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Title: Vistas in Sicily
Author: Riggs, Arthur Stanley
Language: English
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VISTAS
IN
SICILY

[Illustration]

ARTHUR STANLEY RIGGS



VISTAS
IN
SICILY


THE BLUE BOOKS OF TRAVEL


_The Real Palestine of To-day_

BY LEWIS GASTON LEARY

_Windmills and Wooden Shoes_

BY BLAIR JAEKEL, F.R.G.S.

_Vistas in Sicily_

BY ARTHUR STANLEY RIGGS, F.R.G.S.

_Italian Lanes and Highroads_

BY RUSSEL W. LEARY

Other titles in preparation on England, France, Germany, Spain and other
countries.

McBRIDE, NAST & COMPANY

_Publishers_

UNION SQUARE NORTH NEW YORK CITY

[Illustration: _Negative by W. von Gloeden._

“Sprightly little goatherds, whose heads are the heads of Greek fauns.”
(Page 12)]



VISTAS
IN
SICILY

BY

ARTHUR STANLEY RIGGS
F. R. G. S.

[Illustration]

NEW YORK
McBRIDE, NAST & COMPANY
1912

Copyright, 1912, by
MCBRIDE, NAST & CO.

Published, November, 1912

TO

MY WIFE

The acknowledgments of the author are due to the editor of The Travel
Magazine, for his courteous permission to reprint some of the chapters
which follow.

A. S. R.

Massy-Verrières,

France, June 5, 1912.



CONTENTS


CHAPTER                                                             PAGE

INTRODUCTION                                                       i-xii

I DISCOVERY                                                            1

II PALERMO                                                            17

III A NIGHT OF DISSIPATION                                            30

IV CATHEDRALS                                                         42

V PALACES AND PEOPLE                                                  56

VI THE PLAIN OF PANORMOS                                              74

VII AROUND THE ISLAND                                                 87

VIII THE ROAD TO SYRACUSE                                            107

IX THE HARBOR AND THE ANAPO                                          123

X SYRACUSE THE PENTAPOLIS                                            133

XI CATANIA AND MT. ÆTNA                                              152

XII TAORMINA                                                         167

XIII SOME MOUNTAIN VISTAS                                            178

XIV LIGHTS AND SHADES                                                192

XV THE CITY THAT WAS                                                 207

XVI THE NORTHERN SHORE                                               215

XVII THE WESTERN SHORE                                               233

XVIII _Addio, Sicilia!_                                              249

THE BEST BOOKS ON SICILY                                             265

INDEX                                                                269



THE ILLUSTRATIONS


THE FAUN                                                   _Frontispiece_

                                                             FACING PAGE

PALERMO, FROM THE PORTA NUOVA                                          5

MTE. PELLEGRINO AND THE VIA BORGO                                     17

THE MUSICAL WATER-SELLER                                              22

THE WONDERFUL SICILIAN CART                                           25

PART OF THE CITY STREET-CLEANING DEPARTMENT                           26

A PIECE BITTEN OUT OF CONEY ISLAND                                    28

AN “ECONOMICAL KITCHEN”                                               32

THE FRIED-ENTRAILS MAN                                                32

THE HOLY BAMBINO OF THE ONIONS                                        36

THE GARIBALDI THEATRE                                                 41

THE PALERMO CATHEDRAL’S FACADE                                        42

KING ROGER’S SARCOPHAGUS                                              44

THE MONREALE CATHEDRAL                                                49

THE CREATION OF EVE, MONREALE CATHEDRAL                               52

INTERIOR OF THE CAPPELLA PALATINA                                     60

THE “CHURCH OF THE VESPERS”                                           75

THE “POOR MAN’S PROMENADE”                                            85

THE TEMPLE OF CONCORD, GIRGENTI                                      101

SYRACUSE, FROM THE GREEK THEATRE                                     115

QUEEN PHILISTIS’ COINS                                               120

ÆTNA, THE GREEK THEATRE, AND TAORMINA                                171

A TAORMINA WATER-GIRL                                                176

TAORMINA KNITTING-SCHOOL PUPILS                                      179

THE MOLA PIGS                                                        184

“GOATS! GOATS! GOATS!”                                               189

THE TROUBADOURS                                                      200

MESSINA--“THE CITY THAT WAS”                                         208

CEFALÙ, ACROSS THE FIELDS                                            217

THE CEFALÙ CATHEDRAL’S FACADE                                        220

SOLOUS, THE CITY OF THE ROCK                                         225

“FIVE MINUTES FOR REFRESHMENTS”                                      251

SANTA ROSALIA’S GROTTO                                               258



VISTAS

IN

SICILY



INTRODUCTION


Sicily is the rarest flower of the great midland sea. Built up on the
North in a series of beetling cliffs, the island slopes gently down
through mountain chains and undulating plains to the golden Southern
shore. An enormous triangle it is, spiny with lofty peaks--Ætna towers
more than ten thousand feet in the air--spangled with flowering meads
and dells where Nature loads the air with fragrance; pierced with
infernal caverns, whence choking workers extract a large part of the
world’s sulphur from the palaces of the former gods of the nether world;
and fringèd about on every side with the lace-like foam of opal waves.
It is rich in beauty and desolation, rich in song and story, rich in
architecture, splendid and varied.

To understand the beauty and charm of Sicily, however, it is essential
to know something of the island’s picturesque and vivid story. We
Americans are rarely familiar with it. Strange as it may seem,
considering Sicily’s importance through many centuries, its consecutive
history still remains to be written. Books there are, to be sure, but
none attempts to cover more than a portion of one of the most intense
chronicles in the world. Thucydides, in his “Peloponessian War,” tells
in glowing phrases of the débacle that wiped out the Attic forces and
left Sicily supreme. Later still, in the ante-Christian era Diodorus, a
native of the island, prepared a flowing story of the Sicily he knew. It
has been one of our chief sources of information ever since. In modern
times the historians Grote and Curtius have included in their histories
of Greece such parts of the Sicilian narrative as are germane to their
work; and the English historian Freeman, in a monumental unfinished
work, has left us a minutely detailed account of Sicily from prehistoric
times to the reign of Agathocles. The Italian Amari, to go yet farther,
handles the Saracen period with care and skill, and Gally Knight tells
briefly of the dashing Normans and their fanciful architecture. But of
the later periods almost nothing of lasting value has been written.
Moreover, the books of travel dealing with Sicily are few in comparison
with those which tell of other lands, and not many Americans discover,
unaided, the paradise they omit from their itineraries.

The most usual mistake made regarding Sicily is that it is a little
island, vaguely located in imagination somewhere near Italy and peopled
by Italians--its inhabitants, Black Handers, organ-grinders,
scissors-men, ditch-diggers and the rest, _mala gente_ all. Sicily is
near Italy--two miles away, in fact--and it is full of Italians, in the
sense that they are Italian subjects. But by heredity, by instinct, by
everything that pertains to racial culture and development, they are far
from being Italians yet. The explanation is a simple one. By consulting
the map you see that the triangle--with an area of some ten thousand
square miles--is not only in the center of the Mediterranean from East
to West, but that it is also a great stepping-stone between Europe and
Africa. In ancient days, when all the civilized world bordered the
Mediterranean, the geographical position of Sicily gave the island an
especial political character and importance. And naturally, while it
remained the very center of the civilized world, it was a rich prize to
be fought for by each Nation which rose to power.

Tradition--as usual--peoples the land first with gods, both beneficent
and malign, and then with giants to whom Homer refers in the Odyssey:
Laistrygones, Cyclops, Lotophagi. After these “poetic monsters” came the
Sikans, Sikels and Elymians, genuine peoples, who may be called the
prehistoric natives as distinguished from the historic foreigners. Of
the three the Sikels, undoubtedly blood-brothers to the pioneers of Rome
and Tuscany, are the most interesting; and a legend has it that they
drifted on rafts from the Italian mainland across the channel now called
the Strait of Messina, about 1100 B. C. They were permanent and
important enough to give the island the name Sikelia, which is still
current in our modified form, Sicily.

The first of the historic foreigners to enter were the Phœnicians,
the Canaanites of the Old Testament, who lived in Tyre and Sidon and the
other cities that lay in the narrow strip of lowland between Mt. Lebanon
and the Mediterranean. They spoke Hebrew, as the Israelites did, but
their worship was the foul and bloody service of Baal and Ashtaroth.
They were the boldest seafaring men in the world; the most cunning
traders,--who came to barter the Tyrian purple, the glass, the gold
jewelry, and the little images of their own manufacture with the rude
and primitive peoples already in possession. The Mediterranean had no
terrors for their little barques, and they established trading posts and
even actual colonies all along its coasts; one even, Gades of
Tarshish--the present Cádiz--faced the ocean itself, beyond the strait
now called Gibraltar, where the Pillars of Hercules guard the entrance
to the Mediterranean. Phœnicia has left us no means of dating her
settlements in Sicily, but we know that they were founded sometime
between the coming of the Sikels in the twelfth century and the coming
of the Greeks in the eighth.

The Greeks called these only rivals of theirs “barbarians,” a name they
applied to all who did not speak Greek. Yet this proved nothing as to
their civilization, for at this early date the Phœnicians were far
advanced in the material arts over all Europeans, including the Greeks
themselves, who learned of them. The most precious acquisition of all
was the alphabet, from which every one of the forms of written speech
now used in Europe has evolved. The Phœnicians may not have invented
it; they may merely have taken it from farther East along with their
other material arts. But they were the distributors, the teachers, the
popularizers, and as such we owe them an unpayable debt.

The real history of Sicily, as a land playing a considerable part in the
affairs of the world, begins with this coming of the Greek, and it is to
his presence that the story owes its peculiar and immutable charm. As
early as the times of the Odyssey the Greeks had some vague notion of
Sicily. Everyone who has read that marvelous poem remembers that the
suitors of Penelope threatened to sell the disguised Odysseus to the
Sikels; and old Lærtes had a Sikelian slave woman. But no doubt the wily
Phœnician traders told stories calculated to frighten away
adventurous explorers; so it was quite by accident that the news which
brought about the initial settlement reached Greece.

Driven by storms upon Sicilian shores Theocles, an Ionian Greek, found
himself late in the eighth century gazing from the deck of his tiny
craft upon a strange land. This he explored a little before returning
home and there reported it as a good country, with inhabitants it would
be easy to conquer. The prospect tempted his fellow-countrymen. They
were colonizers, not traders, and in the next hundred and forty years
they occupied most of the coast of Sicily--Trinakria, Three
Promontories, they called it--making of the island a second Greek world.
Indeed, the city of Syracuse, founded in 734 B. C. by Dorians from
Corinth, eventually became the rival and peer of Athens in wisdom,
beauty and strength.

Though the various independent cities of Sicily fought bitterly and
continuously, their strife seemed only to develop genius and bring forth
wonders in architecture, art and letters. The lofty purity of Greek
civilization found its highest expression in magnificent temples which
for grandeur and simplicity have never been excelled. To-day there are
ruins of no less than twenty of these imposing houses of worship in
Sicily, all of them of the same style, and many of colossal proportions.
The arts of the sculptor and of the numismatist are represented in the
museums by metopes which tell graphically of the evolution of the Greek
ideal in temple decoration, and by coins which for pure beauty and
delicacy have no equals in even Greece itself.

A record of the illustrious Greek litterateurs who came to Sicily as
visitors, or to spend the rest of their lives, is a list of immortals:
Simonides, Sappho, whom an enthusiastic contemporary called the
“violet-crowned, pure, sweetly smiling Sappho”; Pindar, whose quaint
lyrics give us much of our early Sicilian history; and Æschylus,
immortal poet and playwright. Small wonder if with such inspiring
examples in their midst native geniuses should have risen to great
heights. Tisias of Himera is said to have set in order the lyric chorus,
and so to have gained his name of Stesichorus. Epicharmus was the
inventor of comedy, at least of the special Sicilian type. Some of his
plays deal with mythology, many with cookery, and his comedy, “The
Wedding of Hebe,” furnishes epicures with a list of the Sicilian
dainties of his day. Empedocles of Akragas, the most distinguished of
Sicilian thinkers, became prominent as a physician and poet. Philistus,
and the later Diodorus of Agyrium, were historians of the first rank.
The fame of Archimedes the mathematician is imperishable; and
Theocritus, also of Syracuse, gave to the world the first bucolics and
pastorals ever written--strains so sweet that the very ditties the
wandering shepherds on the hills to this day pipe to their flocks are
but parodies of the lilting songs he made centuries ago.

The commercially minded Phœnicians gave the Greek colonists little
trouble, but when Phœnicia’s mighty African daughter--Carthage--grew
up, she struggled long and hard for a permanent foothold upon the
coveted isle. The crafty Carthaginians chose as the moment for their
great effort the time when Xerxes the Persian, with forty-six Nations,
was marching against Greece the mother-country, and Sicily could expect
no assistance. But “Zeus was too strong for Baal,” and both barbarian
hosts went down to crushing defeat--some say on the same day--the
Carthaginians at Sicilian Himera, the Persians at Salamis. Had it been
otherwise, the very civilization of Europe would have been overthrown.
The Carthaginians, though defeated, were not beaten. They kept coming;
and two hundred years later King Pyrrhus of Epirus had to come over from
Greece to rescue Greek Sicily. As he left the island he remarked
prophetically: “What a wrestling ground I leave for Rome and Carthage!”

Pyrrhus was right--the wrestling soon began in the first of the great
Punic Wars, which ended with the utter defeat of Carthage. But while she
was driven out, Rome came in to stay, and by 214 B. C. had swallowed up
the whole island. Sicily was made the first Roman province, and
experienced all the misfortunes of a “carpet-bag government.” For
centuries the peace made stable by Rome prevailed throughout the island,
and the cities could no longer fly at each other’s throats. But as the
price of this enforced tranquillity, former great ruling centers like
Arkagas and Syracuse began to dry up into almost nothing as provincial
towns, intellectual advancement ceased, and during the whole thousand
years of Roman administration, Sicily kept the downward path in every
field of endeavor.

In this relaxed and enervated condition, the island fell an easy prey to
the marauding Saracens; the condition of the Sicilians, worn down by
oppression, explains their feeble resistance. Nothing could kindle a
National feeling, and the conquest was marked by only a desultory
struggle, in which the fervor of a few Christian devotees dared oppose
the Muslim spirit of proselytism. In 965 it was all over. The Saracen
had driven out the decadent Roman in the names of Allah and the Prophet,
and established his own brilliant exotic civilization. Intellectual
activity and agricultural development were fostered, and the Muslim
régime, though it was not to have any such permanence as the Roman it
displaced, nevertheless developed with a splendor and rapidity that
shamed the backward Christians.

Last of all the great molders of Sicily came the Normans, knights who
with their keen blades carved a slice out of the Byzantine Empire on the
Italian mainland and, conquering the Sicilian Muslims, built up a
kingdom for themselves. Sicily’s period of greatest glory dawned with
their conquest. They developed a splendid fabric of feudalism; and all
the arts as well as the more usual graces of civilization stamped the
new kingdom for their own. The very Italian language, as Dante himself
acknowledges, had its feeble beginnings in the court of the Emperor
Frederick II at Palermo. The power of Frederick, who was Emperor of
Germany as well as King of Sicily, was a thorn in the sides of the
Popes, who at this period claimed the right to dispose of all the crowns
of earth. So after Frederick’s death the Pope gave away the Sicilian
crown to his own trusty defender, Count Charles of Anjou; and he,
capturing the island from Frederick’s son, Manfred, turned it over to
the shameful misrule of his lieutenants. Sixteen years later, in 1282,
the French paid dearly for their oppression in the terrible massacre of
the Sicilian Vespers, when they were exterminated throughout the island.

Then the Sicilians invited Don Pedro de Aragón, the son-in-law of
Manfred, their last Norman king, to rule them; and the Aragonese
dynasty, with varying fortunes, lasted until 1409, when it became
extinct, and Sicily was attached to Spain and governed by Spanish
viceroys. Never did a government care less for its subjects; and when
the Spaniards evacuated at the beginning of the eighteenth century, they
left the unhappy island almost destitute.

Sicily had long since ceased to be the center of the civilized world;
and now, a mere appendage, she was tossed relentlessly from one
sovereignty to another in the bitter struggle to maintain the balance of
power. From this time onward her story is a complicated record in which
France, Spain, Savoy, Austria, and even England herself are almost
inextricably tangled. All this time, too, the common people, the
backbone and life of the island, groaned under well nigh intolerable
conditions. Gladstone, writing in 1851 of the Bourbon government, then
ruling Sicily as a part of the Kingdom of Naples, said that its conduct
was “an outrage upon religion, upon humanity, upon civilization and upon
decency.”

But in this, her darkest hour, Sicily was not forgotten. Her insistent
appeals for help, and the blood she had poured out in continual protest
against the vicious Bourbons, were too loud a cry for the liberty-loving
and adventurous spirit of Giuseppe Garibaldi to ignore. With his
immortal “Thousand” he answered, and became not merely the liberator of
Sicily, but the hammer under whose forging blows the discordant states
of the Italian peninsula were welded together into the new and coherent
Italy. Thus at last a single man put the period to the island’s troubled
history, ended definitely her ambitions for individual greatness and
made her an important part of a greater and more powerful whole.

So it is clear that there has never been a Sicilian nation, nor has
there ever been even a Sicilian language; but every great race that
dwells about the Mediterranean at some time has had a part in Sicily’s
story, and each race in its turn has left an indelible imprint upon
language and customs, upon architecture and people. Here one sees a pure
Greek face of classic beauty; there a Saracen gazes calmly upon us out
of features which could come only from the burning desert and the
infinite starry night in the open; and yonder, a Roman, proud and
silent, bends to toil the Romans of old never knew. On many a hill rises
the matchless, mellow ruin of a Greek temple, lovely as anything Greece
itself can show; and in the cities the architectonic genius and spirit
of the races blend in structures dignified and massive, or light and
airy almost to the point of being fantastic.

This is Sicily to-day, the home of all beauty, the abiding place of a
people as picturesque in character as they are in face and costume; and
the sympathetic traveler, living the joy of the moment, as do the
Sicilians themselves, comes into possession of much of the unforgettable
charm and perfume of this island of delights.



_Vistas in Sicily_



I

DISCOVERY


Sicily in spring appeared to us like water in the desert. That we knew
nothing of the island was a misfortune we shared in common with most
Americans. Such vague ideas as we had were derived mainly from long-past
schooldays of wearisome geography, and from newspaper accounts of the
Mafia, whose members seemed always to be Sicilians. But when, after a
stormy fortnight among the volcanic dust-clouds of a great Vesuvian
eruption, we determined to escape that choking atmosphere, the royal
Road to Rome chosen by the tourists--terrified by the belchings of the
volcano--did not appeal to us. Instead, with some trepidation, as
explorers entering a wild and dangerous unknown land, we decided upon
Sicily. Our baggage packed and in the hallway, we came out to Gregorio,
the cabman we had patronized through many a day of work and danger
around Vesuvius.

“Where now, milords?” he smiled at us cheerily, noting the hand baggage.

“To the steamer, Gregorio--to Sicily.”

“To Sicily!” he exclaimed, dropping his whip in sheer amazement. “_Santo
Dio!_--why?”

The haze of volcanic cinders still hanging thickly over Naples was
answer enough, with the added explanation: “We must breathe; we must
rest.”

“Yes, but--” His emotions choked him. Here was Naples deserted by the
thousands of foreigners whom a few days of Vesuvian bellowings had
frightened into abject panic. Cabs rusted at the street corners by
scores; and now he, too, was to be idle. It was too much! Not even the
promise of engagement upon our return could dispel the gloom that had
wiped away his smile.

“_Gia!_” he grunted darkly, shaking his head. “If the _Signori_ ever
return. Who knows, _per Baccho_! Sicilians are _mala gente_, brigands,
murderers--”

It was too late to withdraw, notwithstanding Gregorio’s cheerful
prophecy, and he drove us to the wharf, a mournful figure drooping upon
his box--and we sailed on Friday the 13th, at thirteen minutes past six!
But whether it was because of lack of respect for either fateful numbers
or hoary nautical superstition, or because of skill upon the bridge, the
swift and trim little _Galileo Galilei_ brought us pleasantly in the
glorious dawn to Sicily, and an hour later Palermo--the
capital--shimmered through the smoky mists veiling its Golden Shell.

[Illustration: Map of Sicily]

It was an easy and a delightful voyage, the steamer clean, the sea
smooth. But if one is sea-fearing instead of sea-faring, he may go
comfortably from Naples by train, via Reggio and the Strait of Messina,
only two miles across by ferry. Or, if he be a sea-roving globe-trotter,
he may take one of the numerous Mediterranean liners leaving New York
the year round, and make the trip without a single change all the way to
Palermo; and these vessels are so large and so steady that the trip is
robbed of half its terrors to the most timid soul.

But if money is an object, it is better to go by way of Italy, where
little commutation books for Sicilian travel, called _tessere_, are to
be obtained. Each _tessera_ is a small pocket coupon-book sold in every
large city, from Rome southward, from February to June. The books
contain detachable coupons which entitle the holder to a discount
ranging all the way from ten to seventy-five per cent in the cost of
transportation, food, lodging, merchandise and amusements in the
theaters. They cost ten _lire_ (two dollars) apiece; and it is necessary
only to fill out a given leaf with the date, the names of the stations
to and from which the holder wishes to travel, and to present it at the
station to obtain the discount on accommodations in any class desired
on railway trains and steamers. A saving so large may be effected by its
use that the transportation cost of the trip melts almost into
insignificance.

[Illustration: Palermo, “the Panormos of old ... looks straight out
toward the rising sun.”]

It seems too good to be true, but there is a reason for it. Count
Florio, of the Florio-Rubattino Steamship Company, one of the most
public-spirited men in Sicily, to popularize the island as a place of
resort, to stimulate local travel in the best months of the year, and so
to augment the revenues of both people and island, persuaded the
Government to grant special rates on its railways by giving a sixty per
cent discount on his own private steamers. Various large stores,
theaters, cafés and hotels perceived the reason in his argument, and
quickly followed his example. Moreover, as the Annual Sporting Reunion
is held in Palermo during the late winter, it was felt--as proved to be
the case--that inducements in the way of discounts on the cost of
everything would considerably increase the patronage and make the annual
games and races much more a feature of the island than ever before.

Curiously enough, for a people so fond of red tape, the Sicilians have
not smothered the _tessere_ with senseless regulations. The concierge of
your hotel can fill out and present the book for you when you wish to
leave a city; the railroad ticket agent is not concerned with anything
but your signature; and there are no difficulties about photographs as
identification. But woe to the person who gives his tessera to a
careless concierge! Half a dozen others may have done the same thing at
the same time, and the _tessere_ have become mixed. Unless one wishes to
forge the usually almost indecipherable Italian name on the little green
leaves, no ticket is forthcoming, no matter how fluent the explanation
given; and a new book becomes a necessity.

These winter and spring months are ideal for travel in this
Mediterranean isle. In every age Sicily’s climate has been sung as
halcyone, and in the days when Cicero was quæstor under the Roman rule,
he did not exaggerate greatly when he said that there is never a day
when the sun does not smile at least once. Not even Mentone or the other
resorts along the Riviera can boast of a warmer or more sensuous charm
than Sicily. January, which is the worst and rainiest month of the
Sicilian winter, is very like the first two weeks of May in the northern
part of Europe; and a short time later, when travel begins to waken the
island, the sun shines clear and hot, an overcoat is wholly unnecessary
except in the evening.

Ripe and green fruit and blossoms are to be seen at the same time on the
orange and lemon trees, and by April the scraggy old olive trees bend
beneath the weight of their dull green fruit, just beginning to blush
with purple. The air is full of the scent of myriad flowers, and the
railway tracks, sometimes for miles, run between hedges of
geraniums--six to eight feet high--whose pungent fragrance fills the
flying trains. The summer climate is as mild and salubrious as that of
the winter, for even in July and August the average is not more than
seventy-seven or seventy-eight degrees Fahrenheit; about the same as in
our own Atlantic States. Occasionally, during one of the African
siroccos that sometimes sweep across the island, the mercury rises to an
hundred or so; but the sirocco is a rare occurrence, fully as apt to
occur in mid-winter as in summer.

In a climate of this sort the jaded city-dweller, searching for health
and rest, finds an ideal environment, and while the hotels are not the
equals of the fashionable New York and London hostelries, they are
comfortable and moderate in price; and many of them have splendid
gardens attached, where one may have tea, or rest and wander at will
among the scented bowers. One boasts a considerable aviary, and another,
perched at the very edge of a precipitous crag, serves refreshments upon
a stone promenade with the blue African Mediterranean right below, and
the peaks of the Dark Continent faintly suggesting themselves through
the mists of the horizon. Many of the best-known of these hostelries are
located at historic spots, where history and imagination can conjure up
the past vividly--aided, perhaps, by a too generous dinner. More than
one traveler has fought the siege of Taormina all over again in his
post-prandial dreams, and gone tumbling down the nine-hundred-foot
slopes with the Greek tyrant, to wake up on the stony floor of his own
bedroom!

Notwithstanding, the food is good, except in the more remote districts,
where goat’s flesh is usually the literal _piéce de résistance_. In many
of the hill centers the wine of the country, the _vin ordinaire_, as the
French put it, is remarkably pure and good, while for general
attractiveness and cleanly condition, the hotels as a class rank very
well indeed. Not so much can be said for the servants, for the Sicilian
accepts dirt as a thing given of God and therefore not to be too
severely quarreled with under any circumstances; yet he does his best to
live up to the finicky notions of the foreigner who, to his unprejudiced
eye, is so jaundiced. And the Sicilian’s best, in his efforts to please
the stranger, is a very warm-hearted and genial best indeed, full of
cheery smiles, of the utmost willingness to fetch and carry, of entire
devotion, sometimes to the point of doing actual violence for his
patron.

It is characteristic of the people, indeed, that, having so long served
for nothing, they should welcome the chance to serve for their own
profit and pleasure combined; and the service is as pleasant to reward
as it is to receive. Furthermore, the reward need not by any means
always take the form of cash. In Italy everywhere one goes it is always
tip! tip! tip! But in Sicily it is a delight to learn that one often
secures as much for a smile and a gracious word of thanks as for a cash
gratuity. In fact, tips are not infrequently refused. I shall never
forget the expression that crossed the face of a schoolboy to whom I
once offered half a _lira_, ten cents, for some trifling service. There
was hurt pride in the rich brown eyes upturned to mine as the dirty
little paw waved away the coin without a word. Another time, in the
course of a detailed exploration of a prominent agricultural school in
Palermo, the young priest in charge remonstrated with me, half in
amusement, half in indignation, because “you offered my máma money!” To
the apologetic remark that it is very hard to know when not to offer
money, since everyone elsewhere in Italy expects it, the young
philosopher, as cordial and proud as he was abjectly poor, helped
himself to one of my cigarettes with a neat word of thanks and replied:
“Ah, but here it is different! We are a simple, kindly folk in Sicily,
always ready to do whatever we can for the well mannered foreigner. And,
friend, when you go out, do not try to corrupt my boys with money,” was
his parting admonition regarding tips for any of his pupils.

This picturesqueness of character extends to face and costume as well,
and in the remoter places the dress and faces of the ancients may be
observed, striking a curious note of contrast with the exceedingly
modern and well appareled folk of the larger centers. Only fifteen miles
by carriage from Palermo, back in the mountains at Piana dei Greci--an
Albanian colony founded during the latter part of the fifteenth
century--the peasants still hold during festival time to their rich and
exceedingly beautiful costumes of embroidered silken gowns and breeches
heavily picked out with gold. And a costume wedding can usually be
arranged for the benefit of the interested visitor, who is expected to
pay the officiating priest and make a modest gift to the newly married
young couple.

But ancient or modern though the costume be, the demeanor of the wearer
is almost invariably the same, courteous and respectful--one might even
say eager--to give nothing but pleasure to the stranger. And this is
true even of the cab-drivers. We had come to Sicily weary to
exasperation of the importunities and rascality of the Neapolitan
jehus--Gregorio was a smiling exception. To our delight we found
ourselves able to take a ride in Palermo, of half a mile or more, in a
clean, well-kept barouche, drawn by a well-fed little Arab stallion, for
ten cents--and no tip necessary or expected.

The prices for longer excursions were on the same basis, and for weeks
we had the services of a cab, a magnificent horse, and the peerless
Gualterio, for about two dollars a day, including what to the Sicilian
mind was a generous gratuity. And the carriage “ran sweetly,” as
Gualterio assured us it would; nor was it--in his own words--“dirty,
like some!” Of course, the Sicilian cabman, for all his courtly manners
and engaging smile, his soft voice and his continual appeal to the
ladies, with the set phrase “_La Signora vuol’ andare_--The Lady would
like to ride?” (as she usually did, to the enrichment of the cabby) is
not much more to be relied upon for facts, or as a guide, than his
brethren in Naples or anywhere else in the world. The first time we saw
one of the numberless slender stone towers that dot Palermo from end to
end, rising to a height of about twenty feet, covered with fine vines
and dripping countless tiny streams of water, Gualterio smiled
angelically when asked what it was.

“It is very simple, Signore,” he replied instantly. “It is one of the
watch towers, built to enable the guards of the royal Château of La
Favorita to keep watch over the entire estate at once.” It seemed a
curious thing that royal guards should combine duty with the pleasures
of a cooling showerbath; but when I appeared to doubt it, Gualterio
simply pointed at the iron ladder leading from top to bottom outside.
“Behold,” he said. “Are not the ladders still there by which the guards
climbed up and down?” Later we found the structures to be irrigating
towers, as useful as they are picturesque, which is saying a good deal.
How to make a cab-driver truthful is a recipe one seldom or never
learns. Perhaps there is a way, but his fictions are so harmless and
amiable, so entirely diverting and ingenuous, that it seems a pity to
spoil a child of Nature with ironclad rules for veracity.

Nor is the cabman the only Sicilian given to hyperbole or metaphor. The
tendency is marked in all primitive peoples--a large part of the
Sicilians are still primitive--to tell an inquirer the thing they
suppose he most wishes to know; and the Saracenic blood in the Sicilian
has doubtless left him a certain heritage of poetic imagination and
exaggeration for the most utter commonplaces of life. At any rate, this
inclination is found throughout the island, and it does not, except to
the flustered tourist-in-a-hurry, seem a peculiar drawback or fault.
Indeed, it rather adds to the fascination of the people, who appear to
fit perfectly into their environs. Wild looking young girls,
cherry-and-olive of skin, gossiping about the central fountains of their
home towns, bear huge replicas of red Greek amphorai upon their well
poised heads with all the grace of Greek maidens. Sprightly little
goatherds, whose heads are the heads of fauns, and whose half naked and
ruddy bodies are often clad in skins, ramble over the precipitous hills
with nimble herds able to crop a living from mere stone-piles; and the
fauns, Pan-like, pipe to their goats strains Theocritus might have
loved. Swart mountaineers dress like their own rough hills in shaggy
clothes topped off by big rough shawls; and seamen clump about, afloat
and ashore, in boots and “oilers,” or barelegged. The city folk are
equally artless, with their tiny marionette theaters, their homeless
meals in the open air markets, their goat-blessings, their innumerable
other _feste_.

And the Sicilians are not the only entertaining characters one meets.
Sometimes our own countrymen--more often countrywomen!--are not far
behind them. At a little mountain hotel, one evening at dinner a
vivacious, black-haired, sloe-eyed, young woman with the air of one who
comes, sees and conquers, told me in a breath her name, place of
residence, father’s occupation, and asked for my credentials. I was
rather stunned, but one of her companions--there were five of them in
all--reassuring me by “Oh, don’t mind Dulcie! She’s all right,” I
admitted my identity.

With characteristic American energy the trippers “did” the town in one
day, and long before we were ready for breakfast the next morning, drove
away in an ancient barouche crammed to the guards with luggage, and
drawn by three horses so rickety we wondered at the daring of the five
women in accepting it. Dulcinea--have I her name right?--perched beside
the grinning driver, her agile hands full of guidebooks, umbrellas and
so on, gesturing with the fluency of Sicilian temperament itself, took
in everything with a last comprehensive glance, and commanded the
triumphal equipage to move. The hotel manager stood by the door blinking
and dazed. Drawing a hand across his brow as the chatter died away in
the distance, his lips moved in something that doubtless was a tribute
to the “wonderful Americans!”

In another dining room a weighty German, seating himself ponderously,
drew from his pocket a sort of dog-chain which he carefully threw around
his neck and attached by a spring clasp at either end to his napkin,
spread carefully under his expansive chin. By the way, many Germans
travel in Sicily; they seem especially interested in its classical
history. The caretaker in one of the _latomie_ in Syracuse complained:
“Most of the people who have been here this year were Germans. Me, I do
not like the Germans. They have no pockets! Now Americans are grand.
They are all pockets.” After we left he may have concluded that some
Americans are very German. There are many English, too, for they are
everywhere; sometimes interesting, sometimes not.

Besides these folk of to-day, legend and fable have peopled the island
with myriad nymphs and goddesses, gods and dæmons and heroes, equally
interesting. Here in the smoldering caverns of Ætna dwell the grim Sikel
gods of fire. There in the lofty central plateau is the very pool beside
which Proserpina was weaving her daisy chain when stolen by Pluto and
carried away to be queen of the nether world. High on the peak of an
ancient western hill is the dueling ground where Hercules wrestled with
King Eryx. And off the eastern shore are the very rocks the Cyclops
Polyphemus hurled in his impotent rage at the escaping Odysseus.

But song and story are not necessary to invest the natural scenery with
its full share of beauty and importance. The Sicilian Apennines, like
forked lightning, zig-zag sharply down from the northeast corner to the
central southern shore--the rugged, cloud-piercing backbone of the
island. Greek temples, great golden honeycombs of myth and history,
tower up from hilltop and swale of emerald spangled with the gold of
spurge and buttercup, splashed with the impish fiery tongues of
countless poppies; bright groves of orange, lemon, citron, almond and
carob trees in both fruit and flower scent the air with almost
overpowering sweetness; broad brown fields bear acres of the dull green
prickly pears; an occasional huge plot of ground newly plowed, with
moist red furrows, waits open-lipped, to receive seed or shoot; and
everywhere, acre upon acre, extend the vineyards, low-trellised and
green, till from a height the country that the gods loved looks like a
huge crazy quilt, folded and rumpled and vivid, dropped from the
finisher’s hand and left lying where it fell.

Picturesque towns on the very tips of inaccessible crags, walled about
and defended by Nature, give perfect pictures of isolation. Other towns,
white cities springing up from the golden sands of the African sea,
coquette with the emerald waves that lap hungrily at their very doors.
And the dashing tunny-fisheries off-shore--the brilliant sunshine
glinting on the flapping white sails--the water boiling about the
frantic monsters as they plunge and struggle to escape the stabbing
gaffs of their captors; the water red and green and black at last, and
the long line of huge, gleaming bodies--like titanic Spanish mackerel
varnished an opalescent black--strewn upon the white and sparkling
beach!

What more could man wish to see?

[Illustration: Monte Pellegrino looms square and massive at one tip of
Palermo’s crescent harbor.]



II

PALERMO


Most of the passenger steamers come into Palermo shortly after dawn, and
in the pleasant, vernal weather of late winter, or in the real spring,
the great bay is a waveless sheet of gilded beryl, dotted here and there
with small boats so still they seem sculptured, in strong relief against
the purple outlines of the cliffs at either horn of the bay. On the
right, Monte Pellegrino looms square and massive; on the other horn’s
tip Monte Zaffarano peers through the vapors, and the bay between their
rugged shoulders is pent off from the sea by the slender arms of moles
springing outward from the shore. Inside these breakwaters, solemn,
black trans-Atlantic liners await their passengers, and flocks of rakish
small boats, with queer, high, projecting cutwaters and painted in every
dazzling, garish color that fancy can suggest, hop about like so many
water-beetles. Prosaic fishing smacks full of rich, soft colors and
melting lines idle along to lazily lifted sweeps, or linger beside the
mole. And rusty little “cargo-boats that ’aven’t any ’ome” contrast
sharply with the trim white Florio-Rubattino liners.

Early as the hour is, half of male Palermo seems to come to the dock to
shout a cheery welcome as the boat comes in. Throngs of hotel runners
and porters crowd the wharves, all clamoring for recognition, each
trying to drown out his neighbor’s voice; their queer, staccato cries,
combative and challenging, sound as if projected from a huge phonograph
to float loosely upon the jangling air. Yet for all this eagerness it is
hard to find a man not too busy shouting to attend to the baggage. When
one is secured, however, he vanishes like a gnome, to return a few
moments later with the pleasing intelligence that he has smuggled your
trunk through the customs guards, and is ready to perform prodigies with
your handbags.

Palermo’s modern commercial port is distinct from the ancient harbor of
La Cala, now devoted almost exclusively to small fishing craft and
rowboats because of its shallowness. Between the two basins projects a
blunted little promontory, the reminder of that ancient tongue of land
which divided the bay of Panormos of old. On that projecting finger of
ground the Phœnicians built their mighty city, which looked straight
out toward the rising sun. Yet no one knows what its ancient name was,
nor what the citizens called themselves; we know it only by its Greek
name of Panormos, All-Haven. And though the Phœnicians have passed
completely from the entire earth, and the Greeks remain a great Nation,
this city which the Phœnicians founded is still Sicily’s most
beautiful and prosperous center, while the wonderful Greek metropoli of
Akragas and Syracuse have dried up like mummies within the battered
outlines of their once splendid shells.

Palermo has long and deservedly borne the name of La Felice, The Happy.
It is a white city with houses of pearl and roofs of carnelian,
shimmering with golden sunlight against the dark background of vine-clad
hills on the horizon and the rich green of the most fertile plain in the
island, that sweeps, a vast natural amphitheater, from the edge of the
sea up to the seats of the white gods on the cloud-veiled crags.
Splendidly set is the city in the warm lap of its Conca d’Oro, the
Golden Shell that blooms with countless orange and lemon trees whose
golden fruits flash amid the glossy green of the foliage and give the
rolling plain its name. Pink and white almonds, citron, palms, ilex and
pomegranate make it a great botanical garden, perfumed with the jasmine
of Araby, the geranium, the pallid lily and the rose. The system of
irrigation introduced centuries ago by the Saracens still obtains
throughout this favored plain, increasing its productiveness
twenty-fold. Fringing the city, splendid villas and great beautiful
gardens bring a blush to the emerald cheek of the rolling environs. One
feature of parks and gardens throughout Sicily that no American can
fail to notice is the lack of prohibitory signs, such as “$1
$2” Royal, noble or ordinary, these grand floral and arboreal displays
are open to the public practically all the time, yet no one is ever
offended by débris left by picknickers, by broken-off twigs or blossoms.
The Sicilian knows that an infraction of the rights of the owners would
result immediately in the closure of these parks and gardens, and he
respects his privilege of entry.

Many who come to Palermo do so expecting to find a typical south-Italian
seaport, indescribably filthy, and teeming with guides and beggars--as
determined as their native fleas to make a living from the visitor. To
all such the reality comes as thrice welcome. They find a city
beautiful, teeming with life and color, brilliant and irresistible, its
citizens well dressed, orderly and courteous, at least so far as the
traveler sees them. They congest the narrow sidewalks in an easy-going,
gossiping, arm-in-arm throng never in a hurry and never to be stirred to
haste by the polite “_Permesso, Signori!_” of the foreigner. Rather when
urged to speed do they stop short to stare in amazement at such a
phenomenon as anyone pressed for time.

Handsome shops with alluring window displays line the principal
thoroughfares, which run through the city in a huge cross. Clean,
convenient trolley systems vein the capital’s face with crows’-feet in
thin gray lines; enticingly black and narrow little _vicoli_ thread
devious ways among the houses, where the curious may wander unafraid,
and unashamed of his curiosity and interest. And every alley, every
byway and passage is spotlessly clean; while the gardens of the city,
scattered with prodigal lavishness throughout even the business section,
are beautiful beyond description. At first the senses refuse to take in
anything more than a strange, exotic, gorgeous medley of light, color,
sounds; an unfathomable jumble of men and animals, of quaint buildings
and strange vehicles, of street cries weird but melodious, of the
faintly scented brilliant atmosphere--of the half-revealed,
half-guessed-at Soul of the City.

Perhaps the two main streets constitute the best monument the Spaniards
have left behind them. They may not have cared for Sicily; but for
themselves and their convenience and comfort they cared much. So the
Spanish viceroy, Don Pedro de Toledo, ran a fine broad street straight
from the smiling sea through the middle of the town, and called it for
himself, the Toledo. It is now the Corso Vittorio Emmanuele--practically
every city of any importance in Italy has testified in this same way to
its love for the united country’s first king. Crossing this ancient
Toledo is the other highway, the Via Maqueda, laid out by another
viceroy, the Duque de Maqueda, a short time later. The curious
square--it is an octagon, by the way--where these two streets intersect
at right angles, is called by the whimsical Sicilians the Quattro Canti,
or Four Corners. The façades of the abutting buildings are concave, and
each affords lodgment for statues of a Season, a Spanish King and a
female saint--who might be in a deal better company!

Our first morning on the Corso we were halted by a terrific outburst of
sound from the very heart of the throng.

“What’s that?” I exclaimed, swinging my camera into position. “A fight;
somebody being murdered?”

[Illustration: “The water-seller, whose bellow has musical quality and
charm.”]

But La Signora was not minded to be left a widow in a strange land for
the sake of a putative photograph, and halted me. The cry stopped: as we
listened it began again. Angry and defiant, bellicose even, it rose
clear and strong above the noise of the street, held a moment, faded in
slow diminuendo into the beautifully clear note of a great and playful
animal baying for sheer joy of his own strength. The sauntering crowds
paid not the slightest attention to the amazing volcanic outburst of
vocal fireworks; not one of the alluring shops beside us was emptied of
its customers; the tiny Sardinian donkeys in the shafts of the gayly
painted little carts did not even lift an ear, but pattered gravely
onward; and we, moving with the crowd, looked sheepishly at one
another when we reached the corner. Standing in an angle of two house
walls was a little seller of sweetened water, holding his big red
amphora by one ear, his gaudy little yellow-red-blue stand bright with
clinking bottles and glasses. As we stopped, he stunned us again with
his musical bellow, and knowing we would not buy his “_Aaaaacquuuuaaaa!
Aaaaacquaaaaaaaa d-o-l-c’!_” struck a picturesque attitude and posed for
us instead. He is there yet--or another water-man is, for it is a fine
corner for business.

Along the Via Maqueda and its continuations, the Ruggiero VII and the
Avvenida della Libertà, the fashionable _corso_, or afternoon driving
promenade of all classes, takes place. The handsome street is an endless
chain of moving vehicles of every description. Here a spanking team of
blooded bays with silver-mounted harness draws the smart London trap of
a young Florio; there a rickety old barouche, guiltless of varnish for
many a long year, so crowded with a stout family party of six that its
rheumatic springs creak, and the wind-broken old hack who pulls it feels
his waning powers severely taxed. A splendid young Arab, full of blood
and pride, pulling a new victoria, follows a ducal cart and precedes
another overflow meeting, this time a stag party. Flashily dressed young
gallants with cigarettes and straw hats _à l’Anglais_, loll back in
decent traps and carts, making sheep’s eyes at the demure young girls
who ride in maiden reserve beside their silent mothers.

Every Palermitan who can, rides in this social promenade. What matter if
his vehicle be but a cheap hired victoria; what if he go to bed
supperless; has he not had the supreme delight of playing milord in
elegant leisure among the nobility and the rich _forestieri_ (tourists)
who take the air on the city’s stateliest avenue?

It not infrequently transpires that one carriage, one horse and one
coachman are owned--and alternately used--by two or three families. The
coachman in all probability not having been paid for a year or two,
cannot afford to run away; the emaciated steed, not having had a really
square feed of good sweet oats for an equally distressing period, could
not run away if he would; and if both horse and driver should by fell
conspiracy bolt, the faithful old carriage would quickly fall to pieces
rather than have any part in the undoing of its worthy owners.

[Illustration: “There is nothing to equal the Sicilian cart, carved,
yellow, panelled.”]

Those of the nobles too poor to own a carriage alone, and far too proud
to appear in hired ones, are not too proud to adopt the tactics of their
humbler brethren, and go shares in an outfit with other nobles of equal
pretensions and as poor as themselves. Only one extravagance marks the
common ownership of what might be called these “party rigs.” Each count
or baron or prince naturally boasts “arms” as the insignia of his
rank; and these symbols must of necessity embellish his carriage doors,
that he who walks may know at a glance the name and fame of him who
rides. From this dilemma the Sicilian has contrived an ingenious escape.
Each noble has his own set of emblazoned doors. So when the tired horse
brings his Highness the Prince back to his “palace,” presto! off come
the princely doors, on go the ducal or baronial ones, and his Grace the
Duke or the Baron rides serenely off in his own private equipage!

Of all the vehicles in the world, there is nothing, however, to equal
the Sicilian cart, carved, yellow, paneled with lurid paintings that run
the gamut of myth and history. One we saw had upon its panels scenes
representing Columbus sailing from Palos and discovering America; a
bloody fight around the citadel of Acre; the hermitage of Santa Rosalia;
and on its tailboard a vivid presentation of the massacre of the
Vespers. These carts are never very large, as carts go; but they are so
marvelously wrought, they ought surely to come under the provisions of
the law which forbids the exportation of any works of art. Wheels,
shafts, axles, the edges of sides and posts and tailboards are all
worked into neat geometrical designs, and on the axle is a carving built
up clear to the bottom of the cart, a mass of intricate scroll-work and
gingerbread, in the middle of which sits the patron saint of the
fortunate owner.

“If you expect a cart-driver to tell you the truth, make him swear by
the saint sitting upon his axle,” is almost a proverb in Palermo. Would
there were saints on the cabs, too!

Often the horses’s decorations are equally fantastic, with a three-foot
cock feather rising between his ears, an apoplectic purple bouquet of
yarn upon the saddle, and plenty of shrill little bells at jingly
intervals all over. These gorgeous outfits are used for ordinary
delivery work, and after working hours the family put chairs in and go
for a ride in state. The bit is as queer as the harness: it isn’t a bit
at all, but a plate of spring-steel strapped loosely over the horse’s
nose, an horizontal prong projecting on either side. Attached to the
prongs, the reins give the driver complete control over his animal,
since by pulling them he gently but effectively cuts off the beast’s
breath. This makes runaways impossible, and besides, is much more humane
than a bit of the usual sort.

The city’s street cleaning department is not such a joke as it appears.
Looks are not its strong point--keeping the town immaculate is. The
carts are simply scaly old specimens of these brilliant equipages; and
the animals are tiny Sardinian donkeys, as pretty and gentle as any pet
lamb, and scarcely bigger. One velvety little gray beauty we saw on the
Via Maqueda was undoubtedly heartbroken at having such disagreeable work
to do. We talked to him and petted him, but to all our caresses he
made not the slightest response, merely hanging his head and suffering
his fate silently, like the brave little beast that he was.

[Illustration: “The city’s street-cleaning department is not such a joke
as it appears.”]

Perhaps it is the cleanliness of these streets that makes the people use
them as drying-rooms. In Naples they wash in the streets, and hang the
clothes from window to window in narrow alleys. But in Palermo the
people go much farther--they cover the façades of their very finest
houses with linen which flaps in plain sight even during the fashionable
_corso_ on the broad avenue.

On this same Via Maqueda are the two large theaters. The Mássimo, or
Largest Theater, is a splendid structure, well named, for it is the
largest theater not only in Italy but in all Europe, a dignified
adaptation of ancient Greek ideals to present day needs. A block farther
on is the Politeama Garibaldi, with a Roman triumphal arch entrance, and
a two-storied Greek colonnade encircling frescoed walls whose
polychromatic decorations are so exceedingly Pompeiian they suggest that
Palermo may be the birthplace of a new renaissance in Italian art.

The Sicilian of any class is always picturesque, always individual. He
could scarcely be anything else if he tried, and the life of the masses
in the city is like a show at the theater--a show, at that, in which
even the supernumeraries are ever imbued with due regard for the proper
setting and action of the piece. There is no more typical specimen of
this condensed picturesqueness than the water-seller, whose bellow has
musical quality and charm, as you discover after your first shock. He
calls up Egypt and the streets of Cairo. Really, he is the survival of
an ancient Arab custom. You find him everywhere, especially among the
lanes of the Fiera di Pascua, the Easter Fair, a piece bitten right out
of the heart of Coney Island. The Easter season, by the way, is an
exceedingly fortunate time to spend in Sicily, because of the
multitudinous festivities going on.

For the Fair, great bare sheds spring up overnight in the square beside
the Mássimo, mushroom-like--a sunstruck Babel of crazily built and
decorated shops and stalls and booths where everything imaginable is to
be bought, from tinware and toys to rosaries and vegetables. About the
booths eddies a jovial mob, pushing, chattering, playing practical jokes
on one another, eating candy and the dubious Sicilian equivalents for
frankfurters and kraut. Bands blare out fitful, horrible music from the
roofs or windows of small sheds curiously mounted with painted legends
or astonishing pictures in which the lack of perspective is the most
prominent feature, unless it is the artist’s entire disregard for the
principles of anatomy. “Barkers” in plate armor manufactured out of
ancient kerosene tins from which the odor has by no means departed,
vie with ridiculous clowns and short skirted dancers in proclaiming the
attractions of their rival marionette and “minstrel” shows. And
everybody wants to pose. Indeed, the Sicilians have a good humored mania
for getting in the way of the camera, even when they know they are not
wanted there and will never see a single copy of the picture.

[Illustration: “‘Barkers’ in plate-armor ... in the Easter Fair, a piece
bitten right out of Coney Island.”]

I leveled my camera at one queer stall, and instantly the people sprang
together solidly, completely obscuring the booth, each man crying to his
neighbor: “_Aspett’! Aspett’! Il fotografo!_” In vain I pleaded. In vain
Gualterio shouted and threatened and argued. The merrymakers laughed,
and nodded, and stood like statues. In the confusion an important
policeman stepped up, saluted respectfully, and said: “Excellency will
be kind enough to move out into the street again. He is attracting
citizens, and blocking the entire square.”

Then he began unhurriedly turning over the human kaleidoscope.



III

A NIGHT OF DISSIPATION


Palermo is chimneyless. Hovels and palaces alike have no fires, except
for cooking, and among the poorer classes very little of that is done at
home, the people being steady patrons of the _cucine economice_, or
“economical kitchens,” especially of those in the vicinity of the great
public markets.

Anxious to see these typical aspects of city life in tabloid form, we
had our own dinner early one evening, and told Gualterio to take us
through the poorer quarters, to show us the people getting their
suppers, both at home and in the old market. Obeying literally, he drove
us through countless _piccoli vicoli_ or narrow alleys, dark little
canyon-like slits between the houses.

Strange shadowy forms flitted about under our horse’s very feet; black
doorways gave yawning glimpses of deeper gloom beyond, lighted only by a
tiny candle; here and there we passed vague silhouettes--a hungry man
standing, hat on, before a table or sideboard gulping down his meager
dinner, or a woman, Rembrandt-like, knitting, mending, reading, or
amusing a child, in soft relief against the murk of the interior. Sharp
cries from the driver warned away the children sitting in the street, so
narrow that the wheels of our carriage scraped the house walls on both
sides while going through; women knitting slipped their chairs
momentarily back into the doorways in order to let us pass. Street lamps
at long intervals twinkled feebly, and after six or eight such streets
were traversed we emerged into the glare and brilliance of the slightly
depressed Piazza Caraccioli, home of the Fiera Vecchia or Old Market.

Halting the victoria on one side of the square, we wandered about on
foot among a bedlam more picturesque than, and fully as noisy as, the
Easter Market. To describe the scene adequately is impossible--no one
who has not seen it can gather more than the vaguest idea from any
printed description of this vivid cross-section of lower class Sicilian
customs.

Dazzling light and pitchy darkness alternate sharply, with no
intermediate nuances of softer shadow, and the hurrying people rush
hither and yon like so many busy ants. Adding to the confusion of the
scene, the peddler and vendor shout out their wares: “Water!” “Olives!”
“Artichokes!” “Fish!” A chorus of lesser cries swell into diapason
invitations to buy all manner of things one does not wish and can not
possibly use, and there is much good natured chaff for the
_forestieri_. Men, women and children by the score are everywhere, some
eating where they stand, some carrying food home.

Small pails of gleaming charcoal bear upon their heads great kettles of
boiling artichokes. Steam and aroma from the cooking meats and
vegetables; the smoke of lamps, candles and torches and burning fat and
grease in the frying pans; escaping gases from the ranges in the
“economical kitchens,” from the charcoal fires, and from the coal
stoves; the innumerable smells of fresh vegetables, meat, fish, both
salt and fresh, cut flowers and goats, with an additional tang of cheap
wine, gushing from big casks into pails and bottles in the open shops,
mingle in a composite odor by no means as unpleasant as might be
thought.

The whole scene is a delight to the eye. Here is a good sized wine shop,
its front entirely open, showing two rows of casks and an imposing array
of copper bright as the sun; yonder a vegetable store completely covered
with onions suspended in long strings, bunches and wreaths, decorated
fancifully with green leaves and little rosettes which afford a
background of decidedly striking type for an image of the Holy Bambino,
itself of onion color, and barely discernible among the rustling strings
of bulbs over the door.

[Illustration: “Vendors of fried entrails ... squat beside their
baskets.”]

[Illustration: “The people are steady patrons of the Economical
Kitchens.”]

Beside us a tiny restaurant, its front all gas-range, yawns enticingly,
while opposite glows the fiery eye of an artichokeman’s tiny charcoal
fire. Vendors of fried entrails and stomachs squat beside their frying
pans and baskets, perforated ladles in their hands, exactly like our
frankfurter men; while water-men with their highly colored stands full
of clinking glasses swing along, bellowing cheerfully.

Great gaudy signs in blue, red and yellow proclaim the prices of empty
eggs, strung on threads, or impaled upon wooden spearlets, and stuck up
over the front of a shop. Evidently the Palermitan distinguishes as we
do between “eggs,” “fresh eggs” and “strictly fresh eggs,” for the price
varies considerably. However, the careful buyer we watched trusted not
in signs or portents, but weighing each egg carefully as he bought,
placed a dozen or more of the fragile things in his coat pockets despite
the throng. Why a purchaser never comes home with an omelet in his
clothes is a mystery, for we found it exceedingly difficult to work our
way through the crowd. Yet, when I questioned the egg-seller he declared
that no one ever broke an egg.

A man with a pretentious stand like the American quick lunch counters
stood behind a narrow smoking counter full of hidden fire, bearing a
frying pan on top. On his left a bowl of strong shredded cheese faced
other dishes of butter and rolls. He was a very popular caterer, too,
for while we stood watching him a number of customers came up, giving an
order in the peasant dialect which we could not understand, and the
proprietor with a deft turn of his hand split a roll, covered it
liberally with a rich thick layer of shredded cheese looking like
toothpicks, placed upon that a few scraps of the meat he was cooking
below, and deluging the whole with a spoonful or two of boiling grease,
served up the tit-bit to his eager customer. In Sicily the butchers sell
the offal and entrails of slaughtered animals, which in America are
turned over the soap manufacturers or thrown away. The kitchen-man who
buys them cuts up the stuff, boils it in its own fat, and sells it in
the reeking buns at a penny apiece. The sturdy Sicilian seems to enjoy
and thrive on this horrible mess, and even the children come toddling up
to clamor for their share.

Macaroni of all sorts, curled, fluted, twisted, frilled, chopped into
squares and lead pencil lengths, woven, braided into shapes numberless,
decorates several of the stalls. Other booths sell candles; others,
shoes; still others, nothing but cheese. Cobblers are everywhere,
although it seems impossible--in a town where so many people go
barefoot--that one-tenth of the shoemakers, who work from six o’clock in
the morning until nearly midnight, can find anything to do.
Notwithstanding this external poverty, however, there are in the houses
of the very poorest in practically every section of the town
sewing-machines, whose tireless treadles throb and pulse by day and far
into the night, the seamstress bending over her work lighted only by
the spasmodic flickerings of a little candle.

Tiring after an hour or so of the bustle and confusion and glare, we set
off again. In and out we wound, as in a dream, peopling the streets with
imaginary rascals ready to rob or kidnap, until at last in a small open
square we came to the brilliantly lighted wineshop and café of _Sainte
Rosalie_, whose proprietor, himself partly French, thus Gallicizes the
name of the town’s patron saint, and at the same time adds distinction
to his café in the eyes of lower class Palermo. We stopped curiously,
and the proprietor, immediately forgetting his patrons, invited us to
get out and inspect the place.

Filling almost one entire side of the large front room is a huge stove
built of mortar-covered brickwork, upon which bubbled a couple of
cauldrons, one full of goats’ stomach, the other containing scraps of
something or other. Both smelled good--but how they looked! Opposite the
stove hung meat which had been fresh that morning; piles of vegetables
completely filled up the counter and various tables. All the coppers and
cooking utensils were spotless, and marvelous to relate, there is a real
chimney, and running water, both hot and cold. Sometimes you see a house
which has a genuine iron cooking stove--but it stands in the parlor and
the stovepipe is thrust conveniently out into the street above the
closed lower half of the front door.

The café is divided into two parts by an arch, and no curtains being
hung, the diners can see perfectly how their food is being cooked.
Leading us through into the _Sala di pranzo_, the proprietor, with a
sweeping bow, waved us into two chairs at a table beside two native
couples who were taking their belated suppers. The peasants greeted us
frankly and pleasantly, the women smiling, and the men doffing their
caps with a hearty “_Buona sera, signori!_”

Not knowing exactly what was expected of us, we ordered _vino e pasta_,
supposing we would receive some sour, fiery fluid, and the bad Sicilian
bread. Instead there was set before us a large flagon of reddish-brown,
rather heavy dessert wine, a little too sweet to be palatable to
Americans, but nevertheless delicious. Clean though coarse napkins and
glasses accompanied it, and delicious almond sweet-cakes in far greater
quantity than we could eat. The price of this refreshment was so
ridiculously small that we wondered at first whether Boniface had not
made a mistake.

Our trip through the market and the _piccoli vicoli_ thus pleasantly
finished, I told Gualterio to take us to the theater.

That anyone would be willing to miss a minute of pleasure he must pay
for was incomprehensible to his simple mind. Draining his beaker at a
gulp, he nearly dropped the glass in astonishment. “_Ma--signore! É
troppo tard’! Ora si finisc’ il prim’ atto!_” he exclaimed. “It is too
late! The first act is surely over!”

[Illustration: “The Holy Bambino ... barely discernible among the
rustling strings of onions over the door.”]

”Oh, I did not mean the fine theaters where the rich people go, but a
little theater, a theater of the people--where you go when you have an
evening to yourself.”

A curious expression came over his face, but making sure that we knew
what we were talking about, he drove rapidly to the door of a dirty and
dilapidated looking house in a small side court. Though we did not
expect marionette shows to be given in a very splendid auditorium, we
were scarcely prepared for this, rather hesitating to enter.

The door was divided, the lower half closed, the upper open. Inside hung
a short, flapping black curtain, while about the door loitered a little
group of street urchins who dodged up when the doorkeeper’s back was
turned, to peep eagerly into the slit of brilliance that revealed the
stage between the upper edge of the half-door and the bottom of the
curtain.

As we, too, peeped, Gualterio whispered that here was a theater whose
audience numbered the very poorest and the humblest in the city, adding
apologetically: “Perhaps it is too poor for Excellency. I have been here
and enjoyed the performance, but Excellency is accustomed to the fine
theaters, and the Signora may not like this very well.”

On the contrary, that was exactly the sort of theater we did wish to
see. The glimpse we got through the open door of the auditorium however,
was not reassuring; and furthermore there was not a woman present. I
knew all about the custom of the Sicilian theaters, which announce two
different sorts of plays--“To-night for men;” “This is a play for
ladies.” Naturally, seeing no sign of the more particular sex, I jumped
at the conclusion that this must be a man’s night. But disturbed by our
conversation outside, the doorkeeper-proprietor and at least half of the
audience politely arose and insisted that we should enter. With some
misgivings we did so, paying two cents apiece for seats. Afterward I
learned that the impresario had charged us exactly double what anyone
else paid.

The seats consisted of a few hard wooden benches without any backs, and
the one reserved place in the entire theater--which was a room perhaps
thirty feet square with two galleries some five feet above the floor on
both sides--was a single broken-backed kitchen chair perched upon one of
the benches in the middle of the house. The only well dressed man in the
room, who occupied it, gallantly sprang down at once, and with a
delightfully courtly bow and smile assisted the protesting Signora to
his place. The audience numbered about forty or fifty fisherman,
peddlers, a cabman or two and a miscellaneous collection of as jovial
looking pirates as ever scuttled a ship or slit a throat. But for all
their appearance, they behaved exactly like American opera-goers, and
the stir that our entrance made set every tongue chattering at a lively
pace.

The stage stretched across the end of the pit at a height of perhaps
three or four feet above the floor, and on a rack of some kind at the
left of the place where the footlights should have been, was a quantity
of wilted green vegetables. Thinking of what happens to inferior actors
in the rural districts here, I inquired with some anxiety if the
vegetables had been laid aside for that purpose. But the man to whom I
spoke, missing the joke entirely, replied with the utmost simplicity:
“Oh, no, Giuseppe laid his pack there because it was too big to place
between the seats.”

How homelike it would seem to the weary street hawker in New York, could
he but stop at the theater on his way home, and occasion no remark by
leaving his left-over stock in trade at the feet of the actors for the
time being.

As soon as La Signora was ensconced upon her uncertain “reserved seat,”
the men who sat beside me on either hand began to explain the play in
what they probably considered words of one syllable. The fancily dressed
young man at my right seemed impatient at the remarks of my white-haired
left-hand neighbor, who smelled strongly of tar, and whose sixty years
and showerbath dialect made him both attractive and unintelligible to
me. Both men talked at once and at high speed. In the meantime everyone
else all over the house was talking cheerfully; and the play was
proceeding as calmly as though there were no interruption. Between the
two explanations, neither of which I could understand, I had
considerable difficulty in catching the words of the play, which was
being read by a gentleman whose lungs must have been rubber and whose
throat brass. He stood back of the proscenium somewhere and bellowed or
whispered in fine frenzy at every dramatic point, as the marionettes
performed their astonishing evolutions.

The puppets were handsome armored figures about three feet high, clothed
in glittering plate and chain armor, accoutered cap-à-pie, their shields
properly blazoned and their surcoats faithful models of the garments
worn by the ancient knights. Marching, filing and counter-filing, they
made addresses to the accompaniment of stiff, clattering gestures,
fought duels of deadly outcome with clashing weapons and rasping wires
in the glare of half a dozen smoky oil lamps, and moved about easily,
manipulated by the expert hands of operators who were standing in the
wings. Every little while a human hand would burst into view,
grotesquely gigantic compared with the puppet whose fate was in its
keeping.

[Illustration: The Politeama Garibaldi, one of Palermo’s two greatest
theaters.]

The play was one of the familiar favorites, representing the
endeavors of invading Moors to convert Christian Sicilians to
Mohammedanism, but the author was somewhat mixed in his history. Beside
the Sicilians and Moors he worked in Frenchmen, and before the play was
over, the story was that of a struggle between the two Christian
nations, the Mohammedans obviously forgotten. The wicked, wicked
Frenchmen were, of course, defeated, and their bloody schemes met with
the noisy condemnation of the little crowd, while their opponents, the
ancestors of these same street boys and hucksters and fishermen, won as
hearty approval.

In the interval between the fourth and the last acts I had a chance to
inquire of my neighbors why there were no women present. Both men
regarded me with astonishment, and the younger answered first.

“Women? Women in the theater? Why, the theater is not good for them. I
never bring my woman!”

Evidently a foreign woman was different, and none of the audience seemed
to regard it as strange that one should be among them. As we came out
into the fresh night air, Gualterio was apologetically solicitous, a
little nervous as to the success of his experiment in bringing us to
this particular theater. But our manifest satisfaction with our night of
dissipation speedily reassured him, and all the way back to the hotel he
sang _canzone_ to his chunky little Arab out of pure joy and
thankfulness.



IV

CATHEDRALS


It has already been pointed out that the Easter season is an especially
good time to be in Palermo. On Easter morning the great Court of the
Lord before the Cathedral is a surprising picture. Upon the heavy stone
balustrade enclosing it sixteen massive saints meditate benignly in the
scented air. The great gray cement yard, flowers all colors of the
rainbow, marble Santa Rosalia--patroness of Palermo--the huge church
itself: all are bathed in the most brilliant sunshine imaginable. Words
and pictures alike fail to give any adequate expression of it. The noise
and unrest of the busy Corso are forgotten in this magic precinct;
smiling, happy men, women and children stream through the yard,
picturesque in their holiday attire; while from the windows drones the
chant of the Mass, like the buzzing of a swarm of kindly bees hovering
over the flowers. The white glare of the Egyptian desert is never more
blinding than a Sicilian spring morning radiance.

[Illustration: The blending of different architectural forms in the
Palermo Cathedral gives it charm.]

Though the service calls, religion in Sicily takes small heed of the
antics of foreigners, and if one chooses to stay outside in the
courtyard and take photographs, it causes not the slightest comment. The
main charm of the Cathedral lies in the curious blending of its
different forms of architecture--Arabic, Norman, Gothic; which produces
a dashing and almost whimsical effect in its fine arcades, its rich
friezes and battlements, its interlacing arches, and its airy turrets
outlined against the blue sky. Two graceful flying arches connect the
Cathedral with the campanile or belfry which, as is often the case, is
separated from the Cathedral proper--in this instance across the street.
The vast structure as a whole is the very epitome of Sicily’s many sided
culture and art during her high tide of glory, the Norman period. A
witty Englishman has fitly remarked that the badly restored and
whitewashed interior, however, is of the “railroad station type.”

In the south aisle chapels, though, are the excellent tombs of the
kings, the grim and silent last homes of the marvelous Frederick, that
“Wonder of the World,” of Henry VI, The Butcher, of Constance the
Broken-Hearted, and of others. A great crimson porphyry sarcophagus
holds the dust of King Roger, of whom it has been well said indeed that
he was “one of the wisest, most renowned, most worthy, and most
fortunate princes of his time” (Freeman). Kneeling Norman nobles carved
in white marble upbear the simple, boxlike mass of porphyry upon their
armored shoulders. What an expression of the homage of the people! The
simple inscription, in Latin, reads:

    IN QUIET AND PEACE, ROGER, STRENUOUS
        DUKE AND OF SICILY FIRST KING,
  IS DEAD IN PANORMOS, THE MONTH OF FEBRUARY
              IN THE YEAR 1154.

So it would seem that we are not the first people to discover “the
strenuous life!”

And King Roger’s life was certainly strenuous. But it was nothing at all
compared to the career of his father, who landed stealthily in Sicily by
night with a handful of trusty knights and men-at-arms, captured Messina
before breakfast, and stormed on through the island, felling the
Saracens like so many saplings. The Norman conquest was distinguished
throughout by the most impossible feats of both personal valor and
consideration; the island was ready for Roger to knit together and
administer when he succeeded his father, and played the rôle of lawgiver
and organizer to his fiery parent’s conquests. And young Roger rose even
higher than his father. Where he had been Count, Roger made himself not
only King of Sicily, but ruler of a considerable part of Southern Italy
as well. What manner of man he was is shown by an ancient mosaic still
on the wall of the church of the Martorana, a remarkable example in
itself of Norman-Sicilian art. Notwithstanding the tremendous
temporal power of the Popes in those days, this descendant of the
vikings refused to be crowned by the papal legate, and the mosaic
represents him placing the diadem upon his head with his own hands.

[Illustration: “A great crimson porphyry sarcophagus holds the dust of
‘Roger, Strenuous Duke.’”]

The Martorana church was built by the King’s High Admiral, Giorgios
Antiochenos, a versatile gentleman indeed, who amused himself while on
shore leave or duty by building bridges and churches, importing silk
weavers and generally playing the constructive and highly intelligent
official, whose good works have long outlived himself.

Throughout the island it is eminently proper to keep the key of a
building as far away from its door as possible--it is the _custode_ of
La Martorana who gives open sesame to the Scláfani Palace. As you drive
over, he ticks off its history on his bony fingers with the precious
key: Built in 1330; afterward a grand hospital; to-day a barrack for the
Bersaglieri or mountain riflemen. Practically the only remaining
evidence of its former grandeur is a tremendous fresco attributed to a
long-forgotten Flemish painter, on one of the walls of the courtyard.
The fresco, measuring some eighteen feet in height by about twenty-two
in length, is called _Il Trionfo della Morte_, The Triumph of Death, and
its name is fully borne out by its grisly realism, as the white horse
and his ruthless skeleton rider trample down those who wish to live,
and ignore the wretched who plead in vain for release from their misery.
With the latter group stands the painter himself, palette and mahlstick
in hand; it is said he was taken ill while a guest in the palace.
Perhaps the painting commemorates his feelings during that unfortunate
experience.

It is frankly ugly--there is no other word to express it--yet it still
clings to the white wall and produces an astonishing effect, especially
when one remembers that it is a faithful expression of the religious
feeling of the epoch it stands for. While we were studying it, a
well-fed American-in-a-hurry, evidently a person of importance
Baedekering through Sicily, rushed into the court, asked abruptly if
that were the great picture, thrust both hands into his pockets and,
with feet wide apart, appraised it a few moments in patent disgust. It
costs about a _lira_ and a half--something like thirty cents of our
money--to see the fresco. Pulling out a handful of loose change to pay
the custodian, the stranger glanced first at his hand, then back at the
painting.

“Thirty cents! Thirty cents--that’s exactly what it looks like!” he
exploded, and was off before we could get our breaths.

That Palermo had queer taste in the old days is indicated by the
Scláfani fresco; and further evidence is not lacking in the crypts of a
Capuchin monastery, a short distance outside the Porta Nuova. The
vaults, long ago used as a burial place by the wealthier families of the
city, contain at present some eight thousand embalmed bodies. This
subway full of mummies is divided into several sections, the men and
women segregated from each other and from the monks and priests, who
have a gallery apart. Some of the bodies are in coffins or caskets of
various sorts, but many have been hung up by the neck in cords like
hangman’s nooses. Some skulls are entirely fleshless, while others are
partially covered. Hands whose fingers have shrunk to black bits of
petrifaction hang loosely from rotting gloves which now appear several
sizes too large. Heads have slipped back to stare up at the cobwebbed
ceiling, turned sidewise with most diabolical leers, moved forward as
though to combat the visitor. Not a single skull is expressionless, even
if devoid of flesh. Some are jocose, some piously sad, some morose, some
menacing and grim.

Within the artillery barrack a little farther out, is a ragged tower
some thirty feet high that represents the ancient villa of La Cuba. An
Arabic frieze about the bare exterior suggests the residence of some
haughty old Emir of Palermo. The iconoclastic archæologists, however,
have shattered the popular belief by deciphering the inscription to
prove that no Saracen ever lived there, but that the mansion was erected
in 1183 by the grandson of Roger, King William II, “The Good,” of whose
reign one chronicler of the period wrote: “There was more security then,
in the thickets of Sicily than in the cities of other kingdoms.”
Modesty, though, could scarcely have been the most conspicuous of that
monarch’s many virtues, for the inscription reads: “In the Name of God,
clement, merciful, give heed. Here halt and admire. Behold the
illustrious dwelling of the most illustrious of the kings of the earth,
William II.”

Tired out one night after a long day following the hounds through the
forests outside Palermo, this same King William II, “The Good,” lay down
to sleep on a hill overlooking the city. And in his sleep, he dreamed:
Out of the glades floated the shining figure of the Virgin, mysterious
and inspiring, telling the awestruck monarch that the church he had
sworn to build for her must be erected on that very spot. Slowly the
dazzling vision faded, and when he awoke William named the hill Mon
Reale--Royal Mount--at once beginning to prepare for the most splendid
church in Sicily, a house of prayer worthy of both its divine patroness
and its royal founder.

In 1174 the actual construction began, and eight years later, thanks to
the pious aid of the King’s mother, Margaret of Aragon, the Duomo of
Monreale was solemnly consecrated. It was, however, unfinished outside,
and to this day its barren exterior hints nothing of its interior
magnificence.

[Illustration: “The Monreale Cathedral rises like a fortress before the
town.”]

Around the Cathedral sprang up a populous little city of jammed-together
houses along constricted, hilly streets, and eight centuries have not
changed the town appreciably. It is possible to ascend by tram this
crested slope upon whose brow the Middle Ages still reign.
Unfortunately, the cars are not personally conducted to stop at the best
viewpoints, so it is better, though more expensive, to take a cab.

Once in a while in Europe the recognition of class distinction grips an
American with a strangle-hold. That day in the Monreale tram it seized
me, when a fat, overdressed middle-class woman of forty or so began to
give herself more airs than a duchess. With her little son, she was
taking up room enough for four ordinary people, when a spotlessly neat
old peasant woman, with a decent murmur of apology, sat down in the
half-vacant space alongside. The bourgeoise flared like a Sans Gene,
jabbed at her parcels brusquely, and told her loudly not to intrude upon
her betters. It was then that I wished for a second-class car, to save
the old woman from such gratuitous effrontery.

The Cathedral rises like a fortress before the town; its main
doors--between two massive square towers, giving upon a dusty little
square--are rich bronze leaves full of low-reliefs from Old Testament
history. The first impression on entering is of a dazzling blaze of
golden light, beating upon and beaten back from golden walls with
stunning effect, in which the details of design and ornamentation, for
all their clarity and importance, are so marvelously subordinated that
they but add to the glowing display. Though the superb glass mosaics
cover an area which Baedeker--with “Made-in-Germany” accuracy--declares
to be 70,400 square feet, the lower walls are all pure white marble,
with an upper border and slender bright-colored bands which run
perpendicularly through the spotless white like the embroidery upon a
holy robe. The vast nave and aisles are light and airy. There is
complete absence of any artificial decoration--no tawdry, meaningless
images, no hideous ex-votos to distract the eye. Harmony is the keynote
of every inch of the decorations; from pave to rooftree there is not one
inconsistent or jarring note.

The great dome of the main apse is completely filled by a bust of the
Christ in the same glittering, marvelous, indescribably mellow glass
mosaic that covers thousands of square feet upon the walls. It is the
face of the man traditional, the visage of one whose appearance has been
handed down from father to son since the beginning, the likeness of a
founder, a prophet. And the still, solemn wonder of it fills one like
the recurrent chords of a great and stately harmony. It is the one
feature that stands out high above the blinding golden haze.

“Not a jarring note”--and yet, who that has seen those forty Old
Testament mosaic tableaux on the upper walls can help recalling his
first start of amazement at their literalness. They speak a dialect of
art; they translate the Bible stories that the uneducated medieval mind
could not read, into something that everybody could understand. A
snow-white Eve worming her way out of an equally pallid dreamer’s side,
and afterward decorously introduced by God Himself to Adam, is startling
enough. But how about Noah, draped by a modest son, while in the vinous
slumber brought about through a too generous testing of the liquid
sunshine of his own vines? No details of these ancient histories was too
insignificant or too broad for the artificers to weave lovingly into
their master-work; and nothing could better illustrate the pure
simplicity of the medieval mind to which anything Biblical was holy, and
fit for presentation to all the world.

One of the most noticeable features of the Duomo is the clearness and
delicacy of every detail. In St. Mark’s in Venice, time has blurred and
defaced almost everything and the better part of the mosaics is
crumbling into soft decay; but here in Monreale the delineation is so
vivid and sharp, each color so soft and pure in tone, it seems as though
the master workman had laid down his tools but yesterday to pronounce
his _chef d’œuvre_ complete.

We are apt to think of cloisters as gloomy, forbidding places, where
half frozen monks with blue lips and hair shirts shiver about their
religious tasks and wish--if they are human!--they had never been born.
Of course, there are such cloisters--but not here in Monreale, where the
glorious sunshine bathes all that is left of the monastery King William
erected for his Benedictine monks beside the Cathedral. Pleasant
cloisters these, warm and blooming and fragrant with ozone and the
perfume of the flowers. And very pleasant, indeed, very much worth
while, must have been the lives of the jovial Benedictine brothers
during the high and mighty reign of William the Good! Even after seven
hundred years the silent arcades are lovely, filled yet with slender
columns about which climb ribbons of mosaic and garlands of living vines
to set off the different capitals--the finest examples of twelfth
century carving in the world. Every capital is different, and almost
every one tells a story. The visitor can unravel for himself ancient
legend or Bible story, picking out old familiar figures here and there
in the mellow marble; or if he chooses, he can meditate upon the curious
fact that the Normans were producing this glorious work in the island of
the sun long before Giotto was born.

[Illustration: “A snow-white Eve worming her way out of an equally
pallid dreamer’s side is startling.”]

Monreale’s streets are rugged and steep, but very clean and decent. The
Monrealese, instead of naming their Corso for Italy’s first king, have
named it for the town’s most famous son, the seventeenth century
painter Pietro Novelli, whose studies of the monks are moving figures,
clearly establishing him as the foremost materialist Sicily ever
produced. On the Corso is Grado Salvatore’s three-boy-power macaroni
factory, a queer, rambling, black sort of a cavern, lighted only by the
front door. A macaroni-machine looking for all the world like Benjamin
Franklin’s old hand printing press occupies the front on one side; and
Salvatore himself sits in the little blue and white tiled sink before
it, fanning and snipping the wriggly paste as the boys twist the screw
and force it out in long strings. On the other side of the partition is
a cluttered-up sales-room where every imaginable shape of macaroni and
spaghetti decorates the shelves. Behind all is the mixing-room, joyously
dark; and you may handle the doughcakes to make sure they are pure and
clean! No matter if your hands are very dirty, after your sightseeing;
the good folk of Monreale will take no particular harm after what they
have doubtless experienced at other hands. None the less, as a general
thing the interior of a Sicilian paste shop compares favorably with that
of an American bakery, and the workers themselves are quite immaculate,
with soft, clean, pink hands like a woman’s.

After it comes from the press, the macaroni is cut into six-foot lengths
and hung up outside the shop to dry in the sunshine. By the time it has
collected sufficient dust and germs to make it stiff--two or three days
are usually long enough--it is cut into package lengths and sold. In
Southern Italy it often occupies a good part of a roadway, or even hangs
over a busy coalyard; but in Sicily both its manufacture and sale are
cleaner and more wholesome; and the macaroni made in Termini is famous
for its quality. Whether it is something in its manufacture, or some
subtle quality of the flour from which it is made, the Sicilian _pasta_
seems generally to have a flavor and a delicacy lacking in the Italian
variety.

The three juvenile assistants--boys who had the haunting native eyes of
soft yet gleaming brown dusk, lustrous as old Marsala wine full of the
sun--did not seem in the least to mind the drudgery of turning their
endless screw. But while we were handling doughcakes in the black
backroom with genial Salvatore, they stopped “twisting the twist” and
somehow managed to spread the news throughout the entire village that
there were strangers within their gates; and a crowd of small boys,
beggars, and others who seemed to have no occupation gathered at the
front door, demanding vociferously that they be photographed, chaffing
each other and us, and arranging themselves according to their own ideas
of a picturesque group.

While there was no stately ceremony to welcome us, the freedom of the
town was clearly ours after that picture taking. Nobody asked for so
much as a copper penny, and gruff, cheery voices called after us
heartily: “_Buon viaggio! A rivederci, signori!_ Good-by! Come back
again!” And Monreale has been branded as a town “whose beggars are very
importunate!”

Bad as the Sicilian beggars are supposed to be, we experienced less
annoyance from them throughout the island than from their pertinacious
brethren of Naples and the mainland generally.

At the brow of the hill is a terrace garden, the “Eden
Restaurant”--where by all means you must take tea. The little
establishment amuses rather than disappoints; and though it scarcely
justifies its grandiose title, it commands a view that no doubt
suggested the name to its proprietor. Falling away from its feet, the
hill cascades down in great billows to the cool green and orange sea of
the Conca d’Oro. And when the trolley car turns the shoulder of the
hill, in Palermo--misty and dun in the gathering dark--lights like
jewels flash out in scintillating ripples that spread and widen and
sparkle as you race down the dusty mountain road, leaving medieval
Monreale silent and spectral behind.



V

PALACES AND PEOPLE


“Palace” in Italian is a flexible and generic term, and the examples of
“palaces” one sees in Sicily give an entirely new sense of the
elasticity of the Italian language, and the freedom with which the
people use it. _Palazzo_ means really any building or structure of any
sort where wealthy, a noble, or a royal family lives now, or ever has
lived; and some of these structures are as remarkable for their
disreputable appearance as others are for their beauty and richness,
resembling nothing in the world so much as American tenement houses. One
such is unforgettable--a dingy white, square, four-storied building with
green shutters and a large central doorway, owned and occupied by a
titled and wealthy family whose members move in the highest society
throughout the island. The ground floor is taken up entirely by stables,
the servants, and rats as large as kittens. The mezzanine floor above is
given over to two insurance companies, whose signs cover a considerable
part of their story. Above, the really noble family lives in stately
fashion.

It was when idling up the Nile that we first met the older son of the
family. Becoming friendly on desert and river, the Sicilian confided in
me his desire for a northern alliance, readily admitting the difficulty
of reconciling his fiery temper with that of any wife he might choose
among his own people.

“I’d like an American,” he declared, shrugging, “but if I can’t get her,
I’ll take an English girl. With cool northern blood in their veins, my
children might well show the virtue and strength which has made you
Anglo-Saxons what you are. You see, here in Palermo I am a wealthy man.
I am ‘Your Grace,’ ‘Your Highness.’ But in New York or London or Paris I
am only one of ‘those poor Sicilians.’ I should like to marry a wife
whose income, together with mine, would enable us to live as becomes the
nobility in those cities.”

I made as diplomatic a reply as possible, but I am very much afraid that
the gentleman left me feeling that Americans are after all a cold and
unappreciative people, though he did express a desire to continue the
acquaintance in Palermo. When we reached that city, we learned from
various sources of the aggravating inhospitality of the romancing
nobility, one of whose favorite pleasantries consists of ardent
solicitations to foreigners to call, and the presenting of cards which,
upon scrutiny, are found to bear either no address or only the Italian
legend for “General Delivery.”

Nevertheless, to our surprise, he called on us the morning after his
return from an extended trip through the Holy Land, and learning that we
intended to leave the next day, insisted that we drive out with him that
afternoon. About three o’clock we were informed with great éclat that
“His Excellency the Egregious Lord X--” did us the honor to await us.
Ready at the door to bow us out to the emblazoned barouche with its
black-liveried coachman and lackey hovered an unsuspected congregation
of obsequious hotel employés. Many of them we had never before seen;
none of them had hitherto deigned to notice our daily peregrinations in
Gualterio’s coach of state. But now that one of the dear nobility they
reverence almost as much as in medieval times recognized us socially, we
were quite plainly persons of consideration. Our splendor, however, was
short-lived. We had time only for a swift visit to a handsome club with
extensive grounds, to the Caffè Massimo for a taste of its famous
green-almond ices, and to the Giardino Inglese for a glimpse at its
botanic charms, for we had an engagement for tea at the American
Consulate.

It had not taken us long to arrive at the conclusion that Consul Bishop
was a very Bishop of Consuls, and it was due to his kindly interest and
hints that we enjoyed considerable intimacy with the life of the people,
and also had a good opportunity to see under actual conditions not only
the delights of being a foreign representative of the United States,
but also the drawbacks of such a position. Incidentally, it is,
generally speaking, both wise and pleasant to introduce one’s self at
the Consulate immediately on arriving in a foreign city where a stay of
any length is contemplated. In case any untoward incident should arise
later, such acquaintance with the consul would prove of inestimable
advantage, and would save unpleasant and wearisome investigations of
one’s right to American citizenship and his character. And if the consul
prove, as is now generally the case, a man of parts and charm, the
result will prove most happy for the visitor who desires to see and know
the best the city can afford.

The royal residence in Palermo, rising from the Piazza Vittoria, the
highest point in the city, is scarcely more remarkable than many of the
private _palazzi_. Ordinary as Palace and Piazza are now, in medieval
times this was the fortified citadel: a place of arms and chivalry, of
turrets and bastions, of fortresslike buildings forming the defensive
key to the city. But little have Time and the barbarous restorer left.
First comes an arcaded court, then two flights of marble stairs, and
then room after room, tastelessly over-decorated. One marvels at the
dullness of royalties who could so slavishly consent to the stuffy
vulgarity of these apartments, when before them was a model in the room
declared to have been King Roger’s own. Its mosaics have faded not a
whit in the long centuries; design and color hold soft and true to the
walls, and this kingly chamber in its dignity and splendor shames the
tawdry display of the monarchs who came after. Time spent in such rooms
is wasted.

The Cappella Palatina, or royal chapel, is a tiny temple richly
embellished with marvelous mosaics, but so smothered by the
encroachments of the formless Palace that half its beauty is lost for
lack of light. It is not even a structure by itself, but a part of the
main building, which King Roger added about 1132 in honor of Saint
Peter, to whom he dedicated it. Perhaps, because of its position, or
perhaps by design, the nave and aisles were left almost unlighted; but
seventy-five feet above, the architect pierced the dome with eight
apertures, to flood apse and chancel with a glorious nimbus of sunshine,
which finds a fit mirror in gleaming walls inlaid with golden glass.

[Illustration: “The Cappella Palatina ... a tiny temple richly
embellished with marvelous mosaics.”]

The illumination is, however, confined entirely to the choir save for an
hour or so in the morning, when the sidewalks glow with the genius of
their artist creators--and fade as one watches into shadowy old
tapestry. At first it is a darkly mysterious place, indistinctly peopled
by spectral figures on every side. Then slowly, as the eyes habituate
themselves to the gloom, out from the mellow background lean strong,
stern figures. Saints and angels pray, plead, wing their way across the
walls; patriarchs and prophets act out the stirring chronicles of the
Old Testament and New. High above the choir and tribune, halved by the
circumambient light, a majestic, supramundane figure, cross-crowned with
the diadem of supreme sacrifice, holds forth the Book upon whose snowy
page blazes the royal message in golden letters that need no flame of
fire to bid them shine--’Εγώ εἰμι τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου: “I am the Light of
the world.”

The single-mindedness of medieval artists is always astonishing.
Anything from the Bible was apparently meet for the walls of this
sumptuous house of prayer, which, instead of being a mere bit of florid
decorative architecture belonging to the King, is a vivid pictorial
history. Very realistic is the scene at Lazarus’ tomb, where a man, with
head turned away, holds his nose with one hand as he tilts the tightly
swaddled body to an upright position. A little farther along, on the
same wall, the artist represented Jesus being baptized by John the
Baptist in a dark stream which flows past in snow white ripples. John is
sheltered by a section of bright olive-green wall, and at their feet
cherub heads peep through the wavelets. All the figures, though very
stiff and formal, as might be expected of work in such intractable
material, are admirably done, and the faces in particular are
expressively stern and reposeful.

Restoration has not harmed the chapel, and both it and its decorations
and furniture remain intact--the magnificent mosaic pulpit, in the
Lombard style; the giant candelabrum beside it, about fifteen feet high,
a superb piece of pure Byzantine sculpture with a wealth of mythological
details, which strikes a strange pagan note in this Christian church;
and the stalactite ceiling, carved wood of the best period of Saracenic
workmanship, much after the style of the ceilings of the Alhambra at
Granada. The Saracen glorified it with magnificent star-shaped coffers,
geometrical designs, Cufic lettering--his religion allowed him no image
of anything in heaven above or the earth beneath--and the less
prescribed Norman placed his saints and virgins in the divisions of the
stars. Yet the work was done with such rare skill--so thoroughly were
the Saracens artists first and Mohammedans afterward--that nowhere is
there a clash of motive or execution. It fills one with the delight of
the East, the subtle perception of masses of color shaded and mellowed
by time.

That, unfortunately, cannot be said of Palermo’s other royal residence,
the little Summer palace of La Favorita, built by the Bourbon King
Ferdinand IV under the shoulder of Monte Pellegrino, and evidently his
conception of a Chinese nobleman’s residence. Striking a jangling note
of color in the landscape, it stands boldly forth a great rubricated
initial upon the green and gold of the smiling Conca d’Oro. Surely there
never was such another freak of royal fancy! In their search for the
bizarre, King Ferdinand’s architects and decorators succeeded in
cramming into one architectural nightmare the styles of a dozen realms
and epochs; and the result is a queer hodge-podge of no artistic value,
but of mirth-provoking interest to the traveler. Only Mr. Kipling’s
famous phrase can describe it--“A sort of a giddy harumfrodite!”

In the King’s suite, Japanese artisans may have decorated the
bedchamber, some forgotten artist from hundred-gated Thebes the ceiling
of the anteroom, and then with supreme disregard for these exotic
effects, the royal humorist--if he were such!--must have turned over the
beautifying of his dressing room to a commonplace decorator of modern
times, and permitted him to do his worst.

The dining table, a huge circular affair, is the _piéce de résistance_
of the whole palace. Nothing queerer--or more entirely up-to-date and
practical--has ever made its appearance in the most recently constructed
American houses. Standing upon a massive cylindrical shaft that runs
straight through to the kitchen in the basement, the table is a sort of
combination dumbwaiter-quicklunch counter. At each place a silver tray,
imbedded in a small shaft, connects below with the main trunk, and these
trays, operated automatically with the larger central charger, answer
djinn-like by serving a whole course at once, smoking hot, when the
royal host rubs the button at his place. Slow eaters might find it
somewhat disconcerting to turn from conversation back to--an empty black
hole before them! But perhaps King Ferdinand was not a joker.

Every room has some freakish combination peculiarly its own, some in
Turkish, Arabic or Pompeiian motives, and one huge reception salon in
hand-painted silk with Chinese mandarins in full ceremonial costume upon
the walls. Above all are the luxurious smoking and lounging rooms, and
of course, a wide, tiled veranda on each floor affording sweeping views
on either hand.

To the Sicilian in his blissful ignorance, La Favorita appears a
masterpiece, the people generally regarding the _château_ with the
reverence of simplicity. Indeed, poverty and ignorance are the
mainsprings of life for a majority of the people. Nor is ignorance
confined to the masses. A Sicilian doctor in Palermo, himself graduated
from one of our greatest universities and therefore an exception to the
rule, told me in all seriousness that a majority of the “society people”
of the capital could read nothing more difficult than the daily papers.
“They often forget how to spell their own names”--you don’t wonder much
at that when you see some of the names!--“and their notions of first aid
in sickness or injury are barbarous and medieval. When my wife and I
first began to practise in Palermo, we tried to help the people with
clubs and societies of a semi-educational nature. But we had to drop it
all. You can’t begin education with the adults.”

This was recognized a century ago by one of the foremost patriots of
Sicily, the Prince of Castlenuovo, who was one of the prime movers in
lifting his island out of the medievalism of Ferdinand’s régime. Out in
this region of the suburbs--known as _I Colli_ (The Tops), and dotted
with splendid villas--and not far distant from Ferdinand’s Favorita, the
Prince established a model farm, kitchen garden and dairy where the boys
of both rich and poor families are taught by experts how to get the most
out of the ground without having recourse to the antiquated methods of
their forefathers. And if one may judge from the attitude of the young
students and the eagerness with which they display their knowledge, the
big Institute is still proving most successful.

The boy who showed us about said proudly that when he finished his
schooling he was to be overseer of a big plantation up country, much
like the one spreading around us. America had no attractions for him. In
his own words: “My father has taught me to love Sicily very much,
_signore_. He makes much money in his business in N’ova York. But I will
be patriot. I stay here. I study. By and by I can help my poor country
to grow rich!”

Gardens and boys are interesting, but the stockyards of the school are
a revelation. Goats and kids, sheep and lambs, magnificent bulls and
kine and soft-eyed, frisky little calves have each their separate yards,
all immaculate; and in the neat brick addition to the cow-stables is a
model piggery comfortably full of grunters, who seem to appreciate
quarters where a fresh handkerchief dropped in an occupied pen can be
recovered quite unsoiled. The school dairy is as complete as it is
wholesome and clean; but you are not likely to go far outside until
another phase of the milk industry appears--a donkey carrying large jute
panniers full of goats’-milk potcheese, or _ricotta fresca_. The whey
oozing from the bags and the donkey’s sweat gather a crust of dust over
all. Don’t manifest a talkative interest--unless you wish to have the
peasant merchant urge you to try “just a taste, _signori_!”

Among the splendid estates of _I Colli_, the Villa Sofia is one of the
finest, and the genius of its creator, a wealthy Briton named Whitaker,
shows what may be accomplished by perfect taste when man and Nature work
together harmoniously to draw the most and best from the breast of the
warm and generous earth. Villa, by the way, is almost as flexible a term
in Italian as palace. It means not merely a house for summering, but
grounds as well as mansion; and many of the houses quite equal the
so-called palaces. Another estate worthy a visit is the Villa of the
late Count Tasca--this is out Monreale way--who laid out the grounds as
an experimental agricultural station, and who was one of the first men
in Sicily to farm on a scientific basis. But he dearly loved royalty,
too. On the “basement” door of the house a bronze tablet impressively
records with a wealth of adjectives the fact that Queen (Dowager)
Margharita once took luncheon here with the delighted owner, and that
ever since the premises have had an added value and charm because of her
Majesty’s visit.

Occupying the monastery of the suppressed and exiled Filippini monks,
the Palermo Museum--a vivid epitomization of all Sicily’s various
periods and renascences of art and culture--is given a distinct
character of its own by the crumbling though palatial home housing it,
worthier far to be called a palace than many of the _palazzi_ of the
nobility. You are apt to be disappointed on entering, however, when the
courteous guardian of the gate informs you that you will be “permitted”
to leave your cameras with the incumbrance clerk across the entrance
hall. In vain you plead, catching sight of some of the untrammeled
beauties of the first courtyard just beyond. But the guard is
uncompromisingly honest; you enter in without so much as the moral
support of a sunshade.

The little court is a veritable wild Eden. Flowering vines drip down
over the edges of the walls and twist about the pillars; a single
prickly pear rears its fat donkey-cars above the cornice and glories in
the sunshine; great bursts of foliage clothe in green the joints of the
corners. In the center of the courtyard a low stone fountain basin full
of brilliant plants affords a picturesque foothold for a sixteenth
century Triton drinking deep from a conch. And over on the left, just
beyond the archway that gives an entrancing vista of the second court
beyond, a tender vine wreathes completely about the tragic column topped
with a cross of iron from the Piazza dei Vespri, in which it once stood
to mark the spot where some of the French who fell in the massacre were
buried.

Sidewalks and columns, cornice and roof are a museum in themselves,
decorated with quaint bits of ancient and medieval architecture, some
actually built in as parts of the cloister, others arranged in artistic
abandon about the shade-dappled walks. But why puzzle out ancient
inscriptions on crumbling marbles when the second court beckons, like a
coquettish woman, from the stern lines of the archway? Shake off the
persistent employé who offers to be your mentor, and pass through into a
tropical palm garden where the luxuriance of the foliage almost hides
the antiquities. No attempt has been made to curb the riotous
propensities of the plants. Palm tree and shrub, flowers in beds and
rows, vines and creepers give the brilliant court the air of a Spanish
patio. But you have really come to see the antiquities, and gradually
getting back your sense of proportion, you look about.

Directly before you is a queer, somewhat battered thing of dark stone,
looking more like a bathtub than anything else. It proves to be a
sarcophagus; one of the rare prehistoric Sikel monuments, of inestimable
value in studying the customs and culture of the vanished people, whom
the Greeks so effectually absorbed that the only trace we have of their
mode of life is in a few such scattered pieces as this from the tombs,
though even these are often of doubtful authenticity.

Papyrus reeds, descendants of the paper-plants imported into Sicily long
centuries ago by some forgotten Arab, rear their puffball heads from the
fountain, a little grove of living feather dusters. Who knows but that
the thrifty Saracen caretaker may have used them to dust out his
immaculate mosques and public baths?

So varied and comprehensive a collection as the Museum contains has
required consummate skill and taste to arrange coherently, and
throughout the entire building the director, Professor Salinas, has done
his work so admirably that each group’s significance is fully apparent.
In the various halls are quaint old pictures and triptyches so ugly that
their very repulsiveness spells the perfect expression of the art of
their time, marvelous coins which gave Sicily the reputation of leading
the world in numismatics during the Greek era, and most important of
all, the metopes.

Carven slabs from the temple friezes--what a story they tell of the
primitive and ardent culture of the early Greeks perched upon their twin
hills at Selinus, beside the sounding deep! One whole hall is lined with
them, arranged symmetrically in series, speaking even to-day with the
voice of that mystic lore which, to understand, reveals ancient Sicily.
And though individual carvings excel them in precision and beauty, as a
series denoting the exact progress of Greek Sicilian art from its
crudest to its most perfected form, the metopes are unsurpassed.

Moreover, these metopes from the temples of Selinus recall a story so
tragic, so amazing, that comparisons fail and mere words avail little to
picture its horror. Selinus was still young, and the wealthy and
expanding Selinuntines were still engaged in building their tremendous
temples in 409 B.C. when Hannibal Gisgon with his Carthaginians fell
upon the city with a ferocity that is even yet appalling in its details,
butchering the inhabitants ruthlessly, and expunging the city from the
book of the living. But Hannibal was in a hurry. He had no time to spare
to destroy structures of such problematical value as unfinished temples,
since he purposed to avenge the defeat and death of his grandfather,
Hamilcar, at Himera on the north shore of the island. Giving the
temples and the desolate city over to the owl and the locust, he hurried
northward, flushed and confident. So it was that the partially completed
homes of the bright gods remained until the shock of earthquake hurled
them crashing down into chaos.

Centuries elapsed in the silence of desolation before the metopes, which
Freeman so aptly calls “the choicest offerings Selinuntine piety could
offer the immortal gods,” were picked carefully by the archæologists
from the ruins and ranged upon the plaster walls of the Museum, showing
the evolution of the art from the weird, uncouth shapes of the earlier
metopes to the finished later shapes of gods and heroes and men. Yet so
rapid was the development of the sculptors that within a century the
first metopes had become curiosities, and the later work so superior it
is hard to realize it was produced in the same age. And one cannot but
wonder what might have been the fullest flower of this strong, budding
genius at Selinus, had not the insatiable African smitten it with his
blighting breath of war.

One palace that has fallen upon evil days, after as picturesque a past
as any building in the island can boast, is the lofty home of the Barons
of the Chiaramonte. In the fourteenth century, during the Aragonese
period, these and other nobles became so powerful that no systematic
administration of Sicily by the government was possible, and the
palace--usually called Lo Steri--is an excellent manifestation of the
Chiaramonte power. Grim and stiff outside, it still preserves within
something of the magnificence of the days when knights in armor clanked
through its lofty halls and ladies in quaint headdresses and billowing
skirts peeped through the folds of the arras and tapestries to watch the
wheels of intrigue and government go round. Many a dark tale could these
old halls tell. Andrew Chiaramonte, the last of his line to rule, was
dragged hence to the block in 1392, and the palace became the court,
with justice taking the place of chicanery. Later on the Spanish
viceroys made it their official residence, and in 1600 it became the
seat of the dreaded Spanish Inquisition. In the inner courtyard is the
private chapel, where no doubt many of the Inquisition’s bitter and
fruitless tragedies had their inception. The whole structure smells of
blood. To-day, as the Dogana, or Custom House, it is as useful as
ever--and for the Sicilian importer no doubt still a palace of most
unpleasant inquisition.

King William the Bad, King Roger’s son, and father of William II, the
Good--who built the Cathedral of Monreale--called his favorite palace in
Arabic La Zisa, the Beloved or the Splendid. It is of distinctly Moorish
character--bare walls unrelieved by projecting decorations of any sort,
with Oriental doorways, pointed-arch windows, and a heavy battlemented
frieze. In King William I’s time the palace eunuchs were almost as
powerful as they were at Constantinople, and most of the palace
officials were Saracens, which is perhaps one reason for the
architecture of the structure. William himself lived the idle, sensual
life of a voluptuary, and toward the end of his reign, with Oriental
indifference, shut himself up in his splendid house and refused any bad
news.

It is not hard to see in the mutilated grandeur of the main hall why he
fell a victim to the insidious charm of the East, for more than any
other place in Palermo this chamber breathes of “Araby the blest.” The
ceiling is a great stalactite vault: a little fountain still bubbles
down over steps of mosaic; and it runs across the floor through square
pools exactly as do those other similar fountains in the Alhambra at
Granada. Only the frescoes on the walls are modern, replacing ancient
panels of marble which once embellished the villa. No--there was one
other modern touch: a flock of tiny white wax ducks, belonging to the
caretaker’s little daughter, bobbing serenely about in the rippled
pool!



VI

THE PLAIN OF PANORMOS


A short distance outside the Porta Sant’Ágata--one of the southern
gates--on the edge of the rolling Conca d’Oro, is the Campo di Santo
Spirito or cemetery, a lovely greensward full of curious tombs and
graves and vaults. Its chapel is old and bare, a relic of the Cistercian
monastery established on the same spot in 1173 by Archbishop Walter of
the Mill, the English mentor of King William the Good. Doubtless the
Archbishop had much to do with the King’s goodness, since his father was
William the Bad. When the church was restored in 1882, the greatest care
was taken to preserve at least the spirit of the prelate’s design, with
the result that among these Sicilian graves under the matchless blue of
the Sicilian sky there stands an English church of the Middle Ages.
Close beside it on the 31st of March, 1282, just at the tap of the bell
for evening prayer, began the terrible massacre of the Sicilian Vespers,
while in the city near by the great bell of San Giovanni boomed out the
knell of all the Frenchmen in the island and the downfall of the
heartless House of Anjou. Many of the French who perished in that
orgy of slaughter have been buried here.

[Illustration: The bells of the church of the Holy Spirit boomed the
knell of the French in the Sicilian Vespers.]

This massacre has often been declared a premeditated rising, but it was
really a popular spontaneous outbreak which began at the vesper hour on
Easter Tuesday. The church of the Santo Spirito was then a favorite
place for worship, and the people on this occasion were moving quietly
between it and the city when some two hundred Frenchmen appeared among
them, and alarmed the natives greatly by their more than usually
offensive remarks and bearing. In the throng was an attractive young
Sicilian woman with her lover. Unprovoked, a French soldier addressed an
insulting remark to her. Her escort naturally resented this, and
instantly all the bitter ignominy and the wrongs the patient islanders
had endured at the hands of their French oppressors boiled over. Though
practically unarmed, the Sicilians attacked the French so fearlessly
that of the two hundred present, not a single one escaped. The church
bells sounded a wild alarm, and yelling “_Morte ai francesi!_ Death to
the French!” the blood-maddened mob streamed back into town, killing on
sight, storming palaces and houses, and dispatching even those Sicilians
known or suspected to have friendly relations with the Angevins. Brief
as the struggle in Palermo was, no less than two thousand French
perished; and the brand the Palermitans had kindled swept its fiery way
through the island until every Frenchman was either dead or a fugitive.
And though the War of the Vespers that followed this summary vengeance
lasted for years, the rule of the House of Anjou was over so far as
Sicily was concerned.

Farther out from the city the beautiful precincts of the old Minorite
monastery and church of Santa Maria di Gesù ramble along the steep side
of one of those emerald hills that bound the Conca d’Oro. Long pebbled
paths lead up from the gate through cool green vistas dotted with
stately trees and headstones; and, with a pride which is the more
curious in a Minorite--whose pledges are of humility and poverty--the
monk who lets one in explains that this cemetery has never been used by
any except the wealthiest of Palermo’s noble families. Many of the
graves are decorated with huge wreaths of artificial flowers in
dishpan-like tin cases, glass-covered and frequently containing faded
photographs of the deceased, the men appearing very stiff and
uncomfortable in their best clothes, tall collars, and derby hats. Some
of the “pans” are a yard in diameter by about eight inches deep, the
wreaths draped with plentiful streamers of black upon which are stamped
in gold letters suitable inscriptions and the names of the departed.

The monks were chanting sleepily in a choir gallery as we entered the
sacristy of the little church, to examine some interesting unfinished
cartoons upon the walls for frescoes never executed--our guide an
amazing friendly young brother whose face was a replica of Giotto’s
unforgettable fresco of Dante in the Florence Bargello. Fra Giacomo, he
called himself; and his interest in the world generally, his simple
attitude of dangerous curiosity in everything not connected with the
cloistered life, made us think of Hichens’ sorry hero--if hero he could
be called!--in the “Garden of Allah.” Neither he, nor any of the other
monks with whom we came into contact anywhere in either Sicily or Italy,
had the spiritual austerity that is so marked a characteristic of the
Spanish monk; nothing at all of the bearing or atmosphere that instantly
stamps a man as either genuinely consecrated or fanatic--according to
the eye with which he is seen.

This lack of spirituality came out strongly when, wholly ignoring the
service going on, Fra Giacomo dragged a confessional with a dreadful
clatter across the tiled floor to serve as a camera-stand from which he
insisted that I photograph the poor, bare little altar with its tawdry
image beneath in a glass case. At each outburst of the rasping din, the
monks aloft--seemingly quite undismayed by the sacrilege--kindly sang
with greater zeal that they might not hear our profane noises.

From the monastery a zig-zag path leads to the very top of the hill,
where two once highly venerated female saints had an altar and a
hermitage on a fine bit of bluff overlooking the Conca d’Oro. Here the
country unfolds below like a huge military map, the roads written with
white ink, the sea in sapphire, the Conca d’Oro in emerald and topaz,
and the city in agate. Far in the distance, beyond Palermo, Monte
Pellegrino looms soft and vague, its square shoulders half hidden in
bluish haze, with the sea fading so delicately into the sky that often
the horizon line is lost. Nestling among the lemons in the foreground
are large chimneys, the sign visible of an irrigation system nearly a
thousand years old, of Saracenic origin. Hills and plain alike murmur
with flowing water, for wherever the Arab went he turned barrens into
gardens, planted and tended and improved, and devised irrigation systems
so complete and permanent that--considering his resources and the
times--our own watering schemes in the West seem puerile and scattering.
To-day in the Conca d’Oro about an hundred steam engines pump up water
from artesian wells and subterranean rivers, while conduits and
water-wheels utilize every drop that issues from the springs. So fertile
is the soil that this irrigation has increased the yield from seven to
one hundred and fifty dollars an acre.

There seems to be something in the atmosphere of the Gesù, some subtle
ether of sympathy, perhaps, that makes the visitor’s presence on the
hill known to all the children round. At any rate, they pop out of the
earth, and as you come down from the hermitage at the very top of the
step to the main buildings, you are pretty certain to hear a scratching
noise on the low stone wall at one side of the road. Naturally you look
over. At the cleft upper end of a long pole a spray of lemon blossoms
scrapes along the rough wall; at the lower end, some twenty-five feet
below in a grove, an attractive child clamors to you for “_Due soldi
mangiare_--Two cents, to eat!”

As we were leaving the monastery, “Dante’s” interest in worldly affairs
came out strongly once more. Pointing to my camera, he asked
plaintively: “Have you a plate left for me?”

I let him choose his own pose and his own background. With the skill of
an artist he selected a stone step flanked by lofty cypresses, and
taking out his breviary immediately lost himself in meditation which
required some imagination to consider holy. The photograph made, he
spoke again, his wistful expression intensified.

“Now will you please register the package? Many tourists have been here
and taken pictures, several of myself. They all promised to send me
copies. I know they did so,” he sighed regretfully, with a charity which
would have been ludicrous had it not been so childishly unaffected and
sincere, “but I never got a single one. Oh, but the mails are bad here!”

Genial Gualterio, for all his eagerness to serve us to our best
advantage, could not forget his own advantage once in a while, and
cheerily singing on his box, drove us far out of our way, at last
drawing rein before the mouth of a large cavern which appeared to be
full of very dirty children whose hands were full of very dirty bones.
On the other side of the road lay a pool covered with green slime. I was
getting out with my camera when Gualterio stopped me abruptly. “Oh, no,
_signore_, there is nothing worth examining; but I thought you might
like to see the Giants’ Cave, which is full of old fossils, and the Mar’
Dolc’!”

No visitor is likely to be thirsty enough to drink of the “sweet water”
that reminds him of Gunga Din and his goatskin bag. It is to be hoped,
moreover, that the slimy pool is only the overflow of the Mare Dolce
(Sweet Water), most famous of the Conca d’Oro’s innumerable springs.
Neither is one likely to speculate in bones of doubtful authenticity. So
the only thing to do under the circumstances is to be just as cheerful
as the cabman, and drive back to the ruins of the old Saracen-Norman
stronghold of La Favara, whose splendor was famous during the Middle
Ages, for there Frederick II, greatest of all kings of Sicily, held
royal court. The brilliant court has vanished, and the castle itself is
a crumbling wreck, a mere dank stable and storehouse, dark and ill
smelling. Yet merely to see it recalls Frederick’s striking personality
and character. And it is to be remembered that he was not merely
Emperor of Germany and King of Sicily, but King of Italy, Sardinia,
Apulia, Burgundy and for a while of Jerusalem. His connection with that
city and with the Sixth Crusade forms one of the most picturesque and
pleasant incidents of that fierce and warlike age. Speaking Arabic
fluently--besides several other languages--he was able, through sheer
force of character and winning personality, to negotiate treaty after
treaty with the Saracens peacefully, winning the Holy City itself
without striking a blow, and remaining its king for a decade during
which peace instead of bloodshed was the rule. His army even contained a
picked body of Saracen troops which he made his personal bodyguard.
There was nothing, in fact, in either the intellectual or the political
life of his age which this man, described by the Latin chroniclers as
_stupor mundi_, “wonder of the world,” failed to grasp and master
thoroughly. And in all the whirl of his incessant activities at home and
abroad he found time to be a poet and scholar, to encourage learning in
all its branches, and, most important of all, to articulate and reduce
to written form the crude Italian speech of the day.

If you care for an experience out of the usual in this smiling island,
stop on the Bagheria road at the church of San Giovanni dei Lebrosi or,
as some Americans call it, “The Leprosy,” in the midst of a settlement
of tanners. Here you are attended by three women, each flourishing a
large key, all dirty and unkempt, and a barking, snapping, currish crowd
of begging children. One of the three women unlocks the door of the
alley at whose inner end the church stands. The stench is almost
stupefying, the air thick with vapors. The second woman opens the door
of the church, one of the oldest Norman structures in the island, now
painfully restored with obtrusive brick and whitewash, and the third
proves to be the keeper of the sacristy. Still another huge key now
appears--this time in the hands of a surly man, who insists on showing
you out another way, through an orange grove, though your carriage is in
plain sight at the foot of the lane. These evil-looking children and
caretakers are the most pertinacious and insolent you will encounter
anywhere in the island. Has the fetid atmosphere anything to do with
their crabbed humor?

In this plain of ancient Panormos, as both city and district were once
known, there comes vividly to mind a curious battle scene. To-day we
experiment with automobiles and aeroplanes as instruments of war: more
than two thousand years ago disaster overtook the arms of Carthage
because General Asdrubal placed his reliance in the then new-fangled
elephant auxiliaries. Rome, for all she was conquering the world,
trembled before these “great gray oxen,” as the legionaries called
them.

However, the Consul Metellus, who commanded inside the city, directed
his attention effectually first of all to these splendid targets moving
ponderously and disdainfully up against him. Pain-maddened by a
ceaseless shower of darts and arrows, the great beasts shook off their
helpless drivers and charged furiously to and fro, trumpeting, goring,
trampling, wild engines of destruction which did more mischief to the
Carthaginians than to Rome; and before night fell over the field of
slaughter, the Romans led captive more than half of the hundred and
twenty once dreaded Titans that had been Asdrubal’s reliance, but which
had cost him the battle.

Continuing toward the city along the road called the Corso dei Mille,
over which Garibaldi and his immortal Thousand marched to victory, we
pass close beside the old Ponte d’Ammiraglio, built some eight hundred
years ago by King Roger’s Grand Admiral Giorgios Antiochenos. In those
days it spanned the swift Fiume Oreto, but now the fickle water has
chosen another bed, leaving the massive stone bridge high and dry, and
looking very useless and absurd in an open field.

Entering the town by the Garibaldi Gate--the liberator is even more
frequently honored than the first King--we follow Garibaldi Street to
the Piazza della Rivoluzione, in which a queer, old, bent, apparently
half-intoxicated figure of the crowned Genius of Palermo marks the spot
where the first revolutionists gathered twelve years before the
Thousand captured the city. Near by in the Piazza della Croce dei Vespri
is the monument in memory of the French massacred in 1282, and buried
here beneath a single marble column surmounted by a cross and surrounded
by a railing of lances and halberds. At the corner of the square, built
in a housewall, is a single fifteenth century column, marking the site
of the palace in which Governor St. Remy, who was the lieutenant of
Charles of Anjou at the time of the massacre, lived and is said to have
been besieged.

From the railroad station a broad street, the Via Lincoln, leads to the
bay. Gualterio volunteered the information that the street, “la Via
Lin-col-ni,” was named for a “great Sicilian patriot who was shot long
before we were born!” It would have been a pity to disillusion him and
rob Sicily of so great a figure, so we kept a smiling silence.

Beside the bay is an exquisite little park with broad lawns, splendid
trees and paths laid out like the spokes of a huge floral wheel; one of
the most perfect gardens in Sicily. It is called Villa Giulia, in honor
of Donna Giulia Guevara, wife of the viceroy, Marcantonio Colonna, who
founded it in 1777. The gardener’s little boy, a cherub of soft black
eyes and winsome smile, afforded another striking proof of the
beneficent effects of education upon the children. Announcing proudly
that he was learning to be a gardener himself, he flitted from flower
to flower like an amorous bee, fondling, smelling, praising each burgeon
in turn, and naming the plants with a perfect flood of Latin botanical
terminology.

[Illustration: “The ‘Poor Man’s Promenade’ stretches away toward Mte
Zaffarano, dim and misty.”]

It was in this lovely park that Goethe spent a great deal of time during
a Sicilian sojourn in 1789, reading Homer and seeing the Villa’s
beauties with so sympathetic an eye, he wrote of it that it looked like
fairyland and transported him into ancient times. His _Italienische
Reise_ is particularly enthusiastic on Sicily, and he sums up the
island’s importance with a glowing tribute: “Italy without Sicily leaves
no image in the soul--Sicily is the key to all.”

In clear weather a large raised terrace at the southeast corner of the
Villa affords a peep at distant Ætna’s hoary crown. But if the weather
be too hazy to see the Titan, the nearer view compensates in great
measure for the invisible volcano. To the southeast the “poor man’s
promenade” stretches away in a misty vista toward Monte Zaffarano. The
fishing boats tie up here, and the fishermen and their families make
merry over their early suppers at open-air tables in the dusty, unpaved
square that extends inland from the broad and level beach. In the other
direction the broad Foro Italico or Marina, a handsome, tree-lined
esplanade circumscribing the edge of the bay, with Monte Pellegrino
rising massive and dominant at the other end of the town, miles away,
affords a striking contrast. This is the “rich man’s promenade,” and
here, in summer, Fashion makes its evening _corso_. Half Palermo sits in
its iron-bottomed chairs sipping at the ices and cool drinks for which
the cafés are noted, and smoking countless _sigaretti_, while the other
half rolls lazily by in its carriages of state.

From the Villa Giulia a line of old palaces marks the landward side of
the Marina all the way down to the foot of the Corso, at its other
extremity. Many of them belong to nobles whose names are woven deep into
some of Sicily’s most important history. Down near the Porta Felice--the
Happy Gate--a little wooden pavilion juts boldly out into the sea, a
combination library and tearoom, whose presiding genius is an English
gentlewoman, charming of speech and manners. No pleasanter way of
resting after a hard day’s work sightseeing can be found than to sit
here over cups of steaming Ceylon, while the sea shimmers an iridescent
opal, ruffled with streaky little ripples of protest for the approaching
night. And afterward what more fitting than to reënter Eden by the Happy
Gate--the Porta Felice--named as a memorial of the Lady Felice Orsini,
wife of the Viceroy who built it. Happy Lady Felice, to have such a
monument--and _porta felice_ in truth, looking one way out over the
sparkling sea and the other upon the city beautiful.



VII

AROUND THE ISLAND


Fascination and Palermo are synonymous; the subtle charm of the city
works into one’s very blood. Day after day and week after week roll by,
until with a start of surprise that is akin to consternation one
realizes that unless he has a year to devote to the island he must seek
fresh vistas soon or leave Sicily, having seen nothing but the capital.
Regretting is as vain as it is foolish. The only thing to do is to go!

Until you do, you have no idea of what the _tessere_--those amazing
little bargain books--do for the Sicilians. Not only do they bring
foreigners with money to spend, but natives of every class and station,
unable to travel at other seasons of the year, flock to the ticket
window with the _tessere_ in their hands; and many of them who
ordinarily would travel third class make a _festa_ of their trips by
buying first-class accommodations with the aid of the rebate.

There is no Pullman system in Sicily. The first arrivals at the station
take the best seats, and hold them against all comers. If you do not
like cheap tobacco, and do like air, it is a good plan to reach the
station early. All this we learned by experience; so we were ready to
leave Palermo some time before the train was, and secured a little
stateroom called a _berlina_, in the front of the car, whence an
unobstructed view on both sides is to be had.

Scarcely is the capital left behind than it is completely forgotten in
the astonishing floral display that flashes past--an unending
motion-picture in vivid colors. For miles the track runs close beside
the sea between deep floral hedges. Crimson geraniums from five to eight
feet in height blazing with color, pink wild roses, sweet-scented white
locust blossoms, spiky prickly pear, the yellow striped spears of the
agave, and pink and lavender morning glories vining among and over them
all give one the impression of being hurled through a giant hot-house.
But here is no cultivation. Sicilian Nature, with prodigal lavishness,
is alone responsible for the brilliant pageant. At the feet of the
taller plants burgeon scarlet poppies, low, earth-nestling lavender
cactus blossoms, and legions of dazzling buttercups. More poppies among
the grass and grain contrast with whole acres of heavy-headed deep
crimson clover, in which the hungry cattle wade to their knees.

On the landward side of the railroad undulate the hills in soft nuances
of green, speckled and flecked with ever-changing light and shade.
Farmhouses massively built of rough unshaped stone, because the stone
is there and mortar is cheap and the labor costs nothing, stand at long
intervals among the golden grain square and squat, each with a heavy
Normanesque battlemented tower. The poorer houses barely show their
roofs or towers above the dense groves of lemon or orange. Sometimes
part of a white wall appears through the bushy tree foliage, which is
varied by occasional wide stretches of vines on low, far-reaching
trellises, over which stands a slim-bodied palm, an alert, lonely
sentinel.

The sea shimmers like glass in the gay sunlight, and even from the
rapidly moving train the bottom is visible, sometimes ten or fifteen
feet below the surface. White stones and deep purple patches of weed lie
like pearls and amethysts imbedded in the heart of the cool emerald.
Tiny reefs, far from their islets, and big, jagged rocks show their
teeth at the ragged coast line through fringes of snowy foam. Ever
shifting car-window prospects float by on the wing, and before you can
fairly appreciate one, you pass another.

Around a curve, the train dashes into a big fishing village, a sturdy
hamlet of nets and boats, of men in bare legs and knitted caps with
tassels, of houses packed together on the side of a steep hill,
struggling upward like lame sheep; a town of tiles and whitewash huddled
together under the protection of a dozen stalwart-steepled
belfries--Termini Imerese, busiest of Sicily’s provincial towns, famous
for its macaroni. Here were the celebrated hot springs of Himera, where,
legend says, Hercules bathed after his great wrestling match with King
Eryx. It is said that the water from these springs gives the macaroni
its characteristic flavor. And here Agathocles, the Peter the Cruel of
Greek Sicily, was born.

A few miles east of Termini the railroad leaves the shore, and turning
southward enters the valley of the Torto, to begin climbing the rugged
backbone of Sicily; the watershed between the ancient African and
Tyrrhenian Seas. We might be in another country and clime, so different
is the scenery as we puff on southward, the way bordered on either hand
by the ruins of medieval castles and by little mountain towns still
living in the Bronze Age. Near Lercara, forty-eight miles from Palermo,
the sulphur mining district begins, where the mephitic gases from the
smelting furnaces have poisoned and stunted vegetation and herbage,
giving everything a ghastly mummified look, besides polluting the keen
mountain air with an unmistakable brimstone flavor.

At Aragona-Caldare Girgenti first appears, seven miles away, surely “a
city set upon a hill that cannot be hid.” Yet to-day it is no more like
the ancient Greek Akragas, founded twenty-five centuries ago, than the
dried sponge is like the live one. All that is left of this richest and
most splendid of Sicilian metropoli is huddled within the confines of
its former acropolis, high on the top of the hill. The greater city,
which spread clear down to the temples that fringe the abrupt southern
edge of the plateau, has vanished completely, and the bright homes of
the gods, crumbled into mellow ruin, stand alone beside the shattered
wall, in the midst of the everlasting beauty of hill and plain.

In its palmy days--which began after the battle of Himera and lasted
until the Carthaginian siege--Akragas was so wealthy and so filled with
splendor that the record is almost incredible. The Akragantines’ flasks
and body-scrapers, for use in the baths, were of gold and silver, their
beds of ivory, their feasts and celebrations magnificent. At the wedding
of the daughter of Antisthenes, one of the two leading citizens, there
were eight hundred chariots in the wedding procession, every single
citizen was feasted, and the whole city seemed ablaze from the smoke and
flame of the innumerable bonfires. Even more noted was the hospitality
of Gellias. His slaves stood always at every gate of the city, to bid
all who came thither welcome as his guests. Once, indeed, he even
entertained--clothed, lodged and fed--five hundred cavalrymen and their
horses. And, as Freeman says, these men, Antisthenes and Gellias alike,
were neither tyrants nor lords nor oligarchs, but simple citizens of
the democracy.

The main source of the city’s wealth was her trade with Carthage,
especially in the grape and the olive, neither of which grew in Africa
at that time. Evidently, though, the grapes were not all sent to
Carthage, for Timæus tells us that a house in the city was nicknamed the
“Trireme” because some young men of fashion got very drunk there one
night, and imagining they were in a reeling, rolling ship at sea, began
throwing the furniture overboard to lighten the laboring craft. When the
generals of the Commonwealth came rushing in to quiet things down, the
drunken boys mistook them for gods of the raging sea, and prayed them to
calm the storm!

Empedocles, one of Akragas’s most famous sons, laments that his fellow
townsmen “gave themselves to delights as if they would die to-morrow,
while they built their houses as if they were going to live forever.”
Little did these luxury-loving folk think that the very barbarians whose
trade was so enriching them would at last grow envious and snatch back
by force the wealth they had built up for their neighbors. Empedocles,
by the way, is one of the most picturesque characters in the whole story
of Sicily. A political leader and an engineer who did wonders for the
sanitation of the city, he refused supreme control when he might have
had it, and proclaimed himself a sort of primitive socialist early in
his career. But later in life he seems entirely to have forgotten his
previous socialistic theories. Dressed in a purple robe with a golden
girdle, brazen shoes, and a Delphic wreath for his thick hair, he
wandered from city to city proclaiming himself, in the words of one of
his own poems, the _Katharmoi_, “An immortal god, and no longer a mortal
man.”

Nearly a sixth of Sicily’s sulphur is exported from Porto Empedocle,
Girgenti’s ancient haven, six miles distant. From the station platform
one sees all around reddish-yellow and gray hills covered with small
dumps and pierced with scores of drives, dotted with little shanties and
pricklied over with chimneys where the miners are delving and smelting.
On the sidings near the depot scores of flat cars are heaped high with
huge pressed cakes of the sickly greenish-yellow sulphur, while the
roadway leading to the freight-house is fulvid with powdered brimstone,
and the atmosphere faintly suggests things infernal. In the city museum
the antiquarian may study the tile stamps of the Roman period--Girgenti
was Agrigentum then--for impressing the sulphur cakes before they
solidified.

Outside the station every train draws a barking crowd of _facchini_
(porters) and hotel-runners, from whom you escape into an hotel omnibus.
We chose a tiny, rickety, low-roofed vehicle, which had developed
rheumatism and gout in every complaining spring and joint. Delighted to
secure the only first class passengers who had come on that express, the
driver whipped up his three emaciated nags and we started on the long,
circuitous, heart-breaking climb up the steep hills to the citadel
above.

The bus was scarcely moving when a face appeared at the rear door, not
of the usual hotel porter who rides behind, but of a Murillo cherub,
brown-eyed and dark, with a lurking smile so ingenuous and charming that
one must have been stony-hearted indeed not to succumb to the spell of
his innocent sorcery.

The hotel on the Via Atenea--the only street in Girgenti worthy the name
of a thoroughfare--proved a seedy, disreputable looking establishment,
giving upon the narrow way in a black hole into which we plunged, to
find a pair of winding, cold stone stairs in the rear up which we
stumbled to the second story office. But the drawbacks of this inn--and
there are better ones in town--were fortunately most of them on the
outside. Our room was really comfortable, and the luncheon considerably
better than we dared expect, though the dessert, in a dirty glass
cake-dish, consisted of oranges, nespoli, or Japanese medlars, large raw
broad-beans, and something that looked like celery but proved to be
_finocchi_, or fennel, one of the staple foods of the people,
apparently a natural source of concentrated paregoric.

When the porter announced that our landau was waiting after luncheon, we
questioned the ability of the three mangy, half-starved horses--the same
team which had brought us from the railway station--to drive all the
afternoon over the amazingly steep and hilly roads; but assured that
these very animals had been doing the same work for “twenty years or
more” we started off congratulating ourselves on escaping the guides,
unnecessary nuisances.

As we stepped out at the little antique Gothic church of San Niccolà,
the cherub suddenly appeared before us.

“Hello! Where did you come from?” I inquired.

The lad only shook his head, but the coachman, whose face was all one
broad grin, waved his whip at the rear of the carriage. “_A dietro_--On
behind!”

It was true. For miles that child had clung to the rear axle in the
choking dust for the sake of a little silver. With an air of modest
assurance he introduced himself--“Alfonso Caratozzo, _signore_. I am
just twelve years old. For six years I have been the best guide in
Girgenti, and all the grand foreign gentlemen are much pleased with me.
I can show you everything.”

Alfonso’s large claim was fully justified by his conduct of our affairs,
his poetic appreciation not only of the beauties of the scenery but of
his own dignity and importance as counselor and pilot of the _forestieri
americani_--and no one who wishes a guide can do better than to inquire
for Alfonso the Wise!

Never was the mixed civilization and pagan ancestry of the Sicilians of
to-day brought more vividly to our attention than in this little church
of San Niccolà. The attractive girl custodian was a perfect young
Saracen Sicilian, black-eyed and raven haired, with big gold and coral
earrings. Beside her Alfonso, as purely Greek as she was Moorish, looked
every inch a faun. The girl knew what stories she had to tell very well.
Alfonso, however, evidently bored by the history of ancient Akragas from
the day of its founding, whispered: “Pay no attention to her, _signore_.
She tells this to everybody!”

Shades of Diodorus--what should she tell!

Near by stands a little Roman building dating from the second century B.
C. Somehow it got the name of Oratory of Phalaris, though it certainly
was not in existence in Phalaris’s time. How strange that such a
building and such an idea should be associated with this most widely
advertised of Greek tyrants! Of all the disputed stories told of him,
that of the brazen bull is most widely known; and without his bull,
Phalaris would be no more than an hundred obscure tyrants in other Greek
cities. The legend declares that an artist named Perillos made a
monstrous hollow brazen bull in whose shoulder was a door through which
the victim could be thrust. When the fire underneath heated the
diabolical invention, the cries of the sufferer, issuing through the
nostrils, sounded like the roarings of the enraged animal. The tyrant,
with a proper sense of humor, immediately tested the efficiency of the
image upon its luckless inventor Perillos. In later times apologists
denied these stories; but Pindar, writing within a century after the
death of Phalaris, summed up Sicilian public opinion of that day very
tersely in the lines:

    _“Phalaris, with blood defiled,_
     _His brazen bull, his torturing flame,_
     _Hand o’er alike to evil fame_
     _In every clime!”_

Very different indeed are his praises of Theron of Akragas, one of the
greatest and best of the Greek tyrants, with whom he was contemporary.
The Second Olympian Ode is perhaps the most fulsome. Cary rendered it:

    _“Theron for his conquering car_
     _Shall spread a shout of triumph far and wide;_
     _True to his friends, the people’s pride;_
     _Stay of Akragas and flower_
     _Of many a noble ancestor;_
     _They, long toils and perils past,_
     _By the rivers built at last_
     _Their sacred bower, and were an eye_
     _To light the land of Sicily._
     _And I will swear_
     _That city none, though she enroll_
     _A century past her radiant scroll,_
     _Hath brought a mortal man to light_
     _Whose heart with love more genial glows,_
     _Whose hand with larger bounty flows,_
     _Than Theron’s._”

It was during the reign of Theron that the city, approaching the height
of its prosperity and pride, joined forces with Gelon and the Syracusans
in defeating Hamilcar’s Carthaginians in a tremendous battle at Himera.
The victors took an immense number of the defeated soldiers captive, and
Theron began to rush forward epoch making municipal improvements. The
slaves, being only human, could not last forever, and they were worked
hard while their strength endured, toiling in the stone quarries,
building the city wall, excavating a huge fishpond, and commencing the
construction of the magnificent temples along the southern rampart.

“Tyrant,” by the way, in that age of civilization, did not necessarily
mean a brutal, oppressive or fire-breathing monster. Indeed, some of the
tyrants were among the best rulers Greek Sicily ever had. As Freeman
says, “tyrant” meant a forceful usurper, a man who raised himself to
the supreme authority when kings and kingship were not only unlawful but
were not even the fashion.

Of the six glorious temples--among the most brilliant achievements of
the most brilliant period of Greek freedom in Sicily--only two remain
standing, at the verge of the hill, limned in all their marvelous Greek
severity and simplicity against the tender landscape. Overhead burns the
cobalt sky of Sicily; around them burgeon crimson poppies, delicate
buttercups and spurge, and other flowers innumerable. Flute-voiced birds
swing and sing in among the olives, in air languid with the perfume of
the almond in bloom.--And in the clear sunlight of the South, the
temples themselves glow with a golden radiance that must surely be a
faint reflection of the fires of the immortal gods.

Models of Doric simplicity, these temples consisted only of a windowless
shrine for the god, surrounded by an open colonnade, the whole covered
by a gabled roof. Their design was at once the result of the climate and
of Greek civilization. The religion was intimately connected with
devotion to the State; hence the homes of the gods, who were both the
patrons and companions of the people, were public buildings, their
porticoes open to the daily life and commerce, the intercourse of the
citizens.

The Greek religion was beautiful, rarely beautiful. But exclusive,
mysterious? No! Its rites were simple--choral hymns, rhythmic dances,
ceremonies executed by the citizens themselves. And the priests guarded
no occult sciences, as did the Egyptians; kept to themselves no written
hieroglyph unintelligible except to the initiate. They were laymen,
married men with families, soldiers, merchants, men engaged in every
walk of life.

Marvelous architects, those old fifth century Greeks! To give their low
and heavy buildings greater charm than was possible with mere straight
lines, they made their columns gently swelling; smaller at the top than
at the bottom. At the corners of the edifice they even sloped them
slightly inward. They bent the foundation upward a little in the middle,
and did the same thing with the long line of the entablature above. Yet
it would seem that they were given to gilding the lily. They covered the
rich golden travertine of which the edifices were built with a thin coat
of white stucco or mortar, upon which were painted striking ornaments in
many brilliant colors. It is hard to believe that the temples when
painted could have been as magnificent as they are to-day; yet they must
have been--who are we to impugn Greek taste!

[Illustration: The Temple of Concord “was used in the Middle Ages as the
Church of St. Gregory of the Turnips.”]

The Temple of Concord, because of its use in the Middle Ages as the
church of Saint Gregory of the Turnips, is one of the best preserved
pagan buildings in existence, all of its thirty-four giant columns still
standing. It makes a picture of beautiful and serene old age that
loses nothing by comparison with the eternal youth of its surroundings.
House of peace it has been called, and house of peace it still is, after
the storms and wars of more than fourteen centuries have ebbed and
flowed about its massive base.

The _custode_, a garrulous old soldier, insists on your instantly taking
the view from the architrave above the cella, which really is
magnificent. But you are not ready for that just yet. Why must these
caretakers always tease you to do something when you don’t want to!
Glimpsing the fat little red book in your pocket, he smiles
sardonically. “Ha! You wish to be let alone?” he exclaims. “Ha! You
believe the book of a German, not the word of a Sicilian. But does the
book tell you the Christians who turned this temple into a church were
the first Sicilians to embrace the Faith? No, _signore_--but you believe
your German book. Very good, believe it!” and he stalks away, secure in
his precious tradition.

From the Temple of Concord the road ascends gently, parallel to the
ancient wall, until it reaches the southeastern angle of the precipitous
plateau, occupied by the so-called Temple of Juno. Below it on the east
flows the San Biagio, zigzagging in a southwesterly direction to join
the Drago torrent, with which it enters the Mediterranean at the old
harbor of Emporio. Perched upon this lofty cliff, nearly four hundred
feet above the sea, the temple commands a wonderful view.

This structure is in far less perfect condition than the Temple of
Concord, only twenty-five whole columns standing, while everywhere the
mellow golden stonework is marked with peculiar dull, bloody stains
supposed to be traces of the fire set by the Carthaginians in 406 B. C.,
in their endeavor to burn the city. The tradition seems to have little
foundation in fact, for on other ruins, parts of the old Greek wall, and
even on some of the rocks of the vicinity, the same strange stains are
frequently visible, and appear to be a natural property of the stone,
possibly due to its exposure to the weather.

Here I sent Alfonso away on an errand, and another small boy guide hung
about us until we entered the holy of holies. Springing upon a shattered
block of marble which he said had been the altar where the huge statue
of Juno had once stood, he took an absurdly constrained position, and
cried: “Look, _signore_--Juno stood here--just like me!”

One of the most alluring ruins is the fragment, called for want of a
better name presumably, the Temple of Castor and Pollux. Embayed in a
grove of olive and almond, resting upon a veritable carpet of flowers
among which climb tangled vines, rise four stately columns, silhouetted
sharply against the dazzling sky, and supporting a honey-colored
fragment of entablature. And though the archæologists declare the
columns to have been taken from two different edifices and arbitrarily
joined, this detracts not a whit from the grace and beauty of the
restoration and its surroundings.

Olympian Jupiter it was who had--as befitted the king of the gods--the
largest temple. Indeed, after the vast temple of Diana at Ephesus, this
was the largest Greek shrine ever built. Now all there is to be seen is
a vast formless heap of cut stones in a living sea of brilliant yellow
bloom. Unafraid, these star-eyed flowerets lovingly enfold shattered
column and pediment, creep up into the sacred close of the cella or
sanctuary, and kiss the huge prone figure of one of the thirty-eight
titanic Atlantides or caryatides, about twenty-five feet in height,
which are believed to have supported the entablature. The colossal
edifice measured about three hundred and seventy-two feet long, at least
one hundred and eight-two wide, and probably about one hundred twenty
high.

And these are not all, by any means. There are more ruins of temples,
within and without the walls, more interesting to explore than to read
about; there are Christian catacombs and tombs; the megalithic wall, and
the Porta Aurea, the Golden Gate that looks straight out over the golden
southern sea. And there are also some very interesting antiquities on
view in the Museum--but beware the specious vendors of relics who hang
around the temples and the hotels. The Greeks of twenty centuries ago
did not stamp their products, “Made in Germany!”

All along the way are vast numbers of peculiar white lumps on grass and
leaves and walls, clinging like burrs to even the fruit and treetrunks.

“They are snails, Excellency,” explained Alfonso, “and very good to eat.
After it rains they grow big and fat. Then they are very sweet.”

Springing down from the box, the child tore a fat snail from the wall,
and hopping up again, cracked it open skillfully with his teeth, drew
out and ate the quivering mollusc. Waving his hand toward some more
large specimens on the wall, he asked: “Excellency would like some too?”

“Excellency has just had his luncheon,” opportunely interposed the
driver. “Snails are not good for dessert.”

Within the acropolis again, we dismissed the landau out of pity for the
wretched horses, and rambled about on foot. Before reaching the
Cathedral we passed Alfonso’s home, where he introduced us to his family
with all the éclat of a noble presenting friends at court; and poor as
these Sicilians were, we found among them all--father, mother, aunt,
cousin, three sisters and a brother--no lack of that inborn courtesy
which distinguishes the Latin peasant.

Collectively the family showed us the church of Santa Maria dei Greci,
in which are supposed to be incorporated the scanty remains of the
principal sanctuary of either Zeus Atabyrius or Minerva, while some
urchin, locked out and so deprived of all opportunity for tips,
playfully stoned the church door. The Cathedral is more interesting,
though the apse is over richly stuccoed, covered with scrolls and
cherubs in gold and white. One of its chief treasures is a madonna,
painted by Guido Reni, though not comparable to his best work. In the
sacristy is a really fine old white marble sarcophagus of the Roman
period, bearing reliefs of the myth of Hippolytus and Phædra.

But nothing within is comparable to the view from one of the windows at
the sunset hour. It recalls the Biblical prophecies of Canaan with the
chalky roads for the milk, and the gold of the daisies, mustard and
marigolds for the honey of this Promised Land. The chief charm of the
scene as the hills lie weltering under the fading glory of the sinking
sun are these same milky roads, flowing through the verdant swards and
vales. In the background the ugly, prosaic sulphur pits, dumps and
chimneys make splashes of harsh modern color in this world-old
landscape. It is a scene unforgettable. Slowly, gently, the soft
rosy-bluish evening haze creeps up the hillside; bit by bit the purple
shadows deepen, the soft harmonies of tender green melt into the blur
of the background, and only the creamy highways stand out distinct.

Not so very many years ago this entire region was unsafe because of the
brigands. Now one may go anywhere about Girgenti with perfect security.
Nevertheless, a pair of Carabinieri--they always travel in pairs, by the
way--gorgeous in all their glory of black and scarlet, with cockaded
cocked hats, were always somewhere within range when we were outside the
city proper. They seemed to take as keen an interest in the ruins as we
did, though temples must have been an old story to them.

Alfonso spoke to one of these kindly familiars whom we passed,
struggling to make his greeting as careless as the familiar “Hello!” of
the American streets. Good humoredly the Carabiniero answered him, and
as we went on, the boy remarked with innocent egotism: “You saw him,
_signore_? He is my friend. You are with me, and he would let nothing
happen to you. It is good to know the police--as I do!”



VIII

THE ROAD TO SYRACUSE


To the northwest of Girgenti the country is honeycombed with sulphur
pits and it is not very hard to credit the ancient myth that the gates
of Hades opened here. After the train leaves the trunkline of the
railway at Aragona-Caldare, tunnels and sulphur mines make up most of
the scenery. This entire district has a smitten look, and on the bleak
rolling plains and rugged hills are dreary towns whose chief charm, as
they flit past in a continuous gray motion picture, lies in their
historical suggestions. The most important and flourishing city we pass
is Caltanisetta, the center of the sulphur industry, which produces more
than half a million tons annually. The mines are most of them primitive
in the extreme, and machinery is practically unknown, while in many of
them fuel is so scarce and costly that the operators burn the raw
sulphur itself in their _calcaroni_ or smelters.

Shortly before reaching Santa Catarina Xirbi, the junction town where
the tracks join the Palermo line, we have our first glimpse of Mt. Ætna,
its snowy cap hanging in the distance like a low white cloud. Small
gorges and tunnels follow in rapid succession, and the train pants
upward in tortuous curves through the barren valleys, until we look up
at Castrogiovanni, the Enna of the ancients. It lies in an almost
perfect horseshoe on a precipitous rock, and so surrounded by nearly
perpendicular approaches, so walled in by Nature with beetling crags,
that none of its innumerable ancient besiegers was ever able to storm
it. Treachery--and once starvation--did for it what armed assault never
could. Livy rightly called it “a city inexpugnable,” and it probably is
so yet, for it has recently been strongly fortified after the most
approved modern style. The ascent is by a road which--well, try it for
yourself. But the town, once reached, pays for the climb in its
magnificent views. It is the navel (_umbilicus Siciliæ_) of Sicily, and
from the loftiest tower of the former citadel there sweeps away a
mountain cyclorama such as not even Switzerland can excel--Ætna, peaks
without number, range on range and tier on tier, melting into the haze
of heaven. Towns, thousands of feet in the air, cling desperately to the
steep, unfriendly sides, or perch precariously on the tops of
needle-pointed mountains. And on the South, beyond hills and plain,
dimples the ultramarine of the African sea.

For centuries before the adventurous Greeks colonized the hill, Enna was
the principal home of a Sicilian goddess, the patron of natural
fertility and of the harvest, whom the Greeks identified with their own
Demeter, and the later Romans with Ceres. Not a stone of her temple is
left, and we can do little more than speculate upon its site, said to
have been where the old citadel now stands. About two hours to the south
by carriage is that once lovely little lake of Pergusa, where Pluto met
and straight-way stole the lovely Proserpina to be the queen of his dark
realm. It was then a district so fair that Diodorus said the hounds
often lost the scent of their quarry, so rich was the fragrance of the
flowers. But alas! the spot is blasted now. Gone are the splendid shade
trees in whose branches the singing messengers of spring carolled; gone
all the beauty of Pergusa, now but a dirty little pond, where peasants
steep their flax. But at least we can think of it still in Ovid’s words:
“A spot at the bottom of a shady vale, watered by the plenteous spray of
a stream that falls from wooded heights; where Nature decks herself in
all her varied hues, where the ground is beauteous, carpeted with
flowers of many tints.”

Ætna appears again soon after the entrance to the valley of the Dittaino
is passed, and beckons with such insistence that the train hesitates
only a moment--at the station for Valguarnera Assoro--right before the
railway restaurant. It is a tumbledown little shack with a big sign:
_Ristorante G. Galliano_. If you are on good enough terms with the
Signor Conductor, he may wait long enough for you to have a sip of the
excellent country wine and a taste of the “beautiful goat” the
redoubtable Galliano purveys to such as can pay his very modest price. A
few miles farther on is the station for Agira, which occupies the site
of one of the very oldest Sikelian cities, lying back from the railroad,
up in the hills. Later it was the birthplace of the historian Diodorus,
who gives a picturesque account of his native village.

Half an hour later the railway emerges from the hills upon the plain of
Catania--so productive of grain that from the very beginnings of local
history it has been known as the granary of Sicily--and leaving the main
line at Bicocca, puts Catania and the great volcano behind, heading
southward for Syracuse. Fine crops appear around the famous Lake
Lentini, Sicily’s largest inland body of water, varying from about nine
to twelve miles in circumference, according to the season. It is a
dreary tarn, looking so like a big mud puddle or a meadow overflowed by
stagnant salt water that it is easy to credit the tales of the mephitic
vapors and exhalations and fevers which have made it the scourge of the
neighborhood.

Evidently the Sicilian railroads provide no drinking water for the
employés in wayside stations, for as we stopped the combination
telegraph operator, baggage smasher, ticket agent and general utility
man ran out to the locomotive and tapped the brass faucet in the tender
for a drink. There is a big water-wheel a few miles farther on, arranged
exactly like an Egyptian _sakiyeh_, and no doubt a survival of the
Moorish wheel installed in that very well centuries ago. The apparatus
is very simple. A horizontal wheel is geared loosely into a vertical one
by big, clumsy wooden teeth. Over it projects an arm to which some
patient draft animal is hitched. A long grass rope carrying an endless
series of pottery jars or buckets completes the outfit by running over
the vertical wheel, and all the water that does not splash back into the
well flows into an irrigating pool and the ditches. The mule who worked
this particular wheel acted as if he too were a Moorish survival,
unaccustomed to modern inventions. Anyway, he tried to bolt when the
engine shrieked. His plunging blindfold gallop sent the water flying in
all directions, giving his peasant master a much-needed bath and earning
the poor beast a beating, the blows of which could be distinctly heard
as the train sped on. Around a curve Mt. Ætna appears again in all its
majesty, filling up the entire background, looming more than twice as
large as familiar Vesuvius. Its lower slopes are green and the upper
reaches snow covered, split like a sore lip, with dark curves, queer
bumps and sharp little corners of uplifted skin. Above them poises the
soft black, slightly indented cone, canopied by a ridiculous tuft of
cottony smoke no bigger than a handful at such a distance.

Agnone is a hedge of yellow daisies, a deep pasture full of reddish
brown kine, a farmhouse of stone with thatched shelters for the animals
in the midst of rich cultivated lands. A mile away gleams the sea, a
dull turquoise green flecked with windy ripples and dotted here and yon
with white--“Silver sails come out of the west.” The tall timothy on
both sides of the track, and other fields planted with oats and spiky
cactus, seem mere picturesque settings for countless fiery poppies.
Sheep by the hundred bolt in terror from the wild shrieks of the
locomotive, preferring to run straight ahead on the track as long as
they can possibly keep out of the way of the engine. Bold headlands here
and there lower their stubborn crests for a few yards to give the flying
train instantaneous vistas of wet sand gleaming far below, like blades
of golden sickles edged with silver filigree.

In rapid succession these rugged scenes slip behind, and we run along
the shore past salt farms and their windmills; then a boldly jutting
island, brave with forts and churches, rising out of the sea like
Venice--Augusta the picturesque, modern survivor of Xiphonia, scene of
many a fierce battle and bloody conquest.

Augusta was founded in a most picturesque way by Emperor Frederick II.
The town of Centuripe up in the hills, having roused the imperial ire by
its sedition, was effectually razed. Then Frederick punished its people
still further by driving them all into this spot and commanding them to
stay there and be good. Perhaps its stormy birth in a measure accounts
for Augusta’s stormy history. The most spectacular affair it ever
witnessed was the tremendous naval duel between the fleets of France and
Holland in 1676, when Admiral Duquesne defeated the Dutch Admiral De
Ruyter, who afterward died of his wounds in nearby Syracuse. Following
the coast closely, we flit swiftly past the Hyblæan Hills, eager to stop
for some of their historic honey, but relentlessly carried onward by the
insensate iron horse, that knows not nor cares for the sweets that rival
the product of Hymettus.

All the way from Augusta the track borders the shore of the Bay of
Megara, where anchored Nicias, Alcibiades and Lamachus, the Athenian
generals who came to attack Syracuse in 415 B. C. with a fleet so vast
that men paled merely to see it whiten the horizon. But to-day, instead
of the tents and sails of invading hosts, you see evaporating-tanks and
windmills, and snowy piles of salt dotting the rugged shore in serried
ranks. Rushing across the neck of the promontory of Thapsus--now called
Magnisi--we skirt Trogilus Bay, where the conquering fleet of Marcellus
the Roman lay two centuries after the Athenian _débâcle_, cross the old
Dionysian wall, sweep around the bold headland, and stop at Syracuse.

Don’t be disappointed in Syracuse by what you see of the dirty little
provincial town that yawns sleepily at you between the railroad station
and your hotel. Suspend judgment until you reach the Greek Theater, and
from the top row of seats carven into the eternal rock, look out over
the gracious panorama below. Beyond the sparsely settled vineyards and
groves covering what was once the Greater Syracuse, lies the city of
to-day on Ortygia, an oyster-shell full-heaped with pearls, in a
sapphire setting of twin harbors and glittering sands. The alchemy of
golden sunshine transmutes whitewashed tenements into Greek palaces,
fishing luggers into stately galleys of war, and prosaic modern peasants
into the soldiers and citizens of a happier and more stirring day. And
as you stand breathless with the wonder of it, history unfolds itself in
memory, with something at every step to drive that history home, be it
Sikel, Greek, Roman, Saracen or Norman. The ruins of the mighty fortress
atop the inland hill breathe of the Age of Tyrants, and to follow the
herculean walls of Dionysius around the deserted plateau fills one with
awe and wonder anew, for the work seemingly has been performed by a race
of giants. Below, yawning in the seacoast of Achradina, dim caverns
invite the explorer’s rowboat. There are the Street of Tombs to
search for relics--though most likely you will find only a few scattered
bones; the Castello Maniaces on the tip of Ortygia, full of Byzantine
memories; charming walks to and through the quarries, the famous
_Latomie_; the astonishing catacombs and the Anapo trip. A score of
other delightful excursions the visitor can take, providing he is not
driven forward by the exigencies of a cut-and-dried itinerary, that
wickedest and most specious of all excuses for not seeing enough of a
country really to enjoy it!

[Illustration: “From the top row of seats in the Greek Theater look out
over the gracious panorama below”--Syracuse.]

The mother colony was founded in 734 B. C. on the little island of
Ortygia, named for the quail the Greeks found there in great coveys.
From its very beginning the benignant gods smiled upon Syracuse, and it
prospered so rapidly that within seventy years it was founding colonies
of its own. Under the tyrant Gelon, son-in-law of the great and good
Theron of Akragas, and later practically co-ruler with him of all Greek
Sicily, the era of Hellenic supremacy began, with Syracuse in the van of
progress. Indeed, Syracuse was of such paramount importance that
sometimes its history is mistaken for the history of Sicily. Tyrants
good and bad rose and fell; democracy overthrew tyranny, and tyranny
overthrew democracy. Demagogues--the word means literally “popular
leaders”--rose to stir the people to action against the government or
the tyrant--and sometimes threatened to become tyrants themselves.
Seeing how easy it was to sway the rabble with hot words, men of every
class began to practice public speaking; no young man’s education was
complete without it; and oratory first became an art in Sicily.

From the island of Ortygia the city spread up the hilly mainland in four
new boroughs--Achradina, Tyche, Neapolis and Epipolai--making a mighty
pentapolis; a community which was not only the foremost of all the Greek
cities in the island, but much the greatest in physical extent of all
the Greek cities in the world, and for a time the greatest city of
Europe as well as of Greece. This naturally made Athens jealous, and in
415 B. C. the pent up force of Attic wrath loosed itself in a tremendous
blast against Syracuse. But Athens’ traditional enemy, Sparta, sent the
island city help, and the Athenian arms went down in one of the most
appalling defeats of all history. After this vivid chapter, governments
and tyrants rose and fell again as before, deliverers came and conquered
in the name of the people, and passed, and at last the young giant Rome
stepped in with brazen legionaries and put a period to the brilliant
story.

To-day, as in the beginning, the city is on Ortygia, the houses crowding
together behind the old walls like birds on a roost, and you wonder why,
when there was such ample space on the shore, the people huddled
together so. The streets, moreover, are amazingly shifty. On foot you
set out to explore the town and encircle it by keeping as close to the
walls as possible--a matter of a mere hour and a half, with plenty of
time to idle by the way. According to the maps this should be no great
feat, but try as you may, it seems impossible to lay a true course, and
becoming discouraged after slipping off one street four or five times,
you abandon yourself to the vagaries of these astonishing high and
byways--they fade into one another without sign or signal, they vanish
on front doorsteps, end after half a block in blind alleys, terminate in
bastions which lead one to suppose that the sea must be below on the
other side, only to turn up somewhere else in most mysterious fashion,
and not always running in the same direction as their beginning.

There is little that is up-to-date about Syracuse. To a great extent it
lives in medieval seclusion and its people are simple, genial folk so
wholly out of touch with the world that whatever is essential for
comfort or convenience is proper in public. On one street, for instance,
I saw the economical wife of a small shopkeeper wash her baby’s only
frock--a slim little red calico--and button it to dry over the bulgy
part of a lamppost, which looked choked and uneasy as the tiny slip
fluttered in the wind. Meantime the _piccola signorita_ disported
herself amiably in the street--and all her frolicking in the dust could
not hurt what she wore.

Near the center of the city stands the Cathedral, a queer combination of
battlemented Moorish castle, ancient Greek temple and modern Christian
structure. Nearly thirteen centuries ago Bishop Zosimus of Syracuse
began the work of turning the ruined temple--built early in the sixth
century B. C.--into a Christian church, filling in the peristyle with a
solid wall in which some of the Doric columns are still visible. The
Saracen invaders turned it into a mosque in the year 878, and for two
centuries _muezzins_ chanted the names of Allah and Muhammad from its
walls. With the Norman conquest in the eleventh century the building
again became a Christian house of worship, and though the earthquake of
1693 destroyed a part of it, the damage was soon repaired and it has
ever since remained the diocesan church of Syracuse. Like many of the
often restored cathedrals of Meridional Italy, its interior is barren
and uninteresting, but its exterior, with Greek entablature and columns,
Saracenic frieze and battlements, and hideous Renaissance façade and
portico is unique among Christian churches.

There seems some doubt among the archæologists as to the deity worshiped
here in pagan days. It was formerly ascribed to Diana, but the
authorities now generally believe it was the shrine of Minerva, though
Cicero’s glowing description of the Temple of Minerva (Athena) places
that structure in a location apparently different from the site of the
present Duomo. The orator says he saw a temple on whose apex was “...a
great brazen shield overlaid with gold, which served as a landmark to
sailors on entering the port. The folding doors of ivory and gold were
also adorned with a marvelous golden head of Medusa.” Most of these
magnificent treasures were stolen. The Roman prætor Gaius Verres, a
gentleman with a highly cultivated taste in works of art, stripped
Syracuse--and all Sicily, in fact--absolutely bare of everything the
Roman armies had overlooked. And when at last he was brought to book for
his crimes, he fled into voluntary exile with his plunder rather than
face the scathing invective of Cicero.

The archæologists’ dubiety regarding the name of the temple has no room
in the minds of the street arabs, however, who vociferously proclaim it
the “_Tempio di Diana_,” and will not suffer you to leave until you have
paid for this volunteered information.

Diagonally across the Piazza Duomo is the externally unimposing Museum.
Its collection, however, is both interesting and intelligently arranged.
It covers the civilization of Sicily from the bone and flint implements
of the extinct prehistoric Sikels, through the transitional Greek period
of the metopes from Selinus, to the splendid coins and vases of the
city’s supremacy as an Hellenic center of culture and art. In fact, the
profile of Arethusa, on coins signed by Evanetus and Kimon, is
considered the most exquisite Greek head known to us. In those days
coin-makers were artists of the foremost rank, accustomed to signing
their work, like painters and sculptors, and these two, Evanetus and
Kimon, have left us a noble set of coins in which the Greek conception
of divinity appears at its best. The most beautiful marble is a Venus
Anadyomene, discovered in 1804, and preserved almost intact save for the
head and one arm.

Not very far away there are ruins of another and very remarkable Greek
temple, formerly called for Diana, but now generally considered to have
been dedicated to Apollo--the archæologists seem to have a grudge
against the virgin huntress! There is not much else that is Greek, but
as you wander through the narrow streets, scattered bits of mediæval
architecture appear in the most unexpected places, like the splendid
Sicilian-Gothic and Saracenic windows of the Montalto and Lanza palaces,
all the richer and more wonderful because of the surroundings from which
they look down upon the squalid streets and out-at-heel people. The
later Palazzo Municipale, or City Hall, is a fine example of the
architectural spirit of the seventeenth century, its type that of a
private palace, a baronial mansion rather than a public building.
During this period great attention was paid to ornamental ironwork for
decorative purposes upon the façades of buildings; and all about us are
delicate and satisfying window balconies, some of which plainly testify
to their Spanish origin.

[Illustration: “In those days coin-makers were artists of the foremost
rank, and signed their works.”]

The first of the Greek settlers brought their home legends with them to
Sicily, where they found a friendly soil, attaining their fullest
perfection in the sympathetic hands of the Latin poets. Some of the most
beautiful weave through the story of Syracuse, and the most delightful
walk in the city--one you will want to take often--leads you straight
along the edge of the Great Harbor, on a wide, tamarind-bordered
esplanade, with the town wall rising behind, to the picturesque,
papyrus-fringed little pool accounted for by one especially gracious
tale, and called the Fountain of Arethusa.

Long centuries ago--so runs this immemorial fable--there bubbled up out
of the beach of the Great Harbor a crystal spring. And close by, in the
briny waters themselves, another little fount gushed forth, pure and
sweet. The airy Greek fancy could not pass by so remarkable a
coincidence, and the Syracusans quickly came to believe that the twin
springs were the gentle nymph Arethusa, the well-beloved of Artemis
(Diana), and her river-god lover Alpheus; that Arethusa, too impetuously
wooed by Alpheus on the island of Ortygia in Old Greece, had been
graciously changed by Artemis into a spring, and taking the long, dark
journey under the Ionian Sea, had escaped to the sunlight again in the
newer Ortygia in Sicily; that Alpheus, not faint-hearted, had changed
himself to her own watery shape, and following hard and fast, had missed
her by the merest trifle only, bubbling up in a second spring in the
waters of the harbor close beside his beloved. But Poseidon of the sea
was mightier than nymph or river-god. Shaking his mighty bed one day, he
burst open the wall about fair Arethusa.--To-day her water is salt, not
sweet, and no more does her lover Alpheus bubble up beside her in the
Bay.



IX

THE HARBOR AND THE ANAPO


Another of the beautiful legends with which the history of Syracuse is
deeply interwoven is the story of Kyana--Cyane--and Aidoneus or Pluto.
To run it to earth take a stout green and blue rowboat across the Porto
Grande, about two kilometers wide, to the river Anapo. The snapping
breeze blows briskly, and the boat tumbles about in lively fashion upon
the sparkling sapphire, past the big motionless yachts at anchor and the
slow-curtseying sailing craft coming into the docks from the _saline_ or
saltworks in the marsh below the river.

What a contrast between the harbor of to-day and that of twenty-three or
four centuries ago, when not another city in the world could boast so
great a port, so populous a harbor! Here swam the merchant fleets of all
Sicily, of Greece, of Phœnicia, the navy of haughty Syracuse, the
innumerable small boats that darted about between ship and shore--and
remember, too, that these were sailing craft,--every one sea spiders
with oars for legs in windless weather. Around the curving line of the
shore for three miles the ships docked, from island tip to rivermouth.
Fringing the bay were sloping beaches where they careened and calked and
tarred their galleys with slave labor. Shipyards, arsenals, and
merchants’ warehouses lined its shores. All the activities of a great
maritime people hummed about this bay with its margin of city. And all
the city’s splendor, all her power, sprang from the harbor, and from her
control of the waters, exactly as England, two thousand years later,
began to rise to her present eminence by virtue of her position and her
skill in deep waters.

Only a little imagination is required to picture the salt-boats of the
twentieth century as the short, clumsy triremes which on that memorable
September 1, 413 B. C., brought about the dramatic climax of the war
between Athens and Syracuse. The Athenians’ fleet bottled up in the
Great Harbor by a line of chained-together galleys and merchant hulks
anchored from the tip of Ortygia to the promontory of Plemmyrion a mile
south, prepared to force its way out.

All Syracuse and both armies lined the shores, stood up on the seats of
the distant Theater, crowded the housetops to encourage the fighters
with their cheering and shouts. The rival commanders made their usual
orations, exhorting the crews to acquit themselves as men and patriots.
Out into the Bay rowed the fleets--Grote tells the story vividly:
“Inside this narrow basin, rather more than five English miles in
circuit, one hundred and eighty-six ships of war, each manned by more
than two hundred men, were about to join battle--in the presence of
countless masses around, near enough both to see and to hear; the most
picturesque battle probably in history, without smoke or other
impediments to vision, and in the clear atmosphere of Sicily.”

At the first onset the impetuous Athenian attack, headed for the
barrier, broke through the Syracusan defense, and the Athenians were
shouting with triumph as they began to cut the hawsers fastening
together the blockading hulks, when the Syracusan triremes closed in on
them from all sides, and the action at once became general and
desperate. Ship crashed against ship, and vessels once lashed together
rarely separated. Though Syracuse could throw only seventy-six triremes
of the line against the hundred and ten heavy Athenians, she reinforced
her vessels with a perfect cloud of mosquito craft that hovered,
stinging and galling, about the equal antagonists. In a measure the
action demonstrated the efficiency and value of the small, swift cruiser
or torpedoboat of later times, to which the light craft may be
considered analogous, never daring to do more than shoot and run, and
shoot and run again.

Thucydides makes the peaceful harbor ring and echo again with the
surging of the dramatic chorus of citizens and armies urging on the
fight:

“And the great noises of many triremes fallen foul of one another both
amazed the seamen and prevented them from hearing what their leaders
directed; for they directed thick and loud on both sides, not only as
naval art required, but also from sheer eagerness, the Athenians crying
out to their fleet to force the passage ... and the Syracusans to theirs
how honorable a thing it would be to hinder their escape, and by this
victory to improve every man the honor of his country.... While the
conflict raged on the water, the land forces had a struggle and sided
with them in their affections.... For the fight being near, and not all
of them looking upon one and the same part, he that saw his own side
prevail took heart and fell to calling upon the gods that they deprive
them not of safety; and they that saw their friends have the worse, not
only lamented but shrieked outright.... And one might hear in one and
the same army, as long as the fight upon the water was doubtful, at one
and the same time, lamentations, shouts that they won, that they lost,
and whatever else a people in great danger is forced differently to
utter.”

Every one of the Athenian fleet and twenty-six Syracusans had gone
ashore or foundered, only fifty vessels being left afloat, when the
fight ended. Vainly did the Athenian generals plead with their men to
fight again next day with those ships which could be hauled off the
beach and made seaworthy; but so terrific had been the chaos, so utterly
broken was the spirit of the Attic fleet, that the men refused to go
aboard again, and the retreat was soon begun.

Forty thousand men, “like the emigrant population of a city, wandered
laden with their baggage away from the coast into a country hostile to
them, without any definite goal for the journey, without sufficient
supplies of food, without confidence in their ultimate preservation,
tortured by fear, lost in speechless or stolid despair, or raging in
savage fury against men and gods; ... but most terrible of all was it to
leave on the desolate shore the many wounded and sick, who raised their
voices in loud lamentation as their relatives and tent-fellows departed,
or clung to the skirts of their garments, and let themselves be dragged
along for a brief distance, till they sank prostrate to the ground.”[A]

[A] History of Greece, iii, 402; Dr. Ernst Curtius.

For days they struggled on, followed, harassed and headed off by the
victorious Syracusans and their Lacedæmonian allies, at last
surrendering from sheer mental and physical exhaustion, though they knew
full well the inevitable result--slavery for every soldier, an
ignominious death for every general, the ruin of their country as a
world power of the first rank.

Something of all this runs through one’s mind as the rowboat approaches
the low, glistening line of shore, with the wide, clean mouth of the
Anapo in its center. For some distance before we actually enter the
river, its pale green current cuts a furrow sharply through the heavier
salt brine of the Bay. And it is fresh, not salt, long after it leaves
the protection of its native banks. Into its brawling current pull the
boatmen, expatiating volubly, not upon the scenery as one would
naturally expect, but upon the virtues of their particular craft and the
value of their time!

No doubt these boatmen are fair types of the rugged island sailors who
so nobly acquitted themselves twenty-three hundred years ago on the
sparkling bay. Their deep, expressive eyes, and finely chiseled faces,
full of Greek lines, amply confirm the historians’ story of their
descent. Indeed, a majority of the Syracusans are of the classic Greek
type, with little or nothing about them to suggest the later influence
of alien races.

Perhaps an hundred yards inside the mouth of the stream, beside a
bridge, always stands a bevy of laundresses, stout-hearted,
thick-thighed women with massive shoulders and muscular waists, their
skirts carefully tucked up above their knees. Around their bare legs the
icy water swirls in smart ripples, yet they toil there for hours
together, seeming not to mind the cold in the slightest, though a few
old crones on the bank testify mutely in their deformed hands and
rheumatic feet to the power of the river gods who thus repay the
profanation of their pellucid stream.

Piled in baskets upon the shore and lying in bluish wet lumps upon black
rocks are the clothes; and the linen is stout indeed that resists the
battering those furious workers give it--a heavy club, a powerful right
arm, a rough bare stone in running water which contains not a little
sand and never a trace of soap. Indeed, the more pieces one’s linen
comes home in, the more certain he may be that he has a good laundress!

From the time a boat comes within hail until it disappears under the
bridge beyond there is little washing done, the amiable amphibians
evidently preferring to watch than to wash. Indeed, the only way to get
a picture of them in action, is to threaten to pass by without paying
toll unless they work. And then what washing it is! Not far beyond the
laundresses is the open plain on the left of the stream, where two
mutilated pillars, some ten minutes’ or so walk back from the bank, are
all that is left of the temple of Zeus Olympus. The temple was built
about the beginning of the sixth century, and King Gelon covered the
statue of Zeus in it with a robe of pure gold which he made of the
precious metal taken from the defeated Carthaginians at Himera; but
about a century later Dionysius I took away the robe to convert it to
his own purposes, telling the people, with grim humor, that it was “too
cold in winter and too heavy for summer.”

In the Cyane brook the men work slowly along, poling, pulling by the
grasses, halting in little nooks in the banks to let down-coming boats
slip by, rowing when they can. The limpid stream twists hither and yon
through soft tinted fields alive with brilliant flowers. Here and there
weeping willows, splendid old hairy trees, lean over the water and trail
their long green tresses upon its quivering mirror. Exquisite papyrus
plants, sylphlike shoots, top-heavy with the weight of their huge
feather-dustery plumes, in places line both banks thickly for yards, or
stand isolated in stately clumps ten, fifteen, eighteen feet high. Their
presence is accounted for by two distinct traditions--one that they were
brought in the ninth century by the invading Arabs. This is probably
true, but there is no poetry about it. The other and prettier story
tells of a gracious Pharaoh a thousand years earlier who, charmed by the
reports of King Hieron’s lovely and gentle queen, Philistis, sent her as
his choicest gift the loveliest thing dark Egypt could produce.
Whichever story suits your fancy best--believe it!

Whether they have lived in Sicily for ten centuries or twenty, the reeds
still spring in slender, graceful stalks of tender green, without leaf
or gnarl, from the moist earth, nodding their powder-puff heads lazily
over the sparkling water and dreaming--if plants ever dream--of their
sun-steeped home of eld beside placid Father Nile. Nowhere else in the
world to-day does this paper-reed of the ancient Pharaohs grow wild; and
here it strikes a strange exotic note among the harmonies of European
flower and field.

Clear as crystal and blue as the heavens is the circular pool from which
the brook springs. Through its cold, pellucid azure splendid gray mullet
and other fish--guardians of the sacred spring, perchance--dart or idle
about among mimosa-like aquatic plants plainly visible twenty or thirty
feet below. It is poetic water, full of shifting lights and nuances of
color--now a silvery, glancing mirror, now soft gray and translucent,
now pure azure and thin as rain-washed air; but always beautiful, always
dimpling to the sun. And what more poetic than its story?

When Pluto--again to give the Greek legend in the Latinized form
preferred by the present day Sicilians--carried off Proserpina from the
shores of Lake Pergusa, one of her attendant nymphs, Cyane, followed
weeping after the black chariot until, in this mead of Syracuse, the
King of Darkness turned, passed his scepter before her face, and the
poor nymph dissolved into a pool of tears, the Pool of Cyane. But so
potent was her grief that her tears, through all the centuries since,
have continued to flow; and they still bubble up, a living spring
beneath the limpid waters of the little blue mere, “To witness if I
lie.”

Going back down-stream, the boatmen give an astonishing exhibition of
how to “protect” Government property. So jealously does the Italian
Government guard its precious papyrus plants that each boat must stop at
a station where customs guards keep watch to see that no visitor carries
away more than one single stalk. The boatmen know this perfectly, yet
when a fine clump of the reeds provokes the passengers to ecstasy they
amiably stop and cut as many as they have passengers--and some for good
measure--without a word about the regulations. When nearing the
guard-float, however, they throw all the extra stalks overboard,
explaining the rules to the bewilderment of the incensed or amused
travelers. The absurdity of “protecting” the papyrus from destruction by
throwing it away strikes an American sense of humor very hard. Perhaps a
little stiff fining of the boatmen for cutting too many pieces would
have a more salutary effect! But the “height of the ridiculous” is
reached by the guards themselves. Looking us gravely over, they inquired
if _La Signora_ and I were _sposati_. I admitted it, and they shook
their heads.

“Throw away _your_ stalk,” they said together to me. “A married couple
is only one!”



X

SYRACUSE, THE PENTAPOLIS


Never make the blunder of trying to study the Greater City when any of
the big “tourist yachts” are in port. You will know soon enough when
they are--cloop! cloop! cloop! go the hoofs under your windows long
before you have thought of breakfast. An endless string of carriages
plods out of the island full of gesticulating, noisy, Baedekering
enthusiasts who make up in cheery adjectives what they lack in
knowledge. When they are back at evening, white with dust and happily
weary, and the launches have taken them all on board the white floating
palaces, Syracuse sighs and sleeps again. Once more it is safe to
venture out. Once more cabs can be had at decent rates. And once more
the timid ghosts of Greek and Roman days come to the gentle call.

Ortygia, the island, was once connected with the mainland by a mole of
cut stone, and afterward separated and attached and separated again as
the whims and dangers of the different periods dictated. Now it is both
connected and detached. Between island and shore is the citadel,
separated from both by little canals crossed by stout bridges, and
capable of defense in time of necessity. All the dust of a whole
rainless season seems to concentrate upon the dusty road leading from
the island across the bridges, by the citadel, past the rows of shipping
that fill the docks on either side of the mole, and so on through the
deserted square which was once the Agora of Syracuse.

Every Greek city had its _agora_, or marketplace, as every Roman city
had its forum. Besides being the market, where food and commodities of
every other sort were sold the _agora_ was the assembling place of the
city, the central exchange for news and views. You must use your
imagination to-day to reconstruct the _agora_, to people it again with
the dark faces and flowing robes of the Greeks of old, to hear the clank
of weapons and armor as a Tyrant’s bodyguard passes through the
unsmiling crowd: for the _agora_, now, is only a bare, open square,
through the middle of which a naked red column thrusts upward. A
kindlier fate has overtaken the Roman Palæstra near by--a gymnasium and
auditorium where the youth of Latinized Syracuse used to polish their
muscles and wits alike. One exquisite bit of it remains--the little
semi-circular lecture hall, in which clear water covers the pit, and
mirrors back the delicate maidenhair peeping from the cracks and joints
between the marble seats in its gleaming horseshoe. What schoolboy
debating societies met here, and who were the “exchange professors” who
held forth in this choice hall where now waterbugs and tiny lizards
alone give sign of life?

Not far from town the road runs into pleasant farming country, followed
by orchards of almonds, lemons, and citrons. Farther up the slopes of
Neapolis and Epipolai straggle great rocky groves of uncanny,
fantastically shaped old olives, the most disreputable-looking tenants
of the soil imaginable. They are whorled like an oak, knobbed like an
apple tree, split full of holes, leaning at all angles; and, most
curious of all, some appear to be nothing but half-shells of bark, only
half of each half-shell having any visible contact with the roots. How
they live and bear fruit at all in such astonishingly rocky fields is a
mystery, yet they are proverbially prolific. They seem ghosts of dead
Syracuse, phantoms of the citizens who once, in the pride of their
strength and glory, trod the streets of the great pentapolis of
Epipolai, Neapolis, Tyche, Achradina and Ortygia--Syracuse all.

Fewer than thirty-two thousand inhabitants exist now in the city, where
more than half a million once looked down upon the great argosies afloat
in their twin harbors. And the hills where Gelon and the Hierons,
Agathocles and Timoleon flourished, where Theocritus and Archimedes were
born and toiled, lie apart, dotted with scattered limestone ruins where
hawk and bat, tourist and guide are the only living things to disturb
this city of silence.

About the Outer City, as the four mainland boroughs were called,
Dionysius I--a brilliant soldier who by treachery and intrigue succeeded
in raising himself to the tyranny early in the fifth century--spent
seventeen years in constructing an enormous wall. Sixty thousand workmen
with six thousand yoke of oxen constructed nearly three and a half miles
in twenty days, a task whose herculean labor cannot be appreciated until
the enormous blocks and the difficult formation of the country have been
studied. Of the sixteen miles originally built, rather more than ten are
still standing to testify to the solidity of the tyrant’s work.

On the westernmost point of Epipolai, the highest part of the city,
Dionysius built his great fort of Euryelus, now completely ruined. Words
cannot make clear the fort’s size and strength. It is only at Syracuse,
standing among the crumbling piles, that one can grasp the value and
vastness of Dionysius’s greatest work. Its five massive towers and deep
moats, carved out of the living rock, make it hard to understand how it
was ever captured. Nevertheless, two hundred years later the Romans
under Marcellus did it, though not so much by storm as by treason. This
siege was the work of an army, the brilliant defense of the city the
triumph of a single engineer--brave old Archimedes, who worked such
marvels that not a man could be seen upon the walls. Away back in the
good old King Hieron’s time, he had pierced them for both near and
distant shooting, and brought to perfection every imaginable weapon and
military engine. Plutarch says he had huge claws with which he picked up
galleys bodily and smashed them like eggs against the walls; ballistas
and catapults and crossbows for heavy and light artillery; hooks like
cranes’ bills; and certain devices for picking up ships and whirling
them around in the air like huge pinwheels till their crews were all
spilled out or dead. So greatly did the Romans come to dread his uncanny
machines that they finally refused to approach those silent, apparently
unoccupied walls at all, and the city had to be taken some other way
than by storm.

At last, after a year’s siege, on the night of the Feast of Artemis, a
party of Romans scaled the northern walls without resistance from the
drunken guards, opened the gate, and the whole army marched in upon
Epipolai. With the day, Marcellus stood there upon the heights and
looked down over the fair city he had come so far to win. Stern man and
able soldier though he was, this Roman had the soul of a poet, and as he
looked, and mused upon all Syracuse had gone through before, all she
would probably endure before he gained the inner city, he wept.

However, he did not have to fight his way--Ortygia was betrayed by a
Spanish mercenary officer. The most tragic of the events that followed
was the death of the greatest genius ever given to immortality by
Sicily. The accounts differ in details. But it seems certain that
Marcellus sent a soldier to summon Archimedes. The legionary found the
aged scholar at work upon a mathematical problem, and when he asked for
time to finish his demonstration, the blunderer misunderstood and killed
him. Whether this be the exact truth or not, we know that Marcellus
sincerely mourned his dead adversary.

In spite of the Roman commander’s tears over the sufferings of Syracuse,
when first he saw it, he did not scruple to take away all he could of
its pictures and statues and other works of art to adorn his triumphal
procession at home, while the public funds he seized for Rome. This
plundering of unfortunate Syracuse did not by any means stop with
Marcellus, but went on through centuries, the worst offender being
Verres of infamous fame.

From the shattered walls of Fort Euryelus spreads a magnificent view,
bounded only by the mists in the distance. North and south run the
scalloped shores, fading into the dancing blue of the Mediterranean;
south and eastward lies Ortygia, the sun sparkling upon its thousand
facets of white walls and tiled roofs, while in the opposite direction,
when the clouds lift, stands majestic Ætna, still wearing his winter
nightcap of snow. Straight west tower the hills, peak on peak, and the
littoral blossoms with every scented fruit of the field.

Not far from the Fort is a little cottage marked _Caffè_, where the
improvident, or those who have perfect digestions, may buy luncheon. But
for the average person it is a good deal better to take along the
sightseer’s snack the hotel puts up without extra cost--if you are
living _en pension_--and eat it on the back porch. The _Caffè_ serves
“tea,” if you foolishly ask for it; but ink made from dried willow
leaves is even less refreshing than the thin red country wine. Tea
making is a fine art Sicily has yet to learn. However, the view from the
rear veranda down the steep slope to the Bay of Trogilus more than
compensates for the trivial discomforts of poor tea and iron chairs.
Evidently the host is determined that his furniture shall not be
numbered among the spoils of Sicily by the souvenir-hunting visitor.

How those ancient Greeks did build for futurity! Deep down under the
rocky plateau, at the cost of no one knows how many lives or what money,
they carved two enormous aqueducts that gave old Syracuse to drink from
distant mountain streams. No dynamite helped them tear out the
adamantine channel; no greasy rock-drills worked by steam chattered and
thumped down there in the dark where now one hears without seeing it,
the water which still gurgles contentedly on its way to the sea. It is
all hand work, and one is filled with admiration akin to awe as the eye
follows the low, square limestone copings that mark the course of one of
them across hill and vale and field, over the heights of the Epipolai
down toward the harbor.

Though Rome has left us comparatively few monuments in Sicily, they show
clearly the difference between Greek and Roman ideals, in life as well
as in art. The Greeks reared matchless temples and theaters never
equaled for their purity and simplicity; the Romans, baths and
amphitheaters whose floridness suggested display and luxury. The
amphitheater of Syracuse is like all Roman amphitheaters, a vast
elliptical arena--it measures two hundred and thirty-one feet long by
one hundred and thirty-two wide--with an enormous cistern in the middle,
to provide for flooding the ellipse for naval spectacles. The arena wall
forms the side of a vaulted corridor with eight gates to give entrance
and exit for fighters and beasts. Above all rise the seats in tiers, and
in the arena you can pick out, upon shattered blocks of marble, several
names of patricians who were “box-holders” in the grand tier.

Its very size bears witness to the degradation of Syracuse under the
Roman rule, when the citizens, no longer satisfied with “stage deaths”
in the theater, or with the splendid comedies of Aristophanes, demanded
actual death and real blood here in the larger arena, where to-day the
peaceful grasses and wild flowers innumerable spread their cloth of
green and gold and crimson in a winding sheet of eternal beauty about
the sanguinary old ruin. Here we met a young countryman of ours who
promptly announced that he was abroad studying languages, and that,
since paterfamilias “had a pull,” he was going to be a consul-general as
soon as he finished his linguistic labors and decided to which country
he wished to go.

A short distance beyond the amphitheater is the biggest altar in the
world--six hundred and six feet long, seventy-five feet wide, and six
feet high. King Hieron built it so that Syracuse might be able to
celebrate its Independence Day properly--its Fourth of July, if you
choose. When the last usurper had been gotten rid of, in what the
historians call the First Age of Tyrants, the festival of the Eleutheria
was instituted in honor of Zeus Eleutherios, the god of liberty; and it
is rather remarkable that Syracuse kept right on celebrating after the
democracy had ceased and the meaning of the festival had vanished. On
Hieron’s altar was made a sacrifice every year as big as the altar
itself. Think of butchering and partly burning up four hundred and fifty
oxen at once to make a holiday! But then, in those old days they were
open-handed devotees of their gods, and the whole city had a glorious
spree on such a gala occasion as the Eleutherian Feasts.

Across the road is the Latomia del Paradiso, one of the vast quarries
from which the stone that built Syracuse was hewn. Carved out of the
solid rock to a depth of perhaps an hundred and twenty-five feet, the
dripping, barren stonepit has mellowed with time; and Sicilian Nature,
with her usual prodigality, has transformed it into a riot of warm wild
color. Tradition makes Dionysius a suspicious monarch who constructed
cavern-prisons to find out what was going on among his political
prisoners. In the western wall of the Latomia is an S-shaped grotto
which has been capriciously chosen as one of these strange houses of
detention, and called the Ear of Dionysius. Whether it was really part
of the tyrant’s original plan or an accident in the quarrying, the fact
remains that a person at the upper end can hear even whispers from
below.

Alongside the Paradiso is another quarry, the Latomia di Santa Venerà, a
cultivated garden filled with even more profuse and brilliantly colored
vegetation than its beautiful neighbor. All through the quarries are
great columns, ledges, pinnacles and turrets, evidently harder portions
of the rock left by the quarrymen when they were taking out the stone.

Immediately to the west of the quarries is the Greek Theater, a vast
open playhouse, the largest in existence after those at Miletus and
Megalopolis. Though the superstructure of fifteen tiers of seats and the
stage have vanished, the auditorium is in very fair condition despite
its age, about twenty-four hundred years. In the greatest days of Greece
relatively little care was bestowed upon the design and decoration of
private dwellings, and not a sign remains of most of them. But the
theaters, the social centers of Greek-Sicilian life, remain; in part
because they were hewn out of the everlasting rock of the hills, and
partly because the Romans kept them in use and repair.

Here in the Syracusan Theater it was that the illustrious Pindar,
laureate of princes, sang his most fulsome odes to the glory of that
cruel and suspicious tyrant, the first Hieron, who is supposed to have
founded it. We wonder at the poet’s mood. Was it simply a question of so
much flattery for so much patronage, or what--? Two hundred years later
the second Hieron, the good king, restored and embellished the theater;
and upon fragments of the marble plating which covered the royal seats,
we find his name with the names of his wife, the Queen Philistis, and
Nereis, his daughter-in-law.

Philistis, with whom Hieron fell in love when he was only a rising young
army officer, has left us her portrait upon striking coins. And
certainly, if she was as sweet-faced and gentle as the artists have
pictured her in precious metal, we cannot wonder that her royal
lover-husband wished to perpetuate her beauty forever. Like the tyrant
Hieron, the King was a patron of the arts, and in his day Theocritus
invented and developed his pastoral odes and bucolics, which marked the
period in an artistic sense as clearly as Pindar’s poems marked the
earlier régime.

The theater saw more than one drama not of the pure stage, for here
eager multitudes watched the glorious combat in the Great Harbor, and
here later the “purest hero in the whole tale of Sicily” appeared before
his adopted countrymen. Noble by birth and nobler by deed, Timoleon of
Corinth, sent in 344 B. C. with an army in response to the plea of
Syracuse for aid against tyrants at home and barbarians from abroad,
reëstablished the republic, sent for his wife and children, and retiring
from public life, settled down to enjoy his later years near the people
he had liberated. But though sudden blindness smote the grand old
soldier-statesman, his faculties were unclouded to the last. Whenever
Syracuse had need of the cunning of his brain, the citizens brought him
in state, in a carriage, and led him to the stage of the theater, where
out of the fullness of his experience he advised them for the welfare of
Syracuse. Eight years only elapsed from his coming to his silent
departure across the Styx; and “So died and so was honored,” Freeman
tells us, “the man of the worthiest fame in the whole story of Sicily,
the man who thought it enough to deliver others and who sought nothing
for himself.”

And Timoleon was not only great--he was fortunate! To deliver a whole
people quickly and well, to be smitten with the black affliction of
blindness while still in the very zenith of his popularity--and so to
add the people’s pity and love to their admiration--and then soon to die
a beloved hero before the fickle public mind could forget him and the
fickle public tongue learn to slander and to curse his name, was the
highest fortune man could wish--though in all probability Timoleon
himself never realized how kind the gods were to him!

From the upper level of the Theater the most desolate street of Syracuse
climbs up the hill--the Street of Tombs, its burial vaults and niches
yawning and yearning for the bodies they once sheltered. For centuries
it has been the amiable custom, whenever the tomb of a great man is
lost, to ascribe to him the finest mausoleum in the vicinity. We know
positively that Timoleon was buried either in or very near the _agora_
of Syracuse. We know also that when Cicero was the quæstor of Sicily he
discovered the tomb of Archimedes outside the city, and identified it by
the geometrical diagram carved upon it to illustrate the master’s
favorite demonstration that the solid content of a sphere is equal to
two-thirds that of its circumscribing cylinder. Both mausolea have
disappeared, and two fine Roman-Doric tombs beside the road to Catania
have been arbitrarily identified with Timoleon and Archimedes,
regardless of the rights of their original occupants.

Amusing incidents often transpire from the fact that the Sicilian is
quite as eager to practice his halting English as we are to struggle
with Italian. An ancient long-bearded monk in a very dirty robe opened
the door of the church of San Giovanni Evangelista to us, and asked
quickly: “_Tedesco?_”

“No.”

“Ah--_Russky?_”

“No.”

“Hmph. _Inglese?_”

“No.”

“_Diavolo!_ But you speak a little English, don’t you?”

“A little,” I replied--in Italian.

The monk stared at me in disgust. “If you can, why don’t you? I speak it
whenever I get the chance.”

This exceedingly interesting church dates from the latter part of the
twelfth century, and its rose-window is a splendid example of the
glass-staining and composition of that time. According to a popular
legend, the Apostle Paul preached in the crypt-like chapel when he was
in town--“And landing in Syracuse, we tarried there three days” (Acts,
XXVIII:12)--and the monk shows the altar where he “celebrated the Mass.”
Unfortunately for the illusion, the original San Giovanni was a fourth
century structure, so St. Paul could not have seen it on his way to Rome
or at any other time. The monk also points out a granite column at which
he says St. Marcian was scourged to death, becoming the first martyr in
Syracuse, and his seat and vaulted altar-tomb.

St. Marcian’s column stands close to the entrance to the catacombs,
which underlie much of the Achradina quarter, and are not only far
larger than those at Rome, but are among the most imposing subterranean
cemeteries in the world. The main gallery, ten feet wide and eight feet
high, runs through the solid limestone for more than a hundred yards.
People of distinction were usually buried in the rotundas, large
circular chambers or chapels; and here, when the churches above ground
were destroyed, or open services interdicted, the hunted faithful
worshiped in secret. Here and there, now carved over a door, now rudely
daubed in red upon the side of some grave-niche, is the likeness of a
palm branch, dumb witness that here lay one who valued faith more than
life, and died a martyr.

Even in these dank and gloomy caverns brave souls made art of a crude
sort possible. Upon the walls, in the lunettes and above the chapel
altars are rough frescoes, poor things in color and design, but
breathing the civilizing message of that Divine love which nothing can
conquer. Walls and ceilings and doorways of this miniature city of
perpetual night are sooty and black with the fumes of the lamps the
Christians used. There is little doubt that large numbers of them took
refuge in the catacombs during the early persecutions. We to-day cannot
conceive of the horror of living in clammy darkness lighted only by the
feeble, guttering flames of little bronze lamps. But we can admire the
stern fortitude of men and women who could endure all things, and gladly
weave into the handles of those poor lamps the words “_Deo
gratias_--Thanks to God!” Unfortunately, not a tomb has been left
undisturbed, and the only relics now visible are an occasional small
pile of bones and smashed pottery; the few sarcophagi which were found
having been removed to the Museum where, out of place, they possess
little or no significance.

In the same vicinity is the Latomia dei Cappuccini, the largest and by
far the most impressive of the quarries, a huge, irregularly shaped gulf
whose sides are precipices, honeycombed with small pits, all carved out
of honey, or, it might be, from dull clouded amber, and whose uneven
floor here and there springs into the air in enormous fantastic columns
of golden-gray stone. Both walls and columns riot in luxuriant verdure
and flowers--silver vermouth, yellow spurge, glorious crimson roses
against green cataracts of glossy ivy and myrtle, honeysuckle and
clematis. In the heart of this vast floral labyrinth lofty pines reach
vainly upward toward the world from still depths where no breeze ever
scatters the leaves, no gales lash denuded branches; and sun-warmed and
dew-bathed, little groves of silvery-gray olives flourish beside prickly
pear, sulphur colored lemons, yellow nespoli, golden oranges, almond
blossoms all a mass of pallor or blushes in the tender warmth of early
Spring. Throughout this smiling beauty, shadows dapple rock and foliage,
like somber memories of the tragic Greek days, when the captured
Athenians were thrust into the inhospitable quarry, then no such glowing
garden as it is to-day.

“At first the sun by day was both scorching and suffocating,” says
Thucydides, “for they had no roof over their heads, while the Autumn
nights were cold, and the extremes of temperature engendered violent
disorders.... The corpses of those who died from their wounds, from
exposure to the weather, and the like, lay heaped one upon another. The
stench was intolerable, and they were at the same time afflicted by
hunger and thirst.... Every kind of misery which could befall men in
such a place befell them. This was the condition of the captives for
about ten weeks.... The whole number of the prisoners is not accurately
known, but they were not less than seven thousand.”

At the end of the ten weeks many of them were sold. Thucydides does not
explain the fate of those not disposed of in the great auction, but
Grote says: “The dramas of Euripides were so peculiarly popular
throughout all Sicily, that those Athenian prisoners who knew by heart
considerable portions of them, won the affections of their masters. Some
even of the stragglers from the army are affirmed to have procured for
themselves, by the same attraction, shelter and hospitality during their
flight. Euripides, we are informed, lived to receive the thanks of
several among these unhappy sufferers, after their return to Athens.”[B]

[B] History of Greece.

Others beside the Athenians have found their last beds here. In a gloomy
little side cave, cut in the wall a foot or two above the floor, is a
niche sealed with a marble slab--

               Sacred to the memory of
  Richard Reynall, Esq., British Vice Consul To Syracuse
            He departed this life Sept. 16
                    A. D. 1838.

  He was killed in a duel by an expert with weapons he
                   did not know.

What a vista that opens up! Who was the braggart who forced the quarrel,
what were the weapons, what the circumstances of the quarrel, the
conditions under which the courageous Englishman went consciously to
his fate? And how sad the legend inscribed to our own young countryman
upon a lonely niche in the soft tufa a little farther along--

     “William Nicholson, Midshipman in the Navy of the United States of
     America, who was cut off from Society in the bloom of life and
     health on the 18th day of September, 104, A. D., _et anno ætatis
     18_.”

Just above this _latomia_, among the olive groves and flowers,
surrounded by fine gardens, is a charmingly situated hotel, whence one
can look down into this sunken stone quarry-garden if he chooses, and
dream of swart laborers hewing out the stones that reared Syracuse a
city of cities, of the physical agonies and homesickness of the grave
Athenian slaves, or simply of the graciousness of Demeter in clothing
the ragged stones as not Solomon in all his glory was arrayed. But for
me the hotel by the Bay, the outlook over sparkling, living water, the
music of it ever in my ears. And to think of Syracuse is to think of the
Promenade of Arethusa, with its musical speech, its Greek faces all
about, its maidens and their lovers who need but the touch of
sympathetic imagination to be transformed into the nymphs and fauns of
Greek days!



XI

CATANIA AND MOUNT ÆTNA


Catania is the second city of the island in importance, and has a far
reaching trade in oil and wine, sulphur and grain and almonds, and the
other products of the rich and fertile plain at whose edge it stands
guard. It is a city of humdrum, a town which, like Milan, reminds one
strongly of some American manufacturing center with a large foreign
population, and surely nothing could be further from presenting an
historic visage at first sight. Yet its history is a picturesque and
vivid tapestry of which the main threads have always been the heroic
spirit and enterprise of its people.

Settled in 729 B. C.--when the city by the Tiber was only a quarter of a
century old--Kataneion or Katane in the sixth century became famous for
a reformer and lawgiver named Charondas, some of whose enactments were
decidedly original. Divorce he made simple.... Either husband or wife
could put away the other for sufficient cause; but neither could remarry
with _anyone younger than the person divorced_! And Charondas died by
one of his own laws, which forbade men to come armed into the General
Assembly. The story goes that he had been out in the hills hunting
robbers: when he came back the Assembly was in an uproar, and he hurried
in to quiet things. Instantly a member saw his sword, and cried:
“Charondas, you break your own law!”

“By Zeus!” he replied, “I will not set aside my law--I will confirm it!”
and he plunged the sword into his breast.

Long afterward, in B. C., 476, the emulous Tyrant Hieron juggled with
the city’s name and its people, depopulating it and then recolonizing it
with new settlers and giving it another name. Are the sober Catanians
who pass us to-day descended from the old citizens who came back into
their own when the Tyrant died? Or are this trolley-car conductor, this
gayly uniformed hall-porter, sons of the Hieronic colonists? And this
very street on which we study the Catanians of to-day--was it the
ancient way leading toward Ætna, for whom the city was renamed?

The chief reason for Catania’s modern appearance is--it is modern!
Destroyed so many times, now in part, again entirely, by Ætna, it is
more or less new, a veritable phœnix of Sicilian cities. Suspended
from the ceiling of our room in the hotel was the very newest thing, a
huge chandelier garnished with exceedingly new and shiny electric light
fixtures. But alas! when we attempted to illuminate, we found the
chandelier a hollow delusion. When the porter came, he smiled with the
indulgence of superior knowledge.

“The chandelier is not intended for lighting. That would be
extra--electricity is very expensive!” So we had to be content with the
feeble gleam of one honest tallow dip in a room almost as big as a whole
floor in a New York mansion.

As to antiquities, Catania has its share--a Greek Theater, a Roman
amphitheater, a forum, baths, a nymphæum, and aqueduct, and so on. Most
of them, thanks to Ætna’s past activity, are now subterranean and but
partly excavated--indeed, almost forgotten. But Catania does better by
her celebrities. Tisias of Himera, locally nicknamed Stesichorus because
of his genius in perfecting the lyric chorus of the Greek drama
presented in the Theater some fourteen hundred years ago, has had a
large and handsome square named in his honor, as well as the street
leading straight from the heart of the town toward the mountain.

In the Piazza Stesicoro stands a monument to Catania’s favorite son,
Bellini the composer, born here in 1802 and brought back in 1867 from
Paris, where he died. A more effective monument is the Villa Bellini,
the city’s handsome, hilly public park. Myriad steep paths of clean
yellow and white pebbles carefully set on edge in mortar, picked out in
black and white scrollwork, and edged with solid walls of variegated
flowers, lead up to two fine knolls, on one of which is a trim little
belvedere flanked by flowerbeds. On the other is a large bandstand.
Between the two Ætna hangs motionless on the horizon, more like the
mirrored reflection of a volcano than a real mountain, his feet clothed
in the foliage of vineyard and forest, his head capped with snows that
almost never melt, gleaming in the sunshine like a giant’s silvery hair.

Another charming little park is the Flora della Marina, a narrow strip
of garden and greensward along the Bay. As you come through an arch of
the railway viaduct, it bursts upon you with the same effect that a
strip of brilliant Persian embroidery would have upon a somber coat, and
you exclaim with pleasure at the inviting lawns and starry beds of
bright colored flowers. Here and there idles an immaculate and lynx-eyed
customs guard in sailor’s uniform. From the ship’s mast in the center
floats the gaudy Italian tricolor; and in the background is a sailors’
home from which tarry old shellbacks stump out to sit dreaming on the
benches that give upon the Bay.

King Roger’s eleventh century Cathedral has been so restored, because of
the earthquakes that have wrecked it time after time, that it is simply
a huge, composite modern structure. It contains the tombs of various
members of the royal house of Aragón, who generally resided here while
the powerful baronial families were really ruling in Palermo the
capital. In 1445 King Alphonso the Generous founded the first Sicilian
university here, and for a long time Catania was the literary center of
the island. The handsome new university building, however, dates back
only to 1818.

Sicily has always been rather finicky about its saints, and Agatha of
Catania, Lucy of Syracuse and Rosalie of Palermo are only three among
many venerated virgin patronesses. Saint Agatha was executed by the
Roman prætor Quintianus, and has a chapel in the Cathedral containing
relics and jewels and a gilded silver statue said to contain her head.
In any event, the figure is highly revered, and every year, in February,
is carried in procession from church to church throughout the city.
Image and pedestal weigh several tons, and about three hundred men robed
in white, sturdy fellows all, have to shoulder the fifty-foot beams to
lift it. Even with so many bearers, the procession moves forward only a
few feet at a time, and it takes two or three days to complete the
ceremony.

Holy day spells holiday to the Latin, and his religious ecstasy finds
outlet in blazing fireworks, whoops of joyous enthusiasm, streets jammed
to suffocation. Windows and housetops as well as the streets are packed
with an eager, childish throng bubbling over with mercurial spirits. One
of the queerest features of this celebration, which goes back to time
immemorial, is a privilege allowed the usually demure and sedate women.
A young Catanian told me with great relish that on festival nights the
women veil heavily, completely hiding their faces with the exception of
the left eye. With that they may work such havoc as they can. Even the
bearers of the sacred image return the sly winks and coquettish glances
of the flirts whose identity is so perfectly concealed.

In the Piazza Duomo before the Cathedral, is a queer old lava elephant,
mounted upon a florid pedestal, bearing upon his saddle an Egyptian
obelisk. He looks down upon the noisy trolley cars circling about his
feet with an amused expression, as if ridiculing such foolish modern
means of conveyance. So old is he that no one knows when he was made,
nor why, though legend says the artist was the necromancer
Heliodorus--surely a man talented enough to fly through the air from
Constantinople to Catania to escape his persecutors, was capable of
executing even this weird beast!

Amber of a most unusual quality is a feature of Catania. Nearly every
store has some of it, in the rough, and made up into beautiful beads,
brooches, smokers’ articles, combs and ornaments of various sorts,
though it is not nearly so plentiful to-day as it was twenty years or so
ago. The merchants shake their heads over the future of this now high
priced commodity, for the best beds have been completely exhausted, and
the divers have greater difficulty every year in finding enough. Deeper
in color than the usual clear or clouded variety, this amber is a rich
marmalade color, with hues ranging from black and dark brown in the
cheaper grades through all the ochres and umbers to pure yellow of
different tones. The choicest pieces look as if the clear amber had been
dipped in oil or vaseline, giving it a distinct bluish tint, observable,
the dealers claim, in no other amber in the world--the same tinge that
is to be seen upon water when oil is spilled upon it; and the amount of
blue, and its brilliancy, determine the value of the product.

In some of the pieces are perfectly preserved mosquitoes, looking
exactly like bottled specimens in the museums.

“How old are they?” I asked one dealer.

The Catanian shrugged his despair of figures. “Oh! They were old already
when Homer sailed his ship in here on the way back to Troy. They must be
five hundred years old at least, _Signore_!”

After all, it is neither history, modern character, nor amber that makes
Catania, but Ætna. The finest view of him to be had from the city is
from the suppressed Benedictine monastery of San Niccolò, or San
Benedetto, on the western edge of the town. Its church, the largest in
Sicily and interesting in itself, contains one of the finest pipe
organs on the island, an immense instrument with five keyboards. When
we asked how soon the next service would be held--I consulted my watch
as I spoke--the custodian smiled. “_Gia!_ You will have a long time to
wait for the next service. It is played once a year, _Signore_. No more.
A very fine organist, the best in Italy, comes down from Naples and
plays. He has just been here!”

Since 1866 the monastery has been used as a barrack and school, museum
and library. On the roof rises the large dome of the Observatory.
Connected with it, and really of much greater practical importance, is
an underground laboratory and experiment station full of seismographs
and other instruments of the finest precision for the study and
recording of earthquakes. To anyone interested in vulcanological
phenomena, this deepset cavern and its curious apparatus make one of the
most fascinating objects of interest in Sicily--yes, in the world.

From the dome of the church of San Niccolò you see not only Ætna, but
the whole horizon. On all sides stretch the reddish-brown tiles of the
city, the flat evenness and monotony broken here and there as spire or
dome thrusts up through the red crust. Off to one side a prosperous
little street ends abruptly in a ragged edged wall of lava some thirty
or forty feet high, testifying mutely to the terrific activity that has
characterized Ætna at intervals for hundreds of years. A little farther
along desolation begins, and nothing is visible in that direction but a
long brown spoor leading up the giant’s side--a cold stone river to-day,
rough and scaly as an armadillo’s back, but once a fiery serpent whose
glowing jaws opened to engulf at least part of the metropolis. On either
side beyond the confines of the rebuilt town are vineyards and
silver-gray olive groves, vegetable gardens and glowing plantations,
full of warmth and color and contrast, and above all the hard china blue
of the hot Sicilian sky.

Above everything towers the tremendous bulk of
Ætna--Mongibello--standing superbly alone, lord of all this eastern
section of Sicily, rising from the sea without foothills or approach.
To-day the Titan sleeps, but in the eighty major awakenings recorded in
historic times, he has wrought incalculable destruction. Lava has poured
from those black lips in hissing floods, one of which covered forty
square miles; earthquakes which have laid fifty cities in ruins at once
have accompanied the fiery retchings of the monster; ashes and sulphur
and stones by millions of tons have rained destruction upon the fertile
countryside for miles around. Yet though he has wrought misery and death
ruthlessly, Ætna is also a benefactor, for the soil he has made and
fertilized bears crops of marvelous richness and abundance. Tradition
from the beginning has made the crater the prison of a cyclops, whose
struggles to free himself have caused the eruptions. Virgil sang of
him; Empedocles; many another. Sicily to them was preëminently the home
of the nether gods, and Ætna their most striking manifestation, a peak
of mingled fire and snow. Indeed, it was not until Dante came that men
were willing to believe anything less of Ætna than the supernatural.

The area of Sicily is some ten thousand square miles, and this greatest
of European volcanoes occupies almost one-twentieth of it. It is nearly
11,000 feet high--the ascent is practicable only in Summer--and covered
with more than two hundred smaller volcanoes or cones, huge
safety-valves for the big boiler, through which the continual ebullition
of the slumbering hell within finds exit in steam and vapors.

Having experienced the doubtful delights of climbing smaller
Vesuvius--it is less than half Ætna’s height--we decided that Ætna was
to be ours from a distance only, much as we regretted not to see the
indescribably magnificent effect of sunrise from its peak. Many visitors
are satisfied to make the shorter, easier trip up the Monti Rossi, “The
Brothers,” two of the minor craters thrown up in 1669 on the side of the
main peak. They rise to the not inconsiderable height of three thousand
feet themselves, and the views from them are very fine. It is possible,
moreover, to encircle the mountain by railway, and so to enjoy very
satisfactory vistas of both volcano and countryside--vast ragged plains
of lava like petrified sponges of red and black and gray, the dark,
fertile soil the lava makes, rich with vineyards and fruit plantations,
small “safety-valve” craters, often hissing threats, and farm-houses
among the trees in this, the most thickly populated agricultural
district in creation. A brief stop over at one or more of the towns
along the line affords still further opportunity to see the Titan and
his works.

All these towns are rich in history, and the most surprising and
impossible echoes come ringing out of the past at the touch of a modern
foot. For instance, Adernò, a comfortable town with a big, dilapidated
Norman castle in it, stands on the spot where Dionysius I founded his
city of Hadranum twenty-three hundred years ago. Near it once stood the
Sikel temple of Hadranos. Instead of human guardians, more than a
thousand great dogs protected this shrine of the fire god, and their
fame spread all over the world. Fragments of this structure are still to
be found in a private garden near the town.

The railroad--it is called Circumetnéa--not only encircles the mountain,
as its title indicates, but also climbs up along the slopes, reaching an
altitude at one point 3,195 feet above the sea. This gives the traveler
an opportunity to see two of the different zones or belts of vegetation
on the volcano. Lowest of all is the cultivated zone, in which
deciduous growths and the grapes of Ætna play a prominent part. Just
above the tracks begins the second belt, known as the _Regione Boscosa_,
or forest region, which reaches up nearly four thousand feet higher.
This consists mainly of evergreen pines, of birches in its upper
section, and of a few insignificant groves of oak. The third and topmost
division, extending to the black lipped silent crater itself, is the
sterile _Deserta_, where only the most stunted vegetation exists.

In 1040 that Byzantine would-be deliverer of Sicily, Giorgios Maniakes,
attacked the Saracens outside Maletto. The Norwegian Prince--afterward
King--Harald Hardradr, and a considerable body of his berserkers formed
part of the Byzantine army; and the allied forces scored a decisive
victory. A century and a quarter later a monastery was founded there,
and in 1799, during the Bourbon period, Ferdinand IV gave the whole
estate to Lord Nelson, creating him Duke of Bronte, a nearby town whose
name means thunder. The Villa, as it is now called, is still the
property of an Englishman, the Viscount Bridport, who also retains his
local title.

The most picturesque of these Ætnean towns is Randazzo, an interesting
place where the women throw voluminous white shawls over their heads
when they go to mass. Although Randazzo is closer to the crater than
any other town, it has always escaped destruction, and so is full of
exceedingly interesting medieval remains--houses, a palace with an
inscription in Latin so poor that a schoolboy might have written it, and
a ducal castle now used as a prison. What an untoward fate for a noble
structure from whose walls project the sharp iron spikes where the
ancient Dukes impaled the heads of criminals they executed! During July
and August Ætna may be ascended from Randazzo. The trip takes only about
six hours, and the hotel proprietor will provide guides, mules and food
for about seven dollars (American), for each climber.

Another echo of ancient days is the little Byzantine church at Malvagna,
the only one of its kind in the island, by the way, that survived the
Saracen invasion and conquest.

A delightful little excursion may be made from Catania by carriage and
boat along the coast to the Scogli de’ Ciclopi. To the prosy geologists,
who mess about with their little hammers, these tremendous boulders are
no doubt merely evidences of titanic natural convulsions. But to the
rest of mankind, with a love for blind old Homer, they are the stones
poor clumsy Polyphemus hurled at escaping Ulysses and his intrepid
companions. The stately hexameters of the Odyssey give the story a noble
swing--the brawny Greek hero burning out the drunken giant’s eye with
the blazing end of a pole; the escape in the chilly dawn clinging to
the bellies of the cyclop’s sheep while he ran his huge hands over their
backs; the launching of the little boat, and the daring mockery of the
bewildered giant.

Blind and raging, crossed for the second time in his blighted life by
puny beings he could crush with one hand, Polyphemus tore off the top of
a small hill and threw it, missing the Greeks by a hair, but raising
such a wave that their boat was almost washed ashore. Again Ulysses
cried out upon him, and again the giant threw. And to this day the rocks
tower out of the sea, one of them over two hundred feet above water and
a couple of thousand feet in girth. Out of this giant’s missile the
Italian authorities have made them a geodetic survey and hydrographic
station. What would Homer--or Ulysses!--think if he could see the rocks
to-day? Curiously enough, though the Odyssey particularizes regarding
these two of the Scogli, or Rocks, it says nothing whatever as to the
other five of the group.

Right here another picturesque legend dealing with Polyphemus develops.
For miles along this shore, town after town has _Aci_ prefixed to its
name, as a reminder of the story of Galatea and Acis. Polyphemus--huge,
gross, uncouth monster--had no attraction for the dainty nymph, but as
so often happens in even the prosaic days of fact, his bulk did not keep
him from loving Galatea passionately. So when--if one may be
irreverently colloquial--the shepherd boy Acis “cut him out,” Polyphemus
crushed him to death with stones in Galatea’s bower. Olympus heard her
piteous mourning, and from the lifeblood of Acis sprang a crystal stream
which imparted its life to the fields of Catania until jealous Ætna
drank it up. But Acis lives in spite of the giant. Acireale,
Acicastello, Aci San Antonio--how quaintly pagan and Christian myths
mingle in the Latin countries!--and many another Aci perpetuate him.

Acireale, about ten miles from Catania on the main line of the railroad
to Taormina, is a pleasant place to make a stay. Its mineral springs,
the delightful views by sea and shore, the walks and drives in every
direction through surroundings of the keenest interest and beauty, and,
for those who are fond of the water, the little boat trips in the
vicinity, make it a most agreeable spot in which to idle during the soft
Sicilian Spring.



XII

TAORMINA


Sicilian railroad trains have the very amiable--or would some people
spell that word exasperating?--habit of never running according to
schedule. One is tempted at times to wonder why they have a time-table
at all! Express or local, the train is always either too late or too
early. You may take your choice of reaching the station well ahead of
the “due” time, and vegetating until the little locomotive sniffles
shamefacedly in, away late, or going on time and finding the carriage
doors locked, the train ready to leave, and the guards very much
disinclined to open for you. A jingling of one’s pocket usually unlocks
the doors in such circumstances, however.

Did I say, “express or local”? Which it is is a puzzle, since it is all
one. The “local” part of the train has to rush madly by stations
whenever the “express” part does; and the “express” half is obliged to
halt whenever the “local” end comes to a station it especially likes.
Which train you ride in depends entirely on the label that happens to be
on your car! But even with these vagaries, the railways are good, the
employés courteous, usually amenable to jingling reason, and the service
unusually safe. A railroad inspector I talked with explained this safety
tersely. “Italians or Sicilians would not matter. But, _per Baccho_, to
smash up foreigners--we can’t afford it!” As to that, their private
reasons are none of our affair. That we can feel safe, and be safe, is
the main thing.

The day we came to Taormina we reached the station too early, and a
miracle occurred. The train was early, too--fifteen minutes too
early!--and we secured an excellent compartment and waited. That was
decidedly too early to go ahead with safety, so engineer and conductor
strolled about town making friendly calls, a trainman had an _apéritif_
at a nearby _caffé_, and we started at last in leisurely fashion--five
minutes behind time.

The station is Giardini-Taormina, at the sea level; and Giardini, though
theoretically Taormina’s “harbor,” is only a little fishing village. Yet
here twenty-five centuries ago the first of Sicily’s deliverers, the
noble Timoleon of Corinth, landed to begin the work that built him such
fame and gave Sicily such liberty. And in 1860 the second Deliverer,
Giuseppe Garibaldi, after completing his work in Sicily, embarked here
for Reggio di Calabria to continue his campaign of liberation on the
Italian mainland. Nowadays nobody stops to look at Giardini twice, since
far above, on the great cliffs against which it nestles, lies the
favorite beauty spot of Sicily, the haunt of artist and traveler the
year around.

If you so much as look doubtfully at the rickety old landaus that meet
the train, a driver will pile your luggage into one, almost push you in
after it, and cracking his whip, start slowly up the road, a long,
gentle ascent built in great sweeping curves. Splendid views unveil
themselves at every foot of the way. Below lies the sea, ranging from
transparent, broken-edged emerald at the beach, to fathomless azure in
the depths, and a dull, dusty, almost colorless void at the horizon. It
is streaked with wind-paths, flecked with tiny whitecaps, dotted with
fishing boats flitting about like white bats, while far up the Strait
where Italy seems to reach over and embrace its lovely sister, it is
easy to imagine Scylla and Charybdis reaching out hungry, gleaming hands
for the hapless voyagers rashly passing between. It is hard to think of
anything else than the Argonauts, even amid the beauty of wild and
cultivated flowers, vegetation clinging tenaciously to the face of the
cliffs, or growing in luxuriance upon terraces in lovely banked and
esplanaded gardens. Picturesque villas of every type range all the way
from the usual bare, square, white hut-style to artists’ abominations in
all manner of castellated, battlemented, machicolated forms.

A turn in the road opens a matchless vista of Ætna; another,--and
squarely in front glimmers the red and tan ruin of the Greek Theater,
perched high upon the jutting crest of a mound from which the spectators
of the play had magnificent views to amuse them in case they tired of
the work of the chorus. Standing on tiptoe at the very edges of
precipitous acclivities big, pleasant looking hotels peer down with
staring window-eyes, very attractive, but a trifle suggestive of what
might happen should the edge of some particular precipice crumble off.

If you have been staying all along the way at the usual Swiss hotels
with their familiar Franco-German cooking, why not try a genuinely
Sicilian hostelry for once! Such quarters are to be found on the main
street, in a hotel which wanders up and down the hillside in an ungainly
series of overlapping stories and queer detached turrets and belvederes.
From the street, the entrance looks very much like a black hole in the
wall. It is exactly the same as the door of a little carpenter shop
alongside, with the single exception of an inscription in faded paint:
_Ristorante_.

[Illustration: “The red and tan ruin of the Greek Theater ... But it is
Ætna that makes Taormina.”]

The greatest charm of the place is a garden, which rambles about partly
on the level, partly down steep little banks, and then, in the rear,
rolls up to a stone wall beyond which is one of the milky white roads of
the country. It is crammed with the wildest sort of tangled climbing
roses, tiny things the rich color of a Maréchal Niel but no bigger than
a ten-cent piece; large red, yellow, pink and white roses; splendid
geraniums, orange trees, lemons, medlars, almonds, stubby agaves,
prickly pear, pink-flowered climbing cactus, and wonder of wonders, even
a pair of apple trees! Ivy, numerous other vines and brilliant
convolvulus riot about them all, while down the center runs a path under
lemon-arches half smothered in rose bloom.

Beside this walk is a trellis bower covered with thousands of the tiny
yellow roses, and furnished with a marble-topped table and an iron
chair--an ideal literary workshop. But alas! the village tinsmith
evidently shared my prejudice in its favor. When I came out prepared to
work he had already preëmpted it for his mechanical workshop, and was
filling the air with clatter and the noxious fumes of smoldering
charcoal as he knocked together watering-pots to keep the garden green.

There are so many means of communication between the wings and the
dining-room that it is very easy to lose one’s self. Beware the kitchen
stair especially, where a large, plump, elderly, and exceedingly
dignified goat often blocks the way. Try to push her gently aside, and
you are astonished to find how heavy and strong a goat is. Take her
firmly by her stump of a tail and one horn, to hoist her bodily, and the
proverbial pig under the stile could make no more distressing noise.
Among those who hear is the cook. Full of apologies, and unheeding
terrific protests, she grabs at the animal’s beard and a horn or leg,
and literally yanks her inside. But the moment she lets go, Signora Goat
bounces out again as though on the end of a rubber band.

Taormina is bound to the green hillside by one long, curving white
ribbon of a street, with flying tag-ends of alleys and byways. This
Corso Vittorio Emmanuele is the artery that carries the thin but pulsing
tide of the town’s affairs, a narrow, wind-swept chasm, but far from
being a dull one. Traffic is brisk, and the tiny shops, whose dark
interiors are scarcely more than visible, do a lively trade with the
townsfolk and _contadini_. Here and there a curio store--Taormina lives
and fattens on the gullible foreigner, be he collector, artist, or
traveler only--displays a great stringful of pottery hung beside the
door to tempt the unwary browsing antiquary with tangible memories of
“the glory that was Greece.”

All about artistic decay is embayed by square, ugly, utilitarian
buildings which the natives consider more practical than the exquisite
finery of their noble predecessors. The very unexpectedness with which
delicate bits of ruin appear constitutes one of the town’s greatest
charms. Yet happy in its isolation is the Badia Vecchia, a bit of fine
old crumbling, machicolated stone tower once the nunnery of Taormina,
surrounded by a brilliant patch of lavender-flowered cactus among the
trees on the irregular hillside above the town. Roofless and abandoned,
it stands outlined in soft brown against the cobalt sky, its delicate
windows still bordered by snowy marble diapering, its walls partly
checkered in black lava and white marble, a noble Gothic picture,
saturated with the atmosphere of Norman days.

A rugged, winding path leads up this hillside to the ancient castle,
crowning a crag far above, though the usual route is by way of Mola.
To-day the chief importance of the castle is as a platform for viewing
the stirring panorama of shore and hills. Just beyond Giardini on a
little promontory now covered by a luxuriant lemon plantation, those
ardent pioneers under Theocles--it seems hardly fair to call them
pirates, as some writers have done--established Naxos, the elder sister
of all Greek colonies in Sicily, in 735 B.C. One thing of especial
interest about Naxos is that outside its walls on what quickly became
neutral ground, the colonists erected an altar and shrine to Apollo
Archegetes, not merely the patron of Naxos, but the patron of all
Hellenic Sicily. Hither all the Greeks could come in safety for a
blessing ere departing on a journey, no matter what internecine strife
might rage in the island. The athletes and patrons of the Olympic and
Isthmian Games came here before sailing, to secure the favor of the god
in their endeavors to wrest the laurel from their brethren of Greece.

Naxos, however, was short-lived compared with the other cities. In 476
B. C., the Tyrant Hieron of Syracuse, who might well be called “the
juggler of colonies,” forcibly depopulated it and resettled its
inhabitants in the city of Leontinoi. This seems to have been a favorite
amusement of tyrants. To satisfy a passing whim, or as a means of
punishment, the tyrant of the moment would calmly compel some
unfortunate community to move in a hurry to a spot of his own choosing.
However, there seem to have been people living in Naxos seventy-three
years later, for we read that in 403 Dionysius destroyed it completely,
and ever since it has existed only as a name, as the first milestone
along the path of the superior incoming Greek civilization that made
Sicily great.

The Taormina castle, by the way, is an excellent vantage point from
which to pick out the places to which excursions may be made, and there
are many very attractive ones--by boat, on foot, or on donkeyback, to
Capo di Taormina and Capo di Sant’Andrea, where the coast is
pock-marked with curious grottoes, to Monte Venere, to Monte Zirreto,
and to many another local beauty spot.

In Sicily you must not believe everything you think you hear--and above
all, you must not act rashly upon such an impression. When a Sicilian
is feeling well, his “Good morning, sir!” sounds like “Spartacus to the
gladiators.” When anyone addresses you as though murder were
contemplated, with yourself as the victim, be easy. It is most likely to
be a polite wish for a pleasant journey, delivered with characteristic
Latin fervor and inflection. Our first morning in Taormina, a wild
looking peasant beauty bearing upon her shapely head a huge dripping
amphora, stopped us with uncouth gestures and a laugh so eldritch it
startled us. Jerking her finger at _La Signora_, she poured forth a
torrent of impassioned Sicilian dialect we failed to understand, though
I thought she said we were folk unfit to be in Taormina and had better
leave immediately.

Unpleasant thoughts of the _Maffiusi_--the _Mano Nera_ we loosely call
them--swept through me. The girl’s utterance was so fierce, her
expression so positively menacing, I wondered whether she might not be
really an agent of the dreaded band. But before my combined annoyance
and alarm led me into difficulties, two Taorminians came up and
explained in Italian: “The _signorita_ is afraid your _Signora_ will
lose her handkerchief. It is falling out of her belt.”

I was glad I had not shouted for the police!

When I asked the girl, who could understand Italian perfectly, though
she spoke none herself, if I might photograph her, she consented without
a trace of her former ferocity and--with a self-respect unfortunately
rare in Taormina--refused any gratuity, merely wishing us a torrential
good day as she vanished up the black and smoky stairs of a stone hut on
one of the side streets.

It is a pity the town has not more like her. The Taorminians display
comparatively little of the simple geniality and charm of the
Palermitans, little of their bright-faced innocence and heartiness. At
first it is hard to understand why, since they are no less Sicilian than
their fellows of the capital. But a slight acquaintance with them will
convince the most casual observer that they have learned their own value
only too well as replicas of Greek and Roman and Saracenic beauty.
Consequently many of them have turned from simple hill folk into
insincere, lazy, professional poseurs, alert for camera or pencil, and
lost forever to the childlike graces that distinguish their brothers.

And not only are the people replicas of the past, but their native music
is reminiscent also--pure Greek melodies that have floated down the
river of time from the days when Bion and Theocritus rambled these same
hills and wrote songs eternally young; Saracenic love-songs full of the
wild spirit of desert and river, quavering and melancholic; passionate
lyric romances suggestive of cavalier Norman days. But it is the Greek
that, being the purest and simplest strain, has always prevailed. Every
day little shepherd lads stir the terrific solitudes of wind-swept
mountain steeps with wordless songs drawn as by magic from their reedy
flutes, music shrilly sweet and unforgettable. And at dinner in the
evening you may hear some little minstrel wandering up and down the
Corso, fluting his heart out in the moonlight.

[Illustration: “The girl’s utterance was fierce, her expression
positively menacing.”]

In your eagerness you peradventure hale him into the mysterious
labyrinthine “Garden of the Moon” behind the hotel, where the silvery
blue orb of a great arc-lamp glows among the interlacing almonds and
medlars, and bid him play. But he is a shy, embarrassed Pan, stiff of
finger, timid of lip until he forgets the listening bystanders. Then the
magic pipe takes up again the silver strain. There is no hotel upon the
mountainside, but only the melody, the moon-mellowed primeval forest,
the slumbering forms of the little shepherd’s weary flock. The music
ceases--the elfin charm is broken. Rudely over the fairy ring of your
vision burst the ungentle voices of moderns in tailor-fashioned clothes,
stiff boots and Paris hats, wearing no chaplets of ivy or acanthus upon
ambrosial locks--and worst of all, some of them smoking cigarettes!

One such night I pleaded with the little minstrel, urged him by strange
and magic names he never knew, to let me have his reed. Reluctantly,
unsmiling, he gave it up, and as I write, it lies close by. But alas, no
more it knows the Grecian strain--it will not sing for me!



XIII

SOME MOUNTAIN VISTAS


The ignorance and illiteracy to which reference has already been made
are the chief misfortunes of the Sicilians. Since schools are few and
far between, little girls are taught only to sew, knit and cook. The
boys, more unfortunate, receive little or no instruction at all--there
is work for them as soon as they are old enough, and they are useful in
the fields and about the stables and goatpens at six or eight. The
children of wealthy or noble families seem to be regarded as superior
beings who have to learn practically nothing, and who accordingly go
through life unworried by knowing anything. A few years ago an English
lady undertook to make Taormina over single handed, and though the town
still has a long and thorny road to travel, the results the Hill School
has accomplished in helping the people to help themselves have surpassed
all anticipations, and prove that even with both heredity and
environment against them, the people are willing to learn and to work
when shown how.

[Illustration: “She charged ten cents a month each for tuition.... ‘It
is much for some!’”]

Within one of the dark doorways along the Corso is a typically
Taorminian institution, a knitting school where little tots sit demurely
knitting, crocheting or embroidering with faces as expressionless as the
visages of so many trained kittens. The “lady principal” comes forward
graciously to welcome visitors in her tiny domain, and readily grants
permission to make photographs. But the room is lighted only from the
front door, and the little heads and bodies are so difficult to keep in
repose for even a few seconds that photography is speedily abandoned for
an inspection of the work of the pupils, babies of from three upward,
except that occasionally an older girl takes a “post graduate course” in
fine embroidering. They click away industriously as their visitors pass
along the line, and some do not even glance up, so thoroughly have they
been drilled by the schoolmistress. Each juvenile knitter uses two long
needles and wears a belt with a little leather plastron, in which the
butt-end of the stationary needle rests, to protect the thinly clad
little body from the prick of the sharp steel instrument.

When we visited the school, I asked the teacher how much she charged for
tuition.

“Ten cents a month each,” was her grave reply. “It is much for some to
pay.”

“Does that pay you?”

She waved her hand at the circle of twenty-five pupils. “It does!”

The food of the people is intended to support life rather than gratify
the palate. And though the little ones, like normal children anywhere in
the world, are gifted with a sweet tooth, their desire for _dolci_ is
very, very seldom gratified. So when you loiter about the door of the
little school, be sure to have a bag of sweet cakes with you--the bakers
along the Corso all sell them. The “lady principal” will gladly permit
you to distribute the glistening, white-iced treasures, and you will be
amply repaid in watching the pupils--the daintiness with which they
accept and hold the proffered delicacies, the timid “_Graz’, Signora!
Graz’!_” of each, the perfect restraint of eager eyes and mouths.

A very important personage in this little mountain town is Signor
Atenasio Pancrazio, banker, steamship agent, postal messenger, and
storekeeper; and curious indeed are his business methods. On four days
which we noticed especially because of a desire to get at some of Signor
Atenasio’s money, he opened his bank-store at the somewhat irregular and
unusual hours of eleven-thirty, a quarter before nine, noon, and twenty
minutes past three. And then, to make the hours appear still less like a
matter of sordid business for gain, the gentleman threw wide his doors
on a Sunday morning and kept open shop, bank and house until long after
everybody but the ubiquitous tourist had gone to bed.

Banker though he is, the good gentleman has ideas above mere
money-making, and if you are content to sit at his feet in the big, dim
counting-room--which smells of cheese and wine, of garlic and
rubber-stamp ink--you can learn much about the Sicilian problem, which
is as perplexing to the Italian Government as the Irish bogy is to
Downing Street. When absentee landlordism is combined with ignorance and
poverty, it makes a problem indeed.

The agricultural system is very old. It had its inception as long ago as
the days when Pope Gregory the Great was one of the most important
proprietors in the island, in the name and person of the Church. He was
a good and careful landlord, but others are the opposite, and the
system, always unjust, has degenerated. At the present time an estate is
nominally managed on behalf of the owner by a factor, who most often
re-rents it to someone else. This third person in turn, not wishing to
cultivate it personally, leases it in small patches to the farmer at
exorbitant rates, or to a fourth factor, who repeats the operation. Thus
when the peasant finally comes into possession of his acres, he is
paying so heavy a rental that it is practically impossible to do more
than make his actual expenses.

Driven to desperation by such a condition and often in actual need, he
has recourse to the money-lender, who loans readily--and collects with
grim certainty, practically enslaving the wretched farmer. The usurers
grow rich, but they hoard up their evil fortunes, keeping the money out
of circulation, and the country is the poorer. Naturally the steamship
office becomes the most important place in towns where discontent
prevails. The companies have men ready to answer all questions, and more
than willing to encourage the peasant to give up his hardly earned
savings, providing he is physically sound. Indeed, they even send glib
and persuasive agents about to drum up trade in likely districts by
painting glowing pictures of the golden streets of America.

“Signor Atenasio,” I said, “you are a steamship agent yourself. Do you
go about and make trade this way?”

“The holy Saint Pancratius forbid!” he exclaimed, piously calling upon
his patron. But he spoiled the effect by adding instantly: “No, I do not
have to. I get all the trade there is in Mola anyway. It is very
little,” he shrugged, and turned the subject.

This Mola, the tiny town on the hilltop above Taormina, may be cited as
a typical example of what taxes, lack of education, usury, and as a
consequence, emigration, are doing for Sicily to-day. Though Mola lies
only about a thousand feet higher up in the air than Taormina, it is ten
times as far away by foot--and by foot you must go, “either your own or
another donkey’s!” as one weary but none the less enthusiastic visitor
put it on returning. The road--a good part of it is low stone steps, the
round, flat pebbles set on edge in mortar--winds along the uncertain
sides of the little valleys, and since not a single tree of any size
shades it from an almost tropical sun at full power, it is sufficiently
trying. Here and there a female beggar pops up most unexpectedly to
demand an alms “for the love of the blessed Christ who walked thus to
Calvary!”

The town curves in a semi-circle around the top of the hill, behind the
battered remains of stout old walls which even to-day are massive and in
places almost perfect, and might be turned to excellent account in
defense. Just where the road skirts the base of the cliff, one night in
December of 1677, forty stout-hearted native soldiers scaled the
wall--when you look up at it, it seems an impossible feat--with ropes,
and surprised and captured the French garrison then in possession. The
highly picturesque entrance by a carved archway under a bit of wall
leading outward at right angles from the overhanging cliff is commanded
by an equally picturesque evil-looking iron smooth-bore cannon.

So still is Mola that the old lines fit it perfectly:

    “Sunk are thy bowers in shapeless ruin all,
     And the long grass o’ertops the moldering wall;
     And, trembling, shrinking from the spoiler’s hand,
     Far, far away, thy children leave the land.”

It is literally the “Deserted Village.” Half an hour suffices to explore
the Corso--even tiny Mola has its highway named for the King!--and all
the silent high- and by-ways from end to end; mere _gradini_, crooked
and steep, slits between out-of-plumb houses whose only occupants seem
to be pigs. The biggest, blackest, dirtiest and leanest razorbacks
imaginable march solemnly up and down the front steps of the best
houses, or snore comfortably inside on the parlor floor. Occasionally a
savage mother with her little shoats takes up a good share of the way,
snapping viciously at anyone who ventures too close. Our “guide,” a mere
baby, offered to go and stir up such a family when he saw me about to
take its picture, and nearly lost a leg for his pains.

But in all these streets not a man is visible of adult years and able to
work. Only at the “Cathedral” can vigorous men be seen, the verger and
the priest. The whereabouts of the others are told in the single magic
word that spells so much to all Europe--“America!” It is literally true.
Of all the male inhabitants only those too poor, too feeble to make the
long trip, or too young to be acceptable as toilers, have remained at
home. Even the exceptions, the verger and the priest, gaze seaward
with longing eyes.

[Illustration: “Occasionally in Mola a savage mother with her shoats
takes up a good share of the way.”]

The “Cathedral” is a building to make the heart ache. Poor and ignorant
though they are, the people strive with cheap, garish colors and hideous
decorations to please the Deity as well as to give their lowly church
the air of a rich-folks’ Cathedral. What grips one most is to be found
in the sacristy. Tied tightly to the arm of a much betinseled Mary
Magdalen is a beautiful and amazingly thick braid of human hair. What is
the tragedy behind the oblation? What poor little girl from Mola came
cowering and repentant to the feet of the saint and fastened the simple
ex-voto in broken-hearted gratitude to the arm of her who wept over the
sacred feet and wiped them with her hair? Is it a local tragedy or one
from across the unfathomable seas? The verger pretends he does not know.
Yet as you wander through the unkempt streets of the deserted village,
you cannot help looking curiously about for any woman whose head shows
the trace of the votive shears.

Many a time throughout Italy we had been tormented by filthy beggars on
the steps of the cathedrals; but it was reserved for Mola to show us a
pig who owned to being a pig in such a place! As we came out a huge,
lean razorback grunted in savage disapproval, lurched to his feet, and
trotted heavily off down a side street.

If the ascent to Mola is difficult, what can be said of the coming down?
You stretch muscles you never knew you had, all the corns in the world
seem to have concentrated upon your luckless feet, and you pitch and
roll and toss like a mastless ship in a cross-sea.

After that Mola trip the most energetic traveler is apt to go to bed
very early, and so for the first time hears the night noises of
Taormina. The town makes quite a clatter on its way to bed--the click!
click! click! of hobnailed heels on the lava pavement, the light chatter
and songs of the children, which for all their occasional gayety have an
elusive element of the tragic in them, the fluting of some little
shepherd, and the tired bray of a home-going donkey glad the day’s work
is over. And every half-hour the bell-baiting! Would that Poe had heard
these Sicilian bells before he wrote his tintinnabulating rhyme. Beaten,
not rung, they clamor with the maddening insistence of fiends until the
ear rebels and no longer notices their angry tumult. One tradition has
it that there is not a bell-clapper in the island, for the returning
French took the iron tongues away after the Massacre of the Vespers, to
keep the people from ringing alarms. But the ingenious Sicilian found
that he could make much more noise with a hammer, and though six hundred
years and more have rolled by, he is still so tickled with the racket
that he seems each time to be trying to break all previous records. A
more plausible story is that the clappers were taken away by the
Neapolitans as recently as the day of Garibaldi’s arrival with his
thousand red-shirts in 1860.

Save for the bell-baiting only, silence reigns from about ten until two.
Then the first donkey’s tiny little overburdened feet come ticking down
the Corso, the whack of his rider’s stick and an occasional gruff
adjuration to the patient little mouse-colored beast recurring in a
regular work-_motif_. Slowly the light begins to come. A sleepy ringer
bangs out fifty irregular notes from his bell, hesitates a moment as
though not quite certain of his count, and adds one last vigorous clang
for good measure. Chanticleer first awakes the echoes, in strenuous
rivalry with stentorian peacocks. Again silence reigns for half an hour
or so. Then Taormina turns in bed, stirs luxuriously, yawns, and “gets
busy.”

Along the Corso donkeys bearing slim wine-casks and great tins of goats’
milk patter past at a smart pace; vegetable hawkers from the _piana_
shout their wares into open doorways; cats and chickens side by side
strike out into the daylight from the obscurity of their shelters,
stretching and flapping comfortably. Children, standing like models of
Justice, scales and weights in hand, call their merchandise, weigh and
measure with preternatural gravity, or eye older hucksters sharply as
the latter use their own scales to weight out a “penorth” of this or a
“haporth” of that.

These street views are keenly interesting, but after all it is Ætna that
makes Taormina an artist’s paradise. Travelers and artists alike come
for a brief glimpse or a sketch of Ætna, return again and again, or
perchance find the fascination of hoary crown and delicate lights and
shades so irresistible they settle down in the volcano’s shadow and
remain for years, proclaiming Taormina to be the rarest beauty spot in
creation.

One of the American artists who came twenty years ago and has never been
able to tear himself away from the thrall of the great cold peak, shows
his studies of its moods, a great stack of marvelous water colors made
at dawn, at noon, at sunset, at every hour of day and night, with every
whimsical effect cloud or sun or shadow could give as he sat at his
easel in a white-walled garden with the perpetually beautiful before him
as a model. Perhaps the most remarkable contrasts are from a perfectly
moonlight night to a clear dawn the next morning. All night the moon,
sailing in solemn round overhead, tints the peak’s snowy shoulders with
a faint greenish tinge that makes it the wraith of a volcano. A little
before four o’clock, slowly, tenderly, moon and pallid stars dwindle
into spookish reflections of themselves as the sky lightens, the velvet
blue of the night puckers into gelid gray, changes into pale
turquoise through which majestically sail a vast fleet of enormous
fluffy clouds, while Ætna rises dark and forbidding from the piana
below.

[Illustration: “Many a protesting goat is compelled to scramble up four
or five flights of dark stairs.”]

Graciously a faint flush in the eastern sky increases in volume, deepens
in tone; the grim pile of the volcano on the west darkens at the top,
and as the ineffable pink spreads around behind it, the cone turns dead
and spectral, and the thin, cottony tuft of curling smoke above the main
crater eddies upward with all the seeming of steam on a foggy winter’s
morning. These first changes come with the measured caution of a master
painter working carefully lest through some hasty stroke he spoil the
effect of the tone picture to come. The light spreads. Neither camera
nor pen can keep pace with the instantaneous transformations on every
side. The vast crimson-coppery disc sails slowly up in majesty to eye
the little world of Taormina from behind the inky green shoulder of the
Greek Theater’s hill. The upper edges of the clouds turn pink and
silver; the lower, soft salmon pink, saffron, orange, gold. It is day!

There is something awe-inspiring, archaic, terrible about it all. It
suggests the ancient Egyptian belief of Amen-ra riding through the
horrible fastnesses of the Tuat in his sacred boat, and emerging in the
glory of the resurrection.

It is a chilly performance of a spring morning, and a hungry one. At a
quarter before six, an eight o’clock breakfast seems at a starving
distance; so the best thing to do is to come down into the street to see
the milk being delivered. Right, left, and everywhere are nothing but
goats! goats! goats! the whole length of the Corso; by twos, singly, in
herds of twenty or more, with a pair of fractious kids roped together
under their mother’s usually wide open, yellow old eye, or tied one to
each hind leg, very much to mother’s discomfort. They burst out upon the
Corso from narrow little _gradini_ as if they had been kicked out of
Mola on the crags above, and had not been able to check their speed on
the long roll down. The tobacconist whose shop is directly opposite the
hotel, opens at dawn to catch the early trade of the Mola goatherds in
snuff and _sigari_. If you catch his eye he will throw wide both arms to
include all the goats on the Corso, and exclaim: “_Latte de’capri è
molto bell’!_”

Take his gracefully conveyed hint, and ask for a glass. One of the
_ragazze_--two-thirds at least of the goatherds in Taormina and Mola are
young girls--milks a rich, warm, foaming pint. Whatever your misgivings,
the tobacconist is quite right--“Milk of goats is very beautiful!”--very
grateful to a cold and empty stomach.

The hotel is quite civilized, the honest goatherd milking his animals
into bottles which he carries in under the eye of a servant whose
business it is to see that there is no adulteration or watering. In the
private houses still more scrupulous care is observed. Many a protesting
goat is compelled to scramble up as many as four or five flights of dark
and difficult stairs to be milked in the “parlor” into the suspicious or
indolent housewife’s own can or bottle. The Taorminians are worried by
no inspectors or supervision of their milk supply, for the purchasers
are their own supervisors, and milk is one thing in Sicily absolutely
above reproach.



XIV

LIGHTS AND SHADES


Fountains in Sicily occupy much the same place in the life of the people
that the forum occupied in a Roman community of old. That is, the
fountain and its piazza are the center for exchanging news and gossip,
for recreation, for all the varied diversions the people have in common.
Taormina’s principal fountain lies just outside the old wall, not far
from the Porta Catania, the gate facing toward Catania. About the cool
and dripping basin gather the graceful young peasant girls, balancing
incredibly large and heavy amphorai of water upon their well poised
heads; pretty, kittenish children and grimgaunt old rheumatic gossips;
loutish waterboys in from the _piana_ with their great barrel-carts to
take the ichor of the gods back home; and generally the background for
all is a fringe of seedy, admiring youths, casting sheeps’ eyes at the
girls and wondering how long it will be until they can get married--or
sail for America!

This particular fountain is crowned by the arms of Taormina, which
consist of the twin castles of Mola and Taormina, and a mythological
creature with the body of a bull, the tail of a fish and the head of a
woman. Exactly what this beast is would tax the powers of the most
ingenious of zoologists to explain--possibly a “nature-faker” could do
it better.

From the Porta Catania the old town wall, perhaps twenty feet in height,
rambles up the hillside in weird curves and abrupt angles, following the
contour of the ground. Now that it is useless as a defense the thrifty
Taorminians have built up a row of tiny houses which cling limpet
fashion to the outside of the sturdy old masonry, through which windows
have been driven that add greatly to its picturesqueness. Wonderful
climbing bougainsvilleas and other vines have sprung up from the fertile
soil and spread their graceful tendrils higher and higher until almost
every window is smothered in a mass of tender greenery and blossom.

To see these picturesque cottages is to wish to end one’s days in one,
or at least to bring some of its perfume and beauty back home. Near by a
steep _gradino_ is a floral waterfall. On the house-sides, festooning
every post and projecting bit of masonry, brilliant flowers foam in pink
spray, as from some perfumed fountain farther up the hill where roses
distil their spicy fragrance from long, nodding branches.

Facing its own little piazza inside the wall, and just below the Corso,
is the Cathedral, which has a fine fourteenth century Gothic side
portal. Perhaps the service is fourteenth century, too. It is conducted
by the parish priest, a withered old man of grim and ascetic aspect, who
drones in out-of-key nasals through the ritual, his voice drowned out a
good deal of the time by the wheezy old organ, played by the village
cobbler. The choir consists of the verger and another man who appears
and disappears like a jack-in-the-box; at no time are more than two men
visible in the organ loft, but in their vigor they quite make up for
lack of numbers or inspiration. On the opposite side of the choir rises
what seems to be a larger and more imposing organ. It is really nothing
but a huge stretcher of canvas on which an instrument is painted,
evidently to impress visitors with the dignity and grandeur of this
mountain church.

When we were at service the good padre was assisted in his ministrations
by the verger--when he was not singing--who worked with a becoming sense
of the dignity of his position, and by an impish little acolyte in
flaming scarlet, who hopped about like a cricket. If ever there was a
little rascal who deserved excommunication for his pranks, it was this
juvenile mischief-maker, who swung his censer so as almost to choke the
old priest, keeping a more watchful eye upon the strangers than upon his
business, and scarcely stopping to crook an irreverent little knee as
he passed about in front of the altar. Once, stooping to rearrange the
priest’s robes, he did it with such a mischievous flirt, and such a
droll gleam in the brown eyes fixed on us, that we half expected to be
held up by a small highwayman after mass, and asked for a penny or two
in token of the sacrilegious show we had been permitted to witness.

The elders of the town sit upon the long bench or dais of red porphyry
where the archbishop would be enthroned should he visit Taormina. They
are curious old men, gnarled, withered apples full of sun and
wind-wrinkles, who wear the typical brown-gray-black shawl as a muffler.
Below them, on the throne’s lowest step, squat several of the oldest
women in the town. Over this seat a large and imposing shield bearing
the arms of Taormina is supported by a time-stained oaken eagle, who
leers with side-cocked head and an expression of inebriate gravity in
his partly closed eyes. He seems more a gargoyle, a grotesque, than a
strictly appropriate bit of ecclesiastical decoration.

Some of the peasant girls in the congregation are very lovely--perfect
young Madonnas; sloe-eyed, raven-haired; with exquisite features and
coloring, and distinctly Greek profiles. But they are not all dark;
there is also the florid blonde type the Latin peoples so greatly
admire, though it cannot bear comparison with the other. All of them
dress with a taste and a restraint hardly to be expected among mountain
folk only a few degrees removed from the primitive. Here and there a
fawn-like maid has thrown a Roman scarf with broad orange bands lightly
over her hair, its vivid colors in pleasing contrast with her simple
dark blue dress, piped with white, and the usual black silk apron that
distinguishes her as of a prosperous family.

About through the throng in the nave the worshipers’ children run freely
to and fro, laughing, crying, talking, calling to one another. Some
gather in little colonies on a step of the door at the foot of the
church and eye the scene with baby solemnity; and even when the Host is
elevated, some dainty nymph of three or four may unconcernedly clatter
higgledy-piggledy across the tiles in hobnailed shoon that wake the
ancient echoes, crying at the top of her small voice: “Papá! Papá!” to
an old farmer entering the door.

There is an indescribably moving something in the spectacle these poor
folk present as they sit and stand and kneel and make the responses with
the utter devotion of ignorance and superstition. Still, the outside can
not be forgotten, even in the ecclesiastical atmosphere, and as the big
bell up in the campanile booms the hour clear and mellow through the
sound of voice and instrument, the world, the flesh and the devil stir
the worshipers with a restless little movement of anxiety to get back
into the sunshine again.

The eagle over the bishop’s throne would appear to greater advantage in
the funerals to be met on the Corso, conducted by the Fraternity of the
Misericordia, which originated in Florence so many centuries ago. Weird
indeed is one of these processions, as it ambles leisurely along through
the heavy dust, often stirred by a light sirocco which flaps the robes
and sends the incense smoke eddying upward in sacerdotal wreaths.
Tragedy and farce clasp hands in the pitiful _cortége_. The boy members
of the Guild amuse themselves and shock the beholder by pulling their
ghastly masks awry, contorting their faces into uncouth grimaces, and
winking portentously through the large eyeholes. The men are scarcely
better--even the pall-bearers laugh, joke, turn freely to pass a word
with some acquaintance in the street or up in a window, and tilt the
casket so recklessly that the cross and crown on top slip about and all
but fall off. Their white frocks are too short, and from beneath the
skirts protrude very baggy trouser-legs, dirty socks, or even a few
inches of bare leg thrust hastily into shoes donned for the nonce, and
left with strings dangling in the dust. Inquisitive goats and uncertain
chickens get in the way and are either lifted to one side, carried along
and petted for a few moments, or gently pushed out of the way with a
kindly foot.

Strange indeed was a double funeral we saw one sultry afternoon. At the
head marched the ancient Guild, bearing a curious double cross, perhaps
eight feet high and apparently very heavy. Nailed to its upper
limb--askew, of course--was a small light cross. Behind the men walked
eighteen little girls in ordinary street dress, and after them six older
girls in black, marching in couples, each pair carrying a large floral
wreath. The middle pair bore their wreath with an air that did not
distinguish the others, since it surrounded a framed picture of the dead
man. Directly behind the picture came a priest, his hands clasped over a
missal which he held firmly against his well-fed stomach.

After the living, the dead--the first of the coffins was a tiny one of
flaming pink, stolidly handled by four sturdy lads of the Guild, who
took as much interest in it and the proceedings as though they were
bearing a crate of lemons to market. Immediately behind, four unusually
tall Guildmen bore the man’s coffin, large and black, with a cross and a
silver crown resting upon it. On either side trudged the womenfolk of
the family, one in each file carrying a smoking plate of incense that
nearly choked her, while two files of friends brought up the rear of the
procession proper, followed by the usual rabble.

Through the heavy African air the cathedral bells tolled with an
inexpressibly sad intonation as the little cavalcade passed along the
street. But even the relatives were compelled to laugh when from the
rear, running at full speed, came a panting boy of about ten bearing the
canonicals of the officiating priest. The robe flapped behind in most
undignified fashion, one corner occasionally raising a little spurt of
dust as it swept the stones; and every few steps the boy yelped an
unintelligible sound, to bid the marchers slow down and let him catch up
before the priest entered the cathedral.

However, the touch of the ridiculous that turns tears to laughter is
never far away in Sicily. Turning into a side street, one of those
little _gradini_ or flights of slippery stone steps which make up most
of Taormina’s lesser byways, and thinking only of the funeral, we were
suddenly halted by two of the juvenile troubadours who lie in wait for
strangers, or patrol the streets, seeking whom they may charm. They
sprang out at our approach, struck tragic attitudes, and began to shout
out an old pirate song at the top of their thin little pipes. Lustily
they sang, till the veins in their small foreheads bulged blue with the
effort, screaming out the bloodthirsty words of the ancient ditty with
gusto, and acting their parts like veterans. It was all so sudden, so
utterly ludicrous, that we laughed until we cried. The moment we began
to laugh, the larger boy frowned, stopped singing, and shaking his pudgy
fist at us indignantly, announced: “I am a singer! A very good
singer--you listen to me!”

No cosmopolitan tenor could have put more outraged dignity and
temperament into a protest. But sturdily they began all over. Here and
there we caught a phrase about a wicked captain who stole a lovely
maiden from her doting parents and took her away on his rakish barque to
rove the smiling seas. Before I could reward them a large boy, who had
kept away the crowd during the singing of the infant highwaymen, touched
me on the arm.

“_Signore_--you should pay me all. I....”

“Oh-ho! So you think you are their impresario, do you?” I demanded.

“_Sissignore! Si! Si!_” he exclaimed joyfully, not in the least
understanding anything but that I seemed willing to play into his hands.

“Are you a relative of the great Hammerstein?” I asked.

“Probably, sir. I do not know. Does the gentleman live in Taormina?”

Just then an ancient crone, toothless, and gifted, if anyone ever was,
with the “evil eye,” pinched my arm with a vigor astonishing in so aged
a creature, and shrilly demanded her gift. Annoyed, I asked her as
gently as possible, while the crowd grinned in derision: “But what have
you done that I should pay you?”

“Done!” she retorted. “Done! It is enough--am I not here?”

[Illustration: “We were suddenly halted by two juvenile troubadours,
seeking whom they might charm.”]

Declining to pay for being pinched, we worked our way slowly through the
tenacious rabble--which clamored for _soldi_--down into the courtyard of
the hotel that was once a pious house of prayer and fasting, the gray
and ancient Convento di San Domenico. Beyond the edge of the older town
it poises its massive stone bulk, whitewashed and scrupulously neat, on
the ragged edge of the cliff: where fragrant roses climb all about and
potted plants fringe the balustrades on all sides with rich color. It is
a joy to sit here and take tea, with the marvelous panorama of storied
coast and slumbering sea directly beneath. San Domenico is as cold as it
is lovely, and the guests are hardly to be envied their rooms, once the
silent stone cells of the monks. They are, however, to be envied the
charm of the great hall with its carven choir stalls and lecturn, and
the beautiful flower-decked cloisters. But where the crumbling Byzantine
arcades once echoed with the Vesper, the Matin and the Ave, now is heard
only the laughter of the heedless tourist, the chatter of children, the
swish of skirts, and the click of the camera-shutter.

From the stone balustrades of the terrace, one gazes down upon slopes
thorny with the spikes of the prickly pear, toothed and spurred with
many an ugly rock that must have been there when the intrepid tyrant,
Dionysius I, led his storming party up the slopes one winter night in
394 B. C., and forced his way into the very marketplace, only to be
repulsed by the heroic citizens and come tumbling down--literally, it is
said--six hundred feet among the rocks and thorns of the snowy ascent.
No wonder Dionysius hated Taormina after that! He disliked it before,
and his little impromptu toboggan filled him with a tyrant’s decision to
even things with Taormina sooner or later. Four years afterward he kept
his oath, in an outburst of savage fury that reduced the hamlet to ruins
but failed to injure it permanently.

The moldering palace of the once mighty Dukes of Santo Stefano is also
at this western end of the town. But all there is to see is a garden,
tangled and sweet, a deep well whose carven curb speaks eloquently of
the love of its former masters for the beautiful, and a barren earthen
room under the palace, where dingy mosaics upon the stucco walls peep
through the grime of ages. In one corner is a mortared pit about thirty
inches deep and two feet in diameter. The caretaker is contemptuous at
any failure to understand so simple a thing as an ancient bath, and
displays the superior air of one who, however economical she may herself
be in the use of such a luxury, is thoroughly versed in the theory of
its employment by others of less Spartan virtue.

Beyond this--nothing! The key is in Palermo. With the characteristic
fondness of Sicilians for separating buildings and their keys, the Duke
leaves it in the capital, so the Greek and Roman marbles stripped
ruthlessly from the Theater at the other end of town are usually
invisible.

But though they may not be visible, the Theater from which they were
taken is very much so. The Corso on the way is always a human and animal
kaleidoscope. Here a man holds his grateful horse by the bridle while
his wife lifts a black iron soup kettle to give the weary beast a drink
of warm and nourishing soup made of bread, vegetables and goats’ milk.
Yonder a demoralized old cat licks her kittens into shape on a shady
doorstep while a venerable hen looks on and seems to have a proprietary
interest in seeing the work properly performed. Cats and kittens and
dogs lie jumbled together, in genial disregard of the usual enmities,
suggesting the lion and the lamb parable.

Quaintly dressed peasants from the _piana_ stare at the visitor, and
vendors of antiquities call lazily from their black little holes in the
wall, advertising their strings of “ancient” pottery, that rattle
ominously whenever a wisp of breeze playfully tugs at them. A
carriage-full of tourists Baedekering through Sicily passes literally on
the jump, with craned necks and vociferous consultation of the fat
little red books so essential to comfort in this land where no one is
willing to confess that he really knows anything positively. Water-carts
creak by, a huckster whose wares are not yet all sold bellows most
musical of “_A-a-ar--ca--cio-o-o--fi-i-i-i!_” and from behind comes the
mellow boom of the cathedral chimes knelling away the brilliant hour.
Artists with easels and sketching kits lumber heavily by on their way
back from the Theater, the only great ruin of which Taormina can boast.

There is little now in the shattered playhouse to make alive its glories
of Greek days, for as it stands it is largely a Roman ruin. The
conquerors built amphitheaters throughout the island, but their theaters
were in almost every instance merely enlargements or adaptations of
older structures. Here in Taormina the building shows perfectly what the
Romans did with the stage, which is in an almost perfect state of
preservation. The playhouse, hewn in great part from the living rock,
measures three hundred fifty-seven feet in its greatest diameter, while
the diameter of the pit or orchestra is no less than one hundred and
fifteen feet. The stage itself is quite narrow, with a vaulted channel
or passage underneath for the water, used in flooding the arena, for the
naval combats that the degenerate Romans preferred to Greek drama.
Behind the stage the wall they built--of plain red brick instead of the
costlier marble of early days--is still two stories high, and four of
its granite Corinthian columns, with parts of the architrave, have been
reërected to show the decorative scheme. Directly behind are the
entrances upon the stage, one at the right, another at the left; and in
the center a great ruinous breach in the wall where was once the third
or central entrance. On each side are niches which contained statues,
and in the side wall at each end of the stage are the _vestiaria_, the
dressing-rooms of the actors. What is left of the auditorium proper--the
superstructure added by the Romans is all gone--shows that the seats
were divided into nine _cunei_, sections shaped like wedges; and so
perfect were the acoustics that even yet, ruined though the structure
is, the slightest word spoken upon the stage is distinctly audible at
the very farthest extremity of the upper tier of seats.

The way up to the topmost seats is through grass and weeds starred with
tiny flowerets, mantling over the scars of Time. Sitting there where
Greek and Roman and Saracen in turn have mused before, he is cold indeed
who does not thrill to memory and to the marvelous panorama spread
below: on the right, tier on tier of the eternal hills in warm brown,
their crowns of Saracenic-looking castles lending a militant air to
their own stern beauty; below them, a confused medley of roofs and
spires, roads and wandering walls, Taormina; through the _scena_ one of
the grandest vistas in all creation--Ætna the giant holding heaven and
earth apart, his feet in the mists of the low rolling farmlands, his
mighty crest lost amid the clouds of the spring afternoon; and reaching
away into infinity, the passionless Ionian Sea of song and story,
murmuring a susurrant requiem for the vanished glories of other days.



XV

THE CITY THAT WAS


From Taormina to Messina the train hurries along at what seems breakneck
speed--through vine and olive yards; past broad shallow, dry _fiumi_,
dusty in summer but heavily walled on both sides against the coming of
the winter and spring freshets. Now the hills rise bold and sheer, as we
dash into and out of innumerable little smoky tunnels, like a firefly
flashing through tangled brush. High on one hillside an old cemetery
looks down--an enormous file of dusty old pigeon-holes tossed out from a
Titan’s office and abandoned among the greenery.

There comes a town; a queer, quaint, smelly little fishing
village--Ali--whose distinct perfume wafts in through even closed
windows. Every house in it possesses atmosphere, character, a certain
uncouth distinction all its own. Farther on goats--a big herd of
them--munch their way along the beach undisturbed by our noisy passing,
walking in the cool water up to their fetlocks, eating seaweed and
wagging their cronish old heads over the salty feast. What must be the
flavor of their milk! But the goats are forgotten as up the Strait from
Reggio steams the great car-ferry _Scylla_, since six miles away along
the sweeping curve of the Italian shore to the north, the ugly gaunt
rock of Scylla herself crouches against the dun background of iron
shore.

Scylla and Charybdis, those fabled monsters of early Hellenic legend,
apparently had no terrors for the pirates of Kymé who, Thucydides tells
us, planted the first nursling settlement of Zankle, later Messina, in
one of the most splendid natural locations ever utilized by man--a long,
narrow strip of flat shore along the Bay, where the mountains stand well
back, and only the foothills come near the water. Before the town
shimmers one of the finest harbors in the world, a big circular bay
fenced in by a low and sandy strip curved like the sickle the Sicilian
Greeks called Danklon or Zankle. The site was a natural emporium at the
point where the East and the West meet and are one; an ideal location
for a great strategic, commercial and social center.

[Illustration: Messina--“The City that Was!”]

It has always been a notable city. Now we see it in the scarlet page of
history as the home of the pirate, the prey of the Carthaginian, the
bandit stronghold of the Mamertine, the first glorious conquest of the
dashing Norman; then glorying in the wealth the Crusades poured into its
lap as the kings of the earth passed by in their search after the
impossible and unattainable. Now we hear of it as the prey of a
despot, an absentee monarch; now as the favorite of a king who loaded it
with privilege; now as the bulwark of all Sicily against incursion from
the mainland when Charles of Anjou, after the Vespers, came down upon
Messina like Byron’s Assyrian. Every man became a soldier, every woman
in the city--ladies accustomed to ease and luxury as well as their less
fortunate sisters--a worker. A song still popular in Sicily runs:

    _Deh com’ egli è gran pietate_
    _delle donne di Messina,_
    _veggiendo iscapigliate,_
    _portando pietre e calcina!_

“Oh, what a pity ’tis to see the ladies of Messina carrying stones and
chalk!”

One of the things that brought disaster upon Messina was its location
upon the line of contact between the primary and secondary formations of
Ætna and Vesuvius, where the shock of earthquake is necessarily the most
violent and frequent. And during the last two centuries or so every
misfortune that could befall a city has befallen it--siege, bombardment,
fire, inundation, cholera, plague, earthquake. Yet through it all,
however severe the visitation, the city has been great and undaunted,
rising heroically from every catastrophe to begin anew; great in
commerce, too, as well as in the heroic spirit of its citizens.
Notwithstanding its tragic story, of late years it was a dusty,
commercial town, eminently set upon minding its own business and giving
little heed during business hours to anything but business.

In the evening, however, the whole town was out of doors, gathering in a
dense throng to listen to the band concert in the Piazza di Municipio.
Grave and reverend seigniors puffing at black Italian cheroots, fat
wives on their arms or waddling behind under the weight of their
wonderful jewelry; young sparks who wore their hats rakishly and eyed
the daughters of families with roguish airs of expert judgment in
petticoats; flashy corner loafers whose visages betrayed their
character--or lack of it; solemn family parties to whom this open air
concert was the diversion of the week; and scores of impish little
ragamuffins whose specialty seemed to be vociferous appeals to smokers
for cigarette stubs. But the crowd was very Italian, very good-natured,
very indolently happy. _Dolce far niente_ ruled, save for the
industrious bandsmen, and everybody enjoyed himself in his own way.

In the eighteenth century the wide and handsome promenade along the
clear waters of the Strait was named _La Palazzata_, because the stately
_palazzi_ of the nobility lined its entire length, and each palace was
equal in height, style and construction to all its neighbors. But slowly
there crept into the city the sneaking spirit of commercialism. The
haughty nobles fell upon evil days and died. Their palaces became shops,
hotels, stores; the old glory was fading fast, and the new was a tawdry
imitation. The splendor of the _Palazzata_ waned before the vigor of
expanding trade that filled the wharves with casks of spoiling lemons
for the manufacture of acids and essential oils. The very air of Messina
became impregnated, redolent of the pungent essence of fruit turning
into gold.

But that was not the end. The _Palazzata_--aye, all Messina--was doomed
to fall in the crowning misfortune of the centuries. The terrible
earthquake predicted almost to the minute by Mr. Perret of the Vesuvius
Observatory, smote the city while it slept, on the morning of December
28, 1908. The earth became a shaken old carpet, ripping, tearing,
rending apart hideously, crumpling upon itself. The sea receded and
heaped itself in mountains of waters, the beach lay bare. The grim gods
of the nether world smiled; they piled the sea and the waves higher into
an Olympian bolt, hurled it resistless and foaming upon the helpless
town, again to take toll of man’s rashness. Palace and hotel, shop and
church trembled--vacillated--crashed down into agonizing ruin, burying
half the city in their débris. In the city alone 77,283 persons
perished. Humanity stood aghast before a catastrophe so tremendous that
the intelligence could not grasp its full significance of horror. And
when the final relief work was completed, the last reports tabulated,
the toll of Ætna on both sides of the Strait--in Calabria as well as in
Sicily--mounted up to two hundred thousand--nearly a quarter of a
million lives!

Sleeping and praying, weeping and cursing, unconscious and paralyzed
with terror, Messina died in the murdering cruelty of the most appalling
of all the disasters the heroic city had ever known.

The Cathedral, which was begun in 1098 and finished by King Roger, had
shared the misfortunes of the city. Earthquake and fire and the still
more vandal hand of the restorer had robbed it long before of almost all
semblance to the plans of King Roger’s architects. And the gods of the
earth, being no respecters of buildings, hurled it down into ruin like
the commonest hut in the city. Not all its massiveness and splendor
could save it from the common fate; not all its treasures of goldsmith’s
work and sculpture and art. But though it fell, the people of the
dauntless city did not blench. Crushed and dazed as they were, one of
the first buildings they put up was a new house of prayer. Hastily
knocked together of rough boards, the triumphant symbol of hope and
faith nailed firmly above it, that pitiful church spoke dramatically of
the spirit that defies defeat and honors victory.

The city has arisen anew in a metropolis of more than 65,000 souls,
with suitable churches now. Moreover, the commercial spirit of the
people asserted itself almost immediately, and exports began with
scarcely any delay. In the new Messina that has sprung up--a little to
the south and a trifle farther inland--away from the chaos of wrecked
buildings and blasted hopes, there is at least a measure of safety. It
is largely a wooden city; the buildings are restricted in height, and no
fires are permitted expect in the kitchens, which are built of brick.

The American relief work is especially interesting to us. No less than
1336 two-room-and-kitchen houses were put up by American hands and with
American materials and money in the new Messina, and five hundred more
across the Strait in Reggio di Calabria, a total of 1836, capable of
housing more than 12,000 people. Each family is bound under pain of
expulsion to observe stringent rules for public safety and sanitation,
approved by Queen Elena herself. In places these low, white clapboarded
cottages, shaded by mulberry trees, have a decidedly New England town
appearance. Beside these, American funds built an hotel with
seventy-five rooms and thirteen or fourteen baths; a church where some
350 people can worship; two schools that care for eighty children each,
and the Elizabeth Griscom Hospital, in which every available resource of
modern sanitary engineering in design and construction was employed.
White-walled and red-roofed, it stands high on the hillside, a very
attractive sight from the Bay, its windows commanding a sweeping view
which is a tonic in itself.

During the reign of horror that followed the fall of the city, fire and
snow, rain and pestilence added their agonies to the already overflowing
tragedy. But British and American, Russian and French bluejackets toiled
heroically, regardless of personal danger from falling ruins or
infection from the stench of thousands of unburied corpses, to help
their Italian brethren succor the wounded and rescue the dying. King
Victor Emmanuele himself, disregarding comfort and personal safety,
hurried to the scene and risked his life in superintending the work of
rescue, endearing himself to the Nation by his cool bravery and
resourceful tenderness to the sufferers. And not only the King, but
Queen Elena, who accompanied him, struggled through the ruins day after
day, braving hardships and danger, aiding the wounded and dying with her
own hands. All Italy arose and called her blessed. They gave her a new
name. She was no longer merely _Regina d’Italia_--Queen of Italy--but
_Regina di Pietà_--Queen of Pity.



XVI

THE NORTHERN SHORE


Along the northern coast from Messina westward to Palermo, almost every
foot of the way has some historic interest. High among the precipitous
cliffs above the present station of Rometta, the Christians held out
against the invading Saracens--who had entered the island in 827--until
965. Rometta was the last place to fall. A little farther along the
rocky shore Sextus Pompey was annihilated by Agrippa in the battle of
Naulochus in B. C. 36. Milazzo, sixteen miles from Messina, is the site
of ancient Mylæ, Messina’s first colony, which had a stirring time of it
through all the centuries. The last big event in her history was
Garibaldi’s victory over the Neapolitans, freeing the city from the
hated Bourbon rule.

The train runs over _fiumare_ after _fiumare_--riverbeds dry in Summer,
rushing torrents in Winter--and vineyards stretch beside the track in
vast expanses of low, bushy vines, ripe with promise. Then, with a
shriek, the engine drags us in a cindery cloud of smoke through the
promontory on which stood Tyndaris, the Greek colony founded by
Dionysius I. The town stood nine hundred feet above the black hole into
which we plunge. What would be the sensations of this swash-buckling
Greek could he see the rock to-day, with the trains, black worms darting
through the solid rock he never dreamed of penetrating! More tunnels
follow fast, then another cape, and a stretch of glad, open, smiling
country that makes one think of the orchards at home.

Picturesque towns, groves of oleanders, battered old Roman bridges and
medieval castles in which life is still of the Dark Ages, flit by
rapidly until Caronia is reached. Here, nearly 2,600 years ago, a Sikel
settlement called _Kalé Akté_--Beautiful Shore--was made under an
ambitious leader named Ducetius, who hoped to save the remnant of his
people who were still free in the interior, from absorption by the
Greeks. A single defeat, however, crushed this native rising, and all
hope of Sikel independence vanished in 444 with the death of Ducetius.
“Beautiful Shore” withered away until to-day Calacte is a commonplace
Sicilian town with even a commonplace name, and only its memories to
save it from utter insignificance.

[Illustration: Cefalù, across the fields from a car-window of the fast
Palermo express.]

And then we come to Cefalù, a town whose reputation depends on its dirt,
its beggars, and its Cathedral. And there is no excuse for either dirt
or mendicants, since it is a thriving commercial and manufacturing city
with ample resources to keep itself clean, and purged of begging
pests. The name tells its location--_Kephalé_, in Greek, meant head;
that is, promontory in this case, and the old Sikel city occupied the
crest of the big jutting headland thrusting straight out into the sea
and rising over 1,200 feet in height. On this elevation--seventy minutes
now of stiff climbing it takes to reach it, over boulders and the
detritus of centuries--the Sikels built them a safe city, and swept it
about with massive battlemented walls, carried clear down to the sea.
Parts of them are still in very good condition; no doubt through the
centuries they have been restored again and again.

The “Head” is bald now--a snowy pate with only a sprinkling of
grass--and but one building of uncertain age remains to testify to the
different races that have ruled upon this lofty spot. After its
acquisition by the Greeks it was important as their western outpost on
the northern shore of the island. The one small ruin still standing
seems to be that of a Sikel building, of unique structure and great
interest. The huge irregular stones in part of it indicate its original
appearance, while all about them the decently cut and shaped blocks show
an Hellenic restoration. From this height the view is
all-embracing--Pellegrino towering above Palermo forty miles to the
west; the gaunt black fire peaks of most of the Lipari Islands--once the
windy isles of Æolus--straight out to sea in the northeast; and behind
us fertile stretches of rolling country checkered with farms and
vineyards; town after town set upon impossible rugged peaks, mountains
whose tops tear ragged holes in the mist clouds.

In the near distance is the Punto della Caldara, where the shrewd and
wily sons of Tyre and Sidon, full of the instinct of commerce, not
combat, beached their frail craft and sat down at the feet of the Sikel
natives for barter, within easy eyeshot of this eyrie. No doubt from the
battlements the natives peered down with less of an eye for the splendid
view than for the marketplace of the swarthy, black-bearded Canaanites;
and thither they were lured by tempting displays of the royal purple of
Tyre, the gold of distant Tarshish far to the west, and the glass and
ornaments and statuettes that the Phœnician tempters knew how to make
and to market so much better than their uncouth selves.

As we came down from the desolate heights, it began to rain. Within a
few hundred yards of the town we passed the house of an old _contadino_
who sat calmly inside his jute-walled goatpen meditating. In the kitchen
door stood his brawny wife, feeding the unkempt, shrewish looking old
goat with soup full of green onions from her husband’s bowl, and
diverting herself betimes by lashing the gentle philosopher vigorously,
after the fashion of Mrs. Caudle.

In 1129 King Roger was returning from the Italian mainland--whither he
had gone to whip into docility sundry recalcitrants among his unruly
barons--when his vessel was overtaken by a violent storm of the sort
that so often lashes the Mediterranean into fury. The King, greatly
alarmed, vowed a fine church in honor of the Christ and the Twelve
Apostles if he and all his company were permitted to land unharmed. The
ship made Cefalù head, and everyone came ashore safely. Two years later
King Roger fulfilled his vow, by establishing a town at the foot of the
cliff, and beginning to rear the most magnificent sanctuary that had
been built in Sicily since the Greeks constructed their massive Doric
temples.

Tremendous and massive are the only words that fit this building, and
the enormous hewn stones upon which the façade rests seem to indicate
that here must once have stood some ancient fortification which offered
the Norman architects a permanent base upon which to build their shrine.
The twin spires, the play of the interlacing arches, the round-headed
portal--it is especially worthy of notice, by the way--all spell the
cool and coherent genius of the northern French architect. Indeed, it
is, like King Roger himself, of the Norman brood, but thoroughly adapted
to its Sicilian environment.

Within, one realizes how royally Roger fulfilled his vow. What miracles
were wrought by these hard-living, hard-fighting, hard-worshiping souls
who took their religion with such mighty seriousness that it became an
integral part of themselves and their daily lives! The main body of the
Cathedral is plain white and generally barren. But no pen can describe
in detail the blazing mosaics in the tribune without heaping color upon
color, design upon design. The colors of the pictures were executed by
artists who were almost tone impressionists, so delicate are the soft
shades they used to set off the more primitive hues of the borders.

From the floor of the chancel the flying ribs of the roof seem sections
of delicate enameled work. The farther away one stands the more perfect
the illusion becomes, to the point where the designs lose their
identity. Indeed, no master jeweler could produce a more harmonious
effect with his intricate interweaving of colors and blending of tones.
But the crowning wonder of the Cathedral--as in the Cathedral of
Monreale and the Cappella Palatina--is the enormous mosaic bust of the
Christ which fills the vault of the tribune. Built up like its fellows
of the brilliant bits of colored glass that adorn the rest of the apse,
it seems a portrait of encrusted gems, a human conception of the Godhead
that flashes inspiration from myriad delicate facets.

[Illustration: “One realizes how royally Roger fulfilled his vow in this
magnificent Cathedral.”]

Nevertheless, Cefalù Cathedral fails to impress the beholder as do the
other two in which there is not a jarring or inconsistent note from pave
to rooftree. Here in Cefalù the bare and dingy plaster walls of the
main body--adorned with dubious figures of saints of both sexes, covered
with dirt and cobwebs and minus certain of their limbs--make a contrast
so glaring as to strike dismay to the most appreciative spirit.

Old as the Cathedral is, the beach at Cefalù is strewn with curious
craft that seem even more ancient: queer old feluccas, cask-like smacks
with barrel bows and truncated sterns swept by huge tillers,
bottle-nosed xebecs with staring painted eyes for hawse-holes and
central sideboards in lieu of keels. And nowhere else in the island are
the different types of the forefathers more numerous and distinct: here
a distinctly Semitic type, with the swart face, black beard and piercing
eyes of the Phœnicians; here a pure Greek face worthy of the
sculptor; there a burnt-up son of the desert, and yonder a Roman beside
a Gaul. Busy and prosperous they seem, for all their dirt and
indifference to squalor and evil smells; and moreover, contented. Their
fishing smacks bring in tons of herring which by euphemy go out of
Cefalù in cans of oil as the best sardines. The chief industries of the
town, after the selling of clothes and notions, seemed to be the
manufacture and sale of cheap perfumes and footgear, so far as I could
see.

From Cefalù westward the railway runs beside acres upon acres of
artichokes and whole fields of crimson sumac, while the “donkey ears” of
the prickly pear form spiky hedges and great pin cushions everywhere.
For these are the _Campi Felici_, the Happy Fields of Fertility, whose
fruitful farms give back rich returns for the labor spent upon them, and
which murmur always with the creaking music of huge wooden wheels over
which run the endless strings of irrigating buckets introduced ages ago
by the Arabs. Another of their importations is manna. On the slopes of
Angels’ Peak--otherwise Gibilmanna, or Manna Mountain--these trees still
grow, as they did in Africa and Araby, and the people gather
considerable quantities of their exudations of gum.

Ten miles down the line we come to the site of Himera. Here two of the
greatest events in Greek history transpired, battles both, one a
glorious victory, the other a frightful defeat and disaster. The good
tyrant Theron of Akragas secured his vast number of able-bodied slaves
here after the first battle, when in 480 B. C., with his son-in-law, the
tyrant Gelon of Syracuse, he defeated the Carthaginians. It is said that
Hamilcar himself took no part in the battle, but that all day he stood
alone on a hilltop overlooking the fight, watching the Greeks driving
back his picked troops. All day he prayed and sacrificed in vain, and at
evening, his own army little more than a disorganized rabble streaming
pellmell across the field, he threw himself into the altar fire as a
supreme sacrifice to the bloody gods of Carthage. When Hamilcar’s
grandson, Hannibal Gisgon, was sent over in another campaign against the
Sicilian Greeks--this warfare was practically continuous--he wasted no
time--though he destroyed Selinus by the way--but hurried to Himera,
urged on by the spirit of filial vengeance. Baal and Ashtaroth were more
gracious to him than they had been to his grandfather, and he wiped
Himera from the map, literally leaving not one stone upon another in the
fated city. At the end of the day he made his sacrifice to the
gods--three thousand of the men of Himera, all who were left alive after
the battle, on the very spot where the Shophet Hamilcar seventy-one
years before had offered up himself.

       *       *       *       *       *

What is the relation between street cries and criers? Do certain words
or names necessarily draw to themselves vendors whose characters can be
influenced by the sounds they utter in selling their wares; or do
natures of a given sort instinctively select only those things whose
names have a corresponding spirit to their own? Some Max Mueller can
perhaps answer the question; but anyone can observe the facts. They
apply especially to newsboys in the Latin countries. Passing Termini
again--the hot springs of Himera--the papers were just out, and the
voice of the little fellow at the window of the compartment with copies
of _The Hour_ was a long, musical drawl--“_L’ Oh-oh-oh-oh--raaaa! L’
Oh-oh-oh-oh--raaa...!_” Very different from this cry was that of the lad
selling _Life_. He cried in a sharp staccato recitative, repeating very
rapidly: “_La Vita-Vita-Vita-Vit’-Vit’-Vit’!_” Most lackadaisical of all
was the older boy who had _Sicilia_. From scarcely opened lips and with
dreamy eyes, he slowly intoned each syllable of the name, extending and
amplifying and sweetening it, as a tender morsel of which he could not
get enough, softening his c’s and making his l’s most liquid and
mellifluous--“_Seee-sheeeeee-lll-ly-aaaaah!_”

About the time that the Phœnicians founded Panormos, their greatest
city, in the bosom of the rich plain at the water’s edge, they also
founded another city upon the crest of a lofty rock at the other side of
the bay, and called it Solous, probably from the Hebrew or Phœnician
word _sela_, meaning rock. It was a border fortress, a watch tower from
which the Semitic traders could keep an eye on the ever encroaching
Greeks. But when the heyday of Phœnician power was fading, the
Soluntines invited the conquering Romans in, so the meager ruins to be
seen are not the wreck of Phœnician Solous, but of the Roman Soluntum
in which its identity was swallowed up. No greater contrast can be
imagined than that which exists between these two cities--Palermo
living, Solunto dead beyond any power to infuse life into its stony
veins.

[Illustration: “Solous was ... a border fortress, a watch-tower from
which to eye the encroaching Greeks.”]

There are three ways to reach Solunto--that is its modern Italian
name--by express train to the station for Bagheria; by accommodation to
Santa Flavia, which is within five minutes’ walk of the Antichità di
Solunto; or by carriage from Palermo, a ten- or twelve-mile drive each
way. Luncheon should be taken. If you enjoy a lively time, by all means
go by express to Bagheria on a _festa_ or feast-day. As you step from
the station platform you are immediately the center of a howling mob of
peasants and hackmen, all behaving like enraged lunatics and grabbing at
you from every side. When this happened to me, I called into play all
the football tactics I had ever learned, charged through the thickest of
the mass, and pelted down the road in exceedingly undignified fashion,
the whole pack yelling derisively at my heels.

As I trudged ahead, I heard the squeak of ungreased wheels, and was
hailed by the driver of a skeleton stage capable of holding four
uncomfortably--five were already in it.

“Hai--get in and ride!” he called cheerily. “Where are you going?”

“To Bagheria. I like walking!”

The driver laughed; so did his inconsiderate fares. “It is a very long
walk by this road to Bagheria--all the way around Sicily!”

I stopped walking. He went on: “But if you want to go to Solunto, I’ll
take you there for three _lire_. You can walk to Bagheria from there.”

“But your stage is too full now,” I objected.

“Never! Plenty of room. Come--I’ll take you for two _lire_, if you can’t
afford to pay me three.”

Crowding uncomfortably together, the other occupants, decent young
peasants, made room for me, and we creaked slowly on behind the
half-starved horse whose best pace was a walk. Here a huge brown villa
of the soap-box type deflected the road to one side; there fresh young
vegetables sprouted thickly from clay pits which had all the seeming of
prehistoric stone ruins; yonder a meadow full of drying brick and loose
straw proclaimed the brickmaker at work. Turning and twisting, the road
wandered on leisurely until we neared the Antichità di Solunto, the rest
house where visitors may stop to eat luncheon and buy the sour red wine
the custodian has for sale. A sudden ominous sagging of the rear of the
stage made everyone seize something. But a cheery voice reassured us,
and Gualterio’s beaming face peered in over the tailboard.

“I am here, _signore_!” he cried delightedly. “Behold, if you need me.”

I crawled out with some difficulty while everybody laughed but the
driver, who was demanding four _lire_ instead of two. Promptly Gualterio
took command of the situation.

“You go on--I will pay him!” and he turned on the fellow with a fervid
exposition of his complete ancestry of thieves and jailbirds, threw him
two _lire_, and started him off again.

The road up the hill to Solunto is magnificently paved even yet with the
great irregular smooth blocks the Romans put to such excellent purpose
on their military highways, curving to take advantage of every angle in
the abrupt hillside, winding among thickets of prickly pear, and past
little irrigation ducts among lemon groves which murmur with a susurrant
echo of the little channels that flow down Granada’s long slope. Neatly
piled beside the upper reaches of the road on either hand are
dismembered columns, statues, fragments of pilasters, cornices, and
blocks of marble. The ruins of the city itself are unsatisfying and
meager--a single wide street lined with the foundations of some
buildings of undiscernible age, half a dozen streets, similarly
desolated, crossing it at almost right angles, a single three-cornered
structure set up by an archæologist and called, for want of a better
title, the Gymnasium, and here and there some bit of mosaic pavement or
wall decoration.

Indeed, no one knew the exact site of Soluntum, which vanished ages ago,
until in 1825 a peasant scratching about on the hillside unearthed
splendid marble candelabra whose richness indicated their Roman origin,
and small statues of Jupiter and Isis. Soluntum was found, and the
archæologists proceeded to uncover it. It reminds one strongly of
Pompeii, though much less of interest has been discovered in it. But
Solunto has a view, a transcendent panorama before which even a fountain
pen falters.

At the foot of the hill, Gualterio--he had come out from Palermo for the
_festa_--put me into a passing jaunting car and sent me on my way to the
villas of Bagheria, the most interesting of which is the property of
Prince Palagonia. On either side of the gate are two queer old gnomes
mounted upon marble pedestals and dressed in fantastic adaptations of
Saracenic costume; the head gardener’s wife assured me that these trolls
are so terrible they frighten away not only trespassers, but “any other
evil spirit” who dares to come that way. She crossed herself devoutly
when she mentioned the names of certain malicious spirits who, she said,
would be only too glad to molest Bagheria but for the forethought of the
Prince.

The hollow wall about the rather ragged garden is wide enough in places
to be used as dwellings for the servants. Courageous indeed must they be
to rest under the shapes that decorate the wall, as weird a collection
of zoological nightmares as ever were carved in stone by an insane
sculptor at the hest of an insane patron. Black with age and the
weather, grotesque pipers, trolls, knights, gentlemen, ladies, elves,
monkeys, dragons, hunchbacks, cats, roosters, things intended to be
representations of evil spirits, a miscellaneous scattering of angels
and cherubs, a virgin or two, and the Prince’s patron saint, stand,
jump, walk, fly, or poise on one foot.

A heavy wind had played havoc with some of the figures a few days before
my visit. “_Ecc’!_” exclaimed the gardener’s wife, pointing ahead.

On the wall a most pious madonna, her hands crossed over her faded blue
breast, gazed sadly down upon a dancer standing upon her head and buried
almost to her shoulders in the mucky earth. How horrified the staid
Virgin must have been when the worldling flew down the wind and poised
upside down!

“Frightful, isn’t it?” asked my guide.

“Oh, _spaventosa_! When are you going to put her back on the wall?” I
inquired.

She shook her head sadly. “I do not know. Maybe never. The Prince is not
rich enough now to bother about raising fallen ladies!”

There are other unoccupied villas in Bagheria of the same kind, with the
same sort of “devil-scarers,” but I preferred the live performers to the
dead ones--the _festa_ waited. ‘_Festa di San Giu_,’ the natives called
it; but the railroad announcements in the stations stated that it was a
town fair in honor of San Giuseppe. Bagheria itself is not a
particularly attractive town, though clean and well-kept, and its
nineteen or twenty thousand inhabitants do their best to decorate
themselves and their buildings in honor of the saint, while thousands of
merrymakers flock in from Palermo and all the country round.

At one side of the Corso two workmen were nailing pinwheels, serpents,
set pieces and other explosives to a set of frames for a _castello di
fuoco_ (fire-castle), at the same time puffing on long, thin Italian
cigars. As I came along, one of the men knocked the ashes of cigar upon
a pile of small saucissions, and nodded a cheerful greeting.

“What’s the matter?” he called, as I sprang back. “Did something bite
you?”

“No,” I replied, steadily walking backward. “But aren’t those
fireworks?”

“Certainly!”

Stalls with cakes, sweet bread-sticks, candies, preserved watermelon
seeds, nuts, fruit of various sorts, and indigestion-breeding pastry
filled the streets. Around them the people flocked in their wonderful
Sunday clothes. Others, gray-headed and sedate, sat in couples on the
curbs, the men, generally fat, tinkling on ridiculously tiny mandolins,
while their wives sang, and the crowds in the cafés and on the sidewalks
clapped time or danced with feet, hands and heads, though all the while
sitting still. One wineshop, little more than a cellar, had twelve heaps
of not overly clean straw spread upon the damp stones.

“Does the illustrious foreign _Signore_ require a bed?” asked the
proprietor with a grinning bow. “Most cheap, sir, and excellent, only
two _soldi_--for all night. Eleven are already taken. Behold the
property!” and he pointed to various lumpy bundles of clothes, and large
bandanna handkerchiefs tied at the corners, undoubtedly containing food.
The owners of these bundles had made sure of their beds by stuffing
their property into the straw. Thanking the genial Boniface, I declined
his invitation and passed on.

At San Giuseppe the people, with cheery indifference, had turned the
yard of the house of prayer into a den of thieves. Gambling of every
sort known to the Sicilian peasantry was going on, and two games were
running full blast, one on each side of the main entrance. There were
the familiar _p’tits ch’vaux_; lotto on a black rubber sheet bearing
numbers; the old familiar shell game, and a sort of crude roulette.
Surrounding these stalls, of which there were nineteen on the sloping
piazza between the church and the street, were hundreds of boys and
young men, mostly lads of ten to twelve years. Their average play was
one _soldo_ or penny, the minimum bet half a _soldo_, and the high four
_soldi_.

The façade of the church was covered with hundreds of oil-cups in rows.
Inside, the whitewashed walls were hung, for the nonce, with a
bewildering jumble of strips of gaudy colored cloth, pendant from the
gallery, fringed and criss-crossed with gold lines like cheap wall
paper. The image of San Giu’ (Saint Joseph), mounted upon a large float,
waited at one side of the nave ready to go out on the men’s shoulders
just at dusk for the procession, and around it stood eighteen candles,
some of them six inches in diameter and no less than six feet in height.
On the front of the float hung votive offerings, paintings in smudgy
oils on cardboard, one showing the death of Benedetto Giuseppe, at the
hand of an assassin.

Children with carts and poles and rubber balls played about while old
men and women knelt praying on the stone floor, and young girls strolled
about in giggling pairs. Four hundred or more guttering candles filled
the church with smoke and falling flakes of soot, and “all the world”
eddied in and out comfortably and contentedly, unawed by their church or
their saint, making a comrade of holy Giuseppe and at peace with the
whole of Creation, including even the foreign interloper with the
camera, who sat to one side and watched as they made merry.



XVII

THE WESTERN SHORE


Going westward from Palermo, the railroad cuts inland behind Monte
Pellegrino, crossing the Conca d’Oro past many villas, and does not
again touch the coast until, ten miles away, it reaches Sferracavallo,
whose main street is so atrociously paved as to give the town its
merited name--Unshoe-a-Horse. The line then skirts the shore for some
distance, and the early morning scenes on the water to the right are
more than lovely. Fishermen flit about in their white-winged boats or
toil at launching the heavy craft. The waterfront of every village is a
hive of industry. One picturesque and striking scene after another flits
by until, at the end of an hour or so, we come out at Cinisi-Terrasini
on the shores of the Gulf of Castellammare, a tremendous, sparkling
expanse belted in by a fillet of gleaming white sand. From the bay,
orchards and grain fields roll upward to the hills that pyramid, one
upon another, into mountains dim and blue in the misty distance.

At Partinico we desert the shore and sweep in a ragged loop inland to
pause a moment at the town--it has a far reaching trade in oil and
wine--before darting back shoreward again, unable to resist the
fascination of Father Neptune. Close to the water’s edge another town,
Balestrate, sprawls along shore among the dunes, over which grows a
savage luxuriance of reeds and grasses, among which, on an occasional
acre, wrested from barrenness, is a hut of thatch and a hardy family of
hard working peasants. Can these be the descendants of the Sikans and
Sikels who so long ago vanished from the earth; and are these huts
anything like the primitive dwellings in which those still more
primitive folk loved and bred and died? Certainly except for using iron
tools and smoking tobacco, they seem to have little advantage over their
progenitors. Paying back-breaking taxes and furnishing conscripts to-day
is almost as bad as being at the mercy of a Greek tyrant with his
demands for money and men.

At the head of the bay, three miles before the railroad reaches the town
of Castellammare, once the seaport of Elymian Segesta, it turns
southward, and ascends the valley of the Fiume San Bartolommeo. Its
principal tributary is the Fiume Freddo (Cold Stream), once the
Krimisos, near which a wonderful battle was fought between the
Carthaginians, and the Greeks under Timoleon the Deliverer. So alarmed
was Carthage by his prowess and activity that for the first time the
Sacred Band, the picked Home Guard, was sent over to Sicily. Near the
Krimisos, Timoleon, undaunted by the desperate odds, hurled his eleven
thousand Greeks against the 70,000 barbarians. Just before the conflict
the Greeks met a mule train laden with _selinon_, or wild celery, the
plant used at funerals. What omen could have been worse? Panic hovered
in the air. But Timoleon’s wit was quick and sure. Gayly he made a
wreath of the plant and crowned himself, with the remark that it was the
crown used at the Isthmian Games. With a shout of relief officers and
men followed his example, and confidence mounted high as the host
marched on. In the battle that followed, the very gods of Hellas fought
for the Deliverer, Zeus the Thunderer darkening the heavens and hurling
his fiery bolts. Rain and hail quenched the ardor of the Carthaginians;
the thunder deafened and the lightning blinded them--the whole storm
drove straight in their faces. And the Greeks, marching forward steadily
under the divine ægis, cut the Punic host to pieces, annihilated the
Sacred Band.

History repeated itself May 15, 1860, when, on the hills of Calatafimi,
again a deliverer of the people, this time Giuseppe Garibaldi, crushed a
foreign enemy and oppressor. Many an army had marched and camped and
fought among these hills and vales, and the powdery dust of the
milk-white roads had puffed up from the feet of Elymian and
Phœnician, Greek and Roman legions. But never before had a victory
meant so much to civilization as the success of the badly armed but
desperately determined and immortal Thousand who followed the
gray-haired sailor-hero. And history repeated itself yet again when
Garibaldi, like Timoleon, refused everything for himself, counting it
honor enough to serve Sicily so well.

While it is possible to drive from Castellammare to all the points of
interest in the vicinity, and they are many, it is better to go on by
the train to the station Alcamo-Calatafimi. Neither town is near the
railway station, but either _diligenzia_ or carriage is to be had for
the ride--four miles to Alcamo, an old Saracenic town which still keeps
a certain oriental tang, or about six miles in the other direction to
Calatafimi. Almost straight north, along the high-road to Castellammare,
are the ruins of Segesta, a spot full of tragic memories.

Segesta--Egesta it was then--one of the two great Elymian cities,
trafficked with Carthage, with Sicilian Greeks, with Athens, with
anyone, in a word, as suited her purpose at the moment; but somehow she
usually came to grief through these very alliances. Indeed, it was her
continual bickering with Greek Selinus, her distant neighbor on the
southern shore, that first brought the meddling Athenians to Sicily, and
so indirectly caused the great war between Athens and Syracuse. To-day
there is not an Elymian ruin left in the city; all that remains of the
ill-starred metropolis is Greek and Roman.

The superb temple, alike a monument to Greek genius and the devotion of
the people, rises from a lofty plateau--a glowing golden shrine upon an
altar all of green, embayed by watchful, hoary mountains. Only the
massiveness of a Doric structure could so perfectly chime in with the
grandeur of Nature, so fittingly command the immense and silent though
turbulent landscape that rolls away from its feet. Revelation inspired
its location, and genius erected it--to stand lovelier and more
marvelous still after the lapse of ages than when there was a city near
by to detract from its majestic solitude.

The Greeks, with their unerring artistic sense, always built their
theaters in positions commanding magnificent views, and the little
theater here at Segesta, though only about half the size of the one at
Syracuse, looks out upon the sea, many miles away, and a magnificent
panorama of hills and forests on either side. Of the town only a few
very scanty bits of ruined houses have been uncovered.

One of the most lurid episodes in the city’s history occurred when the
tyrant Agathocles--he feigned to be a merry soul, though really a
butcher at heart, with massacre as his chief diversion!--tortured and
slaughtered ten thousand of the inhabitants, sold all the likely
looking boys and girls as slaves, repeopled the city with colonists of
his own, and called it Dikaiopolis, the City of Righteousness! Indeed,
Agathocles was in many respects the most picturesque despot Sicily ever
produced, and his career reads like a modern romantic novel. Born a
potter, he entered the army, was banished, recalled to Syracuse, married
a wealthy widow there, frustrated plot after plot against his life,
engaged in wholesale murders, established himself as a full fledged
tyrant, and made war against Carthage in her own territory--the first
time the arrogant daughter of Phœnicia had ever been tracked to her
lair by an enemy. Raising himself by treachery and massacre upon a
throne of his enemies’ skulls, Agathocles made himself master of all
Sicily, and for seventeen years more held his power intact, butcher and
trickster to the end, yet somehow managing always to retain the good
will of the masses.

From Calatafimi the train goes on southward past ancient Halicyæ, a big
town arrogantly perched upon a height, gemmed with a castle, to
Castelvetrano, where we leave it for the ruins of Selinus on the shore,
seven miles away. The trip is made either by carriage or on horseback,
as you may prefer. The acropolis, the pulsing heart of Selinus, is an
empty shell. Beneath our feet the historic pave over which rumbled the
springless chariots of Phœnician and Greek, lies buried in crumbling
débris; the fallen temples, the vast hillocks of ruin beyond, tell
mutely how great and how glorious must the city have been before
Hannibal the destroyer poured forth his savage wrath upon it; and in
street and plain the _selinon_, or wild celery, which named the city,
still thrusts upward to the same sun that warmed the early settlers.

On the hill east of the acropolis rise the ruins of the three largest
temples, colossal structures, but not a fragment of any other kind.
These stupendous edifices, even in their desolation, are among the most
inspiring of Sicilian monuments; especially when we remember that at no
time was the city first or even second among the Greek communities. And
from these temples of Selinus were taken the wonderful metopes--now in
the Palermo Museum--that so graphically illustrate the progress of
Greek-Sicilian temple sculpture. Here on the eastern hill the
Selinutines were busy raising to Phœbus Apollo his greatest fane when
the invader came, and, dropping their tools, the workmen hastened to
their doom. The structure was 371 feet long, 177 wide--so tremendous
that upon its base were erected forty-six giant columns, almost
fifty-eight feet high and twelve feet thick! It seems almost impossible
that so vast, so tremendously solid a structure should collapse like an
eggshell; and yet the seismic shock that evidently destroyed it tossed
those huge walls and columns lightly aside, voiding at a single stroke
the work of the builders who planned like genii and executed like
Titans. How was it, we wonder, that Selinus offended the mighty earth
gods as well as the god of war? And how long was it before they shook
the earth to its very vitals and completed the work of destruction the
barbarian had begun?

That the Carthaginians cut off the temple builders at their work is
proven by a visit to the quarries, some distance inland. From the
necropolis, west of the river, the road winds in, and before the
quarries are reached we pass block after block of the shaped stones
abandoned in transport to the temples. In the great pits themselves one
may look on, almost as if time had been annihilated, at the various
stages of the work--there are some huge blocks from eight to ten feet
long and eight feet thick, corresponding exactly with the column drums
of the temple marked G on the plans for the use of visitors, and without
doubt intended for that edifice. It is an object lesson one cannot soon
forget, of the blighting breath of war, a tragedy without words that is
inexpressibly moving.

To the southwest of Selinus is the Punta di Granitola, where the Arabs
landed in 827 A. D., Koran in one hand, sword in the other--the last
African invaders to conquer the island, let us hope. Farther along, on
both shore and railroad, is Mazzara, with a Norman cathedral and ruined
castle; and straight northwest on a little promontory of its own is
Marsala, better known for its sweet, rich wine than as the modern
successor of Carthaginian Lilybaion. Though Marsala--the name is Arabic:
Marsa Ali, Ali’s Harbor--was never possessed by the Greeks, its story is
nevertheless vivid and varied. As the chief stronghold of Carthage, it
played a vital part in the struggle for supremacy in this “barbarian
corner” of the island. Pyrrhus besieged it in vain, and thirty years
later Rome besieged it unsuccessfully for eight years in one of the most
stubborn and remarkable campaigns in history. Afterward, during the
Roman period, the city was known as “the most splendid,” and was made
the capital of the western half of Sicily, Syracuse being the eastern
capital. It became an important dockyard and naval station, whence the
Roman campaigns against Africa were dispatched. Don John of Austria,
too, sailed hence on his expeditions against the Turks.

It was into the harbor of Marsala on that memorable 11th of May, 1860,
that the two little steamers _Lombardo_ and _Piemonte_, which the
revolutionists had shanghaied from the Rubattino Company up at Genoa the
week before, sneaked to land Garibaldi and his red-shirt brigade. They
got ashore safely, in spite of the Bourbons’ cruisers, and before they
left for Calatafimi Garibaldi posted his now famous proclamation
claiming Sicily for King Victor Emmanuele.

Of course there are a cathedral, Punic and Christian tombs, the remains
of ancient walls and harbor works, _latomie_ and so on, but to-day
Marsala really spells only--Wine! The largest and most important
establishments are those of the Englishmen Ingham and Woodhouse, and the
Sicilian Florio of Palermo. But there are numerous others not so well
known nor doing so large a business. The long, low, white bodegas are
open to the inspection of visitors, and to those who have never seen
them, the processes of blending and converting with the use of the
“mother” wines, the mechanical bottling and corking, the labeling and
packing departments, the endless rows of hogsheads and the strongly
vinous atmosphere, all possess an attraction peculiarly their own. There
is something of interest in every foot of each establishment.
But--_verbum sap_! Beware the atmosphere, and the testing to which you
are invited. In all the great wine-making countries it is considered a
legitimate joke to befuddle the careless American whose enthusiasm
outruns his prudence. One or two sips of the wine may be taken with
dignity, but Marsala, like its Spanish cousin, Sherry, is a heady wine,
and the rich, heavy air of the winery and wareroom alike bespeak caution
on the part of the investigator, if a delightful memory is not to be
spoiled by a pricking conscience.

Around the old harbor to the north of Marsala are extensive salt works,
and between it and Trapani are about forty-five more, all worked by
private capital, since Italy’s royal monopoly has not been extended to
Sicily. Salt is one of the island’s most valuable exports, and the
salt-pans down by the sea, at Trapani--the ancient Drepana of
Carthaginian days--have made the city the most prosperous place, for its
size, in the island. From a distance the heaps look as if an army of
invading Saracens had pitched their tents upon the flats, and quaint
windmills add a distinctly Dutch note to the scene. The heavy brine is
pumped up into shallow excavations or “pans,” as the tanks are called.
The hot Sicilian sunshine and the warm African breezes do the rest. When
the water has evaporated, the pans are thickly coated with the crystals,
which workmen shovel into glittering heaps and cover with tiles to
protect them. There the salt waits, for either the refinery or for
shipment in bulk as a crude product.

Trapani itself is one of the cleanest towns in the island, as well as
one of the most prosperous, and of course has its Via Garibaldi, which
proves its fraternity with all other Sicilian cities. While there is
nothing really great in it, in either architecture or art, the city is
nevertheless full of minor interest, and various objects of art ranging
all the way from pieces of the Middle Ages down to the present day
statues of King Victor Emmanuele II and Garibaldi, neither of which is
yet forty years old. One could while away many a pleasant day loitering
among these things--the Cathedral, with its Crucifixion by Van Dyck, and
splendid old carven seats in the choir; the quaint decorations of Sant’
Agostino, where the Knights Templars worshiped centuries ago; Lucca
della Robbia’s marble-framed Madonna in the other church of Santa Maria
di Gesù; the seventeenth century polychrome wooden statues by Trapani’s
own sons in the Oratory of San Michele; the queer tower of the
Spedadello down in the Ghetto, and so on. Equally pleasant it is to
wander along the tree-shaded promenade at the water’s edge, or as far
out as the Torre di Ligny, on the very tip of the “sickle” (_drepana_)
that Trapani thrusts out into the sea.

Off shore, the picturesque Ægadian Isles rise like jewels from the sea.
From the middle of the eighteenth to the last quarter of the nineteenth
century they were owned by the noble Pallavicini family of Genoa. They
are still private property, since in 1874 Signor Florio of Palermo, the
steamship man and wine grower, added them to his multifarious interests
and made them the headquarters of the most important tunny fishery in
Sicily.

Trapani possesses the usual historical interest of intermittent
conflict between the races that struggled for the possession of the
island, but its legendary story is even more gripping. Virgil pictures
the founding of the city by the hero Æneas and his Trojans after Troy
had fallen, the death of the venerable Anchises, and the festival Æneas
instituted in honor of his father’s uneasy spirit. The poet’s soaring
imagination carried the hero on up the mist-shrouded mountain behind, to
worship at the fane of his mother Venus. This cloudy peak was named
after Eryx--son of Butes, the mighty wrestler--who challenged Hercules
to a test of strength, and was vanquished by that worthy robber, who
stopped while driving off Geryon’s stolen herds long enough to win the
match and take the mountain as his prize.

With the beginning of history it appears in the possession of the
Elymians, who claimed to be descendants of the Trojans. Twenty-five
hundred feet in the air rises Eryx, to-day Monte San Giuliano, reached
from Trapani by an interminably winding but easy road that twists and
turns half a hundred times in its ascent. Up through the purple shadows
of gulches, along the sharp edges of startling acclivities winds the
trail, with halcyone fields of every brilliant flower and plant below,
and great expanses waving with grain, green and gold with lemons and
oranges, red with the fresh wounds of the plow. Hide-sandaled and
heavily caped and hooded peasants, shepherds who seem to have stepped
right out of Odyssey or Æneid, carrying classic water or wine flasks,
greet us cheerily along the way. As we near the top the reason for these
heavy garments becomes apparent in the lower temperature, for Eryx is a
peak and a city of fog, often a little world by itself far above the
earth, unseen by and unseeing city and plain below, looking down only on
the tufted white of rolling mists. Cyclopean fragments of ancient walls
and natural precipices blend into one another and into the present town
walls, above steep approaches to the Gates of Trapani, of the Heralds,
and of the Sword, the three entrances to all that exists of Eryx to-day,
where less than three thousand souls live in that part of the town
nearest the ruins of the temple, whose very altars long since crumbled
into the dust of oblivion.

In the days when the Elymians were its masters, the mountain was sacred
to a goddess who evidently had the same functions as the Roman Venus.
What her Elymian name was we do not know; but since the Phœnicians
called her Astarte, the Greeks Aphrodite and the Romans Venus, one after
the other, we may feel sure that whatever her original name, she stood,
as did those later goddesses identified with her, for love and beauty
and sustenance. And though centuries have passed, and the altar before
her whereon no blood was permitted to be spilt no longer bears the fire
of sacrifice, the priestly ideal of woman still presides over this
sacred rock so high among the mists. For here where the pagans worshiped
their unknown goddess, to-day the Virgin gazes down upon the unchanging
sacrifice of years, the hearts of men.

The town is rugged and irregular and personal to a degree that
captivates the most hardened sightseer--crooked, narrow streets, full of
quaint buildings rich in Eastern touches: here a latticed casement
suggesting veiled women and mystery, yonder _ajimez_ windows divided by
delicate little columns, farther along an harmonious blending of the
Norman and Moorish on sculptured pillar capital and gallery. The people
are as captivating as the town--caped men stalking to and fro like comic
opera brigands, women whose loveliness has made Eryx noted.

Foliage so rich and varied that only a catalogue can describe it riots
in the garden once part of the temple precincts, and sprouts between the
stones of the ancient, partly ruined castle that legend would have us
believe was erected by no less a personage than Dædalus himself. To-day
the castle is partly used as a prison, and it is a warden who admits to
the quiet precincts. Crumbling bastion and curtain, roofless hall and
moldy dungeon keep, silent corridor and deserted rampart, where no
Elymian spears now glisten in the occasional sunshine or drip gloomily
with the characteristic golden fog, weave a powerful spell, so powerful,
so enchanting none would be surprised in the slightest did the castle
suddenly galvanize into life, and the figure of the lovely goddess of
eld once more smile in the little temple whose foundations only now
exist.

It is a city, a castle, a location only to be sketched. No colors, no
details can at all conjure forth the charm at once so definite and so
elusive. See Eryx!--even if you have no æroplane and must either “ride
or walk”--a guidebook solemnly advises this as the best way to reach the
summit--up that splendid road into the very skies.



XVIII

ADDIO, SICILIA!


In Sicily all roads lead to Palermo. And if they do not, you manage to
make them. And no matter how many times you return to that city of
splendid light, you always find that there is some pleasant or
interesting or profitable trip out from the city that you have missed
before: perhaps to the picturesque Albanian colony of Piana dei Greci;
or up in the hills to the suppressed Benedictine monastery of San
Martino, founded by Gregory the Great in the sixth century; or to the
village of Acquasanta near by for the sea-bathing; or even to the
convict island of Ustica, about five hours away, whose population was
killed or carried off by pirates as recently as the middle of the
eighteenth century; and always--unless you have spent a year straight
through in the city,--you will find some new festival to gladden your
eyes and deafen your ears. It may be that after a tiresome day your
matutinal slumbers are rudely disturbed by a weird clamor in the street
long before getting-up time. Growlfully you turn over and try to sleep
again. The racket goes right on, with darting insistence, and by and by
you grow interested enough to ring for a maid and ask why in the name of
Morfeo the concierge doesn’t go out and put on the soft pedal if he
can’t entirely stop the bedlam!

“Why, _signori_!” cries the girl, astonished at ignorance of so
important an event. “It is the _Festa della Madonna dei Capri_--the
Feast of Our Lady of the Goats. We have it every single year. Everybody
is out!”

It sounds that way! There is no use in trying to sleep, so you get up
wrathfully and open the shutters. Along the dusty way in solemn
processions march conscious-looking cows, wreathed and garlanded with
flowers. Now and then a stately bossy ambles by, wearing a three-foot
horseshoe of red and white roses, rising above her horns like a halo,
and exhaling, if not the odor of sanctity, at least right sweet odors
withal. Other cows have about their necks painted wooden poke-collars
surmounted by floral horseshoes, or wear simply strings of flowers; and
behind nearly every cow tags her mournful looking baby. The goats,
fairly strutting with pride, however, are the most ludicrous members of
these amazing cavalcades, for they have bouquets attached with wire and
toothpicks to twisted horns and even to their sub-tails, which wig-wag
signals as they bob along with arched necks. Occasionally a lone lamb,
waddling toilsomely behind everything else, bleats its disgust and
weariness, its immaculate wool tied full of flaring crimson or blue
ribbon crosses, its tail banded with ribbons in a network until it looks
like the foot and ankle of a dancing girl.

[Illustration: “Baby, tied to mother’s tail, managed to get a few pints
of breakfast as the crowd posed.”]

Before them all march the “bands,” scratch organizations of amateur
players who discourse painfully upon all manner of instruments, wind,
string and brass. The fortunate morning we saw this unique _festa
pasturale_, I really wanted to make pictures, but mindful of my chilly
sunrise experience in Taormina, neither blare of bands nor tinkle of
bells could move me until after breakfast. Then, alas! the decorated
animals had all passed by, and I had to be content with a plain,
motherly cow, whose baby--tied to mother’s tail!--managed to get a few
pints of breakfast as the crowd posed. I made the picture-taking as slow
as possible, to give the poor little calf five minutes for refreshments.

No one who has ever seen the pastures in and near Palermo wonders at the
poor beasts’ melancholy air of appetite. You find some of these grazing
fields on the slopes of Monte Pellegrino when you go toilsomely up to
visit the shrine of the city’s virgin saint, Rosalia. The little Mount
of the Pilgrim has not always borne that name; only since the great
plague of 1624, in fact. Before that, for ages, it was Herkte, or
Heircte. Square-faced and rugged, it rises in a sheer precipice from the
waves on one side, an isolated limestone crag, and slopes less abruptly
down to the Conca d’Oro on the other. In 248 B. C., Hamilcar the
Carthaginian, who camped up on Herkte to keep in check the Romans in
Palermo, cleared and planted fields with grain to feed his hungry
troops. There are still scanty cultivated fields on the mountain, and
though now, from a little distance, Pellegrino seems even balder than it
is, large herds of cattle manage by hard work to crop a meager living
from its insignificant grass and herbage.

Visiting Pellegrino’s upper slopes and the little chapel in the grotto
of Sta. Rosalia is as much a part of seeing Palermo as the visit to the
Colosseum is a part of seeing Rome. But it is not quite so easy as some
of the other little journeys about Palermo, since the steep ascent
cannot be negotiated by carriage. Either on four feet or on two the trip
must be made--most people make it on four. Tumultuous donkeyboys lie in
wait in the Piazza, Falde at the foot of the mountain, and “bark” the
merits of their beasts with a vigor that is sometimes confusing, while
the donkeys themselves--mere burros they are, tiny but powerful--gaze at
their burdens-to-be with a droll air of resignation. Most of the saddles
are medieval housings built of boards, over which odds and ends of
coarse carpet have been nailed until they look like Joseph’s famous
coat. Lucky visitors, or those who start early enough after either
breakfast or luncheon to have room for choice, pick the more commonplace
and comfortable leather saddles that decorate two or three of the newer
donkeys. Otherwise, eating from the mantelpiece for a day or so
afterward is almost a necessity!

The road up the hill is a splendid piece of engineering as well as a
picturesque and romantic highway. Who but Latins would construct at vast
expense a road like this simply for the ease and comfort of pilgrims to
a shrine no more illustrious than scores of others, and call it the _Via
al Santuario_, the Way to _the_ Sanctuary? Partly on the solid rock of
the mountain, partly on graceful arched bridges or viaducts, it leaps
upward in short, acute angles, now spanning the dry bed of a _torrente_,
now edging its way along the precarious parapet of a crag. Large, smooth
pebbles set on edge in mortar, divided and bordered by three lengthwise
parallel strips of lava or some other equally durable stone and crossed
by other strips every fifty feet or so, make it apparently as enduring
as Pellegrino itself. On either side rises a low, thick stone wall, and
every few hundred yards are white signposts with the name in black
letters.

From the Piazza Falde--_falde_, in Italian, means flank, skirt--it leads
upward in an easy ascent that continues for two or three hundred yards.
But after the third turn, it takes a sudden inclination of twenty
degrees or more out of the horizontal. That begins the real climb,--and
the view. Palermo, the Conca d’Oro, the sea below, the mountains
behind, appear and disappear with each turn, like the ever-changing film
of a motion-picture.

The Japanese say there are “two kinds of fools: those who have never
ascended Fuji-yama, and those who have ascended him twice.” The proverb
applies here on Pellegrino perfectly. It is as great a mistake not to
make the journey once as it would be needless to make it a second time,
for no one can ever forget the picturesque climb up that zig-zag road on
donkey-back. When the writer went up, everybody who saw the miniature
procession laughed. We three, beast, boy and man, made a sight Cervantes
would have smiled to see. Equipped with a stout club, the plump boy
answered very well for Sancho Panza. With my camera case over my
shoulder in lieu of a target, and my tripod-legs projecting at
impossible angles, I did very well as Don Quijote. And the faithful
burro was surely a replica in miniature of Rosinante, long ears flopping
disconsolately back over her neck.

Instead of beating his beast as almost every other boy does when the
animal balks at the steeper part of the ascent, “Sancho” ran lightly
forward and began picking up wisps of the straw gleaners had dropped on
their way down the mountain. When he had a handful, he held the bunch of
fodder out temptingly, and yelled “Aaaaaa-ah-ah!” “Rosinante” snorted,
sniffed suspiciously, and with a suddenness that almost slid “Don
Quijote” over her haunches into the road, bolted forward for the tidbit.
A mouthful at a time it was given to her, and thus the hardest part of
the way was quickly passed over without a blow being struck.

“Do all the donkey-boys do this?” I asked, surprised at the humanity of
the proceeding.

“Sancho’s” reply was disconcertingly frank. “Oh, no, _Signore_. I am the
only one. I can’t afford to buy a new donkey, and if I _wear this one
out_, how can I bring _forestieri_ at Pellegrino? The other boys beat
their donkeys--yes! But then, they can get new ones every little while!”

Once above the long series of viaducts that keep the road on an even
plane of ascent over gullies and chasms, the way ceases to be so steep.
On the rocky slopes, hardy Swiss cows graze among stones that seem
incapable of yielding even thistles. When all the sparse grass is gone,
with muzzle and hoofs the hard-working cows turn over boulders of
considerable size and eagerly lick up the meager, pale blade or two of
grass they conceal, finishing the attack by calmly devouring the fat
little snails that cling to the moist earth and the under side of the
big stones--I saw this myself. The cows have a hard time of it indeed,
trudging out from the city every morning, grazing and rooting all day
among the rocks, and then going down at night to be milked from door to
door.

But the goats have an even harder time. Some are seen every day on the
very apex of the mountain, mere black specks against the sky. They
clamber up there opposite the telegraph and semaphore stations without a
thought of the journeys they must make in the evening. On coming back
into town with heavy bags, their owners drive them ruthlessly up four or
five flights of stairs to give some lazy customer as little as half a
pint of their strong, rich milk.

Near the top of this Via del Santuario is the roofless chapel of Croce,
the Cross, which projects bastion-like from the jutting brow of the
hill. Here every year a priest from the monastery on the heights,
standing where he can see the whole splendid sweep of the Golden Shell
below, a rippling sea of green and gold, returns thanks for its
fertility during the past season, and beseeches heaven for a continuance
of it for another year.

The chapel of Santa Rosalia is in the gloomy cavern to which the lovely
maiden fled to escape the temptations of her uncle’s court in Palermo; a
court full of the factitious splendor and richness of the East, with
Saracens all about and an atmosphere which, to say the least, was
probably not conducive to saintly meditation. She is a mysterious and
interesting figure, this daughter of the mighty Duke Sinibaldo and
niece of King William the Good. How could she ever have cast aside the
ease and luxury of the elaborate civilization in which she had been
reared, and come to this stalactite grotto, dripping and cold, where her
companions were no lords and ladies in waiting, but only the bats and
small mountain animals seeking shelter from inclement weather?

Exactly how long Rosalia maintained herself here in holy seclusion no
one knows, but the date of her death seems to have been about 1170. In
any event, she lay peacefully in oblivion until in 1624 some bones were
discovered in the cavern. At that time a plague was raging, the city
panic stricken, and when the bones were brought in to the Cathedral, the
plague stopped. Such a coincidence was too striking to be ignored by the
simple-minded, so Rosalia was canonized and appointed the patron of the
city, because of her gracious intervention on behalf of the people
against whose ancestors she had shaken off the dust of her feet.

Filled with that dramatic religious fervor which has found its
expression in so many wonderful pilgrimages, from the Crusades to the
present, all Palermo toiled up the trackless hill to worship before the
niche in the grotto where she died. Miracle after miracle was performed;
and to-day the whole city, whether religiously inclined or not, is
devoted to its female saint, whose relics are believed to be preserved
in a huge funerary urn surmounted by her statue, and kept in the
treasury of the Cathedral. The monument, which is solid silver, weighs
more than fourteen hundred pounds. Every year her festival is celebrated
with great pomp, a huge car, fifty feet high and as big as a house,
being dragged through the streets amid the acclamations of the faithful.
The float is also brought out in solemn procession whenever her
intercession is especially desired for the city.

No attention has been paid to the gratuitous information of a scientist
that the saint’s relics are really only animal bones. The late Andrew D.
White, in his “_History of the Warfare of Science with Theology_,” says:
“When Professor Buckland, the eminent osteologist and geologist,
discovered the relics of Rosalia at Palermo, which had for ages cured
diseases and warded off epidemics, were the bones of a goat, this fact
caused not the slightest diminution of their miraculous power.”
Certainly no Palermitan to-day would listen to any Goth who attempted to
tell him such a story as this; and even to heretic Americans, the
“scientific” attitude which delights in iconoclasm is hard to
comprehend. Why should the scientist who claims that his only wish is to
benefit humanity, take from the poor and miserable any belief that heals
them, however idle or superstitious that faith may seem to him?

[Illustration: “All Palermo toiled up the trackless hill to worship in
the grotto where Rosalia died.”]

Eventually up on the mountain a chapel was constructed whose artificial
wall meets the edges of the grotto, enclosing it completely. There is no
roof to this outer section except over the front door; and the sunshine,
falling upon the floor between entrance and choir, gives this open court
the air of a pleasant vestibule roofed only by the azure, and throws
into strong, shadowy relief the cavern beyond, with its candles
twinkling in the dusk before the altars. A handsome black iron screen
divides outer court from inner grotto; and both are paved with big,
uneven stones worn to glassy slipperiness by the knees of the devout.
The natural rock roof is weird and fantastic, covered with stalactic
pendants, colored in all the shades of brown and green by the highly
alkaline water that whispers perpetual requiem into myriad leaden
gutters which carry it to the sides, and so preserve the decorations
from destruction. Bent and twisted and angled, the gutters seem the
branches of so many dead trees sprawling high among the jumbled rocks.

At the rear of the chapel is a handsome white marble and mosaic altar,
and nearer the front, enclosed in a glass case under an elaborate and
massive shrine of highly colored marbles, is the figure of the saint
over which Goethe rhapsodized. By the light of a flickering taper thrust
between the marble bars, little by little the image within takes shape
in the gloom. The head and hands are marble, the robes gilt. She seems
to sleep naturally, a young girl of eighteen or twenty, her head easily
disposed upon the pillow, her lips just apart; exactly, as the great
German expressed it, as if she might breathe and move at any moment.
Upon her breast blaze the crimson jewels of the Cross of Savoy,
presented by Queen Margharita herself, and innumerable other tokens,
among them a huge golden heart, the gift of a Palermitan cardinal. Gold
and silver watches, jeweled rings, loose precious stones, bracelets,
necklaces, and other ornaments by the dozen lie about the glass casket
or upon the gilded robes, which are exquisitely worked with lacelike
tracery. And to one side is a gilt scepter fully five feet long.

Opposite, on the wall, a white marble slab marking the niche where the
bones lay, bears the words:

  VT QVO LOCO, ET SITV D. ROSALIAE SACRVM CORPVS
  ADMIRABILI OPERE LAPIDEIS THESIS INSERTVM
  ANNOS FERME CCCC DELITVERIT,
  QVOD MAIORES NOSTROS LATVIT, NOBIS DIVINITVS INNOTVIT
        POSTERI NON IGNORARENT:
  IPSIVS EXPIRANTIO IMAGO VBI IACVERAT SITA EST:
  ARA SUPERIMPOSTA ANNO IVBILAEI M DC XXV

From the grotto-chapel, past a group of goatherds’ houses and through
their attendant flocks, it is only about a quarter-mile stumble to a
jutting spur which forms the highest crag of the mountain. Perched
there between the halves of a dismantled arcade of plaster columns,
stands a colossal figure of Santa Rosalia, hundreds of feet above the
sea. Lightning has beheaded the statue twice, and the two marble heads
lie in a little hollow at the saint’s feet. After the second bolt from
the heavens the Sicilians, who are not by any means a wealthy people,
put on a third head--a cheap plaster one; and though many a fierce storm
has raged about Pellegrino since then, not once has the lightning struck
the statue--perhaps the plaster head is not worth destroying.

That _all forestieri have money, so why shouldn’t they pay_? is the
logic of the Italian, and everywhere except in Sicily he carries it to
the absurdities; and even in this blissful isle an individual sometimes
forgets his geniality by turning highwayman for the nonce. A
tatterdemalion goatherd, for instance, charged me sixteen cents for a
milked-to-order pint of goat’s milk.

“Sancho” regarded the transaction with undisguised scorn. “By Bacchus,
but all _forestieri_ are fools!” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me to get
it for you? I could get all you wanted for four cents!”

Yet notwithstanding his philosophizing “Sancho” generously let me off
with only the usual gratuities.

A day or so later--with so much yet undone--grieving that we must leave
the island which had taken so mighty a grip on our hearts, we rolled
down, for the last time, through the Place of the Four Winds, and went
aboard the beautiful little _Marco Polo_.

Half a dozen Nations decorated the Bay with their colors from a score of
mastheads. Here lay a filthy little Greek tramp whose faded blue and
white stripes fluttered limply from her steam-spitting stern; there a
smutty white trading barque with gaping red seams and burnished copper,
hairy a foot below the water line with grass and moss; yonder trim white
steamers of the N. G. I. Disconsolate we sat on the promenade deck
watching the lively scene along the Scala Florio. A tiny breeze was
stirring, and the slip of new moon came staggering up the blue vault
with the rotund body of her deceased mother in her thin little
wide-stretched arms, followed at a respectful distance by a winking,
blinking satellite. Pellegrino and distant Grifone showed soft and dim
in blue and pink and gray, like the too closely cropped hide of a young
donkey.

On the wharf were tears and laughter. An eager crowd drove up in ever
increasing numbers and thronged the space about the gangplank to give
their friends a hearty send-off. Farther out a young girl sang
atrociously to a wheezy handorgan, while a small boy, cap in his teeth,
clambered over the _Marco Polo’s_ rail and begged for pennies. A
gold-laced official, with an important beard and furious mustachios,
marched aboard with as dignified a stride as his five-feet-two
permitted, and instantly the quiet ship became alive. Boatswains
bellowed gruff orders, a steam-donkey somewhere forward chattered right
merrily, and down in the hold the _ingegniero_ “turned over” his engines
to make sure everything was working properly. A serpentine hawser
slipped from its bitt on the wharf and splashed writhing into the water
at our feet--we were sailing.

But no--at this very last instant a shout from the empty Place of the
Four Winds a block away, stopped us. The heartiest send-off of all was
yet to come. Roaring and spitting fire and smoke, a huge automobile in
gray warpaint tore through the square, skidded to the edge, stopped as
though it had rushed into a stone wall, and fairly shot a young man out
upon the gangplank just as it quivered on the rise, while women shrieked
and men laughed.

His two companions were on the dock in a second, seized his shiny little
black box-trunk, swung it to and fro once or twice, and hurled it after
him with such precision that it caught the unlucky passenger in the
small of his back and bowled him over squarely. As he was rising to his
feet, white with astonishment and rage, his heavy handbag, thrown with
the same forceful kindliness, knocked him down a second time, and ship
and dock chorused happily together. Meantime the automobile panted
contentedly as the fasts were cast off bow and stern, the screw began to
revolve, and the white _Marco Polo_ slipped out into the gathering
night.

Silently we fled the harbor, dotted now with myriad dancing lights;
curtseyed gracefully out past Santa Rosalia’s statue, nine hundred feet
aloft on the crag; dashed by small clusters of lights in a shadowy
pocket of the outer hills, and were at sea again. Once more the long,
slow roll of Mediterranean was under our feet, its grateful salt breath
in our nostrils.

A boy with the dinner-gong came yam-yam-yamming down the decks. We did
not heed him. The whirling screw was throbbing a different refrain in
our ears--

    “Thou art the garden of the world, the home
    Of all Art yields or Nature can decree;
    E’en in thy desert what is like to thee?
    Thy very weeds are beautiful, thy waste
    More rich than other climes’ fertility,
    Thy wreck a glory, and thy ruin graced
    With an immaculate charm which cannot be defaced.”

THE END



THE BEST BOOKS ON SICILY


Freeman, Edward A.--History of Sicily, 3 vols. A tremendous unfinished
work covering Sicily from prehistoric days to the reign of Agathocles.
Very heavy and redundant, but precise and accurate. Story of the
Nations: Sicily. By the same author, but a complete, very compact
history in one moderate volume.

Paton, W. A.--Picturesque Sicily. Very good.

Sladen, Douglas.--Sicily. A huge two-volume narration of the author’s
personal experiences. Humorous, informative, slangy, and hastily done
but superbly illustrated. An English publication; costs about $20.

Tweedie, Mrs. Alec.--Sunny Sicily. A good but limited book.

There are also several books covering parts of Sicily, or some of its
customs; these are generally to be had in the larger public libraries.



INDEX


Achradina (Syracuse), 116, 135, 147, 148.

Acolyte, irreverent, 194.

Acqueducts, 139-140, 154.

Ætna, Introd., i; 14, 85, 107, 108, 109, 111, 153,
 155, 159, 160, 161, 163, 164, 188, 189, 205, 212.

Aetnean Railroad, 162-163.

Agatha (Ágata) St., 156.

Agathocles, King (Tyrant), 135, 237, 238.

Agora (Marketplace), 134.

Agrigentum (See Girgenti).

Akragas, Introd., viii; 19, 90, 91, 92.

Alfonso (Caratozzo), 95, 96, 102, 104, 106.

Amber, Catanian, 158.

Amphitheatres, Roman, 140, 154.

Anapo, 115, 128.

Angevin (Anjou), Introd., x; 74, 75, 76, 84, 209.

Antisthenes, 91.

Aragon (Aragonese), Introd., x; 71, 155-156.

Archimedes, Introd., vii; 135, 136, 138, 145, 146.

Arethusa, 120, 121-122, 151.

Arms of Taormina, 193.

Artemis (Diana), 120, 121, 122.

Asdrubal, Gen., 82, 83.

Atenasio, banker, Signor Pancrazio, 180-182.

Athens, 116, 124-127, 149, 150, 151, 236.

Augusta, 112, 113.


Bagheria, 81, 225-232.

“Beautiful Shore” (See Kalé Akté).

Beggars, 54, 55, 183, 216.

Bellini, Composer, 154.

Bell-baiting, 186-187.

Berlinas, 88.

Bits (horses’), 26.

Bourbon, Introd., xi; 62, 64, 163.

Bull, brazen, 96-97.

Byron, Lord (quoted), 264.

Byzantine, Empire, Introd., ix;
  Style, 62, 201.


Cafés, 35, 36, 55, 58, 92, 110, 139.

Cala, La, 18.

Carabinieri, 106.

Carthage, Introd., iv, vii, viii; 82, 92, 223, 236, 241.

Carthaginians, Introd., vii, viii; 129, 208, 223, 234-235, 240.

Carts, painted, 25, 26.

Castrogiovanni (Enna), 108.

Catacombs, 147-148.

Cathedrals--
  Catania, 155-156.
  Cefalù, 219-221.
  Girgenti, 105.
  Marsala, 242.
  Messina, 212.
  Mola, 185.
  Monreale, 48-52, 220.
  Palermo, 42-44, 258.
  Syracuse, 118-119.
  Taormina, 194-196.
  Trapani, 244.

Cefalù, 216-221.
  Beach, 221.
  Cathedral, 219-221.
  Types at, 221.

Cemeteries, 47, 74, 76.

Cephaloedium (See Cefalù).

Charondas, 152-153.

Chiaramonte, Pallazzo, 71-72.

Christ of the Onions, The, 32.

Churches--
  Bagheria, 231-232.
  Catania, 158-159.
  Girgenti, 95, 100, 105.
  Messina, 211, 212.
  Palermo, 256.
  Syracuse, 146, 147, 148.
  Trapani, 244.

Cicero, 6, 119, 145.

Class distinction, 49.

Cleanliness, 21, 243.

Climate, 6.

Coins in Sicily, Greek, 120.

Conca d’Oro (Golden Shell), 4, 55, 62, 74, 75, 78, 80, 233, 252, 254, 256.

Consuls, 58-59.

Corso (promenade), 23, 24, 86.

Corso (street), 21, 22, 177, 178, 184, 197, 203.

Crusades, The, 208.

Cuba, La, 47-48.

Cyane (Kyana), 123, 130-132.


Danklon (Zankle), 208.

Demagogues, 115.

Deserted Village, 184.

Dialect, Sicilian, 175.

Dikaiopolis (See Segesta).

Diodorus, Introd., ii, vii; 96, 109, 110.

Dionysius, 114, 129, 136, 162, 174, 201, 202, 216.

Donkeys, Sardinian, 26, 252, 253.

Drepana (See Trapani).

Dulcie, Dulcinea, 13.


Earthquake, Messina, 209.

Eggs, 33.

Elephants, 82-83.

Eleutherian Feasts, The, 141-142.

Emigration, 182, 184.

Empedocle, Porto, 93.

Empedocles of Akragas, Introd., vii; 92-93.

Enna (See Castrogiovanni).

Entrails, 24, 25, 33.

Epipolai (Syracuse), 116, 135, 136, 137, 140.

Eryx (See Mte San Giuliano).

Euryelus, Fort, 136, 138, 139.


Favorita, Château of La, 11, 62-64.

Felice (Lady F. Orsini; and Porta F.), 86.

Ferdinand IV, King, 62-64.

Festa (Festivals).
  Sta. Ágata, 156-157.
  San Giuseppe, 229-230.
  della Madonna dei Capri, 250-251.
  Sta Rosalia, 258.

Fiera di Pascua (Easter Fair), 28, 29.

Floral displays, 15, 19, 69, 88, 99, 148, 149, 169,
  171, 193, 205, 221, 222, 245.

Food, 8, 24, 25, 33, 36, 53-54, 58, 94, 180, 230.

Forestieri, 24, 31, 96, 261.

Fountains, 192-193.

Four Winds, Place of, 262, 263.

Frederick II, Emperor, Introd., ix, x; 43, 80-81, 113.

Funeral, A Taormina, 197-198.


Gambling Games, 231.

Garibaldi, Giuseppe, Introd., xi; 83, 168, 187, 215, 235-236, 241, 244.

Garibaldi, Theatre Politeama, 27.

Gellias, 91.

Gelon, Tyrant, 115, 129, 135, 222.

Gesù, Sta Maria di, 76-79.

Giotto, 52, 77.

Girgenti, 90.

Giulia Guevaha, Donna (Villa G), 84, 85.

Giuliano, Mte San (Eryx), 15, 245, 246, 247, 248.

Giuseppe, San, Church of, 231-232.

Goats, 171, 190, 191, 197, 207, 250-251, 256, 261.

Goethe, Wolfgang, 75, 259, 260.

Golden Shell (See Conca d’Oro).

Grazing on Pellegrino, 255.

Greece, Introd., ii, viii, xii; 116, 123, 174.

Gregorio, 2, 10.

Greek religion, 99-100.

Greek temples, Introd., vi, xii; 27, 99-103, 140, 219, 237.

Greeks, The, Introd., iv, v, vi, vii, xii; 19, 104, 109,
  133, 139, 140, 149-150, 173, 204, 205, 209, 235, 236, 246.

Greeks, famous, in Sicily, Introd., v, vi, vii; 97, 113, 141, 150.

Gualterio, 10, 11, 29, 30, 41, 79, 80, 84, 227-228.


Hadranos (Hadranum), 162.

Hamilcar, 70, 98, 222-223.

Hammerstein, Oscar, 200.

Hannibal, Gisgon, 70-71, 223, 239.

Heircte, Herkte (See Pellegrino).

Hichens, Robert, 77.

Hieron, King, 130, 135, 137, 141, 143, 144.

Hieron, Tyrant, 153, 174.

Himera, Introd., viii; 79, 91, 98, 129, 222-223.

Historians, Introd., ii, vii; 43, 71, 92, 98, 124, 126, 127, 144, 149, 150.

Homer (Odyssey), Introd., iii; 158, 164.

Hotels, 170.


Ignorance (Illiteracy), 64-65, 178.


Kalé Akté (Calacte), 216.

Kataneion, Katane (See Chapters on Catania).

Kephalé (See Cefalù).

Kipling, Rudyard, 63.

Krimisos (Cold Stream), 234-235;
  battle of, 235.


Land ownership, 181-182.

Latomie (Quarries), 14, 115, 142, 148, 149, 151, 242.

Lebrosi, S. Giovanni dei, 81-82.

Legends, 121-122, 123, 164, 165, 166.

Lentini, Lake, 110.

Lucy, St., 156.


Macaroni, 34, 53-54, 90.

Maffiusi (Mafia), 175.

Marcellus, 136-138.

Mare Dolce, The, 80.

Marionettes, 37-40.

Markets, 30-36, 134.

Marriage, 57.

Marsala, 241-243.

Martorana, Church of, 44-45.

Mássimo, Theatre, 27, 28.

Mediterranean, Introd., i, iii, iv, xi; 5, 6, 7, 101, 219, 264.

Messana (See Messina).

Messina (and Strait of), Introd., iii; 44, 207-214.

Metellus, Consul, 83.

Metopes, 70-71, 239.

Milk, 190-191, 207.

Minstrels, 177, 199-200.

Misericordia, The, 197.

Mola, 173, 182-186, 190.

Monks, 76, 77.

Monreale, 48-55, 72, 220.

Mosaics, glass, 49-51, 60-62.

Mummies, Subway of, 47.

Museums--
  Girgenti, 103.
  Palermo, 67-70.
  Syracuse, 119-120.

Mylæ, 215.


Naxos, 173, 174.

Neapolis (Syracuse), 116, 135.

Newspapers, 223-224.

Nicias (Greek General), 113.

Night, Noises of the, 186-187.

Normans, The (also N. Architecture), Introd., ii, ix;
  43, 44, 89, 118, 173, 208, 219, 247.


Ortygia, Island of (Syracuse), 115, 116, 117, 122, 133, 135, 138.

Ovid, 109.


Palace (See Palazzo).

Palæstra, 134.

Palagonia, Prince (also Villa), 228-229.

Palatina, La Cappella, 60-62, 220.

Palazzata, La, 210-211.

Palazzo, 56, 59, 62-64, 71-72, 210.

Panormos (Palermo), 18, 224.

Papyrus, 130, 131, 132.

Parks, 19, 20.

Pellegrino, Mte., 17, 78, 86, 217, 251, 252-261, 262.

Pergusa, Lake of, 109.

Phalaris, 96, 97.

Philistis, Queen, 143-144.

Phoenicians (Phoenicia), Introd., iv; 18, 19, 123, 218, 224, 235, 238, 246.

Pigs, 184, 185.

Pindar, Poet, 97, 98, 143, 144.

Posers, professional, 176.

Primitive Inhabitants (Sikans, Sikels, Elymians, Phœnicians),
  Introd., iii, iv; 69, 119, 217, 218, 234, 235, 236, 237,
  245, 246, 247.

Prisoners, Athenian, 149-150, 151.

Problem, The Sicilian, 181-182.

Proserpina (Persephone), 14, 109, 131.

Punic Wars, Introd., viii.


Quattro Venti (See Four Winds, Place of).

Quijote, Don, and Sancho, 254, 261.


Railroad about Ætna (see Aetnean R.R.).

Railroads (also Service), 167-168.

Randazzo, 163-164.

Relics, 258.

Relief Work at Messina, 213-214.

Roger, King, 43-45, 60, 72, 83, 155, 212, 218, 219.

Rome (Roman), Introd., viii, ix, xii; 27, 82, 83, 109,
  116, 133, 138, 143, 204-205, 241, 246.

Rometta, 215.

Rosalia, Saint, 42, 156, 251, 256-261.
  Chapel of, 259-261.
  Festival of, 258.
  Statue of, 261, 264.

Rosinante, 254, 255.


Sacred Band (see Krimisos).

Saints, female, 156.

Salamis, Introd., viii.

Salinas, Professor A., 69.

Salt Works, 113, 123, 243.

“Sancho,” 254-261.

Santo Spirito, Campo, 74, 75.

Santuario, Via al, 253, 256.

Saracens (Moors), Introd., ii, ix, vii; 12, 19, 41, 44,
  47, 62, 72, 78, 80, 81, 96, 111, 118, 176, 205, 247, 256.

Scenery (also Railroad and Coast), 89, 90, 99, 111, 112,
  114, 135, 148, 149, 155, 161, 169, 170, 205-216, 207,
  215, 216, 217, 218, 221, 222, 233, 234, 245, 246.

Schools, 65, 178, 179-180.

Scláfani Palace, 45.

Scylla and Charybdis, 169, 208.

Segesta (Egesta), 236-238.

Selinus, 70-71, 236, 238-240.

Solous (Soluntum), Solunto, 224-225, 227-228.

Spanish (Spaniard), Introd., x; 21, 63, 121.

Stefano, Dukes of (also Palace), 202, 203.

Stesichorus (Tisias), Introd., viii; 154.

Sulphur (Mines; Mining), 90, 93, 107, 152.

Sunrise over Ætna, 188-189.

Syracuse, Introd., viii; 19.
  Battle of the bay, 124-127.
  Sieges of, 124, 136, 138, 149-150.


Taormina peasants, 175.

Termini Imerese, 223-224.

Tessere, 4, 5, 6, 87.

Theatres, 27, 36-41, 143-145, 154, 203, 204-206, 237.

Theocritus, Introd., vii; 12, 135, 176.

Theron, Tyrant, 98, 115, 222.

Thucydides, Introd., i; 125-6, 149-150, 209.

Timoleon, 135, 144-145, 168, 234, 235, 236.

Tips (Tipping), 8, 9.

Tisias (see Stesichorus).

Trapani, 243-245.

Trionfo della Morte (fresco), 45-46.

Trireme, The, 92.

Trojans at Trapani, 245.

Troubadours (see Minstrels).

Tyche (Syracuse), 116, 135.

Tyndaris, 215-216.

Tyrant (defined), 98-99.

Tyrants, 115.
  Age of the, 114, 141.


Usury (Usurers), 181-182.


Venus Anadyomene, 120.

Venus, Temple of, 245, 246.

Verres, C. Gaius, 119, 128.

Vespers, Sicilian, Introd., x; 25, 68, 74-75, 84, 186, 209.

Villa, 66-67.

Vulcanological Observatory, 159.


William I, The Bad, King, 72, 73, 74.

William II, The Good, King, 47-48, 52, 74, 257.

Wine, Marsala, 242.


Xerxes, Introd., vii.

Xiphonia (see Augusta).


Zankle (Danklon, Messina), 208.

Zeus (Jupiter), Introd., viii; 103, 105, 129, 153, 235.

       *       *       *       *       *


Typographical errors corrected by the etext transcriber:

as the the insignia of his rank=> as the insignia of his rank {pg 25}

TKE NORTHERN SHORE=> THE NORTHERN SHORE {pg 215}

blinding than a Silician spring morning=> blinding than a Sicilian
spring morning {pg 42}

it causes not the slighest comment=> it causes not the slightest comment
{pg 43}

of any length is comtemplated=> of any length is contemplated {pg 59}

at the very top of the steep to the main buildings=> at the very top of
the step to the main buildings {pg 79}

failed to grasp and and master thoroughly=> failed to grasp and master
thoroughly {pg 81}

not in existance in Phalaris’s time=> not in existrnce in Phalaris’s
time {pg 96}

against he Turks=> against the Turks {pg 241}

Quijote, Don, and Soancho, 254, 261.=>Quijote, Don, and Sancho, 254,
261. {pg 271}

suppressesd Benedictine monastery=> suppressed Benedictine monastery {pg
158}

Agatha (Agata) St., 156.=> Agatha (Ágata) St., 156. {pg 269}

Favorita, Chateau of La, 11, 62-64.=> Favorita, Château of La, 11,
62-64. {pg 270}

Sta. Agata, 156-157.=> Sta. Ágata, 156-157. {pg 270}

Massimo, Theatre, 27, 28.=> Mássimo, Theatre, 27, 28. {pg 271}

Palaestra, 134.=>Palæstra, 134. {pg 271}

Mylae, 215.=> Mylæ, 215. {pg 271}

Sclafani Palace, 45.=>Scláfani Palace, 45. {pg 272}





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