutta, if he could have seen the flowers that choked
the wheels of her carriage in St. Petersburg and the diamonds that were
showered upon her in Brazil, even his commonplace heart must have been
moved.

She did not dance for us because, it seems, they do not dance when they
are resting, which was perhaps the psychological reason, but there was
also a geographical reason in the want of space, for the room was small
and contained, besides Mery and Etna in one arm-chair, another arm-chair
and two ordinary chairs occupied by her visitors; also there was the
chest of drawers on which she had made the coffee and all such other
articles of furniture as one usually sees in a hotel bedroom, including
two beds.  The extra bed was there because Mery was, she confessed it, of
luxurious habits and in the hot weather liked to be able to change and
finish the night in a cool bed.

Here there came a pause, not that she was exhausted, but something had
happened about the little dog, who required attention.  When Etna's
business had been settled I thought it might be tactful if I suspended
the inconvenience, as they say, so I asked Antonio whether we ought not
to go and we begged leave to retire.  She wished us good night in her
frank, open way, thanked me for my visit, inquired how long I was staying
in the town and concluded with the hope that I would call again, she
never went out, so I should be sure to find her at any time.  It should
not be Addio, it should be Arrivederci.

There are few places where I am more at home than I am in Castellinaria,
but as I had come there this time expressly to see Antonio he considered
it his duty to look after me; he was engaged next day, however, so he
deputed two of his friends to amuse me, and they invited me to come for a
drive to the lighthouse.  On the way, one of them said:

"And so Antonio took you yesterday to pass an intellectual evening with
the cardinalessa."

"Yes," I replied.  "What a charming woman and what a strange life!"

They agreed, somewhat coldly as it seemed to me, and they rather markedly
refrained from developing the subject I had offered them; but they
proposed a counter subject.  In a few days it would be Mery's onomastico
and they were going to send flowers.  I should be in Palermo, would not I
send her a message on a picture post-card?  Of course I would.  So
between us we composed it:--

    Auguri per l' onomastico.  Ringraziamenti per la serata intellettuale
    e per il caffe.  Saluti--non piu, per timore di ingelosire nostro
    amico Antonio.

                                             Devotissimo suo Enrico. {183}

This was the address:--

                                          ALL' EMINENTISSIMA CARDINALESSA,
                                                           MERY SO-AND-SO,
                                                   ALBERGO DELL' ALLEGRIA,
                                                            CASTELLINARIA.

I chose a card with a picture of St. Peter's; this seemed more
appropriate than una ballerina qualunque, which I might have had for the
same money, because her onomastico was the 8th September, the birthday of
the Madonna, and it was her uncle who had given her the name of Mery and
had himself baptised her.

I left Castellinaria next day with the card in my pocket ready to be
posted on the 7th September, and went to Palermo, where I know a young
doctor.  I told him all about it and showed him the post-card.  When he
saw Mery's real name he burst out laughing.

"Oh! that woman!  Why, I know her quite well.  She was here with a friend
of mine, who asked me to attend her professionally--I mean in my
professional capacity.  Oh! nothing serious, but we had to communicate
with her people and I know all about her.  She is not a normal woman.  Of
course, that rigmarole about the cardinal is all nonsense.  She is the
daughter of a fisherman of Siracusa.  She did dance here once for a few
nights, but only at the Biondo, and no one noticed her, she was in one of
the back rows of the ballet.  Did they tell you why she returned to
Castellinaria?"

They had said nothing about it, and my doctor, not being a friend of
Antonio and therefore not bound by any ties of omerta, gave me an account
of it.

It happened a few months previously: Mery was living in Palermo in a
hotel, and her room had a balcony; the next balcony belonged to a room
occupied by a young lady and her family, and the young lady was engaged
to an officer.  One day Etna strayed on to the neighbouring balcony and
behaved in a manner that displeased the young lady whose betrothed
complained to the proprietor and Mery was requested to leave.  She, of
course, saw that all this about her dog was merely a casus belli
concealing a conspiracy to insult her, and indignantly refused to go.
Next day, while the officer was sitting with his friends outside his
usual caffe, Mery happened to pass on her way to buy a stamp and post a
letter.  She spoke to the officer, saying:

"You think a lot of yourself, don't you?"

The officer requested her not to address him, whereupon, taking the law
into her own hands, she went up to him and made a hole in her manners by
scratching his face.  A crowd began to collect.  Mery permitted herself
the use of an expression.  It was a Sicilian word, my doctor told me what
it was and also its meaning; it appeared to me rather silly than
offensive, but he assured me that it is never used except by people of
the very lowest class.  Mery then made more holes in her manners,
reducing them to the condition of one of her father's fishing-nets, and
was attempting to do the same with the officer's face when the crowd
interfered; Mery was hissed and handed over to the police, who prepared
her papers, took her to the railway station and turned her out of the
town.

Incidents such as this, by showing Mery that Sicily is no longer being
misgoverned by foreigners, may in time, perhaps, teach her not to
distrust professional justice.  They also may in time, perhaps, teach
travellers not to trust to conclusions based upon insufficient data about
distinguished-looking ladies in restaurant-cars.

But I sent her the post-card all the same.



CHAPTER XVI
THE CORPORAL


One makes friends rapidly in Sicily.  I made friends for life with all
the coast-guards during three or four hours which I spent with them in
their caserma.  The corporal was the most demonstrative, and after I
returned to England we exchanged post-cards for some months.  Then he
suddenly left off writing, and I drew the conclusion that it is as easy
to unmake friends as to make them.  But I was wrong.  After four and a
half years of undeserved neglect I received another post-card:

    Since the death of one of my sisters and the occurrence of several
    other family troubles I have not been able before this day to write
    and assure you of the great affection which I continue to nourish
    towards you.  For this I beg your pardon and your indulgence.  I
    should have much pleasure in writing you a long letter and in telling
    you many things.  Do you permit me to do so?

I gave the required permission, and presently received the long
letter--much too long to be reproduced, but amounting to this:

That he was sorry to hear I had had a cold, and wished he could have had
it instead; we could only hope that heaven would give me good health for
a hundred years; that he was now writing the long letter about which
there had been delay in consequence of his having been away at home on
leave when the necessary permission reached him; that he had no words in
which to express his joy at hearing that I was soon coming to Sicily, as
it was now sixty-three months since he had been in my presence.  "Year
after year and I have not seen you, spring after spring and I have not
seen you, autumn after autumn and I have not seen you, and I have always
looked for your coming and have not seen you."

He went on to say that the young lady to whom he was engaged was a
beautiful and honest girl, well educated and of a superior but
unfortunately poor family.  He was longing for the day when he might
introduce her to me, for he had now been engaged over four years, and his
misery was that he did not know when they could be married.  He was
thirty-five, and had been in service fifteen years and a half; on
attaining forty he would be able to retire from the service and marry,
but in the meantime he was losing all his youth under military
discipline; he had applied for a permanent government post which might be
given him at any moment, and then he could retire from the coast-guard
service and return to his business; he was a carpenter by trade, and
there would then be no obstacle to his marrying.  And sometimes he was in
despair because he could marry at once if only he could deposit 8000
francs--a sum that was beyond his means.  He saw no way out of his
trouble.  He had been very unfortunate ever since he was born, and
supposed he should continue to be so until he died; but he had always
been economical, and had saved about half the sum required; if only he
could get the remaining 4000 francs it would be a great good fortune, and
in a few days he hoped to send me his photograph together with that of
his young lady.

I replied congratulating him on his engagement and regretting that it was
not in my power to help him to hasten his marriage.  Even if there had
been any reason why I should help him I should not have contemplated
mixing myself up with the regulations regarding the marriage of
coast-guards made by a friendly nation.  If one were to begin, it would
take a great deal of money to go round Italy endowing all the coastguards
who want to marry; not that he had asked me to do this, he had not even
asked me to help him, but it is as well to be prepared for what seems
likely to happen next, and I was using a sanctified form of refusal.

In his reply he did not mention the subject; he said he had been
transferred to Castellinaria and had been promoted.  He was now Caporale
Maggiore.  I did not know before that coastguard corporals, like musical
scales and Hebrew prophets, could be either major or minor.

I again congratulated him, and hoped his promotion might help to hasten
his marriage.  Next time I was at Castellinaria I asked Peppino where I
should find the caserma of the Guardia di Finanza.

"It is in the church," said Peppino.

"What church?  Not the duomo?"

"No; this other church where is no longer the praying and they shall
enchant no more the Glory of the Mass with music and the bells are not
ringing and there is the cortile near the sea.  It is not very long far."

Then I knew he meant the disused church of S. Maria dell' Aiuto which I
had often admired.  I called there the following day about three in the
afternoon and inquired for the corporal.  His comrade who let me in took
me along two sides of a beautiful cloister, with sculptured marble
columns, and upstairs into the barber's shop, where we found the corporal
with a towel round his neck being shaved.  He was so surprised to see me
that I was afraid there would be an accident, but the barber was clever
and nothing serious happened.  After the shaving he took me into the
dormitory, which extends all along one side of the cloister on the first
floor with windows looking on the grass and flowers of the cortile on one
side and over the sea on the other--very fresh and healthy.  Some of his
comrades, who had been on duty all night, were sleeping in their beds,
other beds were empty, and their owners were blacking their boots and
polishing their buttons.  He told them to entertain me, which they did
while he finished his dressing.  He then returned and proposed taking me
out.

As we went along he asked whether he might take me to see his young lady.
I was surprised to hear she was in the town, knowing it was not her
native place, and asked whether the remaining 4000 francs had dropped
from heaven.  He replied that he was still waiting.  He was to have a
month's leave soon, and intended to take the girl to his home and
introduce her to his family; in the meantime he had hired a room, and it
was very expensive--twenty francs a month, in the house of most
respectable people.  I foresaw complications when they should arrive at
home, at least I thought the journey might provoke remark among the
friends of the family, but I said nothing, and we went to the house of
the respectable people.  Here I was introduced to the fidanzata, whose
name was Filomena, and who appeared to be, as he had said, rather above
him in station and of refined and lady-like manners.  She was
embroidering the top part of a sheet--the part that is turned down and
lies over the pillow when the bed is made--no doubt for her trousseau.
The design had been traced and traced again from the tracing so often
that it was difficult to say what it represented.  There was a balustrade
of columns like those that were taken from old Kew Bridge and sold to
support sun-dials; there were cauliflowery arabesques, and among the
spiky foliage there were meaningless ponds of open-work made by gathering
the threads of the linen together into wonderful patterns.  In the middle
of all this stood one who after a few more tracings will have quite lost
the semblance of a woman; the five fingers of her hands and the five toes
of her feet had already become so conventionalised that all one could be
sure of was that there were still five of each.  The corporal said that
this monster was Helen gazing out to sea from the topless towers of
Ilium.  She was really looking the other way, exhibiting to the spectator
all that remained of the face that launched the thousand ships of which
half a dozen were shown riding at anchor behind her back.  I did not
venture to criticise, because the corporal knew all about it, having seen
the _Story of Hector_ done by the marionettes.  Filomena was embroidering
this most beautifully; I should say that the needle-working of it was as
much above all praise as the design of it was beneath all blame.

Most of the room was taken up by a bed large enough to hold three or four
Filomenas without crowding, and upon it lay a mandoline and a guitar.
The corporal called for music; Filomena cheerfully complied, left her
broidery-frame, and took up the mandoline, whose only title to be
considered a musical instrument is that Mozart uses it for the pizzicato
accompaniment which Don Giovanni plays while he sings "Deh Vieni."
Filomena, knowing nothing about Mozart, used her mandoline for the
delivery of a melody which she performed with great skill, though it was
but a silly tune and sounded sillier than it was because of the
irritating tremolo.  It was like her embroidery--very well done but not
worth doing.  She had been taught the mandoline by the nuns, who had also
taught her needlework.  I expected the corporal to accompany her on the
guitar; he admitted that he was passionately devoted to music, but
excused himself from performing on the ground that he had not studied it.
This is not usually put forward as an objection; the rule is for them to
play and tell one, unnecessarily but with some pride, that they are doing
it all by ear.  And in their accompaniment they show themselves to be
artists of the school that preaches "Simplify, simplify, simplify" in
that they exclude all harmonies except those of the tonic, dominant and
sub-dominant.  But they make the mistake of not being careful always to
play each in its right place; they carry their simplifying process to the
length of using their chosen harmonies in regular order, one after the
other, two bars each--it may come right and it may not, and when it does
not the resulting complexities ruin the simplicity.  This sort of thing
might become unbearable, but I know how to escape from people of the
corporal's class without being rude.  I do not tell them I have another
engagement--that is not accepted because, as there is no time in Sicily,
punctuality is not recognised.  If they have a proverb about it, it ought
to be, "Never put off till to-morrow what can be done the day after."
Nor do I say I have letters to write--that only provokes discussion:

"We thought you had come all this way to see us, and now you want to
write to England!  You can talk to your English friends when you are at
home."

The course is to say one wants to sleep; one need not sleep, but no
objection is made, and one is usually allowed to depart at once.  I have
not ventured to try this among my aristocratic friends, I doubt whether
it would work with them--besides, they disarm me by handing round
tea--but with corporals I employ it freely, and the knowledge that I can
always get away in a moment, even if I choose to remain, imparts to their
company a sense of freedom which I regret to say I have sometimes looked
for in vain in the educated drawing-rooms of the upper classes.

Before Filomena could begin her third piece I put my method in practice,
and for once it did not work quite smoothly, but the result was not
unsatisfactory.

Certainly I might sleep, said the corporal; but why go away?  He hoped I
should dine with them.  I might name my own hour and, as for sleeping,
there was the bed.  Besides, his brother was coming to dinner:

"I want you to know my brother," said the corporal; "he is not like me."

"But, my dear Corporal, that is no recommendation," I replied.  "Is he
also a coast-guard?"

"No.  He is a dentist and very clever.  He is an artificial dentist and
he had to work to learn his profession."

"Well, I suppose every dentist must learn his profession before he is
qualified.  Dentists have to be made, they are not like poets.  No one is
a natural born dentist."

"He had to work very hard.  For a whole year he went to the hospital
every day four times a week."

"A clever dentist is a useful ally.  I should like to know him.  I might
want his help while I am here.  What is his name?"

"Ah yes!  That will interest you, he has an English name."  Then he said
something that sounded like "He ran away" with the "r" and the "w" both
misty.  As I did not recognise it, he wrote it down for me--"Ivanhoe."

"If you send him your teeth," continued the corporal, "he will repair
them and return them to you as good as new."

"Some of them are getting loose," I admitted, "but they wouldn't come out
so easily as you think, and how should I ever get them in again?--Oh, I
see what you mean, he is a dentist in artificial teeth."

"Of course.  When I say he is not like me, I mean that he is a man of
great learning, really well educated.  He is very clever.  You will see
him at dinner.  I must not keep you talking, you wish to sleep.  There is
the bed; why not lie down?  If only we were in my own house at home--"
and so on.

There was the bed, certainly, if I could conquer my bashfulness and make
use of it.  Filomena treated the proposal as quite natural, and put the
guitar and the mandoline on the chest of drawers, though there would have
been plenty of room for them on the bed with me; she and the corporal
prepared to leave the room, and I accepted their hospitality with excuses
which I fancy I made with some realism because Peppino had kept me up
talking half the night.  They went away, I took off my boots, lay down on
Filomena's bed, and was asleep in a moment.

At about six o'clock the noise of the corporal opening the door woke me.
He hoped he had not disturbed me, he had been in several times to fetch
things and had tried to make no noise.  I had known nothing about it.
Ivanhoe had come and was very hungry.  Then he showed me the cupboard
containing the basin and water for me to wash, and told his fidanzata we
were ready for the dinner which she had been cooking while I slept.  He
seemed to consider the room as his instead of hers--but then it was he
who was paying the twenty francs a month.  Still I had a sense as though
there was something wrong.

I was introduced to Ivanhoe, and we sat down to Filomena's dinner, which
was like her embroidery and like her music--it was very well cooked, but
the materials on which her skill had been expended were not worth
cooking, they ought not to have been bought.  The young lady was one of
those artists who think more of treatment than of subject.  The corporal,
on the other hand, in the management of his matrimonial affairs, had
chosen a good subject but was treating it in a way which my English
prejudices made me think too free.

"I have not asked after your cold," said the corporal to his brother.  "I
hope it is better."

"It is quite well, thank you," replied Ivanhoe.  "I have cured it with a
remedy that never fails."

"I wish you could tell me what it is," I said.

"Willingly," said Ivanhoe.  "You take a pail of water and a piece of
iron; you make the iron red-hot and plunge it into the water; at first
the water fizzles, but when the iron is cold the water is still; you put
the water into bottles and drink one every day with your dinner.  It
always cures a cold."

"I must try it," I said.  But I don't think I shall.

"Surely you know how to cure colds in England, where you all live in a
perpetual fog and everyone is so rich that they can afford to make
experiments?"

"We have poor people also in England."

But Ivanhoe knew better.  "No," he said, smiling indulgently, "that is
your English modesty; there are no poor people in your country."

"I assure you I have seen plenty.  And as for modesty, I don't care very
much about modesty--not for myself; I don't mind it in others."

"Ah! but you English are so practical."

"You have great men in England," said the corporal.  "Chamberlain,
Lincoln, you call him il presidente, and Darwin and--"

"Yes," interrupted Ivanhoe, "and great poets, Byron and Milton--il
Paradiso Perduto--and that other one who wrote the drama named--what is
his name?  Gladstone."

"Some of our poets have written drama," I said.  "What particular drama
do you mean?"

"The one--it is from the History of Rome," replied Ivanhoe.  "A man kills
his wife, but I do not remember his name."

"Was it Romeo?" suggested the corporal.

"No; not Romeo.  This was a black man.  I read that Giovanni Grasso acted
it in London."

"It was Amleto," said the corporal.

"No, it was not," replied Ivanhoe.  "And now I remember he was not black;
he lived in Holland."

"Where is Holland?" inquired the corporal.

"Holland is in the north.  The people who live there are called
Aragonesi."

While Filomena prepared the coffee, I asked the corporal whether she
allowed smoking in her bedroom.  She did, so I gave him a cigarette and
he admired my case saying it was sympathetic.  I also gave Ivanhoe a
cigarette, but Filomena did not smoke.  There is a prejudice against
ladies smoking in Sicily unless they wish to be considered as belonging
either to the very highest or to the very lowest class, and Filomena is
content to belong to her own class.  So she looked on while we smoked and
drank our coffee.

I said: "When we were speaking of English poets just now, you mentioned a
name which we are more accustomed to associate with politics, the name of
Gladstone."

"Ah! politics!" said Ivanhoe.  "You have now in England a struggle
between your House of Lords and your House of Commons, is it not so?"

I replied that I had heard something about it.

"It is civil war," said Ivanhoe, "that is, it would have been civil war
some years ago, but people are now beginning to see that it is
intolerable that everyone should not be allowed to have his own way."

"I am afraid I do not quite follow you," I said.

"Well," he explained, "it is not difficult.  Your House of Commons is
composed entirely of poor men, so poor that they cannot afford to pay for
legislation.  Your House of Lords is rich, and rich people are egoists
and will not pay; so the House of Commons is angry."

I did not ask where all the poor Members of the House of Commons were
found in a country that had no poor people; Ivanhoe was too full of his
subject to give me an opportunity.

"If the House of Lords still continues refusing to pay for legislation
there will be no war, but the House of Lords will be
abolished--annihilated."

"My dear Ivanhoe," I exclaimed, "what a head you have for politics!"

"Politics are quite simple if one studies the newspapers.  I know all the
politics of Italy, of France, Germany, England, Argentina, Russia.  Don't
you read the papers?"

"Yes, I read the papers, but I do not find our English papers--"

"Perhaps they are not so well edited as ours?"

"That may be the explanation," I agreed.  "They certainly do not state
things so clearly and simply as you do."

"Surely," he continued, "you do not approve of war?"

I replied that war was a "terrible scourge."

"It is worse," said Ivanhoe.  "It is a survival of barbarism that men
should make a living out of killing each other.  War must be abolished."

"Will not that be rather difficult?" I objected.

"Not at all," he replied.  "Soldiers are the instruments of war.  If
there were no soldiers there would be no war; just as if there were no
mandolines there would be no music.  And the money we now pay to the
soldiers could then be distributed among the poor--an act pleasing to God
and the saints."

But this did not suit the corporal who, being a coastguard, had no
sympathy with cutting down the pay of the army.

"It is better as it is," said the corporal.  "It is better to pay the
money to soldiers, who are earning an honest living, than to pay it to
poor people and encourage them in their idleness."

"But soldiers are receiving money for making war possible and that is not
earning an honest living.  There must be no more war.  Soldiers must be
abolished--obliterated."

"Obliterated" woke the corporal up thoroughly.  It was all very well to
talk about annihilating the House of Lords, which he had understood to
mean demolishing some palace, but the army was a body of men, and if we
were to begin obliterating them--why, he had friends in the army and it
would never do, because--and so on, with interruptions by Ivanhoe, until
Filomena began to grow restless about washing up and I began to take my
leave.  I thanked her for her charming hospitality and the corporal and
Ivanhoe accompanied me back to the Albergo della Madonna.  On the way I
said:

"Please tell me, Corporal, you say that Filomena is your fidanzata, but
it seems to me you are as good as--"

"We are not married," he interrupted, "but she has consented to become
the mother of my children."

"Do I understand that you have already taken steps to ensure the
attainment of that happy result?"

He said he had, and that she was coming home with him in order that the
baby might be born there.  His people, who understood the sincerity of
his nature and the purity of his motives--

"Ah yes, indeed," interrupted Ivanhoe, "my brother has a heart of gold
and we are all satisfied with his conduct."

"But Filomena's family," continued the corporal, "are suspicious and
unfriendly and dissatisfied.  Her adorata mamma and all her aunts and
female cousins wept when she left home, and they are still weeping.  But
what else could we do?  She was getting ill after waiting so long and
could not--"

"Yes," interrupted Ivanhoe, "she was becoming like Ettorina, and my poor
brother also was unhappy."

They admitted that the situation, though the best possible, was not
ideal.  The corporal has to sleep at the caserma and pretend to the
authorities that he is a free bachelor, he can only visit the mother of
his future children in his spare time.  And this regrettable state of
things had arisen in consequence, or partly in consequence, of my respect
for law and order.  I did not put it like that to him.  I pointed out
that if I had sent the 4000 francs I should have been obliged to deny
myself the pleasure of coming to see him in Sicily.  He concurred and
thanked me for my consideration.  His experience of life had already
taught him that the same money cannot be spent on two different objects,
and he was grateful to me for choosing the one which gave him the
pleasure of making me acquainted with his fidanzata.  The 4000 francs
from some other source or the government appointment might drop into his
lap at any moment, and at the latest, he could regularise his position in
five years, when he should be forty, by leaving the service, returning to
the carpentry, marrying and legitimising any children that might have
been born.

So I said good-bye to the brothers, wished the corporal every happiness
and gave him my sympathetic cigarette-case as a non-wedding present, or
rather as something that by an enharmonic change should become
transformed into a wedding present on the solemnisation of his marriage,
and he swore to keep it till death as a ricordo of our friendship.

                                * * * * *

Next morning Ivanhoe called upon me and said:

"My dear Signor Enrico, I am in want.  Would it be possible for you to
lend me five francs till next week?"

I replied, "My dear Ivanhoe, it distresses me to hear you are in want and
it lacerates my heart that you should have made a request which I am
compelled to decline."

"I do not ask for myself.  It is for my children."

"Would you mind telling me, merely as a matter of idle curiosity and
without prejudice to the question of the five francs, whether the mother
of your children is your wife or your fidanzata?"

"She is my wife.  We have been married thirteen months."

"And how many children have you?"

"I have two."

"Only two!"

"I am expecting another in a few weeks."

"Bravo.  Of course that alters the situation.  Now suppose we settle it
this way: Let us pretend that you ask me to lend you three francs, one
for each child; I refuse, but propose, instead, to give you one franc on
the faith of the new baby."

"Do you mean you abandon all hope of ever seeing the one franc again?"

"I do."

"Make it two francs and I agree."

"No, Ivanhoe.  One franc is quite enough for an unborn baby."

"If you think so."

So I gave him one franc.

"I am very much obliged to you," he said, "and now there is one more
favour I wish to ask of you.  Will you hold the new baby at the baptismal
font and thus do me the honour of becoming my compare?"

This did not suit me at all.  I replied: "My dear Ivanhoe, let us forget
all we have said since you told me you were expecting another baby, let
us return to your original request and here--take four more francs.  It
will be better for me in the end than if I become your compare."

"If you think so," said Ivanhoe.

I had no doubt about it, so I gave him four more francs and abandoned all
hope of ever seeing them again; but I got my money's worth, or part of
it, in the shape of a registered letter soon after my return to London;
in English the letter runs thus, and I was brutal enough to leave it
unanswered:

                                                            CASTELLINARIA.

    My most esteemed friend, Signor Enrico!

    First of all I must inform you that my health is excellent and I hope
    that yours also is good.  I wish you all the happiness that it is
    possible for anyone to have in this world and I would that I could
    transport my presence into London so that I might be with you for a
    few days and thus augment your domestic joy.  But there is one thing
    wanting--I allude to money.  So many misfortunes have happened to me
    in this sad year that I have not the means to undertake a long
    journey.  I should be much obliged to you if you would kindly forward
    me 300 francs, of which I am in urgent need as I have to pay a debt.
    This money I will repay you immediately the next time I have the
    pleasure of seeing you in Castellinaria or, if you prefer it, I will
    promise to pay you in seven months from this date by sending the
    money through the post; it is for you to choose which course would
    suit you best.  You will find in me an honest man.  You will be doing
    me a favour for which I shall be grateful all the rest of my life,
    for you will be extricating me from a position of extreme discomfort.
    The Padre Eterno will bless your philanthropic and humane action and
    I shall have a memory sculptured on my heart as long as I live.

    I will ever pray for your health and for that of all your family.
    The favour I am now asking I should like you to grant during the week
    after you receive this letter.  I will not write more except to say
    that, relying on the goodness of your heart, I thank you cordially
    and await your favourable reply.

                                                With infinite salutations,
                                        I subscribe myself yours for life,
                                                                  IVANHOE.



EARTHQUAKE ECHOES


CHAPTER XVII
TOTO CARBONARO


One morning, in the autumn of 1908, I was sitting in front of one of the
windows of the albergo looking out across the harbour at the mountains of
Calabria, waiting for coffee and thinking of _Omerta_.  I had been
spending a week in Messina with Giovanni Grasso and his company of
Sicilian Players, and _Omerta_ was the play they had performed the
preceding evening.  I remembered how at the end Giovanni had staggered in
mortally wounded and refused to give the name of his murderer--though the
audience guessed who it must have been--and then how he had given his
knife to Pasqualino, his young brother, and with his last breath had
spoken these words; "Per Don Toto, quando avrai diciotto anni"; and I had
left the theatre wishing I could see Giovanni as Pasqualino grown up and
executing the vendetta.  Giovanni now uses a revolver as being a nobler
weapon, but when I was with him in Messina it was a knife.

The big waiter brought the coffee and stood on my left, the little waiter
followed him, and stood on my right.  During the week I had often seen
this boy who was not yet a real waiter, he was learning his business by
waiting on the waiters, and hitherto I had respected the convention by
which I was supposed to be unaware of his existence, except that when he
had made way for me on the stairs we had exchanged greetings.  I said to
the big waiter:

"How old is this little fellow?"

"Thirteen."

I glanced at him and saw by his smile of expansive friendliness that he
was pleased to be the subject of our conversation.

"What do you call him?"

"Toto."

I took my knife off the breakfast table and imitating Giovanni, as well
as I could, handed it to the big waiter saying:

"For Don Toto when he shall be eighteen years old."

This was perhaps wrong, it was certainly risky to play with edged tools
in this way in a country where one ought not to give a handkerchief as a
ricordo lest one should be supposed to be intending to pass the tears it
contains.  But I assumed he had seen the play and, although the quotation
was not exact, expected him to recognise it, instead of which he was
furious with me:

"You are not to do that.  Toto is a very good boy and I shall not accept
the knife."

He said this so sternly that I made up my mind he could know nothing
about the theatre--he must be a foreigner who had yet to learn that a
Sicilian child's confidence is not destroyed by a mere threat to stick a
knife into him, the idea that anyone is going to hurt him is too
preposterous to be taken seriously.  Or perhaps he had invested all his
imagination in superstitious securities.  Or perhaps I had acted better
than I knew and had seriously alarmed him.  But I had not imitated
Giovanni's realism so closely as to deceive Toto.  I looked at him.  He
was beaming all over his face as he shook his head and said:

"I am not afraid."

The big waiter scowled and went away, abandoning the reckless child to
his fate.  Toto put his hand on my arm to attract my attention and
emphasise what he was going to say:

"When you are at home, please will you send me a postcard with a picture
of London?"

"Certainly, my boy; I'll send you as many as you like."

This is all the conversation I had with Toto before I left Messina, which
I did that day, but we have corresponded.  On returning to London I sent
him a card with a view of Oxford Circus full of traffic and, not knowing
his full name, addressed it:

                                                               A Don Toto,
                                 Piccolo Cameriere all' Albergo Trinacria,
                                                                  Messina.

He replied at once, thanking me profusely for the beautiful view of what
he called I Quattro Canti di Londra and promising to send me some prickly
pears as soon as they were at their best, having heard that they do not
mature in London.  Presently I sent him another post-card secretly hoping
he would show them both to the stupid big waiter.  He replied at once
and, among other things, asked if I should like him to come to London.

I never like them to come to London unless they are sure of some settled
employment, and even then I would rather see them in their native
surroundings; so I replied:

    No, Toto.  Here we already have too many Italians, Austrians, Swiss
    and Germans.  They come because they believe that the streets of
    London are paved with gold, but too many of them find our streets
    guttered by the tears of foreign waiters who have failed to find
    work.  You had much better stay where you are like a good boy, and I
    will come to Messina and see you next autumn.

Then a basket arrived containing the prickly pears in a state of pulp,
exuding juice from every pore because he had not attempted to pack them,
and accompanied by a card wishing me a Merry Christmas.

Early in the morning of the 28th December, 1908, Messina was destroyed by
an earthquake.  The newspapers particularly mentioned that the Albergo
Trinacria had fallen, killing everyone who was sleeping there that night.
I chanced a card to Toto asking whether he had escaped.  On the 6th
January I received a letter from him; he had evidently not received my
card, which was returned to me about eight months later.  This is a
translation of Toto's letter:

                                                                  CATANIA,
                                                           1 _Jan._, 1909.

    Egregious Signor Enrico,

    You must have already heard of the destruction of Messina.  By a
    miracle I am saved, also my family, except that I do not yet know the
    fate of two of my sisters, my father, three nephews and one
    brother-in-law.  My father was at Reggio Calabria, which was also
    destroyed.  The Albergo Trinacria was not merely shaken down, it was
    also burnt.  It was my good fortune not to be on guard that night in
    the hotel, otherwise I too should have died.  The few who have
    escaped have been brought to Catania naked, without a soldo.  We are
    sleeping in the Municipio, on the floor, with a rug, a piece of bread
    and cheese and a glass of wine which the Municipio gives us.  They
    have made me a present of a shirt because, as the earthquake was at
    five in the morning, everyone was asleep and they escaped just as
    they were.  You may imagine in what a condition I find myself, in
    what misery, it is such that you will excuse my posting this letter
    without a stamp, but I have not a centesimo to send you the news of
    the disaster of Messina.  On the post-card which you sent me you
    speak of coming in the autumn, but there will be no more coming to
    Messina.

    Enough!  I could tell you in detail of many misfortunes that have
    overtaken me, but I have not the courage to write more.

    I send you my respects.  You will pardon me for being obliged to post
    this without a stamp.

                                                                     TOTO.

He gave me an address in Catania to which I wrote, and he replied 24th
January from Naples, where he and his family had been taken.

Then he left off writing and I thought I had heard the last of him.  In
the spring of 1910 I went to Sicily again, and within an hour of arriving
at my hotel in Catania one of the waiters came up to me and said in a
friendly way:

"Good day, sir."

"Good day," I replied, "but I do not recognise you."

He said, "Toto.  Messina."

"It is not possible!  You were only thirteen at Messina, and how old are
you now?"

"Eighteen."

"How have you managed to become five years older in eighteen months?  Is
it an effect of the earthquake?"

"I was sixteen at Messina."

"Then why did that stupid big waiter say you were only thirteen?"

"Ah! well, he is dead now."

I thought of the fate of Ananias and said: "Poor fellow!  Do you remember
how angry he was when I wanted to give him my knife and said those words
from _Omerta_?"

"Yes, but he was not really angry with you, he was only pretending."

"No, Toto!  Not really?  Do you mean he was acting?"

"Yes.  I thought you understood.  He was always like that, full of fun,
not stupid at all.  He was a good man and very kind to me."  And poor
Toto's eyes filled with tears.

So it was someone else who had been stupid, and I left off thinking of
Ananias and began to think of those eighteen upon whom the Tower of
Siloam fell.

Toto told me that he was sleeping at home when the earthquake woke him
up, and that he and the others in his house ran out naked as they were
into the street and saw the house fall; they were only just in time.  His
father, who was in Reggio, was saved, but one of his sisters was killed
with her husband and three children.

This is all the conversation I had with Toto in Catania; next day on my
inquiring for him they told me he had caught cold and had not come to the
Albergo.  I left without seeing him again and next time I was in Catania
they told me he had gone away and they did not know his address.
Possibly he has disappeared for ever, but it is more probable that, like
other meteoric bodies, he will cross my path again some day.



TURIDDU BALISTRIERI


Among the members of Giovanni's company whose acquaintance I made during
my week in Messina were two ladies who acted under their maiden names,
viz. Marinella Bragaglia and Carolina Balistrieri; the first is married
to Vittorio Marazzi and the second to Corrado Bragaglia, Corrado being
the brother of Marinella.  I also often saw in the theatre Turiddu
(Salvatore) Balistrieri, brother of Carolina and therefore brother-in-law
to Corrado and brother-in-law by marriage (or whatever the correct
expression may be and, if there is no correct expression, then compare di
parentela) to Vittorio and Marinella Marazzi.  He was just over eleven,
not a member of the company but, being at school in Messina, his sister
had taken him to stay with her for the week, and we became great friends.
I was thinking of him when writing about Micio buying chocolate and
story-books at Castellinaria in Chapter XVIII of _Diversions in Sicily_.
When Giovanni and the company departed from Messina to continue their
tour, Turiddu and his younger brother, Gennaro, remained in Messina with
their professor and, as their mother, Signora Balistrieri, was touring
with another company in South America, they had no home to go to for
Christmas and remained with the professor for the holidays.

On the 27th December, Giovanni and his company, after being in Egypt and
in Russia, arrived at Udine, north of Venice.  They heard nothing of the
earthquake until the evening of the 29th December, about forty hours
after the event, when the news reached them in the theatre during the
performance of _La Figlia di Jorio_.  The next day Giovanni and six of
the company started for Messina; they wanted to ascertain for themselves
the extent of the disaster and whether the earthquake had affected
Catania, where most of their relations and friends were.  Among the six
were Corrado Bragaglia and Vittorio Marazzi, whose particular object was
to find out what had happened to Turiddu and Gennaro.  When the company
came to London in the spring of 1910 Corrado gave me an account of their
adventures.  They arrived in Naples where they were delayed a day, which
they spent in meeting fugitives, but they heard no news of the boys.
They reached Messina on the 1st January and, taking a basket of
provisions and medicines, started for the professor's house, treading on
dead bodies as they walked through the falling rain and fearing lest
another shock might come or that at any moment some already shattered
house might fall on them.  The professor's apartments were on the first
and second floors of one side of a courtyard that stood between a street
and a torrent; the front doors of the different apartments opened into
the court as in a college building; the professor's side of the court was
nearest the torrent and did not fall, but the other three sides of the
court fell and the houses on the opposite side of the street fell, so
that the debris made it difficult to approach the street door of the
court and still more difficult afterwards to approach the doors of the
different sets of apartments.

They found the landlord of the house, and he showed them that the
professor's part of the house had not fallen and told them that the
professor and his family had escaped and, he believed, had been taken to
Naples or Catania, or--he did not know where.  This was satisfactory, at
least they no longer thought the children were buried in the ruins, but
it did not give much information as to their whereabouts.  They went to
the station and got a permission to go to Catania.  The train was crowded
with fugitives, some wounded, some unhurt, and during the journey a
passenger gave birth to a baby.

In Catania they asked of Madama Ciccia (i.e. Signora Grasso, Giovanni's
mother), who would certainly have heard if the children had been seen in
the city, but she knew nothing.  They sought out the boys' grandmother,
the mother of Signora Balistrieri, but she was not at home, she had
deserted her house for fear of another earthquake and had been sleeping
in the piazza.  They inquired at the hospital and at the institutions
where fugitives had been taken.  They advertised.  They actually found a
professor from Messina with pupils, but it was not the one they wanted.
They went to Siracusa, to Malta, to Palermo, to Trapani; they got no
information and returned to Catania.  Then they were struck with remorse
for not having entered the professor's house in Messina--they had only
spoken to the landlord--the boys might be buried there after all, alive
or dead.  They returned to Messina and entered the house; it was all in
confusion; they looked through it, but found no trace of the children.

All this took them seven days, during which they scarcely ate and
scarcely slept.  They knew that if the boys had really been taken to
Naples they were probably safe, and now they went there considering that
they had done their best with Sicily.  In Naples they inquired at the
official places, at the hospitals and at the offices of the newspapers
where they could see the lists of names before they were published.  They
found nothing and their thoughts went back to Messina; they wondered
whether the children might perhaps have been crushed by a falling house
in the streets, and whether they ought to return.  In the evening they
went to a caffe to read the lists, and by chance took up a Roman paper.
They could hardly believe their eyes when they read the names of Turiddu
and Gennaro among those who had been taken to the Instituto Vittoria
Colonna in Naples.  They went there at once, but it was already late at
night and the place was shut.  Unable to think of eating or sleeping they
walked about the streets till six in the morning, when they returned and
were admitted.  They stated their business, inquired for the children,
produced photographs and, after a little delay, Turiddu and Gennaro came
running to them naked.  It took some days of red tape, including a legal
act whereby Corrado constituted himself their second father, before they
were allowed to remove the boys.  At last on the 11th January they took
possession of them and dressed them in the street with clothes they had
bought.  Corrado had telegraphed to his wife and to the other relations,
and they left Naples and rejoined the company at Udine, where they
arrived on the 14th.  One of the actors when he saw the children fainted
and Corrado was ill for days with a fever.

Turiddu wrote to me from Naples to tell me he was saved, and by August,
1909, when I went to Sicily again, he had left Giovanni and the company
and returned to Naples, where I found him and Gennaro with the professor
and his family, living in two rooms of an establishment where emigrants
are put to wait for their ships to take them to America.  They told me
their experiences.  In Messina the family had consisted of the professor,
his wife, his niece (a studentessa), Turiddu and Gennaro with two of
their school-fellows, one named Peppino, son of a well-to-do dealer in
iron bedsteads, and another named Luigi, son of a well-to-do
orange-merchant, who had gone to visit his uncle for Christmas.  There
was also a servant girl who had gone that night to stay with her people.
The parents of Peppino and Luigi were both killed in their houses;
fortunately for Peppino he had not gone home or he would probably have
been killed.  Luigi also escaped because the house of his uncle did not
fall or, if it fell, it did not kill him.  The servant, who had gone
home, was killed.

They puzzled me by their attempts to explain why the professor's side of
the courtyard did not fall.  It seems it was partly because, being near
the torrent, it had been built more strongly than the other three sides;
that was not all, there was also something about a Japanese gentleman who
had studied earthquakes at home and who had hurried to Messina, visited
the spot and declared that the direction of the shock was from (say) east
to west, had it been from west to east the side near the torrent would
certainly have fallen.  It may have been north to south--my thoughts had
wandered again to the Tower of Siloam.  Turiddu, however, had a reason
for not being killed in the earthquake; he is naturally lucky because he
was born with a caul; he keeps most of it at home and speaks of it as his
cammisedda, which is Sicilian for camicetta, his little shirt.  He
carries a small piece of it in his watch-case, and offered to give it to
me as a ricordo, but I thought he had better keep it all; it cannot be
lucky to give away any of one's luck.

While Turiddu was with Giovanni and the company touring in North Italy,
he wrote, by desire of his professor, a sort of holiday task about the
earthquake.  He gave it to me afterwards, when I saw him in Naples, and I
have translated it.  The passages in square brackets are additions I have
made from information the family gave me in Naples.

                                   SUBJECT

    Describe all that you saw before and after the earthquake.

                                 DESCRIPTION

    It was an ugly winter evening and the last day of the Christmas
    holidays.  I was playing with nuts with my companions.  About six
    o'clock we dined and, after we had finished, we began to play at
    Sette e Mezzo Reale [a game of cards].  We re-charged the acetylene
    lamps, for we intended to sit up late.  The professor opened [the
    window and went out on] the balcony to see what the weather was like;
    observing that the sky was frightful and of a reddish colour, he said
    to his wife:

    "My dear Nunzia, listen to these few words and bear them in mind:
    This is a fatal night, it is a horrible night."

    His wife asked, "What are you saying?"

    Then the professor replied, "Either we shall have some kind of storm
    or there will be a great earthquake or a deluge."  To these words we
    paid no attention, but went on with our game.

    At one o'clock after midnight we extinguished the acetylene gas and
    went to bed, where we immediately fell asleep.

    At half-past five after midnight there came a great earthquake.  I
    and my companions began to cry and recommend ourselves to God who can
    save from every calamity.

    After the earthquake was over we dressed in haste and frenzy and went
    out [into the courtyard], but we could not pass the front door [into
    the street] because it was blocked with ruins.  Presently our
    professor crawled out through a hole and we followed him.

    In the piazza we saw sights that tore our hearts, and we wept as we
    thought of those poor unhappy children left without parents or
    relations.  And we thanked God who had saved us from such a great
    disaster.  Every few moments there came more shocks, and there were
    we weeping and recommending ourselves to the Lord.

    As day broke we saw many wretched creatures being dragged out from
    under the heaps of rubbish and being put on carts or laid on the
    ground.

    We began to feel hungry and begged our professor to buy us some
    bread, but he replied:

    "There is no place where bread can be bought, we must therefore take
    courage, climb back into the house and get a few nuts."

    [This re-entering the house was dangerous because it might have
    fallen when they were inside, but they managed it in safety and
    returned with some maccaroni and bread, also some nuts and two sticks
    of dried figs which were there for the festa of Christmas.]

    We began to eat the food and, seeing some children near us who also
    were hungry, were moved to compassion for their condition and gave
    them each something.

    In this way we supported life for two days, but on the third day the
    food was finished.

    [During these two days they were in the ruins of a fish-market, which
    was better than being out in the open, but not much because the roof
    was broken.  They only had such clothes as they had snatched up in
    their haste and these were wet through and saturated with mud up to
    the knees.  They caught colds and the professor was ill for months.]

    All day long, bodies were being extricated from the ruins and we
    could hardly bear the stench; to make matters worse it was raining,
    the houses were on fire, the air was heavy with smoke and there were
    constant shocks of earthquake.  It seemed like the end of the world.

    On the third day I went with our professor to the port to inquire
    whether the survivors would be taken to Naples.  The captain replied
    "Yes."  We returned to the market and our path lay among the wounded
    and the dead.

    When we had reached shelter our professor said:

    "Let us take courage and return into the house to bring out some
    clothes and linen and the certificates of my niece."  We went to the
    house, but the door was jammed by reason of the earthquake.  While we
    were shaking it, there came another shock.  We remembered another
    door, which we opened, we went in and found the certificates and
    brought away all such other things as we thought likely to be useful
    for the moment and gradually carried them down.  Our professor's
    niece made the things up into bundles and put them on our shoulders
    and so, passing the heaps of dead bodies, of rubbish and ruins, we
    went to the railway station.

    Here they made us get into a second-class carriage, which we supposed
    would start for Catania, and we had nothing to eat but oranges, which
    were given us by a soldier.

    [It must have been while they were in this carriage that Corrado and
    Vittorio went to the station and took train for Catania, passing
    quite close to them and not seeing them.  There were twelve
    waggon-loads of oranges which had come from Catania before the
    disaster in the course of trade, and orders were given that they were
    to be distributed among the survivors.  Thus the waggons were emptied
    and people could be put into them.]

    Opposite us was a waggon full of soldiers and sailors.  Our
    professor's niece called a soldier and begged him not to forget us.
    He immediately brought us three loaves of bread, five flasks of wine,
    three tins of preserved meat and some sausage.

    Imagine our happiness when we saw that meat after those days of
    hunger!  We drank the wine at once because we had nowhere else to put
    it and the soldiers wanted their flasks back.  We were eating oranges
    all the time, because they gave us plenty.

    After we had been in this waggon two days, one of the railway-men
    told us that there had come a German steamer which would take us to
    Naples.  We took with us some bread, some oranges and a little salame
    which we had over, and went to the port, where, fortunately, we found
    a boat which took us to the steamer.

    At five minutes past eleven on the sixth day as the steamer departed
    from Messina, the professor, his wife and his niece began to cry.

    The German sailors prepared bread and also basins of soup with pasta
    in it, and when the bell sounded at noon they distributed the food
    among us all.

    When we had eaten it, we went below to see whether the women required
    anything.

    At half-past four they gave us soup with rice in it and plenty of
    meat.  Then the captain ordered that the fugitives should go below.
    We were taken into the second-class cabin which was set apart for the
    women and children.

    Next day when we arrived at Naples they would not let us disembark
    till we had had coffee, after which we all collected and were landed
    in boats.  First, however, they made all the men descend into one
    boat and in another boat all the women.

    When we had disembarked at Naples they at once wanted all our names
    and then took us to an institution called "Vittoria Colonna," where
    in order to restore us we were each given a good cup of coffee and
    milk.

                           THIS LITTLE DESCRIPTION
                                      OF
                               28 DECEMBER 1908
                         WRITTEN AT BOLOGNA 27. 1. 09
                               IS PRESENTED TO
                           MR. HENRY FESTING JONES
                   WHO WILL PRESERVE IT AS A LASTING RECORD
                                      OF
                             TURIDDU BALISTRIERI
                            FUGITIVE FROM MESSINA

While they were in Messina the children and the niece slept at night, but
the professor and his wife did not sleep at all, and for two of the days
the professor and his wife ate nothing and drank nothing.  They were able
to collect drops of rain water, especially when they were in the railway
carriage where they had a roof, and they sometimes collected a little
wood and made a fire.  Earthquake shocks were continually occurring.

The professor is also an imbalsamatore and, as an example of his skill,
gave me a stuffed bird which I was to take to London.  He said it was a
kind of quail, a bird that reposes near Messina when migrating.  His
niece, the studentessa, gave me as a ricordo a pin-cushion; on one side
it has an advertisement of a shop in Messina and on the other a picture
of a lady trying on a new garter, which has been bought at the shop and
which fits perfectly to the delight of her maid and the astonishment of
her grandmother.  They had saved these things after the earthquake.  One
does not look a gift-horse in the mouth, but I have sometimes wondered
whether the buffo's Cold Dawn had followed the professor and the
studentessa in their flight and whispered to them that they had saved the
wrong objects.  Still, a pin-cushion is always useful.



RAILWAY PORTERS


Some years ago the station porter who attended to my luggage at Messina
gave me his name and address, saying that if I would send him a post-card
next time I came, he would meet me and look after me.  Since then I have
passed through Messina once, and sometimes twice, a year and he has
always met me.  I wrote to him from London after the earthquake inquiring
whether he was alive or dead, but he did not receive my card till nearly
eight months later, after it had been returned to me and I had sent it to
him again.  I had in the meantime heard, in an indirect way, that he was
one of the station porters who had survived.  In the August following the
earthquake I sent him a card to say I was coming by steamer from Naples,
and he was in a little boat in the port to meet me.

There was a difference in his manner and a new look in his eyes.  When he
had been talking some time, I mentioned it, and he admitted that he felt
different since the earthquake.  His house fell and he lay buried in the
ruins with nothing to eat or drink and seriously wounded.  A friend came
looking for him and after three days he was extricated, restored to life
and properly taken care of.  But his wife and child were killed and his
home destroyed.  He has been born again naked into the world, no wonder
there is a strange look in his eyes.  We were joined by his cousin,
another porter, who was seven days in the ruins, starved into
unconsciousness.  When the soldiers rescued him they thought he was dead,
but they took him where the doctors gradually brought him back to life.
He did not mind the dying after it had once set in, everything gave way
to the indolent pleasure of irresponsible drifting, but the restoration
was a difficult and exhausting business.  He will be thought to be dead
again some day, and will be allowed to continue his sleep in peace
without any troublesome awakening.

I looked in the eyes of the men who were hanging about among the
temporary wooden sheds in the piazza in front of the station, and saw in
many of them the expression that was in my porter's eyes, the expression
that betrays those who are the figli del terremoto, those who have been
born again with the earthquake for their second mother, and I remembered
that the same expression was in the eyes of Turiddu's professor in
Naples.  I had supposed it to be normal with the professor, but it was
the first time I had seen him; now I understood that it was not there
before.  They have not all this look.  Turiddu has not got it, nor has my
porter's cousin.  The professor is sixty-two, Turiddu is only twelve and
was able to sleep.  My porter is about forty-two, his cousin is not yet
thirty.  Again, the professor had the responsibility of his party;
Turiddu had none.  My porter has lost his wife and child; his cousin is
unmarried.

These two porters told me a great deal that I had read in the papers in
England; to hear it from them on the spot made it more real, and
especially to see their gestures describing how the earthquake took the
houses and worried them as a terrier worries a rat.  Few houses were not
wrecked.  I pointed to one which I knew to be the Palazzo dei Carabinieri
at a corner of a street leading out of the station piazza, but my porter
replied:

"You are looking at a corner of it and can only see two walls.  The other
walls and the floors have fallen.  If the shutters were open you would
see the sky where the rooms ought to be."

At the other corner of the street used to stand the Albergo di Francia,
where I stayed once when all the other hotels were full because the wind
was so strong that the ferry-boat could not get out of the harbour to
take the travellers across the straits.  The albergo was lying in a heap
on the ground; in its fall it had crushed and killed and buried the young
landlord, Michele;--"God rest his soul in heaven, so merry!"

I uttered some banality about their having passed through a terrible
time.  They accepted my remark as a final summing up and said it was
better not to talk about it.  It was evidently a relief to them to talk
of something else.

Before Messina can be rebuilt on its old site, the ruins must be cleared
away and the disputes about the boundaries must be settled, and this will
take time.  Meanwhile the people are living in the wooden bungalows of a
New Messina which is growing up outside the old town.  I spent two days
there in the spring of 1910 and again in 1911.  The Viale San Martino is
the principal street.  There are hotels, bookshops, sweet-shops,
tobacconists, jewellers, butchers, restaurants with tables ready spread,
and the lottery offices are open.  Most of the huts have no upper storey
and some are no bigger than half a dozen sentry boxes knocked into one.
It is very dusty.  The boys are crying papers up and down the street,
there are barbers' saloni and shops with silver-topped canes.  The
earthquake seems to be forgotten in the intensity of the bubbling life.
As I passed the Municipio in a side street, I saw a wedding party going
in.  One evening I went to the theatre and saw _Feudalismo_ with Giovanni
Grasso, a homonymous cousin of the great Giovanni, in the principal part
and Turiddu's mother, Signora Balistrieri, as one of the women.

The first time I was in Messina after the earthquake all this was only
beginning and many of the people were living in railway waggons in the
sidings, of which few now remain.  It was strange to see rows of railway
carriages with curtains to the windows and some with steps up to the door
and a little terrace outside with creepers growing over it.  The cabins
and the waggons are supposed to be safe, because they would not crush
their tenants in another earthquake.  But they do not seriously fear
another earthquake; Messina has been so thoroughly destroyed that it must
now be the turn of some other town.

I replied: "Yes, the Veil of S. Agata preserved Catania this time, but it
may desert her next time as the Letter of the Madonna deserted you last
winter.  By the by, what has become of that miraculous Letter?  Was it
destroyed or did anyone save it?"

They did not know and muttered something about "stupidagini," and perhaps
there will be no need to trouble oneself with any such thoughts when one
is living the life after death.  Later on, in another part of the island,
I asked a dignitary of the Church, who had not been through the
earthquake, what had become of the Madonna's Letter and he assured me
that it had been preserved.  I had pretty well made up my mind that this
would be his answer before putting the question; but if the earthquake
had destroyed Girgenti and I had asked him about the letter from the
Devil, which is said to be preserved in the cathedral there, I should
have expected him to tell me that that letter had not survived the shock.



GIUSEPPE PLATANIA


In Catania I saw my friend Lieutenant Giuseppe Platania, who was
quartered in Messina during the winter of 1908-9.  He was away for
Christmas and returned about midnight on the 27th December and went to
bed at two in the morning on the 28th.  He was awakened by the falling of
a picture, which hit him.  He guessed the reason, covered his head with
the pillows and lay still, waiting.  He had to wait fifty-seven
seconds--at least many people told me the earthquake lasted fifty-seven
seconds, but the recording instruments were broken, so it is not certain
how long it lasted.  When the room left off rocking, Giuseppe put out his
hand for the match-box, but the table was no longer by his bedside.  He
heard cries for help, and a man who was sleeping in the next room came
with a light, then he saw that the floor of his room had fallen, but not
under his bed, which was in a corner.  He and the man with the light
managed to get to the window and let themselves down into a side street,
but they saw no way out because the exit was closed by the fallen houses.
Their window was on the first floor and they climbed back into the house,
helped another man who was there, got themselves some clothes and
returned into the side street.  Here they felt no better off and were
afraid of the houses falling on them, but Giuseppe's soldier servant,
Giulio Giuli, a contadino of Nocera, appeared among them.  He had come to
look for his master and crept through the ruins into the side street.  He
told them that Messina was destroyed, which they would not believe;
everyone seems to have supposed at first that the earthquake had only
damaged his own house.  Giulio showed them the way out, and so they got
into the town and realised the extent of the disaster.  If Giulio had not
come, Giuseppe and his friends would probably have been destroyed by more
houses falling into their narrow street before they could have found a
way out.

Giuseppe had changed his bedroom about ten days previously.  The house he
used to live in was completely destroyed, he showed me a photograph of
its ruins.  His mother and his brother Giovanni, in Catania, heard of the
disaster, but could get no particulars because communication was broken.
Giovanni went to Messina to inquire for his brother, not knowing where
his new room was, but he knew the number of his regiment.  He stopped a
soldier in the street who was wearing the number in his cap and who told
him where to find Giuseppe.  In the meantime Giulio had walked about
fifteen miles to Ali, whence he took the train to Catania, told the
mother her son was safe, and returned to Messina to help in the work of
rescuing victims.

Giuseppe directed his soldiers in the rescue work and afterwards received
a medal "Per speciali benemerenze."  While at work they saw a hand among
the ruins and began to dig round it, all the time in fear lest the
disturbing of the rubbish might make matters worse for the victim and for
themselves.  The hand belonged to a woman whose head had been protected
by being under a wooden staircase.  She showed no sign of life and it was
already four days since the disaster.  They wetted her lips with marsala
and poured some into her mouth and thus restored her.  Giuseppe told me
that nothing made more impression on him than seeing this woman's breast
begin to heave as life returned.

The soldiers had to shoot the horses and dogs for eating the corpses, and
the thieves for pilfering.  The horses had escaped from their stables,
which were broken by the earthquake, and the dogs had come in from the
country.  And besides the pilfering they told me of other things the
doing of which had better be ignored by those who seriously cultivate the
belief that civilisation and education have already so transformed human
nature that all restraints may be safely removed, things which,
nevertheless, were done by human beings in Messina while the houses were
tottering during the closing days of 1908 and the opening weeks of 1909.
I inquired whether the townspeople were themselves guilty of these
horrors and they said: No.  The bad things were done by people who came
into the city from the country, like the dogs, and across the straits
from Calabria to take advantage of the catastrophe.  As my friend Peppino
Fazio in Catania put it:

"The earthquake was very judiciously managed; it killed only the wicked
townspeople; it did not touch the good ones, they all escaped."

Giuseppe's brother, Giovanni Platania, is a scientific man and a
professor; he went often from Catania to Messina during the early part of
1909 to study the behaviour of the sea during the earthquake--the
maremoto.  He has embodied the results of his researches in an opuscolo
on the subject _Il Maremoto dello Stretto di Messina del 28 Dicembre_
1908 (Modena.  Societa Tipografica Modenese, 1909).  It took him twelve
hours to return to Catania from one of his first visits; the journey in
ordinary times is performed by the express in two hours and a half.
There was no charge for the tickets because it was the policy of the
authorities to empty the town; in this way malefactors who escaped from
the prison got easily away.  In the train was a woman who talked, saying
that no one could blame her for travelling to Catania free, especially as
she had not deserved to be put in prison--she had been put there for
nothing.  There was also a man who did not exactly say he was a thief,
but he informed his fellow-travellers that the bundle he had with him had
been confided to his care by the padrone of his house.  There was no
reason why he should have told them this, no one had asked him about his
bundle, and Giovanni drew his own conclusions.



GIULIO ADAMO


In Trapani I talked with another friend, a doctor, Giulio Adamo of
Calatafimi.  Communication was broken and it was not until the evening of
the 29th that they began to know in Trapani that there had been an
earthquake in Messina.  Giulio went with others by train to Milazzo and
the train could go no further.  They continued the journey by boat from
Milazzo to Messina, where he arrived on the 30th.  When they approached
the city and saw the row of houses facing the harbour where the Albergo
Trinacria was, they thought the disaster could not have been so very
great.  But it was only the facciata that was standing, the houses behind
were down.  There was great disorder, heaps of bodies, no water to drink
because the pipes were broken, and for the three days Giulio was there
they only had bread from Palermo and the oranges which were in the
railway-waggons.



CECE LUNA


In Palermo I talked with another doctor, Cece (Francesco) Luna, of
Trapani, whose acquaintance I made many years ago on Monte Erice when he
was there as a student in villeggiatura.  In September, 1909, I found him
in the children's hospital at Palermo.  As soon as news of the earthquake
reached the city, the _Regina Margherita_ was fitted out to help the
wounded and Cece went in her among the doctors.  When they arrived at
Messina, they could neither enter the harbour nor take anyone on board
because they had to obey orders.  It was raining, the sea was rough and
covered with little boats full of fugitives, some unhurt, some wounded.
One boat contained a young man holding an umbrella over his mother, who
was wounded and lying on two tables.

"I am strong.  I can wait seven or eight days without food, it is not for
me, it is for my mother."

He cried and prayed till the orders came and she was taken on board.

Cece, who was put in charge of the taking on board of the fugitives,
ordered that the wounded were to be taken first.  He was somewhat
surprised that this order was attended to; it was so, however, the
wounded were taken in without confusion; but afterwards among the
unwounded there was confusion.  There was a boy who tried to get on board
first, Cece pulled the boy's cap off and threw it away, intending it to
fall in the sea, but it fell in another boat and the boy went after his
cap and gave no more trouble.

The earthquake was at about 5.20 a.m. on 28th December; the _Regina
Margherita_ arrived at Messina at 8 a.m. on the 30th December.  As soon
as Cece landed, he began searching with others and at 10 a.m. found, in a
well-furnished house, a woman dead in bed, killed by a beam which had
fallen across her.  Under the beam, close to her body, lay a baby girl,
very dirty but alive and untouched.  It was impossible to say precisely
when the child had been born, but certainly only a few hours before the
earthquake, just time enough for the midwife to leave the house, for they
found no trace of her.  Cece took the baby to the steamer and gave it
sugar and water, and when they returned to Palermo they got it a
wet-nurse and it was baptised Maria in the children's hospital.  If one
has an earthquake in one's horoscope, surely it could not be placed at a
less inconvenient part of one's life.  New-born babies can live three or
four days without food; but if this child had not been born before the
earthquake, she would not have been born at all, and if she had been born
earlier, she would have died of starvation or exposure before she was
found.  As it happened she was sheltered and her life preserved by the
beam which killed her mother.  Maria was adopted by a lady of Palermo,
and in April, 1910, Cece told me he had lately seen her and she was
beginning to walk.

Cece had had twenty earthquake babies in his hospital, all with fathers
and mothers unknown, and, of course, other hospitals were equally full.
When I was at Palermo in 1909 he had only seven of the twenty, the rest
having been taken away, some by their fathers and mothers, others by
people who adopted them.  Travelling back to England I saw in the railway
stations at Rome, Milan, and other places, frames of photographs of
unclaimed babies put up in the hope that they might be recognised by
chance travellers.

The _Regina Margherita_ stayed at Messina one day, loading, and then
returned to Palermo with five hundred unwounded and eighty-two wounded.
Cece remained in Messina, searching, but joined the ship when she
returned to Messina, where she took up her station in port as a floating
hospital.

He told me of a woman who was in the ruins, alive but unable to move.
Her daughter lay dead beside her.  It was raining, there was a dripping
and she was getting wet.  With the morning light she saw it was not the
rain that was wetting her, but the blood of her husband and two grown-up
sons who were dead in the room above.

He told me of a law-student in Palermo, twenty-four years old, engaged to
a young lady who lived in Messina; this young man went to pass his
Christmas holidays with his betrothed.  He was not in the same house and
the earthquake did him no harm; as soon as it was over his first thought
was for his fidanzata.  He got into the street and made for her house,
paying no attention to the cries that issued from the ruins.  But, like a
wandering knight on his way to assist his lady and embarrassed by meeting
other adventures, he was stopped and forced to help in searching a
particular house, from which he extricated a beautiful girl, nineteen
years of age, unhurt.  She would not let him go till he had saved her
mother.  All the others in the house were killed.  Still the girl would
not let him go.

"Are you rich?" she asked.

"No."

"Then take this ring and tell me who you are."

He took the ring and after giving her all the information she required
was allowed to proceed.  When he came to the house of his betrothed he
found that she and all her family had perished.  He returned to Palermo
weeping.

Two months later he received a letter:

I asked if you were rich; you replied "No" and I gave you my ring.  You
saved my mother and you saved me.  My mother has since died from the
effects of the shock.  If you are free I am ready to marry you and I have
money enough for both.

On this they became engaged and after a suitable time intend to marry.
Cece wanted to apologise for the conventionality of this story, but I
begged him not to trouble; if unassisted nature were to be always
original, the occupation of poets and romancers would be gone.

In one house was a servant, a Roman woman; she was devoted to a young
lady of the family and all the family were buried in the ruins, but the
Roman servant was unhurt.  She could get no help, the house was on the
outskirts of the city and such passers-by as there were would not stop.
She set to work searching for her young mistress and incidentally saved
the whole family.  It took her twenty-four hours; they were all wounded
and her young mistress was the last she found.

A woman kept a small shop opposite another shop kept by a man who sold
coal.  The woman had saved money and the carbonajo knew she had her money
in her house.  He entered the woman's house after the earthquake,
accompanied by another malefactor.  The woman's daughter was killed, but
the woman was under the ruins alive and they pulled her out.  She
exclaimed:

"I do not know you."

But she did know the carbonajo quite well, or at least well enough to
know he was a bad man and to suspect his intention.  They asked her where
her money was concealed.  She only repeated:

"I do not know you."

They believed her, thinking she was confused by the shock of the
earthquake; this was what she intended, otherwise she feared they would
have killed her.  They threatened her, and at last she told them where
the money was, still protesting that she did not know them.  They took
her money and then, being afraid she might give the alarm and they might
be caught before they could escape, they pinned her down with a large
piece of the ruins on her left arm and departed, taking the risk of her
being rescued later and saying she had been robbed by unknown men.  She
was rescued and brought to Palermo.  In the hospital she begged Cece to
put an end to her:

"What is the use of living?  My daughter is dead, my arm is gangrened, my
money is stolen.  Let me die and have done with it."

Cece did not kill her, he chloroformed her and amputated her arm.  She
gave information about the carbonajo, who was arrested in Messina.  His
accomplice escaped, but the woman got back her money and thanked Cece for
amputating her arm instead of killing her.



FUGITIVES AND VICTIMS


At Caltanissetta they told me that the trains were bringing fugitives
from Messina all day and all night.  The fugitives were mostly naked and
all very dirty, some with rugs, some with cloaks, some with rags.  A
woman got out of the train clothed, like Monna Vanna, in nothing but a
cloak which a soldier had given her.  They asked her:

"What do you want done for you?"

She opened her cloak and showed that she wanted everything.

Another woman came with her daughter whose leg was broken and they were
both naked.  The doctor said to the mother:

"And what do you want?"

"Help for my daughter."

To another destitute woman: "And you?"

"Shoes for my baby."

Michele, a young man, was known to be in Reggio where he was employed in
the Municipio.  His father went from Caltanissetta to look for him and
returned after four days, during which he had searched for his son and
suffered mental anguish and physical discomfort.  His friends went to the
station to meet him.  He talked politics to them and asked their opinion
about the rotation of crops.

"And Michele?" they inquired.

"Oh! Michele," here he began to laugh: "Michele; yes, he is buried under
the ruins of a house three storeys high."

They could get nothing more out of him except laughter and that Michele
was lying under a house three storeys high.  A few months later,
Michele's body was found, with no traces of decay, brought to
Caltanissetta and buried.  Then his friends wrote elegies in verse about
him and handed them round for approval.

Plenty of people went mad besides Michele's father.  The streets of
Messina were full of mad people.  They told me of one who lost his wife.
Within a fortnight he married a widow whose husband had been destroyed.
This happy couple spent their honeymoon in digging out the bodies of
their previous spouses and having them suitably buried.

When I say they married, a widow may not legally marry for ten months
after the death of her husband, but this couple married on credit, as
they call it.  There were many fugitives who found a temporary asylum in
a prison in Catania and who similarly married on credit, intending to
return later and contribute to the population of the new Messina.

There was a family living on the top floor of a house close to the
railway station near the port in Reggio.  They were not hurt, but they
could not get down because the earthquake had destroyed the stairs.  The
man made a rope of sheets, with the help of which he carried his wife
down, then he went up and fetched his children one after another, three
or four children.  He went up again to fetch his money and while in his
room the house fell with him, killing and burying him in the ruins.  But
he had saved his wife and children.

They told me of a victim, pinned down in a cellar, unable to rise; a
chicken, whose coop had been broken, escaped and passed near; the victim
caught the chicken, killed it, plucked it and ate it raw.  They told me
of others, not pinned down but imprisoned in rooms, who ate what they
found in cupboards--oil, biscuits, salame, uncooked maccaroni.  These
victims were saved and lived to recount their sufferings.  But there were
others, pinned down and imprisoned, whose bodies were not extricated till
they had lain for weeks and months beside their emptied cupboards, no
longer on the watch for escaping chickens.  I was in Catania about a year
and a half after the earthquake and saw the funeral of one whose body had
recently been found; it was not the last.



THE SLOPES OF ETNA


CHAPTER XVIII
LAVA


We started from Catania at three o'clock on a dull afternoon at the end
of March to see one of the streams of lava that Etna was sending out
during the eruption of 1910.  Peppino Di Gregorio had arranged everything
and provided four of his friends to make company for us and to act as
guides, some of them having been before.  He and I went in a one-horse
carriage with two of the friends and the other two came on their
bicycles.  There was, first, another Peppino who had been in America,
where he earned his living by making cigars.  He had forgotten how it was
done and, besides, it required special tools, so he could not have shown
me even if he had remembered.  Since his return home to Catania he has
been employed by the municipio.  He begged me to call him not Peppino but
Joe, because he would be so English.  Then there was Ninu, also employed
by the municipio, a great bullock of a fellow bursting with health, whose
legs were too short for him and his smile a dream of romance.  The other
two were Alessandro, about whom I got no information, and a grave
brigadier of the Guardia Municipale.

The road took us up-hill among villas and between walls enclosing fields
of volcanic soil, very fertile, and occasionally a recent eruption had
buried the fertility under fresh lava, hard and black, on which nothing
will grow for years.

Patrick Brydone went to Sicily in 1770, and wrote an account of his
journey: _A Tour through Sicily and Malta in a Series of Letters to
William Beckford_, _Esquire_, _of Somerly_, _in Suffolk_, _from Patrick
Brydone_, _F.R.S._  Near Catania he saw some lava covered with a scanty
soil, incapable of producing either corn or vines; he imagined from its
barrenness that

    it had run from the mountain only a few ages ago; but was surprised
    to be informed by Signor Recupero, the historiographer of Etna, that
    this very lava is mentioned by Diodorus Siculus to have burst from
    Etna in the time of the second Punic war, when Syracuse was besieged
    by the Romans.

It seems that the stream ran from Etna to the sea, and cut off the
passage of a detachment of soldiers who were on their way from Taormina
to the relief of the besieged, and Diodorus took his authority from
inscriptions on Roman monuments found on the lava itself.  So that after
about 2000 years this lava had scarcely begun to be fertile.  Afterwards
Recupero, who was a canonico, "an ingenious ecclesiastic of this place,"
told Brydone of a pit sunk near Jaci, where they had pierced through
seven parallel surfaces of lava, most of them covered with a thick bed of
rich earth.

    Now, says he [Recupero], the eruption which formed the lowest of
    these lavas, if we may be allowed to reason from analogy, must have
    flowed from the mountain at least 14,000 years ago.  Recupero tells
    me, he is exceedingly embarrassed by these discoveries in writing the
    history of the mountain.--That Moses hangs like a dead weight on him,
    and blunts all his zeal for enquiry; for that really he has not the
    conscience to make his mountain so young as that prophet makes the
    world.--What do you think of these sentiments from a Roman Catholic
    divine?--The bishop, who is strenuously orthodox--for it is an
    excellent see--has already warned him to be upon his guard, and not
    to pretend to be a better natural historian than Moses; nor to
    presume to urge anything that may in the smallest degree be deemed
    contradictory to his sacred authority. . . .

    The lava, being a very porous substance, easily catches the dust that
    is carried about by the wind; which, at first I observe, only yields
    a kind of moss; this rotting, and by degrees increasing the soil,
    some small meagre vegetables are next produced; which rotting in
    their turn, are likewise converted into soil.  But this process, I
    suppose, is often greatly accelerated by showers of ashes from the
    mountain, as I have observed in some places the richest soil, to the
    depth of five or six feet and upwards; and still below that, nothing
    but rocks of lava.  It is in these spots that the trees arrive at
    such an immense size.  Their roots shoot into the crevices of the
    lava, and lay such hold of it, that there is no instance of the winds
    tearing them up; though there are many of its breaking off their
    longest branches.

We passed several villages, and on one of the churches there was a group
of three saints--S. Alfio, the padrone of the district, and his two
brothers.  I had never heard of S. Alfio, who they told me was a
physician and lived in the third century; one of his brothers, S.
Filiberto (whom the people call S. Liberto), was a surgeon, and his other
brother, S. Cirino, was a chemist.  They performed miracles, endured
persecution, and were finally martyred for the faith in this way: First
they had their three tongues cut out, then they were put into a saucepan
such as the maccaroni is boiled in, only larger--large enough to hold
three saints--and full of boiling oil: the saucepan was placed on a fire
and they were cooked in it.  Their bodies were afterwards burnt on a
gridiron.  This took place out of doors opposite a tavern, and three men,
who had come to the tavern to drink, saw it all done.  Having seen it,
they went to sleep for three hundred years; then they woke up and wanted
to pay for their drinks with the money they had in their pockets, which
was money made of leather.

"What is this?" asked the landlord.

"It is money," they replied.

"It is no use," said the landlord.  While they had been asleep that kind
of money had gone out of circulation.

"It is good money," they insisted.

"It is not money at all, it is only a piece of leather."

"It was money yesterday evening," said the spokesman, "when I saw Alfio,
Cirino, and Liberto being martyred."  This is how the martyrdom of the
three saints is represented on carts belonging to those
spiritually-minded owners who prefer the Story of S. Alfio to the Story
of the Paladins.  It seemed to me that the painter had been suspiciously
obsessed by the number Three; it was in the third century, there were
three saints, they were each martyred three times over, though they
cannot have known much about the boiling or the grilling, and there were
three drunkards who went to sleep for three centuries.  But I said
nothing.  I thought I would wait till I could see a cart.

By this time we had reached Nicolosi, that is we had nearly traversed the
first of the three zones into which the Slopes of Etna are divided.  This
lowest one is the Regione Piemontese and Nicolosi is about 2250 feet
above the sea--the place from which tourists often start to make the
ascent of the volcano.  Here we spent a declamatory half-hour discussing
where we should eat the provisions we had brought from Catania and drink
the wine we had bought at Mascalucia on the way.  The discussion ended by
our being received in a peasant's hut, where we spread a table for
ourselves and the woman stood a low paraffin lamp in the middle of the
cloth.  This is a bad plan, the light dazzles one for seeing those
sitting opposite and their shadows are thrown big and black on the wall
and ceiling so that one cannot see the room, but I should say it was like
Orlando's bedroom in the contadino's cottage on Ricuzzu's cart, the only
room in the house, poorly furnished and used for all purposes.  The woman
of the hut had a baby in her arms and I said to Ninu:

"I wonder whether I may look at the baby?"

"Of course you may," he replied, "why not?"

So I asked the woman, who smiled proudly and gave me the baby at once.
She called it Turi (Salvatore) and said it was three weeks old.  It was
asleep and I nursed it till the table was ready, which was not long, for
everything was cold.  I handed Turi back to his mother and sat down, with
Joe on one side of me and Ninu on the other.  Presently Ninu inquired why
I had asked whether I might look at the baby.  I replied that I had heard
that Sicilian peasants are so superstitious they do not like strangers to
look at their babies for fear of the evil eye; I admitted that I had
never yet met with a peasant so superstitious as to refuse to show me her
baby, but on the Slopes of Etna, during an eruption, I had thought it
wise to be careful.

Ninu, in the Sicilian manner, was about to say that anyone could tell by
my appearance that there was nothing to fear from me, when Joe
interrupted him:

"She is an intelligent woman," said Joe.

I said: "I suppose you mean that she throws her intelligence into the
scale with her maternal pride, and together they overbalance any little
superstition which the proximity of the volcano may have fostered."

"That's the way to put it," he replied.

"Why do people talk so much about the evil eye?  Do they think it is
picturesque, or do they really believe in it?"

Joe considered for a moment.  Then he said: "Sometimes a peasant may
decline to hand over her baby because she thinks the stranger looks
clumsy and is likely to drop it; it would be rude to let him suspect
this, so she allows him to think she has a superstitious reason.  And
some of her neighbours believe--at least--well, what do you mean by
believing?  What is faith?"

"I'm sure I don't know.  Sometimes one thing, sometimes another.  It is a
difficult question."

"Perhaps it is that she believes that her neighbours believe," said Joe,
tentatively.

"That is not the faith of S. Alfio and his brothers, that is not the
faith that wins a martyr's crown or that removes mountains."

"No, but it has its reward if it enables the believer to feel that he is
not singular, it is comfortable to feel that one thinks as one's
neighbours think."

I said: "Thou art a happy man, Poins, to think as other men think."

"I do not know anyone called Poins," said Joe, "it is not a Sicilian
name; but to think as other men think is as comfortable as a crown of
martyrdom, and if it can be won without any martyrdom worth speaking
of--why, so much the better."

I agreed, and went on: "And then there are the men who never think of
religion or theology, but go to Mass to please their wives."

"Plenty of them," he said, "and by pleasing their wives they reap the
reward of avoiding domestic friction, whereby they perform a miracle
greater than removing Etna."

I thought of my poor mother who used to say:

"But, my dear, if you never go to church what hold have you over the
servants?"

At the time, I remember, I pigeon-holed her problem among others that are
still awaiting solution, and she died before I realised how well she had
translated into the language of modern Bayswater the "Paris vaut bien une
Messe" of Henri Quatre.

"If you want to see faith," said Peppino Di Gregorio, "why don't you stay
and go to the festa of S. Alfio at Trecastagne?  You might even see a
miracle there."

It seems that when anyone is in hospital with a broken leg after an
accident or suffering from any illness, especially hernia, he cries in
his despair, making use of this form:

"O, S. Alfio! cure me of this illness, restore my broken leg or cure my
hernia" (or as may be) "and for the love of my wife, of my children, of
my mother" (or as may be) "I will run naked to Trecastagne and light a
candle before your shrine."

After making this vow, the patient recovers and then he must not fail.
With any other saint there may be failure, but not with S. Alfio, for he
is more powerful than the Madonna or than the Padre Eterno or than the
Redeemer.  He is the Padrone and performs miracles.

"But how long should I have to stay?  When is this festa?"

It would not be till the 10th of May, nearly six weeks ahead, and that
made it a matter requiring consideration and, as it was now half-past
seven and dark, we had to leave off talking and start for the lava.

Those of our friends who had made the excursion before were delightful as
company, but we hardly wanted them as guides, because the way was shown
by hundreds of people who were returning, many of them carrying torches,
and we only had to walk in the opposite direction.  We also carried a
light--the acetylene lamp off Ninu's bicycle, and it functioned as
inefficiently as the bull's-eye lantern which Mr. Pickwick took with him
on his nocturnal expedition at Clifton.  The road was broad enough, but
strewn with big lumps of lava lying half-hidden in lava sand.  I stumbled
frequently, but I never fell, because one of my friends was always at my
elbow and caught me; either it was the brave brigadier or Alessandro or
Joe or the other Peppino or that great hulking Ninu with his operatic
smile lighted up by his fitful lamp.  They took care of me all the way
until, after about an hour, we turned into a vineyard, called the
Contrada Fra Diavolo, and our progress was stopped by a sloping
embankment over twenty feet high.

This was the broad nose of the stream of lava.  It was coming towards us
at about eighty feet an hour, but its velocity varies according to the
slope of the ground and the cooling and consistency of the material.  The
course of the stream described a curve from the mouth to the place where
we stood, and the width of it gradually increased until opposite us it
was about a quarter of a mile broad.  There was plenty of smoke, fiery
with the light reflected from the glowing stream, and especially thick in
the direction of the mouth.  The lava was sluggish, viscous, heavy stuff,
full of bubbles, pushing itself along and kneading itself like dough.
Red-hot boulders and shapeless lumps of all manner of sizes were
continually losing their balance and rolling lazily down the slope
towards us; as they rolled they disengaged little avalanches of rapid
sparks, and when they reached the ground they sometimes fell against a
vine stump and set it in a blaze for a moment.  They said that this is
Etna's cunning way of taking a glass of wine; he opens a mouth and
consumes a vineyard.  All the time there was a roaring noise like coals
being thrown on the fire, only much louder, and the great sloping wall
glowed in the places where open crevasses left by the crumbling blocks
had stirred it.  It was too hot for us to go very near, nevertheless, my
companions were not content to leave without bringing some pieces of lava
away.  They went towards it with canes which the vines will not want this
year, unless the stream stops before it has broadened over the contrada,
and with much difficulty and scorching, manipulated bits of red-hot lava
until they had got them far enough away to deal with them, and then,
balancing them on the end of two canes, they brought them to where I was
resting near a doomed hut.

After spending an hour, fascinated by the spectacle, we returned by the
sandy, rocky road to Nicolosi.  While the carriage was being got ready, I
said to Joe:

"You know, if I lived on the Slopes of Etna, close to such a sight as we
have been contemplating, I think I should believe in the evil eye and S.
Alfio and everything else."

He assured me that it would not have any such effect unless, perhaps,
during the periods of actual eruption--as soon as the eruption was over I
should forget all about it.

"Do we not all live on the slopes of volcanoes?" asked Joe.  "An eruption
cannot do more than ruin you or kill you.  And without coming to live on
the Slopes of Etna you might be ruined or die at any moment.  How do you
know that you have not now in you the seeds of some fatal disease that
will declare itself before you return home?  Or you may be run over in
the street or killed in a railway accident any day.  And as for ruin,
next time you look into an English newspaper you may see that all your
investments have left off paying dividends and have gone down to an
unsaleable price.  Perhaps at this moment, in some Foreign Office, a
despatch is being drafted that will lead to a declaration of war and the
ruin of England and you with it.  And yet you never worry about all
this."

"Then perhaps I had better begin to believe in S. Alfio at once?"

"Especially if you are threatened with hernia."

"You said something about hernia before.  What has hernia to do with it?"
I inquired.

"S. Alfio's first miracle was to cure one of his brothers of that
complaint, which he had contracted while carrying a beam."

"But was not S. Alfio a medical man?  Why do you call it a miracle when a
medical man cures his patient?  Have you been reading the plays of
Moliere?"

"Who is Moliere?" asked one of them.  "Did he write his plays in the
Catanian dialect?"

It does not do to make these allusions when talking with Sicilians who
are employed in the municipio.  One might as well quote _Candide_ to some
young schoolmaster who thinks the only thing worth knowing is the date of
the Battle of Salamis.  So I returned to S. Alfio and asked whether he
always answers all prayers; they said the people believe he does or they
hope he will.  One of them, thinking I was inclined to scoff, rebuked me,
saying:

"If you had been to Trecastagne and seen what I have seen, you would
believe.  I saw in the church there a dumb man.  He tried to shout 'Viva
S. Alfio,' but could only make inarticulate noises.  The people
encouraged him, and he went on trying till at last he said the words
distinctly.  I heard him say them.  You are making a mistake in not going
to Trecastagne.  You might also behold a miracle and then you would
believe as I do."

I thought of Geronte when his daughter recovers her speech in _Le Medecin
Malgre Lui_ and wanted to ask how long this dumb man retained his
miraculous power and whether his relations and friends were pleased about
it and whether, after the novelty had worn off, they continued shouting
"Viva S. Alfio."  But I said nothing; I was afraid of confirming them in
the notion that I was scoffing, whereas I was very much impressed; the
influence of the stream of lava was still upon me and all that Joe had
said about living on the slopes of volcanoes.  And I was wondering
whether I could manage to be back in Catania for the 10th of May and see
the people running naked to Trecastagne.  I was not anxious to go there
myself, not because I should have had to run naked all the thirteen
kilometres, they would have let me wear my clothes and drive in a painted
cart, but because there is no albergo there and it would have meant being
up all night.  If S. Alfio had earned his reputation by restoring those
who spend sleepless nights in the street, I might have given him a chance
of exercising his power on me.

There is generally some way of doing anything one really wants to do, and
by the time we were separating in Catania, at one o'clock in the morning
I was promising to try to return in time for the Festa di S. Alfio.



CHAPTER XIX
S. ALFIO


I was back in Catania before the 9th of May and began talking about S.
Alfio in the Teatro Machiavelli.  One of the actors whose name is Volpes,
the one who did the listening father in the play about Rosina and the
good young man, is employed by day in the cathedral, his department being
the brass-work; he is therefore something of a hagiologist.  He was going
on business to Lentini, which is situated to the south of Catania on the
way to Siracusa, it is the place where the three saintly brothers were
martyred, and there he bought for me a book--_Storia dei Martiri e della
Chiesa di Lentini_, by Sebastiano Pisano Baudo (Lentini: Giuseppe Saluta,
1898)--from which I have collected particulars for this story of the Life
of S. Alfio.

Towards the end of the first half of the third century after Christ, at
Prefetta in Gascony, the wealthy and noble Prince Vitale lived a life of
singular piety, united in matrimony to Benedetta di Locusta.  Heaven had
blessed them with three sons, Alfio born in 230, Filiberto born one year
and eight months later and Cirino born one year and four months later
again.  Prefetta was not only in Gascony, it was also in Aquitaine, and,
notwithstanding this, it was in Spain and also in the Abruzzi, which is a
region of Italy between Naples and Taranto, if I understand correctly.
Owing to its unsettled habits geographers do not mark it on the maps, but
they and the historians are agreed that it certainly existed, and perhaps
it exists still, if only in a Castellinarian sense.  The interesting
point is that it was the birthplace of S. Alfio.

The noble and saintly Benedetta, having been brought up in the school of
sacrifice, ardently desired to die for the faith.  Her husband placed no
obstacle in her way.  She obtained an interview with the prefect, abused
his gods and awaited the sentence which took the form of decapitation.

Prince Vitale after the death of his wife was free to consecrate himself
to the education of his three sons.  I expected to find that he had them
taught medicine, surgery and chemistry, but there is not a word about any
of these subjects.  Evodio di Bisanzio, flying from country to country to
avoid the persecution of Massimino, happened upon Prefetta; he was
welcomed by Vitale, who appointed him tutor of his boys.  Evodio was
learned in the sacred sciences, the Greek fables and how to live rightly.
These were the subjects which he taught to his pupils.  Alfio copied out
the Books of the Prophets, Filiberto the Gospels and Cirino the Letters
of S. Paul and the Acts of the Apostles.  Thus they developed a manly
spirit, angelic habits and an intelligence, a piety, a devotion which are
the rare gifts of a few privileged souls.

Onesimo was their next tutor, a man of deep learning and a fervent
missionary who came to Prefetta with a following of thirteen or fourteen
disciples and boarded and lodged with Prince Vitale.  He was more the
kind of tutor Vitale wanted for his boys.  Onesimo had no sympathy with
flying from persecution; he took the view that it was not enough to copy
the sacred Books, his pupils must know how to sacrifice their frail
bodies for the glory of the Cross.  He instructed them in the practical
work of martyrdom.

In the year 249, Decio ascended the imperial throne and issued an edict
against the Christians.  Vitale and Onesimo heard of it and welcomed this
opportunity for the three brothers who swore on the ashes of their mother
that they would profit by it.  They did not have to wait long.
Nigellione, the imperial minister, came to execute the decree.  Onesimo
and his pupils, in spite of tortures, professed their unalterable faith
in the Cross and were sent to Rome together with fourteen other
Christians.  Vitale, being thus freed from all family responsibilities,
exiled himself with his friends and awaited his end in a sacred retreat
so retired that our author does not specify it.

In Rome, Onesimo and his band of Christians suffered tortures.  While in
prison S. Peter and S. Paul appeared to them, healed their wounds,
exhorted them to persevere and promised ultimate victory.  On the seventh
day they were taken before Valeriano, the imperial minister.  Failing, as
Nigellione had failed, to shake their faith, he sent them with a letter
to Diomede, Prince of Pozzuoli, telling him that if he could not win the
captives over from their new faith he was to put to death Onesimo and the
fourteen disciples by means of fierce tortures, and to send Alfio,
Filiberto and Cirino into Sicily to be dealt with according to
instructions contained in another letter addressed to the crafty
Tertullo, Governor of Sicily, at Lentini.

Diomede carried out his instructions.  The Christians all refused to
sacrifice to the false gods.  Onesimo died in consequence of an unusually
large stone being placed upon his chest, the fourteen disciples were
decapitated and Alfio, Filiberto and Cirino were handed over to fifty
soldiers under Captain Silvano, a man of a proud and cruel nature, and
taken in a ship to Messina.

The voyage occupied three days; they reposed in Messina for two hours and
then, chained together and barefooted, proceeded to Taormina, where
Tertullo happened to be hunting for Christians, and to him Captain
Silvano delivered the letter from Valeriano.  Tertullo's instructions
were to make the most of his attractive appearance and his agreeable
manners and by means of cajolery to persuade the three holy brethren to
sacrifice to the gods of Rome; in case of failure he was to cause them to
suffer many and various tortures and then to deprive them of their lives.

Tertullo concocted a scheme worthy of the devil.  No sooner were the
youths brought into his presence than he assumed the appearance of an
affectionate father, embraced them and inquired sympathetically about
their parents and their home.  On their telling him they were Christians
he endeavoured, with apparent kindness, to turn them from a faith which
had brought them nothing but suffering.  He promised that if they would
sacrifice to the gods of Rome they should enjoy the pleasures of a court
life.  But there was none of the _Paris vaut bien une Messe_ about the
sons of the saintly Benedetta.  They spurned his promises and continued
to declare themselves firm believers in the true Cross.  Tertullo,
defeated and angry, thereupon showed himself in his true colours; he
dropped the affectionate parent and ordered the brothers to be tortured.
He then sent them with Captain Mercurio and a squadron of forty soldiers
to Lentini to await his return to that city.

At Mascali they were fatigued, especially Filiberto, who almost
succumbed.  They prayed to the Omnipotent and, before they had risen from
their knees, the azure heavens became obscured, the wind blew, the
thunder roared, the lightning flashed and there was a great rain.  The
forty soldiers fell upon their faces, frightened nearly to death, and in
the tempest onward came a venerable man, believed by all who saw him to
be S. Andrea.  This personage restored the youths; whereupon the rain
ceased, the clouds dispersed, the heavens smiled again and the forty
soldiers rose from the ground declaring that the God worshipped by their
prisoners must be more powerful than they had supposed.

In those days the usual road from Taormina to Lentini passed along by the
seashore, but Captain Mercurio took the three brothers by an inland route
passing through Trecastagni, perhaps because the road by the shore was
encumbered with lava from an eruption of Etna which occurred in the year
251 or 252.  When I came to this I thought of Diodorus Siculus and the
second Punic war, but I repressed the suspicion that the compiler of the
story was consciously borrowing a bit of local colour in order to get S.
Alfio to Trecastagni in a picturesque manner.

It was the end of August or the beginning of September in the year 252
when the three saints reached Trecastagni.  Here they sat on a rock which
diversified the uniformity of the landscape, partook of food and reposed.
Exhilarated by a laughing sky of rarest beauty, the holy brethren
unloosed their tongues and sang hymns of joy and praise to the Lord for
that he had given them the strength and spirit to face their anticipated
martyrdom.  On the spot where they reposed now stands the parish church
of Trecastagni.

The three saints proceeded to Catania, where they passed an uncomfortable
night singing hymns in an obscure prison, and at daybreak were taken on
towards Lentini.  The river Simeto was in flood owing to the recent
abundant rain, which is perhaps a reference to the storm at Mascali; as
soon as the saints put their feet in the stream it shrank and they passed
over.  Eight of the soldiers attempted to follow in their footsteps, but
a sudden rush of water engulfed them together with their horses; this
danger caused the remaining thirty-two soldiers to stay where they were,
and they patiently waited four days till they were fetched by their
comrades who, I suppose, had got over the river and employed the time in
drying their uniforms and recovering from their wetting, but at first I
feared they had been drowned.

Eight hundred paces to the north of Lentini the glorious brothers met a
young man of the Jewish religion who had eaten nothing for a month.
Captain Mercurio, having seen and been much touched by the portents
performed by his prisoners during the journey, begged them to restore the
youth.  Immediately, with no assistance from anyone, the saints broke the
ropes that bound them, prayed to heaven, approached the sufferer, infused
new life into his exhausted frame and restored him to perfect health.
The youth and his parents confessed their faith in the Nazarene, Captain
Mercurio also declared himself converted and twenty of the soldiers,
dismounting from their horses, threw their arms on the ground and prayed
to be bound with chains since they now abhorred the false pagan gods and
intended for the future to worship only the God of the three brothers.

They entered Lentini on Wednesday the 3rd of September, 252, their hands
bound behind them, their heads uncovered and their feet bare, presenting
to the emotional crowd an appearance of great nobility.  They were put in
prison with the twenty converted soldiers, tortured and starved; but a
venerable man girdled with grace and celestial light miraculously brought
food to them, embraced them and blessed them, their wounds were healed,
their strength was restored, their courage was reinforced.  Their
tortures were increased after this, and so it went on till the 10th of
May, 253, when S. Alfio was killed by having his tongue pulled out, S.
Filiberto was burnt on a gridiron and S. Cirino was boiled in pitch and
bitumen.

Eight years later, in June, 261, Vitale in his retirement was cheered by
a visit from Neofito and Aquila, who brought to him, as tokens of the
martyrdom of his three sons, the mantle of Alfio, the girdle of Filiberto
and the veil of Cirino, saturated with blood.

The geographers write Trecastagne on the maps as though the village took
its name from Three Chestnut Trees, but the learned say it should be
Trecastagni--Tre Casti Agni, that is Three Chaste Lambs, after the three
saints who rested on the site of the parish church.  Their memory is
perpetuated also at Mascali, Catania and Lentini.  And they are adored at
Aci-reale, Pedara and at other places on the eastern slopes, whence the
faithful come to their shrine at Trecastagne on the 10th of May.



CHAPTER XX
THE NAKED RUNNERS


One may see in the foregoing story of S. Alfio the foundation of some of
the incidents painted on the carts, and perhaps the saints' travelling
bareheaded and barefooted is the origin of the people running so to
Trecastagne, but I can find nothing in the book to support the belief
that S. Alfio was a medical man or that he ever cured anyone of hernia.
Nevertheless that he was a medical man, especially successful in treating
hernia, is believed by everyone in and round Catania.  Fortified by my
book I ventured to doubt it and asked my friends in what university he
took his diploma.  They replied that I was confusing cause and effect;
for in the beginning it was not the universities that made the doctors,
it was the doctors that made the universities.

I then pointed out that he could not even cure himself from the wounds
made by the tortures; SS. Peter and Paul had to come to the Roman prison,
S. Andrea had to be called in at Mascali and the old man girdled with
grace and celestial light at Lentini.  But they disposed of this by
reminding me that medical men are notoriously powerless to cure
themselves.

Then I objected that a saint who was born in 230 and who died in 253 was
too young to have got together anything of a practice.  They replied that
the carts show him exercising his profession.

"Where are these carts?" I exclaimed.  "If they are in Catania, let them
be called and give their evidence in the usual manner."

So we looked at all the carts we met that were not going too fast.  On
one of them Garibaldi was landing at Marsala and overcoming the Bourbons
at Calatafimi; on another Cristoforo Colombo was receiving a bag of gold
from Ferdinand and Isabella, who wanted to put an end to all this wearing
delay about the discovery of America; on another Don Jose was being made
a fool of by Carmen in the wine-shop of Lillas Pastia; we saw the
enthusiasm of the Crusaders on catching sight of Jerusalem; Otello was
smothering Desdemona; we saw the Rape of the Sabines and somebody before
the Soldan.  But none of these pictures threw any light on S. Alfio.

Peppino Di Gregorio said we must have patience.  So we patiently turned
down another street and saw King Ruggero dismissing the ambassadors:
"Return at once to your Lord and tell him that we Sicilians are not--"
something for which the artist had left so little room that it was
illegible, but the noble attitude of King Ruggero conveyed the meaning:
we saw Mazeppa bound to a white horse rushing through a rocky wood and
frightening the lions and tigers; Etna was in eruption; banners were
being blessed by the Pope; Musolino was tripping over that cursed wire
and being taken by the carabinieri; Paolo and Francesca were abandoning
the pursuit of literature in favour of an eternity of torment--anything
rather than go on reading in that book.  Still there was nothing about S.
Alfio.

They then proposed a visit to the workshop of a man who earns his living
by painting carts.  We found him at work on the birth of Rinaldo who came
into the world with his right hand closed.  The doctors and nurses were
standing round, wondering; they all tried but they could do nothing.
After eight days the baby, yielding to the incessant caresses of his
adorata mamma, opened his fist and lo! it contained a scrap of paper with
his name--Rinaldo--written upon it.

We begged the artist to show us a cart with the Life of S. Alfio, or the
designs for such a life.  And he could not.  He said such carts were rare
and he had no designs; when asked to paint the story of S. Alfio he does
it out of his head, putting in anything that his patrons particularly
order.  We asked how old he makes the saints and he replied that his
instructions usually are to make them about sixteen.  So that the carts,
if we could find them, would not be evidence of anything but the
well-known habit of artists to flatter their sitters.  Still I should
have liked to see pictures of the young doctor, the young surgeon and the
young chemist curing patients of hernia and being martyred for the faith.

On the 9th of May in the evening we all went to the Teatro Machiavelli
and, coming out a little before midnight, walked up the Via Stesicoro
Etnea to the Piazza Cavour.  The pavements were lined with people who had
come to see the sight and the roadway was left for those who were going
to Trecastagne.  There were innumerable painted carts, some of them
nearly as fine as Ricuzzu's birthday present; the horses and mules were
so splendidly harnessed and so proud of themselves that Peppino Di
Gregorio called them "cavalli mafiosi"; they were driving fast out of the
city with coloured lights and fireworks.  Every now and then came a naked
man running in the road and carrying a large wax candle.  They speak of
them as I Nudi, but they were not really naked; they wore white cotton
drawers down to their knees, a broad red waist-band and a broad red scarf
and some of them wore a flannel jersey.  They were all bare-headed and
bare-footed, or rather without boots, for they wore socks; this is enough
to satisfy S. Alfio, who, being a doctor, does not insist on their taking
needless risk.  Nevertheless the socks must get torn to pieces before
they are out of the town, and their feet must be bleeding long before
they reach Trecastagne.  Some of the so-called nudi, both men and women,
were fully dressed except that they were without hats or boots.  They all
ran, occasionally they may rest by walking, but they may not dance and
they may not stop and they may not greet their friends in the crowd
except by shouting "Con vera fede, Viva S. Alfio!"  Each of them carries
his candle in his hand and it may cost five or ten francs, some cost as
much as twenty francs.  For days before the festa they go about Catania
with trays collecting soldi from all they meet.  But if one of them meets
the doctor who attended him in the hospital, he is careful not to make
the mistake of asking the doctor for a subscription.  So they ran and
shouted, and I said:

"These are the carts that ought to have the story of S. Alfio.  Couldn't
we stop one and look at it?"

They recommended me not to try, it would block the stream of traffic and
the people would not like it.  So we sat in the piazza till about two in
the morning and watched them passing.

That was not all we were to see.  In the afternoon of the 10th of May
everyone who was left in Catania went out towards Trecastagne to see the
return of the people, who are said to be drunk after their religious
devotions.  In order to do this in comfort Peppino Di Gregorio had
arranged that we should go to colazione with Giovanni Bianca, a friend of
his who has a country house on the Slopes of Etna near the route, and
afterwards we would go where we could see the return of the devout.
First, he said, we must go to the station and fetch Joe, because he was
to come too.

I said: "With pleasure, but why go to the station?  I thought Joe was
employed in the municipio?"

"We shall find him keeping order among the coachmen in the station-yard,"
replied Peppino.

And there he was in the uniform of a guardia municipale.

"Why, Joe!" I exclaimed, "I thought you were writing at a desk all day in
the Mansion House.  I did not know you were a policeman."

He replied that he was a guardia municipale, which is not exactly the
same thing, and was going on to explain the difference between the
carabinieri, the pubblica sicurezza, the guardia municipale, the guardia
campestre and all the rest of it, when I interrupted him:

"I shall never remember what you are telling me; I shall always think of
you as a policeman."

"All right," he replied, "I'll be Joe the Policeman, and Ninu is a
policeman too."

"I can quite believe it," I said.  "When we went to the lava you both
treated me just as our policemen in London treat the old ladies and
gentlemen who are afraid of the traffic; you helped me along and never
let me fall down, and looked after me as though I had been given
specially into your charge.  London policemen are just like that--very
kind and helpful.  I know one of them in private life and he is a capital
fellow.  I made his acquaintance over my bicycle."

"How was that?" inquired Joe.  "Did you get run over and did he pick you
up?  What did I tell you about living on the slopes of volcanoes?"

"It was not exactly that," I replied; "it was because I wanted to avoid
being run over that I gave my bicycle to a man to sell it for me when the
motor-cars began to get on my nerves, and this policeman bought it.  He
did not give much for it, but if the value of his friendship is taken
into the account I think I made rather a good bargain."

"Tell me about him."

"Oh, there's nothing to tell.  He comes to see me sometimes, when he is
free.  We have tastes in common; for instance, we do not like knock-about
brothers at a music-hall--they bore us.  And then books; our tastes in
literature, however, are less alike; but he is quite a reader.  Once he
had in his pocket The _Beauties of Nature_, by Sir John Lubbock--that was
to improve his mind--and _Little Lord Fauntleroy_, which he was reading
for pure enjoyment.  I told him that I also had written a book and he
wanted to read it, so I lent it to him."

"I hope he appreciated it?" inquired Joe sympathetically.

"He was extremely polite about it.  Next time I saw him he said: 'Well,
I've been reading your book'; (he spoke with great deliberation) 'I can
get on with it.  Yes.  It doesn't drag upon me.  I don't feel it's time
wasted.  But, you know, if I ever do anything of that sort, I think it
will be more in the style of Charlie Dickens.'"

"I should not call that very polite of him, was it?"

"I am not so sure.  We must distinguish.  He was not thinking of the
Dickens of _Pickwick_ with all his beaux moments, he was thinking of that
other Dickens of the _Christmas Books_ with all his mauvais quarts
d'heure."

"But have you two authors named Dickens in England?"

Then I saw that to my audience Dickens was as much a sealed book as
Moliere and that my literary policeman must be reserved until I can write
_Diversions in London_.  So I turned the conversation by telling Joe that
Dickens is not an uncommon name in England and is a form of Riccardo, as
Jones is a form of Giovanni.

While talking we were on our way to Joe's house, where he changed from
his uniform to his private clothes, and then we took the tram to Cibali.
Here we bought provisions and carried them with us to the country house,
which was not yet properly open for the summer.  We had picked up our
host, Giovanni Bianca, on the way, and he took us round and showed us the
garden, which was full of flowers and fruit trees and vines; he showed us
also the lava of 1669 which destroyed part of Catania.  He gave me a
piece of primeval lava from the bottom of the well which his father had
dug, about 150 feet down.  I inquired how old that lava would be.  He was
not sure, but it would be older than the Romans, older than the Greeks,
older than the Sikels or the Sikans.

"Say ten thousand years old," said Giovanni, and he said it without being
in the least embarrassed, but then he is not a canonico and has not Moses
hanging as a dead weight on him.  He went on to say that he did not
really know.  "The memory of man," he said, "works very imperfectly, and
to understand these things one ought to study the science of geology."

In the afternoon we went across country to a spot on the route, past
which the people had already begun to come.  I asked, what they had been
doing at Trecastagne all night.  They told me that the journey from
Catania takes about three hours, more or less according to the ability of
the runner, so that they begin to arrive somewhere about 3 a.m. and keep
on arriving all the morning; and others come from other villages on the
eastern slopes.  Then they make a row till the church is opened and the
nudi go in and light their candles before S. Alfio.  Some of them go on
their knees and lick the stone floor of the church all the way from the
entrance to the altar, but this is being discouraged because it covers
the floor with blood and is considered not to be hygienic.  Perhaps it
might also be well to prohibit the running with bare feet, for that must
also make the floor in an unhygienic condition, to say nothing of the
roads that lead to the village.  Some take stones and beat their breasts,
and they all shout continually "Con buona fede, Viva S. Alfio!"  After
Mass they dress and eat and drink.  Some of them have carried their food
on their backs, others have friends who have brought it in their carts,
and the food includes eels, which come from the Lake of Lentini; thus
they enjoy the luxury of eating fish on the Slopes of Etna and moreover
fish from the place of S. Alfio's martyrdom.  At midday the car bearing
the three saints is brought out into the street, but this, it seems, does
not interest the nudi; they have run naked to the shrine, they have
lighted their candles, they have performed their vow and are now free to
enjoy themselves.  Of course, those who suffer from hernia do not attempt
to run until after they believe themselves to be cured of that complaint;
but rheumatic patients are often much better after running to
Trecastagne, the exertion has upon them an effect like that of a Turkish
bath, but it knocks them up in other ways.

By the afternoon, when it is time to return, what with the running, the
walking, the driving, the fasting, the shouting, the religious
exaltation, the want of sleep, the eating and drinking, the fireworks and
the jollity of the festa, many of them are drunk.  Joe says the festa is
a continuation of some Bacchic festival, and this is more than likely,
just as it is more than likely that the Bacchic festival was a
continuation of some earlier one.  He wants S. Alfio to be a
transformation of Bacchus, just as Bacchus was a transformation of
Dionysus and Dionysus of some earlier divinity, and so on back to him who
first discovered wine, ages and ages before the vates sacer who
immortalised Noah.

"And how much do the people believe?" I asked.

"Ah!" replied Joe; "who knows?  And what is faith?"

"I'm sure I don't know," I said; "sometimes one thing and sometimes
another.  It is a difficult question."

Then I remembered that he had asked me the same question, and I had made
the same reply at Nicolosi six weeks before, and I also remembered
something that had happened in between.  "The other day," I continued, "I
had to wait in the station at Messina, and I asked the porter who was
helping me with my baggage whether he had seen the comet.  He replied,
'No, I have not seen the comet, and I shall not even look for it; I do
not believe in the comet.'"

"Oh, well, you know what he meant by that?  He had heard that it was
going to destroy the world, so he did not want to believe in it; he did
not want it to exist; he was not going to encourage such a dangerous
phenomenon by having anything to do with it.  'I'll leave you alone and I
expect you to leave me alone.'"

"Yes; I suppose he thought that if he removed his custom the comet would
fail."

"Precisely.  But it is not quite that with S. Alfio; they want him to
exist; they are afraid that if they don't believe in him, he will leave
off performing miracles and will no longer cure them."

"It seems to me," I said, "that they are dominated by the prepotenza of
S. Alfio very much as the sulphur-miners are dominated by the prepotenza
of their capo-mafioso."

"With this distinction," he replied, "that the capo-mafioso has the
power, and sometimes the will, to hurt them; it would require a struggle
to destroy his prepotenza and there is the risk of failure.  With S.
Alfio, if they cared to be master in their own house, they have only got
to leave off believing in him, there need be no struggle and there could
be no risk."

"You speak as though they could believe or leave off believing at will."

"So they can, in the loose sense in which they use the word.  They only
go on believing because their vanity is involved--it flatters them to
attribute the gift of miracles to a creature of their own imagination
and, by being satisfied with very little and very poor evidence, they
make things easy for S. Alfio.  But they could not tell you this
themselves, they are half asleep about it."

I said: "Of course they are half asleep about it, and all S. Alfio's
interests are bound up in their remaining so.  They are not only asleep,
they are dreaming, as the Red King dreamt of Alice.  If they were to wake
up S. Alfio would go out--bang!--just like a candle."

Alice and the Red King were as unknown to Joe as Poins or Moliere or
Dickens.  I did my best to explain the allusion, but I doubt whether I
succeeded, for when I had finished he only said that Tweedledum and
Tweedledee had better not go about saying things like that, or their
bishop would be warning them to be on their guard as he warned the
Canonico Recupero.  I must try whether he will understand better if I
send him a copy of _Through the Looking-Glass_ for his next onomastico.
He told me something which makes me suspect that the people must have a
dim feeling of how things really are.  It seems that sometimes, though
rarely, it pleases them to pretend to believe that their padrone has
displeased them.  Then they half wake up and depose him; but nothing
comes of it, they only choose a new one or, after a short time, reinstate
the old one.

We went to a house on the route and sat on a balcony in the sunset and
the drunken people pelted down-hill, smothered in the golden glory of the
dust they raised, banging their tambourines, blowing their whistles, and
singing that now the festa was over they must go home and work to pay the
debts it had run them into.  It was no more use to think of stopping them
to see the pictures now than when they were going out; so I pigeon-holed
what the carts say about S. Alfio with my poor mother's problem about
what influence people who never go to church have over their servants.
The cavalli mafiosi and the carts were stuck about with coloured feathers
and festooned with bunches of garlic, with flowers, with lumps of lard,
with little flags and ribbons, with garlands of caruba beans and with
vetch.  The flags, the ribbons, the flowers and the feathers were, I
suppose, for gaiety and festa--pour faire la frime--but garlic has some
magically beneficent properties; not only does it avert the evil eye, it
is also a symbol of robust health, so that instead of replying to "How do
you do?" by saying "As right as rain," they reply, "As right as garlic."
They believe that to put three crosses of garlic under the bed of a woman
in child-birth will ensure a happy issue.  There is something fortunate
or healthy also about vetch and, no doubt, some special significance
about lard and the beans of the carob.  These beliefs are based lower
than Giovanni Bianca's primeval lava, and I know no more about their
origin than he does, but I suppose they are older than the Romans, older
than the Greeks, older than the Sikels and the Sikans--probably much more
than ten thousand or fourteen thousand years old.  They spring from a
soil which has become fertile by catching the dust of ages, tossed to and
fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, wherein generations of
beliefs have grown up, flourished and decayed.  There is no more
fertilising manure for a struggling young faith than the rotting remains
of a dead superstition.  And the roots pierce down beneath the soil and
shoot into the crevices of an intolerance more unyielding than buried
lava.  To understand these things, one ought to become a pupil of
Professore Pitre, and make a study of the science of demopsicologia, and
even then one would only get glimpses of the more recent deposits of
civilisation that lie crushed one under the other like the parallel
surfaces of rich earth in the pit sunk near Jaci.

Whatever the significance of the things they carried or the origin of
their belief in them, the people in the carts kept flinging them to the
boys in the road, who caught them and picked them up and carried them off
to make their festa with them later on.  They were all very lively, but
no one seemed to me very drunk, not more drunk than the nudi were naked;
there were drunken people among them, but not enough to make me feel sure
that S. Alfio ought to be identified with Bacchus.  One can see more
drunkenness on Hampstead Heath on a Bank Holiday, but one does not
hastily identify Saint Lubbock with Dionysus.



CATANIA


CHAPTER XXI
HOLY WEEK


PALM SUNDAY


Being in Catania for Holy Week I went to the cathedral on Palm Sunday.
The archbishop in his yellow mitre, red inside because he is also a
cardinal, accompanied by nine canons in white mitres and many priests and
others, passed out of the church by a side exit and proceeded to the
western entrance, which was closed against him.  I heard him knock and
listened to the chanted dialogue which he carried on with those inside.
I saw the great doors thrown open and watched the procession enter and
pass up the nave among crowds of people who waved palm-branches.

After this I called at the Teatro Sicilia, the marionette theatre of
Gregorio Grasso, and discovered that he was devoting all the week to the
Story of the Passion and would begin that evening with the event which I
had seen commemorated by the procession in the cathedral.  Here was an
opportunity to see something which I had often wished to see and about
which I had talked with Achille Greco and his sons in their theatre at
Palermo, where they also do the Passion in Holy Week, using a play in
verse written by Filippo Orioles of which they have a MS. copy; but they
have not performed it recently because it takes too much preparation.
Orioles wrote his play for living actors, and it is laid out to get all
the events into one performance instead of being a series of seven
performances extending over a whole week as in Catania.

Gregorio Grasso took me behind, where one of his assistants, Carmelo,
showed me the preparations and told me about the performance.  The first
scene was to be the meeting of the Sanhedrin and the beginning of the
conspiracy of Annas and Caiaphas to destroy the Nazarene; this makes a
firm foundation on which the rest of the drama is built.  The second
scene would be the departure of Christ with Mary; after that would come
the Entry with Palms into Jerusalem, and the evening was to conclude with
a cinematograph show.

As a rule in this theatre the back scene is only about a third of the way
down the stage, the figures appear in front of it and are manipulated by
men who stand on a platform behind, leaning over a strong bar which runs
along the top of the scene, their heads, shoulders and arms being
concealed by a piece of scenery which falls just low enough.  The entry
into Jerusalem had been prepared behind this back scene; it was a set
group representing Christ on the ass, surrounded by apostles carrying
palms, and was to be disclosed by the removal of the back scene, the bar
and the platform in front of which the meeting of the Sanhedrin would be
shown.

But I was not to witness the performance because Turiddu Balistrieri
wanted me to go to the Teatro Giacinta Pezzana and see a special
performance of _La Signora dalle Camelie_ in which he and some of his
family, who are all artists, were to take part.  I could not go to both
and chose Dumas because, in the first place, being Turiddu's compare it
was my duty to support the family.  In the second place I had seen the
Entry with Palms at the duomo in the morning and had all the rest of the
week free to see the marionettes do the rest of the story.  So I went to
the Teatro Pezzana in the evening.  It is a small place, small enough to
have been formerly used for marionettes, and was now being used by a
Society of Lovers of the Drama.  Turiddu was presiding over the
box-office and had considered my requirements.  He sent me in with his
young brother Gennaro, who found me a place, and I saw a play which
cannot be considered seriously except as an opportunity for the actress
who undertakes the part of Margherita Gautier.  On this occasion it was
undertaken by Desdemona Balistrieri, Turiddu's sister, a girl of fifteen
years and ten months, two years older than himself; I had never expected
to see so young a Margherita Gautier.  She gave a remarkable performance
with nothing childish about it and nothing--but it would be unbecoming in
me to praise the sister of my compare.  Her grandmother, the old lady
referred to in Chapter XVII (_ante_) who slept in the piazza after the
earthquake, was Prudenza, and her mother, Signora Balistrieri, was
Olimpia and appeared between the old generation and the young, joining
and yet separating them.  Turiddu's part was small; he was merely a page
bringing a letter or a message.


MONDAY


In the afternoon I went to the Teatro Sicilia and found everything
prepared for the evening.  Christ and the apostles were sitting at the
supper-table as in Leonardo's fresco in Milan; not that they were
imitating Leonardo, the early mosaics and the miracle plays, influencing
and counter-influencing one another, must have determined the composition
of the representations of the Last Supper before Leonardo's time; he was
not inventing, he was giving the people something they were accustomed to
see and the marionettes were similarly following their own traditions.  I
do not think the apostles were all in their usual places, S. John was
next to Christ, but Judas was at one end of the table--a terrible fellow
with shaggy black hair falling over his face--and he had not spilt the
salt.  There was no salt for him to spill.  Signor Greco told me that
when they perform the Orioles play at Palermo, they use a horse-shoe
table, Judas sits near one end and not only spills the salt, but behaves
like a naughty child, putting his elbows on the table and throwing the
plates on the floor so that they break.  On the supper-table at Catania
there was a wooden model of a roasted lamb, with jointed neck and legs,
lying on a dish.  There were plates with lettuces cut up, bread and wine,
oil and vinegar and oranges, all real.  Each apostle had a glass and
there was a metal chalice for Christ.  I forget all the things that are
on the table in the chapel of the Last Supper at Varallo-Sesia, but I
remember they have ripe figs, which is a mistake, because figs do not
become ripe till later in the year.  Oranges are at their best in Sicily
in the spring and lettuces are in season.  The audience understand this
and know that lettuces are appropriate for supper because they contain
some narcotic, so that a raw lettuce is often eaten after dinner.  The
supper had been prepared in front of the back scene, and behind it, ready
to be disclosed at the proper moment, was the garden wherein the capture
of Christ was to take place.

Soon after seven o'clock in the evening I was sitting in my room at the
albergo and saw a great light which I supposed might have something to do
with the electric tram.  After this I heard a roaring noise which I
supposed might be occasioned by an explosive motor bicycle in the street.
Then the glass in the window rattled for a considerable time, which I
supposed might be due to a slight shock of earthquake.  At about
half-past eight I went to the Teatro Sicilia.  Gregorio and his
assistants were all outside, and received me with congratulations on my
courage; I was the only one of their patrons bold enough to think of
witnessing the performance, all the others had been too much frightened
by the earthquake--if it had been an earthquake; and in about ten minutes
we shut up the theatre and came away.  I went to the Teatro Machiavelli
to see what effect had been produced there.  There was some anxiety about
the phenomenon, but more, it seemed, as to whether enough people would
come to make it worth while to have a performance.  We were waiting for
instructions when someone brought in a bolletino hastily prepared in a
newspaper office with an account of the avvenimento celeste.  We sat
round and listened while one of the actors read about the convulsion of
nature, the trembling of the palaces, the flashes of flame at a great
height in the sky, the terror of the inhabitants of Catania.  Was the
phenomenon of telluric origin--Etna or an earthquake?  Was it of
atmospheric origin--a thunderbolt or a waterspout?  Or could it be a
miracle in the dictionary sense of something contrary to the course of
nature?  No one knew.  Gradually a sufficient number of the public
overcame their fright and took places in the theatre; and thus I saw a
play by Peppino Fazio called _I Delitti del Caporale_ of which I have
forgotten a great deal, but it contained one incident which I have not
forgotten.

There was a scene in the cottage of a brigand who lived with his sister,
he was out and she was alone.  A corporal of infantry entered and made
infamous proposals which she rejected; a struggle followed and was ended
by the man shooting the girl through the heart.  Overcome by remorse and
filled with respect for the dead, he reverently raised the corpse, laid
it along the floor by the wall at the back of the cottage and covered it
with a sheet.  He placed an oil lamp on the floor so that the head, the
breast, the hips, the knees and the toes caught the light, while shadows
fell in the depressions between.  He knelt in prayer and then crept from
the solemn scene on which the curtain slowly descended.

We were then transported to a country road outside the caserma of the
carabinieri; they were carousing and plotting how to take the brigand.  A
countryman came and gave information on which they settled a plan of
action and the scene ended, but it had occupied a good deal of time and
had distracted the mind.

The curtain rose again on the brigand's cottage.  Nothing had been moved.
Three carabinieri entered furtively, they noticed what was on the floor,
lying by the wall, but did not disturb it, they had other business in
hand and concealed themselves behind doors and furniture.  There was a
pause and the house was very still.  The brigand came home, noisily threw
down his gun, clanked about the cottage in his great boots, took his
knife and his pistols from his belt and banged them down on the table.
As he turned he caught sight of the sheet covering something the form of
which was emphasised by the oil lamp burning at its head.  He did not
speak, but surprise and alarm seized him and appeared in his face and in
his attitude.  He approached it, raised the sheet and with a yell of
terror and grief fell on his knees by the corpse as he recognised his
sister.  The three carabinieri came from their hiding and took him.

It was a typical drama for the Machiavelli.  Notwithstanding the want of
variety in their plots--and the title of one of their plays signifies as
little as the title of a London pantomime--I have seldom passed an
evening there without seeing some incident as striking as this return to
the house of death.  They know how to do these things with a simplicity
and an apparent unconsciousness of the effect they are producing which
bring with them a strange astonishment.

This was not the corporal's only crime, but to clear up this one it may
be added that the hand of the corpse clutched a button which, in the
struggle, the girl had torn off the man's coat; this led to his
identification, and in prison he met the brigand, who shot him and thus
avenged the murder.  I have seen happy endings that were more artificial.


TUESDAY


Compare Turiddu came early to inquire whether I was much alarmed by the
disturbance and to tell me what had happened.  A bolide had fallen into
the Catanian sea--he took me to the port and showed me precisely where.

"It was near that ship," he said.

The people had rushed to the cathedral to pray S. Agata to avert further
harm.  They also went to the Piazza S. Nicola hoping it might be large
enough to hold them all in case there was an earthquake, for they were
all thinking of Messina.  The sailors, believing that what they saw fall
into the sea was the moon, drew their boats up into safety.  The sea did
rise, but only eight centimetres, not so much as it would have risen if
the moon had really fallen into it.  When the newspapers came out I read
more particulars: that a barber in the Via Lincoln had been so much
frightened that he cut the throat of the customer he was shaving,
fortunately, however, no damage was done as the wound was only skin-deep;
that a woman ran naked into the Via Garibaldi, not having time in her
fright to put any clothes on; that a waiter handing a dish to a lady in
the Birraria Svizzera dropped it on her silk dress, which was ruined; and
that a priest in the Quattro Canti was seen moving his arms like an
electric fan and was heard to exclaim "God save me!"  He did not say "God
save us" because he was an egoist.

It should be added that the article was written by Peppino Fazio, who
confessed to me that though these things may have happened he did not see
them.  He found them in his imagination.  It should perhaps be added
further that he knows his public and is not afraid of being taken
seriously.

I also saw an account of an interview with Professor Ricco of the
Observatory, who stated that an aerolite had fallen out of the profundity
of space and that it had not been ascertained where it had struck our
planet.

As no one had gone to the Teatro Sicilia on Monday the marionettes were
thrown a day late and the programme arranged for the Monday was remanded
to the Tuesday, like a festa.  I half feared I might be prevented again
from seeing it because some friends from England arrived in Catania for
the night and I did not know whether they would care to go.  They were,
however, much interested when I made the proposal.  We were rather late,
and missed the Last Supper, arriving just before the curtain rose on the
garden.  It was a beautiful scene.  Christ was kneeling at a rock in the
background, the disciples were sleeping in the foreground and the wings
were hidden by branches of real trees.  An angel descended with a cup
from which the principal figure drank.  When the angel had departed there
was a pause--the lights changed and through the silence we heard the
tramp, tramp of approaching people; soldiers came on preceded by Judas,
who betrayed his Master with a kiss, Peter cut off Malchus's right ear,
the Nazarene was taken and the curtain fell.


WEDNESDAY


Turiddu came in the morning and we conducted my friends round the town.
We went to the shop where the old Swiss watchmaker sells the amber of
which Brancaccia's necklace is made; we went to the market, where we ate
a prickly pear, just to see what it was like, and the man politely
refused payment because we were foreigners; in the market also we bought
bergamot snuff-boxes; we then showed them the port, where they bought
crockery, and the Villa Bellini, where they took photographs; after which
we went back to the albergo, where we had luncheon.  Then we accompanied
them to the station and saw them off for Taormina.  Turiddu was as
pleased as anyone, he liked making the acquaintance of his compare's
English friends and they thought him a delightful boy.  Strictly speaking
they were not English; the two ladies were Inglesi Americane, which
Turiddu said he understood because his mother had acted in the Argentina
and, though South America is not North America, it appeared pedantic to
insist on the distinction.  The two gentlemen, again, were really Inglesi
Irlandesi, and here also we were in trouble because he mistook Irlandesi
for Olandesi and thought they were what we should call Boers.

After they had gone I went to the Teatro Sicilia to learn what I had
missed by not seeing the Cena.  Carmelo told me that when Christ has
spoken the words "This is my body" he breaks the bread and gives each of
the apostles a piece.  Judas does not eat his piece, he steals it and
leaves the room.  In his absence Christ blesses the wine and gives the
others to drink, he washes their feet and they go out to the Mount of
Olives.  This is followed by a scene of Judas coming to Annas and
Caiaphas, showing his piece of bread and telling them that he had heard
Christ speak blasphemy.  Carmelo explained that the priests were
Hebrews--there were Hebrews, he said, in those days, living in that
country--and Hebrews believe that bread is the Body of God; therefore for
a man--and they thought Christ was merely a man--to declare that the
bread was his body amounted to blasphemy.  This was evidence against the
Nazarene; it carried the story on a step and the plotting priests
prepared everything for the betrayal and capture of Christ--the final
scene which we saw.

I did not know, or had forgotten, that Hebrews were so particular about
bread, but Carmelo assured me that they never throw bread away, and if
they find a piece on the floor they pick it up and put it in a hole in
the wall and keep it.  It may be eaten, but may never be otherwise
destroyed.  I thought of Ruskin telling his readers in _The Elements of
Drawing_ that stale crumb of bread is better than india-rubber to rub out
their mistakes, but "it crumbles about the room and makes a mess; and
besides, you waste the good bread, which is wrong; and your drawing will
not for a long while be worth the crumbs.  So use india-rubber very
lightly."

"Are you a Christian?" asked Carmelo suddenly.

I was not embarrassed.  A few days before, when one of the priests at
Tindaro asked me the same question, I replied that I had been baptised
into the Christian faith soon after birth.  The priest said that between
the two Churches of Rome and England there were unfortunate differences
as to the mysteries but I need not concern myself with them.  "Nature
does not believe in the mysteries," said my priest, who was a most
friendly person, and as I had been baptised, if I lived a good life, and
he was politely certain I did, then I was a Christian.  So I considered
myself justified in answering Carmelo's question in the affirmative.

In the evening I returned to the Teatro Sicilia; Carmelo put me into a
good place and this time I saw the whole performance.  The Nazarene was
taken before Annas, Caiaphas, Pilate and Herod.  The priests taxed him
with being a magician.  Herod proposed that he should perform a miracle
if he could, but Christ was silent and did nothing.  Herod therefore
concluded that the priests were wrong and that Christ must be mad.  He
directed that he should be clothed in white and taken back to Pilate, and
this was done.

We were then in the house of the Madonna, and S. John came and told her
and the other Maries all that had happened to her son.  Each of the holy
women carried a handkerchief and the lamentation became monotonous.

Judas had received the thirty pieces of silver and began his remorse by
taking them, in a red purse, back to the priests, who scoffed at him and
turned him out.  His rage and despair were extreme and gave the audience
an opportunity to relieve their feelings by laughing.

Before the last scene Gregorio in his ordinary clothes came on and told
the audience the programme for the next day.  He also apologised for
presenting the Passion with marionettes, he usually performs it with
living actors, he himself being the Nazarene.  This year, however, he did
not feel strong enough to undertake the part or to get all the other
actors together; and he appealed to our consideration and begged us to
accept marionettes.

In the days when Giovanni Grasso acted in his own Machiavelli theatre,
before he went on tour and acquired his world-wide reputation, they used
to do the Passion there also, and he was Judas.  Sometimes he doubled his
part and did Annas as well, or Pilate or the good centurion, making any
necessary alterations in those places where his two characters ought to
have appeared together.  It would be a great thing to see Giovanni as
Judas, but I suppose he will never do it again.

I noticed that all the figures had been newly dressed and painted for the
occasion and the pupils of their eyes were freshly varnished to catch the
light.  About the soldiers there was still some reminiscence of paladins,
but the principal characters had been prepared with due regard to the
works of the great masters--though here again I suppose they were really
following the traditions of the theatre as preserved by the pictures.
The figures gained by hiding their legs, but Joseph of Arimathaea and
Nicodemus had not this advantage.  They were princes and were like
Shakespearean young men of the brilliant water-fly type, such as Osric.
Misandro was also a prince.  He was a swaggerer and behaved as badly as
any paladin, but he was not a buffo.  When they do the Nativita at
Christmas a buffo is permitted, he accompanies the Shepherds as their
servant, and I should like to see him.  Misandro was all in golden
armour, as fine a figure as one could expect a Prince of Judaea to be.
He had a contrast in Claudio Cornelio the good centurion.  Claudio was
left alone with Christ and confessed his faith, while a bright light from
the cinematograph box illuminated the stage as though to signify that if
we believe, all will become clear.  The most successful of the figures
was Pilate.  He was in black with a red sash and his robes fell in folds
of great dignity.

The words were all declaimed either from memory or extempore, and there
were several speakers.  The one who had most to do did it with a great
deal of energy, especially as Judas and Misandro.  Gregorio spoke for
Christ and a woman spoke for the women and the angels.

The Christ was of course a failure, in art all Christs are failures, even
the Christ in the chapels at Varallo-Sesia, even the Christ in the
pictures by the masters.  The Child Christ may be a success, at least we
can sometimes fancy that that baby might become the Saviour of the World,
he reminds us of those babies we have all seen in real life with a look
in their eyes as though they had solved the riddle of the universe.  But
the Man Christ does not convince; we only tolerate him because we have
been brought up to acquiesce in the convention.  The Christs of pictures
and statues are not, however, such failures as the Christ at
Ober-Ammergau; by keeping still and not trying to appear so real they
leave more to the imagination.  If all these fail how can a marionette be
expected to succeed?  Hiding its legs when it moves is not enough.
Gregorio knew he was attempting the impossible and did his best to save
the figure from being worse than it might have been, but the result was
rather as though it were all the time apologising for having undertaken
the part.  He made it move very little and very slowly, so slowly that
the action of the drama was interrupted.  He allowed it no gestures,
except an occasional raising of the hand.  He spoke for it only the few
words given to Christ in the gospels.  When it caused a miracle, there
came a great light, as when the good centurion confessed his faith, and
there was music.  When it entered, the drum beat a Saracen rhythm and
there was music again.  By these means the figure was detached from the
others and appeared as though belonging to another world.  When the
marionettes do the Orioles play at Palermo, Christ speaks much more than
the words from the gospels and is treated more like one of the other
characters, at least nothing is done to suggest that they are giving the
Passion with the part of Christ as nearly omitted as possible.

The music at Catania was faint and scrappy.  Gounod's _Meditation on
Bach's First Prelude_ occurred frequently, but it seldom got beyond the
first ten or twelve bars, sometimes not beyond the second or third.  And
there were similar short references to some of the more sentimental
melodies of Bellini and Verdi.  It was not intended to distract the
attention; it was rather to provide an unobtrusive background for the ear
against which the voice spoke, as the scenery was a background for the
eye against which the figures moved.


THURSDAY


This was the day for visiting the sepulchres in the churches.  Turiddu
took me to the cathedral, and we saw a procession moving slowly down the
nave.  It turned up one of the aisles and entered a sepulchre which had
been prepared, passing between a double file of dismal creatures entirely
shrouded in white except for two eye-holes, like those ghouls that issued
stealthily from charnel-houses in German fairy tales, and used to pursue
me in dreams when I was a boy.  One by one the lights on the altar were
extinguished, Phrygian cadences dropped inconclusively from the choir
above, the archbishop came out of the sepulchre and the hooded ghosts
crept with him.  A Dominican occupied the pulpit and began a sermon, but
as we could not get near enough to hear what he said, we came away.
Turiddu afterwards took me to visit a few more sepulchres, and it was a
gloomy business.

In the evening, at the Teatro Sicilia, the curtain rose on Christ bound
to the column, and there were two Turks armed with scourges.  They did
not actually scourge him, it was enough that they told Misandro they had
executed their orders.  Peter denied his master and the cock crew thrice.
While Judas was continuing his remorse, Peter appeared to him, and,
confessing his sin of denying Christ, proposed to expiate it by throwing
himself into a well; he tempted Judas to follow his example and preceded
him to show the way.  But we saw that it was not really Peter, it was a
devil.  Judas was about to follow the devil when an angel appeared and
stopped him.  He was to die a different death, and not yet.

A tearful scene between mother and son came next; I did not care for it,
but the dream of Claudia, the wife of Pilate, was, as Carmelo said, "una
visione tremenda."  In a dress of scarlet satin trimmed with gold and
lace, she sat in an arm-chair in a garden and went to sleep.  Christ
appeared to her.  She spoke to him, but he did not reply, and as she woke
he vanished.  She slept again, and Annas appeared to her in red fire,
threatening her if she yielded to the emotions which the vision of the
Man of Sorrows had raised in her heart.  She woke in dismay as he
vanished.  She slept again, and saw Pilate in hell surrounded by devils.
She woke in fright.  She slept again, and a devil appeared and talked to
her, justifying Pilate.  S. Michele came and killed the devil.


GOOD FRIDAY


The Machiavelli was closed.  At the Sicilia the performance began with
the trial of Christ.  Pilate sat in the middle with Joseph of Arimathaea
and Nicodemus on his right, Caiaphas, Annas, and Misandro on his left.
Beyond Nicodemus was the Nazarene in a red cloak holding a reed and
crowned with thorns; and beyond Misandro was Barabbas.  Pilate made the
opening speech.  Caiaphas then spoke for the prosecution; the question in
debate was whether Christ was the Son of God, and he accused Christ of
being a deceiver.  Nicodemus followed for the defence.  Then Annas for
the prosecution.  He said: "The voice of God is the voice of the people."
He was followed by Joseph, who maintained that the wonders performed by
Christ were not done by magic, they were miracles; that is he was not a
magician, he was the Son of God.  Misandro spoke last.

Here a messenger arrived from Claudia telling her dream and begging
Pilate to go to her.  The Court rose and Pilate went home to comfort his
wife, while the others talked among themselves just as barristers do in
the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand when the sitting is suspended.

Pilate returned and took his seat.  He proposed to liberate Christ and to
sacrifice Barabbas.  He presented Christ to the people, saying:

"Ecce Homo."

And the crowd shouted: "Not this man, but Barabbas."

Pilate ironically congratulated them:

"You are right, O ignorant People!" and, telling Barabbas to go and
thieve again, he liberated him.

Then the false witnesses came.  One was a soldier, the other a Turk.
They took the oath to speak the truth and nothing but the truth.  They
were both of them stupid and comic, confused and contradictory, and made
the audience laugh, and when one of them admitted that he had been
bribed, Annas in his rage gobbled like a turkey.

Pilate closed the debate and washed his hands in a basin held by a
servant.  Then he wrote the sentence and made Misandro read it.  The
trial lasted a whole hour, the intention being, I suppose, to reproduce
that tediousness which is so characteristic of real trials.

In the next scene Judas continued his remorse and Peter--it was really
Peter this time--came and counselled him to ask pardon of Jesus, but he
would not listen.

Then came the journey to Calvary and the meeting with the Daughters of
Jerusalem and S. Veronica, Misandro ill-treating the women and Claudio
Cornelio protecting them.

The last scene was the Crucifixion.  The thieves were in place.  At the
back was the Cross lying on the ground.  The figure of Christ was nailed
to it by a Turk with a hammer; the Cross was raised; Misandro approved;
the Turk gave the sponge; Misandro reviled Christ, saying: "Thou that
destroyest the temple of God and buildest it in three days, save
thyself"; Christ and the thieves held their dialogue; the Madonna and S.
John stood at the foot of the Cross while Christ spoke the sentences and
inclined his head.  Then there was the earthquake, and we saw the souls
in purgatory surrounding the Cross and heard them welcoming their Lord.


SATURDAY


Compare Turiddu came early and we went to the duomo to see the Gloria.
The church was full and he told me to be careful about my watch and my
money because--"picketi pocketi"; and then he asked me whether I
understood those two words which his mother had brought back from one of
her tours.

His Eminence, the Cardinal Archbishop, was conducting a service in a side
chapel--blessing the baptismal water, or the font, or both, or perhaps
doing something else, for Turiddu is not such an authority on
ecclesiastical matters as Carmelo is on matters theatrical.  He knows
more than I do, however; it was he who made me go to see the Gloria on
the Saturday, without him I should have missed it by waiting till the
Sunday.  The western doors were thrown open and we looked through into
the sunshine and up to the arch that stands at the top of the Via
Garibaldi.  The archbishop finished his service and returned through the
congregation to the space within the rails of the principal altar.
Behind him as he stood and concealing the altar and the east end of the
church hung a curtain from the roof to the floor.  There was chanting and
movement among the priests; they continually kept going and coming,
disappearing into the secret place behind the great curtain and
reappearing; they were preparing the mystery.  Presently the curtain
shook and the congregation understood.  The suppressed excitement grew
and a murmuring began, caused, I suppose, by everyone telling everyone
else, as Turiddu told me, that the curtain was about to fall.  Another
instant--and its fall revealed the Gloria.

Above the altar was a tomb and above the tomb was the figure of the risen
Christ triumphing over death; in his left hand he held a banner and, with
his right, he blessed the people.  There were lights, and sudden music
from the organ and from the choir; the deafening bells clanged and,
through the great open doors, we heard the sound of revolvers being shot
off into the air and of fireworks being exploded.

Turiddu could not see over the heads of the people; I lifted him up, he
looked at the Gloria and turning himself round in my arms kissed me as he
said:

"Buona Pasqua, Compare."

Everyone was saying "Buona Pasqua" to everyone else, everyone standing
near a friend or a relation was exchanging kisses with him or her as a
sign of goodwill; many were weeping for joy, and those who had been
quarrelling became reconciled, forgiving one another their offences and
entering upon a new life, vowing that, with the help of their Heavenly
Father, who had revealed to them the Mystery of the Resurrection, they
would from this day avoid all further disputes even though, in order to
perform the vow, it should be necessary to avoid one another's company.
This is not imaginative writing, like Peppino Fazio's account of the
effect of the bolide, it is what I saw--the effect of the Gloria.

And the spirit of the Gloria floated down the nave and through the open
doors and out into the piazza, where the elephant of lava stands over the
fountain.  It passed up the Via Garibaldi, down the Corso, along the
Stesicoro Etnea, it spread itself through the city and became identified
with the morning sunshine.

"Come along," said Turiddu, "let's go and buy a paschal lamb for mother."

We followed the Gloria into the piazza among the fireworks and the
revolvers.

I said: "What about the plates, Turiddu?  Don't the people throw the
crockery out of window in their joy?  We must be careful."

He replied that they only do that in the poorer parts of the town, and
they always look first to make sure that no one is passing.  But we had
better be careful, all the same, because the revolvers are loaded and the
squibs are dangerous.

He took me past the municipio, where the band was playing, and we came to
a sweet-shop, where paschal lambs made of almond paste and sugar were
flocking together on all the tables and shelves.  They were not like the
one at the Last Supper, they were in their fleeces and were standing or
lying among candied fruits and tufts of dried grass that had been
artificially dyed unlikely colours.  Turiddu chose one, and I sent him
off home with it as an Easter offering of goodwill to his mother.

Peppino Fazio was standing at a kiosk near the Quattro Canti with two
young cousins, buying button-holes of violas; he gave me the one he had
intended for himself.

"Wear this," he said, "it is the primavera.  Proserpine has risen from
the underworld, she has returned to Enna and is scattering flowers again.
Stay; let us exchange; I will take another bunch and you shall pay the
man for it one soldo.  Buona Pasqua."

So we exchanged bunches.  "Wear this," I said, echoing his words, "it is
the primavera; the time for visiting sepulchres is over.  Proserpine has
sent these flowers down from Castrogiovanni by the morning train.  Buona
Pasqua."

In the next piazza, in the shadow of the statue of Bellini, was one of
the men from the Teatro Machiavelli; he had brought out his dog and
talked of going a-birding, he hoped it was not too early for quail, he
had already seen ripe strawberries in the market.  Buona Pasqua.

Then I came upon Joe, the Policeman, keeping order in the street.

He said: "Buona Pasqua.  You are very good-looking this morning."  He
meant I was looking very well, but he will be so English.

I replied: "Buona Pasqua.  But, my dear Joe, you ought not to be wearing
flowers in uniform, ought you?"

"It is the primavera," he said.  He also told me that the revolvers and
the squibs and the plates had not done much damage this year--perhaps ten
or a dozen accidents, but none fatal, so far as was yet known.

I went along the Via Stesicoro, not considering my steps because I was
looking up the street, wondering how long the Gloria would take to melt
the snow on Etna, and I stumbled across Carmelo.

"Buona Pasqua, Carmelo, and have you been to church this morning?"

No, he had been to the port with his friends to see the steamer in which
they were to go to Naples; there they would change into another steamer
and be taken to the States.  They had begged, borrowed, stolen, or, it
may be, possibly even earned enough soldi to begin their new life upon
another soil and under other skies in a new world.  Buona Pasqua.

I returned to the albergo and found that Turiddu had been and had left
for me a characteristic Sicilian cake--a ring of bread on one side of
which, half embedded in the pasta, were four new-laid eggs.  This was
accompanied by a note from his mother begging me to accept it as her
Easter offering of goodwill.  She was telling me more than that the hens
had begun to lay again.  She was reminding me of how I had seen her at
the Teatro Pessana as the link between her mother and her children,
joining them and separating them like a passage of modulation.  I
understood her to mean that for the future I was to see an egg as a
transitional something between the hen that laid it and the chicken that
will burst from its shell, as a secret place of repose where the one is
transmuted into the other, as a sacred temple wherein is prepared a
mystery of resurrection.  Mothers know some things that cannot be told
except in symbolism, and not very clearly then, symbols being as
perplexing as unresolved diminished sevenths which may be understood in
many different senses.  I read the riddle of the eggs in the sense
suggested by the context of the Gloria, and I think I read it aright, for
in Catania on that Easter morning we were all of one mind, we were all
breathing the Gloria, we were all filled with the spirit of the new life,
the spirit that animated also our far-away English monk as he sat in his
Berkshire cell making music for

    Summer is icumen in,
    Lhude sing cuccu.

In the evening I went to the Machiavelli.  The theatre had been taken by
a young amateur who carries on a business of forwarding oranges and other
fruit.  He gave a performance of one of Giovanni Grasso's plays,
_Feudalismo_, part of which I was obliged to see because in the second
act there is a song sung behind, and Turiddu had been asked to sing it;
on such a day the claims of the family were stronger even than on Palm
Sunday.  His voice has not yet broken, but if it turns out to be as good
for a man as it is now for a boy, he ought to do well with it.  I must
not continue--it would be more unbecoming in me to praise my compare for
his singing than to praise his sister for her acting.

After the song in _Feudalismo_ there was time also for the second
representation at the Teatro Sicilia.  The performance began with the
wounding of Christ.  Then Annas and Caiaphas discussed the question of
whether, after all, they might not have made a mistake in treating Christ
as a magician.  They had been alarmed by the earthquake, the atmospheric
disturbances and the rising of the dead from their graves.  Could these
phenomena signify that he was the Son of God?  And something else
troubled them; on consideration they did not like the wording of Pilate's
sentence.  They went to his palace, but Pilate was not disposed to listen
to their objections.

"What I have written I have written," said Pilate.

They had brought the sentence with them and pointed out to him that he
had condemned "il Re dei Giudei" the King of the Jews and, inasmuch as
condemning a king is a serious step and might get him into trouble,
suggested that for his own safety he should add the letter "o" to the
word "Re."  This would make it that he had condemned "Il Reo dei Giudei,"
the Criminal of the Jews.  Pilate was persuaded and agreed to add the
letter.  He went away and fetched his pen, which looked like a feather
from the tail of a hawk, and Annas held the paper; but Pilate's pen
refused to write, it was wafted from his hand by a power stronger than
his, it hung in the air before their eyes and fluttered away to heaven.

This miracle was accompanied by music; and, if I had been consulted, I
should not have advised the _Marcia Reale Italiana_, because that
composition, on account of its inherent frivolity, has always seemed to
me unfit for the accompaniment of any manifestation of power.  To despise
Bellini because he is not Schubert would be to adopt the attitude of the
buffo's critic who escaped from Paris in the teatrino at Palermo;
nevertheless the countrymen of Schubert have known how to appear before
the world clothed in the solemn splendour of Haydn's majestic Hymn to the
Emperor, while the Italians come mountebanking along in an ill-fitting,
machine-made suit of second-hand flourishes, as though that were the best
they could lay their hands on.  They have not done themselves justice.
But this is not the place for a digression; before returning to Pilate
and his visitors, however, let me say distinctly that the music was the
Italian _Marcia Reale_ played, not as the other scraps were played, but
with a loud and jaunty heartlessness as though the miraculous pen were
jeering at the priests:

"There! you didn't expect that; now, did you?"

Joseph and Nicodemus also came to Pilate begging the body of Jesus.  The
priests objected, for they had not forgotten the prophecy about building
the Temple of God in three days, and they feared trickery.  Pilate
compromised, granting the request but setting a guard.

Next we saw the Descent from the Cross, effected by Joseph and Nicodemus;
and while the body lay on a couch, a melancholy Miserere was sung behind.
The Entombment followed, the Madonna in black lamenting and weeping.

The last scene was in a wood, where Judas came to finish his remorse.  He
refused all comfort and all the benevolent suggestions of the angels who
visited him.  They told him that God is ever willing to pardon the sinner
who sincerely repents and freely confesses his sin.  It is with God
always as it is with men at the season of the Gloria.  But the wretched
Judas could not think of repentance and confession; his cowardly soul was
not torn by sorrow for past sin, it was paralysed by fear of future
punishment; or we may have been intended to understand that the road to
perdition lies through madness.  He spoke three sentences, and the last
word of each was echoed by a diabolical voice and then appeared written
in letters of blood and fire:--Giuda:--Dio:--Stesso.  These words made a
sentence by themselves and signified: "_Judas_ is against _God_ and
against _Himself_."  Faith, Hope, and Charity appeared to him separately;
he would have nothing to do with any of them and they all deserted him.
A devil approached and Judas trembled, knowing his time had come.  He
went and fetched a rope, and with the devil's help accomplished his fatal
destiny by hanging himself to one of the trees of the wood, and as his
wicked soul came out of his mouth the devil greedily snatched it away and
carried it down to be eternally tormented in hell.  It was like an untidy
black hen.


EASTER DAY


I had to go into the country for the night, and so was obliged to miss
the Resurrection as presented by the marionettes.  I did not, however,
much mind, because I had seen the Gloria in the cathedral, where the
Christ over the altar was modelled much better than any figure in the
theatre.  Besides, I called on Gregorio in the course of the day and had
a talk with him and his son, Angiolino, who told me what is done on the
last evening of the drama, and showed me the preparations.  The first
scene, representing the tomb, was nearly ready.  After the curtain rises
there is an earthquake, and Misandro comes to see whether the watching
soldiers are doing their duty; he finds them asleep and wakes them.  This
is repeated, and the third time Misandro sees the tomb open with a loud
noise and a bright light--"like the bolide," said Angiolino.  Christ
rises, and Misandro, seeing the actual Resurrection, is convinced that
Christ is the Son of God and not a magician; he goes to spend the rest of
his life preaching the gospel among the heathen.  I did not ask what
music accompanies the miracle of the Resurrection; I confess I was afraid
to do so after what I had heard accompanying the flight of the pen.  If I
had been consulted here I should have advised silence to suggest that no
music could be found suitable for the tremendous mystery that was being
accomplished.  But I do not think such advice would have been accepted.

Then Herod is ill and commands Pilate to send Jesus to cure him.  Pilate
commands the priests to produce Jesus, reminding them that he had washed
his hands; but each of the priests accuses the other of being
responsible, and so they enter upon their eternal punishment of mutual
recrimination.

Christ appears to the Magdalene, to Luke, to Matthew and to a contadino.
He takes two of them to a tavern, where he breaks bread and vanishes.  So
they recognise him and go to tell the good news to the Madonna and the
other holy women.  Doubting Thomas is convinced.  Jesus breathes the Holy
Spirit upon them and they receive the gift of tongues.  The last scene is
the Ascension, and Christ as he is received into heaven speaks words of
comfort to his mother, telling her it will not be long before she joins
him.

The marionettes were behindhand with their Gloria, because the bolide
having transferred Monday's programme to Tuesday had syncopated the
succeeding performances into counterpoint of the fourth order, and
everything that happened after that was one beat late.  Had they moved
concurrently with the Church, and reached the Resurrection on the
Saturday, they would have repeated it on the Sunday to fill up the time
till Easter Monday, when they were to return to _Erminio della Stella
d'Oro_, a story of romance and chivalry invented by Angelo Grasso, the
father of Gregorio and of Giovanni.

I asked Gregorio where he had found the particulars for Misandro and the
remorse of Judas and for the dream of Pilate's wife and the pen that flew
away.  He replied that he did not know where they came from, they are
traditional in the theatre and had probably come out of the libraries.
As to Judas and the angel preventing him from drowning himself in the
well, I asked whether they have in Sicily the saying about a man being
born to be hanged and whether any allusion was intended.  Angiolino said
they have such a saying, or something like it, but it had never occurred
to him to suppose that any allusion was intended, it might be so, but he
thought not.

The Christ that had been prepared for the Resurrection in the Teatro
Sicilia was not the marionette that had been on the Cross; the stigmata
were there, the spear wound was wanted in the scene with Thomas, and the
people were free to take it as being the same figure with all the other
marks of suffering removed, or they might think it was a different one,
or they might come behind the scenes and find out for themselves as I
did.  Dwellers in another planet, if they watch the recurrence of the
mystery of our spring, may think the flowers they saw sinking into the
earth last autumn return again with the marks of decay removed, they
cannot come behind our scenes and make sure; but we know that a new
generation is born.  The marionettes are not didactic; if the people
choose to see in the Resurrection of Christ any one of Nature's ageless
mysteries they may do so; they may see the birth of the younger
generation, the blossoming of fresh flowers after winter, the awakening
to a new day after sleep; or, if they prefer it, they may see the
resurrection of their own dead bodies at the sound of the Last Trump--one
of those mysteries in which, as my priest at Tindaro told me, Nature does
not believe, and with which I need not concern myself.

I do not think they saw in it any of these meanings.  At Ober-Ammergau
the play is presented so that Mendelssohn need not have hesitated to
advise the late Prince Consort to honour a performance with his presence.
In the Teatro Sicilia other tastes have to be consulted.  I think the
audience looked on at the Passion of Christ as they are accustomed to
look on at _I Delitti del Caporale_ or _Feudalismo_ or at the _Story of
the Paladins_ or _Erminio della Stella d'Oro_; if they suspected any
symbolism or mystery, the melodrama with which they were saturated
provided a context that determined the direction of the resolution.  They
saw wicked priests conspiring with a cowardly traitor and an overbearing
bully to bring about the destruction of an innocent man.  They saw the
innocent man passing through misfortune and in the end triumphing over
his enemies by means of a happy ending, which reminded them of the happy
ending of a Machiavelli play, when the hero returns from prison and the
bad people are punished.  They saw a mother weeping for her son, but they
saw no allusion to Ceres weeping for loss of Proserpine, although their
Castrogiovanni was her Enna--just as Angiolino saw no reference to Judas
having been born to be hanged, although they have the saying in Sicily,
and he is the son of the house.  I do not think they saw any significance
in the fact that this mystery of the Death and Resurrection of the God is
repeated every spring.  I imagine that the point made by Joseph of
Arimathaea in his speech for the defence, that the wonders done by Christ
on earth were miracles and were not occasioned by magic, was lost upon
them.  It would take a long time to make one of them understand that la
Durlindana, the sword of Orlando, was a magical sword and not a
miraculous one.  And yet this distinction between miracle and magic was
the pivot of the plot as it was presented to them.  If they had felt
themselves lifted out of their ordinary routine I do not think they would
have done what they did after the curtain had fallen on the section of
the story presented each evening.

At the Machiavelli they are accustomed to remain for the farce and the
Canzonettisti Napoletani which close the performance; so at the Sicilia
they remain for the cinematograph.  Every evening during Holy Week the
programme posted up at the door concluded with these words "Indi
Cinematografo," and there were always three parts to the show.  First
there was cruelty--victorious tyrants forcing conquered queens to drink
their lovers' blood, or some horror of the Inquisition, or the barrel of
Regulus bumping down-hill and coming to smash at the bottom.  The second
part was a modern comedy carried on in Parisian drawing-rooms or on board
an electric launch on an American river.  The third part was always a
wild farce and usually contained an impossible chase.  Not till after the
cinematograph had concluded its show did the audience go away contented.



ORTIGIA


CHAPTER XXII
O FOUNTAIN ARETHUSE


When "Arethusa arose From her couch of snows In the Acroceraunian
mountains" she had scarcely reached the age at which women begin to dream
of love.  She spied the approaching river-god Alpheus and, to preserve
what was dearer to her than life, for she was a nymph of Diana, plunged
heroically into the earth.  Alpheus, who had reached the age when men
desire to act, plunged in after her.  They flowed along inside the ground
and under the sea, he following her, all the way from Greece to Sicily
and, according to the recognised habit of gods and demi-gods believed to
be dead and buried, they rose again.  The place of Arethusa's
resurrection is the island of Ortigia, but, although I have the story
from the fountain head, it all happened so long ago that I have not been
able to ascertain whether Alpheus rose there or at a spot on the mainland
of Sicily nearer Etna where S. Alfio is the patron saint, and although
the "e" in Alpheus takes the stress and the "i" in Alfio does not,
nevertheless, the custode of the spring, who was himself my informant,
may confuse the two names.  The difference between the versions is that
between tragedy and comedy.  If they, the pursued and her pursuer, rose
in the same place it can hardly be that he did not catch her.  If he rose
somewhere else, then she may still preserve her everlasting virginity and
they will neither of them ever reach the age when experience teaches both
men and women to regret.  She will be ever flying, he ever pursuing, like
the maiden and the lover on that Grecian Urn which an eminent authority,
baffled in his attempts at identification, thinks was "probably imagined"
by Keats.

I possess a Bible and Prayer-book bound together in one volume which was
given me on leaving Rottingdean by my sincere friend, the master of the
preparatory school there.  It contains, just before the First Chapter of
Genesis, a Chronological Map "with remarkable persons and events
collaterally placed."  I remember how I used to mitigate the tedium of
divine service by reading to myself that the creation of the world
occupied one of the weeks of the year 4004 B.C.; that Egypt was founded
about 2190 B.C.; that Troy fell about 1180 B.C., seventy years or so
before the birth of King David; and that Homer and Elijah flourished
contemporaneously between 1000 and 900 B.C.  My schoolmaster wrote my
name in the book with a suitable inscription and a reference to Psalm
cxix. 105.  I turned up the passage and drew the conclusion that he
desired his gift to be a lantern unto my feet and a light unto my paths.
And so it was until other knowledge, the rudiments of which he had
himself endeavoured to impart to me, threw glimmerings across my way and
I passed through a distracted period of inability to distinguish the
signals of danger from those of safety.  Much the same thing has happened
to many others and assistance has sometimes been found in compromise and
accommodation.  Thus the statement about 4004 B.C., when read by the
light of another statement in the Book, does not seriously conflict with
the teachings of modern science.  Until further knowledge shall eclipse
the few feeble lanterns that are now doing their best to illuminate my
course I shall continue to hold the opinion that, as in the sight of Him,
who is the Life of the Universe, a thousand years are but as yesterday,
so in the sight of man, who has been God's image upon earth for more ages
than anyone can tell, six thousand years are but as last week.  And I
shall keep my thousands in a condition as elastic as may be necessary to
bear any stretching that future discoveries may put upon them.

It was many thousands of such weeks ago, when Mother Earth was herself in
her infancy, before her baby bones had hardened, that Arethusa first came
to the island she has made her home.  She is still coming and can be seen
to-day still rising as fresh as ever.  The story of the early days of her
exile was not told by Clio because Clio was only a modern Agamemnon in
history, many a brave muse had flourished before she was thought of.  One
of them took for her infinite papyrus the firmament of space, those
heavens which shall one day be rolled together as a scroll, whereon she
inscribed chapters in stars and volumes in constellations.  We cannot see
all her works, nor can we read all we see, but we know that she put us
into one of her books.  A few paragraphs of that chapter which forms our
planet lie scattered around Siracusa; we recognise her manuscript in the
shape of the Great Harbour, in the depth of the sea, in the height of the
hills, in the strata of the rocks, in the soil, in the vegetation.

There were early muses who employed flint implements and arrow-heads for
records, and neglected to clear away the remains of prehistoric meals in
caverns.  Others preferred to write their chronicles upon pots, urns and
tombs or to scrawl placid monosyllables upon polygonal walls.  But with
all their industry the muses have never been able to keep pace with the
material that has accumulated round the dwellings of men and women.  They
have done their best and, when their mother Mnemosyne began to fail and
the business was split up first into three, then four, seven, eight, and
ultimately into nine departments, it was hoped that a better result would
be shown; but they have never had an adequate allowance, and have always
been in financial difficulties, besides which they have disagreed among
themselves, and quarrelling wastes time.

Clio in her matter-of-fact way built a storehouse wherein to preserve her
treasures; her curious, imaginative sisters peeped through the key-hole.

"Dear me!" they said to one another.  "What a collection!  Do you think
we could get inside and see it properly?"

They waited till Clio went one day with Neptune to pay a visit to the
Ethiopians "who lie in two halves, one half looking on to the Atlantic
and the other on to the Indian Ocean," they induced Vulcan to come and
pick the lock for them and soon they were roaming all over the palace.

"How admirably arranged!" exclaimed one of them.

"It must be nearly exhaustive!" said another.

"Observe the collateral placing of remarkable persons and events," said a
third.

"One could find almost anything one wanted," said a fourth.

"Ah!" they exclaimed; "oh! now if only we could manage to get a little
life into some of these dead bones, how pleased Clio would be!"

They rifled the show-cases and carried off the most attractive details,
each taking whatever pleased her best.  They stole from Clio her
transient facts and made them live again as their own by breathing into
them the spirit of eternal truth and re-stating them in folk-lore, in
tradition, in verse, in romance, in melody, in superstition, in outline,
in colour, in modelling, in the movements of the dance; they set them up
in libraries, in concert-rooms, in picture-galleries, in theatres, in
churches, in corridors of sculpture, in the hearts of the people.  This
was not what Clio had intended; she was not at all pleased; she
complained that her sisters had meddled, they had robbed her of her chief
possessions and left the remainder in disorder; her collection no longer
corresponded with the catalogue.  In attempting to reconstruct she
floundered into such blunders that the saying has come down to us:
Blessed are the people that have no history, for they shall not be
misrepresented.

Strictly speaking, of course, every man has history, such as it is, and
the beatitude was intended to refer only to those whose history has
escaped the attention of the muses as that of Arethusa did for many ages.
We know enough, however, to guess that her exile cannot have been passed
in solitude and, if only we had her Visitors' Book complete, we should
have something that would keep many learned persons busy.  We get an
early glimpse of her on her underground journey, passing near enough to
the dread abode of Pluto to overhear some scandal about

             That fair field
    Of Enna where Proserpine, gathering flowers,
    Herself a fairer flower, by gloomy Dis
    Was gathered.

She did not fully understand, but the nymph Cyane, who dwelt in another
fountain up the river Anapo and remembered the affair, gave her full
particulars; she made a mental note of it all and imparted the
information to Ceres, who came weeping and telling her grief as she
wandered the world in search of her lost daughter.

Venus, in one or other of her manifestations, was and is a welcome
visitor; she rises from the sea as constantly as Arethusa falls into it,
and some little time ago gave the nymph, for a keepsake, a portrait of
herself as Venere Anadiomene done in marble.  I know enough about
painting not to be afraid to own that I know nothing about it, whereas
with regard to sculpture my ignorance is so unfathomable that I can have
no hesitation in saying what I think about this statue, which is that it
is a pity it has been broken.  If only it had its head and its right arm
it would be an entry of which the owner of any visitors' book might well
be proud.  It is now in the museum of Ortigia, where there is also a
marble portrait of Cupid as he comes riding into the Great Harbour
mounted on his dolphin's back.

Diana, sailing through the night, seated in her silver chair, comes
regularly to Ortigia.  Arethusa always receives her with the respect and
honour due to her Queen and Huntress, chaste and fair.  Some centuries
ago she built her a temple with Doric columns and everything handsome
about it; she put inside it a statue of the goddess, and the people
forsook their old deity, whatever she was called, and went to the new
temple worshipping Diana.

Phoenician traders came and did business with Arethusa, some of it not
very straight business; for Ctesius, the king of the place, had a
woman-servant, very tall and comely, who was from their own country; they
cajoled her in ways that no woman can resist and, partly by means of "a
necklace of gold with amber beads strung among it," induced her to go
away with them one evening, and she took with her out of the palace three
cups and the king's son, a child just able to run about.  She may have
thought of taking the boy because she had herself been kidnapped from
Sidon, brought to Ortigia and sold to Ctesius.  Before they had been a
week on the voyage, Diana struck the woman dead and the traders threw her
body overboard to the seals and fishes.  We should never have known her
tragic end but for the fact that the _Odyssey_ was written by a woman
jealous for the honour of her sex.  The boy was afterwards sold to
Laertes, the father of Ulysses, in whose service he put on immortality as
the swineherd Eumaeus. {294}

Early Greeks also did business with Arethusa and left with her vases,
gold rings, glass beads, ivory combs and other objects which she still
preserves in her museum.  Later on, in quite modern days, about the time
that Rome was being founded, less than eight centuries before Christ,
other Greeks came from Corinth, turned out the Sikels and established a
colony of their own in Ortigia.

After this Arethusa was no longer among those who have no history in any
sense of the word.  The records become less scanty, even voluminous, and
they are more legible.  The books are full of the great names of her
visitors and of those native to her island.  We read of the Tyrants, of
AEschylus and Pindar, of Theocritus and Archimedes; of the great siege
when the Athenians failed to take the city; of Cicero coming to view the
locality when preparing his speeches against Verres; of the five parts
into which ancient Siracusa was divided, namely, Ortigia, on the island,
and those four others with the beautiful names on the mainland,
Achradina, Tyche, Neapolis, Epipolae, the memory of whose former
splendour still trembles among their ruins.

I do not know whether Ptolemy Philadelphos actually visited the nymph,
but I have read somewhere that the papyrus which now grows where she
rises was originally a present from him.  It does not look so healthy as
that which grows in the Fontana Cyane up the river Anapo across the
harbour, and which he also sent to her.

About three hundred years after the statue of Venus was made, S. Paul,
being on his way to Rome, was shipwrecked at Malta, where he remained
three months.  He sailed away in the _Castor and Pollux_ of Alexandria,
landed at Siracusa and tarried there three days.  We know what S. Paul
must have thought of Diana from the account of what happened at Ephesus,
where the goddess was also worshipped; it is probable that he was among
those who disbelieved in the eternal virginity of Arethusa, and he surely
must have disapproved of the frequent visits of Venus and Cupid.  In time
the people of Ortigia professed themselves converted to his views and
made a change, but they made it in a half-hearted way; for instead of
pulling down the heathen temple, so that not one stone should be left
upon another, they allowed the Doric columns to remain and merely filled
up the intercolumniations with building material and baptised it into the
Christian faith with a coat of whitewash and a new name.  In other
respects they went on very much as before.

Saracens visited the nymph, and Normans; Egyptians, Germans, Goths,
Spaniards, Frenchmen, Albanians all came and all bequeathed some record
of their coming.  Many of them left their autographs written one over the
other upon the forms and features of the ancestors of those who still
have their dwelling in her island.

Lord Nelson on his way to the Nile, where the papyrus came from, sailed
into the Great Harbour with his fleet and did business with the nymph.
He wrote to Sir William and Lady Hamilton:

    Thanks to your exertions we have victualled and watered; and surely,
    having watered at the fountain of Arethusa we must have victory.

What a picture these words call up of Arethusa welcoming Nelson's jolly
tars!  They are coming in their pinnaces and filling their barrels and
kegs with the waters of the sacred spring and, as they row back across
the harbour to the ships, one can almost hear them singing of "Tom
Bowling," "Black-eyed Susan" and "The Roast Beef of Old England."

I have myself seen the German Emperor visiting Arethusa.  His yacht, the
_Hohenzollern_, was in the Great Harbour, and one afternoon I watched his
suite being put ashore in little boats, like Nelson's sailors, only there
was no singing, and presently he came in a little boat and they all drove
away in carriages to the Cappuccini, where I read in the _Giornale di
Sicilia_ that they inspected the latomia and took tea.  They passed quite
close to me and, although I had never seen His Majesty before, I was bold
enough to raise my hat to him; he observed my salute and most affably
returned it.  I thought him looking extremely well.

The Kaiser landed at the Passeggiata Aretusa, a promenade that runs under
shady trees between the Great Harbour and the cliff on which the city is
built.  It leads south to a garden, and further progress appears to be
blocked by a buttress of the cliff; but the buttress is pierced by a
tunnel, through which a path leads to another garden lying in an
enclosure protected from the harbour by a wall which encircles it; the
wall slopes down and on the top of it runs a path up which one can walk
and so enter the town without returning through the tunnel.

In this enclosure is the famous Fontana Aretusa, but there is nothing
about it that reminds one of the fountains of the Crystal Palace or of
Versailles.  One first catches sight of a pond and then of a spring
bubbling into it with irresistible volubility at the north end; at the
south end the water tumbles out into the harbour through a hole in the
sea wall.  The surface of the pond is below the level of the passeggiata
and probably the bed of it is below the level of the water in the
harbour, so that, as Cicero observed, it is the wall that keeps out the
waves and if the hole had been pierced lower the pond would be submerged
by the sea.  On the sides of the cliff and on the wall grow plants with
aromatic leaves and flowers, and one can walk round the pond and watch
the fish which are, or ought to be, the descendants of those which Cicero
saw, as they swim about among the roots of Ptolemy's papyrus.  The water
is not now used for washing, but I suspect that the Sidonian woman who
stole the little Eumaeus was so using it, for she was washing near the
ship of her countrymen when they got into conversation with her, and
their ship would be moored in the Great Harbour, close by the fountain.

I drank of this water, following the example of all visitors and of many
of the inhabitants who believe it to produce a beneficial effect upon the
digestion.  It may have been good enough for Nelson, and I trust that the
digestions of his sailors derived benefit from it--anyhow, they had
victory at the battle of the Nile--but for a modern Londoner, accustomed
to do business with the Metropolitan Water Board, it is too salt, which
is perhaps why the papyrus here looks less flourishing than that up the
Anapo.  The water tastes as though Arethusa had been the heroine of
another story besides the one with the uncertain ending about
Alpheus--one with Neptune as the villain and an ending tragic enough to
justify S. Paul in his attitude towards the nymph.  Some who adopt this
view suppose that Neptune's designs were forwarded by an earthquake
which, they think, must have occurred since Nelson's time, because he
speaks as though he gave his sailors the water of the spring; but that is
not enough to date the disturbance.  It is some distance from Greece to
Sicily, and along all those miles, during all those ages, there may have
been many earthquakes, any one of which would have served Neptune's turn;
some may have been before S. Paul's time, some before Eumaeus was born,
some in still earlier days.  If the earthquake had already been, Nelson
must have observed the brackishness of the spring and he would then have
preferred to take his water from the usual fresh source which supplied
the inhabitants of his day, and, in speaking of "having watered at the
fountain of Arethusa," he would be trusting to Lady Hamilton's
familiarity with that figure which permits the part to be put for the
whole.

I have visited Arethusa many times.  Once, on a calm evening in early
summer, Diana was high up in the sky, shining over the harbour; although,
like others, she may not have been sure which was her temple and which
was Minerva's, she could not help wondering whether anything was ever
going to be done about openly restoring them both to their ancient
worship.  She was, however, comforting herself in the meantime with the
reflection that neither she nor Minerva had much to complain of, inasmuch
as it was clear that if it were not for the support of those Doric
columns the modern Church would not stand as it does, and after all, she
thought, "What's in a name?"  Down below in the passeggiata, officers and
young men were strolling about, listening to a pot-pourri of _Faust_.
Their cheeks were shaved smooth to show the modelling and their
moustaches gave evidence of hours of toil and even suffering; they met
their friends and gesticulated with them, smoking cigarettes and being
polite to everyone.  Mothers and elder sisters in cool white dresses sat
under the trees, and little parties of children darted away from them,
hand in hand, returning after breathless excursions.  I took a seat among
it all and, as the King of Thule, in honour of his lady, was drinking for
the last time out of his golden cup, a young voice over my shoulder
demanded two soldi.  I turned and thought I recognised the speaker;
surely he must have left his dolphin in the Great Harbour where the
Phoenician traders used to moor their ships, and put on his sailor suit
at the Custom House.

"Very well, Cupid," I replied, "I don't mind giving you two soldi, but
why do you ask as though you were entitled to them?  And why do you wear
that red tam-o'-shanter?  And how old are you, if you please?"

He said he was seven and the cap was his uniform; he was collecting the
pennies for the chairs.  So I gave him two soldi and another for himself
and saw him scamper happily away and join a knot of brother Cupids who
were playing together round a lamp-post.  He showed them the soldo I had
given him for himself and the meeting became as ebullient and full of
excitement as the Arethusa herself.

He reappeared while Siebel, with the voice of a clarinet, was beginning
to tell the flowers what they were to say to Margherita.  This time he
brought a foreign penny and wanted to know why they had refused to take
it at the marionette theatre.  I looked at it and said:

"If you want to know about this coin, mount your dolphin again and direct
his course to distant Argentina, the people of that country will tell you
all about it and will give you its full value.  You will have a
delightful voyage and, if I were not such a bad sailor, I believe I
should ask you to take me with you."

It seemed, however, that his dolphin was tired and I was to give him ten
centimes down and done with it.  He was such a jolly little fellow that
just for the pleasure of seeing him smile again I gave him the soldi in
exchange for his coin and he danced away in delight.

Margherita in prison was crazily recalling the strains of the waltz she
had heard--Ah, what ages ago it seemed!--when she was yet a happy girl,
as pure as Arethusa in Hellas, and through the waltz I heard the young
voice again over my shoulder.  He was asking me to give him bronze for an
Italian nickel piece of twenty centesimi.  It was a bad one.  I told him
so and accused him of attempting to utter counterfeit coin.  He laid his
two hands on his breast, raised his elbows, threw back his head with
conscious innocence and swore on the honour of his mother that the coin
was good.  He did it so well--so beautifully--that for a moment I was
tempted to wonder whether he might perhaps be speaking the truth, but I
glanced again at his coin and recovered myself.

"Now look here, Cupid," I said, "I don't want to breathe a syllable
against the honour of your mother, but you know better than anyone that
when a woman loses her head you are generally to blame.  This is your
doing"--and I took out of my pocket and showed him a post-card I had
bought that morning in the Via Roma with a reproduction of the Venere
Anadiomene.  "And men also have lost their heads because of you.  I am
not the only one who has heard about the Duca di Bronte and Lady
Hamilton.  Look round at these beautiful ladies and at these brave
officers and young men--do they not bear upon their forms and features
the signatures of Arethusa's foreign visitors?  You ought to be able to
decipher that palimpsest, if anyone can, for it was you who taught them
to write; Ortigia would never have seen them if it had not been for you.
And why are they sitting under the trees and walking about in the
moonlight, do you suppose?"

He replied that they had come out to listen to the music and he wished
there were more of them because then he would get more pennies.

"What!" I exclaimed; "people who do not even recognise a modulation to
the dominant when they hear one come out to listen to music!  You know
better than that.  They have not come out because of Gounod, they have
come because of you.  It is always the same old story.  It was your fault
that Alpheus chased Arethusa out of Greece and that Proserpine was
carried off from Enna.  It was you who suggested to those Phoenician
traders that the nurse of the little Eumaeus would be good company for
them, and you who made her consent to go.  This music, of which I should
have heard more this evening but for your frequent interruptions, you
were at the bottom of it all.  And it is because you are always hanging
about the theatre that those wretched puppets are so constantly going mad
for love of one another."

He pouted and said I was making myself disagreeable and that there had
been plenty to praise him.

I replied: "Yes; you swallow the praise, but you won't listen to the
blame."

He said that as for the praise or the blame it was nothing to him one way
or the other.  He was too much interested in the future of the race to
care about any of those old stories--they bored him--and, please,
wouldn't I leave off preaching and give him four soldi?

I replied: "You have immortal youth without the troublesome necessity of
periodically dying and rising again; on that stage of the world where we
mortals, untrained amateurs, improvise the drama of our lives, you have
always been behind the scenes, inspiring and stage-managing more history
and more poetry than has ever been written; without you Clio would never
have built herself a treasure-house or, if she had made one, her sisters
would have found in it nothing worth stealing; it is you who direct the
modulation from the old generation to the young; it is your voice that is
heard every Easter behind the bells and the music of the Gloria.  And now
you ask for riches!  No wonder we complain that you are unreasonable.
Can you not be satisfied and, in looking after the future of the race,
put a little more variety into its history and its poetry?  Why do you so
often begin a story as comedy and end it as tragedy?  It is unworthy of
you to play fast and loose with us; great poets do not do so.  But there!
you are too young to know what conscience is, and I am afraid you are too
old to learn."

He replied that he was not accustomed to be talked to in this way and did
not know what I meant by it.

I said: "Very well, I will leave off preaching, and perhaps you will
allow me to conclude with a piece of advice that ought to be acceptable
to one whose ambition it is to become a millionaire.  You cannot have
forgotten where you put your mother's head.  Now, be a sensible boy for
once, run away and find it, take it to Dr. Orsi up there in the museum
and he will give you plenty of soldi for it--more than you can count, and
no questions asked about honour."

He laughed and said I seemed to take a good deal of interest in the
personal appearance of his mother who, he thought, could be trusted to
look after herself, and that so long as a woman's heart was in the right
place it did not much matter what she did with her head.  Besides, even
if he were to find the head, he knew nothing about business and a
scientific man in a museum would be sure to get the better of him.

There is no resisting Cupid, so I let him think he had got the better of
me, gave him four soldi and added his coin to my collection of similar
pieces, while he frisked away back to his friends boasting of his
success, as Cupid will.  He had not quite done with me, however, he came
once more to see whether I should be likely to give him a cigarette, but
a rough man caught him, told him not to worry the gentry, boxed his ears
for him and drove him from me.

Fancy boxing the ears of a young Greek god off a dolphin's back within
sound of the Fontana Aretusa!

And yet, perhaps the rough man was right.  I have sometimes thought since
that it cannot have been really Cupid who came to me that evening; I must
have been wasting my time and money, as others have done before, upon
some false god, false as his counterfeit coin, one of those who go up and
down the world seeking whom they may despoil.  Well, let it be so.  One
does not keep an account of the hours and minutes one spends in a country
where the existence of time is scarcely recognised, and as for the
money--of all the multitudes of men who have been fooled by Commerce in
the guise of Love only a few have had the luck to escape with a total
loss not exceeding four-pence half-penny.

                                 THE END



NOTES.


{60}  This table--

             --is much merrier than usual this evening.
    Enrico!  I drink to the health of your sister.

{61a}  This table is not dirty, it is clean.
Enrico!  Eat, and do not pay attention to them.

{61b}  The animal
Will not do it any harm.

{61c}  Now that I have eaten I am no longer fasting;
I drink to the health of Enrico, who is a poet.

{61d}  I also, if I may make so bold, wish to drink the health of Enrico
who desires to hear me sing; for a year I have not seen you, O, my dear
brother!  Come to-day and I will sing you _Otello_.

{62}  To-day I feel inclined to eat a fig;
I drink to the health of Signor Enrico.

{183}  Best wishes for your festa.  Thanks for the intellectual evening
and for the coffee.  Greetings--no more, for fear of making our friend
Antonio jealous.

                                                 Your most devoted Enrico.

{294}  _The Authoress of the Odyssey_, by Samuel Butler.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Castellinaria - and Other Sicilian Diversions" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home