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Title: Sicily in Shadow and in Sun
Author: Elliott, Maud Howe
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                      SICILY IN SHADOW AND IN SUN

                       Books on Italy and Spain

                            _By_ MAUD HOWE


     ROMA BEATA. Letters from the Eternal City. With illustrations from
     drawings by JOHN ELLIOTT and from photographs. 8vo. In box. $2.50
     _net_. _Popular Illustrated Edition._ Crown 8vo. In box. $1.50
     _net_.

     TWO IN ITALY. _Popular Illustrated Edition._ With six full-page
     drawings by JOHN ELLIOTT. Crown 8vo. In box. $1.50 _net_.

     SUN AND SHADOW IN SPAIN. With four plates in color and other
     illustrations. 8vo. In box. $3.00 _net_.

     SICILY IN SHADOW AND IN SUN. With twelve pictures from original
     drawings and numerous illustrations from photographs taken by JOHN
     ELLIOTT. 8vo. In box. $3.00 _net_.


                   LITTLE, BROWN, & CO., Publishers
                       34 BEACON STREET, BOSTON

          [Illustration: THE TELL TALE TOWER. _Frontispiece._

           The clock stopped at the hour of the earthquake.]



                           SICILY IN SHADOW
                              AND IN SUN

                        THE EARTHQUAKE AND THE
                         AMERICAN RELIEF WORK

                                  BY

                               MAUD HOWE

                AUTHOR OF “ROMA BEATA,” “SUN AND SHADOW
                    IN SPAIN,” “TWO IN ITALY,” ETC.

                     _With numerous illustrations_

              _Including pictures from photographs taken
                  in Sicily and original drawings by_

                             JOHN ELLIOTT


                                BOSTON
                      LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY
                                 1910

                          _Copyright, 1910_,

                    BY LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY.

                         _All rights reserved_


                      Published, November, 1910.



                          _LOUIS E. CROSSCUP_
                               _Printer_
                       _Boston, Mass., U. S. A._



                                  TO
                         MRS. LLOYD C. GRISCOM



FOREWORD


Sicily, the “Four Corners” of that little ancient world that was bounded
on the west by the Pillars of Hercules, is to southern Europe what
Britain is to northern Europe, Chief of Isles, universal Cross-roads.
Sicily lies nearer both to Africa and to Europe than any other
Mediterranean island, and is the true connecting link between East and
West. Battle-ground of contending races and creeds, it has been soaked
over and over again in the blood of the strong men who fought each other
for its possession. There has never been a Sicilian nation. Perhaps that
is the reason the story of the island is so hard to follow, it’s all
snarled up with the history of first one, then another nation. The most
obvious way of learning something about Sicily is to read what
historians have to say about it; a pleasanter way is to listen to what
the poets from Homer to Goethe have sung of it, paying special heed to
Theocritus--he knew Sicily better than anybody else before his time or
since! Then there’s the geologist’s story--you can’t spare that; it’s
the key to all the rest. The best way of all is to go to Sicily, and
there fit together what little bits of knowledge you have or can lay
your hands upon,--scraps of history, poetry, geology. You will be
surprised how well the different parts of the picture-puzzle, now
knocking about loose in your mind, will fit together, and what a good
picture, once put together, they will give you of Sicily.

When a child in the nursery, you learned the story of the earliest time!
How Kronos threw down his scythe, and it sank into the earth and made
the harbor of Messina. (The geologists hint that the wonderful round,
land-locked harbor is the crater of a sunken volcano, but you and I
cling to the legend of Kronos.) In that golden age of childhood, you
learned the story of the burning mountain, Etna, and went wandering
through the purple fields of Sicily with Demeter, seeking her lost
daughter, Persephone. You raced with Ulysses and his men from the angry
Cyclops down to that lovely shore, put out to sea with them, and felt
the boat whirled from its course and twisted like a leaf in the
whirlpool current of Charybdis. When you left the nursery for the
schoolroom, you learned the names of the succeeding nations that have
ruled Sicily, every one of whom has left some enduring trace of their
presence. As you cross from the mainland of Italy to this Sicily, you
can, if you will use your memory and imagination, see in fancy the hosts
who have crossed before you, eager, as you are, to make this jewel of
the south their own.

First of all, look for the Sicans; some say they are of the same
pre-Aryan race as the Basques. After the Sicans come the Sikels. They
are Latins, people we feel quite at home with; their coming marks the
time when the age of fable ends and history begins. Next come the
Phoenicians, the great traders of the world, bringing the rich gift of
commerce. They set up their trading stations near the coasts, as they
did in Spain, and bartered with the natives--a peaceful people--as they
bartered with the Iberians of the Peninsula. The real fighting began
when the Greeks came, bringing their great gift of Art. Sicily now
became part of Magna Graecia, and rose to its apogee of power and glory.
Syracuse was the chief of the Greek cities of Sicily. The Greek rulers
were called Tyrants. They were great rulers indeed; the greatest of
them, Dionysius, ruled 406 B.C. Then came the heavy-handed Romans and
the first glory of Sicily was at end. The Romans made a granary of
Sicily and carried off its treasures to adorn imperial Rome. They stayed
a long time, but with the crumbling of the Roman Empire there came a
change in Sicily, the first Roman province, and for a time the Goths and
the Byzantines ruled her. Then came the Saracens. They destroyed
Syracuse and made a new capital, Palermo, that from their time to ours
has remained the chief city of the island. After the Saracens came the
Normans--the same generation of men that subdued England under William
the Conqueror,--and gave to Sicily a second period of greatness; for if
the Greeks gave Sicily her Golden Age, the Norman age at least was
Silver Gilt. The French came too, but their stay was short, their reign
inglorious; it is chiefly remembered on account of the massacre of the
Sicilian Vespers, when the Sicilians rose, drove out their conquerors,
and drenched the land in French blood. In the early part of the
fifteenth century, Spain, who was beginning her age of conquest,
conquered Sicily and held it subject for more than four hundred years.
Finally, in the year 1860, came Garibaldi, and reunited Sicily to Italy.

Geologically, Sicily has been as restless as it has been politically and
socially. At least twice it was connected with Italy, and once probably
with Africa, so that African animals entered it. The Straits of Messina,
only two miles wide, and one hundred and fifty fathoms deep, are
Nature’s record of an earthquake rupture between Italy and Sicily. Mount
Etna, the most impressive thing in the island, has been there since
early tertiary times--before the days of the ice-age, when the mammoth
and cave-bear roamed through the woods of Europe. It is probably a
younger mountain than Vesuvius, but long before the dawn of history
Sicily and Calabria were the prey of the earthquake and the volcano. The
Straits of Messina and Mount Etna are both the results of earthquake
activity. The Straits are a gigantic crevice in the earth; the volcano
is only a tear in the earth’s crust, so deep that the hot steam of the
interior of the earth rises from the ever open rupture. Etna, therefore,
is not the cause of earthquake, but is itself the child of an
earthquake. It sprang, a full-grown mountain, from the breast of earth,
as Pallas from the brain of Zeus. Etna was probably far larger once than
it is now. The present cone rests on a volcanic plateau, that appears to
have been the base of a larger cone, which was blown to atoms. The old
mountain is full of cracks which are filled with hard basalt that
cements it together. Its explosive tendency causes it to give rise to a
great many little cones upon the sides, called parasitic cones, which
burst forth suddenly almost anywhere.

Historian, poet, geologist, each tells his story, but the poet tells it
best of all. There is no better description of Sicily and its people
than the one you will find in the Odyssey.

    “They all their products to free Nature owe,
     The soil untilled, a ready harvest yields,
     With wheat and barley wave the golden fields,
     Spontaneous wines from weighty clusters pour,
     And Jove descends in each prolific shower.
     By these no statutes and no rights are known,
     No council held, no monarch fills the throne;

           *       *       *       *       *

     Each rules his race, his neighbor not his care,
     Heedless of others, to his own severe.”
            --_Homer’s Odyssey, translated by Pope._



CONTENTS


CHAPTER                                                             PAGE

   I. MESSINA DESTROYED                                                1

  II. THE STRAITS OF DEATH                                            39

 III. AMERICA TO THE RESCUE                                           77

  IV. THE CRUISE OF THE “BAYERN”                                     116

   V. ROYAL VISITORS                                                 161

  VI. AT PALAZZO MARGHERITA                                          191

 VII. BUILDING THE NEW MESSINA                                       217

VIII. THE CAMP BY TORRENTE ZAERA                                     248

  IX. GUESTS AT CAMP                                                 269

   X. THE VILLAGGIO REGINA ELENA                                     293

  XI. TAORMINA                                                       312

 XII. SYRACUSE                                                       344

XIII. PALERMO                                                        377

 XIV. MR. ROOSEVELT AT MESSINA                                       427

  XV. EASTER                                                         446

 XVI. MESSINA (AVE ATQUE VALE!)                                      466



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


From Drawings by John Elliott

THE TELL TALE TOWER                                        _Frontispiece_

                                                            _Facing Page_

RUINS OF THE AMERICAN CONSULATE, MESSINA                              20

MESSINA. THE TORRENTE ZAERA                                          244

REGGIO. QUEEN ELENA’S GROUP OF AMERICAN COTTAGES                     248

HOTEL REGINA ELENA AND CHURCH OF SANTA CROCE, AMERICAN
VILLAGE, MESSINA                                                     282

MESSINA. AMERICAN COTTAGES, VILLAGGIO REGINA ELENA                   304

VIALE GRISCOM, AMERICAN VILLAGE, MESSINA                             436

A MAKESHIFT CHURCH AND BELFRY                                        448

PAY-WINDOW AND THE ARCHBISHOP’S BELL                                 454

SCYLLA                                                               468

VIA BELKNAP, AMERICAN VILLAGE, MESSINA                               472

ELIZABETH GRISCOM HOSPITAL, VILLAGGIO REGINA ELENA                   476


Illustrations from Photographs

MESSINA IN FLAMES                                                     10

THE MUNICIPIO IN FLAMES, MESSINA                                      10

RESCUE PARTY OF RUSSIAN SAILORS                                       11

THE PALAZZATA, MESSINA                                                11

THE WATER FRONT, MESSINA                                              40

A FUNERAL BARGE                                                       41

THE KING AND THE WOUNDED OFFICER                                      41

THE BARRACKS, MESSINA                                                 44

RUINS OF A CHURCH, MESSINA                                            44

DIGGING FOR THE BURIED-ALIVE                                          45

THE KING AT MESSINA                                                   45

MESSINA. THE CATHEDRAL BEFORE THE DISASTER                            50

THE CATHEDRAL, AFTER THE DISASTER                                     50

ARCANGELO’S HOUSE                                                     51

MESSINA. WHERE MARIETTA LIVED                                         51

STROMBOLI FROM THE “BAYERN”                                          114

THE AMERICAN AMBASSADOR AND RED CROSS NURSES ON THE
“BAYERN”                                                             114

ITALIAN MILITARY ENCAMPMENT, MESSINA                                 115

ITALIAN OFFICERS AND MEN, MESSINA                                    115

MESSINA. A HOUSE THAT ESCAPED DESTRUCTION                            130

SOLDIERS ON THEIR WAY TO A RESCUE                                    130

THE MILITARY COLLEGE, MESSINA                                        131

PALACE OF THE PREFECT, MESSINA                                       131

TENENTE DI VASCELLO ALFREDO BROFFERIO                                222

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER REGINALD ROWAN BELKNAP, U. S. N.                222

WRECK OF RAILROAD, REGGIO                                            223

STREET IN REGGIO                                                     223

GRAND HOTEL REGINA ELENA, AMERICAN VILLAGE, MESSINA                  226

ARRIVAL OF THE “EVA”                                                 227

FRAME OF FIRST HOUSE, AMERICAN VILLAGE, MESSINA                      227

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER BELKNAP PUTTING THE AMERICAN CAMP
IN COMMISSION                                                        240

HAULING UP THE COLORS, AMERICAN VILLAGE, MESSINA                     240

MESSINA. VIA I. SETTEMBRE                                            241

THE CATHEDRAL, PALMI                                                 241

MESSINA. ARRIVAL OF FURNITURE FOR AMERICAN COTTAGES                  252

AMERICAN VILLAGE, MESSINA. VIA BICKNELL, FIRST STREET                252

STRAGGLERS FROM THE HERD, AMERICAN CAMP, MESSINA                     253

IN THE AMERICAN VILLAGE, MESSINA                                     253

AVVOCATO DONATI                                                      258

MR. BUCHANAN’S BOY AND HIS MATES                                     258

QUITTING WORK                                                        259

ARRIVAL OF THE BARBER                                                259

WORKSHOP OF AMERICAN VILLAGE, REGGIO                                 266

FIRST AMERICAN HOUSE IN REGGIO                                       266

AMERICAN SHELTERS, PALMI                                             267

REGGIO. CARPENTERS AT WORK                                           267

OLIVE GROVE NEAR PALMI                                               276

CAPTAIN BELKNAP AND CARPENTER FAUST                                  277

VIEW FROM THE HOTEL, AMERICAN VILLAGE, MESSINA                       277

AMERICAN VILLAGE, MESSINA. THE PAY LINE                              286

“THE FRONT OF THE PALACE HAD FALLEN INTO A HEAP OF RUINS”            287

CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF THE POOR, SEMINARA                             287

ZIA MADDALENA AND HER FAMILY                                         308

CAPTAIN BIGNAMI AND HIS STAFF                                        308

GASPARONE AND WATER BOYS IN HOTEL COURTYARD, MESSINA                 309

ROAD-MAKING IN THE AMERICAN VILLAGE, MESSINA                         309

AMERICAN QUARTER, MESSINA                                            312

AN ERUPTION OF MT. ETNA                                              313

THE ROAD TO TAORMINA                                                 313

MT. ETNA FROM TAORMINA                                               324

EXAMPLE OF SICILIAN GOTHIC ARCHITECTURE, TAORMINA                    324

CHOIR STALLS, SAN DOMENICO, TAORMINA                                 325

FRIAR JOSEPH’S MISSAL                                                325

FORT EURYELUS, SYRACUSE                                              352

EXAMPLE OF SICILIAN GOTHIC ARCHITECTURE, SYRACUSE                    352

GIRGENTI. A WINE CART                                                353

GIRGENTI. A SICILIAN CART                                            353

CHURCH OF SAN GIOVANNI, SYRACUSE                                     360

THEATRE, PALERMO                                                     360

ETRUSCAN SARCOPHAGUS, PALERMO MUSEUM                                 361

IN THE MUSEUM, PALERMO                                               361

VILLA TASCA, PALERMO                                                 376

VILLA D’ORLEANS, PALERMO                                             376

FOUNTAIN OF THE PRETORIA, PALERMO                                    377

CHURCH OF SAN GIOVANNI, PALERMO                                      377

TOWER OF THE MARTORANA, PALERMO                                      390

WATER CARRIERS, TAORMINA                                             390

CHURCH OF THE MARTORANA, PALERMO                                     391

PALERMO. CAPELLA PALATINA                                            391

MONREALE                                                             396

THE ROYAL PALACE, PALERMO                                            397

THE CATHEDRAL, PALERMO                                               397

REAR OF THE CATHEDRAL, MONREALE                                      400

THE CATHEDRAL, MONREALE. TOMBS OF WILLIAM I. AND WILLIAM II          400

MONTE PELLEGRINO, PALERMO                                            401

FAÇADE OF THE CATHEDRAL, MONREALE                                    401

INTERIOR OF THE CATHEDRAL, MONREALE                                  404

MONREALE. THE CLOISTERS                                              404

BRONZE DOOR OF THE CATHEDRAL, MONREALE                               405

THE ARAB FOUNTAIN, MONREALE                                          405

PALERMO. THE QUATTRO CANTI                                           432

PALERMO. THE MARINA                                                  432

AMERICAN VILLAGE, MESSINA. THE CELTIC’S CARPENTER COOK AND TWO
“SCORPIONS” MEASURING OFF THE LAND                                   433

WING OF THE ELIZABETH GRISCOM HOSPITAL, VILLAGGIO REGINA ELENA       433

THE KING, ESCORTED BY BUCHANAN, BROFFERIO AND ELLIOTT, VISITS
AMERICAN VILLAGE                                                     440

MESSINA. PAINTING THE AMERICAN COTTAGES                              440

CHURCH OF SANTA CROCE, AMERICAN VILLAGE, MESSINA                     441

HOTEL IN CONSTRUCTION, AMERICAN VILLAGE, MESSINA                     464

ENCLOSING GANG AT WORK                                               464

GRAND HOTEL REGINA ELENA FROM THE RAILROAD                           465

VIEW FROM THE HOTEL, AMERICAN VILLAGE, MESSINA                       465

GRAND HOTEL REGINA ELENA AND CHURCH OF SANTA CROCE                   480

       *       *       *       *       *

MAP OF SICILY                                                          1

[Illustration: MAP OF SICILY]



Sicily in Shadow and in Sun



I

MESSINA DESTROYED


Monday evening, December 28th, 1908, four friends were dining together
in a luxurious Roman villa. The hostess, Vera, sat opposite me at the
head of her table with Lombardi, the Milanese mathematician on one side,
and Athol, an Englishman, the representative of a great English
newspaper, on the other. It was our first meeting that season. Vera, who
had passed the summer at home in Russia, had just returned to Rome; I
had arrived three days before on Christmas evening. We were all really
glad to see one another, eager to hear the other’s news and to give our
own. The dinner was a triumph! Attilio, the Neapolitan chef, had outdone
himself; the pheasant in aspic was an inspiration, though the dish may
have been prepared from a receipt known to the cook of Lucullus.
Whatever decline other arts may show, the culinary art of Rome has lost
nothing since the days of the famous banquets in the gardens of Sallust.
Vera’s table was laid with the robin’s-egg Sevres service, the
Copenhagen glass with its gilt borders, and the gold plate that had
belonged to Cardinal Antonelli. In the middle stood an exquisitely
wrought silver partridge, Vera’s own work, modelled and hammered out of
silver by that strong small hand, the speaking hand of the artist, that
now sparkled with jewels as she raised her glass of Orvieto and drank to
our next meeting. After dinner we drew our chairs round the library fire
where the tiny Roman Yule logs blazed cheerily on the hearth. It was
extraordinarily cold for Rome; the thick fur of the great white polar
bear skin before the fire was comforting to our chilled feet. Outside on
the terrace a dog bayed.

“Open the door and let Romulus in,” said Vera. “It’s very wrong of
course--a watch-dog ought to sleep in his little cold house--but I
haven’t the heart to leave even a dog out on such a night.”

“It’s the coldest season we have ever known in Italy,” Lombardi
remarked. We all shivered in the piercing gust that came from the open
door as a shambling uncouth white puppy tumbled, capering with joy, into
the room. He was a foundling from the campagna, lost, strayed or stolen
from his sheep-dog kin, and adopted by Vera. His rough ugliness
emphasized the refinement of the violet-scented villa where a crumpled
roseleaf would have hurt.

As we drank our coffee, the dog nuzzling Vera’s satin slipper with
little sounds of joy, a servant brought in the evening papers and handed
them to Lombardi--I can see him now standing before the fire, unfolding
the Tribuna and glancing at the headlines; I can smell the damp
printer’s ink.

“Any news?” asked Vera.

“There has been an earthquake in Calabria.”

The Englishman nodded; he had heard it, he always heard the news before
the rest of us!

“Another earthquake! Not a bad one?” I cried.

“The paper naturally makes the most of it, though it does not seem to
have done much damage,” Athol reassured us.

“Poor people, how they have suffered!” Vera sighed comfortably. After a
few more comments the subject was dropped and we began again to abuse
the powers that be for the shocking breaches that have been made in the
ancient walls of Rome. Bits of our talk come back to me now as from an
immeasurable distance. It is as if that conversation over the fire in
Vera’s library had taken place in another planet during another
existence.

“The wall that Belisarius defended fifteen hundred years ago against the
Goths without the gates has been demolished by the Goths within the
gates!” exclaimed Athol.

“It’s a world’s crime,” I said, “because Rome belongs to the world; it’s
just as much ours as the Italians’!”

“Ah! so you like to think!” said the only Italian present, indulgently.

“I have heard you say it yourself, Lombardi, when you wanted something
of us outlanders,” Athol came to my rescue.

“Remember, the petition to have the streets put through was got up by an
Englishman, who owned property near by that he thought would be
improved,” Vera defended.

The talk drifted from one archæological matter to another. Athol told us
of Boni’s last discoveries in the Forum, the tombs under Trajan’s
column; the “finds” made by Goclaire, the Frenchman, on the Gianiculum;
why the excavation at Herculaneum had been given up:--The peasant owners
of the land, seeing so much said about it in the papers, believe their
land covers priceless treasures, and will not allow a spade to be put
into the earth until a vast sum of money is deposited beforehand to
indemnify them for the buried treasure that may be found. Though the
talk veered lightly from one subject to another, it always came back to
Pompeii and Herculaneum, to that old, old disaster, that volcanic horror
of nineteen centuries ago, and yet at that very moment, though we did
not know it, a worse devastation had again laid waste the beautiful
treacherous land of southern Italy.

The party broke up in high spirits. Vera, followed by the ecstatic
puppy, came into the hall with us. I see her vivid face, her white and
silver dress, as she stood below the enormous Russian bear that
eternally climbs a pine tree in her vestibule; I can see the gay
graceful gesture of her hand as she waves us a last good night.

The moment’s uneasiness that had fallen upon us when Lombardi spoke of
the earthquake in Calabria was forgotten. If they are short of news, the
Roman papers publish rumors of the Pope’s illness, an earthquake in
Calabria, or war between Germany and France, with strict impartiality.
It was the old story of “wolf, wolf.” We were as deaf to the first
rumble of the storm, as a few days before we had been deaf to the last
war scare.

Nothing but a death in the house has ever made so sharp a difference as
I knew between the evening of the 28th of December and the morning of
the 29th, for it was only on Tuesday, the day after the earthquake, that
we in Rome began to understand--but only began to understand--that the
greatest disaster of European history had stricken Italy, our Italy, the
world’s beloved. To each of us our own country is really dearest; we
hope to die and lay our bones in the land where we were born. But Italy,
like a lover, for a time makes us forget home, kin, native land, in an
infatuation heady and unreasonable as lover’s love. The spell may be
broken, never forgotten. This is the reason the whole civilized world
not only shuddered, but suffered with Italy in the dark hour as it could
have suffered for no other country.

The first news came from Catanzaro, Menteleone, and the other least
damaged districts. Messina and Reggio were silent; their silence was
ominous. Tuesday was a day of fear and restlessness. We lived from hour
to hour, waiting for the extra editions of the papers, hoping, always
hoping, that the rumors that every moment grew more grave might prove
exaggerated.

“Calabria and Sicily flagellated by earthquake. Enormous damage. Towns
in ruins, many dead and wounded. A tidal wave on the coast of Sicily,”
such were the headlines of the first editions. Later came the dreadful
news: “Messina and Reggio destroyed!”

In the Corso I met Athol. He had been very ill in bed but had struggled
out to do his duty, to weigh the news, sift truth from rumor, flash the
dreadful tidings to the earth’s end.

“How much must we believe?” I asked him.

“Such reports are always exaggerated at first,” he answered.

We soon learned the first reports did not begin to tell the story.

“Earthquake? It is the end of the world!” people said to each other. As
rumor grew to certainty, fear to dreadful fact, the effect upon our
minds was very curious; nothing that concerned our private affairs
seemed of any consequence. This was equally true of our friends, most of
whom were like ourselves, foreigners in Italy. The day after the dinner
party I dropped into Vera’s studio. The Signorina had not come in,
Beppino, the model, told me; he had never known such a thing happen
before. The clay was dry and greatly in need of being dampened. He was
forbidden to lift the sheet that covered the statue and dared not do so.
If I were not afraid?--

Afraid? What did it matter? I committed the unpardonable sin, stripped
off the sheet, and with the big syringe wetted down the grey clay of
that statue of Vera’s we had all been so curious about. Her well-kept
secret was before me, but I only know that it was a female figure,
whether a Psyche or a Niobe I neither knew or cared, nor whether it was
good, bad, or indifferent. Vera had only a week to finish the statue
that was to compete for the prize she had strained every nerve to win.
Three times I wetted down the clay for my friend; after that I forgot it
and the statue fell to pieces. Vera had other work to do, and so had I.
We ourselves were at rather an important juncture in our lives. J. had
just finished his decorative painting, Diana of the Tides, for the
Smithsonian Institute in Washington; he was on the point of sending out
cards for his exhibition. All this was swept into the background of our
thoughts. We lived only for tidings of the South. All day long we could
only speak, only think of Calabria and Sicily. At night we only slept to
dream of them, to wake from the terror of the nightmare to the greater
terror of the reality, and then to sleep painfully again. A feverish
desire to do something, to be of some use, seemed to drive us and all
the Americans and English we saw. Inaction became intolerable; we were
scourged by pity and sorrow into some sort of doing, whether it was of
any use or not.

Athol alone of all our intimates stood steady at his post, his finger
on the pulse of Europe. His work was quadrupled. Instead of being jarred
and thrown off the track like the rest of us, he toiled day and night,
sometimes without sleep, often without food, in order that his
words--words that would sway a nation, influence a world--should be the
wisest, the best words that it was possible for him to say.

When I found that I could be of some small use (or I thought I could) by
running about picking up little straws of news for Athol, who was
sending off despatches day and night, I took heart and felt that I could
get through the day. It may not have been of much real use to him or to
Sicily and Calabria, but it was of use to me. Besides, the most
infinitesimal thing counts, the universe is built of atoms. For these
stricken people to have their story well told was surely something. It
was a little comfort to me, it gave me all the repose of mind I knew in
those first days to gather these tiny straws, whether or no they were
woven into the texture of my friend’s “story.” It helped me to bear the
strain if it did not help Athol to do his work.

Day and night the cries and groans of those

[Illustration: MESSINA IN FLAMES. _Page 7._]

[Illustration: MESSINA. THE MUNICIPIO IN FLAMES. _Page 7._]

[Illustration: MESSINA. RESCUE PARTY OF RUSSIAN SAILORS. _Page 36._]

[Illustration: MESSINA. THE PALAZZATA. _Page 41._]

sufferers buried alive in the ruins of their houses were in my ears. I
felt their pain in my bones, in my brain, in my heart. I breathed pain
with every breath till it seemed to me there was nothing but pain in the
world. When notes of invitation to dine came--as a few did--it seemed an
insult to humanity that tables should be spread with rich food and wine
while our brothers agonized and slowly, slowly starved to death. When
cards were left with the usual wishes for _Buon Anno_, one almost
laughed at the mockery of people wishing each other Happy New Year. For
the most part, though, the conventions and civilities of Rome--the most
civilized of cities--were dropped. People threw their social duties or
pleasures to the wind, even those whose whole business in life seems to
consist of leaving the proper number of cards, making the proper visits,
the exchange of banquets, teas and other formal courtesies. Birth and
death always strip away these silly rags and trimmings; when there is
such a harvest of death, humanity, even the humanity of Rome, perhaps
the most sophisticated place in the world, weeps and cowers and
stretches out to touch hands with any hand that is warm and living and
in which the pulses beat.

Wednesday morning a bugle sounded in the street under our windows. I
looked out and saw a group of young men wearing gay fifteenth century
plush caps, and on their arms a strip of white cloth with the words
“_Pro Calabria e Sicilia_” in red letters. The bugle sounded again. I
knew what the summons meant, caught up the pile of extra clothing I had
sorted out, snatched an overcoat and a cloak from the rack in the hall
and ran downstairs into the street. I was immediately surrounded by half
a dozen lads with fresh shining schoolboy faces. They carried between
them, two by two, heavy wooden money boxes with a slit in the top, which
they rattled and offered to all who passed.

“Who are these?” I asked the tall boy with a scarlet cap on his mop of
brown curls, who relieved me of the coat and cloak.

He made me the bow of a prince as he answered: “We are the students of
the University of Rome, Signora, at your service.”

In Italy, an old country where we find that supreme virtue of age,
thrift, even spendthrift Americans grow cautious about spending money.
I had meant to put a few sous in the box, but the eager eyes, the urgent
voices, overcame discretion. I emptied my small purse, heavy with silver
for the day’s expenses, into the first money box and so bought the
sufferance of the students. I was now immune from other demands and free
to follow them on their errand of mercy.

Another trumpet call and the students, laden with gifts, swarmed like
honey bees to the hive about the lean obelisk in the Piazza del Popolo,
just outside the monastery with the tall cypresses, in whose shade
Luther paced, deep in the thoughts that were to change the course of
history. In the middle of the piazza stood forage cart number 24 of the
13th Regiment of Artillery. The cart was drawn by two big army mules,
one of them ridden by a soldier. At the back of the cart sat the bugler,
a hard, merry, Irish-faced man with a snub nose and a missing tooth; he
looked a living proof of Boni’s theory that the Celts and the Italians
were originally of the same race. In the cart beside the bugler stood a
young student with soft brown eyes and the rich coloring of the
southern Italian; he wore an orange velvet cap on the back of his head
and seemed to be chosen for his beauty, as the third man in the cart (a
rather plain shabby fellow with a bandaged throat) had been chosen for
his voice. The bugler sounded his trumpet, the driver cracked his whip
and the procession started. The cart was closely followed by two
artillery men in uniform and surrounded by that host of clustering
students, busy as bees with their task of gathering _soldi_.

The cart passed at a footpace across the Piazza del Popolo under the
shadow of the obelisk that Sixtus the Fifth, the great building pope,
placed in the middle of that noble square, which lies between the old
Flaminian Way and the Corso. The cart jogged and rumbled along just as
in the old days the carnival cars jogged and rumbled over the rough
stone pavement. The bugler sounded his call again as the cart turned
into the Corso; the gallant notes stirred the souls of the people. When
the fiery call of the bugle trailed into silence the voice of the tall
man with the bandaged throat rang out above the noise of the crowd:

“_Pro Calabria e Sicilia!_ Give much, give little, give something!
Every _centesimo_ is wanted down there!”

From every window fell an _obolo_. A hailstorm of coppers rattled on the
pavement, white envelopes with money folded in them came fluttering down
like so many white birds. Outside the Palazzo Fiano, where the Italian
flag tied with crape hung at half mast, the forage cart halted. At an
open window on the top floor two sturdy men servants appeared and threw
down a red striped bundle of pillows, another of blankets, a third a
great packet of clothes. From every house, rich or poor (there are many
poor houses in the Corso), came some offering. Two good beds were
carried out from a narrow door. The cart was now filling fast, the money
boxes were growing heavy. From a shabby window a pair of black
pantaloons came hurtling through the air and the crowd, strung up and
nervous with the tension of a night of mourning--for Rome mourned as I
had never believed it could mourn for anything--laughed from pure
nervousness.

At the shop of A. Pavia, the furrier, on the second floor, two people
came to the window, an elderly woman with a face swollen with weeping,
and a dark man who looked as if he had not slept. The cart stopped
again, and from that modest shop there hailed down no less than twenty
warm new fur coats and tippets--and this in Rome, the heart of thrift.
If I had not seen it with my eyes I should not have believed it. At
Olivieri’s, the grocer’s, a great quantity of canned meats, vegetables
and groceries were handed out. From a hosier’s near by came two great
packages of men’s shirts, some of cotton, and dozens of brand new
flannel shirts. At a tailor’s bale after bale of stout cloth was brought
out and thrown into the cart. Another bed with pillows was given by a
very poor looking woman; at the sight of this a man of the middle class
took the overcoat off his back--it was a cold morning, too, with a good
nip in the air--and threw it into the cart. I went into a news vendor’s
to buy the last edition of the _Messaggero_. The woman behind the
counter said to me:

“I have not read the papers, I could not--but I know; I am from that
country. Never since the beginning of the world has there been such a
calamity.”

How did she know? It was only later that most of us began to realize it!

Outside the Palazzo Sciarra I met Vera walking with Donna Hilda.

“Oh, to think that we were warm at your fireside that night when down
there they were freezing!” I began.

“I know, I know!” Vera interrupted. “Can you get me some money for my
Belgian nuns? I have raised a thousand pounds already, but we shall need
more.” I promised I would try; I knew her nuns to be wise as they are
good, and that the money would be well spent. It was our first meeting
since the dinner. Vera was pale, with disordered hair and hat awry. I
think her jacket and skirt did not belong together. It was a shock to
see her, with whom dress is a fine art, so unconscious of what she wore,
or how she looked. Donna Hilda, a Roman, though white as paper, was
perfectly trim and smart in appearance.

“You have no one of yours down there?” I asked Donna Hilda. That was the
first, the inevitable question that in those days one asked every
Italian one met.

“Not I, thank God! But my grandmother has some cousins. She does not
know if they are alive or dead. If they are gone, it would be best if
they are all gone together. I am more sorry for those that are saved
than for those that are killed.”

I shall always think of the Roman Corso--the gay thoroughfare where in
the carnivals of my mother’s time the wild horses used to run their race
from the Piazza del Popolo at one end to the Piazza Venezia at the
other--as it looked that day. I never saw the _barberi_, but I have seen
many carnival processions when the balconies of the Corso were full of
pretty women throwing flowers and confetti, and the street of young men
tossing flowers to the belles in the carriages and balconies. To-day the
street was filled with these stern-faced students in their gay carnival
caps. Every cart, carriage or automobile that passed carried a student
on each step, asking, begging, _demanding_ alms! They were no respecters
of persons. The Japanese Ambassador, with his inscrutable face, and his
wife and doll-like child passed in their unbecoming European dress. They
alone looked impassive and indifferent in a crowd where every other
face was tense and tragic. The students who stood on each step of the
Ambassador’s carriage would not be denied; I could not see in the end if
their passion or his passivity won the day.

It was nearly one o’clock when forage wagon number 24 reached the Piazza
Venezia. The cart was piled high. The streets were emptying; people were
going home to lunch. The students and the tall man with the bandaged
throat held a consultation, to decide whether or no there was any use
going on with their work. Meanwhile, the bugler, sitting on his stool at
the back of the cart, lighted a cigarette and began to read a newspaper.
The sight of his sturdy merry face was somehow calming. If the end of
the world was coming, had begun, while his world lasted it was for him
to blow his bugle!--to call upon the people to give food, clothes,
money, everything, _pro Calabria e Sicilia_.

From the first J. refused to read the papers or hear the details, and
from the first he said, “I want to go down and dig if I can get the
chance, but I don’t want to hear about it.”

For some days there seemed no chance of his carrying out his wish of
“going down to dig.” The red tape, the slowness, the utter incapacity of
the railroads, the post, the telegraph to cope with the situation seemed
maddening; it may have been inevitable, it probably was. He offered his
services here, there, everywhere, but martial law had been proclaimed
and it was impossible to reach the earthquake region without great
influence.

Thursday, December 31st, the American Ambassador, Mr. Lloyd Griscom,
despatched the first American relief party from Rome to Messina. The
Ambassador himself had hoped to lead the expedition. In those days of
anguish when we knew that thousands of lives might yet be saved if only
help came in time, it was torture for such a man to sit with idle
hands,--hands that might dig!--no matter how actively he might be
working with brain and wits. He soon realized that he could not leave
his post; his place was Rome, his work to inspire, organize and plan the
American Relief, to dispense the nation’s largess!

Major Landis, the military attaché of the embassy, was put in charge of
the party. His special care was to search for the bodies of

[Illustration: MESSINA. RUINS OF THE AMERICAN CONSULATE. _Page 21._]

Mr. and Mrs. Cheney, our Consul and his wife, and to recover the papers
of the Consulate, for we knew now that the Consulate had been entirely
destroyed. Mr. Bayard Cutting, our Consul from Milan, was of the party,
and Mr. Winthrop Chanler, whose mission was to look up missing
Americans. From the moment the news of the earthquake was known in
America, the Embassy was besieged by telegrams from people at home who
had friends in Sicily. The largest American colony in Southern Italy is
at Taormina, only two hours distant by train from Messina. It was
impossible for our Taorminesi to send word of their safety to their
relations at home, who were torn with anxiety about them. It was at this
time we first heard that Miss Catharine Bennett Davis of the Bedford
Reformatory was traveling in Sicily and it was feared was in Messina,
and of Anne Lee, Dr. and Mrs. Herbert Paton, Harry Bowdoin, Charles King
and Charles Williams, all Americans settled in Taormina by Etna, a town
at first believed to have suffered severely.

We went up to the station to see the relief party start. The train was
half an hour behind time. It was easy to see the impatience of the
Americans to be off.

“You have plenty of provisions?” a friend on the platform asked Chanler.

“I have a sack of Bologna sausages, a whole Parmesan cheese, and a case
of Nocera water,” was the answer.

“Where will you sleep?” asked an anxious wife of one of the travelers.

“We have one small tent, the last in Rome,--all the rest have been
bought up,--and several umbrellas.”

Food, water, shelter were the three indispensables; they were going to a
desert that lacked all these, and the torrential rain that began on the
fatal day still continued.

“Try to establish wireless communication between a warship in the harbor
and the Marconi station at Monte Mario,” said Athol to a press
representative. “If that’s impossible, wire Rome via Malta.”

“Don’t expect news of me till I bring it myself,” one of the travelers
called as the tardy train moved out of the station.

It seemed hopeless to expect news. Our first friend to leave was Colonel
Delmé Radcliffe of the English Embassy (the famous hunter of lions),
who went down on the first train after the disaster. Later several
official people we knew and one or two newspaper men followed. After
they left Naples we heard no more from them. They disappeared into the
blue, and we learned not to look for news of them till they themselves
brought it.

As the train pulled out we heard the tramp, tramp of marching men coming
up the street--more soldiers for the south. Nearly all the garrison at
Messina had been killed; every day regiments of soldiers went down to
that grim battle-field, some to lose their lives, all to suffer agonies
of mind and body, for as usual the army bore the brunt of the
disaster--and bore it well.

As we left the station we met Princess Nadine, called “the first citizen
of Rome” by reason of her splendid work for the poor sick children of
the city. Something was said about meeting the _profughi_ (refugees) who
were expected on the next train from Naples. She shook her great
benevolent head and answered firmly:

“That is for the rest of you. I must keep to my work. My sick babies
cannot be neglected. Everybody else will do for Calabria and Sicily;
_they_ only have me.”

The Princess was right. She belongs to the regular working army of
philanthropists. The reserve volunteer force of the world was already
mustering for this world disaster.

A little farther on we met our friend, Lombardi, the great
mathematician, carrying a traveling shawl and an umbrella. He stopped to
speak to us:

“Just in time to say good-by! I am leaving by the next train.”

“For Messina?”

He laughed--“No, to get _out_ of Messina--that’s more than I can do in
Rome! I am off for Morocco, the farthest place from Messina I know. The
Moors won’t trouble themselves much about the earthquake. I must have
more quiet than can be found in Italy this year, if I am to finish my
calculations.”

Just as we were getting into our cab outside the station our friend
Nerone came along. He looked pale, red-eyed, completely knocked out.

“What is the matter?” I asked. “Have you been ill?”

“Matter?” he cried, astonished at the question. “This thing has made me
ill. I had to take a purge and go to bed.”

I never heard that Nerone did anything else for the sufferers--taking a
purge did seem an odd way of showing sympathy.

As we drove from the station, past the Baths of Diocletian, we met the
regiment, whose measured tread we had heard, and recognized, marching
gallantly at the head of his company, a young captain whom we had often
watched drilling his men in the great field across the Tiber. We called
him Philippus for that soldier of Crotona the Segesteans found slain
among their foes after the battle, and to whose memory on account of his
superhuman beauty a temple was erected. Philippus was our neighbor; now
that he was leaving it seemed he was almost our friend. The barracks
where he and his soldiers lived were near our house. It was their bugle
that every night at halfpast ten sounded the call we too obeyed, “Go to
bed, go to bed, put out the lights.” The soldiers were most of them mere
boys with beardless faces. When we should meet again they would not look
so young. Those who went down to the earthquake region aged fast as men
do in battle.

I haunted the station in those days, watching the departure of the bands
of engineers, firemen, doctors, medical students that went down from
Rome by every train that left for Naples. From Milan, from Turin, from
Florence, from every city or town of northern Italy, help poured down
towards the stricken country. The Knights of Malta sent a field hospital
and a corps of doctors and nurses. Food, clothes, medicines, tents,
nurses, doctors, the great stream of help flowed steadily towards the
south. The railroads were not equal to the tremendous strain put upon
them, and the congestion of traffic was one of the hardest of Italy’s
trials. Her people were starving, dying of cold and hunger, while the
whole railroad system was congested and the good food and the warm
clothes, instead of reaching the poor victims, were shunted on
side-tracks or delayed in freight houses for weeks, even months. It was
inevitable that this should have happened; the same thing would have
happened in any country. But everything was against Italy. The
unheard-of severity of the winter was not the least element of danger
and difficulty. The railroad is managed by the Government, that poor
overburdened Government that tries its best to carry the great weight
put upon it. The strain of carrying south the vast stream of provisions
and supplies and of carrying north the enormous numbers of the refugees
flying from Sicily was too much for it. What nation, what railroad
system could have handled such a situation? One sinister commodity took
precedence of all others--quicklime; already the menace of pestilence
was in people’s minds, for now we knew that in Messina, a city of
200,000 souls, more than half the inhabitants had perished.

On Saturday, the second of January, Athol asked me to visit one of the
first families of refugees who had arrived in Rome. I found them in a
gaunt new barrack of a house in an arid street of one of the ugliest
quarters of new Rome.

“You have some _superstiti_ here?” I inquired of the porter’s wife, who
came out of the little den where she lived and cooked (chiefly garlic it
appeared), for her husband and children.

“Oh yes, poor people! You will find them on the second floor. You are
not the first who has asked for them.” She stopped and looked at me
curiously. “Excuse me, you too have perhaps come to inquire for news of
some relative down there?”

“No, no, thank Heaven! only to ask if I can do anything for them.”

“So much the better! There is enough to do.” The porter’s wife nodded
and went back to her cooking. I climbed two long flights of the cheap,
stark building and rang a strident bell. The thin varnished pine door
was opened a crack, and a handsome slatternly woman looked out. When I
asked to see the _profughi_, she stood aside and let me pass. In the
entry I met two people coming out, a shabby man with a hard dry face
like an eagle’s and a very beautiful young girl with a waxen complexion.
When they heard me ask for the _profughi_ they stopped and looked at me
so intently that I paused and looked helplessly back at them.

“You have asked to see the _profughi_,” said the man in a harsh dry
voice; “do you possibly know something of them--or of others--down
there--?”

“Nothing. And you?--do you know anything of Messina?”

“I?” laughed the eagle-faced man drearily, “I am of Messina. This one
also,” he looked at the girl, “though I never saw her till today. We go
here, there, together, asking news--her people are all there and mine.”

“Come,” said the girl, “do not let us waste time.” She spoke with
authority as one used to giving orders and having them obeyed. I noticed
then how sumptuously she was dressed. They went down the stairs
together, a strange pair, the shabby eagle-faced man and the young
lovely lady. I never saw the girl again, or knew whether she found those
for whom she sought.

“It is the truth that I have not had five minutes to comb myself today,”
said the _padrona_, who had opened the door, a dark woman of the noble
Trasteverine type. She smoothed her magnificent black hair that lay in
full natural waves over her low forehead, and pulled up the collar of
her white jacket to hide her beautiful bronze throat. “Believe me,
Signora, that blessed bell has never stopped ringing. Holy Apostles! One
would think that the Messinesi were different from other Christians,
that they had two heads, everybody must have a look at them.”

“I am sorry to disturb you,” I began.

“No, no,” she said, “I did not mean that. What is it to do? They are
relations of relations of my husband’s. They knew our name and address
in Rome and, having no other friends, they came to us. They arrived
yesterday. We have taken the furniture out of one of our rooms, borrowed
a few beds, and done what we could to make them comfortable. Poor souls!
Anything that you can do--” she threw open the door of a large
apartment, evidently the property room of some theatrical company. The
floor space on the left was taken up with bundles of stage costumes
neatly folded and tagged. A white toga with an olive wreath and a pair
of sandals lay next a costume Othello might have worn, judging by the
coffee-colored stockinette tucked into the yellow satin cloak. On the
right of the door were four decent beds; in the corner stood a dining
table with a loaf of bread, a green wicker basket of ricotta, and a
flask of Genzano. The room was half full of people.

“This lady wishes to talk with the Messinesi,” cried the _padrona_,
good-naturedly elbowing the crowd, evidently friends and hangers-on of
the house. “You have seen them, yes? They only have two eyes apiece and
one mouth? Well, then make room for the stranger lady. She may do
something besides stare at the poor abandoned creatures.”

The people readily fell back and I found myself face to face with one of
the first families of the survivors who had reached Rome. At sight of
them I was overcome with suffocating emotion. It was a full minute
before I could speak, before I could see through the sudden mist that
blinded me. It was as if their sufferings had set them apart, their
sorrows hallowed them.

In the middle of the group stood an old man and woman, holding each
other by the hand. Both were bent and wan looking; the woman seemed the
less shaken of the two. She had a wonderful shrivelled face with
gray-blue eyes and a brown seamed skin, stooping shoulders covered by a
small peasant shawl, and an alert wiry little body. It was my business
to ask certain questions, but it was more than a minute before I could
get out the words.

“What are your names?”

“I am Rosina Calabresi,” the staunch old woman quavered. “This is my
husband; he cannot talk much yet. He is better now, but for three days
after the earthquake he could not say a word. This is our son Francesco,
and this is his wife.” Francesco, a soft-eyed young man, patted his
wife’s hand; she hid her face on his shoulder and began to weep. “This
is my grandson,” Rosina continued, “he is of Reggio. He was staying with
us that he might go to school in Messina. His mother is my eldest
daughter. We have not yet heard from his parents. We do not know whether
they are alive or dead.”

The boy, a pale, interesting lad of fourteen, looked at me with serious
unmoved face.

“My husband was a government employé formerly,” the old woman continued;
“he was a postman.” She shook him gently by the arm. “Cannot you speak
to the lady?” The old postman moved his lips dumbly. “He is only
seventy-eight years old, and I am seventy,” Rosina went on. “Francesco
is our youngest son.” I asked the young woman her name.

“Lucia,” she said, and hid her face again. The young man comforted her.

“She will do better soon,” said the old woman, nodding to me.

“When do you expect the baby?” I asked.

“Tomorrow,” she said, “it will be nine months tomorrow, the first child,
we have not been married quite a year.” Her soft eyes overflowed again.

“Do not cry. You have your husband and you will have your child. That is
something to be thankful for. Did all your family escape?”

“Yes, all that were in our house, six of us,” said Francesco. “We do not
know about the others.” I heard a deep sigh behind me and turned to see
a little wan child, bandaged and pillowed up in a great bed. She never
stirred or smiled during my whole visit. When I spoke to her, she only
gazed at me with great sombre eyes that had lost their childishness,
eyes that had seen sights of horror they could never forget.

“That is my grandchild Caterina,” the old woman explained. “She has been
lame from birth. When we escaped from the house I carried her in my
arms. As we ran the earth beneath us opened and threw stones at us. One
of them struck Caterina and broke her lame leg.”

“Tell me how you escaped?”

The young man, Francesco Calabresi, a plumber of Messina, now spoke:

“We slept in two rooms on the ground floor behind the shop. We were all
asleep in bed when the earthquake came. There were three long shocks and
the earth groaned as it rocked from side to side as if it were in pain.
Though the house fell down about us we were not hurt. The door into the
street was jammed and would not open. I found a small hole in the wall
near it and managed to crawl through it and to help the others out.”

“It was dark, and cold, and it rained--Oh, God, how it rained!” cried
the old woman, “and we were all, except Lucia, naked as the day we were
born.”

Lucia smiled for the first time and opened her dress to show me her high
chemise.

“Yes, I had this on; it was the only thing we saved.” She was evidently
proud that she alone of all the family had escaped with a garment to
hide her nakedness. In Sicily the old Italian habit of sleeping without
night clothes still prevails. There is a widespread prejudice against
night clothes. Nena, an old Venetian servant, once told me that it was
very unwholesome to sleep _dressed_. This absolute nakedness, both of
the living and of the dead, seemed to the rescuers the last touch of
horror.

“It was quite dark,” the old woman continued, “only out over the sea
there was a strange light like fire. We found our way to the Villa
Mazzini. Part of the railing and the gates had been thrown down so that
we could get into the garden. That is how we escaped being killed. We
waited together till it was light, then Francesco went and tried to find
help. We stayed in the villa two days and two nights. The rain never
stopped for one moment. We had no food, no clothes, no shelter, but we
were alive and safe.”

“Did you see any of your neighbors?”

“No, but as we ran we heard people all about us crying
‘_misericordia_.’”

“Did you expect to escape?”

“Oh, no! I believed it was the end of the world. The earth shook and
rumbled underneath us. When it grew light it seemed as if the mountains
of Calabria were coming at us across the straits to crush us.”

Francesco now took up the story: “I made my way down to the Faro. When
it was light I found a boat and rowed out to the ships in the harbor.
Later, when the Russian vessels came, they gave me a little food and a
few clothes. In the end they took us on board their ship, they fed and
clothed us. Russians, did I say, Signora? No, they were angels. They
took us and many, many others to Naples on their great ship. At Naples
the highest _signoria_ waited upon us as if they had been servants. They
gave us white bread and wine and more clothes, shoes also, and they
showed us the kindness of brothers and sisters. We shall never forget
them. Then the Duchess of Aosta paid our fare to Rome.”

“What? The railroad did not take you free?”

“Oh, no! Every one was paid for by the _Duchessa benedetta_.”

As they seemed pleased to have me stay with them, I sat and comforted
them as well as I could for an hour. After a little Lucia came and sat
beside me and promised me that she would not grieve when her time came
to go to the hospital. We made out a list of the things most needed,
headed by a set of plumber’s tools for Francesco and a basket for the
baby to sleep in. I promised to return in a few days, and as I rose to
take leave they clung to me as if I had been an old friend.

“Is it your wish in the future,” I said to Francesco, “to remain in
Rome, or later to return to Messina?” Even now we outsiders had not yet
grasped the awful completeness of the disaster.

At my question Rosina became terrified, and for the first time in our
interview lost her self-control. She threw both her hands above her head
with a dreadful gesture of despair and shrieked:

“Messina? What is it that you say? _Messina non esiste più!_”

It was from Rosina that the eagle-faced man had got his phrase; it was
from her that I for the first time had an inkling of the true extent of
the calamity. When I look back at these last months during which I have
lived with the thought of Messina always with me, till it seems as if
the word Messina must be found seared upon my heart when I am dead, I
hear those words, “_Messina non esiste più!_” When I pass in review the
hundreds of survivors I have seen and talked with in Rome, Syracuse,
Palermo, finally in Messina itself, I see clearest of all the face of
Rosina, the ancient woman; I hear her shriek of woe:

“_Messina non esiste più!_”



II

THE STRAITS OF DEATH


Wednesday, December 30th, the King and Queen of Italy sailed through the
straits and into the harbor of Messina. As their ship, the “Vittorio
Emanuele,” approached the Faro, the gunners of the Russian cruisers, the
English men-of-war, and the Italian battleships began to fire the royal
salute.

“Cease firing!” The signal flashed from the King’s ship; this was no
time for royal salvos. The “Vittorio Emanuele” crept cautiously along,
feeling every inch of her way, for a new terror had been added to the
old perils of Scylla and Charybdis. It was said that under the seething
waters of the uneasy straits a submarine volcano had arisen, and no one
knew how much the bottom of straits or harbor had been altered by the
action of this hidden volcano.

A fleet of small boats filled with desperate half-naked men put off from
the shore and surrounded the King’s ship. This was the third day after
the earthquake; the survivors were starving, dying of cold and hunger,
when in every Italian village men and women had taken the clothes from
their backs, the food from their mouths for them, when in Rome the poor
prisoners in the gaols had voted to a man that the little sums they had
earned and put by against their release should be spent for them. The
shivering figures in the boats stretched out appealing hands towards the
King.

“_Aiutarteci, aiutarteci!_” they cried. “Help us, Majesty. Give us to
eat, give us to drink, clothes to cover us, the abandoned of God and
man!” These broken men were the King’s escort, their frenzied cries
Messina’s greeting to her sovereign. In a crazy felucca a tall old
sailor held up a hand to silence the clamoring crew, snatched a red
biretta from his silver curls, waved it above his head with a ringing
cry:

“Evviva! We have the King, we have all!”

“Thou sayest well, Luigi,” the young _avvocato_, Arcangelo Bonanno,
called out from the pier. He knew Luigi, the old fisherman, and had
sailed with him from Giardini to Messina

[Illustration: MESSINA. THE WATER FRONT. _Page 41._]

[Illustration: MESSINA. A FUNERAL BARGE. _Page 42._]

[Illustration: THE KING AND THE WOUNDED OFFICER. _Page 43._]

in the “Stella del Mare,” one of the few boats spared by the tidal wave
that had made total wrecks of most of the fishing smacks along the
coast.

As the “Vittorio Emanuele” neared the shore those on board saw the white
façade of the palazzata through the gray rain--for still it rained and
always rained a fine cold rain, “not quite like any other rain,” as
Rosina Calabresi had said. “Earthquake rain” I remember she called it.
At first sight it seemed as if the palazzata--the splendid row of
palaces two miles long, that lined the sickle-shaped harbor fronting the
straits--was little damaged. As they came nearer they saw that the outer
wall, with its sculptured façade of graceful reclining goddesses, was an
empty shell.

“There were three shocks,” Rosina said. “One from side to side, one up
and down as if the earth jumped under us, one round and round; that was
the worst, the very earth groaned with the pain of it.”

These three shocks that reduced the beautiful city of Messina to a heap
of ruins, lasted just thirty-two seconds! The sidewise movement threw
down the side walls; then the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth
floors, with all that in them lived, dropped one over the other in awful
chaos to the bottom of the cellars. Along the water front high in air
hung a cloud of dun smoke; for after earthquake and tidal wave came
fire. That drifting smoke was the only thing in sight that moved as the
King approached; it might have been the soul of Messina hanging over the
dead city.

The King’s launch made its way through the harbor’s dreadful
debris,--there were floating corpses everywhere,--and drew up at the
heavy stone quay; here the land looked like the waves of the sea, in
some places it had sunk six feet below the water, in others it had been
heaved high in air. A long line of unrecognized dead had been laid out
for identification; naked and helpless the poor disfigured corpses
washed to and fro with the tide, while those among the survivors who had
the heart and courage tried to find a name for each. Our friend the
Avvocato Bonanno (he had spent the night of the 28th in Taormina and so
escaped destruction) was helping make up the tragic rollcall.

“That is Maddalena, youngest daughter of Count Q.; I danced with her on
Christmas Day. This is her old grandmother, yes, I am sure, I remember
the little mole on her cheek. And this--might be Nina, the eldest
daughter; look for an emerald scarab on her left hand. Ah, God, the
human brutes!” The emerald ring, the finger it had graced were both
gone, cut off by ghouls that rob the dead.

The launch touched the quay, and the King stepped on shore where he was
met by the few city officials who had survived. The spokesman began a
halting address of welcome:

“The visit of your august majesty is an honor that we shall never
forget, in the name of the city--“

The King cut the good man short with an abrupt:

“_Scusi_, do not let us talk nonsense,” and in silence led the way to
the barracks where hundreds of his brave soldiers had perished.

“Snuffed out,” Bonanno said, “or so we hope, like so many rush candles.”
A few steps farther on the King met four soldiers carrying a wounded
officer on a litter. The King glanced at the man and a flash of
recognition lighted his face.

“_Fermate!_” he cried. The bearers set down the litter; the King propped
the poor head, rolling helplessly from side to side, with a fragment of
gray military cloak folded for a pillow, wiped the ashen face, and
whispered the one brave word ever on his lips “_Coraggio!_”

The streets through which the King passed were mountains of rubbish, the
houses heaps of ruins, the air pestilential; the fire still burned in
many places, and the smell of roasting flesh was simply overpowering.
The few survivors who hung about the ruins added to the despair of the
scene; some crazed with hunger, thirst, despair, behaved like maddened
children; they talked of their dead or lost families with the terrible
indifference of the insane; their minds were not strong enough to grasp
what had happened. Others, oftenest women, appealed to every passer-by,
imploring help in their frenzied efforts to reach some beloved being
buried under tons of masonry. A woman tearing desperately with her bare
hands at a huge mass of stone it would have taken a regiment of men a
week to move recognized the King; she ran as if in frantic haste, threw

[Illustration: MESSINA. THE BARRACKS. _Page 43._]

[Illustration: MESSINA. RUINS OF A CHURCH. _Page 44._]

[Illustration: MESSINA. DIGGING FOR THE BURIED-ALIVE. _Page 47._]

[Illustration: THE KING AT MESSINA. _Page 45._]

herself at his feet, raised her bleeding hands in an agony of appeal.

“_Maestá, aiuto!_ Save them! They are alive. I hear them, my husband, my
son, my only son.”

“It is too much,” the King broke from her with a sob. “Help her, you
others, if you can,” he cried to his aides and pushed on through the
ghastly ruin of what three days ago had been the famous Marina, one of
the most beautiful streets in the world.

“The King’s walk through Messina,” said Bonanno the _avvocato_ who
followed him, “was like the walk of Dante and Virgil through the
Inferno. At every step raving men, weeping women clutched at him, clung
to him, stretched out their hands to him. Those hands! I dream of them
now, hairy hands of men, transparent hands of women, old shrivelled
hands with gripping fingers, chubby hands of little children lifted to
the King, as if he could help them. I would not have been in his place,
no, not for three kingdoms.”

From that desperate throng one tragic figure must stand out clear in the
King’s memory as it does in Bonanno’s--the Deputy Ludovico Fulci pacing
back and forth before the ruin of his brother’s house. Though Bonanno
knew him well, he did not at first recognize him; in four days the
deputy had grown twenty years older.

“Nicoló, Nicoló! Art thou yet alive?” he shrieked. “Oh, my brother, make
one little sign! Until tonight I heard his voice crying for help! It has
grown weaker and weaker; now I hear no sound. If help had come in time,
I could have saved him, saved my brother, do you hear? Him, his wife,
his little child, God knows how many others now dead, _sotto le
macerie_.”

Under the masonry! No one who was in Italy during this dreadful season
will ever forget that phrase, “_sotto le macerie_,” the deadly refrain
of the great tragedy. Where is your mother, your lover, your child? The
answer was always the same “_sotto le macerie_.”

The King, Bonanno said, above all else insisted that his visit should
bring no interruption to the rescue work: indeed it proved an impetus to
it, for he did much to establish something approaching system. The work
of excavation was begun by the Russian sailors. Three Russian warships,
the “Cesarevich,” the “Makaroff” and the “Slava,” cruising off the
Calabrian coast, met a vessel--some say English, some say
Italian--flying to Naples with the news of the earthquake: the Russians
hurried to Messina, they were the first to arrive on the ground. What
they did there Sicily will remember as long as her history survives.
Like Francesco Calabresi, my plumber, the Avvocato Bonanno described
their work in rescuing the entombed men, women and children as something
superhuman.

“They did not wait for orders, they did not need them; each of them was
an inspired leader; they saw no danger, but rushed like madmen among
crumbling ruins, toppling walls; they worked like Titans I tell you. The
English were not long behind the Russians, as you may believe. What a
people! We Sicilians know what we owe them! Did these foreigners save
many lives? Yes, hundreds, thousands of lives. More than all, the sight
of their incredible labors--I say it to you again, they worked like gods
not men--broke the spell of apathy that at first held us powerless.
_Madonna mia!_ I myself felt it, though at Taormina the shock was light.
At first I was stunned, dazed, lacked power to lift a hand! These
unfortunates, you may believe, were worse. The first man I met after I
returned to Messina was a colleague of mine; we had worked in the same
office. He was quite stupefied. He did not know if any of his family had
escaped or not, he did not seem to care. The visit of the King roused
the people; ah! it was like cordial to one who faints. Imagine, on the
fourth day hardly a cup of water, scarcely a loaf of bread had come to
us from the outside. Was it wonderful we believed the end of the world
had come, that we were abandoned by God and man?”

And all this time the great stream of supplies was pouring in a steady
flood toward Messina. The city was like a man who dies of starvation in
the midst of plenty, because he has lost the power to swallow.

“I went first to the house where I had lived,” Bonanno said. “It was a
heap of ruins fallen outwards into the street; the inner wall was
standing. How did I know the house? From the crimson paper on my bedroom
wall. That wall--I can show it to you still--was perfect. There was the
crucifix my mother hung over the bed, the palm from last Palm Sunday;
there was the Venetian mirror without a crack, a portrait of Lola, the
Spanish dancing girl (she is among the missing). A lot of soldiers were
at work excavating our house; an officer with an iron crowbar lay flat
on a mass of rubbish, and pried with all his might at a great stone
coping from under which came faint groans. Another officer lay on his
back below and somehow,--it looked a miracle,--they got a purchase on
the stone. With strength that seemed incredible they tugged and heaved
and at last lifted the great mass of granite; then they stopped to
breathe and the soldiers quickly cleared away the smaller rubbish. We
took out Agnese, the wife of my landlord, and her little child; they
could not speak; their mouths were full of mortar. When we had freed
their mouths and nostrils from the mortar we found they were both too
much hurt to stand. We carried them to the field hospital in the piazza,
where the doctors from the English ships were at work under a tarpaulin
stretched over some posts. Not much of a hospital, but they worked,
those doctors, as the sailors worked, like demons, as one might say,
with all respect. Wet to the skin, fasting like we others, but working
till their eyes refused to see, their hands to use the knife.”

“Was Agnese’s husband saved too?”

“Antonio? Yes, he was saved; that was a strange case, one of the
strangest. He was saved by his dog. That blessed animal--I knew him
well, his name was Leone--would not let Antonio sleep, but barked and
barked and pulled at the blankets till Antonio got up from his bed,
dressed himself and went out of the house. It was about half past four
o’clock. He could not tell why he did so; it seemed as if the dog’s
intelligence controlled his. Leone led the way, Antonio followed to the
Piazza del Duomo, where he sat down on the steps of the Cathedral. Leone
was not satisfied and still barked and whined and ran back and forth,
until Antonio finally got up and went and sat down on a bench in the
middle of the piazza. He was sitting there with the dog beside him when
the earthquake came and the marble Bambino fell down out of the arms of
the Madonna over the door of the Matrice, just at the place where he had
been sitting; if he had remained there he would surely have been killed.
These things

[Illustration: MESSINA. THE CATHEDRAL BEFORE THE DISASTER. _Page 50._]

[Illustration: THE CATHEDRAL AFTER THE DISASTER. _Page 50._]

[Illustration: ARCANGELO’S HOUSE. _Page 48._]

[Illustration: MESSINA. WHERE MARIETTA LIVED. _Page 51._]

are not to be explained but there were many such happenings.”

“Were there any others saved from your house?”

“Agnese’s old grandfather. He lay quite still in his bed and went down
in it to the lowest floor of the house. The beams fell so as to protect
the bed. When we found him he was without a scratch, but quite blind
from the dust in his eyes. I shook the old man by the shoulder to rouse
him. He turned his blind eyes towards me and cried with the voice of a
wounded lion:

“‘Leave me in peace! The earth is dying; I die with the earth!’”

Arcangelo’s stories of miraculous escapes would fill a volume; that of
Marietta is one of the most extraordinary.

“Marietta certainly owes her life to me,” he began, “or rather to my
ears. You must know that my ears are remarkable--so were my father’s. I
have in truth the hearing of a cat. No one else could have heard the
faint knocking inside the heap of rubbish that had been Ugo’s workshop.
At first I doubted my senses, then I remembered that Marietta lived in
the little room behind the carpenter’s shop, and it occurred to me at
the same time that Ugo was working at a job in Catania. I gave
information and after many hours of hard work the soldiers succeeded in
making a space large enough to let down a basket with food and water to
the woman buried under the ruins, whose tapping I had heard. I could now
hear what she said; she was quite unhurt; her bed had been placed under
an arch, the safest place of course, and the arch remained standing; she
had not so much as a bruise. The house had fallen so that unless great
care was taken the remaining walls would crumble and crush the woman
under the arch. The fifth morning I came with a piece of bread and three
dried figs I had found in the ruins for her; I made the usual signal;
there was no answer.

“‘Marietta, canst thou hear?’ I called to her. She did not reply. I put
my ear to the hole; what did I hear? A sharp thin voice that wailed and
wailed but said no word.

“‘Marietta, art thou alive?’ ‘I am alive, and so is the child. Water,
for the love of Mary!’ _Poverina!_ Alone in that dark pit she had borne
her first child. On the eighth day we took Marietta and her baby from
the _macerie_. It was a boy, stout and strong as a young bull, for we
had fed the mother and her milk had not failed. Miracles? Ah, well, that
is as one believes. I myself put the two of them on the train for
Taormina. There be many rich _forestieri_ at Taormina; I doubt not they
have cared for Marietta; they have great charity, those _forestieri_ of
Taormina. They have charity, and they understand us a little, those who
live among us here in Sicily; they shared our calamity, they knew our
people. Some others do not understand, and should not judge. It may be
true that this official ran away, that this other was relieved of office
for incompetence. This they know, but they do not know the state of mind
and body to which those men were reduced. It was better that they fled,
for they were not fit to hold positions of responsibility; few of us
were; we were too much broken. No one who has not seen Messina, who has
not known the survivors, can understand; it was not like a battle, where
men go in prepared for death, it was quite another thing!”

While the King was at Messina martial law was proclaimed. General Mazza,
who was at home on sick leave, left his bed and hurried to Messina to
take command of the troops. I asked Bonanno what manner of man the
general was; I remember his answer well.

“A good man and a brave soldier. He has but one fault, the incurable
one: he is sixty-eight years old and out of health besides!”

The proclaiming of martial law was a military necessity. The prison at
Messina had been destroyed by the earthquake, and the convicts, the scum
of Sicily, were at large. From Naples, from Palermo, from all over
Italy, the offscouring of the cities raced, like beasts of prey who
scent the carnage of battle, to the ruin of Messina, the beautiful. It
seemed as if Nature’s cruelty in destroying half a province roused the
basest passions in the base, and the noblest in the noble. The soldiers
on their rounds at night saw things--desecrations of the helpless dead,
offences against nature--that turned them from thoughtless boys to grave
men. Here again the Russians, swift to save, swift to punish, terrible
in their anger, set the example. A young Russian midshipman, a beautiful
boy,--his blue eyes were like ice with fire below, Bonanno said,--found
one of the human vultures at work. The midshipman had very little
Italian, only a few words; they were enough:

“_Ladro!_” he cried and put his pistol to the ruffian’s head,
“_condannato a morte_,” and fired.

After this the soldiers’ orders were explicit; when the offence was
monstrous, the human monsters were shot without delay. It is a terrible
thing to proclaim martial law but there was no other way. Not only were
the Red Cross Knights of Europe, England and America pressing on to the
relief of the afflicted city, but the murderers, thieves and ravishers
from the four quarters of the earth were hastening in search of plunder
and rapine to Messina, the rich, to Reggio, the prosperous, the sister
city across the uneasy straits.

“Do you know the worst?” Bonanno whispered, as if it were too horrible
to speak aloud. “Some of our girls--think of it--lost, dazed, stricken
creatures, were kidnapped for the brothels of Naples! The slave hunters
saw their chance from the first hour; who knows how many of our Sicilian
virgins, the purest, the most beautiful of God’s daughters, are now
lost in that hideous, that worst of all slavery? Ah, it is too much!
Dear God, had we not enough to bear without this? One I have tried to
trace, a flower, a lily, the girl whose eyes said to mine, ‘When the
time comes for you to speak, I am ready.’ She was seen alive and well on
board one of the first boats that left for Naples; she has never been
heard of since.”

Bonanno dashed the tears from his eyes, shook his fist in the direction
of Naples. “Accursed city!” he cried, “sink of Europe!”

       *       *       *       *       *

While King Victor was in Messina helping organize the rescue work, Queen
Elena remained in the harbor shaping the course of the hospital-ship
work. She went from ship to ship, for every vessel, merchantman or
man-of-war of whatever nationality, became for the nonce a floating
hospital. The most seriously wounded were carried on board the ships,
where they could receive better care than in the hospital stations on
shore where, in the midst of confusion, and difficulties beyond belief,
the faithful surgeons worked early and late under the pitiless rain,
drenched to the skin, fasting and suffering with thirst and cold like
all the rest. It was a time when men and women toiled with every fibre
of their being; there was too much to do to allow of specialization; the
King planned, but he lent a hand too when he saw the chance; the Queen
practically shaped the whole future course of the hospital-ship work;
but that was not enough. She rolled up her sleeves, put on her apron and
went to work to help the doctors as only a good nurse can. On board one
of the floating hospitals she received the wounded, washed and dressed
their wounds, bandaged broken limbs, soothed the sick, comforted the
dying. It was then that she came into her true woman’s kingdom, earned
for once and all the title of Queen Elena the Good.

Her fame as a nurse has been spread throughout Italy, throughout the
world, not by courtiers or reporters, but by the patients she tended.
That is a sort of reputation that lasts. In Syracuse a young Messinese
said to a Blue Sister from Malta, who was doing up her shattered arm:

“Guardi, the Queen put on that bandage; mind you roll it as smoothly as
she did.”

In a Naples hospital a child was heard to cry, “The Queen did not hurt
me as much as you do, and she had to pick the mortar out of the wound
before she dressed it.”

It is said that more than one woman died in the Queen’s arms at Messina;
it is certain that she was so much impressed by what she saw there that
she became the most impassioned of all who worked for Italy in the dark
hour. She suffered even in her person; one poor frenzied creature in her
struggles to throw herself overboard, struck the Queen and hurt her, it
was feared at first seriously. Her example of service was followed by
the court ladies and by heroic women of every class; her energy aroused
hope in the forlorn remnant of the stricken people; it was a moral tonic
and stimulus to the whole nation.

When they left Rome both the King and Queen believed the disaster to be
even more complete than it proved; they had been told that all the
inhabitants of Messina and Reggio were killed. Orders were given to the
Roman Red Cross Society to wait their instructions. When they reached
Messina and found how matters stood, the Queen sent a wire to the
president of the Red Cross asking for nurses and doctors to be sent
down. From Vera, one of the first to volunteer, I heard something of the
expedition.

“I got my summons on New Year’s day--you remember, we met at the
Campidoglio that morning and you told me where to go for shoes? I had
just succeeded in finding those shoes for my _profughi_ when I was
called to the telephone. Could I be ready to start that evening for
Messina? Naturally I could--we all could; not that we had been idle, for
there was plenty to do for the refugees already on our hands in Rome;
but if I could be of more use at Messina, I was ready to go. There were
forty of us women in the Red Cross party and a number of surgeons. The
officer in command made us an amusing speech--he didn’t mean to be
amusing: ‘You will take the minimum of luggage and the maximum of
obedience,’ he said. ‘You will drop your titles and remember you are
under military discipline and that insubordination will be
punished’--then came a hint of a dark cabin and of manacles for
insubordinates. We listened to him and felt that we were back in the
days of the French Revolution, that we should henceforth be known as
Citizeness this or that. Many of us had titles, but not all. There was
Princess Teano--you knew her as the beautiful Vittoria Colonna; there
was the Marchesa Guiccioli, whose husband is equerry to the Queen
Mother; there was Countess Teresina Tua, the violinist; Madame Agresti,
Rossetti’s daughter. We left Rome for Spezia, way up at the top of
Italy; it seemed a waste of time when we wanted to go to the south; it
was a dreadful night journey; I sent Natika back to Rome from Spezia.”

Vera sighed; Natika was her Calmuck maid; that little sigh was the only
whimper I ever heard from her through these months when she lived,
worked, spent her genius, power, money, all that she has and is as
freely as water _pro Calabria e Sicilia_.

“At Spezia we caught the troop-ship ‘Taormina’ bound for Messina with a
regiment of soldiers. After endless delays we at last set sail; before
we were well outside the harbor we were recalled by a ‘wireless’ and had
to turn round and go back. I sketched the harbor and Gulf of Spezia, the
arsenal, the dockyard, the two forts, the purple hills behind, the white
fishing villages in the foreground. It was all interesting, but the
delay was hard to bear! Every heart-beat spelt ‘hurry’; every hour of
waiting meant so many fewer lives saved. The soldiers who had only just
embarked were ordered on shore again, and we had to wait until they had
all disembarked!”

Vera’s small nervous hands opened and shut impatiently. She speaks with
a slight lisp that is like the soft pedal of a piano to the music of her
voice. Vera was brought up by an English governess; she is many-colored
as a chameleon, polished as a many-faceted jewel; when she is with us
she turns the English facet to the light.

“As we passed the Bay of Lerici I thought of Lord Byron and of Shelley
who passed his last days there. Is it true you no longer read those
poets? We do in Russia.”

At sunrise on the morning of Saturday, January 2nd, five days after the
earthquake, the “Taormina” with the Red Cross party on board sailed into
the harbor of Messina; the ships at anchor saluted by dipping the
colors; on the admiral’s vessel, the marines presented arms. The
“Taormina” dropped anchor near enough the shore for those on board to
see the sunken Marina, the great yawning cracks in the solid ground,
the railroad station with the cars heaped together as if there had been
a collision. A locomotive lay overturned on its side: some of the cars
had been carried out to sea, where they lay idly washing to and fro,
others had been seized and turned into dwellings by the wretched
_superstiti_. An endless procession of soldiers and sailors with
stretchers bearing the wounded filed past, and the rattle of the gay
little painted Sicilian carts heaped with the dead never ceased as the
long line moved towards the huge funeral pyre. The fumes of the burning
bodies reached them on board the “Taormina,” sickening but not
discouraging the perfumed ladies of the court. There had been some doubt
whether they would be ordered on shore to help in the hospitals under
the rude tents, or whether the wounded would be brought on board. At
last the order came clear and direct: “Prepare to receive the wounded on
board.” After that no time was lost. The operating rooms were made
ready, the long tables were cleared, the surgeons put on their white
gowns, laid out their shining instruments, chose their assistants. When
the forty nurses reported for duty one only among them all wore the
uniform of a trained nurse, Phyllis Wood of the Buffalo General
Hospital.

“I would have exchanged my title for hers,” Vera said, “and what would I
not have given for her clinical thermometer, the only one on board!”

Later I saw and talked with Nurse Phyllis herself: “We had come in for
the worst, for the wounded that were brought on board the ‘Taormina’ had
been _sotto le macerie_ for days,” she said. “They were suffering from
intolerable thirst and hunger. Oh, the cries for water, the screams of
pain, as the poor maimed creatures were brought on board in the arms of
the soldiers and sailors. The first day I was detailed to do the
dressing of the wounds; later I was ordered down into the hold to assist
Dr. Guarneri, the chief surgeon, with the operations. Then my real work
began. We worked at the rate of sixty operations a day, all sorts of
settings, every conceivable fracture. There was no time to give
anesthetics (indeed we had none to give), yet we hardly heard a murmur
from these poor lips. We had two extemporized operating tables and two
young doctors worked with me under Guarneri. Sometimes it seemed
impossible to keep up with the work, to have the dressings and
antiseptics ready; but Guarneri is a splendid surgeon, full of energy
and enthusiasm, so calm and self-possessed that we worked under him
unconscious of time or of fatigue; our hours were from six in the
morning till one at night.”

There was work for doctors and nurses among the rescuers as well as
among the rescued. Many of the brave soldiers and sailors, who had
worked with splendid courage and devotion, died from gangrene caused by
handling the decomposing bodies; the death of one of these heroes stands
clear in the nurse’s memory. A young lieutenant of Bersaglieri was
brought on board the “Taormina,” dying from a hemorrhage brought on by
his tremendous exertions.

“He was conscious to the last,” the nurse said. “We had no time to
undress him, so he lay in his uniform and we placed his sword beside
him. He was only one of many who laid down their lives!”

“I had for my helper,” Nurse Phyllis went on, “a young Roman belle, not
twenty years old, with no more knowledge of nursing than a baby. She
stood up to her work like a veteran--it was not easy; no American girl
of that sort could have done what she did.”

Those days on the “Taormina” were not easy days for the Red Cross
ladies, but I do not think one of them would be willing to give up the
experience they brought. Whatever else was lacking, on board the
hospital ship they had splendid surgical skill, for the Italian surgeons
are among the best in the world. In this dire emergency the national
characteristic, the capacity of working on a spurt, came into play. Soon
help came to the “Taormina” from the other ships already on the ground;
one sent sterilized gauze, another sent bandages, a third medicines, a
fourth a supply of vaseline.

“The English Jackies from a neighboring ship,” said Phyllis, “made and
sent us a quantity of long white garments for our poor naked patients;
they were very primitive, made of a long piece of white cloth with two
seams and a hole for the head, but we were mighty glad to get them.”

How like the decent English this was; how I should have loved to see the
dear sailors sitting on deck sewing the long seams!

While Vera was with the Red Cross at Messina, there was a rumor that the
authorities had decided to destroy what was left of the city.

“Each day we heard a new report,” Vera said, “till we did not know what
to believe. Your friend, the Avvocato Bonanno, brought us one of the
most startling rumors. I remember his saying, ‘We count the dead by tens
of thousands. How can they be decently buried, how can a pestilence be
prevented? There is but one way to complete the destruction the
earthquake has wrought. We should send away the few survivors, then let
the warships bombard this vestige of a city till the last walls crumble,
fall, and bury together the city and its dead.’”

       *       *       *       *       *

News from Taormina at last--the city, not the ship! Letters began to
come to us in Rome from one and another of our people there, letters
that gave us glimpses of their experiences and the work they were doing.
My old friend Anne Lee of Boston wrote:

“I was wakened by the earthquake but not very much frightened at first.
I did get up and go to the window to watch the sea. It was terrible to
hear and most curious. Out in the bay there was a wide circle of whitish
yellow light which stayed in one place; it looked like moonlight, but
there was no moon, and it was round, not straight like the wake of a
star. I could see the waves breaking high on the shore. In no time the
poor _contadini_ were coming out of their houses over on the hills with
their lanterns; they looked like Will o’ the wisps; they were hurrying
over to the town for protection. The big quaking lasted forty seconds,
but we had small ones all day. The town was in a panic; men, women, and
children ran out into the streets without anything on, or trying to
struggle into their clothes. Some of their shirts were upside down; all
were screaming with fright. They crowded into the churches by hundreds.
At eight I heard music; I went to the window and saw a procession
marching down the narrow street that runs along by the old Roman wall.
First came the _Misericordia_, dressed in white with red shoulder capes
carrying lighted candles. On a _paso_ was San Pancrazio dressed as a
bishop, with two rows of candles burning before him. As soon as they
were in sight of the sea they stopped and cried out a prayer and waved
their hands towards the sea; they went on again to the end of the
street, waving towards Etna standing against the blue sky like a great
white pyramid with a mass of new fallen snow on the summit. It was
glorious. The band was playing a slow muffled march, the other
instruments stopping while the muffled drum carried on the time with
slow steady taps. Before San Pancrazio walked the Archpriest with his
two assistants carrying lighted candles, then came the great crowd of
men, women and children, the white Carmelite nuns, and the yellow and
red handkerchiefs of the peasants making spots of color in the dark
mass; they were all so terrified and earnest looking! They took San
Pancrazio from his own church to the cathedral to wait and protect them
for a while until Saint Peter could be brought to join him. About five
o’clock in the afternoon they brought Saint Peter with the same sort of
procession, only more people, and placed the two cousins opposite each
other in the cathedral. At the mass the church was packed with people
kissing their hands and crossing themselves when they passed the
statues. My poor old cook Venera spent most of the day on her knees.
Down at the little town of Giardini there was a cloudburst a few weeks
before the earthquake. Some of the houses were entirely crushed or
buried. After the earthquake a fearful tidal wave took the water out to
sea over twenty feet, then it rushed back and inundated the town,
breaking and spoiling all that the deluge had spared and sweeping the
fishing boats out to sea. Before the quake the people in Giardini saw
two flashes of lightning; they saw a great fiery dragon pass over
towards Calabria, and queer little dancing light spots as if the water
were boiling.

“Since Tuesday all the English and Americans and a few Sicilians have
been working night and day down at the station, feeding and watering the
sick, wounded, and dying on the endless trains passing through from
Messina to Catania. Many refugees have been left here; one woman gave
birth to a dear little boy at the station. The American and English are
organizing committees to help the sick and wounded who remain here in
Taormina. Miss Swan and I are on the cooking committee; we go Wednesdays
and Fridays and tend the cooking of a great kettle of pasta, or beans,
or rice. Some take the food home; others eat it in the old deserted
church near the clock tower, that used to be used as a school. We give
them cheese, wine, and clothing--some of them have never before been so
well fed or clothed. Many grumbled because they did not have meat, and
didn’t like their clothes--they are already sadly spoiled. The news was
brought by a sailor who walked from Messina; he told us that Messina was
destroyed and thousands killed. Mr. Wood went over Tuesday morning to
see if he could find Mr. and Mrs. Cheney. The great palace where they
lived was a mass of rubbish. He could look into what had been their
parlor and just see a corner of a piece of their beautiful antique
furniture, a mirror still hanging on the wall, one of the yellow damask
silk curtains hanging out of the window. When they found the dear little
woman they only recognized her by the locket she always wore.”

The Cheneys had spent Christmas at Palermo, where their friends had
urged them to stay longer, but they had felt obliged to return to
Messina.

“As the trains came into the station the first cry was ‘Water, water.’
Six hundred or more were put off here at Taormina. We went down to the
station at ten, worked there all day and did not get home till eleven or
twelve at night. There were five or six trains during the day and as
many during the night. The first week was the hardest work and kept us
all jumping. In a few days we got settled and organized into committees.
There were about three groups all working for the same thing, but each
head was afraid some other head would get the greater credit and praise.
Truth is, we were all working for humanity, to try and give the poor
scared hungry souls food and drink and homes; it didn’t matter whether
it was A, B or C; they all did splendid work and all worked with all
their souls, and every one, including the Sicilian ladies and people
from Russia, Germany, Austria and France, was only too glad to help. We
gave away over three hundred loaves of bread a day, crackers, oranges,
cooked polenta, everything that could be found to eat, milk, water and
wine, all paid for by the _forestieri_, and a few of the townspeople.
They were so much dazed for the most that it took them ten days to
‘come to.’ So many had lost friends that at first they could think of
nothing else, and some were perfectly willing to stand by and let the
strangers do the work. The first official action of the town authorities
was on the eleventh day. I looked up from boiling some coffee for a
train that was coming, and there stood the Mayor and two or three other
short fat fathers of the town all talking at the tops of their voices,
their hands and arms going in every direction. They were perfectly
purple in the face and looked like so many bantam cocks ready to tear
each other to pieces. I asked what the matter was?

“The Mayor and the municipality had come down to forbid any more bread
or food being given away; there would be a bread famine, a wheat famine;
we were taking the bread out of the mouths of the Taorminesi, and soon
there would be a mob and the people would break into our houses. We had
on hand three hundred loaves of bread bought, paid for, and broken up.
In spite of the city fathers the bread was given to the refugees on the
next train. Then there was a rumor that the milk had given out. Just
before I reached the station that day I met three men driving a herd of
twenty goats; they had escaped with their goats from Messina. The milk
was bargained for and fifteen quarts, good and fresh, was milked from
the goats and paid for by some Boston girls.”

A young lady, whose name is I think Miss Fernald, wrote the following
story of what she saw at that station of Giardini to her brother:

“The first train from Messina. Oh, George, you can never imagine the
horror of that first train! It squirmed through the tunnel like an
injured worm, and stopped at our station crammed jammed with dying,
crushed and bleeding humanity, leaving a trail of human blood as it
wound its way from Messina. We had provided ourselves with bandages,
brandy, wine, bread, milk. As soon as the train stopped we rushed to the
windows and doors with our supplies. I shall never forget the roar of
this groaning humanity wildly screaming for water and doctors. People
were dying every moment, stretcher after stretcher was brought in and
gently laid down in the station. Dr. and Mrs. Dashwood (English
residents of Taormina) were angels in the work of rescue; they brought
four babies into the world at the station. We turned the place into a
hospital in the twinkling of an eye; soon the building was packed with
the injured and dying. Delirious women, women gone mad from fright,
wounded children, and gentlemen, so patient and grateful. It made my
heart ache to hear their humble thanks for what was being done to
comfort them. One train we entered had a basket with twelve or fifteen
babies, five of whom had died on the way from Messina. The hour’s
journey had taken nine hours because of the many washouts. One beautiful
young lady, who, no one knew, died at the station; they called her ‘a
princess.’ Every person from the villas went down with huge supplies of
food. There was hot soup and cocoa, besides bread and fruit. We girls
spent three nights and three days at the station and saved many lives by
giving nourishment and what comfort was possible to half naked and
starving people. The trains returning to Messina were crowded with
people looking for their families, and also with a bad set of thieves.
We have a regiment now at the station and soldiers all along the beach
to Messina. Any one seen in the ruined city without a passport is shot
on sight. Our new year’s eve was spent resting on sacks of figs at the
station, administering to and comforting the poor crazed women and
children, and waiting for the next train. I can’t write of the effect of
this dreadful spectacle. Now things are more systematic as regards our
work. It was my duty to go about and find the poor wretches who had
wandered into Taormina. I found in one church five sisters who had found
their way with great difficulty from Messina. The distance is nearly
thirty miles. They were thinly clad and in a starving condition. The
natives here have responded to the call fairly well and clothes have
come in--but such rags. However, new ones are being made and distributed
as fast as possible. The Prince of Cherami of the San Domenico is doing
wonderful work as well as the villa people. All the visitors have fled
from Taormina, the hotels are entirely deserted and will of course be
closed. At the station I saw a woman with a cage of twelve birds; she
had lost all her five children. We have felt shocks for five days. Most
of the villa people are trembling with fear. What is to be done with
these homeless wretched people? God only knows. It’s over a week now
since the earthquake; the trains still come in filled to overflowing
with injured taken every day from the ruins.”

“The German battle-ship ‘Serapim,’” says Miss Lee, “brought a great
number of refugees. One music hall singer had her little canary on her
finger; the little creature was singing, the only happy thing on that
dreadful ship. I worked for over three weeks at the station of Giardini.
One night Mr. Kitson was going through the Red Cross car, helping with
milk, wine and so forth. At the end of the car was a large clothes
basket full of little new-born babies, two dead, three or five alive,
and nothing to cover them or keep them warm, so the dead ones had been
kept for that. They had been born on the train and had had no one to
tend them, poor little souls. It made him perfectly sick and was, we
think, partly responsible for his long illness. I was kept in the
surgical ward room to have the water ready for the doctors and so I did
not see all the horrors as those did who went through the cars--I was
spared that, thank God.”



III

AMERICA TO THE RESCUE


On the first of January, three days after the great earthquake, a band
of Calabrians, living in New York, flashed this message across the
Atlantic to their mother country:

“Do not forget Scylla!”

Scylla, how the old name thrills! Scylla had suffered severely, though
its gray castle, perched high on the cliff that rises sheer from the
shore, was spared. Scylla, the ancient village at the foot of the purple
Calabrian mountains, was not forgotten, nor Reggio, nor the white
fishing hamlets that line the tawny shores of Sicily and Calabria on
either side of the restless straits. The people of the coast were
soonest reached and soonest helped by the sailors of the passing ships,
for the navies of the world flew on the wings of love and pity to succor
the stricken ports. Never were ships watched for with such eagerness,
never were sailors greeted with such passionate rapture since Theseus
sailed back from Crete to Athens with his precious freight of Athenian
youths and maidens, saved from the dreadful Minotaur. The people who
lived in the hills and valleys of the interior suffered longest, were
last relieved; but even to them help came, for the sailors were faithful
and carried the world’s bounty to the desolate inland towns of Sicily
and Calabria. The story of their labor of love would fill an
encyclopedia. This is the story of the American relief ship “Bayern,”
that brought comfort and hope to the forlorn survivors of the great
earthquake; to tell the story clearly, we must go back to Rome where the
cruise was planned.

Saturday afternoon, January second, the Via Quattro Fontane, in the
neighborhood of the American Embassy, was crowded with carriages, cabs
and automobiles. The tall handsome porter of the Palazzo del Drago was
on duty in full dress; he wore a long broadcloth overcoat that came down
to his feet, a black cocked hat with a cockade of red, white and blue.
His mighty staff of office, a certain grand air he has, make him a
formidable personage to those who have no real business at the palace.
Once you are known to this Cerberus, he has no terrors for you; he is
gentle by nature as such big men so often are.

“Can I see the Ambassador?” I asked the porter.

“That I cannot promise, lady. He has just returned from the Quirinal;
there are many persons waiting to see him, but--” he raised his
shoulders with the Latin gesture that expresses doubt--“who knows? The
Signora can but try.” He stood back, made me a splendid bow with as fine
a flourish of his tricorne as if I had been a princess, and the way was
free. I entered the handsome _portone_, walked through the long marble
gallery, past the courtyard where the noise of the fountain sounds like
the trampling of impatient steeds, past the twin lions of giallo antico
that guard the entrance, and up the magnificent stairway leading to the
_piano nobile_, the home of the American Ambassador. At the door of the
apartment I was met by another of those prodigious serving men--the
giants of the American Embassy were the talk of Rome that winter--they
were recruited from the ex-cuirassiers of the King’s own body guard, the
glorious hundred, the shortest of whom is six feet tall.

“Her Excellency would receive me; as to his Excellency, it was just
possible. The ladies were in the dancing hall.” He waved me towards the
mirrored gallery. I paused a moment to stare about the great anticamera,
big enough to hold an ordinary embassy. At one end there is a wide
fireplace, over which, instead of armorial bearings, our Eagle spreads
its mighty sheltering wings. This splendid anticamera was in strange
confusion, crowded with packing cases, piled half-way to the ceiling
with bales of goods, boxes of clothing, boots, food, medicines, relief
supplies of all kinds. Every able-bodied American in Rome was working
_pro Sicilia e Calabria_, and the Ambassador’s home was not only the
nerve-center of the relief work but a warehouse, a base of supplies.

From the ballroom came the sound of women’s voices, the snip-snip of
shears, the click of sewing machines. Here was another transformation;
the sumptuous ballroom with the smooth polished floor had become a busy
workroom. Under the gilt chandelier stood a long table, heaped with
bales of flannel and cloth, over which leaned four or five ladies,
scissors in hand, cutting out skirts, blouses and jackets. On the
satin-covered benches sat a bevy of young women and girls, basting,
sewing, planning, and chatting as they worked.

“I have nothing left but red flannel,” said the chief cutter-out, “what
shall I do with it?”

“Petticoats and under jackets,” said the Doctor’s wife. “We must put all
the colored goods into under-clothing. The poor things beg so for black
dresses. You wouldn’t want to wear red or blue if you had lost
twenty-five members of your family, as my _profughi_ have.”

“Still we must use what material we have. Let us keep the black for our
_profughi_ here in Rome and send the colored things down there where the
need is greater and they cannot be so particular.”

The scene was typical of Rome, of Italy, of the civilized world at that
time. In every home, rich or poor, in every country, women of all
classes were sewing for those naked wretches who had escaped from the
great earthquake with nothing but their lives. In the Palace of the
Quirinal the little princesses, Jolanda and Mafalda, sat up in their
high chairs, stitching busily for the children of the stricken South.
The fury of benevolence that had driven men and women all over the world
into some action, some sacrifice, for their suffering brothers, was
being organized, had become the great driving force that should compel
some sort of order out of chaos unparalleled. When it grew too dark to
see in the ballroom the friendly giant lighted the chandelier and the
candles in the gilt sconces. As he passed me he murmured:

“If the Signora can wait till the other ladies have gone her
Excellency--“

“Of course I can wait.” I settled down to overcast the seams of a black
woolen frock.

“Do you know where one can buy handkerchiefs?” asked the chief
cutter-out. “Every shop I tried today was sold out. All Sicilians use
handkerchiefs, even the poorest; it’s one of their good points. I was at
the station this morning helping the English Committee--they meet every
train from Naples that brings ‘survivors,’ and fit out the poor things
with shoes and clothes. Some of them were half naked; one pretty girl--a
perfect Hebe--was dressed in an officer’s uniform. The poor souls cry so
one _has_ to give them one’s own handkerchief; I have hardly one left!”

“Ask the Ambassadress; she knows more about what’s left in Rome than
anybody,” said the Doctor’s wife. Then in an undertone to me: “It’s
wonderful how she takes the lead and the rest of us all fall in line;
she makes us lose sight of the woman in the Ambassadress; she’s taken
command of the scattered forces of the colony like a generalissimo;
she’s proclaimed an armistice to internecine strife. Look at those two
women, the lamb and the wolf cutting out together; it took the
earthquake and Mrs. Griscom to bring that about!”

“Time to go home,” said the chief cutter-out, as the cracked bells of
San Bernardo’s rang six. “My hands ache with the weight of these shears;
this is the best day’s work we have done.”

One by one, the ladies, colonials and transients, fashionable and
unfashionable, took their leave. When all had gone, the giant ushered me
into the yellow drawing-room, where I found her Excellency seated in a
low chair before the fire making tea. She greeted me with her flashing
smile and bade me welcome.

I asked for news of those who had gone down to the city of the dreadful
night; we had heard nothing of Major Landis, Mr. Cutting, Mr. Chanler
and the others who had gone to Messina the Thursday before.

“No news--but from home, oh, so much! It is as we all knew it would be;
we shall do our share.”

Rumor already had it that great sums of money had been cabled from
America, both to the Ambassador and to the Italian Red Cross. If that
money was to be well spent, the Ambassador’s work was cut out for him,
as hard work as even he could covet.

A few moments later Mr. Griscom came in and asked his wife for a cup of
tea. His Excellency’s dark inscrutable face showed fatigue; the veiled
fire of the eyes was nearer the surface than usual, the clear-cut lips
were compressed. As the Doctor’s wife said, it was fortunate for us that
we had these strong young people to take the lead in the American relief
work. From the first they bore the brunt gallantly; work as hard as
their helpers might, they out-stripped all others, gave with a lavish
hand, power, sympathy, wit, energy, health; in a word they gave
themselves. We turned to them as to our natural leaders in all large
and even in small questions. It had seemed to me the most natural thing
in the world that, having given away all our available cash and all the
clothes we could spare, I should go to the Embassy to beg for my
_profughi_, the family of Francesco Calabresi, the plumber from Messina.

“You have received large sums of money from home,” I said to Mr.
Griscom.

“Yes,” he looked at me steadily, ready to guard the treasure from the
most desperate assault. He listened patiently to my story of the
Calabresi family, to my plea for money to buy clothes and a cradle for
the imminent baby, and plumber’s tools to set Francesco up in business
before he should become demoralized by the dreadful Roman system of
paying so much _per capita_ every day to each family of _profughi_,
without demanding any work in return for the money. First to lose
everything they owned, then to be robbed of their habit of
self-dependence was the cruel fate of too many.

“We must help these poor people to help themselves,” said the
Ambassador, sounding the key-note of the American relief work from first
to last. Then very kindly he pointed out to me that my interest in an
individual case made me lose sight of the fact that he must deal with
the situation as a whole. The American funds must be distributed with
method and exactness; the generous help our country was sending must be
well spent; his work was to lay out the general scheme, the detail was
for others; he had appointed an American Relief Committee; they had held
their first meeting that morning.

I saw it all then in a flash, got a sense of some great plan maturing,
and took my leave, mortified enough that I should have troubled the
god-in-the-machine with a mere detail.

The next day, Sunday, was like a poem bound in blue and gold. I went up
on the terrace to gather the last chrysanthemums that had escaped the
frost, and to loosen the soil about the first hyacinth, whose
close-furled pointed leaves pricked through the brown mould. Below the
Tiber rolled, a tawny flood, under the arches of the Ponte Margherita.
Across the river the angel of the Castel Sant’ Angelo lifted his bronze
sword over the tomb of Hadrian, the dome of St. Peter’s showed like a
pale blue bubble against the deeper blue of the sky; the bells of Rome
rocked and pealed in their towers, calling the people to mass. From the
barracks in the Prati di Castello the bugles sounded, and a regiment
swung down the white road by the Tiber, past the statue of Ciceruácchio,
and over the bridge to the gay music of the royal march. I was leaning
over the parapet to watch the soldiers out of sight, when Agnese called
me downstairs.

“A messenger from the Embassy, Signora, with a bundle so large we had to
open both sides of the _portone_ to let it pass!”

I hurried down in time to thank the good-natured giant for the gigantic
parcel he had brought. Agnese cut the strings and handed me a card with
a line in pencil signed Elizabeth Griscom.

“Signora, it is a cradle but of an unimaginable fineness! Observe the
pillow case, it is of linen. This is a blanket for a queen’s son; and
these garments, truly they are fit for a queen’s children, no less! They
doubtless belonged to that small angel with the eyes of his beautiful
mother, whom I saw when I took a letter to the Ambassadress? Consider,
Signora, are these magnificences fitting for the infant of a plumber?
_Madonna mia!_ It is turning to their account this business of the
earthquake! This dress, it is quite new; you yourself could wear it--the
color would suit you, or we could have it dyed a dark purple.”

What the Ambassador could not do, the Ambassadress had done. Besides the
dainty cradle, the blankets, jackets and other baby luxuries such as
neither Lucia nor Agnese had ever dreamed of, there was a little knitted
shawl for poor old Rosina, and good warm dresses for the plumber’s wife
and mother. Agnese was right; the pretty baby finery belonged to the
little son born to the Ambassador during his first months of office in
Rome. There is a story that the King, on being told that Mrs. Griscom
could not be present at some official reception on account of her baby,
exclaimed in astonishment:

“I never before have heard of an Ambassadress with a baby!”

The time had come when the King, the colony, all concerned were thankful
that the American Ambassador and Ambassadress were young people, with
strong young nerves and generous young hearts.

“Send for Napoleone,” I cried to Agnese. Napoleone the cabman can only
be reached through the connivance of a clerk of Fasani, the grocer in
the Piazza de Spagna. Napoleone is very “black” and has the superior
manners of the “clericals.”

By the time I had my bonnet on, Agnese announced to me that Napoleone
was at the door. When we appeared on the sidewalk he was deep in the
Popolo Romano, the Vatican organ which he reads so faithfully that J.
says he often loses a fare from being too much engrossed in his
newspaper.

“To the house in the Via Lamarmora where you took me the other day to
visit those unfortunate _profughi_,” I said.

“It appears to me, Signora, that they have become very fortunate
people,” said Napoleone, making room for the cradle beside him. He
whipped up his strawberry roan, a horse with an action like a crab’s, as
unique a figure in our Rome as his driver. Napoleone’s eyes were very
kind when he helped me out with the cradle and the big bundle of
clothes.

“I will wait for you, Signora, at my own cost, one understands.
_Diamini!_ we must all do something for these unfortunate _profughi_.”
Napoleone smoothed out the Popolo Romano, put a nosebag of fodder over
the roan’s head and prepared to wait for me, at his own expense!

When the porter’s wife looked out from her little den and saw the big
bundle, she put down the dish of _carciofi_ she was preparing for her
husband’s dinner and came to the rescue.

“_Per carità_, Signora, allow me to carry up that great big bundle; ask
the _padrona_ to leave the door open till I come.”

The _padrona di casa_ was smartly dressed and freshly powdered. She wore
huge pearl and diamond peasant earrings, and her wonderful hair with its
thick regular waves shone like the plumage of the black swan in the
Villa Borghese. She recognized me with a smile. “Ah, the American lady!
What a pleasure to see her again!” She motioned me to the room where the
theatrical costumes had been packed closely together to give more space.
The light from a big window struck across the gaunt barn of a place and
fell on a group in the center that Andrea del Sarto would have painted
as a “Visitation.”

Rosina, the wrinkled old woman, looked a perfect Elizabeth as she stood
there, holding her daughter-in-law by the hand: Lucia would have made a
lovely Mary. The young woman saw me first. She came towards me slowly,
heavily, took my hand in hers and with a strange solemnity kissed me on
the mouth; Francesco, her husband (the plumber), followed her example.
Caterina, sitting up in the big white bed, smiled at me with a radiant
inner lighting of the face, like a young martyr. Rosina mumbled my hand
with her withered lips and wiped her eyes upon a black-bordered
handkerchief I had given her; all this was before they caught a glimpse
of the porter’s wife, toiling upstairs with the gigantic bundle.

I was the first stranger who had come into the new life that was opening
before them, after they had passed through that hell of suffering at
Messina. The shackles of convention had dropped from them in that
elemental experience, that fearful convulsion when the very earth had
stoned them. They met me as equals on the ground of our common humanity;
they embraced me because I had brought them help from America, the land
of hope. When we grow old, I heard a poet say, we count the treasure of
unforgotten kisses as a miser counts his gold; In the coming years those
kisses, given for my country’s sake, will shine bright in my
imperishable hoard.

The next day, Monday morning, January 4th, as we were having early
coffee, Agnese brought in a note.

“Anything interesting?” I asked, as J. folded the small sheet of lilac
paper and put it back in the envelope. “It looks like an invitation.”

“It is,” said J., “one I shall accept.”

I must have looked incredulous, for he handed me the note. It was from
one of the ladies of the Embassy, who wrote to say that volunteers were
wanted for a relief ship the American Committee was fitting out. This
was the first we either of us heard of the expedition of the “Bayern,”
that a few days later thrilled all Italy and America. Ten minutes later
we were in Napoleone’s cab, rattling through the Piazza San Bernardo. As
we passed the Hotel Europa our friend, Mr. Samuel Parrish, came out of
the door. Mr. Parrish, a distinguished New York lawyer, had come to Rome
to pass a quiet winter, to improve his knowledge of the language and to
study Italian “primitives.” It seemed rather early for him to be about,
though I found a possible explanation for this as we passed the
flower-stand of the Piazza Mignianelli, brave with deep purple violets
and pale winter roses. The early birds get the best of everything; the
sunny salon at the Europa, where our friend proposed spending the easy
restful days of his “season off,” was always filled with lovely
flowers--yes, that was it, Mr. Parrish had come out at this unearthly
hour to buy his flowers.

In the Piazza Barberini, where a brisk wind blew the spray of the
fountain of the Triton half across the square, we passed Mr. William
Hooper of Boston, hurrying along; Mr. Hooper had arrived in Rome a few
weeks before with his wife and was established for the winter in the
Hotel Regina.

At the office of the American Embassy we were received by the smiling
usher, who showed us into the waiting room, threw a lump of soft coal on
the fire, and smiled himself out. Shortly after one of the habitues of
the Embassy, a Roman American, came in and told us a meeting of the
American Relief Committee was going on at the Palazzo del Drago; if we
could wait, they were all sure to come round to the office when it was
over.

“They have two or three meetings a day,” the Roman American said; “they
were up half last night. What with sending and receiving cables from
America, holding consultations with the King, Giolitti (the Prime
Minister) and Nathan the Sindaco, those men don’t have time to eat or to
sleep.”

At last Mr. Griscom came in, passing directly to his private office; a
little later Mr. Parrish and Mr. Hooper followed him. Through the open
door I caught a glimpse of the Ambassador at his desk, talking with Mr.
Nelson Gay and Mr. George Page, both American residents of Rome. These
five gentlemen were the Relief Committee, there was only one stranger to
us in the group; the naval attaché of the Embassy, Lieutenant-Commander
Reginald Rowan Belknap. As we waited in the reception room, most of the
American men in Rome passed through; first one, then another of the
committee or of the secretaries came in to speak to some visitor. We
could not but hear scraps of their conversation as they passed to and
fro.

“Griscom couldn’t have chosen his committee better: Parrish and Hooper
to help him raise the money in America; Page and Gay to help him spend
it; and Belknap--one sees with half an eye he’s a man for an emergency,”
said a visitor.

“Of course we shall get the money; I am ready to guarantee it!”
exclaimed the treasurer of the committee.

“Parrish is head of the Southampton Red Cross. He has cabled the
President,” murmured another.

“The steamer will start from Genoa. Smith, our Consul, is buying up the
town to fit her out,” said a young secretary.

“The Ambassadress has collected half a shipload of supplies!”

“All the sterilized milk you can lay your hands on--” This to one who
offered contributions.

“Put my money in tobacco; those poor devils need a smoke if ever man
did,” said the Roman American.

Waiting in that office was like watching the movement of a vast engine,
feeling the throbbing of our country’s mighty heart--our pulses leapt to
keep time with it.

“Weston Flint is just the man for you. He is a graduate of our school
and speaks Italian well,” said Mr. Carter, director of the American
Classical School.

“If you can get Giordano of the Tribuna, he’s your man. He speaks
English as well as I do,” said a journalist.

“I know three trained nurses who are ready to go if they’re wanted.”

At last our turn came; Captain Belknap found time to speak to J. The
intense concentrated force that we had felt in the atmosphere of that
room seemed personified in the naval attaché. To be in his company was
like touching an electric battery. Only a few words were exchanged; the
upshot of it all was that J. offered his services and was accepted. He
said he was ready to go in any capacity, and was then and there
appointed interpreter and general handy-andy-man to the expedition. My
services were refused; no women except professional trained nurses were
wanted.

“Do you know a man with some knowledge of accounts you could get to go
with us? He must speak Italian.” Captain Belknap said it lightly enough,
as if he were merely dropping a hint. What was it that made that hint
more imperative than a command?

“I will try to find one,” said J. As we walked out of the Embassy he
exclaimed, “Thompson is our man! This is a sort of press-gang business;
we had better drop down on him at once.”

We hurried to the studio in the Via Degli Artisti, where we found
Wilfred Thompson at work on his decoration for the English church. After
the tense atmosphere of the embassy the studio seemed strangely
peaceful. On the easel was a picture, still wet, of the pine trees in
the Villa Borghese, with the red sunset light striking between their
smooth stems. A little cat rubbed its arched back against my dress
purring her friendly song of welcome, “three thrums, three thrums.” We
felt like conspirators come to break up our friend’s quiet life. He
listened gravely to the proposition that he should volunteer for the
relief ship, and took time to consider it. In one sense it was not
difficult for him to go, he said; he only had to find a home for the
kitten, and, as a lesser consideration, to make a will. The words struck
chill; there was danger then! In the end Thompson decided to go; he
spoke without enthusiasm; it was evident that having been called upon
he felt it his duty to go. His mood was in strong contrast to the
enthusiasm of those men at the Embassy; they were on the circuit of the
Great Dynamo, they throbbed with the thrill of it, glowed with the
Niagara-like power of it. Tuesday morning Thompson offered his services
to Captain Belknap. When we met him that afternoon, we knew that he too
had come within the magnetic circle, had felt the thrill of the Great
Dynamo, for from that time on he toiled like the others with heart and
soul, with nerves and body doing double, triple work.

“Thompson’s got the pace,” said J., “a jolly good one too.”

A man may not choose how he shall serve the great Republic, but whatever
service is asked of him, that let him render with heart and soul. Though
Thompson would not have chosen the post of supercargo--any more than
Flint would have asked to be cashier or J. interpreter--once it was
assigned him, he threw himself into the work with all his might. The
studio saw him no more; the little cat--all the family he had--missed
him. He spent his days and most of his nights trying to bring order out
of that chaos of supplies, checking bills, making lists and invoices of
clothes, food, medicine, tools, all the wonderful things bought for the
relief ship. The cargo was got together somehow, anyhow; the thing was
done--that was the main point. From morning till night those tireless
men and women bought and bought, sewed and sewed, packed and tied up in
bundles the stores, clothing, shoes, medicines, for the sufferers. It
was Thompson’s duty to try and bring some sort of order out of that
chaos. When men and women are dying of cold and hunger, when human life
is at stake and the race is with death, haste is the only thing to
strive for; waste counts not. So Griscom and his Americans resolutely
cut the Gordian knots of red tape that strangle Italy, whenever they
came across one, and never counted the cost.

Now that we look back, what they did seems incredible. Remember, it was
Sunday morning, January 3rd, that the Ambassador appointed his committee
to help him put through the thing he had planned to do; the work of the
next three days would not be believed if it could be told. From the
beginning Griscom did the impossible--the only thing worth doing in
this world. He was told that the idea of fitting out a relief ship was
chimerical; every available steamer was already engaged by the Italian
Government. Even if a ship could be found, where would the supplies come
from? The Roman shops were well nigh sold out. If ship and cargo could
be scared up, how to get the cargo to the ship? It took a month to get a
box from Rome to Naples! This last argument seemed final!

Every objection was met, every obstacle overcome. In three days the ship
was found, the cargo bought, the men and women of the relief crew
enlisted, ready, _eager_ to start. Monday Captain Belknap engaged the
Austrian Lloyd steamer “Oceania;” she could be ready to sail in nine
days. Monday night the North German Lloyd’s agent telephoned, offering
the “Bayern” to be ready to sail from Genoa Wednesday, January 6th. This
was a saving of six days; the offer of the “Bayern” was accepted, the
Austrians handsomely refusing to claim the forfeit of one thousand
dollars due them for breach of contract. Who says corporations have no
heart? The committee knew they could count on the Germans to do what
they undertook to do. The discipline, the steady hammer-hammer of the
army drill master has got into the very blood and bones of that nation.

So the ship was found!

As for the cargo: when the committee was not in session, William Hooper,
the famous Harvard athlete, Samuel Parrish, the connoisseur of Italian
Cinque Cento, Nelson Gay, the historian, George Page, the banker, were
working under the lash, buying coats, blankets, shawls, pins, needles,
biscuits, cheese, sausages, picks, shovels--all they could lay hands on
of these grave-digger’s tools, for still on the eighth, the tenth day
after the earthquake, even later, men and women were taken out alive
from the ruins. In Genoa, James Smith, American Consul, was gathering
together a vast store of hams, beans, potatoes, salt pork, rope, canvas,
candles, all the ship wares to be found in the great seaport. It was one
thing to put these goods bought in Genoa on board the “Bayern,” but how
to get the masses of clothing, tools, food, medicines and bedding,
purchased in Rome--a tithe of which cumbered the great hall of the
Palazzo del Drago--to the ship?

“If the railroad to the south cannot take the goods to Naples, the
railroad to the north shall take them to Civitavecchia; the old papal
seaport is as good a place to sail from as from Naples!” Griscom argued;
so that knot was cut.

Stein, the shipper, was called in, another of those busy silent Germans
who year by year are getting more and more of Italy’s commerce into
their strong capable hands. Stein undertook to have the cargo at
Civitavecchia on the “Bayern’s” arrival there, and he was as good as his
word. The Government gave free transportation to the goods.

Reports are dull reading, statistics worse--there is nothing quite so
misleading as statistics--there are a few exceptions to this rule; the
reports of the American Relief Committee are among them. The minutes
kept by Samuel Parrish lie before me; they are as interesting as a
novel. As interesting? Twenty thousand times more interesting. The story
is told gravely and concisely, but the romance shines through the
conventional terms, transfigures the formal statements; it has the life
pulse of an old Greek drama; it moves with the inevitable sequence of
history. The titles of Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer, are disguises
like the masks worn by the Athenian players. They serve to hide the
personality of the actor, leaving him freer to play the role for which
he is cast. The characters speak their lines, the play moves steadily
from the first lurid scene of the earthquake to the final chorus of
Hope. After Nature had done her worst and the greatest disaster of
history had stunned the world, the network of nerves with which America
has enmeshed the globe, the telegraph wires and submarine cables,
flashed the dreadful intelligence from nerve center to nerve center.
Whether for good or for ill, we gave the world its nervous system; ours
the responsibility for the quickened pulse of life! The cables were kept
busy; message after message flashed from the Embassy at Rome to
Washington, to New York, Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco. That cry
of the Calabrian exiles: “Do not forget to help Scylla,” touched the
public imagination. I hear the thrill of it in all the messages that
follow, the committee’s appeal to the American Red Cross, to the
Governors of the States, to the people of America. The Ambassador and
Mr. Parrish telegraph the President, Mr. Parish cables Governor Hughes
and Mayor McClellan, Mr. Hooper calls on Governor Guild of Massachusetts
for funds for a relief ship. Time is so precious they do not wait for
answers; strong in their faith in America’s generosity, these men assume
a personal responsibility for the great sums of money needed, so no time
is lost in waiting for answers to their appeals. This is the secret of
how the incredible thing was done; it was not only by the labor of these
resolute men but by the faith that was in them that the country would
“back” them, would make good all they promised.

“Theirs,” said the Roman American, “is an infallibility absolute as the
Pope’s; they _know_ that God and the American people are behind them!”

We were in Athol’s library Wednesday evening when J.’s sailing orders
came. The large pleasant room was just light and warm enough. There was
a wood fire, there were flowers--blood-red Roman anemones--there were
books and pictures, there was Athol himself (the man of whose mellow
culture and sensitive taste, the room was an expression) seated in a
beautiful Savonarola chair at an ancient, perfectly appointed table,
writing despatches with pen and ink on large foolscap paper.

“They have telephoned from the Embassy,” said Agnese, who brought the
news, “that the Signore should be at the station at nine o’clock
tomorrow morning. The Signora is invited to go as far as Civitavecchia
with the Ambassadress and the other ladies to witness his departure--ah!
sainted apostles! for that land of death!” Agnese disapproved of J.’s
going down to Messina. “Give those unfortunates anything in reason,” she
argued, “clothes, food, even a little money! But to go oneself, or even
to allow one who is dear to go down to that--that _pozzo d’infezione_,
ah! no, there is no reason in that! It is the act of the mad. Mama mia!
Are there not enough dead already?”

“You will be too late for Messina,” said Athol, looking up from his
despatches. “They don’t like having foreigners about; the English ships
from Malta were there a week ago but they found they were not wanted!
You will find more than enough to do at the smaller villages; they have
been neglected. Have you any flannel shirts?”

“Hundreds,” said J.

“For the _profughi_, yes, but for yourself? You’ll need them and flannel
collars; I can lend you some and a hold-all. Have you seen the last
subscriptions to the Lord Mayor’s Fund?” He handed J. a London paper
with the list of subscribers to the English Earthquake Fund. There was a
generous rivalry of “who shall give and do most?” between the Americans
and English that was heart-warming.

“You deserve a large share of the credit for this,” J. said; “I hope it
will be set down to your account.”

Athol’s telegrams and articles were read by English-speaking people all
over the world; they had great influence in raising the Mansion House
Fund, and other contributions.

The next morning was gray and mild, a depressing sirocco day. Napoleone
who drove us to the station was gloomy as Agnese about J.’s going to
Messina. His clerical sympathies made him scoff at the value of all lay
relief work.

“Those afflictions that are sent by the Padre Eterno can best be
assuaged by the Church,” he grumbled, as he put Athol’s fine English
hold-all on the box beside him. Even the strawberry roan was out of
spirits and took ten minutes longer than usual between the palace and
the station. “What has his Excellency to do with such matters?”
Napoleone flung the words over his shoulder. “I tell you frankly,
Signora mia, his life is worth more than all the Sicilians put together.
It is a pity the island of Sicily did not sink beneath the sea and
remain there twenty minutes, long enough to drown all the inhabitants.
It would have been a good thing for Italy, magari, and for the rest of
the world!”

Wilfred Thompson, who was at the station when we arrived, introduced
Weston Flint, the cashier. Mr. Flint wore a leather money bag over his
shoulder.

“Ask for the special,” said Flint, as he wrote our names down on a list;
“the Government has put a train at the Ambassador’s disposal; they treat
us handsomely, you see.”

“That young man came to Rome to study archeology,” said the Roman
American, who was going with us. “He will learn more about ruins and
excavation in the next few days than he could have learned at school in
a lifetime.”

A cab drove up with three neat, plainly dressed, young girls.

“The American nurses, God bless them!” said the Roman American. “There
come the English nurses; and there’s Robert Hale, the painter--why have
they gone in so heavily for artistic talent?” Then answering his own
question: “Because artists are the hardest working people in the world,
and the most generous; they always do more than their share of good
work; rich people give their money, they give themselves!”

Just then the Ambassador and Mrs. Griscom came up in their motor and we
all got on board the train. The journey to Civitavecchia was all too
short; we hardly found time to look from the window and were only half
conscious of passing the ancient Temple of Minerva Medica, or Ponte
Galera, the picturesque, fever-stricken, abandoned town hung in its
green shroud of ivy. The artists missed nothing of the beauty of the
trip (their search for beauty is as unconscious as breathing); the rest
of us had to be forcibly wrenched from the discussion of medicated gauze
and flannel bandages when a turn of the road brought a wonderful view
before us,--the campagna swimming in an amethyst haze, the blue
clear-cut lines of the Alban hills, and far off, a fainter blue stain
against the sky, Monte Circeo, home of Circe, daughter of the sun. These
things the sons of Mary saw, while the sons of Martha talked of ways and
means.

What had been accomplished in the few days since that first meeting of
the committee Sunday afternoon seemed a miracle. The men who had worked
the miracle were with us, quiet, alert, full of attentions for the
comfort of the ladies who were going to see the “Bayern” start on her
cruise of mercy. The leader of the enterprise, Lloyd Griscom, and his
right-hand man, Captain Belknap, who bore the brunt of all the great
work that was to follow, talked together in undertones, discussing the
final arrangements. Later Mr. Gay, Mr. Parrish and Mr. Page joined them.
The rest of us kept apart, as it seemed they were holding an informal
committee meeting, to decide some last weighty matter, and exchanged our
news.

“Mr. Griscom saw the King,” said the Roman American, “and offered him
the relief ship. The King accepted it and told the Ambassador that
nothing could have been devised better than such a gift. The money for
the expedition was given by the American Red Cross to Mr. Griscom to
spend at his discretion.”

That was wise, for what was needed now even more than money was the good
sense to spend it well, ability, organizing power--the thing that is so
much harder to get or to give than money--_brains_!

At Civitavecchia we were received by the Sindaco, the Sub-Prefect, and
the Captain of the Port; they all wore black gloves and crape bands on
the arm. The general exaltation and excitement that ran like fire
through Rome was lacking in the small provincial seaport; there was a
sense of hopeless mourning here, more distressing than the tearing
passion of Rome.

Two of our ladies disappeared as soon as we reached Civitavecchia. The
rest of us, escorted by the officials, were rowed out in small boats to
the “Bayern,” a fine steamer of 5000 tons, lying in the outer harbor
surrounded by a fleet of lighters.

“Still taking on stores, you see,” said Mr. Stein, who had come in
person to see that the goods from Rome were delivered on time. “By four
o’clock everything will be on board; they will be able to start without
delay.”

“This is Captain Miztloff,” said Belknap (how could he find time for
everything?), presenting the big florid typical North-German-Lloyd
commander.

“They tell me you shall not with us go?” said the captain. “It is a
pity; we shall a moon and a fine weather have, and a good run to Messina
make. Will you my quarters visit?”

His calm blue eyes, his smiling undismayed presence were comforting.
Here was a man who had not been whirled out of his natural orbit like
the rest of us. After we had gone over the “Bayern” with Captain
Mitzloff, visited his cabin and admired the portraits of his wife and
flaxen-haired children, the expedition began to look more rational, a
little less out of the ordinary. His practical sober kindness was
somehow reassuring. We went down to see J.’s cabin, an outer room with a
good window. The familiar smell of stale sea-water brought a pang of
homesickness--of course we were going to sail for America, there never
had been any earthquake, it was all a bad nightmare; it was curious how
the illusion persisted. It grew even stronger when a pink and white
steward announced luncheon, and we made our way to the dining saloon,
decorated and furnished in the usual North German Lloyd fashion. The
chief steward allotted us our seats--oh, it was just like the beginning,
of twenty other trans-atlantic crossings! I recognized the way the table
was set, the napkins folded, the bread cut; we were going
home--together.

“I shall order green goose and mirabellen--” I announced.

“You are to sit beside the Sindaco of Civitavecchia because you can talk
Italian to him,” said one of the committee at that moment; the illusion
vanished. I was placed with Mrs. Griscom and the other ladies of the
Auxiliary Relief Committee at the captain’s table. J., already separated
from me, sat with the nurses, and other assistants, Flint, Hale and
Thompson, at the doctor’s table, below the salt as it were. He was under
orders; discipline had begun.

Though we were all anxious and sad enough, there was a brave effort at
gayety. The Ambassador proposed the health of the King and Queen of
Italy in a neat little speech; and the Sindaco, a stout man with red
eyes, responded with a toast to the President. He pronounced a few
flowery sentences, and then speaking of the six or seven people from
Civitavecchia who had escaped the earthquake and come back to their
native town beggared and bereft, he faltered, burst into tears and sat
down. After luncheon I found my way to the ladies’ saloon, all white and
gold and blue brocade, with that faint dreadful under-smell of stale
sea-water in its draperies, cushions and carpet. Here I found the nurses
unrolling two bundles of stuff.

“You missed us,” said one of the ladies, “and wondered where we went
from the station; this is what we were in search of.” She unrolled a
piece of ivory-white flannel and another of scarlet cloth.

“Who can cut me out a neat cross? This is all lopsided,” said the chief
cutter-out. She held up a badly cut cross of red cloth.

“I know who can make a better one than that,” I cried and went in search
of J.

“We shall want a good many, for every one of them must wear the badge on
his left arm,” said the chief cutter-out.

“We fly the Red Cross then? It has been arranged?”

The Ambassador had cut another strand of the red tape that strangles
Italy. Permission to fly the Red Cross flag had been asked and refused
because none of the party belonged to the Italian Society, though
several were members of the American Association. When in order to
overcome this objection the leaders asked leave to join the Italian Red
Cross, the answer was that it would take two weeks for them to be
elected. Mr. Griscom passed over the refusal and carried the request to
a higher court, where it was granted.

My last impression of the “Bayern” was that scene in the saloon, where
Thompson and J. stood patiently cutting out the red cloth crosses and
the trained nurses sat stitching them neatly on the ivory cloth bands.
At two o’clock Mrs. Griscom and the ladies of her auxiliary committee
left the ship and took the train for Rome with Mr. Parrish and Mr. Page.

“Of course I wanted to go to Messina,” said Mr. Parrish, “but somebody
had to stay in Rome to attend to this end of the business!”

At four o’clock the “Bayern” sailed,

[Illustration: STROMBOLI FROM THE “BAYERN.” _Page 121._]

[Illustration: THE AMERICAN AMBASSADOR AND RED CROSS NURSES ON “THE
BAYERN.” _Page 114._]

[Illustration: MESSINA. ITALIAN MILITARY ENCAMPMENT. _Page 54._]

[Illustration: MESSINA. ITALIAN OFFICERS AND MEN. _Page 54._]

Captain Belknap having commandeered three small craft against the need
of landing on an open beach, for which the ship’s boats were unsuitable.
As she sailed out of the harbor of Civitavecchia, past the old
lighthouse with the two defending towers, the “Bayern” flew the American
ensign at the fore, the German merchant flag aft, and between foremast
and funnel on the triatic stay the flag of the whole Christian world, a
cross vermilion on a ground white.



IV

THE CRUISE OF THE “BAYERN”


“It looks as if God had put His foot upon it!” said Hugh, the Yeoman.
J., watching the pallid sunset from the deck of the “Bayern,” as she
swung at anchor in the sickle-shaped harbor of Messina, turned from the
sombre Sicilian mountains, rising tier above tier to the wet gray sky,
and looked at what men called the “indispensable city” before God had
set His foot upon it. The pile of smoking ruins, in some places tall as
the wrecked buildings had originally been, in others crushed flat to the
earth, looked indeed as if some mighty being had stamped his way with
giant strides over the city; you could trace his footsteps in the
shattered remnants of the great Sicilian seaport.

“Do you believe the earthquake was a judgment?” Hugh went on.

Gasperone, the Messinese, shook the rough mane of hair out of his eyes
and parried the question with a “_Chi lo sa?_” Then he added: “It was
foretold; I myself heard the prophecy, though at the time I laughed,
with others who laugh no more. One of the hottest days of last summer a
tall Nazarene, a hermit from the hills dressed in sackcloth, went up and
down the city, followed by a boy--half naked like himself--ringing a
great bell. There on the Marina they stopped at a cross street and the
Nazarene cried out like one possessed:

“‘Be warned! Take heed and repent, ye of Messina! This year shall not
end before your city is utterly destroyed!’”

“It was a wicked city,” said Hugh; “the Almighty smote this place. What
else could ha’ done it? Our chart called for fifty fathom of water, we
plumbed and plumbed--two hundred and fifty didn’t fetch it, the bottom
had just dropped out. There’s Riggio ‘crost the straits, hit the same
way--a double stroke you may say. When you see a city smote like that,
you may know it was a wicked city; ’twas the same with ‘Frisco--she got
what she deserved. Down to Callao centuries ago ‘twas the same. The
people were fighting and killing each other, so the Almighty he shook
down the town and out of the water a great high mountain riz right up in
the air carrying a big ship as was lying in the harbor with it; I know
folks as has seen it! They put an immense cross on the spot; the kings
or presidents or whatever there is down there, swore that until that
cross was pulled down they would never fight no more. Whenever they’re
like to quarrel, some one points to that cross, and then they manage to
settle the row without bloodshed!”

“_Awe ri’_,” said Gasperone.

“They say a vile piece of poetry was printed in an infidel paper, asking
our Saviour to prove He could work miracles by sending a good
earthquake--is that true?”

Gasperone spat over the side and nodded; then he too prophesied.

“There is more to come.” Gasperone shook a warning finger: “Listen! la
Sicilia will go down, down, and finally be lost under the sea. Already
it has begun; the mountains grow lower and lower; when I was a boy they
were much higher than now. The Marina has sunk in some places a metre.
You know the ancient _stemma_, the coat-of-arms of Sicily, has but
three legs? We have lost one leg, there are but two left. When the next
leg goes, it will be finished; the island will topple and sink beneath
the sea. I have said it.” He made a gesture as if to wipe the ancient
island of Trinacria from the face of the globe.

It was the third day of the cruise of the “Bayern;” all the relief party
were on shore, except Wilfred Thompson and J., who had been detained on
board by their work. J., who had come up from the hold to take a breath,
listened half consciously to the talk of Gasperone and Hugh, the Yeoman.
In his confused memories of that time this scrap of their conversation
survives.

What has happened since the “Bayern” sailed from Civitavecchia? First
one, then another of that strangely assorted ship’s company shall tell
the story.

“Immediately on getting under way,” writes Captain Belknap, “the work of
arranging our supplies began, so that we might know what, how much, and
where to lay our hands on everything. Supplies purchased at Genoa were
in the after hold, those from Rome forward; except for this separation
everything was mixed together. The Rome purchases had been made by
several persons acting independently; marks on many packages had been
torn off or obliterated in the hurry of transportation, and the
difficulty was increased by the absence of many invoices. Fortunately
good weather favored us. The work continued in the fore hold until ten
P.M. on Thursday.”

“Worked very hard till dinner getting cargo in order and opening up some
stuff. After dinner worked on bills with Flint and Hale,” writes Wilfred
Thompson in his diary for January 7th.

A letter from J., of the same date, gives a fuller account of the first
day:

“We got straight to work the moment you were all clear of the ship. I
didn’t even get a chance to take a snap-shot as we left the harbor of
Civitavecchia; indeed, I didn’t even see the town, as I was helping
Thompson with his invoices. After that we all went down in the hold and
were hunting or moving things and getting them up on deck. Such
confusion as there was in the hold, it is impossible to imagine!
Everything simply dumped in a heap. I found a lot of things they wanted.
We worked down there till dinner just like porters, and I am tired as a
dog.”

Friday, January 8th, was a busy day for all on board. In the morning the
weather was fine, at noon they passed Stromboli, the burning mountain
that rises in a sharp cone from the Tyrrhene Sea. Mr. Thompson notes in
his diary the beauty of the Calabrian coast. They passed near enough the
shore to see the people of the ruined villages living in tents and
shanties.

J.’s letter for that day says:

“After breakfast I went to find sterilized milk in the forward hold.
Then I got to work with Hooper, who is a brick, as my partner, and
between us we cleaned out that hold. Mr. Griscom came down and saw what
we were doing, and tried to photograph us. He approved our efforts,
which resulted in our finding many things at the bottom that were
supposed to be missing. Such a jumble there never was seen! Everything
had been hauled off the lighters and pitched into the holds, without any
attempt at order; one and every kind of thing on top of the other and
always the thing most needed at the bottom. When I tell you that a bunch
of picks and spades had been dropped upon boxes of macaroni, you may
get a slight idea of what would naturally happen. I spent the day as
Hooper’s side companion--a bully worker, no shirk in him--and we got
through about six this evening. It was a splendid day and Thompson, who
worked above the water line, had a glimpse of Stromboli as we passed it
about noon. At 4.45 we dropped anchor at Messina--what there is left of
it, only a heap of ruins, though at first sight the houses didn’t seem
to be so utterly destroyed. However, under the searchlights from the
ships one could see how complete the ruin is--nothing but heaps of
rubbish with walls sticking up above them. As soon as we came to anchor,
the Captain of the Port came aboard. I stuck to the Commander like
Sherlock Holmes and was his interpreter. He (the Italian port official)
wanted to know the kind of things we had on board. Three American
officers came aboard with Major Landis and Delmé Radcliffe, Mr. Cutting
and Chanler, who seemed quite in his element.... Everyone says what
splendid work he has been doing. A little later the Ambassador and the
Commander (Belknap), Mr. Lupton, the American Vice Consul, Major
Landis, and yours truly, went to see General Mazza on board the ‘Duca di
Genova,’ a magnificent Italian liner. It was all very interesting. I
went as interpreter. Delmé Radcliffe is quartered on board the staff
ship, so he went with us too. He applied to the captain of one of the
American ships in the harbor for a boat to take the remains of the
English Consul’s wife to the cemetery tomorrow morning, but could not
get one promised till three P.M., as the U. S. flagship only arrives in
the morning. Mr. Griscom returns on her and brings you this letter.
Delmé Radcliffe saw a man taken out alive at six o’clock this afternoon.
_A propos_ of boots, they seem to be the things most needed. I fear I
have lost my pen in the hold. I am sorry Mr. Griscom is leaving, and
Dodge too. D. has been working like a slave. Splendid! I forgot to say
that the visit to the General in command was to place the ship with
everything aboard at his disposal.”

Captain Belknap’s record for the same day, giving a fuller account of
the visit to the “Duca di Genova,” ends with these words:

“General Mazza expressed his warm appreciation of the offer and the
spirit that prompted it, and recommended that the ship proceed to
Catania and Palermo, possibly also to Syracuse, as these places had
received many sick, wounded and refugees, but so far no help in
proportion to their needs. At Messina the situation was well in hand and
supplies were already available, sufficient for all requirements.”

The next morning, Saturday, the U. S. S. “Connecticut,” flagship of the
Atlantic Fleet, Admiral Sperry commanding, arrived at Messina with her
tender, the “Yankton,” and the supply ship, “Culgoa.” A conference was
held, and the plan of action, the policy of the American relief work in
Sicily was doubtless then and there perfected; of this the men in the
hold of course knew little or nothing. They only knew that Mr. Griscom,
the leader of the expedition, was to leave them and were sorry that he
should go.

Admiral Sperry landed two hundred and fifty men to excavate the American
Consulate and recover the bodies of the Consul and his wife; the
“Yankton” remained at Messina as a base of supplies; and the
“Connecticut,” with the Ambassador on board, sailed for Naples Saturday
afternoon and left the “Bayern” to coöperate with the supply ship,
“Culgoa,” in relief work along the coast.

Several boatloads of supplies for the American Consulate were landed,
and a large amount of food and clothes was given with a sum of money to
the Archbishop of Messina. About the time the “Connecticut” sailed, a
message was received by the Americans that at Reggio, the city on the
Calabrian shore that faces Messina, their help would be gratefully
received.

While all these official matters were going on, Wilfred Thompson was
busy with his invoices and accounts, and J. with his stores in the hold.
It was not until the afternoon of Saturday that they went on shore.
Gasperone and Hugh, the Yeoman, went with them. In all J.’s notes and
letters there is frequent mention of the strange Sicilian servant,
Gasperone, who seems to have been half crazed by the earthquake, and of
Hugh, the Yeoman, one of the enlisted men who had sailed on the great
cruise round the world.

They landed in a pouring rain and made their way to the ruins of the
American Consulate. From a shattered window flapped a yellow brocade
curtain above a huge mass of stone and plaster, with gaunt beams
sticking up against the leaden sky. A detachment of American sailors
were working here in shifts day and night. A little farther on the party
stopped, rooted to the earth by the sound of a weird lament, like the
keening of the mourners at an Irish wake. They soon saw where the
dreadful wailing came from. Seated on a pile of debris was an old woman,
all huddled together, her head in her hands, her knees drawn up to her
chin, swaying slowly backwards and forwards, the movement of her body
keeping time to her moans; she might have been one of the ancient
cave-dwellers, the attitude, the lament seemed a strange primitive
expression of despair, old as the race.

“That is Sora Anna; they have found her son’s head and part of the
body,” said Gasperone indifferently. “That girl is Elena, his
_fidanzata_; they were to be married this month. They are waiting for
the coffin.”

The girl, Elena, stood beside the old woman like a thing of stone. She
was a beautiful creature; her face was almost as white as the lint with
which her head was bandaged. Silent and dry-eyed, she looked like a
statue of revolt. At her feet lay the ghastly fragments of her lover’s
body. Two soldiers passed with picks on their shoulders; one of them
asked the girl if he could help her. She paid no attention, but stood
looking across the sea, stony and silent, while the mother wailed the
death song for her son.

“Come,” said Gasperone, “it will be dark in an hour; the sun no sooner
gets up than it goes to bed. Madonna! With all the rest, it is too much
that the days should be so short. After dark, the wild dogs who come
from the mountains to devour the dead are dangerous; in the day, they
are more timid, the soldiers have shot so many.”

Gasperone led the way towards the cathedral square. On their way they
passed the ruins of the Banca d’Italia, guarded by a strong force of
soldiers.

“There is a great treasure here,” said Gasperone, “that must be guarded
at any cost, you understand. These soldiers might--but it is always so;
gold is worth more than flesh and blood!”

In one of the main streets Gasperone stopped beside a tragic group--a
priest, an old woman and a dead man.

“Ah, behold!” he cried, “they have just found Padre Antonio’s twin
brother. He and his mother were the only ones saved of a family of
fourteen.”

The priest, haggard and wild looking, with his arm in a sling, began to
read aloud a prayer. His mother stood beside him, swaying backwards and
forwards. As the prayer ended, the mother joining in the benediction,
_In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritûs Sancti_; a newspaper reporter
fixed his camera on a tripod and photographed the pathetic group. The
rain, that had stopped for a moment, now came down again in torrents and
drenched them all to the skin.

“It was raining like mad most of the time,” J. writes, “I can well
understand how your poor old woman, Rosina, kept harping on the rain.
Anything more dismal it is hard to imagine. I have only been made
uncomfortable by it; but there are hundreds of poor people camping out
wherever there is a clear space big enough to run up a primitive shelter
with boards, if they have them, or sails rigged on poles. I saw one
ambitious family roofing roughly with tiles they had collected from the
streets. They seemed to be the first to make the attempt, though the
streets are literally strewn with tiles. In these poor shelters, and in
the miserable little tents (some of them about half big enough for a man
to crawl into and lie down, and which do not reach the ground by about a
foot and a half) the water had flooded everything. The suffering from
this cruel rain that these poor souls endure must be cruel beyond
words.”

Mr. Thompson writes under the same date:

“Worked early getting off the goods the Vice Consul had asked for. The
Ambassador and the rest of the party, except Elliott and myself, went on
shore; weather very wet and stormy. Lunched early and went on shore with
Elliott, passing the ‘Connecticut’ with the Ambassador on board. Went to
temporary Consulate and met Deputy Vice-Consul, Mr. Cutting, and the
acting English Consul. Then Elliott and I went out to see the town,
wearing our red crosses. The sights were terrible; we realize now what
an earthquake means. We walked along the Marina, the former chief
water-front street. It has in places sunk beneath the water level, and
is full of huge cracks. Here and there we passed a house but little
damaged, but nearly all have the roofs fallen in; and, curious to say,
at short intervals are houses that have been utterly and entirely
smashed for no particular reason that one could see. The American and
British Consulates are a case in point. Italian soldiers were digging
and the party from the ‘Culgoa’ working all day under the driving rain,
looking in vain for the bodies of the American Consul and his wife.
Constantly saw soldiers with spades passing along. The city is under
martial law and we saw many soldiers on guard. A few people living in
wooden shanties or among the ruins with the rain soaking in upon them.
Made our way inland to the cathedral which looks, as far as one can
judge, as though the façade must have been fine. The ruins of the
cathedral are well guarded by soldiers, on account of the great treasure
buried there. The streets around the duomo are so ruined that we climbed
over debris level with the second and third floors. The presence of the
dead was all too obvious at every few yards. It will take two or three
years to clear what is left of the city, and I should think it was a
hopeless task and that Messina must be abandoned. Some of the

[Illustration: MESSINA. A HOUSE THAT ESCAPED DESTRUCTION. _Page 129._]

[Illustration: REGGIO. SOLDIERS ON THEIR WAY TO A RESCUE. _Page 130._]

[Illustration: MESSINA. THE MILITARY COLLEGE. _Page 130._]

[Illustration: MESSINA. PALACE OF THE PREFECT. _Page 130._]

remains, broken beds and chairs, tawdry candlesticks, torn dresses were
very pathetic. One of the sentries stood on guard under a black silk
lace-trimmed parasol. So fearfully wet we returned to the Consulate and
found Mr. Griscom. About four P. M. we went down on the beach to wait
for the boat. Grand and terrible storm over Calabrian coasts. Flashes of
lightning lit up the shipping in the harbor and the dreary shore with
its broken barrels and all kinds of rubbish. Fell in with an officer
from the ‘Culgoa.’ Frightful rain and flashes of blinding lightning.
When it was dark but for these, the launch from the ‘Bayern’ at last
arrived with a boat in tow. The boat was cut loose, but the fool men did
not know how to manage it and tried to beach it on the shelving shore
over a huge iron grating. Every wave filled the boat and the men let her
get broadside on and almost swamped her. To my relief Mr. Cutting was on
board and jumped into the water over his knees. Cutting ordered the men
to carry the bales and cases of stores ashore. The goods were full of
water and some were in consequence almost too heavy to carry. Quite dark
except for the lightning. I sent a man back to the Consulate for a
lantern, which helped somewhat. Finally Cutting and the men went off and
left me to guard the goods. When all but the heaviest were taken away I
went to the Consulate, taking my officer. Found various men and we had
hot coffee, which was welcome and I think saved me. My coat so heavy
with water I could hardly move under the weight. Great difficulty in
getting the German sailors (of the ‘Bayern’) to carry up the heavy cases
to the Consulate. If Cutting had not spoken German we never could have
done so. Finally got it done and started to walk about a mile to where
the launch and boat were waiting for us. Weird effects! Lights of ships
in the harbor over inky black water and sky. At last got launch and got
to our ship. Tired out but felt better after dinner. Dreams full of
earthquake and huge waves. The desolation of those hours in the
drenching rain, waiting for the boat, will remain always in my mind!”

“January 10th: Left Messina about 7:30 A.M. in rain. Came over to Reggio
and lay there all day. Commander Belknap heard from the Italian cruiser,
‘Napoli,’ that they wanted stores there, so we had a hard and busy day
getting them out. Officers and boats came about three P.M. to fetch
them. So rushed had hardly time to look at coast and Reggio, but it did
not seem so badly damaged as one would expect from the newspaper
accounts. The ‘Napoli’ is to distribute our stores to the small towns
along the coast. Tired out and bruised by fall. Thick wet evening. At
dark got all boats on board and got up anchor and went back to Messina,
and lay there for the night about a mile off shore (there is no
anchorage at Reggio). Woman said to have been taken out alive from
debris at Messina but to have died later.”

J.’s letter for the same date says:

“I only got a squint at Reggio for a moment, just as we were leaving,
when the rain let up a little and we had sent our last boatload ashore.
I spent all the morning getting up the stuff from the hold and keeping
track of it, and most of the afternoon. What did not go into the boats
went into the forward hold. I hunted among hundreds of bales and things
for two bales of tent canvas, which I found and got on deck. Chanler had
been down there with a gang in the morning and arranged things in a way
that made it possible. The last time I was down there it was in a
terrible mess with everything together. You see the after holds are
where I have been since the first day, and in my part I know where to
find everything they ask for, though some things--the white beans for
instance--I can’t get at, as there are two layers of sacks on top of
’em, which will have to be removed first. It is raining like mad most of
the time; I never saw such rain as we had last night. I believe I have
said so already; anything more dismal it is hard to imagine.”

In Captain Belknap’s report of this day he says:

“We were unable to see General Mazzitelli (in command at Reggio), as he
was ill, but Captain Cagni, commanding the ‘Napoli,’ senior Italian
naval officer present, received us in his stead. He showed much
satisfaction in having our supplies to draw upon, especially for women
and children’s clothing, oil stoves, tent canvas, cooking and table
utensils, tools and nails. About four-fifths of the ‘Napoli’s’ crew had
been sent away on relieving expeditions among the outlying small
villages, and our supplies were in good time for use in a second
expedition which was being prepared. We were cordially thanked for our
supplies (about 25 tons), which we were able to transfer that afternoon.
The ‘Bayern’ then returned to anchor overnight at Messina, there being
no good berth at Reggio. The ‘Culgoa’ remained off Reggio to deliver
provisions next day.”

Remember Captain Cagni! We shall hear of him again; a live man, with red
blood in his veins!

Extract from Mr. Thompson’s diary.

“Monday, January 11th: Left Messina about six A.M. Splendid rainbow with
moon above it. At 7:30 as we passed close to the coast, the lower slopes
of Etna, covered with snow, visible. Unfortunately a cloud on top.
Anchored off Catania at 10:30. Ugly town from the sea view, but Etna
proud above it.”

Extract from J.’s letter of same date:

“We have been getting rid of a lot of stuff and I believe are likely to
discharge the greater part of our cargo here, perhaps all, and take a
fresh cargo of planks and building wood to some particular place where
they are very much in need of it for shelter. This afternoon I helped
Captain Belknap to receive the Prefetto and Sindaco of Catania,
together with a committee of ladies and gentlemen, and to show them over
the ship. The operating room, store room, and rooms where the nurses
have the clothes, boots, hats, etc., which they put up in bundles as
they are wanted. They inspected also the staterooms, turned into
hospital wards. As soon as they were all gone I got the hatches off (it
was six o’clock), went down into the hold and sent up sixteen bales of
blankets and two cases of suits of clothes. As luck would have it, I had
them all moved in the morning, right under the crane so that I was able
to get them slung up and over the side into the boats on record time,
but for all that it took an hour and three quarters and I didn’t come
out of the hold till eight o’clock. I helped Thompson for about an hour
after dinner, and that let me out for today. We started in with
breakfast at 7:30; hatch off at 8:30, work till lunch at 12 o’clock;
then getting ready for the reception--the receiving committee being
Captain Belknap, Hooper (my side companion) and Gay--myself and Flint (a
firstrate Harvard boy) as assistants to handle the crowd. I have done so
many different things today that I have forgotten about half of them.
Now I must go to bed as tomorrow is going to be a tremendous day.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Catania is the second largest city in Sicily. Twenty-five thousand of
the survivors had been sent to Catania from Messina and the smaller
towns destroyed by the earthquake; the problem of supplying food,
clothing and shelter for these poor people was no easy one for the
Catanians to solve. Catania had not suffered from the earthquake and
therefore was not under military law; the civil authorities were most
grateful and appreciative of all the help the Americans offered in
whatever shape. Admiral Gagliardi, who was in the harbor on board the
battleship “Garibaldi,” seems to have been as cordial in his reception
of the “Bayern” as the Sindaco. He immediately sent an officer to
welcome the expedition and to offer any assistance Captain Belknap might
require. The cordial relations that immediately sprang up between the
Italian admiral and the commander of the American relief expedition can
be felt even in Captain Belknap’s necessarily guarded record.

“We were immediately boarded by an officer from the battleship
‘Garibaldi,’” he says, “with the compliments of Rear Admiral Gagliardi.
The Admiral offered us any assistance we might need; and when I made an
official visit to him that afternoon, he inquired with much interest
about all that could be learned of the situation at Messina and Reggio,
and about the expedition. He very kindly made it well understood that we
had only to ask to obtain any assistance at his disposal--an offer that
I was glad to avail of, for men to assist with handling supplies,
transmission of telegrams by wireless, and service of boats. The Admiral
returned the visit next day, inspected the ship with evident interest,
and expressed his approval of her organization and arrangements,
particularly of the medical department.”

Catania was glad to see the Americans, and the Americans were glad to
see Catania. Everything combined to make the visit a success. It is
noted in the diary that the eleventh of January was “a splendid warm day
and a starlight night.” The dreadful rain had held up for a little; they
were received with open arms. The Sindaco letter of welcome, dated
January 11th, rings true:--

                                              “MUNICIPALITY OF CATANIA,
                                                   “January 11th, 1909.

     “With pleasure I express to you, Gentlemen of the Committee and all
     of the Expedition of the American Red Cross, embarked on board the
     S. S. ‘Bayern,’ the heartiest thanks of the population of Catania,
     and of the refugees and wounded who have found here a shelter, for
     your generous offer of medicines, clothes, food, etc.

     “The relief brought by you will be effective to lessen the
     sufferings of so many wretched people who have been deprived in a
     few moments of their relatives, of their beloved native town and of
     every possession.

                     “With esteemed consideration,

                        “The Mayor, S. GONSOLI.

                 “The Signor Reginald Rowan Belknap.”



Catania, the rival seaport of Messina, is a thriving city but the drain
put upon the citizens, many of whom had suffered great loss of property
through the earthquake, and the consequent paralysis to business all
over Sicily, was more than they could meet. The relief work was in the
hands of a Municipal Committee and a Ladies’ Committee; through these
well organized committees the medicines, clothes, food and tools that
our committee in Rome, and our Consul in Genoa, had worked so hard to
collect, were distributed and put into immediate use. Mr. Hooper notes
in his diary that “Mr. Gay and Mr. Cutting were sent on shore to
investigate hospitals and the general situation.”

Tuesday, the 12th of January, was a busy day; the men in the holds
worked from early morning till late night, getting out stores as they
were wanted. Here at last was a demand for their wares. In desperate,
stricken Messina General Mazza’s policy was to discourage the few
survivors from remaining. The military authorities wished to get rid of
them as quickly as possible, and they were shipped to all parts of Italy
by steamer or train. The entry in Mr. Thompson’s diary for January 12th
is briefer than usual, but the quality and color of it brings the whole
scene vividly before us.

“January 12th: In Catania harbor all day unloading goods. A long hard
day. Crowd of soldiers, sailors, representatives of various hospitals,
priests, sisters of charity and others, all standing about, asking for
‘goods’ and getting in the way. Had a party of thirty men from Italian
warship to help load the lighters. The hardest day of the expedition,
nearly knocked out by night. A beautiful day, especially towards sunset.
Admiral Gagliardi from the ‘Garibaldi’ came aboard with officers and the
committee from Taormina arrived; Miss Claxton, one of the nurses, left
us. German Consul and friends to dinner. Two quite dirty men kissed Gay
on each cheek as a slight token of their gratitude.”

The committee from Taormina included Miss Mabel Hill, Fräulein Gasser,
Mr. Harry Bowdoin, and Mr. Charles King Wood. They brought with them a
letter from the Sindaco of Giardini, a fishing village on the coast, at
the foot of the hill on which Taormina stands.

Captain Belknap’s report of the Taormina Committee’s visit says:

“Upon their representations of conditions in their district, work
already done and still in hand, and cases of need still unrelieved,
about twenty tons of clothing, sheets, blankets, provisions, medical
dressings and miscellaneous articles were given into their care for
shipment by rail, and 10,000 _lire_ to be spent at the discretion of
the committee in their work in these two places. We also sent with this
shipment all clean linen remaining on board. The services of a nurse
were also wanted at Taormina and Giardini, and Miss Claxton was sent
with this party on their return there. A letter since then has been
received from Miss Claxton, saying that she is engaged as a district or
visiting nurse, and that all the supplies sent have proved very useful.
A further sum of money was entrusted to Messrs. Bowdoin and Wood, both
members of the American Red Cross, who undertook to arrange for the
expenditure for the relief of the small villages outside Giardini and
Taormina, between there and Messina.

“In response to an appeal from Acireale, Mr. Gay made a personal visit
among the relief workers there, after which some clothing and other
supplies and 5,000 _lire_ were delivered to them. To the Little Sisters
of the Poor 1,000 _lire_ were given for their immediate assistance. A
few bundles of clothing were sent by rail to Messina in care of Mr.
Chanler in response to a wireless message from the ‘Yankton.’”

The Little Sisters of the Poor had suffered heavily at Messina. Their
convent and the schools and hospital attached to it had been completely
destroyed; many of the sisters had been killed or injured. The devotion
and courage of these faithful nuns to the old people and the children
under their care made a deep impression on all the company on board the
“Bayern.”

“While lying in Catania,” Captain Belknap continues, “knowing that
lumber was needed at Reggio, Mr. Flint was sent ashore Wednesday
morning, to buy such quantity as we could get on board that day.
Lighterage facilities were very scarce, as many steamers were in the
harbor discharging; but by the persistent efforts of the German
Vice-Consul, Mr. Jacob Peratoner, who very kindly devoted almost his
entire day in our behalf, we succeeded in getting on board enough lumber
to build 25 houses, 13 by 13 feet, complete with floors.”

Mr. Thompson’s diary for January 13th is of unusual interest. This
journal is human and vital. It tells us just what one man saw, did, and
understood; it reflects his mood; it has the heat of his life. It gives
us a series of snap-shots of the good ship “Bayern” with the rosy
eupeptic German Captain and the pale slender American Commander, the
crew--rather a poor lot of sailors got together at a few hours’
notice--the stewards neat and literal, the cast-iron routine, the
prescribed Italian doctor, and all the usual personnel of a North German
Lloyd liner, commandeered for unusual service, with the supreme
authority vested for the nonce in the American Commander, the quiet man
with a will of iron, who never seems to rest, but by his example
ceaselessly stimulates, vitalizes, every member of the ship’s company.

     Mr. Thompson’s journal:

     “January 13th: In Catania harbor unloading goods. Emptied after
     holds before lunch. Afternoon sent away goods for Taormina. Went
     ashore with Little Sisters of the Poor. Town not interesting. Came
     back at dusk. Elliott got his nose cut on shore in an automobile
     smash. A number of refugee children from Messina came on board to
     be carried to Genoa. They had lost every one belonging to them.
     Most of them were apparently happy except one older one. Eleven old
     men, ten old women, six Little Sisters of the Poor, and six
     children came on board. Busy serving out blankets till near
     midnight.”

These twenty-one old people were between eighty and one hundred years of
age. The Sisters had assumed the care and future responsibility for
these poor souls.

The stay at Catania was the most important phase of the “Bayern’s”
cruise. Here the most significant work of the expedition was
accomplished. The Americans were brought into close and cordial relation
with the leaders of the relief work in Catania. They visited the refuges
and, finding how well they were administered and how grievously in need
of succor, they helped with money and all the remaining stores of the
“Bayern.”

At Catania the American Committee for the first time was brought into
direct touch with the Americans working at Taormina; here was another
channel through which the stream of American help could flow directly
from the source of supply to its destination, administered from first to
last by Americans. The policy of the committee was, as far as possible,
to employ Americans to disburse the American money and the supplies it
had purchased. It was more satisfactory to the contributors, and was of
great use to the earnest men and women who devoted themselves to the
cause. Here the committee came in contact, not only with Mr. Bowdoin and
Mr. Wood, those tireless workers from Taormina, but with Miss Katherine
Bennett Davis, one of the most significant figures among all those who
labored for Italy in her dark hour. They had expected to go to Syracuse,
and Mr. Cutting went thither by rail in order to learn the existing
conditions of the relief work. He reported that the work in Syracuse was
admirably organized, under the leadership of Miss Davis. It was found
best, however, not to take the ship to Syracuse, and Mr. Flint was sent
there with an American sailor to guard him and the large sum of money he
carried for Syracuse. The greater part was given to Miss Davis, the rest
was divided between the Sindaco and the Marchesa de Rudini.

The refugees taken on board at Catania added to the interest of life on
the “Bayern,” though the men in the hold had little time to notice
them; still they added a certain color and picturesqueness to the daily
routine. J. has memories of the little children dancing on the deck of
the “Bayern,” romping in and out of the piles of goods as they came up
from the hold; and strongest of all, of Sor Michaele, an old opera
singer, from the almshouse at Messina, who sat all day long at the piano
in the blue brocade saloon, playing and singing the operas of his youth.

In Catania the members of the “Bayern” expedition saw thousands of the
_superstiti_. Here they learned what the effects of the earthquake had
been upon the survivors.

“They had all been singed by death,” writes J. “They looked like death’s
heads with the grin and the terror of the skull in their faces. One
woman--I saw her once, I heard of her often--went from hospital to
hospital, to the refuges, to all the places where there were _profughi_,
asking the same question everywhere: ‘Have you here perchance a baby who
has the habit of sucking the two first fingers of his left hand?’ That
was the only clue she had to her lost child. I never could hear whether
or not she found him. In one of the refuges I saw a woman who was said
to be one of the richest people in Messina. She had lost every member of
her family, she had nothing in the world, not a suit of clothes, not a
crust, nothing but herself. Dr. Alessandrini, who is studying the
nervous effects of the earthquake, says that most of the survivors dream
continually of it. We saw one woman who had dreamed of it every night
and each time awoke in a convulsion of fright. They were in great doubt
if they could save her life. The children, even the quite grown ones of
fourteen or fifteen, however, forgot it all immediately. It was like a
bad dream to them.”

The automobile accident Thompson referred to, was telegraphed to Rome.
At ten o’clock that night I read an exaggerated account of it in a
newspaper. “The painter Elliott injured in an automobile accident,” was
the heading in the Roman Tribuna. In his letter J. makes light of the
accident.

“It was nothing but a collision, the jar of which drove my nose through
the plate-glass window of the automobile. Sicily is a bad place for
automobiles; the people won’t get out of the way. I heard one fellow
say, ‘Am I a goat that I should skip out of the way of this thing?’
They are half Oriental; it would be undignified to run in order to get
out of the way of a motor. Mr. Robert Winthrop has brought down a lot of
tetanus antitoxin. Captain Belknap has divided it between Messina and
Catania.”

     Mr. Thompson’s journal:

     “January 14th, Reggio di Calabria. Left Catania at four A.M. Went
     on deck at sunrise. Fine effect on rocky coast and Etna in the
     background with top covered in cloud. Reached Reggio about eight
     A.M., but could find no anchorage, so circled about all day. Rough
     weather. Sent away two life-boats of stores, but could not
     discharge cargo of lumber taken on at Catania to build shacks at
     Reggio. Stormy sea and sky with splendid sunset effects. Etna,
     still with cloud-covered top, against a gold sky and masses of
     purple cloud. Flint came on board in the evening and heard we were
     at once to sail for Palermo, to relieve refugees in care of U. S.
     Consul. Later toward midnight this plan was changed; we are to
     discharge our stores and lumber here, and start for Palermo Friday
     night. This day week we left Rome. It seems like a month ago.
     Reggio on nearer view a sad sight. Lay off Messina for night.

     “January 15th: Left Messina about 6:30 and came over to Reggio.
     Stormy early, later cleared and day became splendid. Got well in
     and anchored near the shore, close to Italian cruiser ‘Napoli.’ The
     others went ashore and by ferry to Messina, but I had to see all
     stores brought up. Everything up by 11:30, and we put the lumber
     over in bundles to be towed ashore by boats and launch. Afternoon
     uneventful for me. Etna clear against the sky. Got all lumber over
     the side and had boatload of goods away, and left Reggio at seven
     P. M. for Messina. Accounts of condition of city from our people
     very sad. Persons said to have been taken alive from the ruins two
     days ago. Our people could hear the cries of a buried dog. The U.
     S. S. ‘Illinois’ had party of three hundred men digging for bodies
     at Consulate. At last succeeded in finding bodies of Consul and his
     wife. Five people taken out alive today at Messina. Two had food.
     Left Messina at 10:55 for Palermo.”

At Reggio the nurses, J., and another member of the expedition were
having their lunch on the outskirts of the town close by the station.
Near where they sat the railroad carriages, swept off the track and out
to sea by the tidal wave, lay half submerged in the water, washing idly
to and fro, one of the strangest sights of all that topsy-turvy world.
The carriages were doubly lost, first to the railroad company for
transporting passengers, second to the poor _profughi_ who used the
railroad carriages as houses. Happy the family who could find shelter in
one of them from rain and cold!

As the party from the “Bayern” were finishing lunch, an orderly from
Captain Cagni brought an invitation to come to headquarters and have
some hot coffee. The invitation was accepted with glee, and they waited
while the coffee was made by one of the soldiers. It was hot, it was
black, but, alas, it was salt. The supply of fresh water was so meagre
that they used sea water to wash the dishes, and the orderly who made
the coffee made the mistake of taking salt water instead of fresh. There
were a thousand apologies, and the hospitable host begged the guests to
wait till a fresh pot of coffee was brewed, but time pressed, and they
were due on board the “Bayern.” One of the Americans, adding brandy to
his coffee, tried to drink it with painful results. They gave the
remains of their luncheon to some children; every crumb of food was
precious, even at Reggio where the suffering from hunger was never so
great as at Messina. Captain Cagni saw to that! First he commandeered
all the cattle in the neighborhood and served them out in rations as
beef. When the cattle gave out, the donkeys were gathered in and served
out as beef, mind you, always beef. Finally the dogs and cats were
served out in the same way. Captain Cagni said it was beef, so beef it
was.

Captain Belknap had received several messages from Mr. Bishop, the
American Consul at Palermo, asking that the “Bayern” visit that place,
where the crowd of _profughi_ was so enormous that the Palermitans could
not begin to feed and clothe them. It was decided to visit Palermo on
the way from the Straits of Death back to Civitavecchia. The fifteenth
of January was the last day of their stay in the ruined districts.

     Mr. Thompson’s diary:

     “January 16th: Gray morning early. Fine coast. Reached Palermo 9:30
     and anchored outside breakwater. Some delay in getting permission
     from port authorities to land. Nurses and some of our party went
     ashore to buy clothing for the refugees. Then took drive about the
     city. Visited hurriedly royal palace and most interesting chapel
     with mosaics, one of the finest things of the kind I have ever
     seen. The cathedral inside quite uninteresting. Splendid view over
     the city and harbor and mountains from terrace of palace. Got back
     to lunch at two P.M. Visitors after lunch. Helped to make
     translation of flowery address to Captain. Warship ‘Garibaldi’ went
     to sea just before sunset, passing very close. We left at seven
     P.M. for Civitavecchia and Rome. At dinner our Captain made a
     speech, saying how well we had all worked under him. Other speeches
     followed; some of us stayed on deck till eleven P.M. At Palermo
     gave 30,000 francs and landed 1,200 mattresses and 1,300 kilos of
     food from ship stores.

     “January 17th: At sea going to Civitavecchia. Fine day. Blue sea
     with white caps and more motion than any time since we left on
     this cruise. Took some snaps of old men and children, refugees, but
     they and all our Little Sisters of the Poor were seasick. Morning
     packed and handed over all my papers to Gay and wrote letters.
     After lunch busy till we landed, helping Flint and Elliott pay
     bills on ship. Reached Civitavecchia at about 3:30, but did not
     anchor for an hour. Finally got off in launch, towing two
     life-boats (the boats Belknap had commandeered before they left
     Civitavecchia; the third was lost by the clumsy sailors when they
     landed the goods at Messina the day of the dreadful storm).
     Ambassador and Mrs. Griscom and others waiting. After some delay we
     got off and reached Rome about eight. Have come back tired out but
     well. Very glad I went but glad to get back.”

Truly misery makes strange bedfellows! The misery of Messina had brought
together an oddly assorted company of volunteers on board the “Bayern.”
There was Mr. Gay, the Secretary of the Committee, a Fellow of Harvard
College settled in Rome, who has devoted many years to the preparation
of a History of the Italian Risorgimento; his splendid library at the
Palazzo Orsini contains a remarkable collection of books and pamphlets
on the subject. There was William Hooper of Boston, a man of affairs and
a famous Harvard athlete, who had left the ease of his apartment
opposite the Palazzo Margherita in Rome to act as treasurer to the
expedition. There was Wilfred Thompson, the painter, who had left his
studio and his little cat, to act as supercargo; Robert Hale, another
painter, who in the list of assistants is set down as an assistant in
the forward hold; the Avvocato Giordano, one of the most brilliant of
the writers on the Tribuna. There was Weston Flint, the assistant
treasurer, four Italian doctors, six nurses, and John Elliott (J.), who
had left his studio to act “as interpreter and to assist in after holds
and elsewhere.” These were the permanent members of the expedition. Now
and then across this constellation of fixed stars flamed the meteor
Chanler, a trail of glory behind him, and the indomitable Cutting, our
Consul from Milan, who served in a thousand capacities beside inducing
the German sailors to carry up the heavy cases to the temporary
Consulate. They had some mishaps of course. The first day Mr. Gay fell
down and broke a rib; the same day J. tumbled down an iron ladder into
the hold and scraped the flesh off his lean shanks. Thompson, who had a
cough, was drenched to the skin over and over again--that did not
improve his health--and Cutting--alas and alas, that gallant soul who
could never think of himself, had many a ducking besides the one
Thompson describes, and endured endless discomforts at the “temporary
Consulate” where he, Chanler and Major Landis lived during those first
ghastly days. The only tie that bound together these men of varying
tastes and habits, was the Red Cross each wore on his arm. In all the
letters, reports, journals that tell the story of the “Bayern’s” cruise
the most striking thing is the way these men speak of each other. Every
man saw his comrades in a golden glow of enthusiasm; they were all good
men and true in their fellows’ eyes!

As the “Bayern” steamed across the harbor of Civitavecchia J. looked
into the blue brocade saloon. Sor Michaele, the old opera singer, sat at
the white and gold piano, his stiff fingers surprisingly limbered up,
striking the keys briskly, while his shrunken voice quavered out
“Spirito Gentil,” the glorious aria from La Favorita that he had sung in
his far off youth, now made familiar the world over by Caruso and the
“Victor.” After he had struck the last chords, the old man’s head
dropped on his breast and he began to sob.

“_Coraggio!_” cried J., “what is wrong with you? We’re almost there;
your troubles are nearly over.”

“It is all finished,” sobbed the old man. “I have not been so happy for
twenty years as I have been on board this ship. At the almshouse there
is no piano; who knows if I shall ever see one again?”

       *       *       *       *       *

Soon after the “Bayern’s” return, the Ambassador despatched a relief
expedition under the leadership of Mr. Gay to the Calabrian mountain
towns. Mr. Gay was accompanied by Captain Armando Mola of the Italian
army, and Mr. W. Earl Dodge, who took with him his large automobile,
thereby adding greatly to the effectiveness of the expedition. They had
a wonderful trip, visiting forty villages, some of them almost
inaccessible mountain hamlets. During the eleven days their trip
lasted, they brought help to many a forlorn community that had
heretofore received no outside assistance since the disaster. Mr. Gay
has written an admirable report of the expedition, so full, so graphic,
that it leaves nothing for me to say, save that I am thankful that this
chapter of the romance of the American Relief Work has been told so
well. The report should be read by all interested in knowing the full
scope of the work. Mr. Gay’s letter to the Ambassador written from
Palmi, gives a striking picture of what he saw and accomplished.

                                           “PALMI, February 10th, 1909.

     “AMERICAN AMBASSADOR, “Rome--Palazzo del Drago.

     “Tuesday, after an hour and a half in the automobile on very bad
     roads, and three hours on mules, we arrived in a snowstorm at S.
     Cristina, with nine mules loaded with clothing, and were received
     like the Messiah. We bought on the spot, at a low figure, 12,500
     _lire_ worth of standing timber, securing thus a triple benefit to
     the sufferers, namely, furnishing shelter to the homeless, saving
     the transport on the lumber which represents forty per cent. of
     the cost, and giving work to the unoccupied in cutting the wood.
     Today we are again visiting villages in the automobile. Tomorrow we
     shall start at daybreak in the automobile for Cittanova, Gerace,
     Melito, and Reggio. I am returning 5000 _lire_ to the Committee,
     left over from the letter of credit on Palmi. We should like, if
     possible, a new letter of credit on Reggio for whatever amount the
     Committee thinks advisable.

     “We should also like for General Tarditi, addressed as before, a
     freight car of miscellaneous supplies as follows: 400 litres of
     benzine to replace what we have borrowed here; 400 blankets; 200
     panes of glass 60 centimetres square; 100 locks, with ordinary keys
     but all different; together with the following supplies for use in
     the hospital which will be opened within a week: 50 white varnished
     chairs, with 6 arm-chairs for the sick, to match; 50 wrappers, 50
     pair of slippers, and 50 caps for the sick; 6 wall washstands of
     white earthen ware; 6 alcohol stoves which can be had from
     Bianchelli for about 35 _lire_ each; 400 square metres of oil-cloth
     of a light color, to cover ceilings of the hospital wards; 200
     square metres of the same of a dark color, to cover the
     wainscoting; 350 square metres of linoleum of a dark color for
     floors.

     “Our telegraphic address tomorrow will be, Telegraph Office,
     Reggio.

     “We shall telephone tonight. All well.

                                                                 “GAY.”



V

ROYAL VISITORS


“Not a rose!” Vera scanned the sunny south wall where Ignazio, the
gardener, has trained the hardy roses. It has been his boast that we can
gather at least one rose every day of the year.

“What do you expect? The earthquake has turned the calendar topsy-turvy.
Nena says this is the coldest winter she remembers; she must be nearly a
hundred.”

It was the terrace hour; Vera had dropped in to help with the flowers.
It was too cold to water them, so we “pottered about,” weeded, and
hunted snails.

“That’s a brave flower! See, it has three blossoms; if the sun comes out
tomorrow there may be more.” Vera counted the pretty trumpet-shaped
blossoms of the freesia, growing in the old terra-cotta cinerary urn.

“This once held the ashes of a soldier of the Pretorian Guard,” said
Vera. She had given us the urn. “Do you suppose a pinch of his dust
remains in it? There’s your freesia’s courage accounted for. I wonder
what he was called. Herminius, Spurius Lartius? There was neither name
nor date when I bought it; they must have been on the missing cover.
What noble action!” Vera’s thumb followed, with the sculptor’s gesture,
the lines of the Pretorian, modelled in low relief on the urn. He wears
a mantle, helmet and greaves; his spear is raised against a crouching
barbarian. “He must have been a fine man, our Pretorian, though this
isn’t a portrait, only a type. Oh, how civilized those old Romans were!
No ugly bones, no grinning skulls. The worn-out body to the clean flame,
the handful of ashes to this graceful urn, that two thousand years after
the Pretorian’s death serves as a flower pot.”

“I believe his name was Philippus,” I said, “and that he looked like our
Philippus. The regiment has returned from Messina without him. I fear
something has happened to our handsome soldier.”

“Hush!” cried Vera. “The earthquake was a month ago; it still is the
only thing we talk or think about.”

“Some of our friends begin to forget. The mother of a pretty girl was
grumbling today because the Queen says there shall be no court balls, no
more dancing this season. She does not forget; no one who has seen
Messina forgets!”

“Come, let us walk!” There was a touch of tramontana in the air, and we
began to pace up and down the terrace, Romulus, Vera’s uncouth puppy,
shambling at her heel. The bells of St. Peter’s were ringing the Ave
Maria; from the Pincio came little gusts of music,--the band was playing
Cavalleria Rusticana. At either end of the terrace we lingered to feast
on the beauty of the view; to the east the white road climbs zigzag from
the Piazza del Popolo to the Pincio, with its crown of dark cypresses
and stone pines, its wonderful clipped ilex walk that leads to the Villa
Medici, home of nightingale and rose. To the west we looked down to the
yellow Tiber, angry and swollen, hurrying to the sea. The river was
higher than I ever saw it; the driftwood, caught by the piers of the
Ponte Margherita, reached half-way to the level of the bridge.

“A thousand apologies!” said a voice behind us; “is not this the
tortoise of your Excellency? The German maid found it on the terrace of
the Princess.”

It was Ignazio, holding between scornful thumb and finger that yellow
mottled vagrant, Jeremy Bentham, who clawed the air furiously with his
ridiculous short legs and snapped fiercely at Ignazio.

“You are aware the tortoise is ours; you yourself carved that date upon
his shell. If you had stopped the hole in the wall this would not have
happened.”

“Excellency” (Ignazio’s bill was paid that morning; he will call me
“Excellency” till the next is due, then it will be “Signora”),
“Excellency, this is the most obstinate of all animals, the slowest, the
idlest, the most useless.” Ignazio dipped the tortoise in the fountain,
then laid him on the parapet out of reach of Romulus, who was making
frantic efforts to get at him.

“You yourself tell me he eats the slugs and snails that destroy our
flowers!”

“I repeat it, but he has embarrassed me extremely in regard to the
Princess, who becomes ill at the sight of him. This is the third time he
has invaded her terrace.”

“How about that boy from Messina you promised to employ?” asked Vera.
“He is quite well again; it’s time he went to work. I can’t have him
idling about my kitchen any longer.”

Ignazio would not have come up to the terrace had he known Vera was
there. He nervously nibbled the yellow fibre he had brought to tie up
the passion-flower vine.

“Excellency, no! I said I would _try_ to find him employment. I have
done so. Capperi! I have asked an infinite number of persons--always the
same answer. In Rome there is not work enough for the Romans, nor bread
to spare. The Sicilians must go back to Sicily, or,” he waved his hand
vaguely towards Ostia, “over there.” Over there meant to America.

“Where were you born, Ignazio?” I interrupted. “You do not speak like a
Romano di Roma.” His glance was a reproach; I had betrayed him.

“It is true, I am from Siena--but there is a difference between an
Umbrian and a Sicilian!”

“It is always the same story!” I said. “I have asked every plumber in
Rome to employ Francesco Calabresi. They will give money, bread,
clothes; to a man they refuse him work.”

“Self preservation! Oh, how worldly-wise the old race is! The man’s
right though; there is not work enough to go round; one must consider
one’s own interests or we should all go bankrupt. That’s what ‘mind your
business’ means! If you don’t look out for yourself, some one else
must.”

J. came up on the terrace at that moment; Vera waved her little hand
gaily to him.

“What news from Messina?”

“No news; I wish I knew how they are getting on.”

“I have a letter from the Avvocato Bonanno, asking about the family of
Count Q.”

“I have just come from there. I will write him. The Count can speak now,
but he’s paralyzed, he will never walk again.”

“You’re fretting to get back to Sicily; so am I.”

It was true; since his return from the cruise of the “Bayern,” Rome,
even his studio, seemed tame to J. How could he, and Vera too, long to
go back to that place of death, when Rome, the Eternal City, wooed with
the voice of her fountains, the perfumed breath of her villas, the
beauty of her everlasting hills?

“I have had an inspiration,” Vera made the pretty insistent gesture of
her finger that rules us all. “This is the psychological moment to
exhibit your Diana. Rome is sick with grief! There’s nothing going on,
not a reception, not even a dinner. Any invitation to do anything,
besides give money and sew garments _pro Calabria e Sicilia_, will be a
godsend. That’s the practical side of it; then there’s the other side.
We have supped full on horrors; comfort us with a sight of the lovely
lady.”

Most of her friends follow Vera’s advice, for her’s is a master spirit;
when she takes hold of one’s affairs, somehow they always march.

The next week was a busy one. Vera decided that we must ask “all Rome”
to the exhibition. In order to do this we borrowed lists from all sorts
of people. A little white and gold book, the Roman social register,
contains the names of all the Court people, the diplomats, and those who
belong to the “smart set.” Then there were the lists of the San Lucca
Academy and the Art Club. From the bankers and hotels we gathered as
many names of the transient Americans as possible; all our friends
helped us. When the long list was ready I sent to an employment bureau
for some one to direct the envelopes.

She came, bringing her credentials, at five o’clock; as she was an
English lady, and evidently very poor, we asked her to stay to tea. She
sat in the Savonarola chair (it belonged to Giovanni Costa, the great
artist--J. bought it after his death) and took her tea timidly, spilling
a little on her poor faded dress, and crumbling the _pan-forte di Siena_
(sent us at Christmas from Milan) over the best Persian rug. That ought
to have been a warning to me, but it wasn’t! We sent the envelopes and
the lists to her and turned our minds to other things. The exhibition
was to open Tuesday, February 2nd. The envelopes were promised for the
previous Saturday, so that the cards might be put in, the stamps
affixed, the invitations posted Saturday night. They would then be
received on Sunday morning, a good leisure time when busy people have
time to read their mail. Vera, Athol, and Wilfred Thompson came to dine
Saturday to help us with the envelopes. It was our first social meeting
since that fatal night of December 28th; we had all of us need of a
little joy; the pain of the last month had left its mark.

Agnese herself bought the stamps; she would trust no other. I had meant
to send the cards by hand--it costs no more, and would have given
employment to Alessandro, a _poveraccio_ who has attached himself to us.

“These _biglietti_ are important?” asked Agnese when I consulted her
about Alessandro.

“Of the greatest importance.”

“Listen to me, Signora. I would not destroy your confidence in
Alessandro, no, nor in any other, but the distances are far, the Tiber
is near--Alessandro might, by accident, let fall a bunch of these
letters as he crosses the bridge. The _postino_ is obliged to make _his_
rounds, the _carabinieri_ keep an eye on him. No, it is safer to trust
the post!”

Agnese’s dinners are not like Attilio’s (Vera’s great Neapolitan chef),
but she has a way of cooking truffles in white wine and serving them in
a napkin, to be eaten with fresh butter, that seems to please. Checco of
the Concordia gets us the truffles from some mysterious unfailing
source, when they are not to be had in the market. Agnese’s _fritta
dorata_ of shrimps, cuttlefish and artichokes is fit for the King or the
Pope, or Mr. Roosevelt--his sister once ate one of Agnese’s golden frys
and liked it. After dinner the table was cleared, two white aprons were
borrowed for Vera and me, and the big packages of envelopes were opened
and laid out on the table.

“We had better look them over, don’t you think?” said Athol, the wise,
taking up an envelope. “She has a good handwriting--but she makes queer
work of these foreign titles. His Excellency the Count and the Countess
Lutzow,--really now that won’t do!”

We looked at each other in despair; each had found the most egregious
and impossible blunders. All the addresses except the English and
Americans, it had been agreed, were to be written in French.

“They must all be done over again!” I cried.

“No, no, it’s not so bad as that. The English ones are all right. We
must go over the whole lot, though, sort out the bad ones and redirect
them.

“Who is going to do it?” I groaned. That was the question. Vera’s
handwriting, though distinguished, is cryptic, owing to her having
learned to write German and Russian before the Latin script. Athol’s
tired hand had held the pen for eight hours that day, and could not be
further taxed. J.’s handwriting is a work of art, and art is long; my
own is frankly bad. Thompson had thrown himself into the work of putting
in the cards and sticking up the envelopes.

“Handwriting is the only thing that does not improve with practice--the
more a man writes, the worse he writes,” said Athol. Here the bell rang
insistently; a minute later Agnese announced:

“_Quella Signora bella ed alta!_”

The beautiful and tall lady followed close upon her, Elinor Diederich,
daughter of those gods of our youth, William and Louisa Hunt. Despair,
dismay, doubt vanished before her; she blew them all away, as the fresh
west wind blows vapors and fog and leaves the sun bright in the sky;
that is what it is to inherit the temperament of genius.

“Of course,” said Elinor, picking up one of the badly directed
envelopes, “I knew this would happen. That’s the reason I came. I have
had an experience of that poor thing’s work myself. I brought my pen; my
handwriting’s the best thing about me.” She was hard at it, directing
invitations in a handsome hand, as if that had been her calling.

At ten o’clock the bell rang again; there was a parley in the
anticamera; a faint odor of cigarette smoke floated into the room.

“It’s Emilio,” J. exclaimed. “Show the Signorino in!”

Emilio Benlieuri, the Spanish sculptor, one of our familiars, appeared
in the doorway, a tall lean melancholy man with the burning eyes and the
grave bearing of the Valencian Don.

He bowed low to the whole company. “I kiss your feet, Senora,” he began
in Castilian.

“I kiss your hand, Caballero,” I responded.

“It is getting late,” whispered Elinor, “really, this isn’t the time for
compliments. Make him put on the stamps--they’ll taste good to a hungry
man!”

The Valencian, who speaks no English, understood the large gesture with
which Elinor invited him to join the circle, and drew up a chair to the
round table.

“One more volunteer to the relief!” murmured Vera. “_Per carità_ Agnese,
a sponge; the situation is saved!”

Silence settled upon the dining room; the only sounds were the
scratch-scratch of Elinor’s pen, the snores of Romulus curled up at
Vera’s feet, the tinkle of the fountain up on the terrace under the
stars near the Pretorian’s cinerary urn, the rustle of the cards going
into the envelopes. On the Gothic sideboard which J. made for our Roman
home, the pile of invitations, sealed and stamped, rose higher and
higher, finally hiding the legend carved in quaint letters at the top:

“Better a dinner of herbs where love is than a stalled ox and hatred
therewith.”

How much better we never realized perhaps till that night, when the
loyalty and devotion of our friends helped us out of that tight place.
Love is the real lifting power when all is said. The love of the whole
world was helping Italy in her dark hour; the love of our little circle
of heart friends lifted and carried us over that difficult moment,
smoothed out the only hitch in the preparations for Vera’s exhibition.

We worked till long after midnight. The faithful Valencian was the last
to go; he departed in a cab, taking the invitations with him to the
Posta Generale. Sunday morning “all Rome” received the card at its
breakfast.

Lorenzo, the _muratore_, one of our oldest friends, arrived early Sunday
morning to put the studio in order. Lorenzo was Villegas’s factotum in
the days when our dear Maestro lived in his Andalusian villa on the
Viale Pariole, before his Mother Spain called him to Madrid to be
custodian of her greatest treasure, the Prado Museum. We had not sent
for Lorenzo because we knew he had met with an accident. What wireless
telegraphy had summoned him just when he was needed?

“What a pleasure to see thee!” Agnese exclaimed as she let Lorenzo in.
“And thy foot? Will it allow thee to work? The Signore was bewailing
that thou couldst not wax the studio floor. Thou knowest he believes no
other is to be trusted.”

“It is true that I am lame. Behold my foot. I can wear no boot, only
this slipper of a giant. But as to waxing the floor, I can do it on my
knees. The Signore is right, I only can execute that labor with
fidelity. As to the injury--well, it was received in the service of the
electric company that employs me. They have agreed to pay me a pension
till I can go back to work. What matters it if the recovery is retarded?
I draw my three francs a day, fresh and fresh. Do you think I would
abandon the Signore at such a moment? Thou art new in this house. Who
was it that prepared the old studio for the visit of her Majesty the
Queen? But that was years ago before thy time!”

From that moment I had no anxiety about the studio. Lorenzo, a
Romagnolo, is a tireless worker, one of those Italians who have won for
their countrymen the reputation of being the greatest workers in the
world.

“I wish I could buy him!” sighed J. when I told him Lorenzo had come.

Monday was a busy day; the old Portuguese leather chair, that the Queen
sat in on her last visit, was taken over to the studio, the best rugs,
the two Japanese screens, and the Savonarola chair. A table was put near
the door with some sheets of paper, pens and ink, in case anybody should
want to write. At the last minute Brother Harry, who happened to be
passing through Rome, gave a valuable hint:

“Of course you are going to send that portrait of the mother to the
studio?”

“Why?” said J., “I never thought of it.”

“Well, think of it now,” said Brother Harry. We thought of it, in the
end, thought well of it. The day the exhibition opened the portrait of
the old Chieftainess stood on an easel in the studio, ready to “receive”
visitors with Diana.

Agnese called me early Tuesday morning.

“Signora, let us go to the studio to arrange the flowers,” she said.
“With respect I should prefer it were done before Lorenzo comes. He is
_prepotente_, some things he knows, I do not deny; but the flowers--ah,
that is an art by itself!”

At five minutes of ten the last touch had been given to the studio; J.
and I stood waiting to receive the guests.

“Suppose nobody comes!”

The answer came quick and sharp; Lorenzo, dressed in his best, wearing
one ordinary and one giant boot, his hair shining like the studio floor,
threw open the door and announced with a beaming smile:

“_Quel Signorino matto!_” That mad young man.

“So you thought you would play this hand without me?” said a familiar
voice.

“Patsy!”

Where had he come from? We last heard of him at the hacienda of our
friend the Argentino, in South America.

“Same old two-and-sixpence, always in at the death! There’s no end of a
swell from the Celestial Empire on the stairs!”

“His Excellency the Minister of China,” Lorenzo announced.

The Chinese Minister, followed by his suite, walked into the studio on
the stroke of ten, the first minute of the first day of the exhibition.

“Art, you see, is a matter of importance to these people,” Pasty
murmured to me. “An invitation to a studio deserves to be treated with
respect. When you show that tableau in America I wonder if the mayor,
the governor, the sheriff, or even the hog-reeve, will take the trouble
to come and see it. The representative of the Chinese Empire comes in
person at the first possible moment. That’s my idea of a civilized
people!”

The Minister and J. were talking in pantomime, none the less cordially
for that. His Excellency wore seraphic clothes, had lovely polished
manners; his hand was smooth as a roseleaf, his long nails were
miraculous. The party stayed for some time and seemed pleased with their
visit. After they had gone, leaving a faint perfume of sandalwood and
straw-matting behind them, one of the younger men returned. (He was not
of the Legation we heard afterwards). From the first he had seemed
deeply impressed with the Diana; he hurried up to J., and pointing to
the divine Huntress whispered:

“I beg your pardon, Mister; is that God?”

Our next visitor was a dark energetic Italian, with beautiful manners.
He gave no name, none of us had any idea of who he was. He was deeply
interested in the painting, looked at it from every point of view, and
asked many questions about its final destination. He was not an artist,
of that we felt sure, but he was a man with more than a dilettante’s
interest in art. At the end of his visit, as he went towards the door,
he saw the pens and paper lying on the table.

“Shall I write my name?” he asked politely; then in a bold hand wrote
“Luigi Rava.”

“Who is he?” I asked after the dark unknown had driven off in his
carriage.

“Only the Minister of Education. Rome seems to be taking your show
seriously,” Patsy declared. “That was a good idea, writing his name;
mind you make everybody else follow suit. You’re likely to have some
interesting autographs before you’re finished.”

None so interesting as the Chinese Minister’s and it was too late for
that. We followed Patsy’s advice; after that all the visitors wrote
their names. That afternoon the studio was crowded with all sorts and
conditions of men and women; artists, tourists, ambassadors, beauties
and princes.

“You are the fashion; don’t be too much puffed up by that,” Patsy
admonished; “it’s because yours is the only free show open in town!”

The exhibition was to have lasted five days; we had to keep it open a
fortnight. As Patsy said, it became the fashion to drop into the studio,
a spacious room in the handsome new Studio Corrodi by the Tiber. We
never liked it so well as the old studio in the Borgo Sant’ Angelo, but
it was more convenient for such a reception. There is a pretty garden
with a brand new fountain and brand new flowers at the Corrodi; it is
smart, up to date, belonging to the new order of things in Roma Nuova.

One afternoon Archbishop Ireland and his train of attendant Abbesses
came to see us. The Archbishop’s sister and several other Mothers
Superior had come from America to visit Rome; they were a picturesque
group. The Archbishop’s sister was a cheery delightful soul; another of
the Mothers was so lovely J. wanted to paint her as Santa Theresa. We
met them first at the studio of Carolus Duran (now Director of the
French Academy) in the Villa Medici. The “_Chèr Maitre_” has brought
several of his masterpieces from Paris to Rome, among others a study for
a crucifixion, a really noble composition; America ought to have it. The
Church is so rich in our country that she could well afford to give him
a handsome order for it. The Abbesses in their long veils, taking tea
with the great French painter, was one of those impressions of the
contrasts of Roman life I shall not forget. They all came to our studio;
among the treasured names in the list of autographs are those of Mother
Celestine, Mother Seraphine, Mother Agnes Gonzaga.

“They remind me,” said Patsy, after the Archbishop and the ladies took
their leave, “of Sir Joseph Porter, K. C. B., his sisters and his
cousins and his aunts!”

Patsy was of the greatest use. He was at the studio almost as much as we
ourselves. He devoted himself to the humbler guests if there happened to
be some great personage to whom J. had to attend.

“It’s a good thing to have friends in every calling,” said Patsy; “you
never know just when they may come in handy.” I had reproached him for
neglecting lovely Donna Beatrice for old Checco, the proprietor of the
Concordia restaurant.

“Checco has given me credit many a time when it would have gone hard
with me to get a meal anywhere else!” he said.

On the eighth of February a note came from the Marchese Guiccioli, Queen
Margherita’s gentleman-in-waiting. The superscription, Casa della Regina
Madre, set the whole house in a flutter. Eugenio, the porter, himself
brought the royal messenger up in the lift. Agnese, who took the letter
from him, came hurrying to the terrace, where Ignazio and I were talking
about the wall flowers.

“See to it,” I was saying, “that this thing does not happen again. You
were paid a large price for these flowers, enormous sums were charged
for _concime_ (fertilizer) and they have done badly. Last season they
were poor spindly little things, while those that sprang by chance from
a crevice in the wall by the water pipe were a glory. Expound to me the
reason of this absurdity.”

“Signora, how can I explain the laws of God? It is according to their
nature. Those wall flowers that come up by chance without care always
seem the fairest, perhaps because they grow beyond our reach. Those you
speak of so abusively smelt like honey; you yourself complained that
they attracted not only the butterflies but the bees from the priest’s
hive.”

“A messenger from the Palazzo Margherita brought this.” Agnese offered
the letter on the best silver tray she so rarely is willing to use. It
is not well, she argues, that the first-comer should know we have such a
valuable thing in the house, and use it so commonly. It might be stolen
or, almost as bad, reported so that the tax for _richezza mobile_ would
be augmented.

“This letter is for the Signore,” I said.

“Without doubt--the Signora has reason--but being of so much importance
she will open it?”

“Certainly not.” Agnese and Ignazio were burnt up with curiosity about
the letter; they could hardly wait till J.’s return. Lorenzo, who had
followed Agnese, is more canny though quite as curious.

“Imbeciles! don’t you know that to break the seal of a letter from the
Casa Reale is an offense? I know perfectly well what it contains; as I
see you are beside yourselves with curiosity, I will tell you that--you
too shall know in good time!”

J. had gone for a walk along the Tiber to the Ponto Milvio; he returned
sooner than I expected. Eugenio, panting with suspense, had pursued and
brought him back. The letter brought the news that Queen Margherita
would come to the studio the next afternoon. As we were already in
apple-pie order, there was nothing for Lorenzo to do but put fresh
laurel branches in the vases and add a little polish to the “Queen’s
Chair.”

Punctually to the minute the royal carriage drew up at the door of the
Studio Corrodi. The servants on the box were dressed in dark
colors,--the splendid scarlet liveries, alas! are Queen Margherita’s no
longer; they are only worn by the servants of the reigning Queen. J.
received her Majesty at the carriage door and escorted her up the marble
stair to the big new studio. What a contrast to the dear old studio with
the ancient courtyard, the murmuring fountain hundreds of years old, the
water-worn stones dark with ages, where the maiden-hair fern grows in
great feathery tufts! It all came back to me with a sudden rush of
memory, as I followed the Queen up the wide white marble stair. I saw
the two long flights of hollowed travertina steps that led to the old
studio, the uneven brick floor, the window that gave on the court, where
the falcon and the white doves from the Vatican lived, the birds of
whose wings J. made such endless studies for the Hours in his “Triumph
of Time.” How many hours, months, years, had flown by since we three
last met!

Queen Margherita walked across the polished floor with the light step of
a girl, and quite naturally, without prompting, took her place in the
“Queen’s Chair.” The social temperature rose--we felt as children for
whom “the party has begun.” How does she do it? That’s her secret, she
could not tell us if she would. She is one of those rare beings who
bring their own sunshine with them, whose presence warms us to the
heart’s core! We hold out our hands towards the kindly glow, as we
stretch chilled fingers to a cheerful fire.

“It’s because she’s all there!” Patsy said afterwards, trying to explain
what we had all felt. After one quick glance about the studio, the royal
visitor fixed her eyes on the big canvas.

“This is your Diana of the Tides for the new museum at Washington?” she
said to J. “A fine opportunity; I congratulate you. At what height will
it be placed, at what distance will it be seen?”

Her questions about the Diana, and the building it was painted for, were
direct and to the point. She showed the closely trained mind of a woman
used to dealing with many kinds of affairs, of giving instant and
undivided attention to the matter in hand. “She was all there,” as Patsy
put it. There was a great lesson in the power of concentration she
showed. She is a busy active woman; every hour, each quarter of an hour
of every day has its appointed duty. We had a sense that she took them
up one by one with the same whole-hearted earnestness that made every
word she said worthy to be graven on our memories. After she had looked
a long time at the Diana, she walked across the studio to the easel with
the portrait of the old Chieftainess. J. told her something of her life
and work, and referred to the story that appeared a few days before in
the Tribuna. In a recent speech before the _Circolo Italiano_ of Boston,
my mother had snapped out this witticism:

“The American Eagle came out of the egg of Columbus.”

The _mot_ so delighted the Italians that it was quoted by the Italian
press all over the world.

“What a beautiful old age!” sighed the Queen Mother, as she looked at
the portrait of the woman who has been called in Boston’s Little Italy,
“_La Nonna degl’ Italiani_.”

“You have painted a portrait of old age as it ought to be,” Queen
Margherita continued; with that smile of hers, a little graver than of
old but with the same piercing sweetness.

“Remember that,” murmured Patsy. “She hits the nail on the head every
time; that’s the reason she has done so much for her generation. Come to
think of it, they are two of a kind; both have served greatly and been
greatly rewarded!” He looked from the face of the portrait on the easel
to the face of the royal lady who stood before it.

“Your portrait of _Il Povero Re_,” said the Queen Mother to J., “has
changed color. I am troubled about it. I fear it may be because I always
take it with me from Rome to Gressoni every year. I fear the jarring may
have hurt it.”

It was arranged then and there that J. should call upon the Countess
Villamarina, the Queen Mother’s companion, and see what was wrong with
his portrait of King Umberto. We all went down to the carriage; the
Queen Mother shook hands with us all graciously, and promised she would
come again to the studio some day.

We watched the landau with the sober liveries drive away. Across the
Tiber the regiment of Philippus was returning to the barracks, after
rifle practice at the Tor di Quinto. The gay notes of the royal march
sounded joyously; the proud horses of the royal landau arched their
beautiful necks--it was as if they recognized the music and tried to
keep step to it.

Three days later, on the twelfth of February, we were waked at half past
seven in the morning, with the news that the King would be at the studio
in an hour. He came in an automobile with two aides, an admiral and a
general. They all wore uniform and looked very smart and well turned
out. Agnese and I watched them from the terrace (the studio is opposite
the palazzo where we live). I was not allowed to go to the studio; Athol
and J. decided it would not be suitable, the visit being so early and of
so informal a nature; I was, of course, dreadfully disappointed. Lorenzo
was there to open the door; he apparently managed to leave it ajar, for
he gave me an account of the visit.

“His Majesty speaks every language as if it were his own--they all do,
it is a gift like another. It was most unfortunate for me, considering
the Signore talks Italian, that they spoke in Ingerlish, which
resembles--with respect, Signora--the chatter of monkeys. Something I
understood, however, by observing their faces. His Majesty pointed to
the horses; they interested him; has he not the finest horses in the
world? Before his Majesty departed he inquired if he should write his
name in the book. The Signore ran to turn over a virgin page; this his
Majesty would not allow but wrote his name with all the others, just
where it came naturally, when he could have had a whole page to himself.
You can see for yourself what a fine big signature he has; he might well
be proud of it, but he is not proud--_nostro re_! He handed the pen to
the Signor Ammiraglio, saying--that I could understand for it was in
Italian--‘See that you write your name better than I have written mine.’
On the table lay the photographs the Signore made at Messina; when his
Majesty saw them he turned back. They studied all those terrible
pictures of the ruins together, and they talked again in that language I
do not understand.”

They stayed twenty-five minutes by the clock on the Castle Sant’
Angelo,--Agnese kept watch of the time; then they all came down to the
street. The King shook hands with J., wrapped his long military cloak
about him (the air was keen), and got into the motor. The porter and
Lorenzo, standing very straight like soldiers on either side of the
door, saluted. The porter’s wife, the little stepson and the new baby
all leaned from the window over the door.

“Observe, observe, Signora mia, his Majesty smiles, he is pleased,”
whispered Agnese, all in a flutter. “Ah, what a good kind heart!”

The motor flashed past the Palazzo Frankenstein, and Agnese and I came
down “to hear all about it.” Coffee for all hands was demanded and
furnished forthwith. In the kitchen Lorenzo, Eugenio and Agnese talked
for an hour about the King’s visit. All I could get out of J. was the
last precious sentence of the interview:

“When I thanked him for the honor of the visit, King Victor said, ‘Not
at all, my mother told me to come.’ His English is beautiful, just like
Queen Margaret’s.”



VI

AT PALAZZO MARGHERITA


“The Signorina with the bright eyes, who lives in the handsome
_villino_,” Agnese began, “asks if the Signora can use her carriage
today. That fat beast, her coachman, is very avaricious, he will expect
a _mancia_ of three francs--still if we employ Napoleone, it will cost
more--besides with a private carriage _se fa più figura_.”

“As to making a good appearance, that’s of no consequence; the
Signorina’s carriage, however, has better springs than Napoleone’s,
rubber tires as well. What didst thou say?”

“As the Signora was occupied I said yes, with _tante grazie_, and
combined that the ‘milor’ should come at two o’clock. The afternoons are
short; as the _mancia_ must be paid, it is better to have one’s money’s
worth.” Agnese wears thirty-two flawless pearls in her mouth--as she
said these things she showed them all to me with the guileless smile of
an infant.

Could it be by chance that Vera’s carriage was offered for this
particular day? Impossible! Besides, Agnese knows I never go out till
four. I have to believe in miracles, such miraculous things happen. Can
it be that Agnese works the oracle? _Basta!_ best not lift the veil from
such comfortable mysteries. We were booked to call on the Marchesa
Villamarina at half past two o’clock; we had spoken to no living soul of
this, and here was a fat coachman, a fine coach and pair coming to take
us in state to the palace of the Regina Madre. If our very walls have
ears, if our correspondence is tampered with, the result is
fortunate--let us accept the “milor” the gods send us!

We drove up sunny Via Veneto, through the Ludovisi quarter, past the
smart hotels that have sprung up near the Palazzo Margherita--the Savoy,
Regina, Palace, half a dozen more named out of compliment to the Queen
Mother. If the sacrifice had to be made, the beautiful Villa Ludovisi
cut up into house lots, transformed into the fashionable quarter of
Rome, the great winter watering place, it’s a little comfort that the
best site now serves for the site of Queen Margherita’s palace.

“Do you remember the violets that used to grow here?

“I can smell them now!”

“It’s hard to forgive that vandalism, even if building lots were
necessary.”

Other things are necessary; the cool shade of ancient cedars, their
resinous breath at hot noontide, the plashing of water in moss-grown
fountains, the rustle of birds at nesting time, the carpet of anemones
beneath immemorial trees, the laurel and asphodel that once grew here in
the garden that was Sallust’s, that has been sacred ground to poet and
artist from Horace’s time to Crawford’s.

Palazzo Margherita faces Via Veneto with its smug hotels; behind the
palace lie a few roods of ground, a shrunken splendor, the last vestige
of the noble Villa Ludovisi. Here are shadowy walks between gnarled ilex
trees, and a few old statues, the last of a great company. A high wall
shuts off the Queen’s garden from the Via Sallustiana, on the left; at
the back on the Via Boncompagni, the wall is surmounted by a balustrade
with antique amphorae etched with a fine network of black and yellow
stains. Perhaps they once held the wine that served at Sallust’s
banquets--it was of the best, Falernian perhaps.

“A pleasant drive to you!” Herr Schmidt, at the door of his hotel, bowed
and smiled. A gong clanged behind him; a crowd of porters in green baize
apron and pages in buttons rushed from within, as the big hotel omnibus,
covered with travelers’ luggage, crowded with tourists, drew up at the
entrance.

“Isn’t he a type with his automobile, his big wife wearing the old
Orsini diamonds?” I murmured.

The Roman hotel-keeper today is a far more important personage than the
poet and artist he has ousted from their garden of delight, the lovely
Villa Ludovisi. If he were really a Roman, it wouldn’t matter so much;
but nine times out of ten he is a German or a Swiss. Herr Schmidt is a
very rich man and much considered, while Enrico, the painter, who used
to spend long delicious days sketching in the Villa--Enrico, who loves
and paints the Campagna Romana as it has never been painted
before--Enrico’s coat is threadbare as Martial’s only toga.

“Are you asleep?”

“No, only dreaming.”

“Wake up, we’re there.”

We were expected; the sentries at the gate allowed the fat coachman to
drive the “milor” into the courtyard.

“The last time we were here together was at a dinner of Mrs. Draper’s,”
J. reminded me. When General Draper was American ambassador he lived
here, as did his predecessor, Mr. Wayne MacVeagh; in those days it was
called the Palazzo Piombino. After the death of King Umberto the palace
became the Roman residence of the Queen Mother.

A picturesque person in plush breeches, wearing a silver chain of
office, received and showed us up the grand staircase. No mean economy
of space or height here, or in the long corridor with the marble
doorways; our palace builders at home must study Roman interiors as well
as Italian gardens.

“Don’t you remember the MacVeaghs’ ball and Queen Margherita walking
through this corridor with the Ambassador?” J. asked.

“Of course; she wore a blue brocade dress and her incomparable pearls;
it all comes back to me. King Umberto was in uniform; he carried a
helmet with white plume under his arm. Mr. and Mrs. Charles Francis
Adams were here. Do you remember the Austrian diplomat’s fascinating
court dress? And that Russian military attaché in Cossack uniform with a
black patch over one eye?”

“Yes, what a hero you thought him till I told you his poor eye had been
knocked out by a careless woman’s umbrella.”

The Marchesa Villamarina received us in the room where Mrs. MacVeagh
used to give tea. As we sat talking, we heard a merry little scream of
dismay; the Marchesa, excusing herself, hurried to the next room. Then
we heard a laugh like a silver chime.

“It’s her voice,” I whispered.

In a moment the Marchesa returned, smiling and merry.

Queen Margherita, her eyes bright with laughter, received us in her
library. The Queen’s dress was like the plumage of a silver pheasant;
dress is a fine art with her. You never know what she has on, but you
always know it is the perfect thing for the hour. The library is an
immense apartment, even for Rome, full of color and atmosphere. It
suits her as the background in a Velasquez portrait suits the central
figure. The highest point of light was a blaze of yellow azaleas on the
mantel. There was no senseless bric-a-brac, but every article of
furniture was a gem. One who reads the character of a person from the
room he or she lives in, would guess that this was the home of a woman
of taste and of action; it was comfortable rather than luxurious; there
was nothing of the “dreadful too much.” On the walls hung a few
pictures, among them J.’s Dante in Exile. On the writing table stood his
portrait of King Umberto. J. saw in a moment what had happened to it.
The portrait is a silver-point drawing. When these are first made their
color is very like a pencil drawing; with time the silver becomes
oxidized, and turns darker, the tone improving every year till it
becomes a rich soft tarnished color. While J. was explaining this to
Queen Margherita, the Marchesa told me what had been the matter.

“In writing her name upon the photograph her Majesty designed to give
you, she had the misfortune to upset the ink.”

“She too? Is she so human?”

“It is because her Majesty is so human,” said the Marchesa, “that one
has that adoration for her.”

       *       *       *       *       *

“I’ve had a letter from Belknap,” said J. a few days after this, “asking
me to go back to Messina with him.”

“You’re not going?” I cried.

“Of course he is,” said Vera. She was playing ball with Patsy on the
terrace.

“I can’t bear it; besides you must finish your Pan.’

“Your father would have gone.”

There was nothing for me to say to that.

“Take me with you,” said Patsy.

“And me!” cried Vera, all on fire.

“I can’t _take_ you; but there’s nothing to prevent your all making a
trip to Sicily. You have always wanted to--” he looked at me. “This is
your chance, a little later though--it’s such a cold season.”

“How can he be so keen about getting back to that awful place?” I
exclaimed.

“It’s because there is so much more work to do there than there ever was
in the world before,” said Vera. “Every one who has been down feels the
same way.”

“You have said it!” This from Patsy, the golden butterfly. “A man’s
happiest when he’s working to the limit, when there’s not one minute of
time left in the day to get a grouch on!”

“What have you to say about it?” said Vera, looking at J.

“I would rather have had this letter than a big commission; we may start
any day. You will see the Q.’s? Bonanno is sure to ask news of them,” J.
went on.

“Let’s go now,” said Vera. “The Q.’s are far the most interesting of
your _profughi_.”

There was still time before sunset, so Vera and I, escorted by Patsy,
started to walk to the Q.’s. We crossed the Tiber, pausing on the bridge
to watch the soldiers, maneuvering the big awkward pontoons on the river
above, the part that makes the curve of the S. It was a gorgeous
afternoon; the air was golden, sparkling, full of life.

    “‘How tenderly the haughty day fills his blue urn with fire!’”

Patsy quoted. “I bet that was written in Rome!”

On the Lungo Tevere a young officer passed, riding a spirited bay.

“Look out!” cried Patsy warningly. Vera, startled by the prancing horse,
sprang aside; the officer saluted.

“It’s Philippus!” I cried, as the bay danced along sidewise like a
skittish crab.

“Whoever he is, he ought to give that beast more work and less corn!”
Patsy flicked the dust the bay had kicked up from his sleeve.

“No matter about the dust; he’s alive! We shall all be dust soon
enough.”

Patsy left us at the gate.

Although there was a nip in the air, we found old Count Q. in the
garden.

“Babbo sits out whenever he can,” said Rosalia, oldest of the Count’s
seven remaining daughters. “Since the earthquake he knows no peace
within.”

When I told them J. was going to Messina, the Count’s drawn face
changed; he began to sob pitifully. Rosalia, a faded beauty with tragic
eyes (she had lain beneath the ruins of their house at Messina for
twenty-four hours), put a finger to her lips.

“Speak not of Sicily, I pray!” she whispered, “though in truth he thinks
of nothing else. He dreams each night the house is falling.”

The Count is seventy years old, and paralyzed. His house was destroyed
with his oldest son’s next door. For days he heard his son’s voice and
his little grandchildren’s calling for help. They were buried so deep
that when help came it was too late. One of the granddaughters was the
girl of the emerald scarab ring Bonanno told us of.

“How goes on the sewing?” I asked Rosalia.

“Famously; a thousand thanks for the machine. All the cotton is made up.
The parents now sleep between sheets; we others shall have that luxury
soon.”

The Countess and her daughters had worked early and late, making bed
linen and underclothes of the cotton cloth sent by our committee. I
asked Rosalia if there was any message for Bonanno.

“Tell the Signor Avvocato that we are more fortunate than many--God has
sent us friends,” she said. “Would the Signore have the infinite
kindness to carry him a little notepaper, of the most miserable kind, a
few envelopes? His last letter was written on a bit of paper torn from
the wall. I am sure he has done everything--but if he would write to
_mamina_ and set her mind at rest--tell her the graves are marked, that
she will know in which each of them lies--Nonna, Maddelena, Nina?”

“All this shall be related to the _avvocato_ without fail. Courage,
_remember_, look forward, not back!”

“_Altro!_ It is what I most desire.” Rosalia fought back the tears. We
left her, smiling bravely, at her post beside the poor old paralyzed
father.

“Did you ever see a handsomer family?” I asked Vera as we walked away.
“Rosalia is still fine, the next four are pretty as pinks, the two
youngest real beauties. Which is that at the window? I can’t tell them
apart.”

“Not since they’ve begun to smile? That’s the youngest, Beatrice--watch
for the dimple when she laughs.”

“Wherever did she get that smart toggery?”

“Some of you soft-hearted Americans! She was lovely in her big black
hat, the latest fashion. Can any of them do anything to earn money?”

“They could not earn a _centesimo_ among them all. The Count owned a lot
of valuable real estate in Messina; they lived on their rents. In the
end something surely will be saved; you can’t wipe out real estate. Such
pretty girls are sure to marry.”

“If you had only seen it all, you would understand--it’s chaos! It will
take years, a generation perhaps, before things can be straightened out.
Meanwhile ‘it is not always May.’”

“But Beatrice and the other little one--They are lovely!”

“Beauty is a poor _dote_--young kittens soon make old cats! No, _cara
mia_, they have no chance. You Americans can’t understand: you are still
primitive. The American carries off his wife as the Indian his squaw.
You are at the natural selection stage.”

“Well, we have been--“

“The man assumes the responsibility of the woman’s support?”

“As a rule!”

“It’s bad form for a man to ask a dowry or allowance from the girl’s
father?”

“The unpardonable sin.”

“I know; my brother married an American. Her father gave her an
allowance, but when she died he never offered to pay her funeral
expenses--his own child. We thought this unfeeling--dreadful! Americans
tell me it probably never occurred to him.”

“We think it is far better for young people to make their own way,” I
maintained.

“The parents who bring a child into the world,” Vera argued, “especially
a female child, are responsible for her support. When she marries, they
are bound to settle the largest sum upon her they can afford. They must
make a sacrifice for their child.”

There is a sort of finality about a disaster like the Q.’s that we
Americans can hardly conceive of; with us failure so often spells
success. If a young man’s father is ruined, we say of him (we are
beginning to say it of his sister)--“This gives him a chance to show the
stuff he’s made of!”

After leaving Vera I went back to the terrace, to watch the sun set over
Mons Vaticanus. Ignazio was there before me, grafting a new American
Beauty rose on the stem of the big Banksia.

“You have three sisters, Ignazio,” I began. “You have told me your
father is dead.”

“And in Paradise, I trust, this long time; I have not grudged masses for
his soul.”

“A good son! How did he leave his money? Did your sisters have dowries?”

“He divided his money into two parts--my mother already being in glory.
A little more than half he left to me, the only son. That was right, for
so the greater part of the property remains in the _casa paterna_. The
other half he divided between my three sisters. The oldest went into a
convent; it was her wish, you understand. Her share was paid just as if
she had married. The second espoused a _vignerolo_ and invested her
money in a new vineyard; they have prospered. The little one, Teresina,
would go to the convent, where was Maria, the oldest. But that one, she
is intelligent, fine, very fine, sent Teresina a letter--God knows how
she managed it--telling her on her life not to come to that convent.
Soon Teresina found a husband, a baker; he has a good business.
Teresina has given him plenty of mouths to feed, three boys and five
girls. That is better than a convent. Yes, I believe in the good God,
Signora; I am not a free mason, nor an anarchist, but I think a girl can
serve Him as well in the world, and far more pleasantly, than in a
convent.”

“You have a daughter?”

“With respect, I have four. No convent for them; it is worse than a
prison! If my daughter went to a prison I might see her again; but to a
convent, never--it is finished.”

“You will give your girls a good dowry.”

“I am a poor man, times are hard, that fellow Cesare, my assistant, is a
thief--the Signora knows it--but something I shall do for them.”

Poor Rosalia, poor Beatrice! Who would “do” for them? As Vera said, the
Q.’s were my most interesting _profughi_. That good Samaritan, Miss Jane
Sedgwick, found them soon after they came to Rome. When she first saw
them, they were living in one dreadful dark room; the whole family sat
like statues of stone around that dismal hole; the old Count’s dreadful
sobbing was the only sign of life they gave. A pitiful smile dawned on
the mother’s face when Miss Sedgwick drew out a fifty-franc bill. Here
was a visitor who did more than ask questions and write down answers, a
committee that committed itself--recklessly perhaps, but
effectively--that justified itself not by its statistics but by its
work.

On the twentieth of February, J. departed with his chief, Captain
Belknap, for Messina, and I was left to devote myself to my _profughi_.
Before he started we went to take leave of Mr. and Mrs. Griscom; happily
we found them at home.

“Don’t you need a suit of clothes?” her Excellency asked J. as she gave
him a cup of tea.

“I need several; most of mine have been given away.” He glanced at me.
“I must make out with what’s left though--I don’t look too shabby for
Messina?”

“The idea! It’s only that--I have a tailor--he makes really very well--I
thought you might order a suit--“

“Do, I beg!” interrupted the Ambassador. “That Sicilian tailor has made
me six suits already--I can’t use any more--he makes too well--they’ll
never wear out!”

“How is your plumber doing?” asked Mrs. Griscom.

“Not so well as your tailor. He can’t follow his trade in Rome; if I
could only send him to America, where plumbing is a fine art and takes
the place of bric-a-brac!”

“And the new baby?” How could she remember that Lucia Calabresi had a
baby!

Though aching to go to Sicily, Patsy remained in Rome to help me with my
_profughi_. I had some of my “cases” from Countess Pasolini, some from
Miss Noble Jones (her brother, our old friend Wallace Jones, was once
Consul at Messina), others I read of in the papers. Patsy was studying
counterpoint with a professor of music, Dante with a professor of
literature, Arabic with a professor of Oriental languages--all late of
the University of Messina.

“The professors and schoolmasters are having the roughest time of all,”
he declared. “The devil and the lawyers look after their own. The
_avvocatos_ and the _medicos_ all over Italy have organized to help
their fellows--but these poor teachers!” He had just ferreted out a new
professor and family. “They receive one franc and a half a day from the
general committee--that keeps the breath of life in ’em--but the father,
the only one capable of earning a _soldo_, has to stand in line and wait
for hours every day to draw the money. If you could have seen their
room! I spent those two hundred francs on chairs, beds and blankets.
‘Who gives promptly, gives twice,’ Mr. Parrish says. Isn’t he a corker?
Don’t let ’em get discouraged--that’s his argument; it’s the delay that
breaks their hearts. Those who have the stuff left in them ought to be
kept hard at work, nose to the grindstone.”

Mrs. Griscom’s Ladies’ Auxiliary was the best committee I ever served on
because it had the least red tape. Like the old vigilantes of the West,
it was created for an urgent need, lived a short life with the maximum
of work, the minimum of talk. My colleagues, Mesdames Samuel Abbott,
Winthrop Chanler, and Nelson Gay, worked each according to their lights,
meeting with the Ambassadress from time to time to compare notes and
vote supplies. The work was quietly done, with little fuss or feathers.
Every _soldo_ was well spent, and passed direct from the treasury to the
sufferer. Jane Sedgwick and Luella Serrao were my right and left hand
(Luella is the widow of our dear Teodoro, for years the lawyer of the
Embassy, always the friend of the Americans in Rome), Patsy was my
flying Mercury, Elinor Diederich took the Q.’s and other _profughi_
under her wing.

Luella had a patriarchal family from Bagnara in her care, an old man and
woman with a screed of children and grandchildren. She had been telling
me about them one afternoon as we were walking together; just as we
turned out of the Piazza Venezia, into the Via Nazionale, a clear voice
hailed us:

“_Mia grande Signora!_” Luella, delicate as a windflower, paused. A
great gaunt woman, wearing a black kerchief over her head and a quaint
short skirt, stood before us. She touched her fingers to her lips; then
with the graceful Oriental gesture stooped and touched the hem of the
“grande Signora’s” garment, and passed on.

“That was Sora Clara from Bagnara,” Luella explained. “She was
discharged from the hospital yesterday.”

We were now passing the fine old palace of the Preffetura. “How well I
remember coming to see you there!” I said, looking at the stern façade,
“when the Prefect had that stroke of apoplexy. It was said the nursing
of his American daughter-in-law saved his life.”

“Strange you should speak of that!” said Luella. “Pietro Ceccatiello,
the young clerk who helped me so much, has been in my mind all day.
After we left the Preffetura, Pietro went to Messina and married. He had
a good position as an _impiegato_. We have all been anxious about him
since the earthquake. The other day my brother-in-law, walking through a
hospital at Naples, heard some one call, ‘Signor Rudolfo!’ He went up to
the bed the voice came from, but the patient was so bandaged he did not
recognize him. ‘Don’t you know me?’ the man cried. ‘I am Ceccatiello.’
‘We feared thou wast killed,’ said Rudolfo, and put out his hand to take
Pietro’s. The poor fellow held up two maimed swathed stumps. Then he
told his story: after the earthquake Pietro found that he, his wife, and
child, though little hurt, were buried, _sotto le macerie_, three metres
deep. They could not make themselves heard; they could find nothing to
dig with. With his two naked hands Pietro dug his way out of that living
tomb, saved his wife and child. His fingers were literally worn away.
The hands had to be amputated at the wrist, with one foot that had been
crushed.”

We sent Pietro three hundred francs of American money. The messenger who
took it to him warned us not to give money again to those in hospitals,
but to wait rather till they were discharged.

“The miserable one in the next bed to Pietro, who was quite as badly
hurt, wept because I had no money for him--_invidia_ (envy)!”

I told Vera and Patsy Pietro’s story that evening. Vera’s jewelled hands
flashed as she hid her face in them.

“I can’t bear it!” she cried, as if she felt the loss of Pietro’s hands
in hers. “What was that you said to Rosalia--‘look forward, not back’?
Remember the English verse Athol taught us.”

    “The inner side of every cloud
     Is always bright and shining,
     And so I turn my clouds about
     And always wear them inside out,
     To show their silver lining!”

“Right!” cried Patsy, “look for the silver lining. If every cloud had
one, it’s this that darkens Italy!”

Let us turn the cloud about, dwell no more on Italy’s anguish
unparalleled, but on the silver lining, the love and help her sisters
lavished upon her. If we dwell most upon our country’s share, it is
because we know more of it--not to set it above the others.

The minutes of the meeting of the Ladies’ Auxiliary (I was the
Secretary), held January 9th, contain this entry:

“Mr. Parrish gave an account of an interview with Signor Nathan, the
Syndic of Rome, who expressed the opinion that if the American Committee
had a considerable sum of money at its disposal, it could best be
invested in buying lumber and building houses in the devastated
districts.”

That was the seed,--a good seed that bore fruit. By far the most
important work done by America for the earthquake sufferers was the
building of these houses in the devastated districts. In this enterprise
our Ambassador proved worthy of his high office, of the great trust
imposed upon him; from the moment the plan was decided upon, he devoted
every ounce of energy to furthering it both at home and abroad. The
details of his work do not properly belong to those outside the magic
circle of diplomacy; his was a labor of Hercules--only the old Greek
hero had seven labors, and the young American, seventy and seven. He was
fortunate in having Captain Belknap to carry out the practical part of
the work.

It was to help Belknap that J. left his studio, the terrace where the
tromboni were blowing their golden trumpets, and the bees from the
priest’s hive hummed in and out the wall flowers. Patsy and I stayed in
Rome, worked for our _profughi_, played with our flowers. The Andalusian
carnations, sent from Spain by our friend Don Jaime, were an intense
interest. It seemed at first they would die; with the first touch of the
March sun, they took heart of grace and decided that life was worth
while, even for an Andalusian transplanted to Rome.

Ignazio’s bills had been growing heavier and heavier every month; he had
not grafted the promised number of _innesti_ on the roses; there were
other small grievances. In a moment of exasperation I resolved to put an
end to these things. I surprised him early one morning as he was
changing the earth of the big azalea; he was on his knees, patting the
rich brown loam about the roots.

“Ignazio,” I began firmly, “the time has come when we must part.”

He shook the earth from his slim fingers, sprang to his feet, agile as a
faun, and fixed me with his clear hazel eyes.

“_E vero?_ This is a fount of sorrow to me! Where might your Excellency
be going?”

“It is not I who am going.”

“_Si capisce!_ The Signora will soon join the Signore? Let her be at
ease; everything will go on as if she were at home. Behold the primole
the Signora has asked for these many years! They are not a garden
flower, therefore it was extraordinarily difficult to obtain these wild
things. With infinite labor I got them from the _guardiano_ of the Villa
Caprarola, where they cover the hills like a weed.”

This was my last attempt to part with Ignazio; whatever else is
fleeting, he is permanent. To cover my defeat, I changed the subject and
asked him what he knew of the Sicilians.

“I am from upper Italy, a Sienese; I have naught to do with those of the
south; I do not say there are not brave people among them but they have
too hot blood. They all go armed too, even the women; I have proof of
it--” he glanced half consciously at a scar on his wrist; when he spoke
again an odd note of resentment had crept into his voice, a shadow into
eyes clear as a forest brook. “We who have nothing but our two arms--or
at best a little _gingillo_ of a knife, so long, what can we do against
them? Nothing! It is best to keep away from them, to have nothing to do
with them--enough, I have said it!”



VII

BUILDING THE NEW MESSINA


“_Un soldo! Eh! Signore, un soldo!_” The brown boy, naked as the day he
was born, threw up his right arm with that graceful gesture of asking
that makes it hard to deny the Neapolitan beggar anything.

“Give me the valise, Signore; there is no danger of its getting wet,”
said Antonio, the boatman, an old friend; J. knew him by his gold
earrings and the red scar on his cheek.

“_Un soldo!_” the boy implored. J. tossed a coin into the water; the boy
dived for the money, caught it before it was ten feet below the surface,
and came up snorting like a young grampus, the _soldo_ in his cheek, his
arm raised in that irresistible gesture.

“_Basta!_” cried Antonio, bending to his oars. There is war to the knife
between him and the diver, a share of whose profits he demands. “To the
American war-ship, Signore? Off to Messina again? I would not go in your
place!”

The boat shot out from the Immacolatella and past the small steamer
bound for Ischia, while J. counted his packages. They were pursued by a
boatload of musicians, singing “Santa Lucia.” From the shore came a
whiff of fried fish, just enough to whet the appetite.

“The ‘Celtic’ is close in shore, I believe,” said J., “I suppose I must
give you a franc.”

“Four miles at least, Signore.” Antonio paused in his rowing; “To
another it would be five francs, but we are old acquaintances, let us
say three.”

In six minutes they were alongside the “Celtic,” anchored less than half
a mile away. It was already seven o’clock when J. came on board. He was
received by his chief, Captain Belknap, then turned over to the care of
the ship’s doctor and made welcome by the officers at dinner in the
ward-room. Later he was introduced to Captain Huse, in command of the
“Celtic,” then took a few turns up and down the deck, just to make sure
that Vesuvius was in his old place across the bay, that the sleeping
Queen Capri still slept on the face of the waters; by four bells he was
ready to sleep. The doctor showed him where he was to bunk. There were
already four of them in the “sick bay,” up among the Jackies; not that
any of them were ill, but because it was the only corner on the ship
where there was a place to stow them. Belknap had written Captain Huse
that he and his man were quite prepared to rough it and, if need be,
could sleep between decks. The “Celtic” is a U. S. supply ship carrying
about one hundred and forty men, and bow and stern guns; her officers’
quarters are small, but somehow Captain Huse made Belknap’s party very
comfortable. J.’s bunk was in the sick bay, along with Lieutenant Allen
Buchanan, Ensigns Wilcox and Spofford and Dr. Martin Donelson, all of
our navy. The rest of the party (thirty-four petty officers and enlisted
men from the U. S. S. “Scorpion”) were stowed in different parts of the
ship; the chart-house was assigned to Belknap.

They all slept well. The next morning, as there was only space for one
to dress at a time, J., the last comer, lay in his berth waiting his
turn. He heard a familiar voice outside, and caught a glimpse of Hugh,
the Yeoman, squatting on the slippery iron deck, talking with a
machinist come on board that morning to join the Messina party.

“We was to Suez on the ‘Culgoa’ long about the end of December,” Hugh
was saying, “when we got a message from Roosevelt to get up steam and
push through to Messina, and give them all the food and clothing we
could spare. We had a thousand loaves ready when we sailed into that
Lord-forsaken place! We let it down to ’em in nets. We been hanging
around these parts ever since.”

The machinist asked a question. The Yeoman’s answer was energetic:

“Sure! Didn’t you know? Roosevelt is sending out wood to build three
thousand houses for these Eyetalians, and we’re the Johnnies that’s
going to build ’em. Did you ever hear the likes o’ that? Ain’t he a
wonder!”

Later in the morning J. went on shore with the doctor, in search of
sheets and towels. He was much chagrined that he had not brought his
own, and I that I had not sent them--we shall know better next time.
They left Naples that afternoon, and early the next morning (the 22nd of
February) the “Celtic,” her white sides shining, her rigging gay with
bunting in honor of Washington’s birthday, sailed through the Straits
and into the harbor of Messina. As they approached the Faro, the
officers gathered on the poop deck. Belknap’s keen eyes, sailor’s eyes
that see so much more than others, scrutinized the water-front.

“Things are waking up!” he said. “There’s a schooner taking on a cargo
of lemons! That tramp steamer is discharging lumber.”

Half a dozen ships lay in the old harbor of Zancle, unloading all manner
of building materials. Yes, trade had come back to the indispensable
city, as it always has done after every earthquake since the one that
frightened Ulysses and the Greeks of his time; the ancients made stories
and myths about that earthquake that still delight us. Ulysses landed in
Sicily, you remember, with twelve of his men and entered the cave of
Polyphemus, a terrible one-eyed giant who tended his giant sheep on the
slopes of Mt. Etna, the burning mountain that stood over the workshop of
Vulcan; you can see the smoke, sometimes the fire of the smithy, coming
out of the hole at the top of the mountain to this day. The giant
killed and ate six of the adventurers; he would have killed them all but
for the crafty Ulysses, who made the Cyclops drunk and while he slept
put out his single eye with a red-hot pole. Then Ulysses and his six
remaining companions concealed themselves under the bellies of the giant
sheep; and so, when Polyphemus let out his flock to graze, they escaped.
(I myself have seen this adventure pictured in an ancient sculpture at
Palermo.) When the Cyclops found his prisoners were gone, he roared with
anger and pursued them, hurling great rocks after them; but being blind
his aim was not good, and three of the boulders fell into the sea, where
you can find them today by Aci Castello. One has a round hole like an
eye, through which the sunlight shines as it once did through the single
eye of the Cyclops. All this means that some Greek sailors “in the dim
red dawn of man” really were caught in an earthquake and were so greatly
frightened that their descendants not only made myths and legends about
it, but remembered it.

Centuries after, when Theocles, the Greek merchant, drew up his little
fleet of vessels on the

[Illustration: TENENTE DI VASCELLO ALFREDO BROFFERIO. _Page 223._]

[Illustration: LIEUTENANT COMMANDER REGINALD ROWAN BELKNAP, U. S. N.
_Page 223._]

[Illustration: REGGIO. WRECK OF RAILROAD. _Page 151._]

[Illustration: STREET IN REGGIO. _Page 133._]

long sandy point that runs out into the sea below Taormina, and founded
Naxos, the first Greek settlement in Sicily, they still talked about the
troubles of Ulysses. The real danger of the island, these early
adventurers said, was not the Sicans--they were a quiet agricultural
people, no match for the clever Greeks--but Polyphemus, the
Laestrygones, and Hephaestus. They were right; Sicily’s real danger now
as then is the terrible volcanic force, to account for whose havoc the
ancients created those dear giants and monsters, the Cyclops, the
Titans, and a hundred others.

In the lovely crescent-shaped harbor that once was called Zancle
(sickle), then Messana, now Messina, two large deserted fruit steamers
lay swinging idly at their moorings. When there was so much for ships to
do, it was strange to see these splendid freighters idle.

“To whom do they belong?” J. asked. Alfredo Brofferio, Tenente di
Vascello, an Italian navy officer, detailed to help Belknap in his work,
answered:

“To three little children. Formerly they were owned by a great firm. The
partners were all killed; of their families only these infants survive.
The ships may lie there till they rot--who knows if they will ever get
up steam again?”

The “Celtic’s” great anchor splashed in the water, her cables sang as
they slipped through the hawse-holes.

“Do you see that house?” Brofferio pointed to a mass of ruins on the
Marina. “I lived there with my Signora and our children for two years.
On the 22nd of December, six days before the earthquake, I was ordered
away to sea. My wife decided to remain in Messina. ‘We are so
comfortable here,’ she said, ‘the climate suits the children.’ So it was
agreed. The night before I was to leave, there was a slight earthquake
shock, but a mere nothing; we had often felt worse. I thought nothing of
it. Women, however, feel things that we cannot--my wife said to me:
‘This is a warning; tomorrow morning the children and I will depart with
thee for Naples,’ her very words. A sailor’s wife makes long journeys at
short notice; we all left together. If she had not been so wise--“
Brofferio’s steady blue eyes grew troubled, “you see? Not one who lived
in that house is alive today!”

    “The Flying Dutchman sailed away, oh yes, oh!
     He tried to enter Table Bay a hundred years ago!”

The song of the sailor at the masthead broke the long silence that fell
on the group.

“Today is a _festa_ in your country.” Brofferio shook himself and
pointed to the “Celtic’s” three flags and extra bunting; “a saint’s
day?”

“Why, yes!” said J.; “you may call it so. Three years ago today I went
down to the North End (Boston’s Little Italy) in search of Parmesan
cheese; an Italian grocer at the corner of North and Cross Streets sells
the real kind in solid nubbles, hard as a brickbat, not that paltry
grated stuff in bottles. As I passed the Catholic church, I saw a poor
Italian woman trying to get in. She knocked, pounded, even kicked the
church door; but nobody paid any attention. Then she took off her
_fazoletto_--from her dress she was Abbruzese--spread it on the church
steps, knelt, folded her hands, and began to pray:

“‘_O Santo Washingtone mio, non hanno aperto la chiesa_’ (O my Saint
Washington, they have not opened the church!), her prayer began. You see
she added Saint Washington, the patron of her new country, to her
Calendar of Saints; she had come to say a prayer, perhaps light a
candle to him, but the church, open on all other saints’ days, was
inexplicably closed on this!”

A boatload of Italian naval officers and port officials now came on
board to offer the usual courtesies; Brofferio explained to them the
reason for the “Celtic’s” three flags and extra bunting; soon after this
all the Italian navy ships in the harbor hoisted their masthead flags.

“You see?” said J., “they too are celebrating the _festa_ of Santo
Washingtone!”

“And the weather?” Brofferio asked an Italian officer, “always the
same?”

“You may say so! Per Bacco, this is the fifty-sixth day since the
disaster; on forty-five of these blessed days it has rained as in the
time of the deluge!”

“The Quartermaster reports a steamer standing in towards the harbor,
flying the American flag and a white pennant with the words:
‘Headquarters of the U. S. Carpenters.’”

When he heard that, J. ran for his kodak, just in time to photograph the
“Eva,” the first American lumber ship, as she dropped anchor close in
shore.

[Illustration: AMERICAN VILLAGE, MESSINA. GRAND HOTEL REGINA ELENA.
_Page 237._]

[Illustration: ARRIVAL OF THE “EVA.” _Page 226._]

[Illustration: AMERICAN VILLAGE, MESSINA. FRAME OF FIRST HOUSE. _Page
230._]

“Gosh!” said Hugh, the Yeoman, scanning the “Eva’s” decks, “there are a
couple of Boston cops aboard. Wonder who they’ve come for?” The American
Carpenters’ uniform was very like the Boston policeman’s.

With the arrival of the “Eva,” we began to see the tangible results of
all that telegraphing between America and Italy, the Ambassador’s
despatches, Mr. Hooper’s appeal to Boston (never appealed to in vain),
Mr. Parrish’s correspondence with Mr. Taft, President of the American
Red Cross. They had not let the grass grow under their feet at home;
when they understood that wood and building material for houses was what
was most wanted in Italy, our people, acting through Congress and
through the American Red Cross Society, “came up to the scratch” nobly,
gave with two hands and never counted the cost. Here was the “Eva,” the
first timber ship, as a living proof. No time, no expense, had been
spared in fitting her out; as she lay alongside the dock in New York,
the stevedores worked day and night, in double shifts, loading her with
the good sweet-smelling Carolina pine. There was but one bitter drop in
that cup; the “Eva” was a British steamer--when, oh, when shall we do
our own carrying by sea?

Wednesday, February 23rd, though a drizzling rain was falling, the work
of discharging the “Eva’s” cargo began at seven o’clock. Ensign Spofford
was in charge of the men. He had a dozen “Scorpions” to help him
discipline the shrieking, gesticulating mob of Sicilian stevedores and
carters. The precious lumber, tools, glass, roofing paper, hardware, all
the priceless materials for the American Village must be guarded from
the poor homeless Messinesi, who thought they were only taking their own
when they helped themselves. That first rainy day the task must have
looked long and hard to officers and men. Belknap, fearful of demurrage,
just touched them with his restless spur--it was enough, more than the
rowelling of another--and they sprang with ardor to their task. The
carts for transporting the lumber from the Marina were of every
description, from gay little painted _carretti_ to lumbering ox wains.
The beasts of burthen included mules, carriage horses, saddle horses,
infinitesimal donkeys. The carts must needs keep within hailing distance
of each other, for the Viale San Martino, leading to the site of the
future village, was a slough of despond, a sea of liquid mud. The poor
animals floundered, the wheels sank hub deep in the dreadful mire. Time
after time the beasts from three or four carts must be hitched to a
wagon stuck in the mud.

The motley stream of carts, each under the guard of a “Scorpion,”
crawled at a snail’s pace from the Marina, up the Viale San Martino, to
the Valley of the Mosella, a lemon grove on the outskirts of the old
city. The site assigned to the Americans (as beautiful a site as heart
could wish) was on the farther side of the Torrente Zaera, a deep water
course. At the Valley of the Mosella--usually called the Zona Case
Americana--Lieutenant Buchanan, Ensign Wilcox and two American
carpenters received the lumber. The Americans watched the leisurely
Sicilians unload the first two carts.

“At this rate,” said Buchanan, “we shall pass the rest of our lives in
Messina. Here, all you Scorpions!” Then followed an object lesson those
Messinesi never forgot.

“Half a dozen of our sailor men,” writes Belknap, “led by Dougherty, the
gunner’s mate, ran up and took possession of one of the carts; they
tipped the load off sidewise in three shakes. The natives looked on and
gaped a bit, but they took the hint and we had no further delay of that
kind. Sometimes our sailors were even able to infuse into their gangs
the spirit of a regular coaling-ship hustle.”

Later Belknap had the happy thought of presenting each carter with a ten
_centesimo_ piece at the end of every trip; it was wonderful how many
more trips they managed to make after that. In a few days a contractor
was found who furnished a set of fine solid carts, drawn by beautiful
red Sicilian oxen; the work now went on rapidly. Friday night,
forty-eight hours after the “Eva” hove in sight, the first American
portable house was put together, and the frame of the first cottage was
set up.

Gasperone, who found J. out the very day he reached Messina, hovered
about the neat little yellow cottage with its green blinds, well-fitted
doors and windows, its convenient handles and latches. He felt the even
clapboards, rattled the handle of the door, tried the hinge of a
shutter; then, running both his hands through his mop of hair,
exclaimed:

“It’s a miracle! Piff, paff, two taps of a _martello_, and behold, a
house!”

Saturday the rain, that till then had come in fitful showers, settled
into the regular earthquake downpour to show what it could do. It was
impossible for the carpenters to work under this deluge.

“Belknap didn’t let a little thing like that stop him,” writes J. “He
put the Americans to work and in ten hours built the great workshed,
sixty-four feet long, where from that time on, rain or shine, work was
always going on.”

The different members of the party were now working with the regularity
of the cogs of a well-oiled machine. Brofferio was busy making those
official visits to the civil, military and naval authorities, which did
so much to make everything run smoothly; from the first Brofferio knew
no other duty than to serve the interests of the expedition to which he
was attached; in this way he could best serve his country. Here, there,
always where he was most needed, was Belknap. He and his men were from
first to last smart in their dress, as if they had been on duty at
Annapolis; that was one of the great lessons they taught the
demoralized Sicilians. Neat, well set up, clean shaven, with
spick-and-span linen, the Americans did their work, the work of giants
it seemed to the slow Sicilians, and never for one moment was their
discipline relaxed.

The chart-house of the “Celtic” became a sort of Box and Cox apartment.
By night Captain Belknap slept there; by day J. stood at his
drawing-board and worried out the plans for America’s part of the New
Messina. His letter diary, written on odd scraps of paper, gives little
flashes of side-light on the enterprise. On the 22nd of February he
writes:

“I have just had breakfast; the coffee with rich American cream is a
dream. I am having a glorious time designing a hotel. Tomorrow the ship
arrives with the first lot of houses to be put up here. Mr. Billings,
representing the Massachusetts Committee, (interesting man), and those
two delightful men from Taormina, Bowdoin and Wood, that I met before,
lunch on board.

“February 23rd: The first American timber ship, the ‘Eva,’ is dropping
anchor at this moment close by. Tomorrow the real rush will begin.
Everything is all so new on board a ship like this that I enjoy it
thoroughly. I am treated like a king. I have been designing a little
outside kitchen, a very primitive arrangement; I hope it will work.

“February 26th: I got up at six o’clock this morning and went ashore for
the first time since we arrived. I have been drawing the plans for the
houses, making working drawings and tracings, and literally have not had
one moment to call my own. I made a photograph this morning of the first
house, one of the forty-nine portable houses Massachusetts sent. I don’t
want to quit this job till it’s finished and it’s only just begun. In a
way it’s much harder work than the ‘Bayern’ because it’s head work. I
have had to design an hotel two stories high, to remodel entirely the
plans sent from America--a difficult task--to design a church on a
primitive plan. The high altar end is to be in a little house but the
main body of the church is to be roofed in only, no sides. I have in
mind the ‘only place where the cannibals are!’ Do you remember the great
shed in the Midway Pleasance at the Chicago World’s Fair, where the King
of Dahomey sat? Chanler turned up this morning, lunched on board, and
left this afternoon for Reggio with his little band. I was glad to see
him, but quite glad he didn’t stay as that would have meant one more in
our cabin, and we can only dress one at a time. I had to make a set of
drawings for Chanler to take to Reggio to show the General; but after I
had _swatted_ for an hour and a half to get them finished for him, he
went off and forgot them. Rome seems like a dream; I feel as if I had
always lived on board ship!

“February? I think this is the last day of the month. I know it is
Sunday, but all days are alike and all go so quickly. I literally have
no time for anything unless I steal it as I am doing now. I never felt
so sorry for architects before. It seems to me I have made hundreds of
drawings (of course I haven’t) and all of them have to be changed either
by the prefect, the Capo Ingegnere, the captain, or the carpenters; but
it’s all in the day’s work. One cannot make such a good showing,
however, when one drawing after another is either altered or discarded.
I am sitting down to write this--the first time I have sat down, except
to eat, since I came aboard. The sailors squat on the deck and write
letters, using their knees as a desk. It looks all right but, as the
decks are made of iron, one’s feet will slip away from one. Letter day
on board is a sight to be seen. Remember that post cards have a peculiar
fascination for sailor men, who haven’t been home since Lord knows when,
many of them; we shipped a lot, forty or so, who were on their way home
from the Pacific cruise, and brought them here. It’s blowing great guns,
and all the ships are strengthening their moorings to keep from being
blown into their neighbors. Hugh has just looked in to bring me a letter
from you. Captain Belknap is in a hurry to get the hotel design
finished. Most of the changes that are made are to save wood, so as to
have enough to build with; but if rafters, composts, floor-beams, studs,
and even sills, are cut out continually, a day’s work soon disappears in
respacing them. I hope you will carry out your plan of coming down to
Taormina. The hotels are all closing for lack of business, sending their
guests to one (‘The Timeo’), and even that is not half full. You ought
to see Sicily, you ought to get some idea of the earthquake’s work, for
no matter how wild your idea may be, it will be tame beside the real
thing. Wood and Bowdoin are at Taormina, working like slaves to relieve
the villages between here and there--they suffered fearfully--and you
could see and do much. We have had quite a lively time since I began
this. It is blowing a gale and things are happening. Our anchor lost its
hold and dragged until we were not more than six metres from the bows of
the steamer alongside of us. I didn’t know anything out of the way was
happening till I heard quick commands and sailor men running; when I
looked out and saw they had sent the steam launch over to an Italian
man-of-war with a hawser, which was made fast on board of her and the
other end was hauled in by the donkey engine, and we were pulled away
just in time to prevent a collision--how they did it all without my
assistance, I can’t quite make out! They are getting over another anchor
now for safety’s sake, and they will probably need it as the wind seems
little inclined to quiet down. It’s very warm here; I haven’t worn my
overcoat since the first day. I doubt if you will be able to see much of
me if you come, but they will probably let me come to Taormina for a
day. In about ten days we go ashore and live in the first twelve houses,
and this ship goes away. The ship’s doctor went ashore and found a
spring of water up a hillside near the camp, and it will be brought down
in breakers every day, in a dear little painted donkey cart like the one
I brought you from Palermo, and not so much bigger. The first bag of
mail, sent on to Messina by the ‘Scorpion,’ was returned by the postal
authorities here, hence the long delay in hearing from Rome.

“The next day, U. S. S. ‘Celtic,’ Messina: Nothing has happened since I
wrote you except one rather severe earthquake, which I thought was the
ice machine. I am making drawings for the whole outfit, and duplicates
to send to various places where our wooden palaces are desired. I am at
this moment supposed to be making three tracings and an entirely new
scheme for an hotel. One is entirely worked out, with four bathrooms,
capable of putting up a hundred people or more, with a great big
dining-room and restaurant, thirty by forty feet, with all the kitchen
quarters. I try to keep copies of the plans for you, but they are
snatched away from me, naturally enough, as soon as they are finished. I
am to have my innings in building the duckiest little kitchen you ever
dreamt of and a whole carpenter to help me. Chanler blew over yesterday
and lunched with us. In the evening he left for Naples on business; he
returns in a couple of days; they all adore him.

“‘Celtic,’ next day: Chanler blew back from Naples at seven o’clock this
morning, and went back to Reggio about an hour later. He is looking
awfully well and is full of business. I am sending a film to the
photographer to be developed of the first portable house, and another of
the work-shop and houses in course of construction at the end of the
first week. It has rained a great deal and Hooper’s rubber coat has been
of immense use to me--tell him when you see him, and do show him the
photos.

“March 6th: Mr. Bicknell, of the Red Cross, came today with his
secretary, an _avvocato_, Donati by name. A Roman, of the real old Roman
type, he looks like that bust in the Vatican, the one you always say is
so modern--just like the sort of man who takes you in to dinner.

“Wednesday, March 9th: I don’t know how much longer I stay--if I see it
through, it will be the first of May before I get away. I am terribly
rushed as I have to get out a set of drawings for Queen Elena, of the
houses we are to put up at her village. That is to say, I am arranging
where they are to go. I took the Duca d’Ascoli, the Queen’s
gentleman-in-waiting, over the land at the Villaggio Regina Elena
yesterday. I am trying to get the drawings done for the Queen, and
translating employment forms, and things happen every minute as well. I
am well and happy and working like anything. The hotel is accepted. The
Queen wants me to make designs for a schoolhouse for her; and I am
trying to do it, but there are usually anywhere from two to four people
in the chart-house, and I get my elbow poked just as I am almost
successfully through an ink drawing.

“U. S. S. ‘Celtic,’ March 11, 1909: It’s 8.45 A.M. Belknap went over to
Reggio this morning at seven and doesn’t get back till lunch time, and I
have a great stunt before me. Saturday we go out to live in our first
batch of twelve houses, which are finished. The water supply comes from
a mountain stream, away above where the town supply comes from. It has
been analyzed by the doctor (who goes with us) and piped by the
‘Celtic’s’ plumber to the camp. The work that has been undertaken is
simply immense. The houses are spotting themselves over the surface of
the earth, like flies on sticky fly-paper, as thick and fast. Yesterday
was a tremendous day; I had to get out the hotel plan for the engineer,
to give our estimate of how much wire would be needed for electric
lighting of it, and the Duca d’Ascoli took off at five o’clock a bundle
of drawings for Queen Elena; and all the time I was being joggled and
jostled by people coming in and out, and many of them staying in the
chart-house. I cannot imagine where you got the idea of cold. I wrote a
long time ago that I had never had occasion to wear my overcoat since I
came down, and it’s been very much in the way in these cramped quarters.
Bill o’ the Bilge’s rubber coat has been my greatest boon; though I have
sweltered in it, it has kept me dry. Twice we have had dinner on the
quarter-deck; we did last night. Captain Huse gave a dinner for the Duca
d’Ascoli, the

[Illustration: LT. COMMANDER BELKNAP PUTTING THE AMERICAN CAMP IN
COMMISSION. _Page 247._]

[Illustration: AMERICAN VILLAGE, MESSINA. HAULING UP THE COLORS. _Page
247._]

[Illustration: MESSINA. VIA I. SETTEMBRE.]

[Illustration: PALMI. THE CATHEDRAL. _Page 158._]

Captain of the Port and the Comandante of the Italian man-of-war. Ascoli
sat on the captain’s right; we had a very jolly evening. About my
getting away from here; it’s a question. I am just about to tackle the
arrangement of the houses we are to build for the Queen’s village. I
have worked out the hotel, special houses for Queen Elena, work-rooms,
schools, a church for our own village here in Messina, on a modest plan
that will fit the lumber we have at our disposition. The hotel will have
seventy-six rooms apart from offices.

“March 14th: Our warship, the ‘Celtic,’ leaves here on Monday some time,
but we go to the houses tomorrow. The ship only waits to give us a
chance to find out if we need anything more. I have sent two rolls of
photographs to be developed, the Villaggio Regina Elena and the U. S.
village at the end of the second week’s work. There is a wall along the
river bed, the Torrente Zaera, showing a water-pipe that brings the
water to the cottages. It was turned on yesterday. I tried to get a
photograph of the kitchen sink with the water running and the first jet
of water. The others are of the American building work--I hope they
will give you some idea of it. The most precious of all the snap-shots
is the one of a church belfry with a clock, the hands pointing to the
exact hour of the catastrophe. I call it the Tell Tale Tower. This is
God’s own country in charge of the Devil. Do you know of any one like
Flint or Thompson you could send down to help out, a good boss with some
idea of method and system and accounts, who can speak Italian? I am so
sorry Thompson can’t come. A divine day! I wish I had brought my light
summer suit. I think we are going to be comfortable in the camp. Belknap
thinks of everything; I never knew such a man!

“Monday, March 15th: We are just off for the camp on the Piano della
Mosella. It is a glorious day but hot, though it is early, not yet ten.
Last night we dined on board the Italian man-of-war, ‘Dandolo,’ and I
send you one of the menus. They are all done by the sailor men and I
thought would interest you. Did I tell you the Queen made a request that
we build for her three hospitals--one in her own village, one at Messina
and one at Reggio? I am expecting to get to work on the designs as soon
as we get instructions from Mr. Griscom. You must not go away from Italy
without coming here. Things move very rapidly and many of them at once!”

       *       *       *       *       *

They move so rapidly that it’s breathless business trying to follow
them. The work planned was roughly this: To build at Messina a village
of a thousand houses with the necessary public buildings, hospitals,
schools, church and hotel. The hotel was of vital importance. One of the
worst features of the disaster was the fact that the brains of Messina
had been practically wiped out. The people saved were largely of the
working class, who are up early in the morning and who live in small
houses. The great palaces of the rich proved fatal death-traps to most
of them. The few business men of sense and energy left to cope with that
unheard-of chaos had no place to sleep or eat at Messina. They were
forced to live at Catania or Taormina, thus losing many precious hours
on the long railroad journeys back and forth. Reggio, from the first the
more fortunate of the two stricken cities, soon had a decent hotel
lighted with electric light--a thing never before known in the ancient
city the Romans called Rhegium, and Hugh, the Yeoman, spoke of as
Riggio--but Reggio had Captain Cagni! Besides the village at Messina,
the Americans had agreed to build a hospital and about one hundred
houses at the Villaggio Regina Elena, a charming suburb on the other
side of Messina, built by Queen Elena. At Reggio, another American
village of one thousand houses was to be put up; on the Calabrian coast,
in what is called the Palmi district, between Reggio and Scylla, five
hundred houses were to be erected; and in the country between Taormina
and Messina three hundred more, these last to be placed according to the
advice of Messrs. Bowdoin and Wood, who ought to be classed with San
Pancrazio, the patron saint thereabouts. These gentlemen had, and richly
deserved to have, the forty-nine portable houses for their protégés.
There is an impression at home that a far larger number of these
admirable portable houses were sent than was the case. There were only
forty-nine in all, sent by Massachusetts, who also contributed material
for three hundred houses and much else besides.

The village in the Valley of the Mosella was

[Illustration: MESSINA. THE TORRENTE ZAERA. _Page 241._]

to be laid out in regular street blocks like any modern suburban
district in America, each block to contain twelve houses. Belknap’s plan
was to finish the first twelve houses, a kitchen and an ice-house, and
as soon as possible take possession of them and establish the party in
camp. In the corner of the central square the ice-house was dug and
roofed over, and here they stored thirty tons of ice and provisions from
the “Celtic,” enough to last three weeks. There was great rejoicing the
day the water was put in. There was a shower bath in Buchanan’s house,
running water in the kitchen sink and men’s washroom, and an outside
faucet for general use. The waste water was led by a wooden pipe to the
Torrente Zaera.

The fifteenth of March, three weeks after our builders arrived at
Messina, they took possession of the camp. It was a glorious day; they
were astir early on the “Celtic” packing their kits. J. watched the men
put his drawing-board and portfolio safely on the ox-cart under Hugh’s
care, and started to walk to the Mosella.

“In the street are a few miserable shops for foodstuffs,” J. writes. “I
say street, but it is really only a passageway where the street used to
be. On either side are mounds of debris with little groups of diggers,
hunting for their relatives, with a soldier leaning on his gun with
fixed bayonet beside some coffins. It was nearly midday; one party was
using a coffin for a table and others as chairs--truly, familiarity
breeds contempt. Not only this, but I saw little toddling babies put to
play in them, to keep them out of harm’s way. One thing shows a wicked
lack of forethought. Shelters have been built across the tram tracks,
that have only been slightly damaged in one or two places. They make the
entire route of the villages that have suffered, and ought to be put in
operation immediately.”

Though he stopped to notice these things, J. reached the camp in time to
see the pretty inaugural ceremony. At twelve o’clock the bugler from the
“Celtic” sounded “attention.” Officers and men all assembled in line.
The two civilians, Mr. Bicknell and J., hurried to the end of the
workshop and adjusted their cameras. Belknap then read aloud a letter
from the Prefect of Messina, the Commendatore Trinchieri, beginning:--

     “MOST ILLUSTRIOUS SIR:--My Government entrusts me with the honor of
     according you the right to occupy a camp in the Valley of the
     Mosella, and to acknowledge the justice of your desires that the
     National Flag of the United States of America should fly above the
     place during the daylight.” Etc., etc., etc.

Tara, tara, tara! The bugler sounded the salute to the colors. The flag
crept up the tall flagstaff and unfolded in the light breeze.

“Three cheers, men!” cried Buchanan. They were given with a will.
“Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!”

There was a little speechmaking after this. J., busy with his kodak,
only heard the rousing cheers as the Stars and Stripes, emblem of the
world’s hope, floated over the new settlement on the old, old shore of
Trinacria.



VIII

THE CAMP BY TORRENTE ZAERA


“ZONA CASE AMERICANE, March 16, 1909.

“We left the ‘Celtic’ yesterday and came out here to our camp at the
Mosella, where everything is running like clockwork. I have a pleasant
room but no view, while the house where the nails are stored has a
divine one. There’s no window in Belknap’s room; he chose the worst one
of all so that no grumbler should have the right to kick,” writes J. in
his first letter after they left the ship and the hospitable Captain
Huse, of whose kindness frequent mention is made both in letters and
diary.

The camp stood in a lemon grove fronting the Straits of Messina, where
the whirlpool, Charybdis, darkens the sapphire water with streaks of
violet. Across the narrow strip of sea to the left lay Scylla, directly
opposite Reggio, the dark Calabrian mountains tipped with snow towering
above. A more sublime view it would be hard to find, but our men did not
stop

[Illustration: REGGIO. QUEEN ELENA’S GROUP OF AMERICAN COTTAGES. _Page
244._]

to look much at views, or to look back in fancy at the historical vista,
the long line of heroes and conquerors who had landed in Sicily before
them, and set up their camps with the same care to be within reach of a
good spring of water. Of course they must have had some dim sense that
they were living on classic ground, familiar to them in their school
days. They knew, or had known then, that Ulysses and his men and the
wandering Aeneas had been here; that Greeks and Phoenicians met and
fought here; that Carthage had her first battle with Rome not far away;
that Goths, Saracens, Normans, Germans, French and Spaniards had passed
over this ground before them. Perhaps they gave a thought to the last
comer, Garibaldi, who landed here with his Thousand in 1860 and won the
jewel, Sicily, for King Victor’s crown; but it is more likely they
thought very little about what happened before their day--it’s so much
more fun to make history than to read it! All these other adventurers
and heroes landed, sword in hand, to fight for the possession of this
fair Sicily, this Helen among earth’s islands. For what, in the name of
history, had these last invaders come? What booty did Belknap and his
men hope to find in that abomination of desolation, Messina? They
planted their flag where the standards of kings and conquerors have
waved, as if it were the most natural thing in the world to do, and set
to work at their task of teaching the inhabitants how to build and how
to live in wooden houses. Sicily has never had a Wooden Age till now;
here primitive man left his cave to build a cavelike house of the soft,
easily worked, tufa stone of the island. The Northmen who helped the
Sicilians build their new homes--Danes, Swiss, Americans, English--were
at great pains to teach them how to live safely and with comfort in
their wooden dwellings, where the two chief dangers to be reckoned with
are fire and vermin. For the race of Northmen, these problems had
already been solved by the time Attila, the Scourge of God, built his
vast wooden palace on the Danube, only to die there on his wedding night
(still mourned by all true lovers) in the arms of his bride, the
gracious Hilda. The Northmen’s inherited knowledge was now to help the
men of the South solve the riddle: how to live safely in civilized
dwellings in a quaking land?

If the Japanese can rise to be a world power, living in houses of paper
and bamboo, there is no reason why the Calabrians and Sicilians should
not learn to live in wooden houses, should not develop the caution and
the cleanliness imperative for those who would live safely and decently
within wooden walls.

“Naturally,” writes Belknap, “we took interest in the houses other
people were building, some of which lay on either hand of ours. From a
visit to the Lombardy houses Mr. Elliott got the suggestion of a
semi-brick kitchen, which we saw we must adopt if we would make our
cottages equally suitable to their future occupants’ habits of living,
and as safe from fire as the houses other people were putting up. A fire
built on a wooden floor or dangerously near a wooden wall is a common
sight.”

The camp was astir early. The first sounds came from the kitchen, where
the American who cooked for the men and the Sicilian who cooked for the
officers made a great to-do with their pots and pans. Next came the
music of the goat bells--where did they come from? (“Belknap thinks of
everything.”) A great herd of shaggy goats came rambling into the camp,
driven by their dark wild-looking herders. Jugs and bowls were brought
out, and the morning supply of milk was drawn from the streaming udders
of the patient goats, who browsed and nibbled at whatever they could
find. Breakfast was served at six, a Gargantuan feast. There is a legend
that the first morning a hungry carpenter made away with nine eggs and
the larger part of a ham. After breakfast the workmen began to arrive,
for the greater part of the actual manual work was done by Italians; the
American officers, carpenters and sailors acted as overseers, directing
the work. The first day after the “Celtic” arrived they started with
five Italian workmen; the next day they had thirty; by the end of the
fourth week Belknap employed five hundred Sicilian and Calabrian workmen
at Messina alone.

As they arrive, each man is given his tools and his number is recorded.
The boys come eating crusts of bread, sleepy-eyed and inclined to take
time to finish their scanty meal. The men saunter leisurely to their
work, smoking their pipes. The voice of the great “boss carpenter” is
heard here, there, everywhere:

“Get to work, darn ye! It’s past seven

[Illustration: MESSINA. ARRIVAL OF FURNITURE FOR AMERICAN COTTAGES.
_Page 248._]

[Illustration: AMERICAN VILLAGE, MESSINA. VIA BICKNELL, FIRST STREET.
_Page 238._]

[Illustration: AMERICAN CAMP, MESSINA. STRAGGLERS FROM THE HERD. _Page
251._]

[Illustration: IN THE AMERICAN VILLAGE, MESSINA. _Page 257._]

o’clock. _Al lavoro, al lavoro!_ Don’t you talk your Eyetalian to me!”

So the gangs are hectored and herded to their work. Soon both admonition
and expostulation are drowned in the song of the saw and plane, in the
good chorus of the hammer. The Anvil Chorus seems tame when one has
listened to this glorious music after the dreadful silence of Messina,
where the dead still lie in tens of thousands, buried only in the debris
of their houses.

Brofferio had hunted up Zenobia, his washerwoman (she lived in the
country), and found her alive and well, having escaped all damage to
house or property from the earthquake. She was overjoyed to see him, and
early that first morning she arrived at the camp for his linen. Like the
good fellow he is, Brofferio shared his good fortune with the rest, and
Zenobia agreed to do the washing for his friends. She took away all she
could carry on her head and came back for more, making several trips in
the course of the morning. She brought the clothes back in the same
piecemeal fashion, a few at a time.

“The clothes are washed in a mountain stream, beaten between two
stones, and dried on the grass. They come back the sweetest smelling
things in Messina,” writes J., “only we have to wait an endless time for
them.”

One morning J., whose house was next Brofferio’s, heard Zenobia making a
great outcry:

“Signor Comandante!” she exclaimed. “Have mercy on me; I am not strong.
I live five kilometres distant--the walk is long, the path is a scandal,
the sun is hot. I have brought an immense load. Madonna Santa! larger no
woman could carry!”

“Thou art avaricious,” said Brofferio sternly, “which is shameful,
considering thou art making more money than any woman in Messina. Dost
thou grudge the _soldi_ to hire an _asino_? _Basta!_ Either take the
linen properly all at once and return it in the same manner, or come no
more. There is always the grandmother of Gasperone--“

“It is enough; the Signor Comandante shall be obeyed--ten donkeys, if it
will appease him!”

Zenobia departed and returned later with the balance of the linen,
nicely packed on the back of a tiny donkey. This plan worked admirably
until the day of reckoning came, and Zenobia’s neighbor, Sor Pietro, a
poor old half-crazed peasant, who had not recovered his wits since the
earthquake, presented a bill for the use of the donkey. Zenobia, a
queenly creature,--she looked her name,--had commandeered the beast and
refused to pay for the use of it.

“She assured us, illustrious Comandante,” said Sor Pietro, weeping
pitifully, “that the Government required the animal--I myself dug him
out of the ruin a week after the earthquake--for the use of the
Americans. I said I will go myself and hear the truth!”

Meanwhile Zenobia and the donkey arrived on the field of battle.

“Would the Sor Comandante know the truth?” Zenobia shot a basilisk
glance at Pietro. “The animal was not being used. Sor Pietro himself
said it was too miserably weak to draw the plough. He had no use for
him, nor will have till it is time to gather his lemons and take them to
the Marina. Should he deny this poor miserable brute when my officers,
the magnanimous, the Heaven-sent, demand such an animal? He deserves to
die of an apoplexy!”

At this moment an orderly brought a letter to Brofferio. As he turned
to read it, Zenobia sprang like a panther at Pietro, caught him by the
shoulder, shook him like a sack, and hissed in his deaf ear:

“Ingrate, cabbage head, hangman!”

“You have received a very large sum of money this morning,” said
Brofferio, folding up his letter, “fully fifteen francs. Do me the favor
to pay this man five sous. How many times hath she borrowed the _asino_?
Five sous for each trip. Now then!”

Zenobia produced a soiled and knotted handkerchief from her stocking and
counted the money unwillingly into Pietro’s seamy brown palm.

“Now I wonder,” said Brofferio, as the pair walked amicably away
together, “if that comedy was all arranged beforehand?”

       *       *       *       *       *

The early days at Mosella recall the description of the building of
Carthage. The busy master-carpenters, each with his foot-rule in his
pocket, his blue pencil behind his ear, move about among the gangs of
Sicilian laborers. One measures out on the bare ground the place where
the timbers that form the sills of the next house shall be laid;
another directs the driver of a heavy ox-team, drawn by a pair of sturdy
red steers, where to discharge a load of fragrant new cut pine boards.

At noon work comes to a halt. Francesco taps at the office door and
announces:

“Dinny ready, Mister!” Francesco is a Sicilian of the Greek type,
straight as a lance, with a fine head, thick curling hair and eyes of
gray sapphire. He escaped unhurt from his house the morning after the
earthquake, after lying for hours under the ruins.

At dinner Belknap sits at the head of the long table; on his right is
Brofferio. Then seated in the order of their rank come the officers, the
“architect,” as they call J., and the master-carpenters. The table is
laid with neatness--for a camp, with elegance. There is a white
table-cloth with napkins, borrowed from the “Celtic;” at either end
stands a bowl filled with pale quince blossoms, wreathed with
ivy--winding ivy besprent with purple berries, the kind that twined the
bacchantes’ thyrsus. This is Gasperone’s idea, the touch of the
æsthetic, the legacy of Hellas, that every day and every hour you see in
Sicily, that makes this land and its people rich in grace beyond all
others.

“Them flowers looks kinder pretty,” said Timothy, the carpenter. He made
a mental note to write his wife about Gasperone’s decoration of the
“mess” table.

Francesco and Gasperone, the Sicilian servants, have a third helper, Mr.
Buchanan’s “boy,” a magnificent negro. This full-blooded African giant
stands six-feet-two; he is broad of shoulder, narrow of hip, with teeth
like new-peeled almonds and eyes like the big Sicilian oxen. He has the
same pictorial “value” as the blacks Paul Veronese painted in his
Venetian feasts.

Dinner begins with a loin of good roast American pork from the
“Celtic’s” store. The big negro offers a dish to go with the pork,
whispering in a gentle lisp:

“Apple thause, thir?”

After dinner there is a short pause; work only begins again at one
o’clock. Pipes are lighted; in Flagstaff Square the sailors have a game
of baseball, watched and cheered by a delighted crowd of Messinesi. Work
is over for the men at halfpast five, for the masters

[Illustration: AVVOCATO DONATI. _Page 238._]

[Illustration: MR. BUCHANAN’S “BOY” AND HIS MATES. _Page 258._]

[Illustration: MESSINA. QUITTING WORK. _Page 258._]

[Illustration: ARRIVAL OF THE BARBER. _Page 265._]

only at bedtime. There is no theatre, no place of amusement, not even a
cinematograph in Messina. At sunset the young sailors, who have worked
all day and are not yet tired, wrestle and box together, for the lust of
life that is in them. A crowd of men and boys gathers to watch and
applaud; if the sounds of labor are welcome in this silent city, the
joyous sounds of play are twice welcome. Between nine and ten J., who
works in a little cubby-hole shut off from the captain’s office, is
ready to turn in. He has stood all day at his drawing-board, making the
plans as fast--or almost--as Belknap asks for them. His bed is
“delightfully comfortable;” the “spring” is given by nailing the planks
at one end of the bunk and leaving them free at the other, so that they
have some play; mattress and pillow are of good sweet seaweed.

“Last night was chilly,” he writes, “but thanks to the traveling rug, in
addition to two blankets and Hooper’s coat, I was quite warm. I got the
tip from a native that the nights were cold and passed on my acquired
knowledge, but it was unheeded by the others, who got left. I knew I
should be too sleepy to put the extra things on, so I plumped them all
on before I went to sleep. Tonight we are going to be supplied with
extra blankets. It’s now a little after one o’clock and the heat is
quite uncomfortable; it seems stupid to be talking of blankets.”

By ten all lights are out except Belknap’s, always the last. Every night
he knots up the business of the past day; makes each record, answers all
letters, plans out the next morning’s work. When he is not at work
elsewhere, the Chief sits in his office writing those endless
despatches, letters, reports, that are not the easiest part of his
prodigious labor. Read them over now: it seems impossible that the man,
who carried on this minute detailed correspondence, could have found
time for anything else. You feel the character of the writer in every
page; the will of iron, the heart of a child, the training of a sailor
who, in order to command, learned first to obey. Nowhere in all this
mass of letters and reports will you find Belknap “posing” before his
correspondent or that imaginary audience, the world, that may always get
a sight of such documents; everywhere, with a skill not born of chance,
whenever he can “throw the limelight” on one of his men, he does so
with a generous hand. Belknap is one of those natural leaders of men,
who seem providentially to arise in great emergencies. His tireless
energy, his cheerful courage are positively infectious; his example and
influence are felt in every phase of the enterprise of which he was the
leader.

Just what was his work? To bring order out of chaos. Men are the
instruments of mankind; the race chooses the individual to carry out its
desires, as the sculptor his tools. The nation, torn by a sister’s
anguish, acted first with the heart of Roosevelt, second with the mind
of Griscom, third with the will of Belknap; these three men were the
triumvirate who put through the imperial thing America desired. The
records of a man of action are brief; for him it is the doing that
delights, not the telling; and yet in reading over Belknap’s report one
comes, now and again, upon a pearl of pathos, a diamond of humor, that
makes the formal document a precious thing, that makes the camp by the
Torrente Zaera one of those that will not be forgotten.

In these early days ten American carpenters superintended the Italian
workmen (later there were more). These skilled mechanics drilled and
trained their men with care and energy, for among other things the camp
by the Torrente Zaera was a school of carpentry. Perhaps five per cent.
of the Italians were really fair workmen; the majority were careless and
slovenly at their craft. Many of them had never worked at anything, let
alone carpentry. The houses they built were the least part of our
carpenters’ good work; they established a standard of excellence unknown
hitherto in a community where, though the good St. Joseph is honored,
his trade is sadly slighted.

The carpenters and sailors, as such men will, brought their own manners,
their point of view with them and stoutly maintained them. They were
strong, tough-fibred men, more inclined to teach than to learn from
their strange experience. The first Sunday afternoon Timothy and Hugh
went out together for a stroll in the country. They met a Sicilian
riding a donkey; he was followed by an old woman whom they guessed to be
his grandmother, carrying on her head a large box and a small keg.

“See that big man, so proud looking, with those two baskets of lemons
loaded on to that poor jackass’s back; his little legs are bending under
him,” said Timothy.

“Such treatment as they give the jackass should not be allowed,” Hugh
agreed. “The Italians certainly are a hard lot.”

“It’s Gasperone!” cried Timothy.

“Hullo you!” roared Hugh. “Get right off that donkey and let the old
lady ride; do you hear?”

Hugh, a blond giant, in a white linen jumper and breeches, white canvas
cap and puttees, black shoes and neckerchief, impressed the grandmother
of Gasperone. She stopped and stood staring at him, her skinny arms
akimbo, her feet firmly planted in the road. He was pleasant to look at,
this strange man from the north, with his frank blue eyes, his yellow
hair, his rough kindly voice. She was not too old (what woman is?) to
take notice of a handsome young man.

“Get down!” ordered Hugh.

“Awe ri’, awe ri’,” Gasperone answered soothingly, then said something
to the old woman. She laid her load down and, laughing heartily, seated
herself on the donkey.

“Now make a beast o’ burthen o’ your fat self, and see how you like it,”
Hugh commanded.

“Awe ri’!” Gasperone took upon his back, awkwardly enough, the load his
grandmother had so skilfully balanced on her head. The two Americans
watched the couple out of sight round the corner. Brofferio, who saw the
whole scene from the launch--he was on his way to the Italian warship,
“Dandolo”--declares that as soon as they were out of sight the
grandmother dismounted and Gasperone returned to the donkey’s back.

The “Hern” was the second timber ship to arrive. Her Norwegian captain’s
wife was on board; Captain Belknap mentions her presence as if it were a
fortunate and happy thing.

“When I beheld a most beautiful young lady in a boat making for the
shore,” Timothy was heard confiding to Hugh, “blushing like a June
morning in Indiana, I went and got a hair-cut and a shave.”

“She certainly is a charming person,” Hugh agreed; “goodness is shining
from her eyes.”

“They tell over to the ‘Hern’ that she came on board at Algiers, and
that the captain has been like a boy with a new sled ever since,”
Timothy continued, “which strengthens my belief in the captain’s wife’s
goodness.”

One of the Sicilians, who had applied for work as a carpenter and proved
utterly unfit for it, had now, with Belknap’s encouragement, set up a
barber’s saloon close to the camp. After the “Hern’s” arrival he was
much patronized.

The “Hern” was ordered directly to Reggio, where a second camp had been
established under the command of Ensign Wilcox. This camp, while smaller
than that at Messina, was admirably managed from the first. One morning,
while the “Hern” was discharging her cargo, Wilcox was waked at half
past five by the news that a big pontoon, their only lighter, that had
been loaded the night before, was sinking. Wilcox plunged overboard with
a line, hoping to get it made fast ashore and then beach the pontoon
before it sank; but as he reached the shore, the lighter went down with
a final gurgle, carrying with it half their nails, glass and roofing
paper. The boards, doors and other light material went floating about
the harbor, and as in Reggio there be land thieves as well as water
thieves there was a lively time guarding the floating property. Wilcox
was fortunate in finding a diver, who undertook to dive for the precious
nails and the other heavy things that had sunk to the bottom of the
harbor. Timothy, who had been ordered to Reggio, was deeply moved by the
accident. He used every effort to hurry the diver to his work, but for
some inexplicable reason the man kept putting it off.

“I have been trying to get that diver started,” Timothy complained. “He
can’t talk English but I finally found out he would not go down while it
rains. I thought that strange but found out the reason at last; he is
_afraid_ to go down lest the man pumping would _stop_ if a heavy shower
comes on and let him die for want of air.

“The river pirates is thick as fleas,” Timothy went on; “they are
lifting every thing in sight.”

The “river pirates” got away with very little, however, as they were
pursued and forced to bring back the stolen articles.

Timothy was anxious that the Reggio camp should lack nothing the Messina
camp possessed; he had a great deal to say to Hugh on the subject
whenever they met.

“It’s a treat to see the Stars and Stripes

[Illustration: WORKSHOP OF AMERICAN VILLAGE, REGGIO. _Page 265._]

[Illustration: FIRST AMERICAN HOUSE IN REGGIO. _Page 265._]

[Illustration: PALMI. AMERICAN SHELTERS. _Page 275._]

[Illustration: REGGIO. CARPENTERS AT WORK. _Page 265._]

floating here,” he said to Hugh. “I want Wilcox to fly them at Reggio
but he darsen’t without orders. What’s the captain’s notion?”

“Why, we was the first to hoist our flag the day we come ashore,” said
Hugh. “After that all the other people, English, Swiss, French, Germans,
had to hoist their banners, all over the shop, till now the place looks
like a blooming world’s fair.”

Or like a camp of latter-day crusaders, Hugh!

“I think we should have our own colors, all the same,” Timothy
persisted. “If the ‘boss’ goes away, I will send them up if I swing for
it. Besides, it will create respect. Our men have had to wait a day for
their pay. I hope they get it tonight. Last evening to hear them roaring
you would think Old Tilley, the pig killer, was back in life!”

“Time to haul her down,” Hugh looked to the west.

It was sundown. The bugler sounded attention, the men all stood in line,
facing the flag. The bugler played the salute to the colors, and just as
the red ball dropped behind the blue ridge of mountains, Hugh slowly,
slowly hauled down the flag.

“That,” said one who watched the pretty ceremony, “is a survival of sun
worship.”

    “Mithras, God of the Sunset, low on the Western main,
     Thou descending immortal, immortal to rise again!
     Now when the watch is ended, now when the wine is drawn,
     Mithras, also a soldier, keep us pure till the dawn!”
               (KIPLING.)



IX

GUESTS AT CAMP

    “Mithras, God of the Midnight, here where the great bull lies,
     Look on thy children in darkness. Oh take our sacrifice!
     Many roads Thou hast fashioned; all of them lead to the Light,
     Mithras, also a soldier, teach us to die aright!”
               (KIPLING.)


About the time the lighter sank, I received a letter from the camp,
asking for a man who spoke English, had some knowledge of accounts--a
man, in fine, like Thompson--who would come to Messina. Belknap was
shorthanded; the work was doubling up on them. Was there any chance of
that nice boy, Flint? Would Thompson possibly reconsider? Thompson could
not; Flint was in Egypt.

I remember well the day the letter came, if not the date. I was in
Florence, spending a few happy hours by the Arno, in the shadow of the
Giglio, Giotto’s perfect tower, second among towers only to the Giralda
of Seville. There had been a wonderful jaunt from Rome in an
automobile, that reminded me of my mother’s stories of her wedding
journey through Italy in a traveling carriage. The motor has brought
back the romance to travel, that seemed banished forever when the last
_vetturino_ sold his traveling carriage, driven out of business by the
railroad.

We four--Mr. Parrish the host, Miss Helen Lee, his niece, Charles, the
Yankee chauffeur, and I--had passed through Umbria, Tuscany, visited
Perugia and Gubbio, stopped at Assisi and Siena, looked at the gem, San
Gimignano--but that’s another story.

That golden day in Florence we hunted up our old friend, George de
Forrest Brush, the painter, corralled him in his studio and carried him
off willy-nilly to lunch at the Trattoria Aurora on the heights of
Fiesole. It was too cold to eat in the garden, so after a long look at
the blue Val d’Arno with its encircling mountains, the Carraras and the
Apennines, we went into the bare little dining-room. Soon the two
specialties of the inn smoked on the table, a dish of chicken cooked
with red and yellow peppers--the sauce would make an anchorite
greedy--and whole artichokes fried to a golden brown, served with melted
butter. For those who wanted it, there was a flask of good red Chianti
di Broglio; for all there was the rarer wine of friendship.

After luncheon we started in the automobile for the convent, perched on
a hill high above Fiesole. When we had made half the distance, we passed
an automobile stuck fast in the mire. Soon after we were obliged to turn
back on account of the snow; the road runs in spirals; some of the turns
are sharp, a true mountain highway, with a precipice on either side.
Just as we turned a sharp curve, the machine came to a sudden stop. A
tree trunk, big as a railroad sleeper, lay directly in our path, placed
across the road since we made the ascent.

“A close call!” muttered the chauffeur, as he put on the brake and
stopped the car. If he had not been quick as a flash, we should have had
a bad accident. Charles next sprang from the car, dragged the log to the
edge of the path and hurled it down the mountainside.

“That dago will have a little trouble to tote you up again!” he
chuckled, as the great piece of wood hurtled down the steep.

“A miss is as good as a mile,” our host reassured us.

“Such wickedness as that makes me sick,” said Charles, as he twirled the
steering wheel and set the car in motion. We were all silent for the
next mile or two.

Which of us was it meant for? Who has so cruel an enemy? We never knew.
When I read lately of Mr. Edward Boit and his brother being “held up”
and robbed near Vallombrosa, not very far from Fiesole, I wondered if we
had escaped the same band of brigands.

“Do you know a man who wants to go down and help Captain Belknap at
Messina?” I asked Mr. Brush, as we sped down the incline, leaving
Fiesole behind, past the Villa Palmieri where the characters of
Boccaccio’s Decamerone lived during the great plague of 1348.

“My son Gerome has wanted to go down ever since the earthquake. I will
send him to see you tonight,” said the artist.

That evening Gerome Brush called at our hotel; it was agreed that I
should write Belknap, offering his services in whatever capacity he
could be useful.

“I am in the automobile business now,” the young man said, “but that’s
only temporary. When I go back to America I shall study law. I have been
trying to get to Sicily all winter; do fix it up for me!”

It was “fixed up.” Belknap telegraphed us to send Brush, and we all
returned to Rome.

“Why don’t you end up your trip by all coming down here?” The question
was repeated several times in J.’s letters. As a result, on the 24th of
March, Patsy, Gerome Brush and I left Rome for Sicily. We traveled as
far as Naples with Mr. Parrish and his niece, who were to sail in a few
days for home and could not come with us. The trip from Rome to Naples
was a pleasant one, though the spring was very backward. Only a few
quince and apricot trees were in blossom; the beautiful vineyards were
still dark, without a sign of promise. Hanging from tree to tree in the
old classic fashion, the vines made a lovely pattern of delicate black
tracery against the fervent blue sky.

At Naples we regretfully parted with Mr. Parrish and Miss Lee. Patsy
laid in a stock of sandwiches, milk chocolate and newspapers, and we
set our faces to the south, prepared for any fate.

Soon after leaving Naples our train broke down.

“_E rotto il Westinghouse_,” the guard said to each separate traveler in
turn.

“Look at Vesuvius, or what’s left of it!” cried Patsy. We had halted
within sight of the great volcano. Patsy had not seen it since the
eruption of 1906, when one of the twin cones sank out of sight and the
whole outline of the mountain was altered, losing much of its
distinction. “I never thought to see the everlasting hills change their
very shape before my eyes--that gives you an idea of volcanic force!”

On the 25th of March we woke to a wet world. Through the blurred windows
of the sleeping-car we looked out upon emerald fields and fruit
orchards, between stretches of rough uncultivated land. The way passed
through lemon groves, where the trees were covered thick with pale gold
lemons, the air was sweet with the fragrance of their blossoms; through
vast plantations of blue-green cactus, like those of Morocco; through
orange groves where the branches bent beneath the weight of red-gold
fruit. Everywhere was that splendid contrast of the red and yellow
golds, mixed with the gorgeous dark green foliage of the nespoli, whose
fruit ripens much later--now there were only hard little green balls
between bunches of long graceful leaves. Here and there the green was
softened by rosy peach blossoms, the intenser pink of the apricot, or
the queer gray sprawling limbs of fig trees covered with silvery bloom,
though not a leaf had yet unfolded.

“How can we be such fools as to linger in a city when the miracle of
Spring has begun!” Patsy exclaimed; we all agreed never again to commit
that folly of follies. At every station we passed cars loaded with piles
of newly sawed American lumber, shipped from Naples and distributed at
various points on the Calabrian coast. At Palmi we saw the first ruins.
Some little wooden huts had been built on the lower slopes of the hill;
on the side-tracks were rows of extra railway carriages, turned into
shelters for the poor homeless people. It had been raining desperately
until we reached Palmi, where fortunately it held up long enough for us
to have a good look at the magnificent olive trees, the finest I ever
saw. A whole forest of olives goes climbing up the mountainside, like
hoary giants with wild arms tossed to heaven. The trees in Dante’s
Inferno, that bled when their limbs were broken, must have looked like
these ancient olives of Palmi, centuries old, still the main support of
the peasants on whose land they grow. The chestnuts were as fine in
their way, sturdy umbrageous monarchs of the wood, but lacking the
mystery that above all other trees the olive, Athena’s gift, possesses.

Patsy had an errand at Bagnara. From the midst of a group of sad,
listless looking women, who stood watching our train as if it were the
one important event of the day, a tall girl in black pushed her way to
the front. There must have been some signal agreed upon; how else could
Patsy have found the sister of Sora Clara the moment he stepped on the
platform at Bagnara? They talked together until our train started, when
Patsy slipped something into the girl’s hand and sprang into the car.

“Don’t report me,” he said. “I have turned over a new leaf; I don’t let
my right hand know what my left hand does. I

[Illustration: OLIVE GROVE NEAR PALMI. _Page 276._]

[Illustration: CAPTAIN BELKNAP AND CARPENTER FAUST ON GROUND FLOOR OF
HOTEL. _Page 284._]

[Illustration: AMERICAN VILLAGE, MESSINA. VIEW FROM THE HOTEL. _Page
287._]

reported every franc I gave away in Rome, till I caught on to what it
meant. My poor Sanscrit professor had been promised substantial help. I
reported the little money I gave him; after that he got nothing more. I
was told never to give a single family more than fifty francs. How’s a
man who has lost everything he has in the world going to start life
again on ten dollars?

The situation of Bagnara recalls Amalfi; there is a fine smooth beach,
where the fishing boats are drawn up on the shore. The nets are spread
higher up on the sand. Above the lovely scallop of shore the little town
perches on the hillside. At Gioia Tauro, just before Palmi, the
semicircle of golden beach in the shape of a scimitar, the beryl green
water, reminded us of Tangiers.

After we passed Bagnara the train went very slowly.

“At this rate we shall never reach Taormina tonight,” Patsy complained.

“_Pazienza, Signorino! chi va piano va sano!_” said the guard. “This is
the first train that has gone through since the landslide.” This was the
first we had heard of a landslide.

“A mere nothing, only the rocks came trundling down from the mountains
and broke the track so badly that no trains have run for the past
month,” the guard explained.

“Scylla!” We must have been dozing, for we all started when the guard
called out the name of the station.

“Look!”

The tremendous rock of Scylla, with the strong castle on the top,
springs from the sea like a great many-toned jewel of coral, shading
from rose to yellow. The sun shone, the wind blew the surf in great
green and white surges against the cliff. Further out the water was pale
emerald, with sudden streaks of amethyst; everywhere on sea, shore and
cloud lay shadows of sapphire.

Even Patsy was dumb, moved beyond words by that glimpse.

“Their Excellencies saw the castle?” chirruped the friendly guard. “The
earthquake didn’t hurt it, more than to crack the outer wall a trifle.
They knew how to build in those days!”

“The castle is a trumpery medieval affair,” remarked Patsy, “though it
was standing when Robert Guiscard came in 1060, but the rock! In the
Odyssey it’s described as the home of a roaring sea monster, with six
terrific heads, twelve deformed feet, and three rows of teeth. Look over
there--the lighthouse! That marks the whirlpool! ‘_Incidit in Scyllam
qui vult vitare Charybdis!_’”

Across the narrow strait lay the jewel of the south, Sicily! The old
name, Trinacria, was given to the island on account of its shape, an
irregular triangle with three great points or promontories. It was once
a part of the Apennine range, but in some volcanic upheaval it was
broken off--as a monarch breaks a link from his gold chain and tosses it
to some henchman--and thrown into the Mediterranean, where it shines a
brilliant in a sapphire setting, the most coveted, the most disputed of
earth’s gems.

Patsy had not spoken for twenty minutes. His dancing eyes had grown
grave and steady; the imp, the sprite, the creature of impulse, was
gone; in his place was a stranger with grave eyes.

“Villa San Giovanni,” cried the guard. “Il ferryboat per Messina.”

“Ferryboat! Sounds familiar,” said Patsy. “Tumble out, we’re here!”

As Patsy made me comfortable on one of the wooden benches, I saw a
familiar face that puzzled me in the crowd of passengers. Where had I
met that pale girl with the mouth like a scarlet trumpet-creeper, the
thin curved eyebrows like a crescent moon, the deep eyes that looked
violet in the distance and were blue?

“I know her,” I said.

“She doesn’t appear to know you,” Patsy murmured. I was so sure I knew
her that I began to burrow in my memory, searched pigeonhole after
pigeonhole to find just where in a lifetime of impressions that arch
face was tucked away.

“It’s Palladia!” I found her at last. “My milliner, lost to us in Rome
for three painful years, ever since she went to Palermo to set up for
herself.”

I spoke to the girl without more ado:

“Palladia, don’t you remember me?”

“Perfectly, Signora. I have not seen you since the morning I brought you
the hat with the primole for Pasqua.”

“And you would not have spoken to me?”

“Pardon me, Signora, may I fasten your veil? I feared you would not
recall me.” We were shaking hands warmly now; she was my milliner again,
I her client.

“If I bent the hat a little, so? That is more becoming.”

“You have done well in Palermo?”

“Discreetly; I am returning from Naples, where I have been to buy the
new shapes, look over the modes. I have some beautiful French straw--if
the Signora should come to Palermo?”

“Of course I shall come, just to get one of your hats. I haven’t had a
decent one since you left Rome.” Palladia produced her card and, wishing
each other _buon viaggio_, we parted at the dock, Palladia to take the
train for Palermo, we to look for a cab.

“No one to meet us! They can’t have received letter or telegram,” said
Patsy. “Just as well, nothing like taking our friends unawares. Now they
won’t have time to smarten up for us.”

“Will that old rabbit-hutch hold us all?” I asked, looking distrustfully
at the only vehicle in sight. The driver understood; he seized the
wheel of the battered old cab and shook it violently to show how strong
it was.

“This is a most excellent and signorial carriage, Signorino. It needs
paint; why should it not? I dug it out myself from the ruins, and the
horse too. That blessed animal has cost me a lot of fatigue. It was nine
days before I could get him out, nine days _sotto le macerie_!”

“How much to the Case Americane?” asked Patsy.

“Two francs, Excellency, with a slight token for myself. The Comandante
himself set the price. He drives with no other; I am the official
coachman of the Americans.”

For a horse that had been nine days buried, the poor little rat of a
pony drew the cab bravely through the Via San Martino, one smooth lake
of yellow mud.

“There’s Old Glory!” shouted Patsy.

I had been so much taken up with looking back at the desolate streets,
at the Tell Tale Tower, I did not know we had arrived at camp. Two
Italian soldiers, on guard at the entrance, halted the cab.

“Stop, thou knowest thou canst go no

[Illustration: HOTEL REGINA ELENA AND CHURCH OF SANTA CROCE, AMERICAN
VILLAGE, MESSINA. _Page 284._]

farther,” said the elder, evidently a friend of the driver’s.

“What dost thou say? I, who drive to the door of the barracks four times
every day at least! Mayst thou die of an accident!”

“Never, unless there is an officer in thy cab. These be strangers,
without a written pass from the Comandante; they cannot enter!”

“Archpriest, I say! Mayst thou be stricken with--“

“Oh, come now, officer,” Patsy interrupted persuasively, “you will not
make the lady walk through this mud! We are friends of the American
Comandante. He expects us.”

The soldier was firm; we could not pass.

“Peace, I will inform the Sor Comandante,” said a new voice. It was
Gasperone; I recognized him from J.’s description. He put his finger to
his lips and tapped gently at the door of the small neat wooden cottage
nearest the flag.

“Behold a lady and two gentlemen, who have driven up in a cab,” said
Gasperone through the half-opened door. “Shall they be sent away or
allowed to enter the camp?”

J., standing at his drawing-board, looked from the window.

“Good Lord,” I heard him cry, “they’ve come!”

Our plan was to spend the afternoon at the camp and push on that night
to Taormina, an hour and a half distant by train. Captain Belknap
received us most kindly and showed us about the camp. What had been
accomplished was a miracle; the place had already begun to look like a
neat, well laid out American village.

“We save every tree we possibly can,” said Belknap. “Each lemon tree
brings an income of at least ten francs, the mulberries even more.”

Belknap and J. fought hard for the life of every tree that did not
actually interfere with the construction of the buildings. Some of the
streets have long lines of lemon trees, with here and there a fig tree.
They saved a double row of shade trees, for which the guests at Hotel
Regina Elena will some day bless them.

As we were inspecting the site of the hotel, the heavens opened and the
flood descended. We hurried to the office for shelter and admired the
trim row of ledgers, the typewriter, the letter scales, the red, white
and blue silk cord that Uncle Sam makes for his own special service,
all the tidy paraphernalia of the Chief’s workroom. I peeped into the
drafting-room, partitioned off with a wooden screen from the office. It
looked nice and professional, with sheets of architect’s paper, opaque
white, semi-transparent blue, yellow tracing, compasses, T squares, all
sorts of fascinating architectural tools. On the wall hung the neatly
drawn plans of the hotel; on the drawing-board was the ground plan for
the Queen’s hospital at Villaggio Regina Elena.

“May we look?” Patsy asked.

“If you will not touch,” J. glanced up from his work. “Mind that India
ink!”

“I can’t let you go on to Taormina in such a tempest,” said Captain
Belknap. “If you will put up with what we can offer, I should be glad to
have you spend the night at the camp.” This was more than we had dared
hope for; Patsy was in the seventh heaven.

“It’s a reward for bringing down the new recruit,” he whispered.

Brush, the “new recruit,” was sent almost immediately to Reggio, where
Wilcox found him an invaluable assistant.

I was shown to my quarters--the room that had been Mr. Bicknell’s--in a
small frame house, sixteen by sixteen. It was divided into two rooms by
a wooden partition with a door; there was a well fitted window with a
sash curtain in each room. Behind the house was the famous kitchen, of
which we had heard so much. It is a tiny convenient place with a cement
floor and walls, a stone table with little holes for the live charcoal,
and grates to go over the fire. My room had a table, chair, washstand
with jug, basin and pail. Gasperone brought me hot water and took my
boots and dress to brush. In the corner of the room was a most ingenious
and convenient bed. Some springy boards were nailed rather loosely to an
upright head and footpiece; the boards were almost as good as a spring,
the mattress and pillow of sea-moss were comfortable enough for anybody,
not born in Sybaris.

I sat down and looked out of the window towards the tool house, the
center of interest for the moment. The men had knocked off work, and
were passing in file, very slowly, before the open window, where the
paymaster sat, paying each man what was due him.

[Illustration: AMERICAN VILLAGE, MESSINA. THE PAY LINE. _Page 286._]

[Illustration: “THE FRONT OF THE PALACE HAD FALLEN INTO A HEAP OF
RUINS.” _Page 305._]

[Illustration: SEMINARA. CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF THE POOR.]

After our long journey, our harassing drive through ruined
Messina--where the reality surpassed all descriptions--the exquisite
neatness, the order, the comfort of the Zona Case Americane, brought a
sense of well-being like oil poured on a burning wound. I sat for an
hour in that fragrant little wooden room, while the rain drummed with
soft fingers on the roof, and went over the history of our journey step
by step, tested link by link the chain of chance circumstances that had
drawn young Brush, the new recruit, from the garage in Florence to the
camp by the Torrente Zaera.

The manner in which the whole American working party was brought
together is well illustrated by the story. If Mr. Parrish had not been
in Florence, if he had not hunted up Mr. Brush, if that letter from camp
had not come the day we lunched at the Trattoria Aurora, we should not
have had one of our most useful and faithful workers; and young Brush
would have missed one of the great experiences of his life. Mr. Griscom
felt that one of his practical difficulties was that all the help he
could hope for must be drawn from the American colonies in Italy, the
Government agents, consuls, artists and missionaries. If this was a
difficulty--which I question--the way it was overcome both at the
Embassy and the camp was magnificent. Whatever tool he had, Belknap
worked with and found it a good tool. It may have been his nature--he is
the kind of workman who never grumbles at his tools--but the character
of the helpers surely counted for something. Our consuls were never
found wanting. Bayard Cutting from Milan, though out of health at the
time of the earthquake, went down to Messina with the first relief
party, and from that time on he was faithful to the great work. Bishop
at Palermo, Crowninshield at Naples, Smith at Genoa, did magnificent
service, working day and night, without thought of sparing themselves.
The spirit of the officials and volunteers was almost without exception
altruistic. Every man was trying to help the other out; all were matched
in the great race for service. Sailors, consuls, artists and
missionaries have something in common surely; it was just that something
that made them of so much use. They are not machines; they have not been
warped and deformed by the commercial slavery that is sapping the
life-blood of our people. Mammon, the slave-driver, may crack his whip;
it does not frighten them. Their time is not money, it’s beyond price,
so they spent it freely for their suffering brothers and never counted
the cost.

J. had written that the nights were cold. I unpacked my hot-water bottle
and my traveling rug; I was just on the point of calling Gasperone to
fill the bottle, when J. looked in. His eyes brightened at the sight of
the rubber bottle.

“Are you going to use this?” he asked.

“Oh, no! I always travel with it, in case of illness.”

“If you are sure, I will have it filled; Belknap’s taken cold. You
brought the rug; will you need it?”

“No, no! There are plenty of blankets.”

“You think so? Then I will take this for him. Some of the men have been
greedy about blankets; he has less than any man in the camp.”

“Take them, take them of course!” J. went off with bottle and rug; I
piled every garment I had with me on my sea-moss bed and tucked myself
up comfortably. What sort of man was this Chief who inspired such
devotion?

It must have been after midnight, for the cocks were crowing, when I was
awakened by the sound of gunshots, followed by loud shouts and the noise
of hurrying footsteps. I listened, as I never listened before.

In the distance a dog bayed; some vagrant cur had escaped in spite of
the stringent orders to shoot all dogs and cats on sight. The flash of a
lantern next, the clank of a sword-belt as if one buckled on his weapon
as he ran, more footsteps, at first light and hurrying, then slow and
heavy,--the tread of men who carry a burthen: they passed the door, grew
faint, were lost in the silence of the night. Through the upper
uncurtained window-panes the haggard face of the gibbous moon looked
from an angry sky.

I asked at breakfast what the commotion had been. No one had heard the
noises of the night; it was suggested that I had been dreaming. Months
after, Patsy told me what had happened.

“You remember the two soldiers who challenged us when we reached the
camp? They had to keep a strict watch at night so that the building
materials and tools should not be stolen. The soldier on duty fell
asleep at his post. He was wakened suddenly by the steps of his comrade,
come to relieve him; before he was fully awake he caught up his gun and
shot the poor fellow, who, as it happened, was his best friend. I had it
from the cab-driver, never a word of it at camp of course!”

That morning Patsy hunted up the Avvocato Bonanno, and through him made
several interesting acquaintances. He lunched with some officers, and
recognized among the dishes served certain canned meats sent out from
America for the _profughi_.

“The Sicilian peasants simply won’t eat them; they’d rather starve,”
Patsy explained. “The only thing to do with the quantities of tinned
food we sent is to feed it to the army; they’re not so particular.
Another time when we want to help such people in a plight like this, we
should send flour and corn-meal and trust them to turn them into
macaroni and polenta, their two staples of life. We’re so fond of
change, so keen about new foods, that we give old standbys, like hominy
and oatmeal, new fancy names every year, just to sell them. An American
believes something new is better than anything old. An Italian only
admits a thing good that has been so proven by the centuries. Have you
room in your bag for this?” Patsy handed me a pound package of Salada
Ceylon tea.

“Where did you get it?”

“Bought it! We sent these poor devils half a cargo of tea! They did not
know what on earth it was good for, tried to smoke it, chew it, use it
as snuff--no go! Finally they put it on sale; now foreigners in camp and
on shipboard can buy it at a fair price! The money is put into coffee;
_that_ is the very breath of life to a Sicilian.”



X

THE VILLAGGIO REGINA ELENA


“What did you think had happened?”

Caterina traced a cross with her bare brown toe in the dusty path of the
_campo santo_: “Per Dio, Signora, we thought it was the Day of Judgment.
Mamma, babbo and I were dressed, ready to go to work--we live here, my
father is _guardiano_. My two brothers were in bed; they were killed.
One still remains _sotto le macerie_; there is no way to get the body
out. After the 28th of April no more may be moved on account of
infection; it is finished.”

Caterina, daughter of the porter at the cemetery, a lovely girl of
sixteen, was our guide. Smiling, she welcomed us, standing under a
sculptured “Genius of Grief.”

“A strange guide for such a place!” said Patsy.

Strange indeed! Coffins everywhere, and babies in grandams’ arms--the
new life pushing aside the old, as the green oak leaves come out beneath
the brown.

As Caterina led the way up the sunny slope, between cypresses and
roses, she pointed out the tottering and broken monuments; the
earthquake had wrought strange havoc here. The chapel of the Cavallieri
di Messina with its fine Ionic colonnade was a ruin; some of the tombs
were wrenched open.

“Perhaps these dead, like ourselves, thought that the last day had
come,” said Caterina.

A wine cart loaded with casks of wine, with a coffin lashed at the back,
passed us. It was followed by two women with grim set faces--no tears,
they were all shed long ago. Caterina paused by the grave of the
patriot, La Farina, picked a red rose and handed it to me with a shy
smile. From the upper terrace we looked down on a plain, furrowed as if
for planting. A long line of men were digging a trench. Piles of plain
unmarked wooden boxes--there must have been several hundreds--were
stacked on the ground.

“These might be packing cases for dry-goods,” said Patsy. “There’s not
the faintest suggestion of the human form, not even the sloping line of
the shoulders, to show what they are!”

“Will there be no service, no benediction?” I asked Caterina.

“God has already given them benediction enough,” she replied.

Messina is like a battle-field; there is too much haste for funeral
pomp; nothing remains to be done but get the poor human remains out of
sight, under ground as soon as possible. From time to time the
Archbishop visits the _campo santo_, blesses the dead _en masse_, and
sprinkles holy water on the long brown mounds.

As we watched the men delving in the fosse, a gay little painted
_carretto_ passed, driven by a blond lad with a roguish face and a rose
behind his ear. He sat upon two coffins, whistling merrily.

“_Buon giorno_, Caterina; what a fine day, if the sun would only stay!”
He flourished his whip and flicked a fly off the mule’s ear.

Caterina looked at him adoringly and echoed his wish:

“Perhaps the rains are over,” she said. “Thou art well, Carlino?”

While they talked about the weather, their eyes also spoke of secrets
unspeakable. It was easy to see how things stood between them. In that
dreadful indescribable atmosphere, hazel eyes caught fire from blue.
Death had become a commonplace to the lover and his lass; after so many
months of familiarity they had grown callous to its ugliness. In the
meeting of their eyes, life laughed at death.

In the upper, more aristocratic part of the _campo santo_, the dead lay
in separate graves. Caterina stopped near two grave-diggers at work.

“Two metres deep,” she said sagely.

A pair of stone-masons were working here, directed by a tall eagle-faced
man and a youth, evidently his son. One mason marked on a small white
headstone letters and a date in black; then with a chisel, which he
knocked only with his hand, chipped out the letters from the stone. It
must have been soft as cheese, for by the time the grave was a metre
deep, the name Domenica was neatly carved. The second mason was
smoothing a little white cross that had been roughed out of the same
soft stone. When the grave was two metres deep, cross and headstone were
ready. The plain wooden coffin had a rude cross nailed on the lid.
Without a flower or a tear, it was lowered into the grave and the earth
filled in.

“Thou hast done well and quickly,” said the gentleman to the elder
mason. “Here is the money as agreed.”

“The others the Signore spoke of?”

“Gone--there was some mistake. We have found only this, the youngest.
Perhaps another has buried them, thinking them his own. I return to Rome
tonight.”

Then I remembered: this was the man I had met with the fair young woman
going from one survivor to another, asking for news of Messina.

An Italian officer and an Englishman passed, and stood looking down at
those men digging in the long trench.

“What do you advise?” asked the officer. “She is tormented; here is her
last letter. Nothing will satisfy her unless I find him. I have tried
every way; there is no trace, no record. He may have been among those
burned or carried out to sea the first days; he may be in that trench.
What would you do?”

“Find him,” said the Englishman, “or another in his place, and put up a
stone to him. Then she can have a place to lay her flowers and to weep;
it’s not his bones, but his memory--” They passed out of earshot.

We moved to another part of the upper terrace and watched half a dozen
men take up the flat stone covers of a row of tombs, sunk under the
marble pavement.

“What are they doing?” Patsy asked.

“We must make room here, there, everywhere, for these new ones,”
Caterina answered. “No one could have expected such a calamity; how
could we be prepared?” She spoke with the anxiety of a hostess, who has
not beds enough for her guests to sleep in. “These poor dead, they too
must lie in sanctified ground; it is their turn.”

“Those buried here before?”

“The people who died of the last cholera.”

“Let us go,” said Patsy, “we’ve seen enough.”

Did he remember the story they tell in Florence? When the ancient city
wall was taken down fifty years ago, the workmen died like sheep of a
mysterious disease. An investigation was ordered. It was found that the
old wall crossed the cemetery, where the victims of the great plague
were buried in the fourteenth century; the plague germs were still
alive, and the workmen had died of the plague that in Boccaccio’s time
decimated Florence.

“Would you like a new dress, Caterina?” said Patsy, as we paused at the
gate. Her ragged gown clung to her with the grace of classic drapery; it
seemed a pity to change it for a stiff new dress. “Come to the Case
Americane at two o’clock and ask for the Signora.”

“_Si, Signorino!_” She watched us go with dancing eyes; she was to have
a new dress.

Carlino was waiting outside the gate. His cart was empty now; we stopped
to look at the pretty turnout. The mule’s harness was superb, with a
high pommel and headstall of crimson velvet embroidered in tinsel. The
wooden axle was beautifully carved with grotesque heads at either end.
The panels in sides and back of the cart were painted with different
scenes from Sicilian history or literature. Many of the old legends are
preserved in this way. In spite of the painting being rather poor,
certain classic details are observed. The subject of each scene is
stated so that there can be no doubt as to what the painter wishes to
portray. On one panel of Carlino’s _carretto_ the title is painted under
a tragic mask:

“Eschylus gives a rehearsal of his play of Œdipus at Colonus at the
Theatre of Dionysius.”

“That’s Eschylus,” Patsy pointed out, “you know him by the roll of
manuscript in his hand--the play happens to be by Sophocles, a mere
detail!”

The next panel represents English soldiers scouting in the desert.

“That’s an officer in khaki and a wide-awake hat on horseback, with an
Arab in a bournous pointing out the way.”

“_La prima lettera amorosa_” occupies the third panel, a garden scene--a
gentleman in Louis Quinze dress plays the harp to the heroine in pink
satin, reading a letter; below the tail-board is a boldly carved dragon;
in an under-panel a pair of sweethearts embracing. Carlino was proud of
his cart, which was fresh, clean, and newly varnished.

“Not a bad _carretto_, is it?” he said, pleased at our attention. We
left Carlino waiting, and singing as he waited an old song of the
people:

    “Mamma, mamma fò la preghiera
       Tu non lo sai con quale ardore
     Prego Iddio mattina e sera
       Che dell’ amante mi serbi il core!”

We looked into the Giardino Mazzini, where the Calabresi family took
refuge after the earthquake. The sign at the entrance was still intact:
“The public is prayed not to touch the plants or to walk upon the
grass.”

In the middle of the garden the calm face of Mazzini looks down upon a
strange scene. Barracks and shanties have been knocked together
anywhere, everywhere; one family is established in a gay little summer
house. A clothes-line has been made fast to the pedestal that supports
the patriot’s bust, a scarlet petticoat flaps behind his head; two women
are washing at a tub; a man tends a fire in an open grate, built of
stray bricks; in a gypsy kettle, hung on three sticks, something savory
boils and bubbles. A swing has been put up across the broken iron
railing; a tall girl is seated in the swing, her hair neatly tied with a
green ribbon; with a bold foot she pushes the ground, and swings high,
higher, under the palm trees where the dates are turning yellow. Three
girls in an arbor are at work, making up a funeral wreath of laurel and
pansies; one offers us flowers.

“Here,” said Patsy, giving the elder ten francs, “make a cross; take it
to Caterina at the _campo santo_, ask her to put it on the grave where
they buried Domenica an hour ago.”

“That’s the most encouraging sight that we have seen in Messina outside
the Mosella,” he said, “people are beginning to buy flowers for their
dead.”

Punctual to the minute, Caterina tapped on my door.

“Come in, _cara mia_, and choose your dress.”

Spread out on the sea-moss bed were several frocks; I hoped Caterina
would like the blue dress, or the scarlet jacket and green skirt; she
didn’t even look at them, but pointed to a black skirt and bodice, made
by Sora Clara, seamstress late of Bagnara.

“Might it be this?” Then grown bold she asked for a dress for her
mother’s sister.

“She has been more unfortunate than another, because she had more to
lose! When Zia Maddalena went back to her house to get the money hidden
in her mattress, it was gone. _Poveretta!_”

“Why didn’t Zia Maddalena keep her money in the bank, instead of that
foolish place?”

“One must hide one’s money somewhere. Cousin Sofia had hers all in her
pillow. She never forgot it but ran out with it under her arm.”

Immense sums of money were lost in this way. Sicilians distrust banks;
the majority keep their money hidden in their houses. The thieves,
knowing this habit, knew just where to look.

We chose a dress for Zia Maddalena and one for Cousin Sofia; then
Caterina took us to call on her relations. We found them hard at work,
building a little shack from what looked like American lumber. Zia
Maddalena, a gay little old woman, with a load of boards on her back,
scolded her two small grandsons.

“Do me the favor to work a little faster, Checco. The rain will begin
before we have the roof on. Birbante! Are you not ashamed? You are
slower than a sheep.”

Caterina made us known to aunt and cousin. Zia Maddalena welcomed us;
Sofia, sitting on the ground, suckling her infant, smiled and nodded.

“I have lived on this spot for thirty-seven years,” the old woman began.
“_She_ was born here,” pointing to Sofia. “Do you think I would live
anywhere else? Later we shall have one of the American barracks. The
Signore will speak to the Sor Comandante of us?”

Sofia handed the baby to her mother, picked up a stone for a hammer and
began to nail down the roof.

“That’s the little scamp who steals the nails from camp,” said Patsy, “a
handful at a time. Look at the size of his fist!”

I gave Zia Maddalena the garments we had brought.

“Good!” she said, “so we shall have something decent for Pasqua, black
too; are we not both widows? She lost her husband, I mine, but she saved
her money. Well, what’s to be done about it? We are alive, that’s always
something.”

Zia Maddalena was stout of heart; she had nothing but smiles for us.

“I hope they can have one of the barracks,” I said as we walked back to
camp.

Patsy of course knew all about it.

“When the houses are finished,” he explained, “Belknap will turn them
over to the local authorities. He’s been pestered for them already,
especially by Messinesi who claim to be American citizens. The allotment
of the houses

[Illustration: MESSINA. AMERICAN COTTAGES, VILLAGGIO REGINA ELENA.
_Page 305._]

won’t be an easy job for anybody; the municipality must tackle it.
There’s a good fighting chance for our friends. The aunt of Caterina is
the grandmother of Gasperone. She is officially connected with the camp,
a person of influence!”

We were picking our way through almost impassable streets, climbing
mountains of debris. At one place we found ourselves on a level with the
second story of what had been a handsome bedroom. The front of the
palace had fallen into the heap of ruins on which we were standing. Two
white beds stood side by side. On the wall hung a costly mirror without
even a crack. Near the door were two trunks and a valise with the labels
of several fashionable continental hotels.

“The people who lived here?” I said.

“Under the ruins; they had just returned from their wedding journey,”
said Caterina.

That afternoon J. took me to the Villaggio Regina Elena on the other
side of Messina. Like our camp, it is beautifully situated on the edge
of a _torrente_, facing the straits. As we drove over the fine road, I
could hardly credit what J. told me, that both road and village had
been built since the earthquake. We were met by two Italian officers;
one carried J. off to look over the site for the American quarter here,
the other offered to show me the Villaggio.

The butcher was just taking down his shutters, opening shop for the
afternoon. The bakery stood opposite; the smell of fresh bread floated
from the window. The baker’s wife sat sewing in the doorway; a baby,
swaddled stiff as a papoose, lay in her lap.

“Enter, enter!” she said hospitably. “Will the Signora be pleased to see
the oven?”

She threw open the iron door; a brushwood fire roared and crackled in
the black cavern.

“He has made one baking already; see how light the bread is!” She broke
a small loaf to show what good bread her husband made. The officer
tasted a morsel.

“_Va bene_,” he nodded. “Tell Pietro I am content.”

As we walked about the village, the officer told me its brief history:

“Built for the Queen by the sailors of the battleship, Regina Elena, and
the soldiers of the 19th Infantry. It has been an immense fatigue--that
cannot be denied. O! the rain, rain, rain, that’s been the worst of it.
The sailors had a change of clothes, it wasn’t so bad for them; our
soldiers had but one uniform--when that was wet, there was no other to
change. So many have died, some from exposure--they were poorly
nourished, they gave half their rations to the starving women and
children--some from blood-poisoning, _poverini_! If one had a little
scratch, a mere nothing, on his hand when he went on duty, excavating
the ruins, taking out the dead--bah! a pin-prick was enough!”

The houses are neat and comfortable, painted white and whitewashed over
the paint, as double precaution against vermin. Each house has a porch
and wooden steps. The village is under military control; a kindly
control one saw that, as every man, woman, child we met had a smile for
the Capitano.

“What is that building?” I asked; we were passing a small house with
barred windows.

“Alas! Signora, it is a prison. Discipline is necessary--our men are
good fellows but they are human--a firm hand is the kindest in the end.”

We passed through the Via Principessa Mafalda and the Piazza Giovanna,
named for the little princesses, to the Piazza Emanuele, the center of
the village life. The tiny church stands here, a tall flagpole with the
national flag of Italy directly before the door.

“It has cost us more trouble to build this than all the rest,” laughed
the Capitano. The chapel contains an altar, a confessional and a
cupboard for the vestments, books and mass vessels. There is no room for
the congregation; they must stand or sit outside for the service.

       *       *       *       *       *

“It has been a little hard--during the deluge; that must come to an end;
in general, as the Signora has heard, this is a fine climate!”

As a child keeps the biggest plum for the last, my officer had kept the
school, the crowning glory of the Villaggio, for the end.

“Opened on the 7th of March, Signora, nearly a month ago, at her
Majesty’s desire. She did not wish the children to lose a year’s
schooling--they have not lost much time, these little ones, have they?”

School was over, the children scattered; the captain sent a lad for the
schoolhouse key.

“Her Majesty sent all the books and

[Illustration: ZIA MADDALENA AND HER FAMILY. _Page 303._]

[Illustration: CAPTAIN BIGNAMI AND HIS STAFF. _Page 310._]

[Illustration: MESSINA. GASPERONE AND WATER BOYS IN HOTEL COURTYARD.
_Page 289._]

[Illustration: MESSINA. ROAD-MAKING IN THE AMERICAN VILLAGE. _Page
305._]

furniture from Rome. See the nice little desks, the little chairs. Here
are the copy-books. This belongs to the son of that woman you talked
with, a fair hand for a nine-year-old, _non è vero_?”

He showed me the text-books, the maps, the teacher’s records, the sum in
subtraction on the blackboard, the prancing horse a clever scholar had
drawn below it.

“It’s one of the best equipped village schools I ever saw,” I exclaimed.

He glowed with pleasure--he loved the Villaggio as a man only loves the
thing he has created. From the wall behind the teacher’s desk, the grave
kind face of the young Queen looked down upon her school. We found J.
still discussing the site of the American quarter with his officer.

“With respect, sir,” said J., “it’s my opinion that this is the best
site--the view is incomparable.”

“Unquestionably true, but the ground slopes; to level it will cost
immense trouble and fatigue. This other land behind here--“

“The trouble will not be counted, sir; for a hospital the higher ground,
the better air, the prospect, surely are important. Her Majesty would,
I feel sure, prefer the site that the Comandante Belknap finds most
desirable--“

Both were earnest, polite, adamantine; but I knew that Captain Belknap’s
site would carry the day!

       *       *       *       *       *

I did not learn till later that my officer was Captain Bignami, an
heroic figure in the drama of Messina. From first to last he was the
staunch friend of the Americans. His name, like Captain Cagni’s at
Reggio, is one that Italy will hear more of; it was never spoken in our
camp without some word of praise.

It seems a poetical justice that sailors should have done so much for
Messina, for it has always been a hospitable port for the ships of all
nations, since the first Phoenician trader crept timidly along the
African coast, made a dash across the straits, and felt his way into the
harbor. It was one of the trysting places for the ships of the world.
The sailors heard of its destruction with a shiver of regret; with a
haunting memory of its lovely shores, splendid with pomegranates, golden
oranges, dark glossy carob trees, silver olives; where the joyous notes
of the tarantella echoed by day, the languid music of the serenade by
night; where the air was cool with the kiss of snowy Etna; sweet with
the perfume of many orange groves.



XI

TAORMINA


It was dark when we arrived at Giardini, a poor fishing village, the
station for Taormina. After the stuffy smoking carriage, the fresh salt
air on the cheek felt like a caress. Ciro, cousin of Gasperone, was
recognized by his white horse, his yellow wheels; he adopted us on
sight, tucked us, hold-all, camera and Gladstone bag, into his minute
cab, sprang to the box, cracked his whip.

“Hotel Timeo?”

The white horse, blind of one eye, bravely began the stiff three-mile
climb. Below us was the beach; we saw the pale tossing of the surf,
heard the waves break with a roar, hiss across the sands, sigh as they
slipped back to the sea. At each turn of the road the lights of the
fishermen’s huts at Giardini shone dimmer, the twinkling lamps of
Taormina brighter; the keen savor of the sea grew fainter, there came a
whiff of mignonette.

[Illustration: MESSINA. AMERICAN QUARTER. _Page 309._]

[Illustration: AN ERUPTION OF MT. ETNA. _Page 318._]

[Illustration: THE ROAD TO TAORMINA. _Page 312._]

“Behold the garden of his Excellency the Duca di Bronté,” Ciro pointed
to a row of white columns, glimmering in the darkness.

Bronté, the name of the old Sicilian Titan, means thunder; a good title
for that modern Titan, Lord Nelson, the great admiral, the friend of
Italy. History repeats itself; his descendant, the present Duke, leader
of the British relief work here, has proved the hereditary friendship.
In 1799 the estate of Maniace and Bronté with the title, Duca di Bronté,
were conferred in perpetuity upon Lord Nelson and his descendants. The
present Duke, the second son of the house, inherited the title because
he devoted his life to the care of this valuable estate, famous for its
vineyards, almond and olive groves. I have heard Marion Crawford tell of
a visit to Maniace, of the picturesque old house, the moat, the Norman
church, the regiment of armed retainers, the feudal state the Duke
maintains. When you meet the Duke in London, he is the Honorable A.
Nelson Hood. Isn’t that a splendid pose? An English “Honorable” is worth
more than a foreign title of Duke. Ah, that’s the grand spirit that
makes England what she is, that makes us what we are today! Later I
found out the history of that garden. The Duke bought the land, meaning
to build a house and make a garden at Taormina. It was found that the
soil was not firm enough; it lay too thinly over the great rock. The
architect could not guarantee that the whole hillside would not come
sliding down into the sea--at least this was the gossip of Taormina. The
Duke, therefore, had to be content with his garden. It is a perpetual
joy to all who pass up the long hill; by day you see its white columns
shining in the sun, its flowers spread like a rich Persian carpet; by
night you catch the glimmer of the pillars, the scent of mignonette.

Hotel Timeo (named for Timæus, the great historian of the place) is a
creature-comfortable house where the guests dress for dinner. Two
fashionable American ladies sat at a table near ours, a family of
Sicilians in deep mourning farther away. At a glance we saw that the
guests were all men and women of the world.

“Quite a contrast to the camp,” said Patsy, as the French waiter brought
our consommé. “Don’t you miss Gasperone, the Africano, the carpenters
sitting below the salt?”

Early next morning nightingales and blackbirds called and called me to
the window. I stepped on the balcony and saw Etna at dawn, clear against
a pearl-gray sky. The mountain rises out of the sea to an enormous
height; it is snow-covered at this season a third of the way down. In
the crystal clearness of early morning the summit was unclouded; the
smoke was blown from the cone like a gray feather.

Two hours later Assunta, the Sicilian beauty, who brought the breakfast
tray with honey, white bread and golden butter, threw wide the shutters.

“The Signora will eat outside? It is the habit of the strangers.”

       *       *       *       *       *

In the South spring comes with one stride, as night in the tropics. It
was here. A jessamine clambered up from the garden, bringing its starry
blossoms, its delicate perfume; a tall lemon tree in full blossom, a
rose tree touched the balcony--I leaned down and picked a blush rose.
Beyond was a feathery mimosa, covered with fine yellow flowers; splendid
savage cactus plants raised their armed spikes like spears; a pergola
was lost under an amethystine rain of wistaria, an arbor hidden by the
harsh glory of bourganvillia; a row of amphoræ, that once held wine or
oil, overflowed with purple heliotrope. On a wall stood a jewelled bird,
the prince of peacocks, sunning himself, his long tail sweeping the
path. Below lay the turquoise sea, the scalloped shore, the long point
of Naxos, tawny sand, rimmed with white foam; in the lovely bay a
fishing boat slipped before the wind. Beyond Naxos the sloping line of
Etna begins, rising grandly from the blue sea; the flanks are covered
with white villages, shining in the sun. Slowly, smoothly, the line
mounts and mounts, broken here and there with little mounds. The color
is smoky blue to the snow-line. Now the smoke, instead of blowing aside,
hangs above the cone in two snowy rings. On the shore glisten the white
houses of Giardini; close at hand is Taormina--the old city wall, the
flame-shaped battlements of the Badia, the clock on the cathedral. The
hum of bees as they delve in the flower-cups, rifling honey for their
hive--honey that Assunta will in turn ravish for some stranger, fills
the air; the ceaseless chirrup of the tree-toads makes a soft alto to
the bees’ treble; the fragrance of the flowers floats up like incense,
that delights yet does not stupefy; every sense is fed on beauty. Is not
this the one perfect hour to which one might say “stay”?

A sense of terror comes after I have watched the cone of Etna for an
hour. Sometimes when the little white puffs of smoke stop, my heart
stands still. While the great monster blows out his rings of smoke, I
feel safe; in those moments of suspended breathing there is terror. It
is as if I were listening to the long breaths of a sleeping giant, who,
when he stops breathing, may awake and destroy me. The tension is over,
he breathes again; his breath goes up in a white feather, like the souls
of dying saints as the Italian primitives painted them, coming out of
the mouth in a white scroll. This is a place of fearsome beauty; to
choose it out of the wide earth for a home, to establish one’s house
here, shows a gambler’s nature. What if that great monster should awake,
pour out his deadly floods of scorching lava on farm, villa, town? Etna
must have counted for much in forming the fiery Sicilian nature. The
Swiss, from looking on the iron calm of their dead snow-capped
mountains, have caught something of their steadfastness. The Sicilian
has before him day and night this splendid savage creature, sleeping now
but sure to wake again, whose sleep means life and safety, whose waking
means death and torture; how can it but affect his character? The very
grapes grown on its flanks make potent inflaming wine; if its fever is
in the blood of the grape, a thousand times more is it in the hot blood
of its men and women.

The earthquake? It is as if the giant had turned over in his bed, shaken
his great shoulders, brought down town and city, destroyed a district,
snapped ancient temple columns like pipestems, crushed cathedral and hut
alike in one awful blood-curdling welter of pain, that has darkened the
earth, made the whole world mourn.

These words--I copy them exactly--were hardly jotted down in my diary,
when I was startled by a violent barking of dogs, a terrified braying of
donkeys, the groan of cattle, then--the earth heaved like the sea, once,
twice, thrice! Next complete silence; for a long moment Nature held her
breath. Men, beasts, tree-toads, were silent; not a leaf stirred, the
very winds were stilled.

The shocks were light; we had felt far worse at Messina, but there we
had expected them.

“There has never been a severe _terramoto_ in Taormina,” said
Alessandro, the porter of the Timeo. “That is why the _forestieri_ have
settled here. The town stands on solid rock and cannot be shaken. There
is nothing to fear.”

Every person I met said the same thing. As the day wore on, the strange
faintness born of the earth tremors passed away, yet during all the
weeks we stayed at Taormina the memory of it lingered. The giant who
sleeps below Etna had but turned in his sleep; if he should awake and
roar at us as he had roared at those others!

We spent much of our first day in the old theatre; Patsy had been there
since dawn.

“The larks were singing when the sun leaped over the Calabrian
mountains,” he said; “with their help and the _custode’s_, I have
reconstructed the theatre as it was in the Greek time, before the Romans
made it over. The stage is better preserved than any I have seen; the
arena is finer at Italica--you remember?”

Italica, Italica by Seville, the song of the bees, the scent of wild
thyme--unforgettable!

“Look at that pretty girl perched up there! She is posing for a picture
of Sappho. Lucky you can’t see the artist, a fellow with a beard and
pipe!”

Yellow blossoming sage, asphodel, mint, lavender, glossy acanthus with
its exquisite leaves, its lilac spikes of flowers, grow in the old
theatre. I gathered a small acanthus leaf, and smoothed it between the
leaves of a book for comfort in the days to come. Do you know why the
Greeks plucked out the very heart of Beauty? Because they lived with
beauty. Their minds were formed, perhaps their very bodies were affected
by the beauty that surrounded the race from its beginning. The lines of
their hills and coasts; the colors of their sea and sky are the most
beautiful on earth. Their eyes were trained by these things, their
imagination roused, their minds exalted. Like Greece, Sicily is noble in
its very foundation. Strip it of trees, of flowers, of grass, the beauty
of its lines remains indestructible.

“Come up to the little museum; it stands where the small temple over the
theatre used to be. There are some good architectural fragments--bits
of mosaics and inscriptions from the theatre, a good torso of Bacchus, a
head of Apollo.”

Patsy introduced the _custode_, one of the characters of the place, who
welcomed us and showed his few treasures with a fine pride. He spoke
Italian with chiseled care.

“To hear him talk, after the _dialetto_, is like listening to Beethoven
after rag-time!” said Patsy. “Do you realize how fortunate we are that
the tourist season is spoiled by the earthquake? We have the theatre and
the _custode_ all to ourselves? It’s too good to be true!”

The _custode_ sold him a green pamphlet, with the story of the theatre
in four languages. The pair of them clambered about, map in hand,
exploring the stage, the cunei, the proscenium, while I sat and tried to
imagine the captives and slaves at work here, hewing this vast theatre,
that could seat forty thousand people, out of the solid rock.

“The next time we want to build a new theatre,” Patsy exclaimed, we
should send the architect to Taormina. The man who planned this
understood theatre building. The Greeks didn’t write about scenery, but
they always put their theatres and temples where they got the best view.
See how simple, how practical, how grand, this must have been! There
went the stairs, leading to the seats of the nobility--look, here’s the
name of one cut in the pavement, Iopeia, supposed to have been a
priestess. She had a good seat at the play. Imagine--she sat here, heard
the Antigone of Sophocles, between the acts looked at Etna! Happy
Iopeia! I hope she deserved all she got. It must have been worth while
to be a stockholder in this concern. Listen to the repertory:
‘Tragedies, devoted to Dionysius, Comedies to Demeter, Satires,
Spectacles, Dances.’ The place was never shut like our theatres; it was
the social centre of the town. When there was no performance going on,
poets and philosophers met and discussed their theories, read aloud
their works; foreign ambassadors were received here. Down below is the
passage leading to the arena, where the wild beasts were driven through.
We don’t want to see that; it belongs to the coarser Romans, to the time
when they had gladiator shows like our prize fights.”

Here a party of English people came upon the scene, the first travelers
we had seen since we left Naples. They were evidently from the white
yacht that lay anchored near Naxos. They scrambled about the theatre for
a little, then went up to the museum.

A tall slight man, in a yachting cap, evidently the host, interested me.
He had the face of an American, the voice and manners of a Britisher.

“Do find out who they are,” I said to Patsy; “I am sure he is somebody.”

“Bother somebodies!” laughed Patsy. “We don’t want to hear about anybody
except Iopeia; and listen to what the _custode_ says--” he read from his
floppy green pamphlet: “‘The theatre was built in the time of
Andromachus. The foundations of most of Taormina’s monuments were laid
under his government, as for example, the theatre, the forum, the
temples, the aqueduct. He brought to this place the good taste and high
culture of the Greeks of Colchis.’”

“The lady with the pretty yellow hair--look at her, Patsy--haven’t we
seen the face before?”

He would not look, would only talk about Timæus, the son of
Andromachus, and what a fine historian he was.

“I am sure it’s a face I know,” I persisted. Nothing would bring Patsy
back to _today_; he was wandering in the golden age of Sicily. The
porter of the Timeo told me about the travelers:

“The Princess Henry of Battenberg. The tall man? Sir Thomas Lipton. They
came on his yacht, the ‘Erin’--there she goes, you can just see her!”
The “Erin” had passed Naxos, headed for the great blue promontory sixty
miles away, Syracuse!

Taormina is a fascinating town, with little Saracenic touches
everywhere. The architecture is of a dozen different styles and epochs,
the prevailing impression that remains is of Sicilian Gothic. Many
façades are inlaid with a pretty diaper pattern of black and white lava
stone. The Palazzo Corvaia has a quaint relief of the creation of Eve,
the Fall, Adam digging and Eve spinning with a distaff.

    “When Adam delved and Eve span,
     Where was then the gentleman?”

Taormina clings like a gray limpet to the gray rock; the town is built
on a narrow crescent, on one side a precipice, on the other

[Illustration: TAORMINA. EXAMPLE OF SICILIAN GOTHIC ARCHITECTURE. _Page
324._]

[Illustration: MT. ETNA FROM TAORMINA. _Page 315._]

[Illustration: TAORMINA. CHOIR STALLS, SAN DOMENICO. _Page 331._]

[Illustration: TAORMINA. FRIAR JOSEPH’S MISSAL. _Page 332._]

an abrupt mountainside. The old Greek theatre stands at one point of the
crescent, the Dominican convent at the other. The two face each other;
between them runs the main street, perhaps a mile long. In the people we
meet, there is the same bewildering contrast of types as in the
architecture. Ciro is a Greek; his profile is classic as the head of
Apollo on a coin fresh from the mint of Taormina; Assunta is a Roman,
coarser, heavier, but with a certain force that has its charm.

We gravitated naturally to the cathedral of San Nicolò, pausing outside
to look at the fountain surmounted by the oddest figure of a Minotaur,
with the head of a man and the body of a bull. The fore legs are
missing; the quaint emblem balances perilously on its hind legs. The old
name of Taormina was Mount Taurus, so called because the two points of
the hill on which it stands, from a distance, look like the horns of a
bull. Later it was called Tauromenium, the abiding place of the bull.
One of the architectural details that delighted us was a sort of
Saracenic rose window, repeated over the main door of several of the
churches.

We entered the cathedral by an enchanting door, encircled by a vine,
covered with bunches of grapes, boldly carved in stone; the vine springs
from a classic vase on either side the portal. Later we found this same
design in other Sicilian churches. There are several at Palermo, none,
however, that compare with the grape-vine at Taormina.

An old dame, who had loitered in the offing, hobbled ahead to lift the
leathern curtain and earn her two sous. She was bent, wrinkled, wise
looking. Of course Patsy annexed her; for him the people, no matter how
dirty or dull, are always of greater interest than the place.

Before the high altar stood a carved, gilded wooden statue of San
Pancrazio, the African, dressed in his best robes, wearing his finest
jewels, mitre and gloves. He was mounted on a paso (platform), like
those we saw at Seville in the Easter processions. Opposite stood a
similar figure of San Pietro. As we were looking at them, Ciro tracked
us down--when he had no fare he haunted Patsy’s footsteps. He said a
sharp word in _dialetto_ to the old woman--something equivalent to
“hands off”--we were his legitimate _forestieri_; had not Gasperone
recommended us to him?

“San Pancrazio--_molto bello_.”

“When it comes to beauty,” said Patsy, “don’t you prefer Ciro’s style?”

Ciro, warm with running, his young face glowing, his eyes like gems, was
certainly handsomer than the poor old bedizened negro saint.

“It is the _festa_ of San Pancrazio perhaps?” I asked, puzzled to
account for his presence before the altar.

“No. After the earthquake San Pancrazio was brought here, and for the
moment remains,” said Ciro. “Some people say, how do I know if it is
true, that he caused the earthquake? He has great powers, he protects
against dangers of land and sea. Lately, for one reason or another, he
has been neglected--it is true, when I was a child they made far more of
his _festa_ than now.”

“Maria Santa is my witness,” cried the woman passionately, “that for two
years next to nothing has been spent for the patron’s _festa_! There
were warnings: an old crone appeared to a _contadino_ and, waving her
stick, cried three times, _acqua, acqua, acqua leggiera_, then she
disappeared in the clouds. The _contadino_ from that day was seen no
more. Behold! three weeks before the earthquake, the _acqua leggiera_
came--it was a cloudburst, bad enough but nothing to what came after--if
we had only taken warning!”

She wiped the saint’s foot with her apron, kissed it, and wiped again as
good manners demand.

       *       *       *       *       *

“Behold! here is money for two candles; let me see you light them.”
Patsy gave her a franc.

“May you be blessed, by Santissima Maria, by all the saints, by the
Apostles! The ignorant say that San Pancrazio and San Pietro were
brothers--a madness! Saint Peter was a Sicilian, white as the blessed
Lord himself. San Pancrazio was a Moor, with a black skin as you see.
The truth is, their mothers were sisters and they were cousins. The
morning of the _terramoto_ we carried San Pancrazio to the Piazza
outside there and showed him to the sea. It was a terrible sight! The
water had been drawn back one hundred metres; we saw all the rocks at
the bottom, the great fish leaping in the air. After a moment a big wave
came high, high, and remained on the shore. It broke the boats, tore
the nets; one fisherman was drowned. When the wave saw San Pancrazio,
_poco à poco_, it went back to its place.”

“It was pitch-dark,” murmured Patsy, “nobody saw anything.”

“Enough, enough, nonna,” Ciro interrupted, “the signori are in haste! To
San Domenico now? I will call the _custode_, he is my friend.”

“What does that strip of black cloth nailed across the shutter signify?”
Patsy asked, as we walked towards San Domenico.

“Mourning,” Ciro explained. “Wherever you see it, you may know that in
the house dwell refugees, or people who have lost relations in the
earthquake.”

Every third house in Taormina had this mourning badge.

Waiting outside the church of San Domenico, were two gentlemen from
Turin, a large urbane man, and a slight taciturn person who never spoke.
Patsy, who apparently knew them, began asking questions about the
church.

“I have not yet seen it,” said the urbane man, “but I hear it is the
best in Taormina--“

San Domenico is a fine old church with a soft cracked bell; we liked it
far better than the cathedral. The _custode_, unfortunately, was a
layman; he knew his lesson well, however.

“This,” he said, pointing to a curious picture, “is San Domenico.
Observe the _manta_, real silver, and the chasing--ah! there is but one
finer, the _manta_ of the Madonna at the Matrice in Messina.”

The saint’s head, painted on wood or canvas, was set into the _manta_, a
square of wrought silver, very Spanish in feeling, that filled the
entire frame.

On a quaint old tomb a warrior in armor, a crusader from his crossed
legs, lies uneasily on his side. His name was Giovanni Corvaia; he built
the palace of that name.

“Come see the organ,” said Patsy, “it’s like Saint Cecilia’s in the
Domenichino picture.”

The organ stands in a damp side chapel. It is of wood, painted a soft
green, with gilded pipes and ornaments.

“_Molto antico_, four hundred years old and still in use,” the _custode_
declared. “Will one of the gentry be pleased to play? I will blow the
bellows.”

The urbane Torinese took his seat at the organ; the _custode_ raised the
lid of the keyboard. There was but one bank of yellow ivory keys, much
worn by pious fingers.

“Four octaves,” said the Torinese; he measured the notes with a
musician’s hand, then began to play an air from Pagliacci. The organ’s
voice, like an old artist’s, was still sweet and true, though uncertain
and tremulous. As he played the Torinese talked over his shoulder:

“You know this air--yes? and this? You like our Italian composers? Tell
me where you will find their match! Mascagni, Leoncavallo, Puccini,
Boito--for me his Mefistofile is the noblest of modern operas.”

“Come!” cried Patsy, the concert over, “I have found two portraits of a
jolly old monk, who spent his whole life beautifying this church. First,
look at his work. This pulpit, these choir stalls--aren’t they lovely?”

When we had admired the richly carved pulpit and choir, Patsy took us to
the sacristy, where the carving is even finer than in the church. The
figure of San Domenico asleep on the ground, the roster of the order he
founded, growing like a genealogical tree out of his side, is charming.
The figures of saints and martyrs, some of them full of dignity and
beauty, are held up by pairs of chubby children, playing on pipes and
cymbals; meant for _angelini_, they look far more like _amorini_. The
wood-carving, evidently by the same hand throughout, rises to heights in
the figure of Christ in the sacristy and Saint Michael in the choir.

“_Un capo lavoro!_” cried the Torinese. “It has been shockingly
neglected though; I must write to the Prince about it!”

The monk could illuminate a missal as well as carve a choir; the
_custode_ assured us that the handsome parchment music-book in the choir
was the work of the same monk.

“Here’s the old fellow’s signature to his magnum opus,” said Patsy,
“carved on a panel of the choir: _Hoc opus fieri fecit ad deis_, etc.,
etc. _Fr. Joseph Alermo, 1602._ The frate’s Latin is queer, but we know
what he means. Here he is young, there he is old, painted by himself.
Wood-carver, illuminator, portrait-painter, well done, Fra Joseph!”

In a room leading to the sacristy hang the monk of Taormina’s two
portraits of himself. The first shows a jovial full-blooded man in the
Dominican habit, holding a skull in his hand; below are the words:
_Junior fui et fecit illum._ The older portrait is much defaced; the
motto in Fra Joseph’s queer Latin remains clear: _Eterni servi et feci
istud._

“That was a man with good red blood in his veins,” said Patsy. “We have
all fallen under his spell! That’s because what he did, he did with all
his might. Joseph--could he have been English?”

“I believe he was German,” said the Torinese. “He must have passed his
life in Taormina though, to live in this place of unparalleled beauty,
to enjoy an existence devoted to art and religion--_beato lui_!”

As we left the San Domenico, Patsy and the Torinese had some discussion
about paying the _custode_.

“It’s my turn,” I heard Patsy say. “You paid last night.”

“You are Americans?” the Torinese asked.

“Yes.”

“Let me do so little for the people who are doing so much for Sicily. If
you come to my city, do me the favor to call--I have not a card, alas!
May I write my name on yours?” Patsy had no card. I produced one of
J.’s, and the Torinese wrote his name and address on the back.

Those days at Taormina slipped by as a chaplet of odd and even pearls
slips between the fingers. Now and then it poured, and we would come
home drenched to the skin, glad for once of the steam-heater to dry our
wet garments. Those rainy days were the uneven pearls; the others were
each rounded from dawn to dark to a sphere of perfect beauty. Whether
Etna was all visible, or all hidden, or half revealed, we always felt
the great presence, were never for one moment out of its influence.

“Hullo! this must be Mr. Wood’s studio,” said Patsy, pointing to a
picturesque sign, “why not go in?”

Mr. Wood lives in a dignified old palazzo. We were made welcome, and
spent a delightful afternoon, poring over a portfolio of water-colors;
pictures of Etna in its countless moods, at every hour of the day, from
a hundred points of view.

“No work since the earthquake,” sighed the painter.

“That’s not what they say at camp.”

“Well, no work of my own; there has been too much to do!”

As we were having tea, Mr. Bowdoin happened in; later, several English
and American Taorminians dropped in. This was one of the colony’s social
centres.

“All of us here,” said Mr. Wood, “had a narrow escape. We had arranged
to go to Messina on the 27th of December, spend the night and hear
Madame Butterfly. At the last minute the manager changed the opera to
Aida; we had all heard Aida so often that we gave up going. The hotel
where we would have stayed was destroyed; all the opera singers
perished!”

We tried to talk of other things, a dozen subjects were started--in
vain, it was impossible to get away from that all-absorbing topic, the
earthquake. One and another told their experiences, letters were read,
extracts from journals. With our new friends, we lived over again those
dreadful days, when we in Rome were torn with anxiety about them,
because no word came from Taormina.

“The Sicilians are a strange race,” said one; “they talk loud over
nothing; when something really hurts, they burn dumb; at heart they are
a melancholy people. Here at Taormina they had a bad earthquake, a bad
tidal wave. In the beginning the poor were dazed, but the first clothing
distributed was collected by a Sicilian woman, who performed an act
extraordinary among people so Oriental as the Sicilians still are. She
went from house to house, at the tail of a cart, gathering clothing.
This lady does not leave her house alone twice a month; Sicilian women,
even by daylight, mostly go out in twos and threes. Her house was turned
into a factory for cutting out and making clothes and mattresses. The
money I was able to get together for her, bought an incredible number of
mattresses--incredible except for the fact that she and the women of
Taormina made them up themselves. A sister of this woman went about the
village, asking for helpers to go down with her to meet the trains. At
first Sicilian men and two English women went with her. Later the
_forestieri_ waked up and with their greater command of money of course
accomplished much more--the work of the foreign colony here has been
splendid; but it was not the foreign colony that started the work; the
impulse was Sicilian.”

“I see you like the Sicilians,” I said.

“I love them,” said my new friend. “Give them three words of _dialetto_,
and you will see; there are no warmer hearts in the world.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Though we never saw Miss Hill, we heard of her everywhere. She had
provided the necessary sewing for our camp; she had defended carloads of
lumber destined for a wretched hamlet, that had been seized by the
people in a larger and less needy village, One morning, when it was too
wet to be out of doors, we went to see Miss Hill’s school of needlework.
The names of the streets we passed through delighted Patsy,--the
Lane-behind-the-nut-tree, the Alley-behind-the-Cathedral. In a pleasant
workroom a bevy of girls sat at work, learning to make the lovely
Sicilian drawn-work and embroidery. Before Miss Hill started her school,
these industries were among the lost arts.

“The shops are full of our patterns,” said the manageress tartly. “They
learn them here and then go away and make them for any one who will pay
them!”

“That’s the test of the school’s usefulness, isn’t it?” I asked.
Impossible to resist the lovely Sicilian embroideries and drawn-thread
work, Patsy and I bought all we could afford.

Taormina is like Cornish, the chief personage in the place is the
mountain. There is much rivalry among the colonists as to who has the
best view. You go to make a visit, first of all you must make your
respects to the mountain. I thought of dear blue Ascutney, whenever I
was asked to pronounce for or against each new view of Etna, from hotel
terrace or friendly garden. One of the best was from the old house on
the Corso, where we went one afternoon to tea, with Dr. and Mrs. Paton.
The stemma over the door bears the column of the Colonnas, the lily of
the Farnese; these familiar emblems of two famous old Roman families
made us feel at home at once. We had arrived punctually on the minute of
half past four; so had the prince of peacocks. Walking sedately to the
side of his mistress, he fed daintily from her hand, his jewelled neck
shining in the sun, the splendor of his fan unfolded.

I had read Dr. Norris’s letters from Taormina in those early days, when
he and Mrs. Norris were among the most active relief workers. We picked
up the threads and I listened to the story of this and that family these
dear people had succored. They had invited to meet me a Sicilian lady,
who had escaped, almost miraculously, from Messina, a fine energetic
young woman, half Italian, half German by birth. She gave me a firm
grasp of the hand, and was able and willing to talk with me about her
own experience.

She had waked at the first shock, put a pillow over her face to protect
it from falling plaster, held firm to the sides of her bed, and the next
minute found herself in the street, perfectly safe, without a
scratch--her room had been in the fourth story! All her family, except
one sister in Switzerland, were killed--parents, brothers, sisters;
their bodies were still buried in the ruins. The sister in Switzerland
had gone mad with grief.

This girl believes that the loss was harder on her sister than it had
been on herself.

Dr. Norris said that the sentiments of many of the survivors were
paralyzed; that everybody being in more or less the same case of having
lost all their friends, they accepted it as a matter of course. It
seemed part of the natural order, and easier to bear than if they alone
had been singled out to bear a crushing blow. Some sense also of having
been among those preserved, it often seemed miraculously, stayed them.
The people who had been buried alive for three days, however, do not
recover; they have a fixed look of horror. That side I cannot bear to
dwell on,--the dreadful number of lingering deaths!

Some of the cultivated people we met, who have lost every one belonging
to them, showed a calm, a manner of putting it all behind them that is
admirable. The grief for one person, greatly loved in a family, casts a
greater and longer shadow apparently than these awful catastrophes. It
seems also that nothing that happens to any one else can affect us as
much as what happens to ourselves. Those people who have looked death in
the face and escaped seem, almost against their volition, to bloom out
and to rejoice in life itself, even though they seem to have lost
everything that makes life dear. I must confess that I felt this with
the people who had come into property by the death of all their
families, and not with those who had lost everything. I suppose this is
perfectly human and natural.

Our last day at Taormina we had tea in the enchanted garden, with some
of our Sicilian friends.

In an upper room of the Timeo, Tetrazzini was singing (through the
Victor) the great aria from Mignon; when it was finished, Caruso sang
his song from l’Africaine.

“To hear the Etna among tenors, while we are looking at Mt. Etna,” said
Patsy, “gives one a faint idea of what the old Taorminians enjoyed in
their theatre!” The music over, we sat talking with our friends. One of
the men, a professor, lassoed and caught round the neck a little green
lizard; very soon the pretty creature was quite tame.

“Be thou quiet or I shall hurt thee, little one!” said the Professor, as
he cut the lasso, and the lizard ran away with a necklace round his
throat. The talk ranged wide, of books, operas, artists, everything but
what was at hand. Finally the Professor held up a warning finger:

“Listen, the nightingale! He never says the same thing twice--while
we--” he shrugged his shoulders, picked a scarlet poppy and stuck it in
his coat.

       *       *       *       *       *

“That’s Luigi,” said Patsy, as we waited for the Syracuse train on the
platform at Giardini, “that beautiful old fellow with the white beard!
Bonanno told me about him. He was driven quite mad by the
earthquake--benevolently mad, he’s perfectly good-natured. His mind is
destroyed, as far as today is concerned. What’s left alive is the most
interesting thing of his life--he was one of the ‘Mille;’ he sailed from
here with Garibaldi for Calabria in 1860, nearly fifty years ago--he
must have been a mere boy then, can’t be so very old now--looks hard as
nails. The arrival of a train seems to be his link with the past. He
meets them all, and marches up and down the platform, singing patriotic
songs. He doesn’t beg; I tried to give him something the other day, and
he would not take it.”

As the engine slowed down, the old fisherman drew himself up to his
great height and saluted. A fine man, with something very Spanish in his
bearing, he must have had a drop of Castilian blood in his veins. His
skin was tanned as leather, his eyes blue as the sea, his hair and
beard of virile silver. As the guard blew the whistle, Luigi threw up
his right hand, waved it gallantly over his head, charged across the
platform, with the old cry of the Hunters of the Alps:

“_Italia e Vittorio Emanuele!_”

In the railroad carriage the people laughed. Patsy looked back at the
old fisherman with that odd brightening of the eye, that in a woman ends
in tears.

Down at Naxos burned a brushwood fire. The thin column of smoke mounted
high in the breathless air. Here stood the altar to Apollo, where the
Greek mariners, before they sailed back to Hellas, lighted a sacrificial
fire.



XII

SYRACUSE


The only sounds in the quarry came from over our heads; first there was
a soft rushing of wings, as a flock of birds alighted in the tree-tops,
then the confused twittering of their voices as they chattered busily
together; a bevy of quail had halted to rest on its flight from Africa
to Europe. We listened to their plans for the next stage of the journey;
orders were given, questions asked, signs and counter-signs exchanged.
Then came another soft whirring noise, the sky was darkened by the
shadow of wings, the air filled with sounds of flight--the aerial army
was gone. We were alone again in that place of agony, “the Gethsemane of
a nation,” the quarry where nine thousand Athenian captives languished
and perished in their prison grave. Alone? no! Shadows of the broken
remnant of that great army, that came to Syracuse to conquer and to
crush and was itself crushed out of existence, crowd about us. We feel
their presence, as we felt the birds’, even though we cannot see them.
Here in the Latomia dei Capuccini, a hundred feet below the surface of
the earth, the bitterness of that defeat is tasted again. The place that
heard the groans of those sorrowing and dying men still claims its
tribute of tears, and will while the imperishable spirit of Hellas
rules, while from generation to generation one Grecian lives to repeat
the dreadful story of Thucydides.

No defeat was ever so unexpected. The Athenians, led away by the
eloquence of their evil genius, Alcibiades--he was then thirty-five
years old--the wittiest, bravest, handsomest, most worthless of men, had
gone mad over their anticipated victory. They would become masters of
Syracuse and the other Greek cities of Sicily; when Trinacria was
conquered, Athens would take Italy, Carthage, the western islands of the
Mediterranean. So Athens dreamt of the empire that, five centuries
later, Rome built. In 415 B.C. the Athenians began the war with Syracuse
that ended in such terrible destruction, and led to the downfall of
Athens. The Athenians were at first successful; they built a double wall
around Syracuse, they seemed on the point of reducing the city, when
something happened. Some say the total eclipse of the moon frightened
Nicias, the vacillating Athenian General; others that the Athenians were
made prisoners between their own lines of defence by reinforcements from
perfidious Sparta, at the moment when the Athenian ships under
Demosthenes were cut off by sea. The overthrow was so complete that not
a ship escaped, not one man went back to Greece to tell the tale. Nicias
and Demosthenes happily committed suicide; those others were left to rot
and die in that living tomb, where for ten weeks long the dead and the
living lay together. Months after a traveling merchant told the story of
the disaster to a barber in Piraeus, supposing all Greece knew it.

The glaring stone quarry, where the Athenian captives were exposed to
the burning sun by day, the bitter cold at night, while the gaily
dressed Syracusan ladies, scent bottle in hand, peeped over the
parapets, watching their agony curiously, is now a place of
extraordinary beauty. We climbed down a flight of a hundred stairs to
reach this subterranean garden, a solemn and romantic spot. The
primrose colored walls of the old quarry are hung with a splendid
tapestry, knotted ivy, and long trailing creepers of _madre selva_,
clematis, the mother of the wood. Here and there, from some cranny in
the dazzling limestone, a fig tree thrusts its strong green leaves up to
the sun, the flame of the pomegranate glows beside the gold of oranges
and lemons, long lines of lilies stand waiting to bloom for Easter. In
the midst of this sunken garden of delight stand the busts of two great
men the Syracusans of today delight to honor, Archimedes of Syracuse and
Mazzini of Genoa.

“Amerigo, behold! thy compatriots! _Piano_, _piano_, so; that was a good
_riverenza_!”

The father of Amerigo (porter at our hotel), a smart fellow dark as a
Moor, patted his son, as the child, tugging at his scarlet cap, made us
a deep bow.

“Americano, yes, born in Nuova Yorka! I was butler to a great
family--they paid me sixty _scudi_ a month--go back? oh, yes! We came to
see our parents once more, _ma come si fà_? The schools of Sicilia are
not like those of Nuova Yorka. We go back for the little ones, though I
myself am content here, _è un bel paese_!”

We were the only guests at the Villa Politi, a good inn near the
Latomia. I thought it melancholy to sit at meals alone in the big
dining-room; Patsy argued that we were better able to “reconstruct”
ancient Syracuse in solitude than if surrounded by a lot of interesting
people.

The Greek Theatre gave me my first overwhelming sense of really being in
Magna Grecia; the beauty of the lines of the semicircle, the tiers of
seats rising one above the other; the permanent feeling of the work hewn
from the bed rock, are all extraordinarily impressive. The _custode_, a
serious olive-colored man, was full of serviceable knowledge. As we
listened to his talk, some small creature ran over my foot.

“Have no fear, Signora, that little animal is the friend of man; I owe
him my life. Sitting here alone, I sometimes fall asleep in the sun,
there is danger--“

“Fever?” Patsy interrupted.

“_Ma che_, no fever here, vipers! This one, he runs before the viper and
makes a noise--zzzzz--like that to give warning. If I doze he wakes me,
yes, even if he has to touch my face.”

“You are a Syracusan?” I said.

“I? a Roman! Twelve long years I have served in Siracusa--an exile,
Signora, they have forgotten me! Oh! to see the _cupolone_ once
more--_tira, tira!_” He meant that the cupola of St. Peter’s drew him
back to Rome.

Patsy mentioned Commendatore Boni; the _custode_ was on fire. He begged
us to speak to the great capo at Rome, perhaps we could get him “moved
on?” He himself had a friend, a gentleman of influence, if we would see
him, something might come of it--one never knows.

“We have no influence, we are _forestieri_--” I began.

“_Si capisce_,” said the _custode_, “allow me at least to write the name
of the gentleman.”

We had not a scrap of paper among us; I found a card of J.’s however; on
the back of this the _custode_ wrote the name and address of the
gentleman with influence.

I asked the _custode_ to take us to the Roman amphitheatre.

“_Patienza_,” he said, “what haste? Imagine! in this place the plays of
Euripides were given, here Æschylus recited his own dramas!”

“Euripides again!” cried Patsy pulling out a book. “Listen to this:
‘Among the Athenian captives in the quarry, there were some who could
repeat long passages from Euripides’ plays. These men were favored far
above others; some were even freed for the poet’s sake, and long
afterwards went back and found him and thanked him, branded as they
were, for life and liberty.’”

The _custode_ waited patiently, then took up his thread:

“Over there,” he pointed to the Roman amphitheatre, “the Romans pitted
wild beasts against each other, sometimes against men. A Spanish priest,
a great _personaggio_ in the Church, had the arena excavated--you know
the fanaticism of that people--on account of the Christians martyred
there. The amphitheatre is not interesting--in comparison with the
theatre, one understands.”

“He’s heard students talk,” said Patsy; “he’s all for Greek antiquities,
has a proper scorn for Roman. Don’t you find it lonely here?” This last
to the _custode_, in whose life and character he was already deeply
interested.

“There are diversions,” the _custode_ told him; “in other seasons, many
visitors come; I have talked with almost all the sovereigns of Europe.
The learned too from all over the world--what questions they ask! For
this one I collect the weeds, for that one the butterflies. This year on
account of the disaster, you might say, nobody comes--behold my
companions!” He pointed to a white goat with curled horns cropping the
grass in the old theatre; two beautiful little black kids frisked and
butted each other at her side.

“The animals belong to you?”

“To my son; he has gone to Anapo for fish, also for papyrus; it grows
there as nowhere else; they say the Moros planted it. That goat is a
famous milker,--even after the young ones have fed she gives half a
brocca of milk!”

The ancient Via delle Tombe lies just above the Greek theatre; it led to
the city and must have served as a thoroughfare for the living as well
as a burial place for the dead. The road-bed is deeply furrowed with
ruts of ancient chariot wheels. On either side are the tombs, rifled
centuries ago; tombs, street, and theatre are all hewn out of the solid
rock; the race that made them, built as no race builds today, for all
time!

“Behold the depths of these ruts,” said the _custode_, “those narrow
ones were made by the funeral cars.”

“It’s like Pompeii,” said Patsy;--“those old tracks hit harder than all
the rest; they make the place alive as nothing else does.”

“_Ci rivedremo?_” said the _custode_ as we parted. “The Signori will
come again? They should see the sunset from here. The view of Syracuse,
the great harbor, the Ionian sea is famous.”

“O, yes, I shall come back,” said Patsy. “Lonely, poor old chap,” he
continued, as we drove off; “I shall have to make some photographs of
the theatre and the goats.”

       *       *       *       *       *

All of ancient Syracuse is intensely interesting. It is filled with the
great shades of the past; we felt them all about us, just as we had felt
the presence of the birds in the tree-tops over the old quarry. Modern
Syracuse is disappointing; a little provincial town with narrow crooked
streets lighted by electricity. Could this ever have been “the largest
of Greek, the most beautiful of all cities?” The splendid capital of
Dionysius and Hiero, the home of Theocritus? Today Syracuse has shrunken
again to the size

[Illustration: SYRACUSE. FORT EURYELUS. _Page 353._]

[Illustration: SYRACUSE. EXAMPLE OF SICILIAN GOTHIC ARCHITECTURE. _Page
352._]

[Illustration: GIRGENTI. A WINE CART.]

[Illustration: GIRGENTI. A SICILIAN CART.]

of Ortygia, the island where the original Greek settlement was planted.
The five prosperous towns that once surrounded the central city have
disappeared; the magnificent harbor alone remains unchanged; it could
still hold a fleet of battleships.

“Where can we get the best view of Greater Syracuse?” Patsy wondered;
“it must have been very like Greater New York. The central city built on
an island in a magnificent harbor surrounded by five cities and
connected by a bridge to the mainland. You can see the remaining ruins
of the five cities on this map--see here they are, they correspond quite
well to Brooklyn, Hoboken, Jersey City, Staten Island and the Bronx!”

We had fixed Sunday afternoon, our last day, to deliver a letter of
introduction to a lady of Syracuse; our time was so short we could not
risk being tempted with hospitalities! When the hour for the visit
arrived Patsy “begged off!”

“That old Greek fort of Euryelus,” he began, “I didn’t half see it the
other day--the English officer I met in the catacombs says that
Archimedes invented the catapult for its defence. He says it’s still so
solid it could be repaired to stand a siege--an old-fashioned one of
course--like the siege of Troy!”

“_You_ more interested in an old ruin than a new acquaintance?” I cried.
No use, for once Patsy deserted me.

On the way to deliver the letter I stopped at the cathedral, formerly a
Pagan temple. The baroque façade is disappointing. Where are the remains
of the temple, of the costly treasures Verres carried off to Rome, and
got soundly scolded by Cicero for, in consequence? To get back to that
time you must go over step by step what has happened since then. In the
seventh century the temple was turned into a Christian church by Bishop
Zosimus, in the eighth it became a Mohammedan mosque; temple, mosque,
cathedral, it has served its purpose of worship well! When my guide, a
bright-eyed boy, rattled off his lesson, the place immediately grew
interesting. I found the temple’s superb Doric columns--they are
whitewashed now and hard to discover--imbedded in the cathedral walls;
at the sight of them the church vanishes, a splendid temple stands in
its place. Near this deep-fluted column, may have knelt Simaetha, the
deserted girl, imploring help of Artemis to win back false
Delphis--hark, her old cry echoes through the ages:

“Three times do I pour libation, and thrice, my Lady Moon, I speak this:
Be it with a friend he lingers, be it with a leman, may he clean forget
them, as Theseus of old forgot the fair-tressed Ariadne!”

“There will be a baptism,” said the boy, “if the lady cares to see the
font--“

I looked at the curious baptismal font, while the sacristan lighted his
candle in preparation for the rite. The font is a classic vase, resting
on twelve quaint Phoenician-looking lions of green bronze; an
inscription states it was a gift to Zosimus. Who was he? A god, as one
book says, or the Bishop, or a pagan historian, who criticizes Christian
emperors over much? Either way, it was strange to see the ancient vase
used as a baptismal font, to witness the casting out of the old Adam
from a new-born baby by a cross apoplectic archpriest, who so frightened
the infant that it roared horribly as Adam departed.

“You are the son of the _custode_?” I said to my guide, a lad perhaps
eleven years old.

“No, I am the _custode_!”

“And your father, what does he do?”

“Oh, he is a _custode_ too.”

The lady, to whom I had the letter, received me cordially. She lives in
an old palace, with large high rooms, and modern furniture. I pleased
her by saying how much we admired the dark Syracusan type; I did not see
one blonde in Syracuse.

“Your women have superb hair,” I said; “they dress it beautifully.”

“You noticed that? I have seen women without shoes, whose coiffures were
finer than those I saw in Paris. They are extravagant. Imagine! my
washerwoman has her hair dressed; she pays a franc and a half a month to
a hair-dresser--you should see her; her coiffure is almost as good as
mine.”

“That would be difficult; your hair is magnificent.”

“All my own--see, hardly a white hair, just two or three over the
temple. When I was young, it covered me like a cloak, but what can one
expect at sixty?”

“Sixty--it’s not possible!”

“Yes, my _festa_ was a week ago; how old should you have said?”

“Less than forty.”

It was true, she was the youngest person for her age I ever saw. A tall
shy man now came in followed by a brown lupetto dog.

My hostess introduced me. “An American lady--she brings a letter from
the Contessa Q.--she would be welcome without it--we know what the
Americani are doing, Signora. I myself saw the good warm clothes the
American Capitano landed here. O, the Prefetto was glad of those
garments and those medicines--what was the name of the ship, Arturo?”

“There were several; thou referest to the Celtico.”

“What a kind man was that captain--he spoke French like a Frenchman and
the young _biondino_ who kept the lists; _tanto simpatico!_”

It was pleasant to hear of the “Celtic’s” good work in this very foreign
house, of Captain Huse and of Paymaster Jordan ycleped il _biondino_!

“Did I tell thee,” said Arturo, addressing my hostess--he was too shy to
speak directly to me--“that the sailors of the American fleet made up a
purse of sixteen thousand francs for the families of our mariners
smitten by the disaster? It is a fact of piety and comradeship not to be
forgotten.”

“Thou sayest well. Hast thou not a glass of wine, a bit of cake to
offer?”

Poor Arturo, thankful for any excuse to escape, lurched out of the room
followed by the lupetto. He was one of those painfully shy men whose
greatest intimacies are with animals, as dumb as they themselves would
like to be.

“Your husband--” I began.

“No, no, my son!” she interrupted, laughing till the tears came to her
eyes.

“My son, the eldest; not a good son; he has married against my wishes.
Children are nothing but vexations; to be happy one must be childless!”

I tried to change the subject by asking Arturo’s profession.

“He has no profession, no ambitions. His father was in the Legislature,
as was my father. Arturo is satisfied to live in the country, to make
wine, to raise sheep, goats, swine. That is very well, but it is not
enough. He should see the world, pass a winter in Rome; but no, he
thinks only of his vineyards and his sheep, Madonna Santa, his
goats--_my son_!”

Arturo returned, followed by a servant bringing refreshments. He poured
the wine, held the glass to the light, handed it to me with a deep bow:

“Your health!”

“This is exquisite--so light--it’s like some Syracusan wine I had at
Taormina;” I mentioned the name.

“That is not an honest wine,” he was all alive now. “I should not advise
you to take it. This now is pure; be not afraid, it cannot hurt you!”

“It’s hard to get wine in Rome at any decent price nowadays,” I said.

“What do you pay a flask?”

“We are fortunate, we do not pay _forestieri_ prices, we have it from a
friend for two francs--“

“If this suits the Signora, we can make an arrangement to send her a
quantity, direct, not through the hands of an agent--they are all
robbers!”

When I thought I had stayed long enough, I rose to go.

“It is early,” said my hostess, surprised at my haste, though we had
talked for over an hour; there is more time in Syracuse than in some
places.

“My cab has come--“

“The Signora will drive in the Passeggiata Aretusa? Everybody goes there
Sunday afternoon; there is music, it is just the time. Shall I accompany
her?”

“It would be most kind.”

“No, no, a pleasure! Take my keys, Arturo, be sure you give them to none
but me.” She bustled about briskly; in a few minutes was ready for our
drive. “I will show you more people worth looking at in half an hour
than you would see alone in a week.”

Arturo helped us into the cab; as we drove off he bowed with a certain
rustic awkwardness not without its charm; he pleased in spite of his
plainness. He is not fitted for courts or capitals, but just for the
country life he likes; I am sure his flocks flourish, I know his wine is
good; even in Syracuse, mothers are not always the best judges of a
son’s capacity.

In the Passeggiata Aretusa the band was playing Cavalleria Rusticana.
The pleasant

[Illustration: SYRACUSE. CHURCH OF SAN GIOVANNI. _Page 354._]

[Illustration: THEATRE, PALERMO.]

[Illustration: ETRUSCAN SARCOPHAGUS, PALERMO MUSEUM.]

[Illustration: IN THE MUSEUM, PALERMO.]

promenade, facing the harbor front, was crowded with people dressed in
their best. The Syracusans walked up and down in family groups, father
and mother behind, children in front, or sat upon benches in threes,
young girl, young man, and the inevitable chaperon. There were few
carriages, only one with pretensions, an antique barouche lined with
mulberry cloth; coachman and footman wore liveries to match; horses and
harnesses were fresh and handsome, the whole turnout was of the style of
fifty years ago. The scene had a strong Spanish flavor. In Italy you
expect to find the population on a _festa_ afternoon assembled in a
piazza, the proper social center of every Italian community; in Spain
the social center is the alameda, a long shaded promenade with seats and
space for people to pace and talk. In the interval “between the
selections,” we paced slowly up and down. My friend was a person of
distinction; all the best-dressed people bowed very low to her. At one
end of the Passeggiata the crowd was so great that we halted near a
pool, enclosed by an iron railing.

“_Ecco la fontana Aretusa_,” said the lady; she had been so busy bowing
to right and to left, that she had hardly spoken since we entered the
drive. The Fountain of Arethusa! Another of Sicily’s delicious
surprises; in this fairy-land you meet old friends every moment.

Arethusa! At her very name, the opening words of Shelley’s poem ring
through the memory:--

           “Arethusa arose
            From her couch of snows
    In the Acroceraunian mountains;
            From cloud and from crag
            With many a jag,
    Shepherding her bright fountains.”

Arethusa, you remember? the lovely maiden of Elis, who was seen bathing
and pursued by the river god, Alpheus. The maid, appealing to Artemis,
was changed to a fountain, whereupon Alpheus mingled his stream with
hers, and they both sank into the earth, passed under the sea, and rose
again in Ortygia:

            “Like friends once parted,
             Grown single-hearted

           *       *       *       *       *

             Like spirits that lie
             In the azure sky
     When they love, but live no more!”

Would you know how she looks to an artist? The next time you are at the
Metropolitan Museum in New York, look at George Fuller’s lovely picture
of Arethusa, and you will learn.

The fountain rises from an arch in the rock and spreads into a wide
picturesque pool, where papyrus and water lilies grow.

The concert was over, the band put up their instruments, the crowd began
to disperse; it was time to leave the Passeggiata Aretusa. As we drove
back to the lady’s house she pointed out a large building.

“See, they have nearly finished that labor--who knows when it would have
been done if it had not been for the earthquake? The American Mees Davis
had a hand in that.”

“You know Miss Davis?” I asked.

“If I know her? Per Bacco, who does not? I tell you that woman is a
marvel! You have heard what she accomplished after the earthquake, she
and the German Dr. Colmers? We had three thousand of those poor
creatures to feed, house and clothe. Magari! it would have gone hard
without the help of that woman--and what influence, what power she
possessed! She had but to ask, no matter what, it was granted--money,
but thousands of _scudi_; work-rooms, the Sindaco gave her three in the
Palazzo Municipale.”

Miss Davis! That is another story; it has been told elsewhere, will, I
hope, be more fully told by Miss Davis herself. She had come to Sicily
for a vacation, having so overworked herself that the trustees of her
Woman’s Prison at Bedford insisted she should take a few months’ rest.
The day after the earthquake she offered her services for relief work.
Syracuse was fortunate in having a good Prefect, a good Mayor, doubly
fortunate in having two women of power among the volunteers--Miss Davis
and the Marchesa di Rudini, daughter of Mr. Labouchere, the editor of
Truth. Miss Davis had with her just six hundred dollars; this she
promptly spent for the relief work. Her first purchase was two hundred
francs’ worth of pocket handkerchiefs. She had besides, what the
American Committee in Rome had, faith unlimited in the heart of America;
that is better than a bank account.

“From the point of view of actual achievement,” writes Mr. Cutting, “and
also of example, Miss Davis’ feat at Syracuse seems to me the most
important single contribution to the problem of rehabilitating the
sufferers from the earthquake.”

This praise was borne out by all we saw and heard at Syracuse.

Miss Davis opened a hospital for the wounded; and work-rooms where all,
who could sew, were employed to make clothes and bedding for the horde
of almost naked refugees the Russian, English, German as well as the
Italian ships brought to slumbrous Syracuse. She was one of the prime
movers in the relief work at Syracuse, that the Duke of Genoa said was
the best organized of all he saw. Each man was set to work at the thing
he could do; the tailors made clothes, the cobblers made boots, the
masons, carpenters and painters were employed to finish a large public
building that stood half completed. So these poor people were enabled
from the first to earn their own living, to escape the dreadful
pauperization that in Rome, and almost everywhere else, confronted them.
There remained the “poor things,” the men who had no skill, no trade;
what work could be invented for them? Miss Davis was now entrusted with
large sums of money, the spending of it was left to her judgment. From
the first she maintained that among the able bodied, only those who
worked could be fed. It would have been far easier to issue rations, or
so much money a day to the _profughi_: those methods did not suit the
“Angel of Mercy.” She looked about her, found the roads in a bad
condition; organized and kept at work a road gang, mending the roads of
Syracuse.

The tributes Miss Davis received are wonderfully touching. A poor
organist from Messina composed a song in her honor, dedicated to the
Tortorella (turtle dove); the Sindaco sent her a diploma of honor,
beautifully engrossed with the coat-of-arms of the city; most precious
of all is the address, signed by a long list of her _profughi_,
addressed to the “_Gentile Miss_,” the sublime “Heroine of Charity,” who
is saluted “in the name of the great heart of Ortygia, the center of the
ancient world!”

       *       *       *       *       *

“After Taormina, Girgenti is the most beautiful place in Sicily,” Patsy
declared.

“Some people say Taormina is the most beautiful place on earth; if you
like to measure--“

“I don’t--I couldn’t--so many places seem best! Wait till you see the
temples though; there’s nothing to compare with them outside Athens.”

We had arrived at the port of Empedocles at sunset, and driven through
the violet dusk up to the town, glowing like a jewelled city on the
heights overlooking river and harbor. I had gone direct to the
comfortable Hotel des Temples, a mile outside Girgente, where again as
at Syracuse we were the only guests. When we met at breakfast, Patsy had
already explored the place.

“We ought to have kept more time for this,” he said; “for us it’s even
more interesting than Syracuse.”

“Girgenti--” I began.

“Call it Acragas, the Greek name, or at least Agrigentum, the Roman,”
Patsy interrupted. “I’ve made friends with the _custode_ of the Temple
of Zeus; he’s like the others, a superior man--here in Sicily they all
seem a cut above the same sort on the mainland.”

Breakfast over, I was hurried to see the Temple of Zeus and Patsy’s new
friend. He welcomed us with effusion and lamented the scarcity of
tourists. Patsy asked him to what nationality the larger part of his
traveling public belonged.

“German,” he said. “I always know them because they walk.”

“They are economical?”

“In part for that reason, also because they see more on foot than
driving.”

“Americans all come in cabs?”

“It is true, but they are mostly ladies. Touching those Germans, before
1870 they traveled very little; now they come in crowds. The Kaiser sets
the fashion; he comes every spring to Syracuse, often to Girgenti. What
a lot of German architects and men of science were here this time last
year! They study, they measure, they make drawings, they return, they
measure again--oh, intelligent! One cannot deny it, if not so
sympathetic as others--Americani for example.”

The Temple of Zeus is a vast ruin; hardly one stone remains standing on
another. The mighty pillars lie where they sank; their bases are still
in place, the drums that composed them have fallen asunder; you can
trace the relation of part to part as they lie forlorn and disjointed
on the earth. A sandstone giant, that once upheld the roof, lies on the
ground; he reminds us of the Colossus at Thebes, even more of the carved
wood colossi that held up the great organ of the old Boston Music Hall.
The Temple of Heracles, near the Temple of Zeus, is no better preserved;
these vast ruins arouse a feeling of sadness and confusion. To what end
were they erected, with such incredible labor, if they were to be so
utterly destroyed? It was futile, discouraging, hopeless!

“There, there!” said Patsy, “that’s the reason I brought you here first.
Now come and see the great glory!”

“Notice one thing more,” said the _custode_, pointing to a bit of
cornice that lay protected from the weather by a large fragment. “You
see this white coating like fine stucco? The six temples of Girgenti
were all built of sandstone, yet they must look like marble. Oh! the
ancients knew some things we have forgotten! White marble was brought
from Greece, ground to a powder, mixed with mastic and spread over the
sandstone; the temples of Girgenti shone white as the Parthenon
itself.”

“I should like to think so,” sighed Patsy; “now they tell us the marble
surface was painted over with blue, red and green decorations.”

“It was a protection as well,” said the _custode_. “See, the stone is
friable; if it had not been for so many centuries covered with this
stucco, it would have been worn away by the sirocco.”

We walked through olive and almond groves to the Temple of Juno,
standing lonely and grand on the edge of a precipice. Lavender
morning-glories, blue iris, yellow daisies, grow about the broad steps.
After the desolate ruins we had seen, this looked, in comparison, almost
a complete building. We climbed the stair to the roof; against the
gray-green of the olives, the emerald of the almond trees, the
flower-gemmed grass, the rich amber color of the colonnade glowed dull
in the sunlight.

“It’s more like Pæstum than anything else,” said Patsy, “only I do not
find the roses of Pæstum that bloom twice in the year. Will a bit of
myrtle do as well?”

The Temple of Concord, even better preserved than the Juno, is the most
admired. The site of the Juno is more picturesque; the staircase to the
roof gives an extraordinary sense of nearness to the time when this was
a living place of worship, not a dead ruin.

At the Cathedral of Girgenti instead of being made much of, we were made
to feel that we were in the way--they were preparing for the services of
Passion Week--no time for _forestieri_, a resolute monk gave us to
understand;--we managed to steal a look at a lovely marble sarcophagus,
with scenes from the tragic story of Hippolytus carved in high relief.
We went to the Museum, a neglected dreamy place with a few real
treasures: an archaic marble statue of Apollo, very lovely, with the
fixed Æginetan smile; a gold belt, three thousand years old, with a
buckle exactly like one I wore.

“The Signori are Americans?” A handsome old man, poring over a big book,
looked up at us, as he asked the question of the attendant. The man
whispered something in his ear; then the old gentleman closed the book
and came to greet us with his faraway smile.

“That grand and majestic country, America, is not egotistical,” he
explained when he had welcomed us to Girgenti. “What vibrant sympathy
it has shown our country! We are egotists, it is the curse of our
people; but I revere America most, for the wondrous new science that has
come from there.” He beckoned us to look at his big book; an Italian
translation of a vulgar work on spiritualism, illustrated with cheap
spirit photographs.

“The last thing I should have expected to find in Agrigentum!” sighed
Patsy.

“You have some knowledge of spiritismo?” said the stranger.

“Oh yes, we know all about it!” Patsy assured him.

“Last night I paced up and down the room for twenty minutes with the
great Sesostris--it was his wish to talk with me, the medium, a
wonderful woman, ascertained.”

“How did Sesostris look?”

“Majestical! He was dressed all in white; though not so tall as I, he
has a noble bearing.”

“What did he say?”

Little that was new, it appeared, though the old gentleman repeated the
conversation, as well as those of Plato and Socrates, with whom he
often talked. While he rambled on, the attendant, a fat perspiring man,
was visibly embarrassed--he too wished to talk about America. As we took
our leave he found his chance.

“Behold, this came from San Francisco,” he pointed to a hideous
porcelain medallion, with a photograph of a man and a woman, hanging
from his buttonhole, “a portrait of my son and his wife, _non c’è
male_?”

“The Signori will return?” said the old man, hovering between us and his
big book. “They will let me be of some service to them?”

We would gladly have returned, our new friend is one of the most learned
archeologists in Sicily; but, alas, he would only speak of
materializations and controls--his book was full of the gross impostures
we used to hear about years ago, before the high-grade mediums of these
later days and their dupes came to the fore.

“Think of the things he could have told us!” groaned Patsy. “What a
wasted opportunity!”

Not far from the Museum we passed a flaring placard with the words:

“At the Theatre of Empedocles will be presented the Cinematograph of
Edison.” Here in ancient Syracuse, the ends of the earth are brought
together--Empedocles and Edison; what a combination!

My last impression of Girgenti is of our visit to a little church--the
name is forgotten--and of Patsy’s chatter about what we saw there.

“This,” he said, as we walked along a dusty road of “splendor-loving
Acragas,” “is the Temple to Demeter and Persephone, though you wouldn’t
know it if I didn’t tell you.”

The little church shows few traces of the ancient temple. Its chief
treasure is a famous crucifix, that hangs against the wall, surrounded
by votive offerings, wax models of hands, feet, breasts and stomachs
(very like those of terra-cotta I saw at the Temple of Juno in Veii),
the most gross things of the kind I have seen in a Christian church.

“A lady who had paralysis of the hands,” said the cripple who served as
cicerone, “promised the Lord, if he would cure her, to pay him this
compliment. Eccelenza, she had faith--_aimé_ if we all had her
faith--she was cured. My grandmother herself saw this thing. Those two
wax arms she hung up in gratitude, they cost a horror; she gave the
_prete_ ten francs as well for the poor. It is a miraculous crucifix,
_davvero_, but to deserve the miracle one must have faith!”

From an olive grove came the sound of a shepherd’s flute; the thin sweet
music of the _pastorale_ was the only sound that broke the noontide
quiet as we sat outside the old temple of Demeter and Persephone,
dreaming!

“It all happened here,” said Patsy. “It was through these very fields
Persephone wandered picking violets when Pluton, king of Hades, sprang
from a dark cave and carried her off to his kingdom underground. Then
came the mother Demeter, in her hands the sceptre, corn, and the mystic
basket, searching for her lost daughter; she lighted Etna for a torch to
show the way; she looked high and low, she asked all she met for news of
her child. Kyane, Persephone’s playmate, alone had met Pluton carrying
off the maid, and because she begged him to set free her friend, Kyane
was turned into a beautiful spring (that very spring where the
_custode’s_ son went for papyrus). The voice of Demeter was heard
calling Persephone, Persephone, through these very fields and meadows.
In vain! Persephone, even if she heard her mother’s voice in the dark
kingdom of the dead, could not return; she had eaten the seed of the
pomegranate, she was the wife of Pluton. There was a great to-do;
Olympus was shaken to its foundations. Demeter refused to attend the
counsel of the gods, she laid a spell upon the land so that it bore no
fruit, no wheat, and was threatened by famine. In the end however the
matter was arranged, the family became reconciled. Zeus gave Sicily to
Persephone, as a wedding gift; the daughter now spends half the year in
her mother’s house, and half in her husband’s.”

So he repeated the lovely old fable-allegory of the seed hidden in the
earth half the year, and half the year alive again. How it echoes in the
thunder of the burial service!

“It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.”

Paul had been at Eleusis; he knew the mysteries, had perhaps seen the
ancient marble bas-relief in the temple there of Demeter laying in the
hand of Triptolemus the precious grains of corn!

[Illustration: PALERMO. VILLA TASCA.]

[Illustration: PALERMO. VILLA D’ORLEANS.]

[Illustration: PALERMO. FOUNTAIN OF THE PRETORIA.]

[Illustration: PALERMO. CHURCH OF SAN GIOVANNI. _Page 393._]



XIII

PALERMO

    “Prima sedes, corona regis, et regni caput.”


As we approached Palermo the pulse of life quickened; at every station
carloads of merchandise awaited transportation, golden oranges, paler
gold citrons, sacks of almonds, casks of wine, vast quantities of
sumach.

At Castel Termini, near the great sulphur mines, stood long freight
trains laden with huge fragments of beautiful yellow sulphur.

“Remember that day the smoke lifted and we got a good look into the
crater of Vesuvius?” said Patsy. “You were very much taken up with the
pale yellow velvet lining of the crater, and wanted to rip it out for an
opera cloak. That brimstone is exactly the same color; I suppose it’s
the same stuff.”

At Acquaviva there were more freight trains loaded with blocks of
sparkling rock salt.

“Salt must be cheaper here than in Rome,” said Patsy. “When I asked your
Agnese for a handful to put in the electric battery, she was horrified
at my extravagance.”

“Agnese buys it by the pound at the tobacconist’s; it costs like gold
dust.”

Here a fat gentleman reared up from his nest of newspapers in the
corner. “Salt is free in Sicily,” he said; “we do not tax it as they do
in Italy. For a few _soldi_ you can buy a _kilo_ of the best, the most
fine. What you see is mineral salt, virgin salt, and comes from a cave
in the top of the mountain; there is none to compare with it!”

“There is no salt tax in Sicily,” said a small neat man who looked an
_avvocato_. “It would be useless; each one would then make his own. You
need only take water from the sea, put it in a pan, set it in the
sun--_via_! the water evaporates, and leaves salt as good as this!”

“Not so good!” roared the fat man, “miserable, inferior salt!” The veins
in his neck swelled with anger.

“Isn’t all salt pretty much alike?” Patsy put in soothingly.

“_Per Bacco_, no! It is all different. The salt from the sea, who knows
what nastiness gets into it? This salt, pure and fresh from the bowels
of the earth, has soda and other valuable minerals mixed with it; there
is no comparison, _me spiego_?” (Do I explain myself?) “Here, go thou,
Teodoro; bring a little bit of salt that these signori may know I speak
the truth!”

Teodoro, a handsome bearded young man in high brown shooting boots, had
just entered the carriage; we had noticed him walking up and down the
platform with a pair of pointers in leash.

“_Va bene._” Teodoro nodded good-naturedly to the fat man, evidently his
father, left the car, and walked leisurely across the tracks to the
freight train, followed by a porter. He touched a cake of shining
crystalline salt too big for one man to carry.

“_Pronto!_” cried the guard, lifting his horn.

“Wait,” roared the angry man, thrusting his head from the window. “_Che
animale!_ don’t you see my son?”

“Break it, _corpo di Bacco_! break it,” laughed Teodoro. The porter
pushed the glittering block of salt from the truck. It crashed on the
pavement broken in two. Teodoro picked up the larger piece, dusted the
splinters from his coat, then without a sign of haste stepped on board.

“They must be great chiefs,” murmured Patsy, as the guard tootled his
horn, and the train crawled out of the station.

“A thousand thanks,” I said to Teodoro, as he put the salt in the net
over our heads.

“It’s too bad to give so much trouble.”

“Nothing--a pleasure!” Teodoro had the nicest laugh, the whitest teeth.
He and Patsy made friends on the spot. They sat chatting gaily by the
further window while the angry father wrangled with the little
_avvocato_, who exasperated him more and more every time he spoke. They
were in the midst of a hot dispute when the angry man broke off to point
out a trolley that runs from the top of the mountain to the station
where the salt is loaded on the trains.

“_Guardi_, Signora, there is the place where this pure, this exquisite
salt is excavated from the entrails of the earth. _Me spiego?_”

We had just reached a white river. Its banks were lined with nespole,
palms, fig trees, gray asphodels, bushes of green carob. From the top of
the mountain one cobweb line of black crossed another; two iron baskets
passed each other on the aerial railway, one ascending empty, the other
descending laden with shining salt.

“What a pleasure to see life, movement, activity after the desolation of
Calabria and Messina!” Patsy exclaimed.

“_Davvero!_ This should be a rich country; our people are hard working,
frugal. We need only a little foreign capital to restore La Sicilia to
her ancient greatness. Crispi[1] saw that--if we only had a few such men
today!”

“I have heard Crispi speak in the Camera--what an orator! Once at Baron
Blanc’s I talked with him,” I murmured.

“As to capital,” said Patsy, “are your taxes favorable to foreign
investors? I met a man last winter from New York representing a
syndicate; he had five millions to invest in Sardinian mines. He looked
into it, found the taxes prohibitive, and left Italy without spending a
cent. All that good money is now invested in the Argentine.”

“Taxes! We do not tax lemons as you do in the United States; on the
contrary in the summer, when they are necessary to the health of the
people, they are sold in our great cities by the Government at less than
cost!”

“Has us there!” said Patsy. “People in New York are paying forty cents a
dozen for lemons while millions of them rot on the trees of Sicily
because--on account of our damnable tariff--it’s not worth while to
gather them!”

We were passing a small forlorn station without stopping.

“Behold!” The angry man pointed to a lemon grove that bordered the
track. “What a beautiful picture!”

The trees were bowed down with the weight of lemons; the ground beneath
was yellow with the precious fruit that would lie there till it had
turned black with decay.

“We have to thank America for that,” said the angry man.

“Say something to that rude person,” I whispered to Patsy.

“There’s nothing to say; he has us on the hip.”

“What does it mean?”

“How can you expect a waif of the universe, just back from the
Argentine, to know the ins and outs? It’s some beastly log rolling. The
lemon-growers in Florida, California,--how do I know what States have
swapped votes with some of the big fellows,--you protect me, I’ll
protect you!”

“Politics, all politics,” roared the father of Teodoro. “_Una
porcheria_, mud, mud! I know; my son here has just been defeated at the
election by an animal! This one gave each voter five francs. ‘Elect me,’
he said; ‘when I am elected, come back; I will give you five francs
more.’ This piggery all comes to us from America. The Signori can tell
us. Is there not bribery and rioting at your elections?”

“As to bribery,” said Patsy, “I suppose that has existed since the
beginning of time. Rioting? The elections go off quietly enough in our
town.”

“Quietly, _per Dio_! Last night I was at the Café Greco when Z., who
writes the articles signed Piff Paff, was there. Tale came in and said
to him: ‘So it is you who please yourself in writing lies about me?’
This one took a chair, that one a bench--pim poom! Mirrors were smashed,
bottles broken, a farce--piggery--_me spiego_?”

“The elections should have been put off,” said the small _avvocato_.
“We in Sicily have enough at this moment without that business; but no,
the politicians care more about keeping their men in than about their
distracted country, desolated, ruined by the most consummate disaster
the world has seen!”

Grudgingly Teodoro’s father agreed; he would have preferred to disagree.
A man of intelligence, feeling, sentiment, not a man of power.

He had a low forehead, dark, angry eyes, a swart color that showed
Saracen descent. All his good qualities--I am sure there were many--were
nullified by his volcanic temper, that without rhyme or reason burst
forth, devastating the hour as an eruption of Etna blasts the lovely
vineyards and olive groves, and turns them into burnt lands that produce
nothing.

In the silence that followed, Teodoro’s gay lilting voice was heard
imparting advice to Patsy.

“For Palermitan dishes? Go to the Ristorante Trinacria, order _pasta con
sarde_, _baccalà à ghiotto_, _melone d’inverno_, _zibibbi_, a _fiasco_
of Vino di Zucco--Ah, behold us arrived at Termini--here is made the
best _pasta_ (macaroni) in Sicilia.”

At Trabia the little _avvocato_ hopped briskly off the train and
returned carefully carrying his bandana handkerchief filled with eggs.

“They cost a horror at Palermo; my wife always asks me this favor,” he
explained, as he stowed away three dozen eggs in his lawyer’s bag.

After Trabia our fellow travelers fell asleep worn out by much
conversation, and we were left to enjoy the marvelous scenery as we
approached the Conca d’Oro, the Golden Shell in whose midst stands
Palermo, the old Panormus--all-haven--of the Greeks. The road runs
between the mountains on the right and the sea on the left,--a narrow
strip of land ’twixt yellow sands and gray-green hills. Now and then we
caught a glimpse of some valley of paradise, with locust and Judas trees
among the groves of oranges and lemons with their “golden lamps in a
green night.” We passed many Saracen water-wheels with irrigating
trenches running through fertile fields. Between the exquisite airy blue
hills that jut out into the sea and the emerald valleys, the way crossed
many _torrenti_, dry stony water-courses descending from the mountains
to the shore. These _torrenti_ (the first we saw was the Torrente Zaera
at Messina) are characteristic of Sicily. For a short time in early
summer, when the snows on Etna and the Madonia mountains are melting,
there is water in them, but for the greater part of the year they are
empty ravines. J. saw them used in turn for roads--he even went through
one in an automobile--for stone quarries, for gravel and sand pits, and
for the washing and drying of clothes.

Sicily, the granary of the Romans, still bears three simultaneous crops
in the neighborhood of Palermo. We saw olive groves planted with grape
vines and wheat,--all three seeming to thrive. The suicidal destruction
of the forests has had the same terrific effect upon Sicily that we saw
in Spain, that we see today in the United States. After the arid, poorly
cultivated regions we had passed through, it was comforting to rest our
eyes on the lovely verdure, that, thanks to the Arabs, still surrounds
Palermo. The innumerable wells, pumping machines, norias, the
astonishing richness of the soil, reminded us at every step of Granada,
the lost paradise of the Moor. Here, in the Conca d’Oro, as in Granada,
the labor of those truly great agriculturalists, the Arabs, still
beautifies and enriches the land they loved.

Looking down upon the Golden Shell from a height, the plain seems
literally paved with the gold of oranges, lemons, mandarins and citrons.
It is one immense continuous fruit grove of the orange tribe, intermixed
with Japanese medlars, mulberries, almonds, figs and olives. The Conca
d’Oro takes its name not only from its extraordinary fertility, but from
its shape. Behind Palermo the airy mountains draw together, the plain
narrows almost to a vanishing point; as it approaches the sea it widens
out into what is variously called a shell or a cornucopia.

Palermo is alive! When still far off we had felt its life pulse
throbbing stronger and stronger; when we were in its midst, we knew this
was the heart of Sicily. We arrived at the Hotel des Palmes in good time
for dinner. The fine dining-room was filled with gaily dressed
Palermitans. After the loneliness of Syracuse and Girgenti it was
pleasant to find ourselves again among people full of the business life.
Even at the Timeo in Taormina, we had been in the shadow of the
disaster; all the Sicilians there were in deepest mourning; the few
foreigners were all connected in one way or another with the earthquake.

At the next table to ours sat General Mazza, his wife and their charming
young son. There was much jesting, and we heard the words _Pesce
d’Aprile_ continually. Across the room at another table sat a pair of
beauties in blue and rose color, the center of attraction. Young Mazza
was called away in the middle of dinner by a message that a lady must
speak to him at the telephone. Looking very important, the boy left the
room. Then the word was passed (all the guests seemed to know each other
well) that this was a _Pesce d’Aprile_. The young fellow returned to
find the pretty girls scoffing, the elders on a broad grin. He blushed
furiously as he sat down at the table again, where the General, his
father, very gorgeous in a handsome uniform, and his vivacious mother
received him with jeers. He made an amusing gesture to his tormentors,
hammering one thumbnail upon the other.

“Hello, it’s the first of April; _Pesce d’Aprile_ is their name for
April fool!” said Patsy.

How good it was to hear their merry laughter, to see these young people
brimming over with the joy of life!

After dinner we sat in the long corridor and, while the Palermitans read
their papers, flirted, drank coffee, and smoked cigarettes, Patsy and I,
like two traveling merchants, took account of our stock of knowledge.

“What do we know about Palermo?”

First of all we know its agony. A city, like a man, is remembered
longest for what it has suffered. Sicily has had three great agonies;
they loom large through the mists of history as the three promontories
of Trinacria loom out through the sea mists to the sailor feeling his
way around the island.

First: The Athenian defeat at Syracuse.

Second: The Sicilian Vespers at Palermo.

Third: The great earthquake at Messina.

The Sicilian Vespers is the name given to that terrible uprising of the
Sicilians in the year 1282, when the people turned against their French
king, Charles of Anjou. The fire of revolt had long smouldered, and it
was blown to a flame on Easter Monday when a French officer named Drouet
grossly insulted a Sicilian woman. Her husband avenged the outrage by
killing the officer. Just as the bells of Santo Spirito, a church of
Palermo, rang for the vesper service, the voice of the angry husband
roused the holiday crowd:

“Now let these Frenchmen die at last!”

The cry echoed through the length and breadth of Sicily, and every
French man, woman, and child in the island was massacred; the insult was
wiped out in seas of blood!

Palermo, or Panormus, never amounted to much in the old Greek time when
Syracuse was mistress of Sicily. It’s so alive now, because, like Rome,
it has lived a long life and is still vigorous. Its greatness really
began when, in the ninth century of our era, the Saracens came, saw, and
conquered the island and made Palermo their capital. First the Saracen,
then the Norman, last the Spaniard, have held and loved Palermo; these
three have ruled her, made her what she is, left their mark upon her. We
have already seen the Moor’s vivifying touch, in the springs that
murmur, the fountains that dance, in the earth still bright with flower
and fruit he planted, rich with the wheat he watered!

The Normans! Their conquest of Sicily is just as remarkable, quite as
romantic as their

[Illustration: PALERMO. TOWER OF THE MARTORANA. _Page 391._]

[Illustration: WATER CARRIERS, TAORMINA.]

[Illustration: PALERMO, CHURCH OF THE MARTORANA. _Page 391._]

[Illustration: PALERMO. CAPELLA PALATINA. _Page 392._]

conquest of England. We know comparatively little about it, because we
have not the same keen interest in what befell Sicily as in all that
happened to mother England, but for their contemporaries there must have
been little to choose between the importance of William the Conqueror
and his strong breed, and those twelve stout sons of old Tancred de
Hauteville who, from the condition of Norman squires of Cotentin, became
in one generation, kings of Sicily, the richest island of the
Mediterranean. The Battle of Hastings took place in 1066; in 1061 Robert
Guiscard, and his brother Roger, the Great Count, sons of old Tancred,
conquered Sicily and made Palermo their capital. What have the Normans
left behind them? A great art: Churches, cloisters, mosaics, tombs,
monuments worthy to stand on the island of the Greek temples, still
reckoned among the wonders of the world.

Our first days in Palermo were mild and cloudy--good sightseeing
weather; on the golden days that followed it would have been hard to
remain indoors, even within such splendid interiors as the cathedral of
Monreale and the church of the Martorana. We went first to the Capella
Palatina in the royal palace, the finest royal chapel in Europe. A
certain stately order, an aristocratic atmosphere, recalled the chapel
royal in Madrid, probably because we were more familiar with that than
any other. The Capella Palatina is far handsomer and as different from
the Madrid chapel as possible. The walls are entirely covered with fine
gold mosaics, the floor with rich marble mosaic, porphyry, serpentine,
Africano, cipolino, verde antique, all our favorite marbles, inlaid and
enlaced in the most entrancing patterns. “All this marble must have come
from the Greek temples and the Roman palaces,” Patsy reminded me.

“Let us enjoy it where it is!”

The beautiful wooden roof covered with Arabic inscriptions is connected
with the walls by a stalactite vaulting like the ceilings of the
Alhambra. The gold mosaics of the walls recalled the mosaics of Ravenna;
this blending of Arabic and Byzantine decorations with Norman
architecture is perfectly harmonious; the result is a unique chapel, one
of the jewels of Sicily, the treasure house. The good smell of incense,
the low voice of a priest in the confessional muttering words of good
counsel to a kneeling penitent, made the place warm, alive, part of
today.

“That’s either a great swell or a great sinner,” whispered Patsy. “No
one else would deserve so much attention from a royal chaplain. I wonder
which it is. Not that it matters much. I once asked the verger of
Salisbury cathedral if people ever came there to pray. ‘I sometimes
catches ’em at it!’ he answered fiercely. That’s the spirit that makes
the English cathedrals seem like so many museums! This chapel has
something of the same defect; that swell or sinner just saves it!”

In Palermo we felt the influence of the Arab everywhere, in the streets
as well as in churches and palaces. The gravity of the people, their
stern flashing eyes, something in their bearing as if they were never
without a sense of what is due them, recalls not only the Arab, but the
Spaniard who has been so much influenced by him. The women of the lower
class have the same magnificent black hair as the Syracusans. Few of
them wear hats; there is some picturesque dressing, but the bright
handkerchiefs worn over the head, and the pretty lace aprons, are the
last trace of the native costume that has practically disappeared from
the city. We saw few beggars. If we asked our way we were always
answered with politeness, ceremony even.

In a shop where we went to buy gloves we found the same indifference of
the seller to the buyer that we noticed in Madrid--a take-it-or-leave-it
spirit--not encouraging to trade.

“These gloves are rather light for traveling,” I said. “Show me some
darker ones.”

“They may soil,” said the dealer truculently; “they will never wear
out.”

“Are they of Sicilian make?”

“They were made in this shop.”

The gloves proved all their maker claimed; indeed they still survive.

“That standoffishness is, I suppose, the result of Sicilian _omertà_!”
said Patsy. “I like these people, though I don’t understand them; you
miss that jolly flash of sympathy the Italian gives you. They’re very
different--Sicilians; they’re not quite Italian, I think!”

We walked in the Corso every afternoon at the fashionable driving hour.
Though the weather was mild the smart people all drove in closed
carriages, sometimes with one window partly open as they do in Madrid.
The carriages were mostly of an antiquated shape much to our liking; a
sort of cross between a landau and a barouche; the coachmen all wore
caps. The finest turnout we saw had blue and red wheels; the lining and
liveries were brown, and coachman and footman wore caps to match with a
gold crown embroidered over the visors. We were standing at the Quattro
Canti, the bull’s-eye of Palermo, where the Corso and the Via Macqueda
cross, when this carriage passed.

“Some one’s bowing to you!” Patsy exclaimed.

I caught a flash of spectacles from the dark interior, the flourish of a
hat, nothing more.

“That,” cried Patsy, “was the father of Teodoro. I told you they were
great chiefs!”

       *       *       *       *       *

We went to Monreale by an electric tram; it cost ten cents to go (the
distance is only five miles) and eight to return. On account, Patsy
“supposed,” of Monreale standing on a high hill, and the fact that it
takes more electricity to pull the car up than to let it down. The
country people in the car were coldly polite to us but they argued
sharply among themselves. As we passed the old city wall we noticed the
washing hung out to dry. All the way to Monreale there was the same
frank display of linen and underclothes. The sheets and table linen,
even outside the poorer houses, were extremely handsome, often trimmed
with beautiful lace. Before going into the cathedral we loitered about
the little town of Monreale.

“May the lady sit here and rest a moment?” Patsy asked a tailor sewing
in the doorway of his shop.

The man gravely motioned me to a chair, then asked a question.

“The Signorino is Americano? Has he ever seen Kicago?” Patsy said he
knew Chicago well.

“I am thinking of going there,” said the tailor. “I have a good little
business, nothing to complain of, all the best people in Monreale wear
my clothes, but there is no great future, no prospect of laying anything
by. My neighbor, Ludovico, has been in Kicago twenty years; he has done
very well. He has merely come back here to wait till his poor father
dies--the old man’s past praying for--then he

[Illustration: MONREALE. _Page 395._]

[Illustration: PALERMO. THE ROYAL PALACE. _Page 392._]

[Illustration: PALERMO. THE CATHEDRAL. _Page 391._]

returns to Kicago. He asks me to go with him. What does the Signorino
advise?”

Over a barber’s shop hung a sign with the words “Tonsorial Artist;” this
evidently was the establishment of Ludovico.

Below lay the Golden Shell. As he sat at his door, the tailor could see
Palermo with its domes and turrets, Monte Pellegrino, a vast blue
mountain rising from the bay on one side, Monte Catalfano on the other.
Behind him rose an amphitheatre of aerial blue mountains; close at hand
towered the grand cathedral of Monreale, that pilgrims cross the world
to visit.

“It depends,” Patsy for once spoke with hesitation, all his cocksureness
gone. “Chicago is a fine city, great opportunities there, but the
climate’s not just what you’re used to here; there are no mountains, no
sea.”

“The matter of climate is important,” said the tailor; he waxed his
thread, doubled it and began to sew a button on the coat he was making.

“As to mountains, what matters it? One cannot eat them! I have ten
children--not an easy thing to fill so many mouths; they eat and they
eat. I do not wish to die in the _albergo dei poveri_! Ludovico is rich!
He has two stores in Kicago. When he was a boy his father could only
earn ten _soldi_ a day; his poor mother could not always give her
children polenta; they must often dine on dandelions and herbs of that
sort! Now, when his parents are old, Ludovico takes good care of them.
His father wrote that he was dying; Ludovico came back to Monreale; that
was two years ago--the old man is still alive. The brother of Ludovico
has a fruit store in Kicago; he takes care of the business, sends him
the rent of the shops,--two hundred _scudi_ a month. I have seen the
money!”

I hurried Patsy away at this point; he was becoming too much interested
in the tailor’s affairs; in another minute he would be writing letters
of introduction to Chicago magnates.

In the sunny space outside the barber’s door sat a silver haired
patriarch wrapped in a shawl--Ludovico’s father.

“The old gaffers wear shawls here,” said Patsy, “as they do in Patras.
These folk seem more like Greeks than Italians; a trifle grouty, but
with a certain fibre, something bold yet reserved, that makes you want
to know them better.”

“Spend the day gossiping with tailors and barbers if you like; I’m for
the cathedral.” I flung off towards the church; Patsy followed
slowly. It is the only way to take him when he’s in that
little-friend-of-all-the-world mood.

The cathedral of Monreale, and the adjacent cloister of the old
Benedictine monastery are the crowning glory of that city of wonders,
Palermo.

The Capella Palatina, the cathedral of Palermo, the Martorano and the
other churches of the city proper hardly prepare one for the
magnificence of this gorgeous church that stands, glowing with the
golden stain of time, on a hill between the Conca d’Oro and its
enfolding mountains. It is the work of Saracen architects, who built for
Norman Kings and Christian prelates, with Byzantine, Italian, Greek,
Arab, and Norman artists and workmen to help them! The result, instead
of being an architectural Babel, is the world’s most truly cosmopolitan
cathedral, one of the most stupendous and glorious of existing
sanctuaries. The cathedral is in the shape of a Latin cross with three
apses. The façade is flanked by two square towers, handsome and imposing
enough; the great beauty of the exterior, however, is the outside of the
choir, at the back of the church. The lovely pattern of inlaid lava
stone in two colors is the fullest, most splendid expression of this
style of decoration we first saw on the façades of the palaces at
Taormina.

The interior--it is a place to pass hours, days, alone. Here set ajar
the door of your soul, let the wind of the ages blow through, as you
have done in the Parthenon at Athens, or the great Egyptian temple of
Karnak. Drink from the cup of beauty, bathe in the well of light and
glory, so shall an echo of that thrill of passionate love for their art
that moved the artists who wrought this gemmed casket of delight vibrate
through your inmost being.

Every inch of wall space is covered by gold Byzantine mosaics with
jewelled pictures representing the whole of Christian history. You may
read here as in a book the great scenes from the Old Testament, the
story of the life and passion of the Saviour, the history of the Virgin,
and of the Apostles. The central figure that dominates the whole
cathedral, that you

[Illustration: MONREALE. REAR OF THE CATHEDRAL. _Page 399._]

[Illustration: MONREALE. THE CATHEDRAL. TOMBS OF WILLIAM I. AND WILLIAM
II. _Page 399._]

[Illustration: PALERMO. MONTE PELLEGRINO. _Page 397._]

[Illustration: MONREALE. FAÇADE OF THE CATHEDRAL. _Page 400._]

must look at first on entering and last on leaving, is the majestic
half-length figure of Christ, over the high altar. The right hand is
raised in the act of blessing; the left holds an open book, with the
words in Greek and Latin: “I am the Light of the World.”

The face is severe in expression and very Oriental in type; it is the
face of the judge rather than the Saviour of mankind, with nothing of
that super-sweetness introduced by the Italian artists of the
Renaissance who produced what we now call the Christ-like type.

In my diary for this day I find three words: “Monreale; past belief!”

Later visits made us familiar with the wonderful massively built church
inlaid with Oriental stones, fretted with Oriental carving. We each
found our favorite pictures in the three different series of mosaics
blazing on the walls--“An open book of history, theology, and ethics for
all men to read.”

For me the quaint Old Testament scenes are the most interesting. Dearest
of all, the story of Noah, the first character in sacred history with
whom I became acquainted. The naïve simplicity with which the story is
told recalls the Noah’s ark dramas of the nursery, with the dear
familiar figures of Noah, Ham, Shem, Japhet, their wives, their animals,
their round green trees made of a shaving and looking like Italian stone
pines. The very smell of those freshly painted animals, the taste of a
certain yellow camel came back to me in the cathedral of Monreale in one
lightning flash of memory. Here they are, the dear companions of
childhood, the consolers of long rainy days, when the children in the
nursery knew exactly how the people in the ark felt on the fortieth day
of the deluge. The building of the ark is a most spirited mosaic
picture; so is the taking on board of the animals. Noah walks with a
horse on one side and a lion, smaller than himself, on the other. The
scene when the dove is first let loose is very fascinating; you feel the
crowding and fatigue of the too large family party in the ark. In the
scene where the dove returns with the olive branch, the sea is depicted
in delightful hummocky waves. Two swimmers, apparently sinners, are
struggling in the water; on the shoulder of one perches a crow,
evidently about to peck out the sinner’s eyes. The scene of the landing
on Mt. Ararat is supremely spirited; the gesture of relief with which
Noah lets the lion go is masterly.

Patsy’s favorite scene is Rebecca giving the camels of Abraham water
from the well. One of the most haunting pictures is the expulsion from
the Garden of Eden of our first parents, dressed in sheepskin. The
cherubim here is lovely, and the vigorous angel driving the unhappy pair
forth with a flaming sword, terrifying.

The death of the Virgin is one of the most primitive and touching of the
whole series. The body of the Virgin lies on a couch surrounded by the
Apostles; Peter leans over her listening to her heart--this simple human
touch makes the whole scene vivid and alive, in spite of its extreme
primitiveness. Beside the bed stands Christ, with Mary’s new fledged
soul dressed in swaddling bands like a new born infant in his hands. As
she received Him into this world, so He receives her into the next. As
this picture is part of the story of the Virgin, she is made the most
prominent figure. The figure of the Son is much smaller than that of his
dead mother on the couch.

In the cloister of Monreale we were again possessed by haunting
memories of Spain. The place is like some supremely beautiful Andalusian
patio. It is surrounded by slender Arabic paired columns, some with
twisted shafts, some inlaid, some of plain alabaster with amazing
fretted capitals, the heads of men and animals carved in the midst of
the foliage of acanthus and palm. The center is cunningly laid out by
some wise gardener, monk or layman. At each corner is a mass of yellow
wall-flowers with alternate clumps of white stocks, purple flags, and
lavender hyacinths. Among the ornamental trees we found one new to
us--the flowering peach. The blossoms are shaped like a red camellia,
with softer, more gracious petals.

“The peaches?” Patsy asked the _guardiano_.

“Small and not at all good to eat,” he made a face; “sour in fact as
unripe grapes. You see that other tree, with the insignificant blossoms?
That bears peaches fit for the King!”

“Look at these violets!” Patsy brought me the largest Parma violets I
ever saw. “This fellow says they begin to bloom in November. Here they
are still going it for all they’re worth in April. One of those chaps in
Taormina gave

[Illustration: MONREALE. INTERIOR OF THE CATHEDRAL. _Page 400._]

[Illustration: MONREALE. THE CLOISTERS. _Page 404._]

[Illustration: MONREALE. BRONZE DOOR OF THE CATHEDRAL. _Page 399_]

[Illustration: MONREALE. THE ARAB FOUNTAIN. _Page 405._]

as the reason he had chosen Sicily as a home, that the violets bloom
longer here than any place he had ever known.”

Overhead the sky was a flawless sapphire vault, broken only in one
corner by a mountain that looked like transparent amethyst. The perfume
of the orange and the lemon blossoms was intoxicating as sweet wine; the
comfortable hum of bees made a low undersong to the music of the magic
fountain in the corner of the cloister. It is not Italian, it is not
Sicilian. What manner of fountain can it be? Listen! Its language is
softer than any now spoken in Trinacria!

“_Allah il Allah!_” The fountain still murmurs the old cry of the
muezzin.

From a large basin rises a high carved shaft of rich topaz colored
marble, supporting a curiously wrought ball with sculptured figures,
foliage, and the alternate heads of men and lions. From their mouths
drips and drips, but never spurts, a slow soft shower of diamond drops.
It is as different from the noisy splurging fountains of Naples, as the
slow soft-spoken tongue of the Arabian sage is different from the
strident scolding of those men on the train, the father of Teodoro and
the little _avvocato_.

“A place of mystery and beauty beyond belief.”

So the record of Monreale ends as it began--“past belief!”

       *       *       *       *       *

“It’s good enough just to be alive today,” Patsy declared one ecstatic
morning; “I’m off for the market and the Marina!”

To reach the Piazza Caraccioli, the market-place, we threaded a maze of
narrow dark alleys full of Rembrandtesque lights and shadows. In the
very heart of this labyrinth stands an old macaroni mill.

“We may enter and see the works?”

“_Benvenuto!_” The voice was less welcoming than the word. “They don’t
make macaroni where the Signorino comes from?”

“Not like yours!” Patsy magicked the peevish proprietor into good humor,
and we were free to enter the dark cavern. Two half naked fellows stood
at a deep trough kneading flour and water to a paste. A pair of barefoot
men, harnessed to a heavy wooden pole that turned a press, trod their
weary round. The paste was put into this press, and came out in long
strips. A fifth youth cut the strips into the proper lengths and hung
them to dry over bamboo canes.

“These might be the serfs of Roger the Norman making _pasta_ for his
army,” said Patsy; “it’s positively mediæval!”

The rude interior was like an ancient cave,--floor, walls, ceiling were
all of stone; the men worked in a dull heavy-hearted way that hurt you.
There was none of the joyous thrill of labor lightly carried; it was a
grievous place.

“The _pasta_ made in America is villainous; I have eaten it,” said the
_capo_. “It is made of wheat flour; bah! Semolina is the only flour fit
to make macaroni for Christians.”

“_Un bicchiere di vino_,” Patsy gave the money to the elder of the men
harnessed to that heavy pole. The fellow threw back his beautiful plume
of hair out of his gray-blue eyes and thanked Patsy awkwardly.

“_Grazie, beviamo a vostro salute._”

The second-hand boot-store next door was a much gayer place than the
mill.

“What can I sell you?” said the jolly proprietor, evidently the buffo of
the quarter. “Riding-boots good as new? Fishermans’ boots? They will
keep you dry to the knee!”

The riding-boots at once dainty and sportsman like, looked
extraordinarily like Teodoro’s; the heavy hobnailed fisherman’s boots
leaned fraternally against them.

“I do not buy today,” laughed Patsy; “perhaps I may sell tomorrow.”

“I will give you better prices than any man in Palermo!”

Where the market-place broadens to its widest, stands a _friggetoria_.

On its marble counter lay a vast copper basin of crisp fried fish that
looked like whitebait.

“What does the Signorino desire?” asked the fishwife, a tall woman with
a superb coiffure and piercing black Saracen eyes. “Scoponi? that is
good to make _zuppa alla marinaia, calamaretti, gamberi_?”

“Which is the scoponi?”

She picked up a big, very handsome blood-red fish, and held it out to
Patsy to show how fresh it was.

Leaving him to deal with the fishwife I passed on to the fruit stall.

It was a bad season, the _fruttaiuola_ said. Here were precious
mandarins and oranges; she held one up.

“Behold; you can see the blood through the skin; they are all like
this.” She showed an orange cut in half, the pulp ruby as a pomegranate.
“Oh, the blood oranges of Palermo are famous, they bring a great price
at Naples.”

I bought a basket like a net; my _fruttaiuola_ filled it with citrons,
lemons, oranges,--adding one of those rare winter melons Teodoro had
recommended. From the market we made our way to the Marina, a beautiful
curving avenue with fine palaces and gardens fronting the sea.

“The Marina at Messina once looked like this,” sighed Patsy.

Beyond the fashionable Marina we came upon a little fishing village. We
peeped into one poor hut; it was filled with fisherman’s tools, fishing
reels, lobster pots, old nets, broken oars. On the sunny outer wall hung
a tiny crate filled with orange parings.

“Every scrap of lemon, orange, or mandarin skin is saved, dried in the
sun, and sold to make candied peel or mandarin liqueur,” Patsy pointed
out. “Teodoro’s father was right. The Sicilian really is economical.
Palermo could live on what spendthrift New York throws away!”

The nets were spread on the sand to dry; the first catch of the day had
been made; two old fishermen were busy weighing the silver fish from the
boat drawn up on the beach. We watched a barchetta come in; she danced
prettily over the water, curtseying to the craft home before her. On her
prow was painted a picture of the Madonna; the big brown sail had a red
cross for luck.

“_Spugni! spugni di Trapani!_” A _gobbo_ with a crate of sponges stopped
to show us his wares.

“Sponges of Trapani!” cried Patsy; “why that Trapani is Drapana, where
the old Anchises died, where pious Aeneas founded the games in his
memory. As we can’t get to Trapani, let’s have one of its sponges!”

He laid in a supply, not yet exhausted. How precious now is every little
thing from Sicily--even the outworn gloves, even the fine pear-shaped
sponge from Trapani.

“Have you noticed the street shrines?” Patsy pointed to a majolica
medallion of Santa Rosalià let into the wall of a house. Two lighted
candles and a mass of fresh violets stood before it.

“I have not seen one neglected shrine in all Palermo; they are better
kept than in any Italian city I know; we might be in Bavaria.”

The busy gay streets of Palermo are filled with familiar names and
escutcheons. Under a fine stone stemma bearing the arms of Charles the
Fifth (the Pillars of Hercules and the enlacing scroll) appear the magic
names of Edison and Singer.

During those first happy days at Palermo, we forgot (or pretended to)
the one absorbing preoccupation of the last three months; behaved, Patsy
said, as if there had never been an earthquake; inevitably we were
brought back to it as children after a holiday must return to school. At
the Quattro Canti we met two sandwich men parading the streets with
flaming signs on their backs.

“_Seconda gita a Messina_, 8 francs!”

Luckless Messina! For eight francs the Palermitans can make a trip to
see the wreck of the proud city once Palermo’s rival!

“Poor devils--to be made a spectacle of!” sighed Patsy. “Still it helps
to have anybody make money! The railroad will get something out of
these special trips; any movement is better than none.”

Outside a large dry-goods shop an immense placard called our attention.

“Bazar Messinesi. Bankrupt stock from Messina, to be sold out below
cost.”

In the Via Marquada, a fine bustling modern street, I found my friend
Palladia the milliner. She welcomed me cordially though I saw she looked
ill and care-worn.

When the serious business of choosing straw, shape, and flowers for a
new hat was over, we spoke of other things.

“How are thy affairs going, Palladia?”

“Badly, Signora. It is a dreadful season. No one buys anything new. See
that mass of old hats my customers have brought me to make over! It is a
miracle the Signora should come today; she can perhaps help me? I have
had an idea. The ladies of Taormina have always served themselves at
Messina (there is no serious milliner at Taormina). Now that the
milliners of Messina are no more,--how if I went to Taormina with hats
for Easter? Mostly mourning hats of course--but a little lighter,
_via_, second mourning for the young ladies at least!”

“What a good notion!”

“If the Signora would give me two lines to one who might assist me?”

Introductions were written on the spot. Palladia, the valorous, had come
from Rome to Palermo, a stranger, with only her old mother to help her,
had set up her shop, and so far had “made good.” Surely she deserved
what help an old customer could afford her!

Next day Patsy, insatiate sightseer, went off to Segesta and Selinus.
Left alone I hunted up our friends Dr. Parlato Hopkins and his wife.
Thanks to them I was translated from a lone traveler’s solitude to a
cordial circle of old and new friends. It all began with the tea-party
in the doctor’s study, where I met Mrs. Bishop, the wife of our Consul
(an old friend), and Canon and Mrs. Skeggs of the English Church.

“What a tempting cake!” one of the party exclaimed, as we drew up to the
table.

“I hope it’s good as it looks;” said Mrs. Parlato Hopkins; “for I made
it.”

“Did I help?” asked the doctor. “Could you have baked that cake if I
had not made the baking powder?”

Voted that it was “both of their cake,” and that the Canon should cut
it. He began by “counting noses.”

“You’re too extravagant,” his wife exclaimed as the Canon cut the first
slice. His triumph came when every one of us asked for a second piece.

“A little marmalade?” urged the doctor; “home-made also. My wife is a
good housewife in spite of being a good doctor.”

“I can recommend that marmalade,” said the Canon’s wife; “the oranges
came from our garden.”

While at table we spoke of joyous things; as the afternoon passed, the
talk waxed serious, laughter ceased, faces grew earnest, voices grave.
This little group of friends, exiles all, living in Palermo, bound
together by a thousand kindnesses, had passed through deep waters. The
faithful almoners of England and America, they too had worked early and
late for the _profughi_. Here, as at Messina, and Syracuse, the most
precious contribution was the moral, not the material aid. Order,
discipline, in that welter of chaos were worth more than money or
stores.

“These poor souls will not go to work while they are being fed, housed,
and clothed by charity,” said the Canon. “When they ask me for work I am
in a quandary. The working people of Palermo are all against
them--naturally; there isn’t enough work to go around!” Exactly what
Ignazio had said.

“Why not colonize?” I proposed. “England would do that. There must be
parts of Italy where prosperous colonies might be founded. I myself have
seen practically deserted villages both in the Abruzzi mountains and in
the Sorrentine peninsula, where whole populations have emigrated to the
Argentine Republic or to the United States.”

“This is not England!” sighed the Canon.

I said to Mrs. Bishop how much I wished to see her husband.

“Another day,” she answered. “He is still very busy with the Petrosino
murder.”

“Petrosino!” Another tragedy--as if Sicily had not had enough that
dreadful year. From one source and another I learned the story of the
murder.

Lieutenant Giuseppe Petrosino, a detective of the New York police force,
came to Palermo to look up the records of some criminals. A curious law,
made in the humane intention of helping reform criminals, is in force in
Italy. By this statute, passed in 1902, a discharged criminal, after a
certain number of years of good behavior, is given certain papers by the
authorities by which it is made to appear that there has never been a
criminal charge against him. With this clean bill of health, he is given
another chance to start life over again in a new country. At the same
time a careful secret record of his case is kept by the authorities.

In the United States we have a law that forbids the emigration into our
country of all criminals, except so called “political” criminals.

The equitable adjustment of the two conflicting statutes has been, and I
believe is still, the subject of grave consideration by both
Governments.

Meanwhile, when it became necessary for our police to gain knowledge of
certain secret criminal records, a request was made of the Italian
police for copies of them. The Italian authorities, on demand, furnished
the American authorities with these copies. So far, so good. There came
a time when some mysterious influence was felt to be at work, due to the
agency of the Mafia, a secret society affiliated with the Camorra, whose
members exist in every class of society. It somehow became known that
copies of the secret records were being called for, and supplied from
various communities all over Sicily. The wheels of justice became
clogged; it was to help set them in motion that Petrosino, with the
approval of the Italian police, came to Palermo.

Two years before, Petrosino had arrested Erricone, the Chief of the
Camorra in New York, and handed the arch criminal over to the
Carabinieri, the royal police force of Italy. From that day every
Cammorista in the world knew that the Camorra had condemned Petrosino to
death. How was it that Petrosino did not know it? That is the most
puzzling phase of the whole affair. Probably the man was too much
absorbed in his work to think about himself at all. He went about
Sicily, where a price was set on his head, unarmed and unafraid.

He registered at his hotel under an assumed name; otherwise he took few
precautions to conceal his identity. His mail came to the general
post-office addressed to his real name. He was careless in a hundred
ways about preserving his incognito. Petrosino was a perfectly fearless
man, though he was often warned; from the first he exposed himself
recklessly. One night on his way home from the Caffè Orete, he was
surprised, set upon from behind, and shot to death in the back.

No one saw the murder; no one could even guess who the murderers were.

“It would have been the same,” it was said, “if the murder had taken
place at high noon at the Quattro Canti, instead of nine o’clock at
night in the empty Piazza Marina; no one would have seen the murder, no
one could have guessed who the murderers were, though the Italian
Government offered a large reward.”

They gave Petrosino a great funeral, with military honors at the expense
of the State. The hearse was draped by the American flag and covered
with beautiful wreaths from the city, the province, the police and the
Department of Justice. Our Consul walked behind it as the first mourner
with Doctor Parlato Hopkins at his side. The procession passed the
Consulate, where Canon and Mrs. Skeggs bore Mrs. Bishop company through
the trying hours.

The streets and balconies were packed with people, a silent
unsympathetic crowd. There was no disorder. The Mafia made no sign. Its
work was done, the man was dead; let them give him all the honors they
cared to pay for. The feeling expressed by those thousands of silent
spectators was indifference. There were many who would not uncover as
the coffin passed.

“He was a spy; he got what he deserved!” said the faces of the silent
Palermitans,--grave, sinewy, fierce-eyed men, dark as Arabs.

       *       *       *       *       *

“Petrosino must have been a very uncommon man, from all you tell me,” I
said; “what did he look like?”

“He was a fine man,” one of the company answered, “so handsome, so
remarkable looking. He had a Napoleonic head.”

“Yes,” said the doctor, “he had indeed.”

“But you never saw him!”

A queer look came into the doctor’s eyes; he did not answer.

“Where could you have seen him?”

“I never saw him alive,” said the doctor, “you forget, I embalmed
Petrosino.”

One of the newspapers had a caricature by Piff Paff of the Prefect of
Palermo with his arm about Mr. Bishop, pointing to a long line of
criminals.

“Here they are, _caro mio_, take your choice of them;” says the Prefect.
The paper was quickly suppressed. I tried in vain to buy a copy.

None of my friends in Palermo by the way had seen or heard of the
profane poem supposed to have been printed in a Messina newspaper,
calling upon the Saviour to prove He could work miracles by sending a
good earthquake. Mr. Bishop never heard the story till he went to Rome.
I asked many people about this; no one had seen it, no one could give
the name of the newspaper in which it was printed.

Agnese and Napoleone both had assured me that the earthquake was sent as
a punishment for the poem. According to Agnese it was written by an
anarchist; Napoleone held that it was by a free mason. I have come to
the conclusion that the whole matter is an entire invention.

At our hotel I made the acquaintance of a lady whose name I never
learned. When I spoke of our Consul she told me what admirable service
he had rendered.

“It was Mr. Bishop’s idea to set the _profughi_ in the different
_ricoveri_ to work,” she said. “At first all the rest of the Committee
were opposed to it. He tried first one, then another; at last he found a
priest, an admirable man, who backed him. I don’t know what they would
have done without him.”

How Griscom’s slogan “We help these people to help themselves!” rings
out. I heard its echo in Palermo, Syracuse, Messina, wherever one of his
staff has been.

Mr. Bishop spoke with the greatest cordiality of the Palermitan
Committee. “They have done fine work,” he said. He mentioned the wife of
General Mazza as one of the most earnest of the leaders.

There were still 7,000 _profughi_ in Palermo at this time. I went with
Canon Skeggs and Dr. Parlato to visit one of the largest _ricoveri_. It
was admirably arranged in a big garden surrounded on three sides by an
arcade like a wide cloister. This had been boarded in, and divided off
into neat little dwellings where the refugees lived in families. They
all had good beds and were fairly well clothed. The Canon had a word for
every one.

To this man he promised employment, to that he gave news of a lost
daughter separated from the rest of the family and traced to a
_ricovero_ in Syracuse. In one room I talked with an elderly woman and
her unmarried daughter, a pretty creature who said she was thirteen and
looked it; her mother claimed that she was sixteen. She was very calm
looking, said she felt perfectly well, but that she was to go to the
lying-in hospital the next day. Poor child, her lover was killed at
Reggio.

I talked with an old woman who had lost every member of her family.

“_Sono troppo impressionata!_” she cried, “_tremo sempre!_”

She showed a tiny empty snuff-box.

“I have not a _soldo_ to buy snuff!”

“Here are two _soldi_,” said Dr. Parlato, “cheer up, mother, we will
find some of your people yet; you promised you would not cry, if I kept
you in snuff!”

A brave smart looking woman sewing on a Singer sewing machine told us
proudly that she was paid for her work by the day; the others were so
lazy they were paid by the piece.

The Director, an able excellent man, told us his _profughi_ were now
earning money by making clothes for the prisons, but that the future of
the poor people under his charge was a grave problem. The central
committee had agreed to send him 300,000 _lire_ more. “After that, there
will be no more! What will become of them?”

I talked with a shop-keeper of Messina, one of the few _profughi_ I met
who wished to go back.

“So you wish to return to Messina?”

“Why not? It is the mother land; I cannot live in any other. I am not so
fortunate as some; after three months I am still idle, who would so
gladly work. If the money subscribed were given out pro rata, so much a
head, say one thousand francs apiece, a family of five, like mine, by
putting their money together could have a little capital to begin with.
The Government makes a mistake to spend so much money in building
houses; it was not given with that scope, but to feed, clothe, and
start again in life such of us unfortunates as escaped! If I were the
Prefetto I would call in some great firm from England, America, Russia,
and make a contract with them to excavate Messina. If it were let out to
some great contractors, responsible people who could bring the machinery
necessary, Messina might be excavated in six months, or at most in a
year!”

How easy it is to criticize, how hard it is to do!

My last morning in Palermo was spent at the Canon’s house. The parsonage
is close by the charming Gothic church, largely maintained by the
Whittakers, an English family long resident in Palermo. The parsonage
had been turned into a store-house.

“I have very little left now,” said Mrs. Skeggs. “Here are some nice
woolen skirts from England. A friend who owns a large woolen mill gave
the flannel, the mill operatives, women who had worked all day, put in
extra time, sat up at night to make these garments for us! We have had
some American contributions too from Rome. Such good stuff in all the
clothes they sent. And their admirable little work-bags, each holding
good scissors, thimble, needles, thread, buttons, hooks and eyes. I have
only one left.”

I asked if she had succeeded in getting employment for her refugees. She
could find plenty of good situations for the young women as servants
among responsible people, but the girls’ parents would not let them take
positions for fear of their coming to harm.

The parsonage hall was full of _profughi_. One had come for a bed, one
for a blanket, one for a dress. The Canon had promised to show me the
church. As he led the way there, his wife came after him to ask a last
question.

“May I give Ginocchio a small bed?”

“What has he had?” asked the Canon.

“Oh, a great deal; but he has nine children, and they only have two beds
between them all.”

“Then let him have it!”

The good earnest face of the Canon’s wife, frowning slightly with
perplexity, looking out of the parsonage door, as the Canon and I
hurried off through the pretty garden to the English church, is the last
picture of Palermo that remains! The garden was full of English
flowers, blooming luxuriantly side by side with those famous orange
trees whose blossoms perfumed the air.

    “Blue sky arching o’er me,
     Keen winds piercing through me,
     Waves lapping my feet--
     White clouds sailing swiftly,
     Bright sun laughing roundly--
     O, Earth, thou art sweet.”
              (HELEN LEE.)



XIV

MR. ROOSEVELT AT MESSINA


Tuesday, the sixth of April, six weeks after work began at the American
camp, the German East African steamer “Admiral,” having on board Mr.
Roosevelt, Mr. Griscom and Captain Belknap, entered the harbor of
Messina. More than a month before, on the fourth of March, Mr.
Roosevelt’s term of office as President of the United States came to an
end. The last months of a retiring president are always arduous, and Mr.
Roosevelt must have found them peculiarly so. Besides the endless
knotting up of the ordinary executive business, there was all the extra
labor connected with the Italian Relief. Now he was off for a holiday in
the African jungle. On his way, he looked in at Messina, to see how
things were going on at the Camp. Work had been pushed at the Mosella,
at Reggio, Sbarre, Palmi, Ali, all along the line; the rumor that Mr.
Roosevelt was coming spurred every man to his best pace.

“We must have something worth while to show him!” said Belknap.

“All right!” the Camp answered as one man. The very hammers sang it, the
saws shrieked it, the true hearts beat the gay refrain: “All right!”

As the “Admiral” passed the Faro, Belknap, who had joined the party at
Naples, pointed out the royal standard flying at the masthead of a
man-of-war. “That means the King and Queen are here!” They had timed
their visit to Messina so as to meet the ex-President there. As the
“Admiral” slowed down, a launch from the King’s ship came alongside, a
dapper young officer ran up the gangway and saluted.

“His Majesty was about to go on shore; learning of the steamer’s
arrival, he has delayed in the expectation of seeing Mr. Roosevelt on
board.”

Mr. Roosevelt and Mr. Griscom immediately embarked on the launch and
went with the Italian officer to the King’s ship. So at this old “Four
Corners” of the earth, Victor Emmanuel and Theodore Roosevelt met. What
did they say to each other?

They probably shook hands, they may have talked about the weather, or
the price of oranges (sixty cents a dozen in New York at the present
writing and a drug in the markets of Sicily). Their meeting is none the
less significant because we know nothing about it; the circumstances
make it momentous. Though Mr. Roosevelt was no longer in office, in a
certain sense, at all events, in the eyes of the Italians, he
represented the American people. It was under his administration that
the earthquake occurred, that the relief work was planned and started;
he himself had given the impetus. Morally, if not technically, this was
a meeting of the representatives of the two great allies, Italy and the
United States, bound together by the strongest of all alliances, the
need of each other’s help.

What would America do without the skill of the Italians? What would
Italy do without the gold of the Americans? May neither ever have to
stand the test!

The interview over, the King took the ex-President and the Ambassador on
shore in his launch. At the landing they parted, King Victor going off
with Captain Bignami to the Villaggio Regina Elena, the others starting
for the Camp. On their way they passed two of our steamers unloading
lumber. Mr. Roosevelt stopped and shook hands with the sailors in charge
of the job. No holiday for them! Though little else went on in the way
of work that afternoon, the unloading could not be delayed. The
nightmare of demurrage, forfeit money paid the ship owners for every
day’s delay in unloading the cargo, haunted Belknap, sleeping or waking.

The carriage with the Roosevelt party drove up the Viale San Martino,
past the Tell Tale Tower, to the Camp. Though it was raining in
torrents, the road was in good condition; the Italians, like the
Americans, had been “rushing work.” At the Camp the party was received
by Buchanan and Brofferio. The sailors were lined up; the officers,
volunteers and carpenters were assembled. There was a great gathering of
the clan; from Reggio came Ensign Wilcox, Gerome Brush, Robert Hale and
the head carpenter. From Taormina came Mr. Bowdoin and Mr. Wood. Mr.
Chanler was with the Roosevelt party, together with Avvocato Giordano
who had been on the “Bayern,” Commendatore Salvatore Cortesi of the
Italian Associated Press, Mr. Lloyd Derby, and Mr. Robert Bacon, Jr.

The visitors walked through Viale Taft, Viale Roosevelt and Viale Stati
Uniti (the streets in the American Village are all named for men who had
some part in building it). Mr. Roosevelt was keen to see every detail:
the ice house, the kitchen, the neat offices, the comfortable bedrooms,
and finally the “mess-room,” gay with bunting. Gasperone had set the
tables with fresh linen, and decorated them with wild hyacinths and
acanthus. Such hospitality as the Camp could afford was offered. The
cook had baked a cake; Mr. Buchanan’s “boy,” the giant negro from
Florida, had prepared a vast quantity of sandwiches. Though nobody was
hungry, the good cheer must be sampled.

Mr. Roosevelt made a short speech, then, raising his glass, gave the
toast:

“To every man of every nation engaged in this great work!”

They drank the toast standing.

“What did he say about every civilized nation owing a debt to Italy?”
whispered a reporter to J.

“You’ve got the gist of it,” said J., “and it’s true as Gospel, too!”

All too soon it was time to go! The three hours were up! Down in the
harbor the “Admiral” was blowing off steam; this was a non-schedule
stop, made out of courtesy to a distinguished passenger; privileged
persons must be punctual. The return to the landing was a triumphal
progress. During the last year and a half Mr. Roosevelt has had many
such, he has heard a deal of cheering. None, it would seem, can have
moved him so profoundly as the cheers of the Messinesi, the brave
remnant of a brave people!

The letters and diaries of this time ring with the echoes of those
shouts.


_Extract from Mr. Elliott’s Diary_

                                           “The Camp, Messina, April 6.

     “Mr. Roosevelt was most cordial to us all. After saying lots and
     lots about the splendid work of the officers, sailors, and
     carpenters, he spoke of the rest of us volunteers who, he said,
     have given our time and energies to help a philanthropic work. The
     Italians cried: ‘Long live our President,’ and ran along holding on
     to the carriage and cheering him--a moving sight. The Queen is
     worshipped by the people in these parts and deserves to be. Women
     in

     [Illustration: PALERMO. THE QUATTRO CANTI. _Page 395._]

     [Illustration: PALERMO. THE MARINA. _Page 409._]

     [Illustration: AMERICAN VILLAGE MESSINA. THE CELTIC’S CARPENTER
     COOK AND TWO “SCORPIONS” MEASURING OFF THE LAND. _Page 438._]

     [Illustration: WING OF ELIZABETH GRISCOM HOSPITAL, VILLAGGIO REGINA
     ELENA. _Page 434._]

     their petticoats, half dressed, evidently in the act of doing their
     hair, raced after her carriage with the ends of their hair held
     between their teeth. Somehow this was curiosity, admiration, and
     awe--even worship, that seemed to be expressed. The same might be
     said of their attitude towards the King. I thought they really
     seemed to worship him, and perhaps love him, too--but with
     Roosevelt the feeling expressed was different. It seemed to be
     admiration and brotherly affection--that was pleasant to see.”

Some of the visitors were quite unprepared for the magnitude of the work
undertaken. They had received the impression that the building party had
very little to do, except put together the portable houses (there were
only forty-nine of _them_) that, it was commonly supposed at home,
composed the larger part of the cargo of the lumber ships.

“As if,” Belknap exclaimed, “you could pick a portable house from a tree
like a lemon!” In a letter to the Ambassador, Belknap gives some
interesting details about the hospital.

“The hospital referred to was one that the Queen desired to be built at
Villaggio Regina Elena. Like the hotel, it began as a combination of
several standard cottages, but, as Mr. Elliott was never content with a
makeshift when he could improve upon it, a plan was ultimately evolved
which embodied all of her Majesty’s ideas, and at the same time made the
most of the ground area that would be available to cover. The Queen had
stipulated for kitchen, laundry and servants to be in a building
separate from the hospital proper, and for a detached house to be
available close at hand. Mr. Elliott’s plan was of a large, main
building, forty by sixty feet, containing three wards, dining-room and
pantry, bath, office, dispensary, and linen closet, with a wing thrown
out on the north containing operating-room, sterilizing-room, and
emergency ward, and another wing on the south for doctors’ rooms and
bath, and nurses’ rooms and bath. In the rear were to be kitchen,
laundry and dining-room, with servants’ sleeping-rooms and storeroom in
a semi-detached building in one corner, and, symmetrically placed in the
opposite corner, a small isolated building for a contagious ward. With
the hospital, also, our part was at first limited to the contractor
work, her Majesty sending an engineer down to arrange for plumbing,
drainage, lighting and furnishing; but later we arranged for, and
carried through, the plastering and tiled flooring.

“In submitting the two floor plans of the hotel, it is requested that
the Ambassador take such steps as may be necessary for obtaining her
Majesty’s sanction for the use of her name for the hotel.

“It is only intended to build a two-story structure, having about
eighty-four rooms available for guests, and a dining-room and its
accessories amply large for about two hundred at one time.

“Since we have been at work about the hotel site, several persons have
approached me about undertaking to manage the hotel when completed. My
reply has been that I should refer all such questions to the Ambassador,
as I did not feel myself in a position to decide any matter not
connected strictly with the construction. The interest in the hotel is
spreading.”

The sixth of April was a red-letter day. In the morning the King came to
the Camp; in the afternoon Mr. Roosevelt and the Ambassador made their
long expected visit, and in the evening J. was summoned on board the
Italian man-of-war, to show his plans of the hospital to the Queen.


     _Extract from Mr. Elliott’s Diary_

                                           “The Camp, Messina, April 7.

     “Yesterday the King arrived unexpectedly at the Camp at 9 A.M.
     Buchanan, Brofferio and I accompanied him and his staff through the
     village. They came into my small office. I showed the King my
     designs for the hospital and the cottages we are to build at
     Villaggio Regina Elena, a model village the Queen has built on the
     other side of Messina. He liked the plans very much. When I spoke
     of the great disaster the King said that the American duty put on
     lemons was almost as great a disaster for Sicily as the earthquake.
     Though, he added, ‘America is perfectly right.’ At 7 P.M. I was
     taken on board the ‘Umberto I’ by the steam pinnace of the
     ‘Dandolo.’ I was received by the Queen, a most fascinating lady.
     She thanked me many times, till I felt quite embarrassed. She was
     really very enthusiastic about the plans for the hospital and the
     cottages. The subject of the allotment of the houses came

     [Illustration: VIALE GRISCOM, AMERICAN VILLAGE, MESSINA. _Page
     431._]

     up. I said I thought the plan the King had spoken of as his
     idea--the drawing of the cottages by lots--was the only way, in
     spite of the fact that some undeserving people might be housed
     while people of higher grade, really the greatest sufferers, might
     get nothing.”

The day after Mr. Roosevelt’s visit the Camp was astir early. The
Ambassador breakfasted with the officers and master carpenters in the
mess-room; in spite of the pouring rain, he was off before eight o’clock
with Belknap on a tour of inspection. He was delighted with everything,
had a good word for everybody. More than twelve hundred men were now
employed at Messina, Reggio, Sbarre and the smaller places, where our
Lilliputian “wooden palaces” were going up. The Ambassador, who had kept
in touch with every step of the work, now saw it “in full swing,” saw
the working of the system, the organization of the army of labor. There
were corps for clearing the ground, stacking the lumber, delivering the
building materials, and for cleaning up. There were interpreters, mostly
Sicilians, who had been in America, carters and water-boys. The Sicilian
and Calabrian carpenters all served an apprenticeship in the “shop.”
Here under the keen eye of Phillips, the carpenter in charge, each man
was tested, and then taught to do one thing,--whatever he proved fittest
for. To build one hundred houses a week was Belknap’s ambition;
sometimes he fell short, oftener he exceeded the number. This is the way
the thing was done:

First on the ground came Cook--ship’s carpenter from the “Celtic,” a
Boston man--with his gang. They cleared the land (the peasants had
already cut down the lemon trees), smoothed and leveled the soil, drove
the foundation posts, laid the sills.

Second, came Emerson, the Philadelphian, and his gang of framers. They
put up the side studs, the roof frame, the gable ends (made in the
shop), and laid the floor joists.

Third, came Cox of Brooklyn with his gang. They placed the end studs,
the door and window frames, their “cripples,” and the kitchen framing.
When the work of these two framing gangs was done, they passed on,
leaving a skeleton house behind them.

Now came one of the four enclosing gangs, organized by Neil Mackay, a
canny Scot, king of carpenters they called him. There were fifty men in
each enclosing gang, with one of their own number for leader, who was
made responsible for the tools. At seven every morning each gang was
given its tool-box; a close tally of the contents was kept, and at night
the precious tools must be returned intact. The enclosing gang made more
of a showing than the others. They took a skeleton house and clothed it
with clapboards and floors; so that the roofers--who came next with
their Sicilian _capo_ (boss), Ferrara--found something that looked a
good deal like a house. After the roofers had put on the roof, the
finishers came. They hung the doors, fitted and glazed the windows, put
on locks and fastenings, added the steps. When the carpenters were done
with the house, the bricklayers and masons took hold and built the
famous kitchen, putting in a stovepipe to make all complete, and in
their turn making room for the painters. These men gave each cottage two
coats of white paint, green doors and trimmings and dark neutral-colored
base, “so that the mud splashed up by the rain would not show.”

When Mr. Griscom had seen the different gangs at work, he went to
inspect the foundations of the hotel. While he was admiring the neat
brick arches, the royal automobile whizzed up to take the Ambassador,
Belknap and J. to the Villaggio Regina Elena, to meet the Queen. Having
seen and approved the plans for the hospital and houses the Ambassador
had promised to build in the American quarter of her model village, she
wished to see the site the buildings would occupy.

They found the Queen already there; in spite of the torrential
“earthquake rain,” she was determined to see every detail of her
village. The Ambassador walked with her and Captain Bignami; the others
fell in behind and followed with the lady-in-waiting, Brofferio and the
Italian officers.

“This is the bakery!” said the Captain. “This is the baker; he himself
built his oven. Your Majesty can see how light the bread is!”

Her Majesty said something kind to the baker, then crossed the street to
the butcher’s shop, neat as wax, with all the latest sanitary
contrivances; next to the school, then to the church, last of all to the
industrial school,--a busy hive of working women and girls.

“The Queen was perfectly delighted,” writes

[Illustration: THE KING, ESCORTED BY BUCHANAN, BROFFERIO AND ELLIOTT,
VISITS AMERICAN VILLAGE, MESSINA. _Page 436._]

[Illustration: MESSINA. PAINTING THE AMERICAN COTTAGES. _Page 439._]

[Illustration: CHURCH OF SANTA CROCE, AMERICAN VILLAGE, MESSINA. _Page
451._]

J. “The place fairly hummed with the noise of machinery. Everything was
going at full blast; women were making stockings and weaving
underclothes; there must have been twenty of them at least stitching on
Singer sewing-machines (the Singer people, by the way, sent a good
subscription). The Queen went into several of the houses, and found them
all in apple-pie order; Captain Bignami insists on perfect cleanliness.”

As they left the building a little girl, escaping from the guards who
kept the people back from pressing too closely on the royal party, threw
herself at the Queen’s feet and kissed the hem of her dress. Many
petitions were made, some of them for perfectly unreasonable things.

“It is so hard,” said the Queen; “these poor people think I can give
them whatever they ask me for.”

“That is not wonderful, considering all that your Majesty has given
them.”

“The hospital will stand here;” Captain Bignami pointed out the site on
the hillside above the village, commanding a magnificent view.

“You have heard,” it was whispered, “her Majesty names it the Elizabeth
Griscom Hospital?”

“What a good idea!”

The Queen now disappeared, and the Americans returned to Messina. The
Ambassador soon after took the ferry-boat for Reggio. Here he looked
over the work with Ensign Wilcox, and later went with Mr. Chanler to
Sbarre, to see the buildings put up there under Chanler’s direction.
Timothy, the carpenter, writing to his wife, says:

“The Ambassador, Captain Belknap and several other gentlemen came. My
men was working, though the mud was ears deep and one could not keep
looking well. The Captain introduced me to Mr. Griscom, who highly
commended me on the mill and its workings. They all took dinner with us
that evening, and we was twelve at table. When we got good and started
and was about half-way through, Mr. Chanler came in late and made
thirteen. He did not mind. Some of the boys kicked but we laughed them
out of it. Many funny stories was told. Finally broke up, singing
_America_ on the party’s leaving; it was raining very hard.”

“I had hoped,” writes Belknap, “that Mr. Roosevelt might see what was to
me the best feature of the whole enterprise, the hundreds of men busily
employed, earning good wages, making the air ring with the noise of
their saws and hammers; but it would have been futile to try and keep
the men at their places while he was passing. The men were in sight, to
be sure, by the hundreds, fresh from their work, with tools in hand,
nail aprons on. I doubt if much work was done the whole afternoon,
notwithstanding that Mr. Roosevelt was in the Camp only an hour; yet the
time lost was more than made up afterwards by the enthusiasm and
stimulus that the visit gave.”

So ended the meeting of the Triumvirs, Roosevelt, Griscom and Belknap.
To those who helped them in their work it was of such profound interest,
that the sixth of April remains the culminating point of the whole
Messina business.

What did it mean to _them_?

All three are men of action, who delight too much in doing to waste much
time in talking about what they have done. They felt it none the less
for all that. A single sentence from a letter of Mr. Griscom’s tells us
more than a volume of official reports.

“I may say personally, I have had the most valuable and interesting
experience of my lifetime.”

We said at the time that the rain was the only drawback to the complete
success of Mr. Roosevelt’s visit. Looking back at that memorable sixth
of April, we are not so sure of this. Was it not really best things
happened as they did? All the distinguished visitors received a more
exact idea of the actual conditions under which the work they planned
was carried out, than if the day had been fair. For more than three
months that cruel earthquake rain continued, with only a few rare days
of fair weather. The peculiar rain may in some measure have been due to
the fine dust discharged into the atmosphere, since every drop of rain
is formed around such a particle. This may, the scientists say, account
for the rain at Messina. Peculiar rains have been observed after other
earthquakes. The trouble is that earthquakes are so rare that the
scientists cannot tell whether the rain was a mere coincidence or due in
some measure to the disturbance. “The change of the electrical
potential due to the earthquake might serve to start a rain, and
altogether one is inclined to suspect that the rain was at least started
by the earthquake,” writes one expert. The truth is the scientists
themselves are all “up a tree” about that mysterious rain. Rosina
Calabresi, Timothy, and all the simple people who endured it, have no
such doubts. To them, to us, perhaps to Mr. Roosevelt, it remains a rain
apart, unlike all others!



XV

EASTER


“_Oggi il Signor è morto._”

“Dead? Impossible, we heard he was better!”

Gasperone smiled patiently, pointed to heaven and repeated the greeting
that, in Sicily, people give each other on Good Friday: “Today our Lord
is dead.”

I had come to spend Easter at Camp; Gasperone met me at the station. His
words brought a faint uneasiness that returned whenever the greeting was
repeated: I heard it many times that day--from Caterina, Zenobia, Zia
Maddalena, a dozen others--and always it brought that faint shock, as if
there was something especially significant to us in the words.

On our way to Camp we met Timothy, the carpenter. I stopped to ask how
things were going on.

“Badly!” said Timothy. “Ain’t it a pity? Such a fine day at last after
all this rain! It’s a holiday; the men don’t want to work. We’re short
of hands all round. I have only fifteen out of my gang of twenty-seven,
and they are working under protest.”

“This is a _festa_?” I asked Gasperone.

“No, not a feast; rather a great fast,” said Gasperone.

“First thing I knew of it’s being Good Friday,” said Timothy, “was the
hot cross buns for breakfast--the best bread I have eaten since I left
home. You ought to look into the church they rigged up; it’s like a
tempor’y railroad station. It certainly is cheerful to see them poor
devils hanging round the statuary--touching, too.”

It was well for all concerned that the men refused to work, that the
great “drive” was relaxed for a breathing space. They had all been
working over time, “on a spurt” to get things as far advanced as
possible for the visitors.

Saturday morning I went with Signor Donati and J. to call on the
Archbishop at his palace, one of the few habitable buildings in Messina;
it had been only slightly damaged by the earthquake. The handsome
courtyard was filled with wooden shanties, the lower halls, the very
stairs were crowded with families camping out. The palace had become an
asylum for the homeless, a storehouse for the treasures saved from
cathedral, church and monastery. While waiting for the Archbishop, we
were entertained by a Jesuit priest who spoke good English.

“You shall see all our precious things,” he said, “if you will send some
more blankets for our poor people and some vulgar shoes.”

The Jesuit, a lean virile man in a shabby cassock, took a big bunch of
keys from his belt and led the way to a distant wing of the palace. He
unlocked a heavy iron-barred door, motioned us to pass through, and
locked the door behind us. We were in a vast room, smelling faintly of
stale incense and wax candles, filled with the spoil of churches. There
were statues of saints, plaster angels, paintings of the Madonna,
crucifixes, fragments of rich altar cloths, embroidered vestments,
priceless old laces, gold and silver vessels for the mass, painted
missals, candlesticks, lamps, all carefully sorted and laid in piles. We
passed through room after room,

[Illustration: A MAKESHIFT CHURCH AND BELFRY. _Page 447._]

filled with this strange wreckage of the churches, to an inner
apartment, double locked, a high vaulted chamber where the most precious
treasures were kept, the gold and the silver _mantas_ of the Madonna
della Lettera. The gold _manta_ is an exquisite piece of goldsmith’s
work, beautifully chased and set with gorgeous jewels, most of them
royal gifts. We admired an emerald ornament offered by Queen Isabel of
Spain (the modern Isabel), who greatly affected emeralds, and a diamond
brooch given by Queen Margherita.

“Nothing is missing,” said the Jesuit; “if the soldiers overlooked
anything, the people found it and brought it to us--all the jewels of
the Madonna della Lettera, even the precious letter itself, are here.”

“The epistle,” Signor Donati explained, “written by the Virgin to the
people of Messina, and brought here by Saint Paul, who, as you know,
came to Sicily in the year 42.”

The Archbishop received us in his study, a big bare room filled with
supplicants, all talking at once. In order that we might hear each other
speak, he led the way to a smaller apartment next door. The Archbishop
is a tall handsome man, with a direct, forcible manner. We heard from
Sicilian friends that he had spent the whole of his large private
fortune for the benefit of his people and his church. The Archbishop
wasted no time; after thanking us for what had already been done, he
spoke of what was nearest his heart.

“Build us a church! That is our first need; then build us a barrack,
large enough to house eighteen priests. Out of my one hundred and five,
eighty were killed; but first of all the church, that is our greatest
need!”

“You shall have your church, be not afraid,” said Signor Donati.
“Behold, the Signor _architetto_ has brought his plans to show you!”

J. unrolled the plans with his neat drawings, and spread them out on the
writing table, using the ancient sand boxes of the silver inkstand to
hold down the corners:

“Notice that the church is to be in the shape of the Red Cross.”

“Admirable!” said the Archbishop. “Be seated.” With a gracious gesture
of authority, he motioned J. to a chair, seated himself at the table,
and bent over the plans.

Point by point, they went over the ground-plan, elevation, and all the
rest of it. The Archbishop was delighted; every ingenious detail pleased
him. His earnest, worn face relaxed; he really smiled, waxed
enthusiastic. Nothing, he declared, could have been better devised. This
was the attitude of the churchmen throughout. Whatever was done for them
was well done. The plans for the church were much more elaborate than I
had supposed from J.’s letters. Instead of a mere roofed-in shed, it was
to be a very solidly built wooden church on concrete foundations; it was
even to have a belfry.

“By grouping together the ordinary cottage windows, we have here a rose
window!”

“What a good idea!”

“By a miracle, enough red glass has been found in Messina to make a red
cross for the centre of the rose window--nothing is lacking, you see,
not even a stained glass window.”

“Capital!”

“If we succeed in getting your church built for you, there are two
requests we make in return.”

“Requests? Let us hear them.”

“First, that the church be called Santa Croce; this because, if built,
it will be by a gift of the American Red Cross.”

“A good name,” the Archbishop nodded; “it shall certainly be called
Santa Croce. The second request?”

“The Signor Comandante asks for the use of a bell one of our carpenters
saw lying on the ground outside a ruined church.”

“For what will the bell be used?”

“To call the men to work.”

“That is a good use. _Laborare est orare._ Send your men for the bell
when you like.”

The Archbishop rose as he said it, and the interview was over; a busy
man, he had given us all the time he could spare. The Jesuit came with
us to the door of the palace.

“The Signora will not forget? Vulgar shoes. Some were sent with high
heels, pointed toes--no use for us. Vulgar shoes for men and women. It
is understood?”

       *       *       *       *       *

Grass was not allowed to grow under the feet at Belknapoli (so Mrs.
Griscom christened the Camp); that very afternoon they sent for the
bell. It came in a cart, drawn by a pair of swift red oxen, surrounded
by an enthusiastic crowd of Messinesi. With a deal of laughter and
shouting, the church bell was hung between two trees outside the
“pay-window.” From that day on, it called the men to labor and to rest,
morning, noon and night.[2]

On Saturday afternoon Gasperone knocked at my door. “Behold,” he said,
“the package from Rome the Signora expected. It seems in good
condition.” He laid down a big bundle that had come by post.

We had telegraphed Agnese from Palermo, to send some clothing to the
Camp to distribute for Easter. Agnese had been faithful, the post-office
prompt, the clothes had come in time. It cost twenty cents to send the
telegram, a very small sum to transport the package. In Italy the people
own their telegraph and express; they pay the minimum price for both
services. _When shall we do as much?_

The news that there were clothes to be had for the asking spread
rapidly; a line formed outside the guest house. The dresses, alas, did
not begin to “go round.” With the doctor’s help, we gave them to the
most needy, thwarting Gasperone, who wanted them all for his family. At
the end of the distribution Caterina arrived, out of breath, leading the
raggedest barefoot child in all ragged Messina. Nothing remained for her
but a bright blue dress and a buff silk handkerchief.

“It is finished, away, away!” Gasperone drove the grateful, gossiping
crowd before him. “The Comandante does not allow loafing about the Camp;
be off!”

On Easter morning the Camp slept late; it was to be a real holiday, for
the men at least. The matins of the birds began before dawn. At sunrise
the world was one great opal; as the sun grew stronger, the opalescent
mists disappeared; by the time the goats came rambling to the kitchen
door, the earth was an emerald between a sapphire sea and sky. Caterina
was the first to give me the lovely Easter greeting:

“_Oggi il Signor non è morto!_” (Today our Lord is not dead.)

A little girl in a pretty blue dress, a buff handkerchief tied over her
rippling bronze hair, shyly held out a lilac lily as she
lisped:--“Blessed be thou!”

[Illustration: PAY-WINDOW AND THE ARCHBISHOP’S BELL. _Page 453._]

“Don’t you know her?” cried Caterina. “It’s Teresa; the dress suits her,
yes?”

Teresa, the ragged little witch of last night, was transformed into a
neat demure child! All that bright beautiful Easter day I kept meeting
one and another of the girls and women, who the night before had been so
forlorn, so bedraggled. Today they were neat and freshly dressed for
Pasqua. How did they do it? In the streets, in the church, wherever you
met the women, you felt that effort at festive dress for the great feast
of the year, the world-old festival, that from the beginning of time we
have celebrated by one name or another.

The services in Messina this Easter Sunday were far more impressive than
any I ever saw at Rome or even at Seville. The pontifical mass was said
by the Archbishop in a small wooden theatre that had escaped
destruction. The congregation was large; there were now forty thousand
persons in Messina. Many of the congregation were maimed or crippled. A
man with a bandaged right arm at the elevation of the Host struck his
breast three times and murmured low, “_Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima
culpa._” Poor soul! whatever his sins have been, his sufferings must
have matched them! In the afternoon the images of the Saviour and of
Mary the Mother were carried in procession through Messina. Cries of
“Viva Maria!” followed the figures. A young girl took her earrings from
her ears, and one of the bearers climbed up and hung the offering in
Mary’s girdle.

“Ah, Santissima Maria!” cried a poor old woman with tear-worn eyes, “you
have nothing, not even a drum, to do you honor! Ah! the band that went
before you a year ago! The musicians are all dead. I lost my two
daughters. They are under the ruins; may I meet them in Paradise! See,
this is my husband; he is blind; we two old ones were saved; all the
children and the grandchildren were taken.”

As the figure of the Christ passed, the old blind man fell on his knees,
stretching out his arms and crying in a terrible voice: “_Santissimo
padre_, help us, help us!”

“This is the first real Sunday we have had at Camp,” said the doctor
that evening.

No one was ever obliged, or even asked, to work on Sunday, I think; our
men had caught the fever of work, it was the labor microbe that pushed
them on. The desolate people, the sad women with their wonderful
children, who came from their little wretched huts and looked with
longing eyes at the _baracche Americane_, stirred and stimulated our men
to toil through the bitter days of rain, and the dreadful days of wind,
when the pestilential dust of the city, that vast charnel house, was
driven into the eyes and throat.

Easter Monday was a _festa_, and the men did not work. Some of the
carpenters went for a long bicycle ride. Signor Donati appeared at
breakfast in a fine sportsmanlike costume with gaiters, cartridge belt
and game bag. We heard him blazing away all day with his gun. He shot
one swallow. The tiny scrap of a bird was brought in on a plate at
dinner, offered to me, then to the Captain, and finally sent to
Brofferio, who was ill in his room.

At the Villaggio Regina Elena there was a pretty ceremony that Easter
Monday. On Sunday a poor blind woman, Giuseppa Lo Verde, gave birth to a
little girl, the first child born in the Queen’s village. The child was
baptized the next day and given the name of Elena. The ceremony took
place at the tiny church the dear sailors built. Captain Bignami
holding the little one in his arms at the baptismal font.

One of the most popular places in the Camp was Dr. Donelson’s office, a
tiny surgery, not more than eight feet square. The poor people had soon
found him out--the unofficial work of this good physician deserves a
whole chapter to itself. The doctor’s patients were not ungrateful; that
Easter he had as thank offering a basket of golden citrons; a blue
heron, warranted “good eating,” a handful of coppers from Zia Maddalena,
whose grandchild he had cured. Though little was said of illness, there
was plenty of it about. I was warned not to go near certain hovels,
where scarlet fever was raging. The doctor was a daily visitor here; he
nursed and tended the little children with a tenderness they will not
forget. His office was rarely empty; during the half hour before dinner,
when work for the day was over, the officers gathered here to talk
things over. Sometimes the tinkle of Spofford’s guitar or the notes of
the doctor’s flute came from the little office, with its neat shelves of
bottles and faint odor of carbolic acid.

On Monday evening, wishing to consult the doctor about a new
installment of clothing, I went to his door. There were voices in the
office; the doctor had a patient, so I sat down outside to wait. It was
a perfect evening; the sky was still flushed with sunset, the first star
stood over the tall spire of the little Gothic church at the _campo
santo_. The dusk fell softly; on the heights above Messina, the outlines
of the old Saracen fort were blurred in the violet afterglow. The tramp
of the sentinel marked time. Another sound broke the twilight stillness,
the sound of the royal march played by a band. Where could it come from?
In all Messina there had not been found so much as a drum for the
procession. The music came nearer and nearer, a new sound mingled with
it, the sound of voices singing and cheering. Lanterns were brought out,
the mess-room door thrown open. By the light that streamed out I saw a
cab, decked with green branches, drawn by a horse gay with white ostrich
plumes. Two of our carpenters sat in the cab, which was followed by a
pair of ox-carts, filled with chairs occupied by the carpenters’ guests.
The three vehicles were surrounded by a crowd of people, singing and
cheering.

“Long live the American carpenters!”

Some of our men had spent the day at a neighboring village, that had
escaped the earthquake; they had been escorted home by the whole
population. The band departed playing the merry march; the sound grew
fainter and fainter in the distance. A bright fire lighted up the dark
interior of the little shanty, opposite the Camp, built by Zia Maddalena
and Cousin Sofia; the tinkle of Spofford’s guitar repeated the gay notes
of the march--how good it was to hear the joyous sounds!

“Will you please tell this woman,” the doctor spoke sternly to his
interpreter, “that this child has small-pox. If she doesn’t report it
immediately to the health authorities it will go hard with her. She may
be fined, or imprisoned for neglecting to do so and it may prove fatal
to her child. It’s a menace to the community. Please make her understand
this fully, as I shall immediately report the case myself.”

The poor mother, dazed and sorrow-stricken, buried her face in the
little bundle in her arms and went weeping to the hospital, where the
child--all that the earthquake had left to her--would be taken away
from her--perhaps never to be returned.

The next morning at breakfast an unmistakable hint was dropped that my
visit had best come to an end. Nothing was said about smallpox--it may,
indeed, have had nothing to do with the hint. I have always believed,
however, that had it not been for the sick baby, I might have enjoyed a
few more days at the Mosella.

That day news came to the Camp of Marion Crawford’s death.

It was known that he was ill, but hopes had been held out of his
recovery. He had written lately about the _profughi_ he had sheltered in
his villa at Sorrento. In these last months, though suffering greatly,
he worked early and late for these poor people. He wrote often
concerning them. There was no sign of weakness, either in his firm
beautiful handwriting or in his brave cheerful words.

It was strange to read the story of his death, sympathetically as it was
told, in an Italian paper. He died, at sunset on Good Friday, sitting in
his chair looking out over the Bay of Naples towards Vesuvius, just as
the procession of Mary the Mother, returning from her search for her
lost Son, passed his door. The news that his strong heart had ceased to
beat cast a shadow over the Camp. Though not one of the company except
ourselves had any personal friendship with him, each one felt that he
had lost a friend.

Our great story-teller had told his last story. Not many men have served
their generation as well as he. A wonderful man, more romantic than his
romances, more poetic than his poetry, more dramatic than his dramas,
his death was in keeping with all the rest--he was an idealist to the
last!



XVI

MESSINA

_Ave atque Vale!_


As the steamer bore me away from Messina and towards Naples, I looked my
last on the old sickle-shaped harbor of Zancle, on Cape Faro, where the
current sweeping through the narrow straits was full of bewildering
purple, blue, and green tints like a piece of shot silk. We passed a
fishing boat with a man standing on a stunted mast above his fellows at
the oars, on the lookout for swordfish; above boat and fishermen towered
the crag and castle of Scylla. To the left the glass showed a blur of
green--was it a new-leaved fig tree--a descendant of the tree Ulysses
clung to as his boat slid by “Scylla’s dread abode?” Why not? Sailor,
soldier, traveler, king, vagrants, all come and go; the island and its
people remain unchanged. I have bought in a market of Trinacria the
“hardening cheese heaped in a wicker basket” that Ulysses saw the
Cyclops make from the milk of his sheep and goats. I have heard in the
olive groves the shepherd’s flute, the neatherd’s song Theocritus heard
and preserved for all time in his verse. As the little steamer churned
her way through the Tyrrhene Sea, the sun set, the sky flushed and faded
again, the stars came out. Little by little the lights on the shore
dwindled to mere diamond points, then in a minute they were gone, and
with them that faint perfume of the lemon and orange blossoms that had
gone along with us while the breeze was from the land.

I have never seen the wonder island again; what remains to tell of the
American work there, must be told by others.

     _Extracts from J.’s Letters_

     “Zona Case Americane, April 28, 1909.

     “The rush is increasing every minute. I cannot get the drawings
     done fast enough for the carpenters at the hotel, and the sill
     layers are howling for ground plans of the schools. I have tried to
     do all these things and get some sketching done for myself. In the
     latter I have pretty well failed,--you see I have got hold of a
     live wire and can’t let go!”

[Illustration: AMERICAN VILLAGE, MESSINA. HOTEL IN CONSTRUCTION. _Page
464._]

[Illustration: AMERICAN VILLAGE, MESSINA. ENCLOSING GANG AT WORK. _Page
438._]

[Illustration: GRAND HOTEL REGINA ELENA FROM THE RAILROAD. _Page 475._]

[Illustration: AMERICAN VILLAGE, MESSINA. VIEW FROM THE HOTEL. _Page
475._]

“May 2, 1909.

     “The rush has been growing greater every day; it has been
     impossible to find a minute save in the evening, when I have taken
     a short walk with Brofferio and gone to bed beaten out, so much so
     that I slept through one of the worst earthquakes from all
     accounts. We have had five very severe ones since you were here,
     two of which succeeded each other within a few minutes and toppled
     over a whole lot of ruins along the Marina so that it was blocked
     again for a day or two. I heard a soldier exclaim, ‘Oh, my poor
     dancing land!’”


“May 25, 1909.

     “I am sitting on the sand by the sea, with the wonderful mountains
     across the straits. There is a delightful breeze blowing. The sea
     is like sapphire and emerald, and not at all beautiful to look
     upon, oh no! On the other side of me looms up the roof of the
     hotel; it’s above the railroad embankment and everything. It is
     covered in and the clapboards are being put on. Yesterday was
     Sunday. Brofferio got the loan of a Red Cross auto and we had a
     magnificent spin,--the captain, Brofferio, Buchanan and I. We went
     through the _torrente_ for miles. I find that nearly all of them
     can be used as roads; they are picturesque to a degree. An auto is
     the greatest thing in the world for seeing the country. Next
     Sunday, I believe the auto is going to take us to Taormina; if not,
     Derby and I are going to have a sail with Brofferio, which we
     should enjoy immensely. All your boys you have sent down here have
     turned out splendidly. Brush is doing finely at Reggio; I don’t
     know what we should do without McGoodwin. He came in when
     everything was decided, and has cheerfully taken up the hardest job
     in the world, helping to carry out other people’s plans when all
     the fun of making them is over! Rodolfo Serrao has become quite a
     pet with every one. He makes wonderful caricatures, and has made
     them of all the party. I am keeping all I can get to bring back to
     you.

     “The hospital at Regina Elena and all the houses are nearly
     finished. Here the hotel will be finished as far as we are
     concerned in a few days, and the church and schools. There are no
     more houses being put up just now. I wish I could tell you how many
     houses are inhabited--a great many I know. The workshop opposite
     the camp that you remember, disappeared long ago and cottages are
     standing on the site, so we are all shut in and living in a common
     street called Via Bicknell. There is to be a street named for me
     which I share with the captain. The captain does things his own way
     and he says the plan (which I have drawn with all these names) is
     the record of the thing that will be sent to Washington, but even
     there it will be looked at once and then thrown aside.”


     _Extract from Captain Belknap’s Journal, and Letters to the
     American Ambassador_

     “With a large increase of the force, and at the same time of the
     work, especially as the hotel began to assume considerable
     proportions, this tallying of the workmen took more of the head
     carpenter’s time than could be spared. Opportunely, Mr. J. Lloyd
     Derby, Harvard ’08, who had been one of Mr. Roosevelt’s guests in
     the party visiting Messina, had accepted the invitation to join us.
     He had first gone back to Rome, with the two chums with whom he had
     made a trip around the world, and I had almost given him up, when
     he telegraphed that he was coming and, evidently recalling our
     previous shift to find accommodation for our guests, should he
     bring bedding? I replied no, but asked him to call at the Embassy
     and at the ‘Scorpion’ at Naples, to bring anything they might have
     to send. The Embassy entrusted him with some cigars and champagne,
     which was all right; but the ‘Scorpion’ produced fifty thousand
     _lire_, which was startling. However, another means of sending the
     money appeared, and Derby arrived with his other charge safe. He
     stepped right in as Buchanan’s assistant, taking over Mr. Phillips’
     work of tallying the men, and shortly after, as he found time for
     more, he was made the inspector of kitchens. The shop made him a
     measuring, or ‘divining’ rod, and he fared forth among the masons,
     who soon found out that poor workmanship was no match for his
     muscle.

     “We were fortunate in gaining accessions to our managing staff just
     when it would seem impossible to carry it on longer without more
     help. The first one was Mr. Gerome Brush, son of the painter, whom
     we sent to Reggio just as Wilcox was finding more than he could
     attend to unaided. As interpreter, accountant,

     [Illustration: SCYLLA. _Page 463._]

     and factotum, Mr. Brush made himself invaluable. Then early in
     April came Avvocato F. Saverio Donate, who had been in Messina and
     lived in our camp before, as Mr. Bicknell’s secretary. He was a
     faithful and untiring worker, and, with Avvocato Rodolfo Serrao,
     son of the former Prefect of Rome and Messina, who joined about the
     first of May, took over entirely the harassing duties attendant on
     the assignment of the houses for occupancy. The last to join the
     camp was Mr. R. R. McGoodwin, a young architect who was studying in
     Rome. When he came, we had already begun on the hotel, church,
     school-houses, laboratory, and dormitory at Messina, and the
     six-building hospital group at Villaggio Regina Elena. All these
     were on the lines laid out by Mr. Elliott and the work was
     progressing well; but without complete plans--which were more than
     one man could accomplish with so many other things to do--questions
     of detail were continually arising, which Mr. McGoodwin was able in
     large measure to settle. Mr. Elliott, McGoodwin and I made the
     traditional three required for every good firm of architects; but
     in justice to them it must be said that, on account of our
     exceptional circumstances, I assumed to outvote them occasionally,
     to the detriment of artistic effect.

     “Two English ex-soldiers applied for work about the same time, and
     proved good hands, remaining until the last of our party left.”


“April 18, 1909.

     “An urgent request having come from the Genio Civile and from Mr.
     Bowdoin, for a man to help erect the portable houses at Ali, Mr.
     Dowling, superintendent carpenter, was sent to Ali, to superintend
     that work, and assist in any way he could. He was glad to have the
     detail; Mr. Bowdoin writes me that he has taken hold well; and it
     will prevent the pieces of those portable houses from being
     mismated and so going to waste.

     “In general since you left here, events have been thick and
     important.”


“April 26, 1909.

     “I shall reserve the cigars and champagne Derby brought for an
     appropriate occasion, perhaps to celebrate the completion of the
     hospital, or of the work. Of the cigars, I took one box over to
     Reggio and told the mess there that it was sent with your
     compliments, and did the same with the other box here. Thank you
     also for the newspaper extracts about Mr. Roosevelt’s visit.

     “The past two weeks have been very full ones, so that I have not
     been able to get the time necessary to draw up a money statement,
     but that I hope to do in a day or two. All or most of us have had a
     little touch of stomach or bowel trouble, rather disturbing to
     work, due to flies or meat probably; but now all of our fly screens
     have come and been put in place, and we have cut the meat out of
     our bill of fare almost entirely, so that I hope we may get on
     without any further sick days.

     “The food question really gave us a good deal of trouble and some
     uneasiness, as soon as the supply of pork loins and turkey had been
     consumed. These had been loaded on board the ‘Celtic’ for the
     delectation of our men on board of the world-circling fleet; but we
     enjoyed them just as much, as they certainly did taste good after a
     long day’s work in the open. By the beginning of April, however, we
     had to depend on the local markets for meat. Fish was good and
     poultry killed in the camp was safe enough, and all meat offered
     for sale bore the stamp of inspection; but when half the table was
     dining on soft-boiled eggs, something had to be done, and we could
     not quite determine what. Dr. Donelson was in charge of our mess
     and of sanitary supervision in the camp generally; but a steady
     stream of native patients, from early until late, of all ages and
     conditions and ailments, left him little time to experiment with
     the bill of fare. Had it not been for the spaghetti family of
     dishes, we might have been in a bad way. Our Sicilian cook’s
     repertoire was limited too; but when the Reggio camp was broken up,
     we took on Baker, ship’s cook, who immediately gave us a change and
     some familiar dishes.

     “The water was good, and we found that we could freely use it
     without boiling. Our supply was so convenient for the neighbors
     that our one outside faucet for general use was, in fact, nearly
     worn out, before the city water supply reached our camp.

     “Notwithstanding indifferent fare, our mess was a jolly one. Our
     latest accession, Avvocato Serrao, contributed much entertainment.
     He was a talented caricaturist and often, during the

     [Illustration: VIA BELKNAP, AMERICAN VILLAGE, MESSINA. _Page
     467._]

     course of the day, would disappear to his room for a while,
     evidently to record his impressions pictorially. Nearly every
     evening he would produce one or two caricatures at the dinner
     table, setting forth the latest camp event. Mr. Elliott managed to
     capture all these,--sometimes, unfortunately, failing to do so
     before they got into the butter,--and it is hoped that some day we
     may have them all reproduced.

     “One evening there was an alarm of fire during dinner, and every
     one rushed to the scene with whatever water receptacle lay nearest
     to his hand. It proved to be not smoke, only the dust of a heated
     domestic argument; but it gave Serrao a fine opportunity to portray
     each one of us. Mr. Elliott was always represented with a roll of
     the hotel drawings in his hand; and Dr. Donelson with a squalling
     baby on his arm.

     “For our beds, or bunks, we had sea-grass mattresses, of the kind
     used in steamer steerages, costing forty or fifty cents apiece, and
     cheap cotton blankets, at two dollars or less each. I have felt
     softer and warmer beds, yet we soon get accustomed to conditions;
     and the fact that we lived comfortably in our own cottages for
     three months, is a good proof of their habitability. There were
     some leaky roofs; but this is a fault shared by some more expensive
     structures; and in the heat of the day, they were hot, as all
     unceiled structures must be. The ventilators in the gable ends
     helped this much, but of course the best remedy was to ceil the
     interior, which some of the occupants assigned to the houses very
     sensibly proceeded at once to do.

     “Earthquakes were of frequent, almost daily, occurrence. A severe
     one came as we sat at our first dinner in camp, and the jar and
     loud rumbling were rather startling, though we had nothing to fear.
     There were some casualties in the city, however, and our Sicilian
     servants were frightened and anxious for the safety of their
     families.

     “In the middle of May we had a severe shock about 9 o’clock, our
     little frame structures quivering for nearly half a minute. It
     caused a small panic among our workmen, a stream of them leaving
     their work and coming to the office for their discharge, saying
     they were not going to work in Messina any more. An hour or so
     later, one of the engineers passed by, with the news that Palermo
     was destroyed. He belonged there and seemed much disturbed.”


“May 10, 1909.

     “So far, only white paint has been put on; yet the improvement is
     so great that we have great difficulty in restraining an impatient
     populace from rushing the uncompleted houses. When the green
     trimmings and brick-colored base go on, we may need a regiment. The
     cottages do look very attractive, especially in many places where
     they are nested among the trees; and there is nothing anywhere
     around that can touch their appearance. The white color marks them
     out from a good distance.

     “Our other work at Mosella is progressing well, especially the
     hotel, which will have the second story begun in a day or two. It
     is a larger building than any one had thought it was going to be
     and has aroused a good deal of interest. It is being well
     constructed throughout.

     “After much consideration, the idea has occurred to me that about
     the best disposition to make of our camp and camp outfit here would
     be to turn the whole establishment over to the Little Sisters of
     the Poor. Yesterday I sent Mr. Elliott and Mr. Phillips, head
     carpenter here, out to examine their former building, to see
     whether we could do anything to help them; but it is in complete
     ruin, requiring to be rebuilt from the ground up--an undertaking of
     course beyond us. They still have the property and garden, and in
     time their house could be rebuilt. Meantime if they want this camp
     and its equipment as a temporary dwelling, it would be suitable and
     available. I know of no other charitable disposition equally good;
     and as the Little Sisters are indeed poor, it would not trouble
     them much to move what little they own in, as we move out. Of
     course all we take will be our personal belongings, and everything
     else--bedding, table gear, lamps, and such furniture as we have,
     would be theirs.

     “One of the houses near the camp has a family recently moved in, in
     direct competition with the one in the Queen’s house in Reggio, for
     the first baby born in an American house. I shall telegraph the
     arrival, whether it occur here or at Reggio.

     The same day also the Pro-Sindaco came, Commendatore Martino, who
     expressed much

     [Illustration: ELIZABETH GRISCOM HOSPITAL, VILLAGGIO REGINA ELENA.
     _Page 469._]

     satisfaction with all he saw, and was very complimentary, even
     intimating that he would become a siren to endeavor to retain our
     party here, to continue such energetic work.

     “In fact the work has spread so since you were here that what you
     saw is comparatively insignificant. Mr. Derby said this morning
     that, remembering how comparatively little there was when he was
     here in April, six weeks ago, he can hardly realize that it is the
     same place. The growth, the white paint, and the clearing up of the
     streets, have made a complete transformation; and from the top of
     the hotel one gets a view of the whole settlements that gives an
     idea not to be gained in any other way.

     “At Villaggio Regina Elena, all our houses were finished on Friday
     afternoon; the door and window hanging and the kitchens will
     probably be done by the end of this week; and a contract has been
     given to another painter to paint them by the end of this month.
     The job has been done very well and quickly, and when the white
     paint is on the appearance will be all that could be desired.

     “The foundation for the main buildings of the hospital is
     finished, and the framing is beginning today. I will push that work
     all possible, so that we may leave a cleanly finished set of
     buildings. The roofing, foundation, and plastering will each cost
     more than I had estimated, considerably; and the hardware for doors
     and windows must be bought.

     “Here at Messina, we are on the last week of cottage building, all
     houses being framed that we are going to build. I have told the
     Prefect that I would leave here on June 12th.

     “As the houses are completed, after Mr. Derby has inspected the
     kitchens and passed them, Lieutenant Brofferio and Avvocato Donate
     go over them, note whether they are ready for occupancy, or whether
     some minor repairs are needed, and then, on the revised list given
     by Brofferio, I report to the Prefect that the houses specified are
     ready for occupation. After the Prefect’s Committee have assigned a
     house, the applicant brings the written authorization here, and
     Donate installs him, or, generally, her.

     “The new aspect of the settlement, since the painting began, and
     the towering bulk of the hotel, have brought a steady stream of
     visitors; and on Sunday there were crowds, all over the place and
     through the hotel. These conditions are gratifying, but they make
     it difficult for us to remain and work; so that the date, June
     12th, must be regarded as definitely fixed.”


           Translation of an inscription on a visiting card
                          left in camp office

                                (Crown)

                         “COMM. LUIGI MAJOLINO

                               “MESSINA.

     “Having the concession for the American house of A-7, No.
     11,--before occupying it, I feel it due to salute the Egregious
     Doctor Donelson, Commandant Belknap, Lieutenant Buchanan, and
     Sub-Lieutenant Spofford, who, with love and self-sacrifice, have
     borne in among us for all time the good will of the great nation of
     the United States of America.

                                              “(Signed) LUIGI MAJOLINO.



“Our last Sunday in camp, June 6th, the great Italian national festival,
was celebrated at Villaggio Regina Elena, by throwing open the bridge
which had been jointly built by the Italian and American working
parties, connecting our respective quarters in the village. A very
festal occasion was made of this, the children marching around the
village in procession, guided by the teachers of the schools provided
for them by the Queen, all of them dressed in clothes made in the
village _laboratorio_, and waving paper flags of all sizes and
nationalities, the Stars and Stripes being prominent.

“On the day of departure of the main body from Messina, June 11, I gave
a lunch in the dining-room of the hotel we had built, to which were
invited Lieutenant-General Del Rosso, commanding the division, with his
brigadiers and chief of staff, Major Andrea Graziani (since promoted to
lieutenant-colonel, for exceptional services rendered at the time of the
earthquake), the new Prefect, Commendatore Buganza, Pro-Sindaco
Commendatore Martino, Captain Pericoli, the senior naval officer,
representatives of the Genio Civile, other officials of the Government,
our own party, including Mr. Bowdoin and Mr. Wood, from Taormina, and
our faithful contractors, Signor Pella and Signor Saraconi, the painter.
In all, about seventy persons sat down to a horseshoe table built for
the occasion. The room was freely decorated

[Illustration: GRAND HOTEL REGINA ELENA AND CHURCH OF SANTA CROCE,
AMERICAN VILLAGE, MESSINA. _Page 478._]

with flowers and green, the two national ensigns draped together at the
head of the table; and, barring a rather slow service, due to the fact
that the cooking was done in our camp kitchens four hundred yards away,
this first meal in the hotel was a success. It being our last in
Messina, there was a warm interchange of sentiments of the most friendly
nature, the Prefect saying that the occasion marked the beginning of a
new life in Messina, and the Pro-Sindaco, in the name of the Municipal
Council, conferring the honorary citizenship of Messina upon Lieutenant
Buchanan, Ensigns Wilcox and Spofford, Dr. Donelson, Mr. Elliott, and
myself. When I rose to bid them farewell and to commend to their kind
offices Ensign Spofford, who was remaining behind for a little while,
General Del Rosso rose and stretched his hand across the table to
Spofford, saying: ‘You are our comrade.’

“The main body, however, left Messina shortly after our farewell lunch,
by the five o’clock ferry, amid a popular and official demonstration
that will never be forgotten by any of us.

“What our American party built in the earthquake area may be seen in
the following summary; and to quote some of the things said of it, a
translation of the decree of honorary citizenship, and a letter lately
received from the Little Sisters of the Poor, are added.

“Allowing an average of six to a family, which is not high for the
people who occupy our cottages, the number we built would house twelve
thousand; and six thousand more could be provided for by the remaining
thousand for which material was provided.

“The church would easily hold three hundred or three hundred and fifty
people; fifty or sixty sewing women or other people could work in the
_laboratorio_, comfortably; and seventy-five to eighty children in each
schoolhouse. The _laboratorio_ and schools were ceiled and plastered,
and built on concrete foundations. All these large buildings are
permanent structures, and should last for years.

“The Hospital Elizabeth Griscom, at Villaggio Regina Elena, especially
is a worthy group of buildings, based on a substantial concrete
foundation, strongly framed, and well finished, all corners rounded in
the wall plastering, tiled floors in the surgical rooms, bathroom, and
kitchen, and roofed first with rubberoid, then with artificial slate.
Painted white, with red roof, and situated high up on the hillside, it
stands out from its surroundings, as seen from the harbor, most
attractively, while from the windows of the wards of the hospital itself
the view is unsurpassed.

“The hotel building was turned over to the authorities with all the
wood-working part finished, and in such general condition that a
_concessionaire_ could in a short time complete and open it. The form is
a wide H, the central part one hundred feet long by thirty-two wide, and
each wing one hundred and thirty-two feet by thirty-two feet wide. It is
arranged for seventy-five bedrooms, of several sizes, and thirteen or
fourteen bathrooms, so grouped as to minimize the amount of branch
piping necessary. Great care was taken with the foundation and to make a
strongly built structure; and also to make one that should be in some
degree worthy of the beautiful site on which it stands.

“Nothing but cottage-building had been contemplated when we went to
Messina, and this task had been accomplished at the rate of fifteen
cottages built for every day we spent there, including Sundays,
holidays, and days of rain. The other work--schools, workroom, church,
hotel, hospital--were all additional, their undertaking made possible by
the allotment of more funds by the American Red Cross.

“To mark the givers, each house completed bore on the door a plate,
reading, ‘U Italy S, 1909,’ or ‘American Red Cross for Italy, 1909.’
These were placed on the cottages, in the proportion of three to one,
which was about the ratio of the respective expenditures of the U. S.
Government and the Red Cross for this particular work,--roundly $450,000
and $150,000.

“As nearly as could be figured, the whole cost of each cottage came to
not more than $235, of which about $35 represented the cost to the
Italian Government.”


_Thanks from the Little Sisters of the Poor_

“To the Directing Manager and Gentlemen engaged in the erection of
Barracks at Messina.

“GENTLEMEN:--I, the undersigned, Provincial Superior of the Little
Sisters of the Poor, having been apprised of your approaching departure
from Messina, feel it my duty to thank you for the great kindness shown
to our sisters in that unfortunate country; no words can express our
gratitude for the noble manner in which you have treated us.

“We have every reason to hope that our Home will be soon reopened, as it
is the desire of our Holy Father, Pius X, that the aged poor should be
taken care of.

“Gentlemen, you may rest assured that your benevolence for our work will
never, never be forgotten; you will always be considered as our first
benefactors and our prayers and the prayers of our dear poor will follow
you everywhere. If you come back to visit this desolated country of
Messina, we hope you will come at once to see us, as we are really your
‘protegées.’

“Receive, Gentlemen, my most grateful homage, and believe me

                       “Your most humble servant

                         “In Christ our Lord,

                     “ST. AIMÉE DE LA PROVIDENCE,

              “Provinciale des Petites S’re. des Pauvres.

                 “Piazza, San Pietro in Vincoli, Roma.

                          “August 8th, 1909.”


COMMUNE OF MESSINA

[Sidenote: Date June 9, 1909.

SUBJECT

Honorary citizenship of the Commandant and Officers of the Navy of the
United States of America, who directed the construction of the American
houses.]

Extract from the Deliberations of the Municipal Council.

The year nineteen hundred nine, the ninth day of the month.

The Municipal Council of Messina, being called together by a notice of
meeting, sent by the Mayor, dated the seventh of May, convened today in
a hall of the Palazzo Comunale, with the following present:

1. Commendatore Antonio Martino, _Mayor_, Presiding.

2. Avvocato Auguste Bette, _Alderman_.

3. Cav. Avvocato Francesco Martino, _Alderman_.

4. Cav. Ingegnere Amilcare Martinez, _Alderman_.

5. Cav. Ingegnere Arturo Lella, _Alderman_.

6. Dottore Orazio Ciraolo, _Alderman_.

The Secretary-General, Avvocato Giacomo Crisafulli, assisted at the
meeting.

The President at 1 o’clock P.M. declared the session open.

On the motion of the President,

The Municipal Council considering that, in the tremendous disaster of
the 28 December et seq., all the civilized nations of the world,
sympathizing in the distress of the surviving Messinesi, united in
various ways, to relieve and mitigate their sufferings, considering that
the Republic of the United States of America chose to take part in this
great affirmation of the solidarity of humanity by means of enduring
works, namely, by the construction of one thousand five hundred houses,
for the shelter of a good portion of the surviving population, a
magnificent hotel, a church, and three school buildings; considering
that this new proof of affection furnished by the worthy American people
merits being signalized, and that a tribute is due in equal measure to
those also, who, with so much zeal and affection, have devoted their
energy and activity to this work for several months; convinced in
consequence that the executive body interprets the voice and feeling of
the entire populace, in solemnly expressing the most sincere sentiment
of gratitude, at the moment in which the gallant officers and sailors of
the glorious American Navy are leaving these shores, tried by suffering;
assuming on account of urgency, the power of the community, the Council,
by unanimous vote

                              DETERMINES

     _a_) to communicate to His Excellency the President of the United
     States of America, through His Excellency the Ambassador, resident
     at Rome, the profound gratitude of the survivors of Messina for
     this proof of the common bonds of humanity, furnished on the
     occasion of the tremendous disaster of the 28 December.

     _b_) to confer the honorary citizenship of Messina upon Messrs.

      1) Lieutenant Commander Reginald Rowan Belknap.

      2) Lieutenant Allen Buchanan.

      3) Ensign John W. Wilcox.

      4) Ensign Robert W. Spofford.

      5) Assistant Surgeon Martin Donelson.

      6) John Elliott.

     _c_) to make the aforesaid Commandant Mr. Belknap the warmest
     expression of appreciation for the kindly care with which he
     assumed a difficult undertaking, and carried through an extensive
     and complicated work.

     _d_) to recognize also the zealous efforts, effective and
     harmonious, of the other officers and of the Engineer Elliott, who
     contributed their co-operation to such a degree.

     After being read, the present proceeding is approved and signed.

                                                           _The Mayor._
                                                   (Signed) A. MARTINO.

                        _The Senior Assessor._
                         (Signed) A. MARTINEZ.

                       _The Secretary General._
                        (Signed) G. CRISAFULLI.

     The present document has been published in the pretorial bulletin
     of this Community on the feast day tenth of June, and no objection
     has reached this Office.

                                               _The Secretary General._
                                             (Signature) G. CRISAFULLI.

     The present copy conforms to the original, and is furnished solely
     and exclusively for administrative uses.

     At the Municipal Residency, the 11 June, 1909.

Compared,       [SEAL]

(Signature) C. LARGARO.

_The Secretary General._
(Signature) G. CRISAFULLI.

Visé _The Mayor_.
(Signature) A. MARTINO.



On their way to the ferry-boat the newly made citizens of Messina passed
through the Piazza del Duomo and by the ruin of an old Norman cathedral,
whose foundations were laid in the year 1098, by order of Roger II. The
noble central doorway is still standing; over it is a marble bas-relief
of the Madonna. The child has dropped from her arms. Then comes a great
rent, for the upper part of the façade has fallen. The mighty columns
of the nave (they once upheld the roof of the temple of Poseidon at Faro
Point) are snapped like pipestems. Two only remain upright and
uninjured. The high altar, a marvel of jasper, chalcedony, and
lapis-lazuli, has fallen, broken into a thousand pieces. The splendid
gold mosaics of the apse, so hard to see in the old days, are now easily
visible. In the central arch over the ruined altar the figure of the
Christ is almost intact. From the rich gloom of the mosaics His grave
face looks out on the ruins of Messina, upon His world. For the world
has never been so truly Christian as it is today; not even when Richard
of the Lion Heart wintered in Messina on his way to Palestine to fight
for the Holy Sepulchre, that same winter he took to wife the lovely
Berengaria. A new name is added to the long list of those who have made
their camp beside Charybdis, opposite Scylla, on the most beautiful, the
most deadly coast in all the world--the Americans, who came not to
conquer or to ravage, but to help and to save. The little boy who
greeted Captain Belknap on Easter morning with the words, “Be thou
blessed!” expressed the general sentiment of the Sicilians towards the
Americans.

In our bustling young country we are so busy looking forward and looking
backward that we sometimes lose sight of the only thing that is really
ours to make or to mar--today. In Sicily there is more time, and, in the
years to come, the old men and old women of Messina will tell the tale,
hand down the story of those latter-day Crusaders, Captain Belknap and
his men, and what they did in their camp beside the Torrente Zaera.

There was a certain exaltation in all the people who worked for Sicily
and Calabria that seemed to lift them above the smallnesses of every day
existence. They saw each other transfigured, they lived the heroic life.
Each was eager to do the other’s work,--all were quick to sacrifice
themselves to the others, as well as to the cause. It was a time when
men and women seemed purged of meanness and jealousy. Each saw the god
in the other. There was hardly a discordant note. It was like the time
of our Civil War, when a breath of heroism passed through the country.
No matter what might follow of discord and jealousy, the men and women
who passed through that fire of sympathy will never again be quite the
same. All their lives they will yearn for the glorified vision of those
days; their eyes will never quite lose the keener insight of the
mysteries they then attained.


THE END.


FOOTNOTES:

[1] Francesco Crispi, the great Sicilian patriot and statesman.

[2] When the work was all done, the Americans hung the bell in
the belfry of the church of Santa Croce. Our church is now the
pro-cathedral of Messina!





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