Roma beata; letters from the Eternal city by Elliott, Maud Howe
[Illustration: _Terrace of the Palazzo Rusticucci_
From a pencil drawing in the Collection of Miss Mabel Norman]
Letters from the Eternal City
AUTHOR OF “A NEWPORT AQUARELLE,” “THE SAN ROSARIO RANCH,” “MAMMON,” “PHILLIDA,” “LAURA BRIDGMAN,” ETC.
_With Illustrations from Drawings by John Elliott and from Photographs_
BOSTON LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY 1909
_Copyright, 1903, 1904_, BY J. B. LIPPINCOTT & COMPANY.
_Copyright, 1904_, BY THE CENTURY CO.
_Copyright, 1904_, BY AMERICA COMPANY.
_Copyright, 1904_, BY THE OUTLOOK COMPANY.
_Copyright, 1904_, BY LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY.
_All rights reserved_
Printers S. J. PARKHILL & CO., BOSTON, U. S. A.
TO MY SISTER
LAURA E. RICHARDS
I. LOOKING FOR A HOME 1
II. CADENABBIA--WOERISHOVEN--PFARRER SEBASTIAN KNEIPP 31
III. A VISIT TO QUEEN MARGARET 50
IV. A PRESENTATION TO LEO THE THIRTEENTH 76
V. IN THE ABRUZZI MOUNTAINS 97
VI. SCANNO 119
VII. VIAREGGIO--LUCCA--RETURN TO ROME 142
VIII. ROMAN CODGERS AND SOLITARIES 163
IX. BLACK MAGIC AND WHITE--WITCH’S NIGHT 187
X. ISCHIA 215
XI. OLD AND NEW ROME--PALESTRINA 239
XII. THE ANNO SANTO 264
XIII. THE QUEEN’S VISIT 292
XIV. STRAWBERRIES OF NEMI 314
XV. THE KING IS DEAD. LONG LIVE THE KING 338
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Terrace of the Palazzo Rusticucci _Frontispiece_ From a pencil drawing in the Collection of Miss Mabel Norman
The Appian Way 30 From a photograph
The Madonna of St. Agostino 72 From a photograph
The Pincian Gate and Wall of Rome 76 From a photograph
Roccaraso 98 From a pencil drawing
Marta, a Vestal of the Abruzzi 107 From a pencil drawing in the Collection of Mrs. Whitman
The Tiber, at the Ponte Nomantana 158 From a photograph
A Lost Love 202 From a red chalk drawing in the Collection of Mr. Thomas W. Lawson
Ischia 216 From a photograph
The Lady K. 250 From a red chalk drawing in the Collection of Mr. Thomas W. Lawson
Dante 311 From a pastel drawing in the Collection of Mrs. David Kimball
The Palace of the Orsini at Nemi 318 From a photograph
LOOKING FOR A HOME
ROME, January 20, 1894.
Rome, which we reached Thursday, is very much changed since I last saw it; imagine the Fountain of Trevi, all the principal streets, even many of the smaller ones, gleaming with electric lights!
We at once engaged an apartment bathed with sun in the Piazza di Spagna, sun from early morning till late afternoon. But when we moved into it, the day was overcast. The apartment which had been tropical with the sun when we hired it was arctic without it!
We interviewed our _padrona_ (landlady), an immense woman, and demanded a fire.
“But, Excellency, it is not good for the health.”
We told her we understood our health better than she, and reminded her that fires had been promised.
“Excellency, yes, if it makes cold; but to-day it makes an immense heat. _Diamine!_ this saloon is a furnace.”
The thermometer could not have stood above forty-two degrees, but she was not to be bullied or cajoled. Then J. went out and bought wood “unbeknownst” to her and lighted a fire in the parlor grate. All the smoke poured into the room. The _padrona_ charged with fixed bayonets.
“Gentry, we are ruined! Not is possible to make fire here.”
“Why did you not say so before?”
“Who could figure to himself that gentry so instructed would do a thing so strange?”
These people are so polite that this was an insult, meant as such, taken as such. In the end J. prevailed. A small fireplace was unearthed from behind the wardrobe in our bedroom. He worked like a stoker, but the badly constructed chimney swallowed all the heat. For three days I was never warm, save when in bed. Monday we forfeited three months’ rent, paid in advance, and went, tame and crestfallen, to a _pension_, a sadder and a wiser pair.
PALAZZO SANTO CROCE, March 10, 1894.
The warm weather has come, bright and beautiful, and here we are again, in a furnished apartment, but with what a difference! These pleasant rooms belong to Marion Crawford. That princely soul, having let his lower suite to the William Henry Hurlburts, lends us the pretty little suite he fitted up for the “four-in-hand,” as he calls his quartette of splendid babes. We are to remain here till our own apartment is found. We have bought our linen, blankets, _batterie de cuisine_, and other beginnings of housekeeping, and yesterday--am I not my mother’s own child?--I gave a tea-party for two American girls. They wanted to see some artists, so I asked the few I know, Apolloni (well named the big Apollo), Sartorio, and Mr. Ross, he who spoke of the cherubs in a certain Fra Angelico picture as “dose dear leetle angles bimbling round in de corner.” I invited also Mr. and Mrs. Muirhead; he is the author of the American Baedeker, the editor of all English Baedekers. I expected to see him bound in scarlet instead of dressed in hodden-gray. We had much tea, more talk, and most _panettone_--half bread, half cake, with _pignoli_ and currants; when fresh, it seems the best thing to eat in the world, until you get it the next day toasted for breakfast, when it is better.
My rooms are still ablaze with yesterday’s flowers. I bought for two francs in the Piazza di Spagna what I thought a very extravagant bunch of white and purple flags and white and purple lilacs, like those in our old garden at Green Peace. Helen came in a little later with a bunch twice as big and a glow of pink peonies added; in the middle of the tea-drinking Sartorio arrived with a gigantic armful of yellow gorse. Spring is really here! The trees are all green now. When we first came the stone pines were the chief glory; now the Pincio is gay with snow-white maple trees and flowering shrubs, mostly white and purple. Is there any rotation of color in flowers? It has often struck me there must be! Sometimes everything in blossom seems to be lilac, another season it is all yellow, then all red. I notice the reds come last, in midsummer chiefly,--has this to do with the heat? Max Nordau--cheerful person that, by the way--says that red is hysterical peoples’ favorite color; violet, melancholiacs’. There is a boy who sits all day under my window selling bird whistles, on which he warbles pleasantly. He is never without a red rosebud worn over his left ear. I wonder if he is hysterical!
Now that the good weather has come, I often go to the churches to hear the music. At the _festa_ of Our Lady of Good Counsel the scholars of the Blind Institution furnished the music--a good band, though not equal to that of the Perkins Institution, in Boston. The church was crammed with very dirty people and many children. One mother carried a strapping yearling, a splendid angel of a child; three toddlers clung to her skirts, and a newborn baby howled in the grandam’s arms. After a time the two women exchanged babies, the grandam took the heavy youngster, the mother took the new-born, and, squatting down, calmly suckled it. The music was marred by the wailing of this and other infants, but no one seemed to mind. After all, it was the only way the women could have heard mass; the little ones were too young to be left alone at home.
The Romans are devoted to their children, although their ways are not our ways; no woman of the upper class nurses her child, baby carriages are unknown, and swaddling is still in vogue, at least with the lower classes. I know a young American lady, married to a Roman, who imported a perambulator for her first baby. The _balia_ (wet-nurse), a superb cow of a woman, refused to trundle it, saying she was not strong enough, although I saw her carry a heavy trunk upstairs on her head while I was calling at the house! The baby is now a big eighteen-months-old boy; every day the _balia_ goes out to give him an airing, carrying him in her arms! Here, leading-strings are facts, not symbols. In Trastavere, where I went sightseeing yesterday with Helen--peering, as she calls it,--the best sight we saw was a darling red-haired baby in leading-strings stumbling along in front of its grandmother. In the division of labor, the care of the children falls upon the grandmother; the mother’s time is too valuable; if she is not actually employed in earning money, there is the heavier work of the household to do. To use the pet phrase of the boarders, “things are different here from what they are at home.”
PALAZZO RUSTICUCCI, July 10, 1894.
Here we are in a home of our own! One moonlight night J. came in with the news that he had found the very apartment he had been looking for; if I didn’t mind, we would go and see it at once. Naturally, I didn’t “mind.” We took a _botte_ and threaded the network of narrow streets that lead down to the Tiber. We crossed the river, a huge brown flood, silver where it swirled about the piers; drove past the Castle of St. Angelo to the dingy old palace at the junction of the Borgo Nuovo and the Piazza San Pietro. He would not let me stop to look at anything, but hurried me through the entrance, along the corridor, past a courtyard with orange trees and a fountain where the nightingales were singing, up a high, wide stairway guarded by recumbent statues of terra-cotta Etruscan ladies, to a rusty old green door. We pulled a bell-rope and set a bell jangling inside. The door was opened by the _esattore_ (agent), a brisk young man, who carried a three-beaked brass lamp by whose light we explored the apartment. They hurried me so that I could only see that the high ceilings were of carved wood, that the windows were large, and that I liked the shape of the rooms. J. kept saying, “Wait till you see the terrace.” The terrace, or house-top, is a flat roof; it covers the whole length and breadth of the apartment, and belongs exclusively to it. A parapet three feet high runs around it; at one end is a small room with a second smaller terrace on its roof, reached by a flight of stone steps; at the other end is a high wall with a little, open belfry on top. The view is sublime; you look down into the Square of St. Peter’s with the Egyptian obelisk in the middle, Bernini’s great colonnades on either side, the Church of St. Peter’s at the end, with the Vatican, a big, awkward mass of a building, behind it, and in the foreground the twin fountains sending up their columns of powdered spray. On the left loomed the Castle of St. Angelo; it was light enough to see the time by the clock. You can imagine all the rest,--the city spread out like a map, the dark masses of trees marking the Pincio and the Villa Borghese, the Campagna, the Sabine and the Alban hills beyond, Mt. Soracte, our familiar friend, on the left, over and under all the soft deep notes of the big bell of St. Peter’s throbbing out the Angelus.
The bargain was struck that very night! But when we went over the next day J. let the cat out of the bag by saying, “I was afraid if you went by daylight, and saw what an old ruin it was, you would never consent to our taking it!”
It did look discouraging. The last tenant, a monsignore, who lived here thirty years, never allowed the owners to make any repairs; he said he could not be bothered with workmen. He died a short time ago, leaving a red rose growing in a wooden half-barrel on the terrace. The owner of the palace, Signor Mazzocchi, armorer to the Pope, waited till the new tenant should turn up before making any changes. The palace was built in 1661. It has gone to wrack and ruin, but it is a magnificent old wreck. It stands on the site of the house the great architect Bramante built for Raphael, one pier of which is still standing, built into our walls. It once belonged to a Cardinal Rusticucci, whose arms are cut in stone over one of the doors; he was of the same family as the gentleman Dante met in one of the lower circles of the Inferno.
“_Ed io, che posto son con loro in croce, Jacopo Rusticucci fui; e certo la fiera moglie più ch’altro mi nuoce._”
“And I who am placed on the cross with these was Jacob Rusticucci. It is certain my proud wife harmed me more than another!”
The palace seems to be called indifferently Rusticucci, Accoramboni, and Mazzocchi. We hesitated for some time between the three names; finally the Dantesque name carried the day, and I have had Palazzo Rusticucci engraved upon our cards. It is considered very plebeian here to have your address on your cards, but I cling to my American ideas.
The monsignore’s red rose on the terrace looked so lonely that I went last Wednesday to Rag Fair in the Campo dei Fiori and bought a pink ivy geranium, some pansies, and a white carnation to keep it company; they were absurdly cheap; flowers are a necessity here, not a luxury. I also bought a sack of earth, some flower-pots, and a watering-can. I got up at dawn the next morning and potted my plants; hard work! When J. came up at seven o’clock for coffee, there they stood in a row at the end of the terrace. It was a real surprise; I was very proud, till I found that he had to do the work all over again, just because I had not put anything in the bottom of the flower-pots to keep the earth from running out when they are watered! J. says we must have more, many more, plants. Sunday he was pottering about all day with the plumber. We are to have another _quarto_ of water laid on, the pipes carried to the upper terrace, and a vast Florentine flower-pot--you know the kind, terra-cotta--for the receiver. Some day we mean to have a marble sarcophagus in its place. They took the beautiful long zinc bath-tub for the tank; this was a blow, but Pompilia and Filomena found it _too_ convenient! Every one who has seen it on the upper terrace says, “Do you take your bath up here?” It is not easy to laugh at this inevitable joke; I wait for it now from each new visitor, and feel relieved to get it over.
The terrace is our poetry, and we have parlous good prose downstairs. The walls are three feet thick, built to keep out both heat and cold; the whole house is paved with red, white, and black tiles in geometrical designs. The old green door opens into a vestibule leading to the _anticamera_, which has two big windows. The _salotto_ opens from this; it has a splendid _sei cento_ carved wood ceiling, and pale nile-green doors with gilt mouldings and handles. The dining-room, square and high, leads from the _salotto_; beyond is a charming room with a fresco of Apollo driving the horses of the sun. This will be our guest-room when we have a guest; it is now my den. On the other side of the _salotto_ is our yellow bedroom: the nicest room I have ever lived in; it has a vaulted stone ceiling. Do you remember Tennyson’s poem?
“O darling room, my heart’s delight, Dear room, the apple of my sight, With thy two couches soft and white, There is no room so exquisite, No little room so warm and bright, Wherein to read, wherein to write.”
Well, ours is just like that, only it is not “little” but very large. These rooms are in the front of the palace, looking down into the Piazza San Pietro and facing _mezzo giorno_, due south. They all have fireplaces (J. put them in himself with the aid of Lorenzo), the sun pours into them, and if one can be warm in Rome, in winter, we shall be. From the passage outside the kitchen a small stone stairway leads up past a tiny oratory to the terrace. The oratory is charming in shape, not quite round, more like an ellipse with two marble seats. The floor slopes to the middle, where there is a grating to let the rain out, for it is open to the sky; its dome is a minute replica of the Pantheon’s. The monsignore must have sat here to read his “hours”; there is nothing to distract the mind, no sound save the bells of St. Peter’s, nothing to see but the sky and clouds overhead and the low-flying _rondinelle_ swooping across and across at sunset.
In the _salotto_ (Filomena sometimes calls it the _salottino_, to my rage) there is a handsome sofa and pair of armchairs, a fine black oak table, and my Benares tray and stand for tea. The rest of the furniture is very meek and cane-bottomed. We have in this room a lovely landscape of the Campagna by Sartorio, a silver-point drawing by Hughes, the English artist, and a cast from the Alhambra.
July 28, 1894.
Thirty-six degrees centigrade for the last three days! Those clever children of yours will know how hot that really is. I don’t know, but people mop their brows a good deal, and say that the heat of this summer is “unprecedented and incredible.” It troubles me very little; once or twice only I have felt rather tired by it, and I fancy it is sharpening up my temper a little; but I eat and sleep like several tops, only I can’t do much of anything out of doors. Yesterday I went to see the friendly Countess C., who has a small city garden with shade-trees, under which we sat and consumed iced wine and cakes, and talked about the Pope. She is an American and very Black in her politics, though her husband is a White and fought for Victor Emmanuel.
At the suggestion of Mr. Richard Greenough I have adopted the Roman scheme of life and divide every day into two. I am up at five, have my coffee, and read my paper on the terrace. At eight the rooms are hermetically sealed; outside shutters, windows, and inside blinds are closed. A melancholy twilight pervades everywhere, except in my den, where I keep one eye of the house open to read, write, cipher, and catch fleas by. I go out early, do my errands, make my visits, and try to be at home by ten; sometimes I am delayed till twelve. Luncheon is at one; after this the whole household, the whole city, takes its _siesta_. From two till four Rome sleeps! Down in the piazza the workmen lie at full length on the pavement, their arms under their heads. Cabmen curl up inside their cabs, horses sleep between the shafts, even small boys sleep! At first I would none of it. I only yielded when I found that the soldiers in the barracks opposite are obliged by the military regulations to take a daily _siesta_.
“And does it not seem hard to you, When all the sky is clear and blue, And I should like so much to play, To have to go to bed by day?”
Soon after four o’clock the sea-breeze comes up and life begins again. By five I am ready for tea on the terrace. Sometimes we go instead to Ronzi and Singer’s for _granite_, a sort of sherbet made of snow from the mountains flavored with coffee or lemon, very delicious and cooling to the blood. By this time the streets are filled with people. The Roman girls look charming in their pretty light summer dresses; pink muslin seems to be the fashion this season. Dinner gets pushed back later and later; we really must reform. Last night we did not sit down till quarter to nine. The nights are divinely cool; we go to the terrace from the dinner-table, and sit there till bedtime under the friendly stars.
* * * * *
To-day I have been driving in the Villa Pamfili Doria; for proof accept this pink petal from the Egyptian lotus in the lake. I never saw them growing before. They are wonderful; the pads immense, with a green velvety surface on which the water rolls up into crystal balls; the flower, when it is closed, large and pointed like a classic flame, does not lie on the water, as I supposed, but stands erect, some eight or ten inches above it. My uncle and a few other privileged people are allowed to drive here even when the villa is closed to the public. We always meet a modest-looking old couple in a coupé; he is blind and has a long white beard; she wears a bonnet like a bat and carries a green fan with which she screens her eyes. Cardinal A., his secretary walking beside him, two attendants following, is always there, and several other priests; except for these, an occasional gardener, and the peacocks, we have the glorious old place all to ourselves. There are deer and Jersey cows and the lake and the pretty formal garden in front of the house; it has the feeling of being private property--a gentleman’s place. The name “Mary,” clipped in box on the hillside in memory of a beloved wife, an English Princess Doria, gives me the same sort of satisfaction as the Taj Mahal and the tomb of Cæcilia Metella.
Your last letter clamors for details of our housekeeping. In certain respects it is idyllic. For comfort I have never known its equal. We have two women, Filomena, the Umbrian housemaid and waitress, and Pompilia, my black-browed Tuscan cook (Romans do not make good servants). These two do the work easily with the help of old Nena, the fifth wheel to our coach. Helen calls her the footman; she does all our errands, carries my notes, and when I am hard pressed for time leaves our cards. Pompilia brings me her accounts every morning, so much for beef, bread, butter, spaghetti, wine, oil, and salt. I buy my fruit and groceries myself. So much custom allows. It is more _signorile_, however, to leave all buying to your servants, but a certain latitude, of which I have availed myself, is allowed to artists. Store-rooms and ice-chests are unknown; we live from hand to mouth, buying each day’s provisions “fresh and fresh.” The butchers shut up shop at eleven in the morning and do not open again till six in the evening. Business begins at the shriek of dawn; the first sound I hear in the early gray is the sharpening of the butcher’s knife in the shop opposite. They keep the meat in cool “grottos” underground. How they manage without ice is a mystery!
The Borgo, our quarter,--Leonine City is its best name,--is not fashionable, and the street-cries are still in full force here. The earliest is the Acetosa water, “_Fiasche fresche aqua ’Cetosa!_” I hear it in my dreams, plaintive, melodious. “Flasks of fresh Acetosa water!” Then comes the rumbling of the cart, the hee-hawing of the donkey, and the remarks of the man to the donkey. This is what he said to-day: “I call all the apostles to observe this infamous beast of a donkey: may he die squashed, this son of a hangman!” I do assure you he is the dearest donkey, pretty and willing, but rather restive about stopping. The Acetosa Spring is a mile and a half from the city, out Viale Parioli way. It has been in use since the days of the Cæsars, perhaps since the days of the Tarquins. The Romans take a course of _Aqua ’Cetosa_ every summer; six weeks is the orthodox time; it is “cooling to the blood.” It costs two cents a flask.
Signor Augusto Rotoli has written out for me the notes of several of the cries. In the Acetosa score he has indicated the blows of the driver, the kicks of the donkey, and finally the patter-patter of the poor little beastie’s hoofs over the rough paving-stones of the Borgo Nuovo:
VENDITORE DELL’ AQUA ACETOSA.
Nel silenzio del mattino, all’ alba, in distanza, e poi piu presso alla residenza--questo è un effetto molto caratteristico.
[Illustration: Musical notation
Fre-sca, Fre-sca, l’a-qua-Ace-to-sa kaaaaa.... _Dando una bastonata al povera asinella che alza_ tirando calci. ]
At seven o’clock a herd of twenty goats is driven into the piazza by two dark satyrs with shaggy thighs and flashing eyes, peasants in goat-skin trousers they are from the Campagna. The children crowding round them in the piazza, and I looking down from my terrace, watch them as they milk their yellow-eyed beasts. Goats’ milk, Pompilia says, is good for consumptives and delicate babies; I have not yet learned whether she considers it heating or cooling to the blood. We are not allowed to have _broccoli_, carrots, or mutton at this season because they are heating, and are obliged to have more rennet than we like because it is cooling!
After the goats are gone the blackberry man comes. I like his cry best of all, it is in a melancholy minor, “_More, more, chi vuol maniar le more?--more fate!_” “Moors, moors, who wishes to eat moors?--ripe moors!” Moors, if you please, because they are black!
IL VENDITORE DI MORE.
[Illustration: Musical notation
E li brugno-li fat-ti e chi ma-gna .... le mo-re .... ]
“Buy a broom” is far prettier in Italian--Romanesque, I should say--than in English. At first we could not make out the words, the man seemed to be singing “O! so far away!” The notes, long drawn out, pensive, fascinating, like a sailor’s chantey, haunted us. “_O! scopare, cacc’ aragni!_” “O brooms, chase the spiders!” The latter are Turks’ heads on the ends of long sticks, necessary for ceilings twenty feet high like ours.
Nella folla del giorno nel frastuono di carrozze e veicoli questo tono minore è molto rimarchevole.
[Illustration: Musical notation
Lo scopa-ro a-ja-rc, Scac-cia ra-gno .... ]
VENDITORE DI PESCE.
[Illustration: Musical notation
Pe-scevi-vo ... ca-la-ma-ret-ti .... ]
“_Pesce vivo, calamaretti!_” “Live fish, little inkstands!” The _calamaretti_, small cuttle-fish, are]
called little inkstands because of the black liquid--sepia, isn’t it?--which they eject when attacked. Fried a golden brown and served with fresh soles as a garnishing they are too good for common people.
The umbrella mender is a bit of a poet, he makes his cry rhyme. “_Ombrellare. Chi ha ombrelle per raccomodare?_” “The umbrella man. Who has umbrellas to mend?”
“_O ricotta, ricotta!_” When I hear this I run to the window, wave my handkerchief, and the _ricotta_ man brings up a fresh goat’s-milk cheese in a green wicker basket; it is a sort of spiritualized cottage cheese. When quite new, eaten with _maritozzi_ warm from the bakery downstairs, it makes a better luncheon than I can get at the Café di Roma.
“_Alice!_” (pronounced a-lee-chee) “anchovies,” is a strident cry which we hear at intervals all day. Anchovies are a staple food with the lower classes. At home I only remember them as an appetizer at some brutally long dinner parties. The people eat anchovies with bread or with macaroni; they are cheap, strong of flavor, and a little of them goes a long way. We have them with _crostine_ and _provatura_ for luncheon sometimes. _Provatura_ is cheese made of buffalo’s milk. Little crusts of bread with alternate layers of _provatura_ and anchovies skewered together like chickens’ livers and toasted make a pleasant dish.
One cry I do not like, “_aqua vita!_” short and sharp in the early morning, as soon as the newsboys begin to shout “_Don Quichotte_” “_Popolo Romano_,” “_Corriere_,” this cry comes like an antiphony. “_Aqua vita!_” “Water of life?” Water of death! brandy.
We sent all the way to the English bakery in Via Babuino for our bread till the day I met Count Luigi Primoli in the baker’s shop on the ground floor of our palace; he was tucking a brown paper parcel into his pocket. There had been a function at the Vatican. He had been to pay his respects to Leo XIII., and on his way home had stopped to buy what he told me were the best _maritozzi_ in Rome. The baker is an important person; he owns his shop and four caged nightingales, which sing divinely. We now buy our bread, flour, macaroni, and oil from him, and he changes all the neat fifty-franc notes we get from the banker’s; he can always be trusted to give honest money.
I soon found out that in all domestic affairs I must learn Italian methods; it was useless to try and teach Pompilia and Filomena our ways. After the tussle over the washing I gave it up. Set tubs, wash-boards, wringing-machines? Nothing of that sort. On Sunday evening the clothes are put in a large copper vessel, a basket-work cover is laid on top, over which a layer of wood-ashes is spread. Boiling water is then poured on slowly, percolating a little at a time through the clothes, which are bleached by the lye of the ashes; this is the _bucato_. When they have stood long enough in this witch’s cauldron the clothes are carried down to the basement and washed with cold water in the vast stone fountains of the palace, which we have the right to use one day in the week. The women employ a stiff brush and the queerest green soap to scrub the linen; if we have any table-cloths left at the end of six months, we shall be lucky. The American clothes-pins and line I sent for are neatly displayed in the kitchen as curiosities. We “hang out” on an iron clothes-line to which the linen is tied by small pieces of twine, as it was in the days of the Empress Faustina. We are no better than our mothers! The clothes are sent out to a _stiratrice_ to be ironed.
Our cooking fuel costs us one dollar a week. Saturday morning the _carbonaro_ arrives, carrying on his back a huge sack of charcoal, for which I pay five francs. I am told it is ten cents too much, but one must pay something for being “_forestieri_.” The cooking is done over four little square holes filled with charcoal, set in a table of blue and white tiles; a big hood overhead carries off the fumes; quite the prettiest kitchen range I ever saw! The charcoal is kindled by means of paper, little fagots, and a turkey-feather fan plied by old Nena. I like my kitchen, it is full of such queer, nice pots and pans; a row of deceitful copper saucepans hang along the wall, always bright, never used, but brushed over with white of egg, which acts like a varnish to protect the polish; a big white marble mortar, a long copper kettle for the fish, and the green and yellow bowls and mixing dishes are my favorite utensils. I foresee that the old brass _scaldino_ J. picked up at the junk shop will some day serve as an ornament to the front hall at home. We have a brace of warming-pans and the queerest metal box for live charcoal. When you want a warm bath you fill your tub with cold water, put hot coals in this box, screw it up tight, and put it into the water, which it finally heats. Prehistoric? Fortunately, we prefer our baths cold! Pompilia begged some slips from our geraniums, planted them in empty kerosene cans, and now the kitchen window is bright with flowers. Everything grows so quickly here that it is easier to have plants than not.
August 16, 1894.
The _parroco_ (parish priest) has called. Filomena came all of a flutter to summon me. The visit has raised us in our servants’ eyes; they have never before lived with pagans or Protestants. I like the _parroco_. He is a fine man of forty-five, evidently a peasant, but possessing that assured, courteous manner the priests all have; it is wonderful, the bearing and polish the Church gives them. The _parroco_ was rather disturbed at being offered a cup of tea at five in the afternoon,--it was stupid of me to have it brought in; the Anglo-Saxon association of eating and drinking with sociability is hard to get rid of,--but he made a long visit and gave me good advice about the local charities. The gnawing poverty all about us is the drop of gall in our honeypot. Our door is literally besieged by our poor neighbors and by begging monks and nuns. At the _parroco’s_ suggestion we now divide what we can afford to give between the benevolent society which looks after the sick and old, the Trinitarian order of monks, and the Little Sisters of the Poor. Besides these a man calls on Saturday morning from the “Holy Family” and carries away a big bag filled with _robaccio_,--trash,--things that at home would go into the ash-barrel.
General Booth must have got his idea of the Household Brigade from some such institution, and I am learning new lessons in economy every day! Nothing is wasted here, not the tiniest scrap of food nor the most disreputable cast-off garment. My servants watch for my old shoes; three pairs of eyes are fastened on them daily. You know how much more precious old shoes are than new,--especially Appleton’s, which come all the way from Boston? Well, yesterday I was shamed into giving away my most cherished old boots and am wearing to-day a horrid stiff new pair. Every night a bundle is smuggled out of the house full of odds and ends of food which support a certain poor family whose grandmother has attached herself to us. Her perquisites are the old newspapers, empty bottles, stale cake and bread, sour milk, the very orange and lemon peels, and the leavings from the servants’ table. I am so thankful there is enough to fill the poor old blue market handkerchief, but it would never do for me to show knowledge of its existence; that would spoil the sport.
You ask about the comparative expense of life here. People who would be called well off at home are rich in Rome; people we should consider poor can live here with much comfort and some luxury. For instance, cabs cost sixteen cents a course for two people, or forty cents an hour. I pay my seamstress fifty cents a day, and my cook seven dollars a month; a clever young Italian doctor, modern, up-to-date, well educated, is quite satisfied with a dollar a visit. Good hotels (not the two or three most extravagant) charge twelve francs (about two dollars and forty cents) a day. Meat, chicken, eggs, fish, fruit, and vegetables are cheap; but all imported groceries are horribly dear by reason of the fifty per cent. duty they must pay. Coffee costs fifty cents a pound, sugar twenty, American kerosene oil is sold in five-gallon cans for three dollars--fancy! we pay more for petroleum than for olive oil or for wine. Postage stamps, salt, and tobacco--all government monopolies--are sold only at tobacconists’. Milk is not cheap; the best in Rome comes from Prince Doria’s herd of Jerseys. Unfortunately, we are not on his milkman’s route; our milk comes from the Villa Ada, which belongs to an American lady, a daughter of Rogers, the sculptor. It is very good milk, quite different from that we get at a pinch from the _vaccaria_ round the corner, where in a dark, dreadful dungeon stable pale cows, with long untrimmed hoofs, pass their melancholy lives. Pompilia is in despair because we will drink our milk unboiled; when I saw the prisoner cows I understood why. Italy is a poor country, and poor people can live comfortably here. Rents, service, and food are all cheap; it may be a paltry reason for abandoning one’s country that one can get more pork for one’s shilling elsewhere, but it is a potent reason. Here in Rome prices are all scaled to the different pockets. I pay less at the same shops for the same things than my rich friends pay, but some things even the rich cannot secure; certain conveniences--rapid transit, steam heat, “rapid delivery,” express service--cannot be purchased, and, what is really serious, good schooling is not to be had at any price, so few Americans with children to educate settle in Rome. But for men and women there is no school like Rome. Willy nilly, I learn something every time I go out of doors, whether it be to the Appian Way, the Via Sacra, the Forum, or to the Corso. The yellow Tiber, the fountains, the nightingales of the Villa Medici, the ilex trees of the Borghese, seem to whisper the secrets of the city with the mighty past, the mother and law-giver of nations.
[Illustration: _The Appian Way_
From a photograph]
CADENABBIA--WOERISHOVEN--PFARRER SEBASTIAN KNEIPP
CADENABBIA, LAKE OF COMO, August 29, 1894.
I fear the vagabond instinct is the strongest one I have, for I was glad to leave Rome a week ago--to leave _my_ Rome, think of it! with its galleries all to myself, and its churches, and no tourists; still, the fleas had become too vicious, and all the “lame ducks” were upon me--shabby gentlemen attached to the Vatican, seedy artists with portfolios of unsold sketches, decayed gentlewomen professing Dante and lacking pupils--for the foreign colony, by which they live, has dissolved, and we were the last Anglo-Saxons left in town except some young secretaries of the British Embassy.
Unless one has seen the Sistine Chapel at noon on a blazing August day one has not really seen it. The figure of Adam receiving the touch of Life from the Creator is, for me, the highest expression of the art of painting. The hours I spent across the way at the Vatican and St. Peter’s made up for any small inconveniences of the heat I may have suffered. If one is to pass a summer in a city instead of in your green Maine woods, many-fountained Rome is the city of all others! There are no mosquitoes,--literally, we have neither a bar nor a netting in the house--the nights are cool, the citizens are too poor to go away in any appreciable number, so there is none of that desolate feeling which makes London a Desert of Sahara in August, and Paris worse. But the heat of the last week of August drove us to the Italian lake country, and here we are at Cadenabbia--from _Ca’ di Nabbia_, house of Nabby, an old woman who once lived in a little hut, or _ca’_, on the shore. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth.
I am writing before breakfast. Outside my window is the Lake of Como with its mountains. On one side there is deep purple shadow, the other palpitates with light. Soon we shall have coffee and green figs in the _pergola_ below, under the canopy of grape-leaves. Cadenabbia is all villas and hotels; behind, half way up the hill, is the village of Griente, to reach which we climb steep streets of steps paved with round cobbles. Griente is all gray stone, with delicious arches spanning the narrow ways. The syndic’s house stands apart; his fat wife and pretty daughter seem always to be sitting sewing before the door. The _padre_, a dear old man, showed us his garden and called our attention to the trellis he had contrived for his grapes. We must taste his wine, made from these Muscats--made, I warrant, by his own hands. We did taste it and found it excellent.
“_Sapete, Signori_,” he said, “_un goccettino di vino e’ buona per lo stomaco_ (Know, Signors, that a little drop of wine is good for the stomach).” St. Paul was of his way of thinking.
J. has been seized with a fury of sketching; he goes every day to Griente and draws and draws! The old women and the children make much of him. Yesterday he heard one boy say to another, “It must be very hard to paint and smoke a pipe at the same time.”
“_Ma ché!_” said the other, “he only does it for bravado!”
The other day he frescoed a lad’s nose with vermilion like a Cherokee brave’s; since then all the boys in the district torment him for the ends of his pastels.
This is one of the prosperous provinces of Italy. The town of Como has silk manufactories, where the best Italian silk stockings are made and the nicest of the piece silks. There is a feeling of comparative _bien être_ in all classes which adds much to one’s own comfort. The flood of travellers that pours through here brings a certain prosperity, though I incline to think it a specious one. Everybody asks, “What would Italy do without the tourists?” Perhaps if the people were not so busy making silly knicknacks to sell to tourists, they would pay more attention to cultivating their land. Improved agricultural methods are what Italy needs above all else; she has the finest soil and climate in Europe; she could supply half the continent with fruit, oil, and wine if she had a little more common sense! I have seen oranges and lemons rotting under the trees at Sorrento, and in Calabria I have seen grapes used to enrich the soil! This is not because the Italians are “lazy”--“lazy Italians!” there never was a more unjust reproach borne by any people--the Italian peasants are the hardest-worked people I know. They tug and toil just to put bread in their mouths; they almost never taste meat. Last Sunday afternoon at the railroad station in Rome the floor and platform were covered with sleeping peasants waiting for the train to take them to their work. Each man carried round his neck seven loaves of coarse bread strung on a piece of rope, his week’s rations,--dry bread, with a “finger” of wine to moisten it if he is lucky! It is evident that they are willing to work, and yet Italy is miserably poor! Somebody is blundering somewhere, I am too rank an outsider to know who. Some foreign writers lay every ill Italy endures to the heavy taxes the government has imposed. I am not so sure that what Italy has got in the last quarter century is not worth the price she has paid for it. There are abuses, steals, a bureaucracy, and a prodigious megalomania (swelled head), but the people are learning to read and write!
That reminds me of what I heard Sir William Vernon Harcourt say at a luncheon in Rome. Some one asked where he was staying. “I am stopping at the Hotel Royal opposite to the Ministry of Finance,” he said. “Strange that Italy should have the largest finance building in the world and the smallest finances!” The folly of putting up these mammoth public buildings, these dreadful monuments to Victor Emmanuel, Garibaldi, Cavour, and the other great men who brought about the _Risorgimento_, is appalling; but Italy is realizing her mistakes; she is learning at an astonishing rate.
WOERISHOVEN, BAVARIA, September 20, 1894.
I have been banished by bronchitis from the Eden, Cadenabbia, and have come to Father Kneipp’s Water-Cure, near Munich, although it is a little late in the season to take the “cure.” It is _de rigueur_ before seeing Father Kneipp to consult a regular practitioner, who pronounces whether or no you are a fit subject; people with weak hearts are not allowed to take the cure. I paid a small sum, became a member of the Kneipp Verein, received a blank-book--in which the _medico_ wrote out a diagnosis--and a ticket stating the hour of my appointment with “the _Pfarrer_,” as Father Kneipp is called. I arrived a little before time at an immense barrack of a place like the waiting-room at a railroad station. The door to the consulting-room was guarded by two functionaries who read aloud our numbers as our turn came, looking carefully at the tickets before letting any one enter.
“_Einundzwanzig!_” (twenty-one), and I passed into the long room and stood before Father Kneipp, like a prisoner at the bar. He is one of the most powerful-looking men I have ever seen; his eyes pierced me through and through. I handed him the book with the diagnosis. He read it, grunted, ruminated, bored me with a second auger glance, then dictated my course of treatment to one of his secretaries, a callow _cherico_ who sat beside him at a long table with three or four other men.
I found out afterwards that they were young doctors studying his methods. Father Kneipp spoke to me rather sharply, going directly to the point. Never mind what he said, I deserved it, I shall not forget it, and, like Dr. Johnson, “I think to mend!” “Come again in a fortnight,” he said suddenly. The consultation was over and I was ushered out. I had not reached the door when “_Zweiundzwanzig_,” a crippled boy, a far more interesting case than mine, came in.
Father Kneipp dislikes women, ladies especially, me in particular, because no one had warned me not to wear gloves, a veil, and a good bonnet. If I had put an old shawl over my head and looked generally forlorn, he would have been kinder. Isn’t that dear? His benevolence is of the aggressive type; he grudges time spent on rich people,--is only reconciled to them, in fact, because they offer up gifts in return for health, and in this way a great sanitarium has grown up where the prince is nearly as well treated as the peasant--but it is the peasant folk, his own people, that the _Pfarrer_ loves! This is the only truly democratic community I have ever lived in,--a pure democracy governed by a benevolent despot! The despot is past seventy years old; he has an aldermanic figure, a rough peasant head, and extraordinary bristling white eyebrows, standing out a good two inches from his pent-house brows. His coloring is like an old English country squire’s,--brick-red skin, bright blue eyes, and silver hair. He is a prelate; so his rusty black cassock is piped with purple silk, and he wears a tiny purple skull-cap. His two inseparables were with him, a long black cigar and a white Spitz dog....
* * * * *
The fortnight is almost up, the cough gone, the vitality come. Yesterday I went to hear one of the Father’s health talks in the big, open hall, free to all. Good, practical common sense was what he gave us, nothing new or startling,--just the wholesome advice of a very wise old man. Enthusiasm and common sense are his weapons. After it was over we waited to see him come out. A group of bores hung on to him; one sentimentalist caught his hand and tried to kiss it, which so enraged the _Pfarrer_ that he gave the fellow a slap!
Such people! If you could only hear them testify to their cures, like lepers and the halt in the Bible! Tell Anagnos that two blind men say they have been cured here this summer. The applications were general, not local, save bathing the eyes in warm straw water. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? One had been blind four years, the other longer. Atrophy of the nerves of the eye was the trouble in both cases. The younger man was going away in despair after a few weeks’ treatment. He drove to the station, got into the train; _suddenly he saw something moving_, cars going in the other direction! He got out again, returned to Woerishoven, persevered with the treatment, and now sees!
A South African couple sit at my table; they have come all the way from Cape Town. For seventeen long years the husband suffered with nervous dyspepsia, whatever that may be. One summer at Woerishoven has cured him. Does this sound like Paine’s Celery Compound? I learn as much from the other patients as in any other way. Herr Schnell, a German New Yorker,--a hardware man,--and his wife are my best friends. She first spoke to me at table.
“Dot caffee is not good for _Ihnen_. _Sie müssen Wasser trinken_.”
“I am here for my throat,” I told her; “I only need hardening; besides, Father Kneipp drinks coffee.”
“Dot _Pfarrer_ is not _krank_--sick, how you say?”
My dear, she actually sent the coffee away, and forbade the _kellner_ ever to bring it to me again! The Schnells and I patronize the same fruit-stand, and we walk up and down after meals together, eating grapes out of brown paper bags. A certain forlorn Pole at our table interests me; he is called Count Chopski, or some such name. His nerves are shattered by too much cigarette smoking. Frau Schnell and I came upon him in the wood the other day, sitting behind a big tree smoking. Frau Schnell marched up to him, took the cigarette out of his hand, and gave him a scolding for smoking on the sly. He began to cry!
I am at the best hotel, which is of a simplicity! Big people and little people all sit down to the half-past-twelve dinner; only royalties (there are always some of them here) are allowed to keep any state. At the table next mine a bishop and a ballet-dancer sit side by side; it is an open joke to all of us, except the bishop, who doesn’t know, and nobody will tell him,--I call that nice feeling. In all my life I have never met with such simple kindliness as there is here; it’s a sort of Kingdom-come place, where everybody feels responsible for everybody else. Nothing of the am-I-my-brother’s-keeper feeling here! Of course, it is all _Pfarrer_ Kneipp; the whole atmosphere of place and people is the expression of a great, ardent heart which beats for sick humanity, which rages against all shams and cruelties. His spirit is like my father’s, the atmosphere here more like that of the old Institution for the Blind in his day than anything I have ever known.
When Sebastian Kneipp was a young student preparing for the priesthood (he was the son of a poor weaver) his health broke down so completely that he was obliged to give up his studies. One day in a convent library he stumbled on a copy of Preissnitz’s book on water-cure. Impressed by the theory, he persuaded a fellow-student in the same predicament as himself to join him in putting it into practice. It was midwinter. The two lads broke the ice from a neighboring stream in which they took their baths. Heroic treatment, but it saved them; both soon regained their health. Kneipp finished his course of study, took orders, returned to his native village of Woerishoven as parish priest, and has remained here ever since.
From the beginning he seems to have been more interested in curing his parishioners’ bodies than in saving their souls. He tells of being called to administer the last sacrament to a dying man. The moment he saw him he threw away book and candle, called for a pail of water and a linen sheet, put the patient in a wet pack, and saved his life. For many years the _Pfarrer_ only practised among his peasant neighbors. Gradually his fame spread to the surrounding villages, to the city of Munich, to other cities. People began to flock to Woerishoven from all over Germany, France, Europe, America, till finally this obscure Bavarian hamlet has become one of the world’s great Meccas of health.
The only person who makes any effort for society is an Austrian countess, a great court lady. She has taken a tiny cottage, brought her own cook, maid, and butler from Vienna, and tries to give “at homes.” I heard some good music at her rooms the other day. Somehow she had managed to draw together half a dozen people of the sort that can make “society” in the prison of La Jacquerie, on an ocean steamer, or even at a German cure,--an Austrian officer, an English diplomat, a French abbé, my Polish count, and the musician, who is a real artist. We walked with the gods for that hour; the pianist gave us whatever we asked for--Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Grieg. It was a _Kaffee-klatsch_ without the coffee (all stimulants are forbidden, even tea and coffee); the butler handed--scornfully, I thought--milk and grapes. The party broke up rather hurriedly at sunset, everybody rushing away to get their _Wassertreten_ before dark. Water treading is to wade up to one’s knees in one of the streams which run through the fields. Very pleasant, very comic--fortunately, there is a male stream and a female stream; such chippendales! such piano legs have I seen! It is all so strange, so _echt deutsch_! The countess does not harmonize with the rest, she is out of key. I meet her at seven o’clock in the morning, her feet, head, neck, and arms bare, strolling over the wet grass, a lovely, incongruous vision; her hair dressed and “_ondulée_” in the latest fashion; her parasol, rose-colored satin. Now, a rose-colored satin parasol at Woerishoven is a false note in a pastoral symphony. She worships Father Kneipp; they all say she owes him her life; he cannot endure her, has attacked her almost openly in his talks; he will not tolerate folly, vanity, or worldliness; she personifies--oh, so charmingly--all three! She wears the prescribed dress of coarse Kneipp linen with such a difference; the other women look like meal-sacks; she has the lines of a Greek goddess.
In the early morning all the patients walk barefoot through the wet grass. Those who have been here longest go without shoes and stockings all day. I am told it is delightful to walk bare foot in the new-fallen snow. Women’s skirts reach only to the ankles; men wear knickerbockers. The only foot-gear allowed at Woerishoven is the leather sandal, classic and comfortable. Newcomers begin by wearing the sandal over the stocking, then the stocking is left off for half an hour--an hour--finally for the whole day. An hour and a half after breakfast and dinner a cold douche is taken. The _blitzguss_ (lightning douche) is for people who have been taking the cure for some time, the _rumpf_ (body) douche is commonly prescribed for new arrivals. At the ladies’ bath attached to this hotel a rosy _mädchen_ plays the hose upon the patient with skill and firmness. That ordeal over, the dripping victim scrambles hastily into her clothes--drying and rubbing are forbidden--and exercises vigorously until she is perfectly dry and warm. The exhilaration which follows is indescribable. In the exercise-room attached to the largest bath, I have seen a bishop capering, a princess sawing wood, a fat American millionaire pirouetting with a balancing pole. No one laughs; it is too grave a matter. You dance or prance, box, saw wood, or do calisthenics for your life--anything to get up the circulation!
Bavaria is enchanting, Bavarians are delightful, not at all like other Germans, more like the Tyrolese,--simple, kind, deeply religious. I cannot imagine becoming a “convert” in Rome, but here it would be easier. Why should the people of Catholic countries have better manners than those of Protestant lands? I know you will bring up some old saw about sincerity and truth not always being compatible with suavity! We can’t be _all_ right and they _all_ wrong, “and yet and yet” it is known that the Pope keeps his own private account at the Bank of Protestant England! Does this mean that he, like the Italians I meet every day, is readier to trust an Englishman or an American than his own countrymen?
I keep thinking of him, my neighbor in Rome, the Prisoner of the Vatican, shut up between the walls of his vast garden through all the long summer. I used to look at his windows and wonder if he felt the heat as much as I did in those last August days before we came away on our _villeggiatura_. No _villeggiatura_ for him, he is still there! The “Black Pope” (as the power of the Jesuit is called) is his gaoler,--not good King Humbert, as you may have been led to suppose,--but a prison is a prison, whoever the gaoler may be.
I am learning all I can about the German Kaiser. I am inclined to think he plays the strongest game at the European card-table. The Bavarians I have talked with seem rather bored by him; they compare him unfavorably with poor, dear, mad King Ludwig and his father, great art patrons, both.
The Prussians think their Kaiser the greatest man on earth. I gather from one of their number that the court people are harried by him beyond belief; he is forever interfering with their private affairs. A young officer with an English wife and English tastes set up a tandem in Berlin last winter. He received a message from the Emperor requesting him not to drive one horse before the other! How can they bear it? When we first arrived the Kaiser had lately been at Rome and people were still telling stories of him. The Italians are not over-fond of his visits; he costs a great deal to entertain and is too much given to dropping in to tea! He stayed at the Quirinal Palace, the guest of the King. As such, etiquette forbade his visiting the Pope. You don’t suppose he let a little thing like that interfere! On a certain day the German Ambassador to the Vatican (you understand there are two Ambassadors, don’t you, one to the King, one to the Pope?) received notice that the Emperor was to be his guest for the morrow. The Ambassador, a bachelor of simple tastes, prepared for the imperial visit as best he could. The Emperor arrived with a portmanteau, made one of his lightning changes, and came down to breakfast. The breakfast-table was a bright spot, a friend having lent a fine service of silver and some wonderful Venetian glass. When the Kaiser saw the display he cried out, “Mein Gott, A----, where did you steal all these?” Rather nice, wasn’t it? After they had “eated and drinked,” as your children say, a carriage, come all the way from Berlin, with horses, harnesses, and servants to match, drove up to the door and carried the Emperor off to call on the Pope! It would not have been etiquette to use the Italian royal carriage to pay the papal visit!
Prince Doria’s ball for the Kaiser at the splendid Palazzo Doria--one of the finest of the Roman palaces--must have been gorgeous; the picture gallery was a blaze of glory,--you remember there the great Velasquez portrait of Pope Innocent X.?--all the jewels in Rome were present except the emeralds of the Pope’s tiara. When he went away the Kaiser said to Prince Doria,--
“We shall be very glad to see you and the Princess at Potsdam, but we cannot show you anything like this.” Handsome of him, wasn’t it?
When the Kaiser went sightseeing to St. Peter’s he admired my fountains. Well he might! After watching them leap and play for some time he said, “Turn them off now; it’s a pity to waste so much water.” Thrifty, eh? Turn off Carlo Maderno’s tireless fountains, which have danced in the sun and shimmered in the moon nigh three hundred years!
A VISIT TO QUEEN MARGARET
PALAZZO RUSTICUCCI, ROME, December 7, 1894.
Yesterday was _sirocco_. In consequence the house was full of fine sand blown up from the African desert and everybody was out of humor; it is curious how this soft wind sets people’s nerves on edge. In spite of _sirocco_, I saw the King and Queen going to open Parliament. The King, Prince of Naples, and two officers were in the first crystal and gilt coach, the Queen her mother the Duchess of Genoa, and a gentleman of the court in the next. The horses, trappings, coachmen, and footmen were magnificent. There were three servants to each of the six royal carriages--one on the box, two standing behind. They wore scarlet coats, white wigs, three-cornered hats, and pink silk stockings. The King and the Prince were in uniform, the Queen and her mother in the latest French fashion. Little Gwennie Story (the granddaughter of our dear old friends the William Storys) was dreadfully disappointed when she found that the Queen did not always wear a crown. I sympathize with her. I had a place in the loggia of the Palazzo Montecitorio--where Parliament meets--and saw the royalties step out of their carriages and enter the palace.
January 21, 1895.
Yesterday I went to the annual memorial mass for Victor Emmanuel at the Pantheon. The noble old temple--the only one of the Roman buildings which has been in continuous use since it was erected in the first century--was hung with black and cloth of gold. A huge catafalque stood in the middle, directly under the open dome; the whole interior was lighted by classic torches, urns, and tripods holding blue fire. A tribune had been constructed for the orchestra and singers. The music, a mass of Cherubini’s, was very fine. The catafalque was surrounded by a double line of men who stood facing one another through the long service. The men of the outer circle were soldiers of the King, the men of the inner ring were priests of the Church, for Victor Emmanuel was a good Catholic and died in the faith.
I was in Rome for the first time in 1878, the last winter of his life. I often saw him driving on the Pincio or in the Corso. He was an extraordinary-looking man, fierce, powerful, bizarre, every inch a king; loved and hated accordingly. I remember the intense excitement when the two old enemies, Pius the Ninth and Victor Emmanuel, both lay dying in the city for which they had fought. Would the King be permitted to receive the sacrament? When it was known that the Pope on his death-bed had sent his blessing to the King _in extremis_ all Rome drew a long breath. We went to see _Il Re Galantuomo_ lying in state in the _capella ardente_ at the Quirinal. He was dressed in full uniform with high riding-boots, the royal robe of red velvet and ermine was spread over the inclined plane on which he lay, the crown and sceptre at his feet. The chapel blazed with candles; in each of the four corners knelt a brown Capuchin monk telling his beads. Signor Simone Peruzzi, chamberlain to the King, watched one night beside the body. He was alone for the moment when he heard a deep sigh, saw the King’s breast heave. The matter was explained by the physicians afterwards. I remember to this day the thrill in Peruzzi’s voice when he spoke of the dead King’s sigh.
March 10, 1895.
Mrs. Potter Palmer and I have had a private audience with the Queen. The visit went off very well. We arrived at the Quirinal Palace at two o’clock, and were received by the Marchesa Villamarina and two other court ladies, with whom we talked for perhaps ten minutes. A tiny old woman dressed in mourning, looking like the Fairy Blackstick, came out from her audience just as we entered the Queen’s reception-room for ours. She must have been a privileged person, for we had been warned not to wear black and not to wear hats, bonnets being _de rigueur_. As I do not own a bonnet, Mrs. Palmer kindly lent me a charming one, fresh from Paris--a few days later, when she was received by the Pope, she wore my Spanish mantilla. The Queen, who was seated on a sofa, rose as we entered and shook hands cordially with us. She is still beautiful, her hair magnificent, her eyes kind and keen. When you visit royalty you must only speak when you are spoken to; the choice of the topic of conversation thus remains with the royal personage. You must always say “your Majesty,” and you must make three reverences on entering and leaving the presence. In all this, I was tutored by Marion Crawford, who has often been “received,” and whose books the Queen is said to read with pleasure. She speaks English perfectly, by the way. She had seen an article in a late magazine--_The Century_, I think--on American country houses; she spoke of those at Newport, and said that, “judging from the illustrations, they must be very fine.” She showed us a grand piano at the end of the room, saying that it was an American instrument, a Steinway, and that “it had a very brilliant action.” With Mrs. Palmer the Queen spoke of the World’s Fair. Mr. MacVeagh had presented her with a copy of the book I edited on the Woman’s Department of the Chicago Exposition. The audience lasted about twenty minutes; then the Queen rose, the signal for us to withdraw. We made our three courtesies and backed successfully from the room. The Queen is much beloved; she has real charm, besides being good and clever.
Yesterday I went to Mr. William Story’s studio. The garden is lovelier than ever, the climbing vines that mask the dead wall make a rustling screen of cool green in which the birds build their nests. I waited in the studio among the statues--most of them old friends of mine--and found my particular tassel on the fringed robe of the marble Sardanapalus. One day, seventeen years ago, when Mr. Story was working on the clay, he let me take his modelling tool and add a few touches to the fringe. I have seen a copy of this statue in Lord Battersea’s fine house in London opposite the Marble Arch of Hyde Park. When Mr. Story came in--much as you remember him, the same graceful, brilliant talker, only with a new pensive note since his wife’s death--we talked of the old days at Dieppe, of the meetings in the studio there, when he and my mother read aloud from the books they were writing, and Mrs. Story gave us tea and read us Mallock’s “New Republic,” published that year; it must have been the summer of 1878. Mr. Story remembered the mornings on the _plage_ when we sat on the warm sea sand under big red umbrellas watching “the boys” tumbling in the surf, and mamma’s calling Waldo “the amber god,” and Julian “a young leopard,” as he swam and dove through the waves like a merman. I reminded him of the little poem he wrote in our autograph book, and showed him the locket Mrs. Story gave me with a picture of herself and Pippa, the funny little pug dog she took with her wherever she went. We both remembered how Pippa behaved the day they left Dieppe when she saw the handbag in which she always travelled. She bit and scratched the bag, whined and generally remonstrated. Once inside the satchel, however, she was perfectly quiet and never betrayed her presence by barking _en route_.
Mr. Story showed me the monument he is modelling for Mrs. Story’s grave--a kneeling figure of an angel leaning over a classic altar. The face, every line of the figure, every finger of the hand, each feather of the drooping wings seems to weep. He calls it the Genius of Grief. This last expression of a great life love gripped me by the heart. It is to be placed in the Protestant cemetery here (where lovely Jennie Crawford is buried) not far from the corner where the ashes of Shelley were interred, and near the tombstone of Keats with its familiar inscription,--
“Here lies one whose name is writ in water.”
ST. AGNELLO DI SORRENTO, March 18, 1895.
Last Monday we left Rome in a rain-storm and came here to break up a pair of obstinate colds. We are delightfully established at the Cocumella, an old Jesuit monastery turned into a hotel. There is less of what Hawthorne calls the odor of sanctity--a peculiar mildewed smell the monks leave behind them--than is usual in such places. Our windows command an astonishing view of the Bay of Naples and Mt. Vesuvius. To the right, about a quarter of a mile away, is Villa Crawford, where we are most kindly welcomed by the ladies; the man of the house is away. The children are charming; the villa ideal; it stands on the edge of a high cliff leaning over the sea. The grounds, filled with flowers and fruit-trees, are seamed with quaintly paved walks. On the left of the house is a terrace, where they dine in summer. Here a flaming heart in gray and white paving-stones took my fancy. The house is large and luxurious; there are roses everywhere inside and out.
To-day is Palm Sunday. The chambermaid who brings my morning coffee brought me a bit of olive-branch, instead of palm, from early service. Later we went to high mass at the cathedral in Sorrento. The procession was headed by the bishop, his acolytes, and some smart young canons in rose-colored satin capes. After the mass the procession marched through the town, led by a group of bronzed fishermen and boys dressed in white robes, with bright blue _moiré_ capes, and loose oriental white hoods over their heads. They all carried yellow palm branches in their hands. It was the most perfect contrast of color imaginable.
Yesterday I saw the nets hauled in. The men and women, old and young, form a line upon the beach, take hold upon the rope, and with a graceful, swinging motion pull in the seine inch by inch, as they did in the days of St. Peter. The Sorrentines are a handsome and seem a kindly people; there are comparatively few beggars here.
Throughout the _Piano di Sorrento_ thousands of men and women are employed in the manufacture of silk stockings, scarfs, carved and inlaid wood, coral ornaments, tortoise-shell combs, and jewelry. I dare not enter a shop for fear of temptation. The Italian spoken is far pleasanter than the nasal Neapolitan; the chief peculiarity is the dropping of the final vowel. Maria, the dark-eyed chambermaid, asks if she shall make the _lett_, for _letto_ (bed), and speaks of Sorrent, _doman_, and _Sabad_, meaning Sorrento, _domani_ (to-morrow), and _Sabato_ (Saturday).
The trees in the garden are laden with oranges and lemons, the feast of the roses is beginning, the birds are singing. The service of the hotel is excellent, the table quite good enough, our room has a fireplace and afternoon sun; for all this, food and wine included, we pay six francs--one dollar and twenty cents--a day, with permission to roam in the garden and pick as many oranges and roses as we like. I am reminded of Hugh Norman’s saying, “When I have only a dollar and a half a day left to live on, I shall retire to the Cocumella and pass the rest of my life there.” We have _uva secca_ for luncheon, grapes dipped in wine and spices, rolled up with bits of citron in grape-leaves, tied in little bundles, and roasted. They may be kept half the year, and are among the dainties of the world. The miniature Italian count who married Mrs. Tom Thumb, _veuve_, said when he came to take tea at our house, “_In Italia si mangia bene_ (In Italy one eats well).” He was right; we hear less about Italian than about French cookery, but it is quite as good--the range of dishes is wider and shows more imagination. There is a great deal about cooking in my letters; so there is in life. Fire, cookery, and civilization seem to be inseparable. Speaking of fire, the women about here say that Vesuvius, across the bay there, sets a bad example smoking his eternal pipe. The men sit watching him, presently they imitate him, and try and see how big a cloud of smoke they can make.
Vesuvius dominates the whole landscape. He finally got the better of us, drew us like a magnet; so, finding that the ascent can be made from here as well as anywhere, we gave a day to it. The road, an ascending spiral, embraces the great black mountain like the coils of a serpent. At first it leads through pleasant vineyards; when these are left behind the dreadful lava fields begin. The weird forms of the petrified rivers of lava, once red and molten, now grim and black, suggest human bodies writhing in the clutch of horrid monsters. Here a huge trunk madly wrenches itself from the toils, there a vast body lies supine and agonized, the last resistance passed. When we left our carriage at the foot of the funicular railway, I felt I had passed through several circles of the Inferno. Dante must have received many of the impressions he transmits to us from Vesuvius. At the summit, when I looked down into the crater, at the slippery, slimy sides, with their velvet bloom of sulphur, I saw where the fathers of the Church and the early painters, Fra Angelico among them, got their ideas of hell. Marcus Aurelius, my guide, bibulous, muscular, with a grip of iron, found a point from which, when the wind lifted the veil of thick white smoke, I could, by leaning well over the crater, see the flood at the bottom surge, seethe, toss up from its depth big, red-hot stones, which dropped back again while the mountain roared and scolded. It was an awesome day. Vesuvius has given me not only a new understanding of the poetry and religion of Italy, but of the volcanic Italian character, which it surely has had a share in forming. On our way down we ran over a soldier, the front wheel of our carriage passing across his leg. As we were three people in the carriage, it must have hurt him, but he got up and walked nimbly off, cursing us vehemently. I wish the Abyssinians might find the Italian soldiers equally invincible in Africa.
ST. AGNELLO DI SORRENTO, Easter Sunday, 1895.
I find the services of Holy Week more impressive here than in Rome. Thursday afternoon, on a lonely road by the sea, we heard a strange, primitive chanting,--the music might have been Palestrina’s,--and came suddenly upon a procession led by children carrying the usual emblems of the Passion, and some I have never seen before. The story of the betrayal and the crucifixion was told by symbols, the basin of Pilate, the cock and sword of Peter, the bag of Judas, the scourge, the pillar, the spear, the sponge, the cross, the hammer and nails, the crown of thorns, and the winding-sheet. The washing of the apostles’ feet at the cathedral Holy Thursday was really moving. A dozen poor old fishermen, scrubbed as clean as possible, represented the twelve; they were each rewarded by a loaf of bread and a franc at the end of the service. Early Good Friday morning, before the sun was up, a band of peasants passed through the town bearing a life-sized image of the Madonna dressed all in white, going out to look for her son. After sundown they returned, bringing back the mother from her search, clad in mourning robes. She had found her son; behind her the figure of the dead Christ was carried on a bier. The people stood gravely watching the bearers as they passed through the dark, torch-lit streets. On Saturday, as we were driving, a cannon sounded at twelve o’clock in token of the resurrection. Our driver threw himself from the cab and, touching his head to the ground three times, remained kneeling long enough to repeat several _aves_.
PALAZZO RUSTICUCCI, ROME, March 27, 1895.
We were glad to get back to Rome, and to the terrace, where the wall-flowers are out, and daffodils, pansies, primroses, forget-me-nots, and lilies-of-the-valley. Two large lilac-bushes and three spiræa will be in bloom by Sunday. There is snow on the Leonessa; it is a trifle chilly up here on the terrace where I write, but it is near “peaks and stars” and very near peace. I weed the flowers, and collect the snails that prey upon our pansies and threaten our roses. The awful gardens where Nero’s living torches flamed lay just below my windows, where the Piazza of St. Peter’s is now. Soracte, the Leonessa, with all the rest of the purple Alban hills, looked down on that sight as calmly as they look on my lilies and me. There is no place in the world where one feels so small as in Rome. The sunflowers come up, each with his little burst shell of seed on his head, which he soon throws away; so the lesson of the new life springing from the old is studied in the shadow of Angelo’s dome. The great church greeted me like a friend. Tourists criticise the architecture: I do not deny faults, I only do not see them.
We have a nightingale of our own at last. His name is Pan. He sings gloriously. What a thrill his voice has! We feed him on bullock’s heart. Jeremy Bentham, the tortoise, knew me; he never was so friendly before; he now snaps fresh lettuce-leaves out of my hand without trying to nip my fingers. Our great Thomas cat threatened Pan, and my life was a constant struggle to keep them apart, so I have sent Pan to the studio, where J. has a falcon and two pigeons. He threatens to buy a jackdaw, and was with difficulty restrained from purchasing a baby fox. It was such an engaging little animal that I confess to have wanted it myself. The happy family at the studio is cared for by Vincenzo, a young painter, a scholar of J.’s. In the old days, when J. was a pupil of Villegas, Vincenzo was the studio boy who washed their brushes. J. thinks he has some talent and has given him a whole floor in his great barrack of a studio.
Pompilia and Filomena had swept and garnished the house with flowers in honor of our return. All our friends and our small world of hangers-on (the ancient Romans called them clients) welcomed us kindly, with the single exception of the porter.
Porters seem to be natural enemies, like mothers-in-law. We all know shining exceptions, but the rule commonly holds good of both. None of our friends are on speaking terms with their porters. Our old porter was dreadful--dirty, drunk, disreputable. At first the new one seemed a treasure. J. had recommended him for the place chiefly on account of his lovely tenor voice. The man--we call him Ercole “because it is his name”--used to sit at work (he is a mender of leather) on the sidewalk opposite the studio singing airs from the latest operas, Bohême, Pagliacci, Iris, but singing them like an artist. It helped J., shut up at his work in the big studio, to hear him, and in a reckless moment he spoke to Signor Mazzocchi about the singing saddler. Behold him installed with his big, white-haired wife, Maria, his little daughter, Lucrezia, brown and bonnie, in a grim room without light or air (you would not put a cat in such a hole)--still, an improvement on their former quarters. The landlord is responsible for the porter’s wages. We give him a _mancia_ of ten francs a month, extras for extra service, and a present at Christmas and at Easter. His duty towards us is to receive our cards and letters and bring them up the three long flights of stairs. Our mail grew staler and staler. The Paris New York _Herald_ (read by all Americans in Europe), instead of being served with breakfast, arrived barely in time for luncheon. J. had built on the first landing a little open stall, light and airy, where Ercole could stitch his old saddles and harnesses and sing his jolly songs. Alas and alas! there is a wine-shop opposite the palace, there is a _trattoria_ on the ground floor next the baker’s; both proprietors are generous and soft-hearted. Somehow the fat wife, the slim daughter, are fed, but Ercole stitches no longer, sings no more. Sober and poor, a rival to Pan. Rich and drunk, he is sourly silent. It is a dangerous thing to play at being providence! The _postino_ now brings up the mail and delivers it at our door, _ultimo piano_ (top floor).
Last week I took Isabel to a ball at the Princess del Drago’s. We have kept Ercole up at night a good deal lately, so I took the key of the big _portone_ and told him that he need not wait for us. Isabel’s maid, Franceline, was to sit up and open the old green door of our apartment the key of which weighs two pounds and will not go into my pocket. We wore our very best gowns and trinkets, and Isabel had a pretty tinsel ribbon in her hair which sparkled like diamonds. It was a great dance; the drive home at three in the morning under a full silver moon, past Hilda’s tower, the fountain of the Triton, and the hospital of Santo Spirito was as far as I was concerned not the least of the fun. We met a few empty cabs returning to their stables, and just as we entered the Borgo Nuovo we passed a pair of grave _carabinieri_ (military police) pacing their beat, wrapped in long black cloaks, their three-cornered hats drawn over their eyes. Our good coachman Cesare opened the _portone_, found and lighted the candle left on the lower step, as had been arranged, and bade us good-night. We picked up our skirts and went up the two easy flights chattering about the party. At the second landing we stopped beside the Etruscan ladies to rest before breasting the third short, steep flight. I rang softly, not to disturb the sleepers, and waited. I rang loudly, and waited. Through the door came a gentle, familiar murmur. Then the cracked bell rang out a tocsin that should have roused the whole palace; still no sound from within save that rhythmical murmur; we beat and kicked upon the door till hands and feet were tired; we called, bellowed, screamed, shrieked for a matter of five minutes, until the terrified Franceline, guilty yet denying sleep, threw open the door. I was just dropping off into dreamland when I heard the _portone_ shut heavily. As the stairway belongs exclusively to us, I sat up and listened. There was a hubbub on the stairs. I heard Ercole’s voice protesting, calling upon the Trinity first as a whole, then severally, upon all the saints, last and loudest upon the Madonna, to witness his innocence. A stern, accusing voice drowned Ercole’s. I threw on a wrapper, ran to the door, and listened.
“Where are they, then? Make me to see them, those ladies, all festive with jewels. Did we not ourselves behold them enter this _portone_, laughing and talking gaily? this _portone_, brute beast, of which one knows that thou, and thou only, hast the key. Did we not hear, we out in the street, feminine yells horrible, to make one tremble, and thou sayest thou heardst nothing? Animal, where are they, then? What have you done with them, those ladies so bright, so beautiful? Robbed, murdered, dying, perhaps--possibly dead.”
“By the mass, by Peter and Paul, I was asleep in my bed at ten o’clock. Ask Maria, ask Lucrezia, ask the _padrone_ of the wine-shop, who turned me out at that hour. I knew nothing till you came, _illustrissimi_, you tore me from my bed. What do I know of the ladies? I saw them go at quarter before eleven with Cesare in a coupé. Is it sensible to ask me? Ask that fat pig, Cesare. If they are dead, he is responsible.”
“Might it not be well to ring the bell and ask the signore?” said a third voice, that of the elder _carabiniere_. Explanations, apologies, thanks, “_e buona notte_!”
February 4, 1897.
The ball at the embassy last night (given by Mr. MacVeagh, the retiring American Ambassador, for the King and Queen) went off very well. Her Majesty looked charming and danced the quadrille with great spirit. Some of the dancers forgot the figures, she put them all straight, and was so winning, so fascinating that the Americans were enthusiastic about her.
The King, who does not dance, seemed bored. He is first and above all else a soldier, a man of action. I watched him as he stood pulling his big mustachios, talking to an ancient ambassadress; by his expression it was easy to see he would be glad when it was over and time to go home. He was in uniform as usual, carrying his white-plumed helmet under his arm. His honest face had that puzzled look it so often wears; no wonder! Of all the monarchs in the world, his riddles are the hardest to read. The Queen wore a superb dress of pale blue satin with point lace and her famous pearls. The King gave her a string of pearls on each anniversary of their marriage, it is said, till at their silver wedding she protested she could not bear the weight of another rope. The finest jewels after the royal pearls were Mrs. Potter Palmer’s. She wore the crown of pearls and diamonds I remember her wearing at her reception for the Spanish Infanta Eulalia at the time of the World’s Fair at Chicago. The supper was served in an immense room, the handsomest in the apartment, which occupies the _piano nobile_ of the Palazzo Ludovisi. Nothing could be better arranged for entertaining in the grand manner than the present American Embassy. You enter an enormous _anticamera_, where the servants take your wraps, pass on through a second waiting-room into a long corridor which runs the whole length of the palace. The state rooms all lead from this corridor; they have communicating doors, so that standing in the doorway of the supper-room one looks through the two drawing-rooms to the ballroom, where on a stage the musicians are seated. The diplomats all wore court dress. A ball where the men as well as the women are splendid is naturally far more brilliant than one of our balls, where the girls monopolize the finery. The most striking figure there was the military attaché of the Russian embassy. He wore the dress of a Cossack colonel, cartridge belt, jewelled weapons, and all, and--as if to heighten the warlike look--a black patch over one eye. The tender-hearted regarded him with sympathy: “poor man, in what dreadful encounter with savage tribesmen had he lost the missing eye?” Worse luck yet! It was knocked out by the point of an umbrella carelessly handled by a lady in getting out of the travelling compartment of a train!
I never saw such a crowd around a supper-table. Refreshments at most entertainments here are simpler than would be believed at home. In this the Italians are more civilized than the English or ourselves. The supper last night was of the generous American order. The Romans seemed to enjoy it and did not limit themselves to biscuits and lemonade. The army officers in especial took kindly to the good things.
To-day I looked into St. Agostino and saw the beautiful miracle-working Madonna. She is a lovely marble woman with a less lovely _bambino_. The mother is literally covered with gems; she has strings upon strings of pearls about her neck, her fingers are laden to the very tips with rings; the child is hung with scores of watches. Both heads are deformed with ugly crowns. The Madonna is by Jacopo Sansovino, a Florentine sculptor of the fifteenth century. She is much adored and quite adorable. She is very rich, has a good income of her own from the various legacies she has received. On the pedestal below her silver foot--the marble one was long since kissed out of existence--an inscription states that “on the assurance of Pius the Seventh an indulgence of two hundred days will be granted to whoever shall devoutly touch the foot of this holy image and recite an _ave_.”
[Illustration: _The Madonna of St. Agostino_
From a photograph]
I also went to see the _appartamento Borgia_, newly opened at the Vatican. It contains one of the most splendid pieces of decoration I have ever seen--three rooms painted by Pinturicchio; they have been closed for twenty years, having been used as libraries; the walls were covered with books. The Pope has gone to great expense to put them in order, and has thrown them open to the public. Artistic Rome has gone mad about them. They surpass everything in the way of decoration here save the Sistine Chapel and the Stanze of Raphael.
June 29 and 30, 1897.
To-night the Feast of St. Peter is to be celebrated by a dinner-party on the terrace. That old statue of Jupiter in the great church across the way,--now held venerable as a portrait of St. Peter--is dressed in his best vestments, his finest tiara, and wears his most sumptuous sapphire ring on his stiff forefinger. As the whole Borgo is under the protection of St. Peter, I always make a little feast on his day. There are many sermons preached about him; I heard an excellent one in a neighboring church. The object of the saints’ days is to keep alive the memory of noble lives. Just as on Washington’s Birthday the old stories of Valley Forge and Yorktown are recited year after year, so the story of Peter is told on the 29th of June every year. I was surprised to hear Signor Rodolfo Lanciani say he thought it possible St. Peter had actually been in Rome, and that in his opinion the great church may cover his last resting-place as well as perpetuate his name.
Ripe figs are supposed to be eaten first on St. John’s Day, the 24th of June. Tradition says that the first plate of figs was always presented on that day to Pope Pius the Ninth. Either figs are late this season or Pompilia has been slow about finding them, for the purple figs which were served with cold boiled ham for our luncheon to-day are the first we have seen this season. Naturally there was no second course to such a superlative first. The terrace dinner was a great success. The table was set under the _pergola_ covered thick with the second crop of roses. We hung _lucerne_ (brass lamps for burning olive oil) from the yellow canes of the crossed bamboos and lighted the farther end of our airy dining-room with colored lanterns. Among the guests were Monsignor William O’Connell, director of the American College, a genial Irish-American priest, and Dr. William Bull, physician to the American Embassy, guide, philosopher, and friend of all wandering Americans. He is beloved of artists, a collector of antiquities, a genial, not a melancholy Dane, a wise physician, and one of the most picturesque figures in our Roman world. The sun was still staining the sky when we sat down. By the time old Nena brought the ices from the _trattoria_ below, the full yellow moon came up over the Sabine Hills, flooding every corner with its yellow light. Below, in the baker’s shop, the nightingale sang to the roses. Our best rose, _il Capitano Christi_, is a very large, flat, pink rose, growing on a stiff stalk with long, fierce thorns. It opens wide as a saucer, and is of the most rapturous, tender color. It is grafted on an excellent commonplace red rose-tree, a generous and prolific bloomer, which yields a brave harvest, the first to blossom, the last to wither, always to be depended on if I want roses in a hurry. The Captain gives a rare rose, never more than one at a time, but I know that it is to the Captain’s rose that the baker’s nightingale sings.
A PRESENTATION TO LEO THE THIRTEENTH
PALAZZO RUSTICUCCI, November 20, 1897.
Our mother, comfortably established in the guest-room under the protection of Apollo, already feels at home in Rome. In the morning she sits on the terrace in a grand hooded chair we had made for her in that haunt of basket-makers, the Vicolo dei Canestrari--the little street of the basket-makers--are not the names of the Roman streets delightful? After luncheon we drive on the Pincio when the band plays, in the Doria or the Borghese Villa, or, best of all, on the Campagna. She shall have enough out-of-doors this winter! For a hundred years English doctors have sent elderly people to Rome, “where the effect of the air on the heart’s action tends to increase longevity.” The old here are uncommonly frisky. Mr. Greenough, an octogenarian, trots up our stairs as if he were twenty. On stormy days the mother drives to
[Illustration: _The Pincian Gate and Wall of Rome_
From a photograph]
St. Peter’s and takes her walk inside the church. It is so vast that it has a climate of its own, varying only ten degrees in temperature during the entire year, consequently it is warm in winter and cool in summer. In August I put on a wrap when I go over there; in January I take off my furs! Socially as well as climatically Rome is an ideal place for the old; that horrid topic, _age_, is properly ignored. I have seen a gentleman of seventy-nine waltzing at a ball with a partner not twenty years his junior. The example of the Pope--always an old man--may have something to do with this admirable energy of the elders; the age of the civilization probably counts for more.
Do not believe what the papers say about the Pope; he is likely to live for years. Eighty-seven is the prime of life for pontiffs. Leo the Thirteenth serves the Italian newspaper men and foreign correspondents as the sea-serpent serves ours. When news is scarce, when the rich and great are veiled from the public eye by reason of summer seclusion or wandering, that blessed serpent, sailing into the sea of ink, saves the situation. The reports of _Sua Santita’s_ failing health used to rouse my sympathy; now they only make me angry, because they hurt his poor old feelings. He once said, on reading an account of his approaching end in a Roman paper, “Why do they wish me dead?”
Was not that pathetic? In spite of being White in my politics, I feel a personal sympathy for the Pope. We are such near neighbors, I see the windows of his private apartment from the terrace; we both look down upon the piazza of St. Peter’s; we have the same surgeon (Dr. Bull took me to consult Mazzoni about a bicycle ankle); I know several of his chamberlains; we both are left behind when the hot weather drives the _beau monde_ out of Rome for the summer: you see, we have much in common; his not knowing it does not alter my feelings; it’s one-sided, like a book friendship. I was in Rome when Pius the Ninth died and Leo the Thirteenth was elected. I remember how handsome Pius looked lying in state, with his foot in such a position that his red slipper (it had a cross embroidered on it) could be kissed. I do not remember much about the coronation ceremonies, but I have a very clear impression of my presentation to Pope Leo in the winter of 1878, very soon after he became Pope. The mother refused to go: those stubborn Protestant knees would not bow down to Baal or to the Pope. Our generation takes things differently, not half so picturesquely. We say, “An old man’s blessing is a good thing to have, whether he be a lama from Thibet or a priest of Rome.” Two other young American girls went with me; there were, all told, perhaps twenty people presented that day. We wore black, with such diamonds as our mothers would lend us, and Spanish mantillas. A few minutes before the Pope entered a chamberlain made us all kneel; then Leo, dressed in white, with a heavy gold chain around his neck, from which hung a cross set with emeralds, made the tour of the room, stopping to speak to every one. The chamberlain mentioned our names and nationality, the Pope asked each of us to what church we belonged. My place was next an emotional convert; he hardly noticed her, merely giving her his blessing and passing on. He asked me where I came from, said Boston was a famous city, inquired how long I had been in Rome, wished me a pleasant journey, and a safe return to my people. He spoke longest to a little Jewess who was at my left--on the principle, I suppose, that we already have our friends, and should make friends of our enemies. We kissed his ring--a large amethyst--as we had been told, _not_ his hand. I am not sure whether it was Pope Leo or Pius the Ninth who always asked strangers how long they had been in Rome. When the answer indicated that the stay had been for days or weeks, he said in parting “_Addio_,” when it had been months, “_Arriverderci_”--au revoir,--“because if you have been here only a short time, you may not return, but if you have been here for months, you are sure to come back.” I have heard it told of both; it very likely dates back to Gregory the Sixteenth. Stories are immortal in Rome, those from the “Gesta Romanorum” being still current.
December 27, 1897.
Oh! the terrace, the terrace! with the white hyacinths ablow, little starry bunches of narcissi, pansies, a rare rose, and the yellow gourds of the passion-flower hanging down through the crossed bamboos of the trellis. Our mother feels the fascination of the terrace life more and more. Yesterday she asked me to buy her a small watering-can,--ours are huge,--and to-day she helped water the plants and weed the tulips. I put the pots up on the wall for her where she could easily reach them, and she pulled out the tender weeds with her beautiful hands. Bulbs do not thrive so well the second year as the first. The delirium of the hyacinths is gone with that precious burst of youth. This season they bloom soberly; no more passionate, lavish giving, they have left that behind,--like some other flowers,--but they do their little, middle-aged best. We had a merry Christmas. The weather was perfect: a gift, the first and best of all, of a clear, bracing morning. “Give me health and a day, and I will make the pomp of emperors ridiculous.” No emperor being at hand, we went to St. Peter’s, walked up and down the side aisles, had just a whiff of the high mass, Cardinal Rampolla officiating, the Pope’s angel singing the soprano part phenomenally. His voice has a peculiar soaring quality; it seems to scale the heights and knock at the door of heaven.
We met Boston society, as we always do when we go to St. Peter’s,--an old friend and his bride, and a pair of pleasant Beacon Street neighbors.
February 11, 1898.
J. says “Rome is always festering (_festa_-ing).” Between saints’ days, national holidays, and our own private celebrations there _are_ rather too many festivities. It is a pretty custom they have here of celebrating the feast of the patron saint rather than the birthday. The embarrassing question, “How old?” is thus avoided. It is also convenient. On the feast of Santa Lucia I am reminded to go and see Lucia di Villegas and carry her a bunch of flowers. I am sure to find Villino Villegas swept and garnished, the signora dressed in her best, all smiles and sweetness. She has been to mass and is ready to receive friends and relatives. Anglo-Saxons are fond of saying that the home does not exist in Latin lands. This is not quite true. In Italy the home is less a social centre and more a family stronghold than with us. An outsider is admitted to it only as the last test of friendship. It has still a touch of oriental feeling. It is the place where the women belong, where they mostly stay; it is jealously guarded from strangers--from strange men especially; “_chi va piano va sano!_”
Wednesday, the anniversary of our wedding-day, was one long frolic. At nine we went up to our play-house and played with our flower dolls. In the evening we had a little dinner of intimates. Filomena arranged a large horseshoe in double violets and pansies between J.’s place and mine at table “for good luck.” In the morning she brought me a basket of fresh eggs from her people in the country and wished me “_cento di questi giorni_ (a hundred of these days).” Even Pompilia, the cook, who has been rather cross lately, gave us two paper fans. In the kitchen a _fiascone_ of wine and a huge _panettone_ were on tap; everybody who passed that way drank our health. After dinner we sat over the fire till past midnight telling ghost stories or listening to J. C. (the Muse of Via Gregoriana), who played divinely to us. It was a good day.
We do not have much music worth hearing in Rome, so we doubly enjoy what the gods send us. Sgambati’s concert last week began with that adorable overture to Fingal’s Cave. Cotogni, an old singer (sixty-eight is old to sing in concerts), sang well with the remains of a glorious bass voice which he handled like a delicate soprano. He is just back from St. Petersburg, where he has been the director of the Conservatory for twenty years. I heard him again at Mme. Patti’s concert. They sang “_la ci darem la mano_” from “Don Giovanni,” which they had last sung together in their early youth. The gallant manner in which the old singer handed out the _diva_ was very nice. Mme. Patti is here on a wedding-tour with her husband,--Baron Cedarstrom,--a young Swede twenty-eight years old, who used to take care of her throat. She wore a pretty lilac dress which smelt of Paris and the Rue de la Paix.
Signor Sgambati is responsible for the best music we have. He is a true musician, a delightful composer, and the most enchanting person. Of course you know his compositions; the Boston Orchestra lately gave his symphony. Some time ago he was on the point of leaving Rome for London, where they were on their knees for him to come: the musical people and critics were waiting with open arms to receive him. He went to the station, weighed his luggage, bought his ticket, was just about to get on the train, when he realized that he was leaving Rome! That was more than he had bargained for! It was one thing to go to London, another to leave Rome! He calmly returned to his quiet house and his piano in the Via della Croce, and has remained there ever since, the friend of the Queen, of all true artists, of every starving musical genius brought to his notice. That such a man should endure the drudgery of giving music lessons is a fearful waste of fine material; the musical world should make him independent, as it made Wagner.
If you only stay long enough in Rome you meet everybody you ever heard of: all the world comes here sooner or later. The best thing about the social life is its cosmopolitan quality. Among the people we see most are a Greek woman (I had almost written goddess), a Dutchman, a Swede, a Dane, a Turk, an Irish priest, and a French Protestant pastor. American Protestant houses are no-man’s-land, neutral ground: we have visitors of every faith and of all parties. One Sunday afternoon Mrs. Agassiz, the President of Radcliffe College, Mr. Peabody, the Master of Croton School, and Mgr. O’Connell, the Director of the American College for young priests in Rome, chanced to meet at tea in my _salon_. There are a dozen different cliques, all more or less linked together--artistic, musical, political, sporting. The people who form “smart” society seem to me more cultivated than is usual with that class.
We have lately returned from an old-furniture hunt at Viterbo. We found no furniture, but the most picturesque Roman Gothic town I have seen. When I first knew Italy Viterbo had a bad name for brigands. The railroad has been open only four years; I hear no more of brigands, though I suspect several of my Viterbo acquaintances once belonged to the band. The place is not yet tourist stricken. We slept in a grim caravansary and went to a villanous _trattoria_ for our meals, where we were poisoned by the food. A twenty-four-hour fast brought us again into condition. Viterbo is a gray fourteenth-century town with massive stone walls and turrets. It has many handsome buildings, some fair pictures, good Etruscan and Roman antiquities, but the most admirable thing about it is its wonderful completeness. Everything hangs together architecturally, the parts are subservient to the whole, the result--grace, harmony, repose! Shall we ever learn the trick?
From Viterbo we drove to the estate of the Duke of Lante, one of the most famous Italian villas. The present duke has an American mother and wife. We had a letter of introduction from a mutual friend. All the grown-up people of the family were absent. We were received by two tiny fairies in pink calico, who took us each by a hand and led us through the garden to see the oaks, the famous bronze fountain, and the interesting house. I never have had so lovely an escort or a kinder welcome than the little ladies of the Villa Lante gave us.
February 26, 1898.
You will like to hear about a day of pure delight. I left home, duty, and family, and went off with Donna Primavera for an outing at Ostia. We started at ten in the morning, returned at six at night. I had been there before on my bicycle--it is a capital road--but on that occasion I saw nothing except the view. Ostia is an ancient Roman commercial town founded by Ancus Martius, the fourth of the Roman kings; that takes it back to the sixth century B.C. The ruins of Ostia are on the banks of the Tiber. From here the fleets of merchant galleys sailed away to Greece and Africa. I felt that I was penetrating into the business life of the Romans as never before. Of course, I knew vaguely that there was a great commerce underlying the whole vast scheme, supporting the army and the art, but I was not prepared for the illumination I received in wandering through the old warehouses, where we found rows of vast amphoræ (earthenware jars) which had contained wine, oil, and grain. Trade was as important in the time of Augustus as in the days of McKinley. The fleets that sailed into the harbor of Ostia brought nothing more precious than the marbles from Paros and Africa. It is said of Augustus that he found Rome a city of brick and left it a city of marble. The threshold of the temple at Ostia is a single slab of _africano_ sixteen feet long, delicious in color--rose, gray, and black blended in the most adorable mottlings. Signor Lanciani tells me they have lately discovered a large cargo of precious marbles at or near Ostia which has been lying waiting perhaps two thousand years for the hand of the builder. I should like to have a piece of it. In Rome one learns to appreciate marbles. I point out the different varieties to all the friends from home whom I pilot about the city (there are plenty of them), and it is a rare thing to find one who knows the difference between _cipollino_ and _serpentino_. Tell that to the Kindergartnerins!
April 16, 1898.
Waked up at dawn this morning by the rattling of cabs and carriages and the footsteps of sixty thousand people going to St. Peter’s to celebrate the twenty-first anniversary of the Pope’s coronation. I had not meant to go,--these functions are such an old story to me,--but I could not resist the magnetism of the crowd. The Borgo and the Piazza were black with people. Before the obelisk a double cordon of troops stretched across the whole Piazza--government troops, you understand; the government keeps order when the Pope goes to St. Peter’s and is responsible for his safety. The Borgo is perhaps the safest place to live in that exists; I have never heard of any other so carefully guarded. Inside the Vatican the Papal troops keep order. At a certain point behind the church two sentinels pace their beat, the spot where they meet marking the line of the exterritorial limits of the Vatican. One sentinel wears the King’s uniform, the other wears the Pope’s; they appear to be on friendly terms.
My ticket admitted me to the bronze door. The crush going up the steps was terrific; once inside the church, all was well. I never have known a panic or a stampede in all the many crowds I have seen gather in the great church across the way. In the days of the Cæsars the Romans learned how to behave at a great pageant; they have never forgotten the lesson. The Roman crowd is the best behaved and most good-natured in the world. Of course, there are always people who feel the effects of being in such a crush; I saw three women faint and one man “tumble in a fit” to-day. They were immediately carried to one of the hospitals fitted up in various parts of the building on all such occasions. It happened once that a child was born in St. Peter’s while a great function was going on--I think it was a beatification.
An aisle was kept open, by means of movable benches, leading from the Chapel of the Sacrament, which communicates with the Vatican, to the papal throne, placed to-day for the first time since 1870 under the chair of St. Peter at the end of the basilica. The walls were hung with miles of crimson velvet and brocade. I like the church better plain, but it made a “soomptuous melée” of color. I saw the Crown Princess of Sweden and the Countess of Trani, sister of the Empress of Austria, in the tribune reserved for royal guests. The costumes of the papal court are simply enchanting. The red and yellow uniform of the Swiss Guard never palls; it was designed by Michael Angelo, who had some taste. The chamberlains, some of whom we know, looked so handsome in black velvet doublets and knee breeches, with stiff white ruffs and thick gold chains of office that it was hard to recognize them. The ambassadors wore their best togs, the noble ladies (they are obliged to go in black) all their jewels. The plebs in their way were quite as decorative as the patricians,--peasants with goatskin trousers and _cioce_, monks and nuns of every order, flocks of students from the theological seminaries in the dress Dante wore. The German students in vermilion habits--the scarlet tanagers of the Roman landscape--are the finest. The Pope was due at ten; at a quarter before eleven the cardinals began to arrive. Their dress is admirable; it never looks so well as when they are marching down the aisle at St. Peter’s. At eleven the Pope appeared in the gestatorial chair carried by eight lackeys in crimson brocade: Michael Angelo, they say, designed this livery too. The tall white feather fans carried in the procession reminded me of a bas-relief on the walls of the ruins at Karnak in Egypt representing the Pharaoh going in triumph to the temple. Pharaoh’s chair was not unlike the _sedia gestatoria_, the feather fans seem identical, the triple crown of the Pope is very like the crown of Upper and Lower Egypt worn by Rameses. In the midst of all this swirl of color imagine Leo’s alabaster face with the eyes of brown fire. When he rose feebly to give the benediction his hands looked transparent. There was even more shouting “_Viva il papa ré!_” than usual. The Pope is as exquisitely _soigné_ as a young belle; his valet, Pio Centra,--one of whose duties is to taste everything his master eats or drinks,--certainly knows his business. Centra is a great personage and is kowtowed to by the people about the Vatican.
The Pope safely on his throne, I did not care to wait for the service and watched my chance of getting out. I edged my way to the vicinity of one of the exits and waited. I soon saw a gigantic German student--he must have been six feet six inches tall--who was evidently of the same mind about going. I managed to slip in behind him and follow in his wake. When we were close to the door the press was so great that I really was frightened; in another moment I should have been separated from my giant. In desperation I seized the streamers of red broadcloth that hung from his shoulders. He looked behind him, saw a woman, fancied the de’il was after him, and fled for his life, cleaving the solid wall of people with his mighty elbows. The faster he ran the tighter I held on, till at last he brought us both through that awful pressure--I thought it would break my ribs--down the steps and out into the piazza, where I let him go. I am not sure which of us was the most frightened!
One of the _Guardia Nobile_ (the Pope’s Noble Guard) told me that in the year 1889 he was on duty in the Pope’s antechamber the night after the dedication of the statue of Giordano Bruno--a renegade Dominican or a great reformer, according to your politics--on the very spot where in 1600 Bruno was burned at the stake for heresy. The Pope was much offended, he felt that the Church had been insulted; there was even talk of removing the seat of the papacy from Rome. That plan, if it ever was seriously considered, was soon given up. The whole matter had agitated the Pope tremendously, and the people about him felt anxious about his health. When the usual hour passed for his light to be put out they grew more and more nervous. Eleven, twelve, one o’clock, still that thin line of light under the door. Finally they knocked. No answer. They gently opened the door and saw the old man kneeling weeping at his _priedieu_. Our friend, a man of the world, had been deeply moved by that glimpse through the open door. As for me, “’t is as if I’d seen it all.”
Like Pius the Ninth, Leo began by trying for a liberal policy. The power behind the throne--the faction of _intransigentes_--was too strong for him. When he was elected Pope he wished to give his benediction to the vast throng of people in the Piazza from the window over the door of St. Peter’s, as his predecessors had done. This was opposed, but a rumor spread through the city that the new Pope stood firmly to his intention. The Piazza was crammed with waiting people; at the Quirinal the royal carriage stood ready to bring the Queen to the Piazza to receive the blessing. After a long delay those who watched with glasses saw a small white figure hurrying down the passage which leads to the window. The Pope was coming! Suddenly the white figure hesitated, paused, turned back, retreated. The way had been barricaded with benches!
Sovereign Pontiff, indeed! This was forcible coercion!
When you stop to think about it, nobody is quite free. The freest man I know is Scipione, the travelling knife-grinder. He carries his tools on his back, the open street is his shop, the people he meets his customers. As I sat at work this morning I heard the welcome sound of his cracked bell. My knife being duller than even I can endure, I hailed him from the window. He came slowly up the long stair to the landing outside the old green door, and bade me a civil good morning.
“We have not seen you for a long time, I was afraid I should have to buy a new knife,” I said.
Scipione let a few drops of water trickle from the tap of the small can fixed above his wheel, ran his finger along the edge of my penknife, held the blade to the emery wheel, and began to work the treadle with his foot.
“It is quite true, I have not passed this way lately. You did well, however, to wait for me. Another might have ruined this really desirable knife, whose beauty and value the first comer might not realize.” Under my admiring eyes, the sparks began to fly from the wheel--who does not work better when watched by admiring eyes?
“That is a good trade of yours, is it not, Scipione?” I said.
“_E un arte civile, Signora. Non c’è ‘boss’; quando si vuole lavorare, si lavora, quando si vuole reposare, si riposa_ (It is a civil art; there is no ‘boss’; when one feels like working, one works, when one wishes to rest, one rests).”
“You have not told me what kept you so long away.”
“My grandmother has been ill, _Poverella_, there is nobody but myself to look after her.”
Scipione is not so free as I had supposed!
“Where does the _nonna_ live?”
“At Carpineto, the _paese_ of _Il Gran Ciociaro_ over there,” he nodded towards the Vatican. “_Nonna_ remembers his Holiness when he was a lad. She was among those pilgrims from his native town to whom he gave an audience the other day. What do you think he said to her? He asked her about the big chestnut tree under whose shade he used to walk when he was studying his lessons. Do you suppose that pleased her? There is no tree in the world that receives such attention as the old chestnut tree of _Il Gran Ciociaro_ at Carpineto.”
IN THE ABRUZZI MOUNTAINS
ROCCARASO, September 8, 1898.
We left Rome, the heat already somewhat abating, on the 2d of September. Though we had been so anxious to get away, it took an effort of will at the last. Action of any kind was abhorrent, the _dolce far niente_ had us in thrall. We finally got off at nine o’clock one morning, and arrived here at seven the same evening, having changed cars at Solmona, the home of Ovid, where we had an hour and a half to see the sights. Solmona is a good-sized town with paved streets, interesting churches, several inns,--at any of which one might risk putting up,--and a market-place, Piazza Ovidio, where we bought a basket of pears and a flask of wine: one or the other made us very ill; it is much safer to bring along provisions for such a journey. The train next passed through a wide valley, one vast orchard, red with apples “ripe and ready to drop”; then the engine began to tug, tug, up into the mountains. The road is a strategical railway, built not to meet any demand of traffic or travel, but for the transportation of troops.
“Roccaraso is the highest railroad station in Europe,” said the proud person in uniform who took our tickets. Government owns and operates all railroads; the employés are gold-laced, red-tape government officials; this one controls telegraph, mail, express--all intercourse with the outer world. We therefore forbore to mention Brenner, the station in the Alps between the Austrian Tyrol and Italy, which I believed to be even higher.
The town of Roccaraso is above the station, a _castello_ perched aloft on a spur of one of the upper Abruzzi. Below us is a wide, flat valley, all around us are crowding blue mountains, head rising above head, like inquisitive giants peeping over one another’s shoulders. The air is like rarefied electricity; the water has been tested and guaranteed absolutely pure--you know bad water is the danger of these remote, primitive villages. Our friend, the Marchesa di V., asked the engineer who laid out the railroad (it has been open only a few months) to find her a healthy place for the summer. He recommended this
From a pencil drawing]
unknown mountain fastness. Here she retired with her _bambini_ early in June. Having made herself comfortable, she prepared to make us so: hired a pleasant apartment for us,--it belongs to the widow of the ex-mayor, lately defunct,--ordered the landlady to give it three coats of whitewash, engaged Elena, a stout wench, to scrub, do the heavy work, and fetch water from the village fountain, and bade us “come on.” We came, bringing our guardian angel Vittoria, the tall seamstress, to cook and take care of us. Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi, must have looked like our Vittoria--calm, gentle, with rare sweetness and remarkable beauty. We sent up from Rome oil, wine, vinegar, and groceries enough to last out our stay. The Marchesa has a loaf of bread come by mail every day from Rome for the babes; she is a woman of resource, she does the impossible, the only thing worth doing! Elena’s mother makes bread for us; it is coarse and rather hard, but it suits us well enough. This is the most primitive Italy we have yet seen. Neither butter, meat, nor Parmesan cheese (quite as important) can be had here. The wine is detestable, _vino cotto_ (cooked wine), brought up in goatskins from the valley below on muleback. We are above the grape and olive belt; our meat comes twice a week from Castel di Sangro, four miles off; our butter, every other day, from Pesco Costanzi, two miles away, via the girls express established by the Marchesa.
Our apartment (it costs fifteen dollars a month) is over the village school; it has its own separate entrance, through a grim paved court-yard, where Vittoria keeps the turkey or chicken she is fattening for us. You ring a bell; whoever is within pulls a string which lifts the latch. You go up two flights of massive stone stairs to reach the living part, where we have a decent bedroom, a fair, formal salon, dining-room, and a kitchen--such a kitchen! The ex-mayor’s family must have lived in this room, except on high days and holidays, when they perhaps sat upon the deceitful parlor chairs and sofas--which had all been pasted together for our benefit and broke down at the first trial. The kitchen is an immense, smoke-browned room, with a big fireplace at one end, where all the cooking is done. Copper pots and kettles hang from the iron crane, a spit stands on the hearth, strings of red peppers swing from the rafters. There are no bellows; to coax the blaze, Elena, the vestal, kneels and blows through a long iron tube, her breath coming out through the mouth of the snake’s head at the end. It is cold to-night; the kitchen is the only warm place; I am writing close to Elena’s rousing brushwood fire. Outside there is a howling wind, inside a leg of mutton revolves slowly on the spit. Every moment I expect to see the King of the Golden River blow down the chimney and beg for a slice of that savory roast.
ROCCARASO, September 16, 1898.
We are living in the pastoral age! Each family in Roccaraso supplies its own needs, asks little of its neighbors and of the outside world--nothing but salt, wine, and oil. Life is set to the tune of “The Poor Little Swallow.” We wake in the early morning to “_povera rondinella, O povera rondinella!_” sung by the women and girls trudging up from the valley with bundles of fagots on their heads for the winter woodpiles. They are busy preparing for the long, cold season, which falls early hereabouts. Acorns for the pigs, fodder for the cows, goats, and sheep, dried peas, beans, and corn for the humans must all be carefully stored away. For several days we have watched the women winnowing the chaff from the wheat. At sunrise yesterday half a dozen girls started, each with a heavy sack of grain on her head, to walk to the nearest grist-mill, seven miles away. At sunset they came back carrying the precious flour, which must be preserved with extreme care. Good or bad, it is their mainstay through the severe winter; if it should mildew, they would eat it all the same, with the fear of the dreadful _pellagra_ in their hearts.
The government doctor, who goes periodically about the country to visit the sick and is an intelligent man,--standing rather too much on his dignity for comfortable intercourse, but a perfect mine of information,--says that _pellagra_, endemic in some parts of Italy, comes from the poor food the people eat, chiefly from the mildewed flour. It is a skin disease, which produces a painful red eruption, and all sorts of nervous and other horrors. From the autumn when the few green vegetables they raise are consumed till they are again ripe the following summer, the people live on _polenta_, made of cornmeal, macaroni, potatoes, dried peas, and sheep’s-milk cheese. In case of illness a little meat to make broth is procured, otherwise the diet is vegetarian, except on Christmas and Easter, when several families club together to make a feast, and one peasant kills a sheep or a goat, having agreed with his neighbors which part of the animal shall be allotted to each.
We have made friends with our opposite neighbor the belle of Roccaraso, a modern Penelope. We found her at her loom as usual, in a tiny stone cottage, the floor plain, trodden earth, the walls roughly plastered inside. She is even prettier seen close at hand than through the window; she wears the Roccaraso dress--you know each village has its own special costume. This is plainer than many of them, but good and appropriate. Over her head she wears a square of linen edged with lace, folded to cover the neck and lower part of the face (older women are particular to hide the mouth), a full skirt of dark homespun, a black apron, and a bright jacket, showing a colored kerchief and a full white shirt.
“Will the gentry do me the favor of entering?” she gently invited us.
“We would not interrupt your work.”
“If you will go on with your weaving.”
She sat down at her loom before a web of rough linsey-woolsey and shot the shuttle threaded with red linen across the woof of black wool. We ordered a dress pattern of the same stuff as that she was weaving, and some heavy white flannel striped with corn-flower blue, delicious in color and fabric.
“The signori are North Americans, yes? They come from Pittsbourgo?” Penelope began.
“North Americans, yes, not from Pittsburg.” She was disappointed, but a visiting-card partly consoled her.
“How do you call yourself?” J. asked.
“Mariuccia, _per servirla_.”
“This yarn you weave with, Mariuccia, tell us where it came from?” She seemed astonished at the question, took a distaff from a nail, and showed us how she used it.
“_’Gnor_, I made the yarn with this rocca; so, how else?”
“And the wool, where did you get that?”
“_’Gnor_, from my own sheep.”
“Can you spin flax also, and weave linen?”
“_Altro!_ “She lifted the cover of an old marriage-chest--it smelt of lavender.
“Behold my _corredo_.” The chest held the linen she had woven for her marriage,--towels, sheets, table-cloths, and napkins, enough to last her lifetime.
“See what Andrea sent me “for _Natale_” (Christmas). She took out of the _cassone_ a pair of high-heeled, pointed-toed boots--they would have crippled her in a week--and a pair of American storm rubbers.
“The accursed ones of the Dogana forced me to pay three francs duty upon these original shoes; in confidence between us two, I cannot wear them.”
“The _cioce_ are better for you. Where did these come from?”
“My husband, he sent them to me.”
“_’Gnor, si_, he is a cutter of stone at that place.”
“Why are you not with him?”
“’_Gnor_, the great fear of the sea. Besides, Andrea is a good husband, he sends me money every month from Pittsbourgo.”
There you have the secret of Mariuccia’s superiority: Andrea is a good husband and sends her money from Pittsburg, therefore she alone of all the women is exempt from work in the fields. She is personally neat and keeps her two rooms clean. Her cousin, a slatternly creature, living next door, and evidently the beauty’s guardian,--asked us into her house. In spite of our curiosity to see interiors we quailed at the threshold of that hovel inhabited by the village _naturale_ (simpleton), who is brother to Mariuccia’s cousin, a large turkey gobbler, and several hens.
As we took leave, Mariuccia shyly pulled my sleeve. “When the signori return to America they will take a _passeggiata_ one day to Pittsbourgo to see my Andrea, yes?” she whispered.
“_Figlia mia_, from our _paese_ it would take twelve hours’ travelling, even by the railroad, to reach Pittsbourgo.” Mariuccia smiled incredulously, she did not believe us but was too polite to say so.
J. says that when Mariuccia goes to mass she carries the American shoes on her head (I think when he met her she _must_ have been taking them to show to some friend) and wears _cioce_ on her feet. To fit the _cioce_ to the foot of the wearer, a square of cowhide, with the hair still on, is soaked in water till it becomes soft and
[Illustration: _Marta, a Vestal of the Abruzzi_
From a pencil drawing in the Collection of Mrs. Whitman] pliable; a hole is then made in each of the four corners of the hide; the foot is placed on the damp leather, leathern thongs are passed through the holes and wound round and round the leg and tied at the knee, so that the _ciociari_, as the wearers of the _cioce_ are called, go cross-gartered like Malvolio. When the cowhide is dry it has taken the shape of the foot, and this simplest of all footgear is ready to wear.
The flat pad worn on the head to support the water-jar is Mariuccia’s pocket. It is the obvious place to carry things. When there is no heavier burden of wood or water, her knitting or door key takes its place. I sent Elena with a packet to the Marchesa to-day--of course, she put it on her head. As it contained nothing but chiffon, the wind sent it whirling, and Elena said “_Sfortunata!_” Her little sister, Tina, three years old, balances a block of wood on her head and toddles alongside when Elena goes to draw water at the fountain; she is learning the art of burthen-bearing. Marta, who is six,--the age at which the vestals were admitted to the novitiate,--has sole charge of the household fire. When her mother and grandmother toil up from the valley with their mighty loads of fagots, Marta trots gallantly beside them under her small load of brush for kindling.
“Why does not your brother, Francesco, help to carry up wood?” we asked Marta. She shook her firm little head:
“_’Gnor, questo non èlavoro da uomo_ (That is not man’s work).” Francesco is eight; his hair is a golden fleece, his cheeks are red apples.
I notice that no man carries weights on his head; if by a rare chance he has a load to carry, he takes it on his back. We asked the doctor if the splendid port of the women came from the caryatid act. He said it was possible, but that the price was high. “So many of the poor creatures die of consumption. Only the strongest resist.” Here is the survival of the fittest with a vengeance!
We are good friends with the _sindaco_ of Roccaraso, a social soul pleased with an opportunity of enlightening the stranger. His village has a population of seventeen hundred, mostly old men, women, and children. Four hundred of the young men are in “Pittsbourgo,” most of them, like Andrea, stone-masons. Others are stable-strappers at Rome or Naples. The only able-bodied men we have seen at work are the barber and the blacksmith. The women do practically all the work of the community; they dig, plough, sow, and reap. The free, proud bearing this gives them is wonderful; their beauty surpasses belief. Michael Angelo’s sibyls spin at every street corner, Raphael’s Madonnas suckle their children at every doorway. The old women are either strong and upright, like Elena’s grandmother, or, if they go to pieces and crouch into withered crones, it is with an admirable sombre dignity. We have only once been begged from: a very old woman,--she looked like Vedder’s Cumæan sibyl,--evidently ill and suffering, and distinctly not a professional beggar, after looking furtively about to see if any one were in sight, laid hold of the hem of my dress and asked for money. She touched her hand to her lips before and after receiving it, as they do in the orient. We fancy we come across other traces of Saracen influence (they overran this part in the Dark Ages) in three-year-old Tina’s tiny frock covering her down to the feet, and the way the women hide their mouths when a stranger passes. In a town to the southward the women wear veils, which they draw half over their faces when out of doors.
ROCCARASO, September 25, 1898.
Still in this sublime place, keyed up and braced famously by the fine air. No, the name is not Roccaras_a_, though the mistake is perfectly natural. Roccaraso is an abbreviation of Rocca del Rasino, rock of the Rasino, the name of the stream running through the valley. The walled, fortified town was founded in the fifth century; it has changed very little since. Late this afternoon we stumbled up the badly paved street, passed out under the ancient gateway between the two ruined towers, down the steep, stony way to the sheepfolds at the foot of the hill. The girls were waiting to milk the flocks driven up from the valleys and down from the hills by the shepherds and their dogs. From the distance came the song of the “Little Swallow” played on a pipe by Francesco, who tends a composite flock of sheep and goats. In the early morning Francesco passes through the town calling his herd together. At the sound of his voice four brown sheep file down the steps from the house opposite, a black goat and five white sheep patter out from Mariuccia’s spare chamber--the very sheep whose wool is being spun and woven for my cream-colored flannel. This evening Francesco and his flock reached the folds before all the others. Mariuccia’s shaggy black goat made an odd grunting noise as it walked.
“Do all the goats here have such strange voices?” we asked Francesco.
“_’Gnor_, no, this animal was brought up with a litter of pigs; in this manner he learned their language.”
Elena’s grandfather, Giacomo, the chief of the shepherds, came in next, leading his blind cosset lamb and knitting as he walked: a tall, stern, gnarled old man, with white hair and keen eyes, over six feet tall, past seventy years old. His dress is handsome and substantial: dark blue homespun knee breeches, jacket and leggings, with silver buttons; a wide felt hat, and a long black cloak lined with green baize. He has two dogs, lean and fierce, with wiry white hair, pointed noses, and careworn faces. They have heavy collars studded with sharp iron spikes.
“Good-evening, Sor’ Giacomo, how goes it?”
“_’Gnor_, badly. Last night the wolves carried off the calf I was fattening for Christmas.”
“Where were the dogs?”
“They keep watch at the folds; the calf was at my cottage.” He counted the sheep as they filed through the wicket into the pen. “_Vent’ uno, venti due_; it is early for wolves, but--one understands it--yesterday I met the _padre_ of Pesco Costanzi.”
“What has that to do with your calf or the wolves?”
Sor’ Giacomo shrugged his shoulders and went on counting his sheep. We understood: the priest of Pesco Costanzi has the “_malocchio_” (evil eye).
“How many are your sheep, Sor’ Giacomo?”
“_Trenta_ (thirty), as you see.”
“It was not always so; formerly there were more?”
“_’Gnor, si._ When I was Francesco’s age my father had five thousand sheep in his care. In those days we of the Abruzzi raised wool for the whole kingdom, for the world, if you will. Now it is finished: these poor, miserable ones scarcely suffice to clothe Roccaraso.”
“Why is this thing so?”
“Why? because of an infamy. Understand, since that _castello_ was built,--who knows how long ago?--since that time at the season when the white (snow) comes, when the earth sleeps, we of the Abruzzi have always had the right to drive our sheep down to the plains of Apulia, there to graze through the winter. In a moment the thing is changed, the old right is taken away, we are forbidden to drive down our sheep. But is the winter changed? are the wolves banished? does the grass grow all the year in these mountains? I tell you it is finished.”
Giacomo is right, it is finished; he is one of the last _pastori Abruzzesi_. It is a pity; fourteen centuries of herding sheep have produced a _pur sang_ I have not often seen. The people hereabouts have that proud look of race that the Bishereen of Egypt and some of the American Indians have. “_Moglie e buoi ai paese suoi_ (wives and cattle from your own country)” is a rule rarely broken. The old shepherd-kings of the Abruzzi married only hill women, scorning the effete race of the plain, the vitiated blood of the cities. Giacomo cannot understand a people particular about the breeding of horses and dogs careless about the breeding of men. He said to his granddaughter Elena:
“What! you wish to marry that poor, sickly fellow, Paolo? Do you think more of yourself than of your family? Lucky for you your parents were not so selfish and imprudent.”
Elena has given up Paolo. She wants to go to Rome with us, to earn a little money to add to her _dote_, so that she may have pretensions to make as good a marriage as Mariuccia! The _mariage de convenances_, you see, is as much the rule among the Italian peasants as among the aristocrats.
We walked to Pesco Costanzi yesterday through the green valley, where the hobbled donkeys were grazing, and over a golden pasture infested with talkative geese. All the able-bodied women were at work in the glorious fields, threshing oats, shelling corn, drying beans. In the village, humpbacked, crippled, invalid women sat at the doors of their dark cottages making lace. The Marchesa first discovered the survival of an ancient lace industry in this hamlet. In the days of the Medici, girls from Pesco Costanzi found their way to Florence, on some sort of scholarship, and brought back the art of lace-making, and the fine renaissance patterns of that time which the women make to this day. We like it better than any peasant lace we have seen, and have ordered several patterns of it, the doctor undertaking to remit the money and deliver the goods.
On the way back to Roccaraso we passed by the tiny hamlet of Pietro Anzieri, where we saw a man ploughing a desolate patch of land with the forked branch of a tree shod with a long iron point, a primitive kind of plough I remember to have seen represented in an Etruscan wall painting. We loitered by the way, watching the lone man at work, whereat he stopped, leaned on his plough, and hailed us with the best Bowery accent.
“Say, are youse from the Yernited States?”
“Oh, yes, we are North Americans.”
“Of course; I see that. I come from New York myself. How you like Pietro Anzieri? Too slow for me; I only come to see my old mother; go back next month; got a job at Pittsbourgo.”
He was a hearty fellow, twenty-two or-three years old, a good type of the Abruzzi peasant, plus the American expression.
“How long have you lived over there?”
“Since I was a leetle boy--eleven or twelve, I dunno.”
The doctor says that most of those who go out to America under the age of twenty take root in our country and stay there. Men of thirty only remain long enough to “make their pile,” coming back to Italy to grow old and spend it.
ROCCARASO, September 28, 1898.
To Castel di Sangro this morning: a gay market-town set in a flowery meadow beside a small river widening below the bridge into a pond where the women were washing clothes. I thought I recognized a pink shirt being beaten between two stones as one of J.’s, which Elena ought to have herself washed. Her aunt lives here. Perhaps she is a washerwoman! We were puzzled by the name, Castel di Sangro,--the _castelli_ are all hill towns,--till we learned that the inhabitants several hundred years ago deserted the original Castel di Sangro, perched on a hill even harder to climb than Roccaraso’s, and moved, bag and baggage, down to the plain and founded the present town. The fibre of the race had softened since the founders built that crumbling _castello_! We climbed to the top; the view was well worth the stiff walk. The old town is now a city of the dead. Long lines of black numbered crosses mark the graves. Where they stopped a wide, deep open trench began. An old fellow, a sort of rustic sacristan, who had come up to clean the church, was the only person in sight.
“What is that trench for?” we asked him.
“_’Gnor_, who can tell which of us it may serve as a bed? In summer we prepare for winter; when the earth is frozen hard we cannot break her crust to bury the dead.” He went back to the church and began to toll the bell.
Looking down, we saw a funeral procession like that in Siegfried climbing slowly up the narrow, steep mountain path. We went down by a steep track on the other side to avoid meeting it.
We lunched at the inn; J. ordered trout (the stream is alive with them), which were served pickled! Everything else was very good. It was a market day, and the town was full of people; one dealer wished to sell us a horse, another offered a cow with a crumpled horn. Everywhere the women were busy making _conserva di pomodoro_; outside the windows of nearly every house were wooden bowls full of mashed tomatoes evaporating in the sun. This conserve is the staple condiment of Italian cooking, as necessary as butter or Parmesan cheese. The tomatoes are reduced to a stiff red paste, which keeps indefinitely and is used to make tomato sauce, to dress _risotto_, _spaghetti_, _carciofi_, served in every conceivable way. Being so concentrated it makes a much richer sauce than you can get from canned tomatoes. When we got back to Roccaraso we found that Vittoria had begun to prepare our winter supply of _conserva_--it takes days to make it. This gives the house a pervasive fragrance of “golden apples” and produces a comfortable sense of household thrift.
There is a full moon to-night: a white mist marks the line of the Rasino; it is too late in the year for nightingales: from the valley comes a faint snatch of music, played on a shepherd’s pipe, “_povera rondinella, O povera rondinella!_”
ROCCARASO, October 1, 1898.
Last Monday morning, having decided quite suddenly to go to Scanno, we applied to the _sindaco_ for horses and a guide.
“For to-morrow, yes, I will arrange everything; for to-day it is not possible.”
“Why? The weather is fine, it is only nine o’clock. If we start at noon we shall be in time.”
“_Pazienza, Signori!_ I tell you it is not possible. The horses are at Pietro Anzieri threshing oats. The guide has gone to sell a pig at Castel di Sangro; it is market day.”
“There must be other horses. Do you mean to say there is but one man in Roccaraso who knows the road to Scanno? Even Mariuccia has been there.”
“Doubtless! many of our women went there last year on a pilgrimage. It is not easy to find a man who knows the way: it is a horrible mountain trail. I myself, Signors, born in Roccaraso, have not seen Scanno.”
“We shall start at twelve to-day, if we have to walk and take Mariuccia for a guide.”
I was sorry for the _sindaco_, a progressive man, with a dim sense at the back of his head of a future for Roccaraso if the mad _forestieri_ take a fancy to it. He pulled his long ginger whiskers and considered.
“There is Fra Diavolo, brother of him I would send with you; possibly he knows the way, but I take no responsibility.”
“Send Fra Diavolo and the horses at noon, and the responsibility shall be upon our own heads.” He shook _his_ head, pained but indulgent. The ways of the _forestieri_ are becoming known to him, and their lack of that virtue of old people and old peoples, _pazienza_!
At quarter to twelve Fra Diavolo was at our door, with a vicious mule and pack-saddle for me, a weak-kneed, blind horse with prehistoric trappings and saddle-bags for J. We soon left the dazzling white road, struck across a grassy valley, and entered a wild, stony gorge, which reminded us of the Colorado Canyon. The path is the worst I have seen outside of Palestine. We soon dismounted and let Fra Diavolo lead our beasts. He had to be very careful, lest they should break their legs. The walls of the ravine towered on either side of us; to the left the granite rocks, which form the summit, seemed to have been shaped into Gothic battlements, towers, and buttresses. I could hardly believe that nature, and not one of the Sangallo family (the famous architects), had been the designer. The trees are of primeval growth. The gorge is crossed by open plateaus and glens covered with ancient oaks and beeches. At three o’clock we halted in a fairy dell beside a spring. The water ran through a trough made from the hollowed trunk of a tree. A pink-nosed sheep was drinking--the only brave sheep I ever saw,--I had a hand-to-hand battle with him to get my share of the water. Afterwards J. and I sat down to rest and contemplated the trail, which here divided into two.
“Which is the way to Scanno?” we asked our guide.
“Who knows, Signori?” said Fra Diavolo.
“Do not you?”
“No more than yourselves.”
“Why did you say you could show us the way?”
“With the tongue one may go to Sardinia.”
“But we have been walking three hours; for the last two we have met no living creature except these sheep.”
“Where there are sheep there will be a shepherd,” said Fra Diavolo.
“_Povera rondinella, povera rondinella!_” The familiar air was played on a shepherd’s pipe.
“What did I say?” growled Fra Diavolo, a really cross person.
We came upon the shepherd a minute later. He sat with his back against an oak playing on a pipe; near him a goat with one hind leg in splint cropped the grass. They both seemed astounded at seeing us.
“The way to Scanno, _figlio mio_?”
“This is not the path. Where have the Signori come from? Roccaraso? it is not possible! You have come by a trail only fit for goats and asses. Why did you not take the mule-path? That is easy enough.”
“Well, for certain excellent reasons we did not take the mule-path, but we are going to Scanno all the same.”
“Truly? Then take the lower path--of an unimaginable badness! With good luck you may reach Scanno by _Ave Maria_.”
_Ave Maria_ is a little puzzling till you learn that it varies with the season of the year, and is always celebrated fifteen minutes after sunset.
By this time the gorge was in shadow, and though it is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and we knew we should never see it again, we pushed on as fast as we could. At sunset we toiled up the high hill on which Scanno is perched. It is an old, gray, walled town; the gates stood open. At the fountain just outside the gateway a dozen women and girls were drawing water. The moment I saw them I cried out, “They look like Greeks.” I can hardly tell what gave the impression. J. says it was the head-dress; I think it was their expression. Their bearing was as free and noble as the Roccarasans’, but less friendly. They took no notice of us, showed nothing of that kindly animation and curiosity we usually find, though travellers are scarce in these parts. I only know one person who has been here--Enrico Coleman, the painter. I question if either Mr. Baedeker or Mr. Hare have seen Scanno. Edward Lear was here in 1856; his visit is the last I have found described in guide-bookery. Here, I believe, he met that old person of Abruzzi, “so blind that he could not his foot see. When they said, ‘That’s your toe,’ he replied, ‘Is that so?’ that doubtful old man of Abruzzi.”
_He_ had a certain stoicism, you see, like our silent women at the fountain. Before going to the inn we stopped at a delicious gray stone church near the gate, pushed aside the heavy leathern curtain, and looked in. The church, decorated for a _festa_, blazing with candles, was full of kneeling people; three priests in superb vestments were officiating at the altar. The air was gray with the smoke of incense; the cracked organ and harsh-voiced choristers were in full blast. Somehow, the sumptuousness of this vespers service was extraordinarily moving. Coming suddenly upon it after our pilgrimage over that lonely trail made it doubly impressive.
The inn was filthier than we should have believed possible; our rooms had not been made up since the last occupants departed. The food was incredibly bad; even the spaghetti, dressed with rancid oil, was uneatable. The poor landlady was so mortified at our not eating things, and brought in the spaghetti with such an air of triumph, that we waited until her back was turned before we threw it out of the window into a little, dark back street, where the dogs devoured it. We supped on the ends of bread and cheese from our saddle-bags, and raw eggs,--the cooked ones, like the spaghetti, tasted of rancid oil. One of the first things to learn, if you mean to travel in the byways of the world, is how to take raw eggs. If you are sure of your glass, break your egg into it, put a pinch of salt on the tongue, and swallow white and yolk whole. If the glass is doubtful, you must go back to first principles, and suck your eggs as the rats do; if they are fresh, like the Scanno eggs, there is no better way of taking them.
We were so tired with our six hours’ tramp that we went to bed at half-past nine--and got up again at ten! Sleep was impossible; the pleasures of the chase only were ours that night. We made ourselves as comfortable as we could on chairs, wrapped up in the rugs without which we have learned never to travel. In the dim watches of the night J. invented a portable bed, drawing the design with a burnt match in the back of Baedeker the faithless, who only says that Scanno is the most interesting point in the Abruzzi, and makes foolish remarks about how high it is, the circumference of its lake, and such dry details. While J. was designing the portable bed, I planned a foot-note to Baedeker, about Scanno.
We made out better at breakfast than at supper. Remembering the saying, “An egg, an apple, and a nut, you may take from any slut,” we ordered boiled eggs, potatoes roasted in the ashes, and some raw apples. Afterwards we walked about the town and visited the market-place, where we had a good chance to see the strange costume of the women. The head-dress is a curious black turban covering the whole head; the hair showing behind the ears and below the turban is tightly braided with bright-colored wool--red, green, yellow. I fancy each color has its significance; perhaps one is for maids, one for matrons, one for widows. The short skirt of heavy green cloth plaited at the waist is very full, the bodice of dark blue cloth has large leg-of-mutton sleeves and fastens with pretty silver buttons. The high linen chemise showing at the neck is edged with handsome lace (_real_, of course, they quite properly scorn the machine-made variety). Nobody offered to make friends with us; the women held themselves proudly aloof: this was fine, but not encouraging. The whole place is grave, gray, dignified; there are some important-looking houses, one belonging to a rich merchant has an air of solid well-being and thrift. Next time we shall take the advice of the _sindaco_ and have _pazienza_! If we had given him twenty-four hours’ notice, he would have sent word to the Mayor of Scanno that we were coming, and we should not have found things as we did at the inn. We also should have had “to pay through the nose,” so perhaps it was just as well to see Scanno for once _au naturel_.
We walked to the lake of Scanno, a mile from the town, an irregular sheet of water with misty reflections of the bare gray mountains towering above it and the tender willows on its banks. In the little chapel of “L’Annunziata,” on the edge of the lake, we found hundreds of votive offerings, silver hearts on one side of the shrine, on the other discarded crutches and trusses, hung up by grateful sufferers miraculously cured of their ailments. These reminded us of the temple of Juno at Veii. You know the great Etruscan town near Rome, where we saw and bought those lovely Etruscan terra-cotta heads, votive offerings which the priests of Juno buried in a trench behind the temple when the walls were too full to hold more. I wonder what the priests of Scanno do with the overplus of crutches?
Outside the chapel we found raspberries, just like our red raspberries, only black; they are delicious. The lake and the raspberries refreshed us somewhat. The spell of the place--far from the beaten track of travel, where we were neither wanted nor expected--was very strong, but we were so worn that we shrank from the terrors of another night at the inn, and our boots were so knocked up by yesterday’s climb that we could not face the hardships of the trail. We consulted Fra Diavolo; he was gloomier than ever.
“If the _forestieri_ are so fastidious, they might go to Naples, the _giornaliere_--diligence--will start in an hour for Anversa, where they can get the train.”
“_Ma come si fa?_ What will become of you, the horse, and the mule?”
“Yesterday I brought these abominable animals as well as yourselves safely over that infamous devil’s road. To-day I return by the proper road, fit for a Christian, not merely for goats and asses,” he began angrily; then a thought struck him and he changed his tune:
“It is true there are greater dangers in going by a strange road than by one, however poor, that one is acquainted with. The animals are the _sindaco’s_, and more valuable than the _forestieri_ realize. Would they abandon me in this strange _paese_, where I have no relatives, not even a friend? Hearts of stone! At least they must pay a man to help lead back these poor, abandoned ones, which they may despise, but which the _sindaco_ doubtless finds useful.”
To see Fra Diavolo work himself into this state of righteous indignation was well worth the price we paid a man to help convey the blind horse and the lame mule back to Roccaraso. As the diligence did not leave for an hour, we saw the caravan start, Fra Diavolo riding the horse, the Scannan following upon the mule.
The carriage road leading down from the town is quite as steep, if a trifle smoother, than the trail; on one side there is a sheer drop of a hundred feet to a stony gorge below. The driver of the _giornaliere_ was very drunk; the harness of one horse, a restive gray, was made almost entirely of an old clothes-line. As soon as we started the gray sat down like a circus horse, his front feet firmly planted in the road before him, whereupon the clothes-line traces broke.
“What did I say, Manfredo?” cried the driver to the guard. “Would it not have been a sin to put a good harness on this _cavallaccio maledetto_? I tell you he has never been driven before. Would it be sensible to waste good leather traces upon this _brutta bestia_?”
“_Zitto, Orlando!_” said the guard, who was sober.
I am afraid I screamed to be let down from the box seat.
“Neither horse, harness, nor driver is fit for the road if the voyagers wish to reach Anversa alive,” J. said firmly; “send them back immediately and provide others, or I will appeal to the _sindaco_.”
A little, dried-up man scrambled out from the stuffy interior of the _giornaliere_ and joined the fray.
“The Signor Marchese is right, Manfredo; send Orlando back with that hangman’s brute. The return diligence will be here in ten minutes; we will take one of their animals, and you yourself must drive.” We waited a full half hour for the incoming stage. In the crowd of loiterers that quickly gathered we recognized the man we had paid to help Fra Diavolo lead the animals back to Roccaraso. “What have you done with the mule of his Excellency?” J. asked. The fellow pointed to the trail. “He is on his way home. Fra Diavolo found he could manage both beasts very well alone.”
When the other stage arrived, Manfredo persuaded its driver to exchange one of his horses with us, and Orlando Furioso to change places with him. A fat arch-priest put down the window and looked out.
“What in the name of all the saints is the matter with that evil horse?”
“_Illustrissimo_, the animal is like one of yourselves,--he does not like to work,” said the thin little man, a lawyer from Scanno.
“_Grazie, grazie_ (thank you),” said the arch-priest, taking the chaff in good part.
Once we had started, everything went like magic. The drive from Scanno to Anversa is as fine as the Cornice or the Sorrento drives. It is mostly down hill, and took us just three hours; the return trip takes five. I had been almost afraid to sit outside lest, after our sleepless night, I should go to sleep and fall off, but the great gray mountains and the grim gray gorges kept me awake. The road runs nearly all the way beside the river Saggittario, which has more moods than one would have imagined possible in a single thread of water. Sometimes it dashes, white and angry, over a rough bottom between rocky sides; then it spreads out into clear pools, “alive with trout,” the lawyer said. Sometimes it is green and full of fight, sometimes brown, still, and lazy. We saw an eagle light on a crag far over our heads. We were really dazed with the wonders we had seen by the time we reached Anversa, where we took the train. We had to go all around Robin Hood’s barn, so that we did not get home to Roccaraso till after dark.
On our way from the station we were overtaken by Mariuccia, who was eager to hear how we had fared.
“_Aimé, ’Gnor’_, when I saw Fra Diavolo return with the animals and without your illustrious selves I was much afflicted! The inhabitants of Scanno _sono gente mal educata, e di nessuna fede_ (people without breeding or good faith). The _sindaco_ himself was much alarmed, good man; I must take the news to his house that you have returned safely.”
“What is that you are carrying on your head, Mariuccia?”
“_’Gnora_, it is a little chest.” It was the most fascinating little _cinque cento_ chest I ever saw, half the usual size, finely carved, and looking as if it might be meant to hold jewels or treasure, as indeed it was.
“To whom does it belong? Where are you taking it?” I touched it with my bare hand: it was encrusted with earth.
“It belongs to one who is forgotten. I am taking it to the house next yours. It is for _una povera creatura morta_ (a poor dead child). The mother will give the _cassetta_ a thorough cleaning, and it will be as good as when it was first put in the ground.”
“Good-night, Mariuccia! it is cold, we must hurry.”
“_Andiamo presto_: Let us hasten; I too am _in fretta_ (a hurry); we must carry the infant to the church to-night.”
There was no getting rid of Mariuccia; the lid of the chest clap-clapped with every step she took; the thing smelt of mortality.
“Where did the chest come from?”
“_’Gnora_, a few years ago when they built the railway an ancient cemetery was disturbed. The bones of those who had been buried were all put into the new graveyard, and such of the coffins as were whole were stored in that old ruined church. When the very poor have need, they help themselves. I am taking this to my cousin, but I would not have it known by the neighbors, so I waited till dark, and, as you see, I am taking it home by the quietest way.”
We were at last at our own door.
“_Buona notte_, Mariuccia.”
“_Felicissima notte, ’Gnora._”
J. says things have changed very little since he made his first trip through the Abruzzi in the early eighties. He with two other artists went first to Saracinesco, where they stayed at the house of Belisario, the son of an old model of Fortuny’s (the great Spanish painter). They had heard about the place from another Roman model called Fagiolo or the Bean. When Fagiolo was a boy, his father gave him a large bag of beans one morning and sent him out to plant a field. It was a fine, bright day, and the boy, meeting other boys, decided to put off his work till afternoon and went off birds’-nesting. Suddenly the sun began to set and he realized that he had done nothing with the beans. He hurried to the field, and digging one deep hole buried all the beans; then he went home.
“You are late, my son. Where have you been?” asked the father.
“There were many beans; I have planted them all,” said the boy. By and by, when it was time for vegetables to come up, the father was very much troubled that nothing came up in the bean-field. One day he discovered in the farthest corner a perfect thicket of tangled, spindly beans. From that day the boy was known as Fagiolo.
The three artists were invited by Fagiolo to a feast, which J. describes as the most primitive he has ever shared. They found the family all gathered in the large living-room of a rather superior peasant’s house. The floor was of mother earth, otherwise the room resembled our own glorious kitchen at Roccaraso; there were golden-brown bladders of lard and strings of garlic hanging from the ceiling; in front of the open hearth were hand-wrought andirons with little cages at the top in which the pipkins of food were kept hot. Fagiolo made them welcome, and his wife having announced that the _polenta_ was ready, the husband literally laid the board. The guests and the family seated themselves, the children on wooden stools, the grown-up people on rush-bottomed chairs, and Fagiolo took a large board from the corner. With a knife he scraped off the dried meal sticking to it out at the door, the fowls gathering to feed upon the scrapings. Then he passed his hand across the board and, finding it comparatively smooth, laid it upon the knees of the company, who were sitting in a circle. Next he took from the crane, where it hung over the fire, a large three-legged iron pot of _polenta_ (hasty pudding) and emptied it upon the board. His wife with a long pudding-stick spread out the mush to the proper thickness, then each person staked out his claim by drawing a circle in the _polenta_ with a leaden spoon. The smallest child, they noticed, drew the biggest circle, and J. confesses to having drawn the smallest. Next Fagiolo took from the cage in the andiron, where it had been keeping warm, a saucepan filled with snails stewed in brown gravy, and helped each person to a share of the snails, putting it down carefully within the limits of the circle. That was all the feast, except the inevitable _vino di paese_, which really takes the place of meat with these people.
By the advice of their host, Belisario, the artists had given their money to Fagiolo to keep, as he was known to be honest, and would be less likely to be suspected of having it than Belisario, in whose house they were staying. After the snail feast Fagiolo went off to the inn. Flattered by the honor the strangers had done him, he drank more than was good for him, and began to boast of the money, several hundred francs, the painters had confided to him. The sum grew in telling to several thousand, and the news getting to Belisario that Fagiolo had boasted at the inn, he begged the artists to depart without delay, saying that he could no longer be responsible for their safety.
“The signori must depart, but to-day, at once; and yet they must appear not to depart.”
“Explain yourself. How is it possible to depart and to appear not to depart?”
“_Ma, è semplicissimo!_ The illustrious ones go out to sketch every day, is it not so? Well, to-day they go as usual, but they do not return, and these dogs will believe that they of Olevano have robbed them. The signori must make haste to reach Tivoli before dark; there are brigands about; the _carabinieri_ are on the lookout for them.”
“Nobody ever troubles artists.”
“For a good reason, they are not usually worth meddling with. If it had not been for that cabbage-headed imbecile, Fagiolo! Ask him if I tell you the truth.”
Fagiolo was even more frightened than Belisario. He actually wept.
“_Per carità_, my Signors, depart! depart! If you hope to see another day, if you would not see your poor Fagiolo, who has served you faithfully, put in prison for your murder.”
The three artists started, carrying their sketching kits, wearing their red berrettas (flat red caps, something like Tam o’ Shanters). They took the precaution to tuck their soft felt hats inside their waistcoats, and, leaving the rest of their traps to be sent after them, set out merrily on their sixteen-mile tramp to Tivoli. The road was most beguiling; it leads through Vicovaro along the river Anio--down which floated the mother of Romulus with her immortal twins--past “Cold Digentia,” where the winter birding nets were set on Horace’s Sabine farm. Is it wonderful that they loitered? that they even delayed to make _un leggero bozzetto_ (just a note) of a small gray _castello_ perched like an eagle’s nest on the top of a high hill? A white path zigzagged up to the gate, an olive-grove clustered at the foot of the hill, a row of stone pines ran along the sky line. The mere “bozzetti” grew into serious sketches. All at once they saw outlined against the sky a long procession of peasants coming back from their work in the fields below. The women--riding in pairs upon the patient mules and asses, hung with bells that jingled at every step--were singing the litany, the men made the responses in their gruff voices.
“_Ave Maria, gratia plena._”
“_Ora pro nobis!_” then came the guttural “angk, angk!” of the men, and the blows of their heavy sticks upon the backs of the poor beasts.
“They are singing the _Ave Maria_, which means that it must be late,” said the eldest of the three artists, the Spaniard, Catherez. “We must be going.”
It was nearly sunset, and they were not half way to Tivoli. They exchanged their berrettas for their felt hats, and began to walk in good earnest. Soon after dark they met a band of _carabinieri_, who brought them to a halt.
“Where do you come from?”
“That is so likely! From what inn?”
“It should be known to you that there is no inn there where one may sleep. We stayed at the house of Belisario.”
“Where are you going?”
It began to rain. They thought they had answered enough questions and were impatient to be off. J. was the first to move. A guard caught him by the coat and began to feel of him suspiciously.
“What have you got there?” He pulled out the innocent berretta. “A disguise? What do honest men want with disguises? Have you any papers to prove that what you say is true?”
They had all taken out sportsmen’s licenses before leaving Rome, but, unfortunately, they had mixed the papers up. Ricardo Villegas loftily presented a license describing J.
“How is this? English? five foot eleven? fair complexion? By the mass, these papers are stolen! This man is no Inglese. He is not above five feet seven, and he is as dark as a Moor. In the name of the King, I arrest you.”
They were marched off to Tivoli, to spend the night in the vast, bare guard-room, where every hour the grave _carabinieri_ came and went in squads, as the guards were changed. In the morning they were allowed to send telegrams to their respective consuls in Rome, and by ten o’clock they were set at liberty, with a warning to be more careful in future.
The artists suspected, justly or unjustly, that the weather had much to do with their arrest. It was a miserable evening, when three possible brigands in the hand might be reckoned as worth more than a whole band in the bush!
VIAREGGIO--LUCCA--RETURN TO ROME
VIAREGGIO, October 15, 1898.
The long mole runs far out into the sea, the light-house stands at the extreme end; here we watch the fishing-boats come in every evening, the sailors poling them along the mole to their harborage in the river. They build boats at Viareggio; the real interest of the town, quite apart from the watering-place life, centres in the weatherbeaten sailors, the cumbrous craft with their rich colored sails, the smell of tar, oakum, and fish. This morning we watched a pair of old salts calking the seams of a dory; they had a fire and a pot full of black bubbling stuff, “pitch, pine, and turpentine.” It is late in the season for sea-bathing; this morning we were the only people who braved the pleasant cool water. There is a fine beach with a gradual slope and, as far as I have discovered, no undertow. Last night we walked in the _pineta_, the wonderful old pine forest that embraces Viareggio, spreading out in a half circle, sheltering it from the north winds and leaving it open to the kindly influences of the sea.
Viareggio is full of memories of Shelley; we saw the place where his body was washed ashore, where Trelawney found and burned it in the old classic fashion. We heard the question discussed whether the yacht Don Juan was lost by accident (she was a crank boat) or had been run down by a felucca, whose piratical sailors believed Lord Byron to be on board with a chest of treasure. I suppose we shall never know the truth, so as I am loath to think ill of any sailor, I shall go on believing it was an accident.
It is strange to find ourselves again on the high road of travel, after the loneliness of the Abruzzi. Since the days of the Phoenicians, invading armies of Huns, Goths, Longbeards, palmers, pilgrims, and their descendants, tourists and tramps have patrolled every step of the road we are now travelling.
We drove from Viareggio to Lucca, two and a half hours, through the beautiful Tuscan country in its glowing harvest colors,--every farm a glory, with heaped barrels of grapes waiting to be trodden into wine, strings of yellow, yellow Indian corn and scarlet peppers hanging over the fronts of the houses. The way led through an olive grove: all about us were twisty witch trees, a misty gray wood in which one looked right and left for Merlin and Vivian. Then came a chestnut forest, the great bursting burs filled with big shiny Italian chestnuts. We stopped at the house of a vine grower known to our driver, and asked leave to visit the vineyard. The proprietor, a tall lean man, with a touch of the faun about him (J. wants to paint him as the god Pan) welcomed us cordially. The large Tuscan speech strikes sweetly on our ears after the clipped Italian of the Abruzzi. Even the working people in Tuscany have a certain elegance in turning a phrase which southern Italians of far greater culture lack. Nothing could be more up to date than this Tuscan vineyard, almost as tidy and progressive as the German vineyards. That, after all, is the great thing about travelling; you visit not only different countries, but different ages. A thousand years lie between my friend “Pittsbourgo’s” Etruscan method of ploughing, at Pietro Anzieri, and the system on which this neat thrifty Tuscan vineyard is run.
“Those look like American Isabella grapes!” we exclaimed.
“They are what they appear to be,” said the _vignajuòlo_; “behold an experiment! Many of my best vines were destroyed by the phylloxera, an obnoxious insect which girdles the roots so that the vines die! Do you think I would allow myself to be vanquished by a mere insect? I send to North America for these hardy vines which have so bitter a root that the vile insect touches them not. I graft the native Italian grape upon the American vine and wait. Meanwhile, until I am sure of my grafting, not to lose all profit, I allow the American vines to bear grapes from which I make wine of some sort. I tell you in confidence, it is only fit for _contadini_ to drink, I would not offend you by offering it to you. _Ma, pazienza!_ by and by, I shall cut back the vine to the grafting, and the native vine will flourish upon the American root! Then I shall have a wine worthy to offer _vostra signoria_!”
Here is progress for you; here is a man not satisfied to do as his fathers did; here is a country of to-day, a people with a future!
Having made the _giro_ of the vineyard, we came back to the large stuccoed farmhouse which had originally been painted a violent pink; now the color, softened by sun, rain, and time, is a rich variegated yellow. With a gracious gesture, our host threw open the door, and stood smiling in the sun, the matchless human sunshine of Italy in his dark shy face. When he talked about his vines he had been all animation; the ceremony of inviting a lady into his dwelling was rather irksome to him.
“The signori will do me the honor of entering my poor abode?” He showed us into an apartment only a shade less austere than the waiting-room of a convent. It was clean, cold, and of a frightful bareness. Let us hope there was an enchanting kitchen--like our never-to-be-forgotten kitchen at Roccaraso--somewhere in the offing, where our handsome Pan might take his ease.
“The signori will do me the honor to try a glass of my wine?”
J. asked if he had any wine of Chianti. He laughed.
“_Eccellenza_, shall I tell you the truth? I have tuns of wine which I shall sell for Chianti. All you _forestieri_ know that name and demand that wine. The real wine of Chianti would not supply the town of Lucca. Chianti is a small _paese_; its wine is good, who shall deny it? but not so good as that which you will honor me by trying!”
I held out for a glass of the “Americano”; it tastes rather like the unfermented grape juice we have at home.
* * * * *
Lucca at last! a dear, queer, delightful old town with ramparts and fortifications in fine preservation. It has a delicious slumberous quality: its glorious days are in the past; its mediæval walls effectually shut out the rustle and bustle of to-day. My earliest childish impressions concerning Lucca centre about certain long thin glass bottles bearing the words “Sublime Oil of Lucca,” always in evidence at home when there was to be a dinner party. Cross German Mary, the swarthy culinary goddess of our youth, used to hold one of those deceitful bottles gingerly in a clawlike hand, letting the sublime liquid trickle drop by drop into the yellow mixing-bowl wherein she compounded salad dressing such as I have not since tasted. Later in life I was once delayed by a crowd on State Street, Chicago, outside a wholesale warehouse on which was written in large letters “Cotton Seed Oil.” I had to wait for a moment while a crate full of spick and span new _empty_ bottles with fresh gold labels bearing the familiar legend “Sublime Oil of Lucca” was carried into the warehouse! Can you solve me that mystery?
During our first dinner in Lucca, I inevitably demanded “_un poco di quest’olio sublimo_.”
“_Ecco lo quà, Signora_ (behold it here, lady),” said the fat waiter, offering a familiar straw-covered flask of oil, just like those we have in Rome. Sublime Oil of Lucca in long, thin, deceitful bottles is not to be had in Lucca!
My second impression of the town is connected with another cook, the excellent Pompilia: she was born here and first went out to service with a great lady who lived in Florence in the winter, and at Bagni di Lucca in the summer. I have often been made to feel my inferiority to that lady, and enjoyed a certain revenge in refusing to drive out to see Bagni di Lucca, whose fine hotels and bath establishment do not tempt us. We prefer Lucca and the “Universe,” a queer old caravansary, whose limitations we endure in that transcendental spirit with which Margaret Fuller accepted the larger universe. The hotel has been a palace of some importance: our bedroom is of the size and character of the stage of Covent Garden Theatre, when set for the last act of Othello. The gloomy majesty of the furniture is quite appalling; the two stupendous beds could easily accommodate the whole family of children at Orton House.
The first day we drove out into the neighboring country, where we found the same joyous harvest atmosphere we left in the Abruzzi. The town of Lucca is mellow with another harvest, the great art harvest of the renaissance; pictures and marbles that strike us fresh and strong from the dead hands that made them, not too familiar like the more famous works of Florence and Venice. We never before knew much of Matteo Civitalis, the statuary; he is now our loving friend for life. Fra Bartolomeo, the Lucca painter, we already knew, though not so intimately as now. We have put in some days of hard sightseeing. Did I say hard? no, splendid, soul inspiring. I feel as if I had put my lips to the fountain of life, and drawn deep draughts of inspiration. There are great churches, grim St. Romano and San Michele, the cathedral with its precious jewel, the tomb of Ilaria del Carretto, one of the most lovely monuments of the renaissance. As we lingered near the tomb the old sacristan approached; he eyed us anxiously before speaking.
“The signori are interested in sculpture?” We said that we were. “If their excellences have time, I will gladly show them what the church contains of interest to the amateur.”
How often he must have been snubbed and hurried by breathless tourists!
“A thousand thanks. We have come to Lucca partly to see the cathedral of St. Martino; figure to yourself if we have time!”
The withered old face broke up into the tenderest smile; it went to one’s heart that he should offer so timidly a service so precious. We spent the morning mousing about the church seeing all its treasures in the mellow glow of the old man’s enthusiasm.
“The illustrious ones have heard, perhaps, of a certain English writer who calls himself Ruskino?”
We said that we knew Ruskin’s books. He flushed with pleasure. “He was my friend; more than thirty times he visited Lucca, and he never came without making a sketch of the tomb of Ilaria.”
We go into the cathedral every day to look at Ilaria, where she sleeps in marble effigy, flower crowned, immortally young and lovely, just as Jacopo della Quercia, the sculptor, saw her, nearly five centuries ago. The tombs of Lucca remind one of the memorial tablets of the Street of Tombs in Athens. It is hard to say just where the resemblance lies; in form and manner there is little in common, the resemblance is of the subtler, deeper sort; a spiritual not a material likeness!
PALAZZO RUSTICUCCI, ROME, October 16, 1898.
We found our dear old palace very much as we had left it, save that Ignazio, the gardener, had suddenly, and without orders, added one hundred pots of flowers to the terrace. The difficulty and fatigue of watering this hanging garden of Babylon sometimes seems more than J. and I and Pompilia, our horticultural cook, can manage. Yet I cannot regret the addition which promises many new delights,--chrysanthemums among them. Pompilia asked many questions about what we had seen in our wanderings; she cannot forgive us for not having driven out to Bagni di Lucca! She tells me that she too is a great traveller.
“_Sa, Signora mia, ho viaggiato per tutto il mondo. Da Lucca a Firenze, da Firenze a Lucca, da Lucca a Firenze, e poi a Roma!_ Know, mistress, that I have travelled all over the world, from Lucca to Florence” (the distance is about fifty miles), “from Florence to Lucca,” etc.
Our first visitor after our return to Rome was Sora Giulia, the dark-eyed Jewess who keeps an antiquarian’s shop in the Borgo Nuovo, a few doors away.
“Welcome home, Signora. I have brought you a few _occasioni_ (bargains); a piece of lace, well, wait till you see it, _un oggetto unico_!”
Nena took Sora Giulia’s baby while the antiquarian untied her green damask bundle of old lace and linen.
“Behold, _Signora mia_, this priceless flounce. How well it would become you on a vesture of ceremony!”
She spread out with a caressing touch a deep lace flounce of Milan point. It was indeed “an unique object.” The sacred letters IHS and all the emblems of the Passion were wrought into it with wonderful freedom of design,--the ladder, the cross, the mallet, and so on. It had evidently been made for an ecclesiastic.
“It is truly a splendid piece of lace, Sora Giulia, but is it not known to you that such a flounce may only be worn by a _sacerdote_?”
“_I preti sono poveri!_”
“Not all priests are poor. Show it to Don Marcello.”
“_Ma chè_--, he buys no longer, he has to sell. But you, Signora, you are not like these others. _Eh dica, lei è veramente Christiana?_ (Say, are you really a Christian?)”
Was not her eagerness _not_ to have me a Christian pathetically significant? My mother remembers her Hebrew master, a scholarly Jew, taking hurried farewells of her in order to get back to the ghetto before the gates were shut at eight!
“I cannot buy this flounce. I could not wear it if I did.”
“_Per carità_, then look at this _reticella_.” (Literally “small net,” a coarse white netting with designs worked in by hand.) “The _forestieri_ are mad about _reticelle_, they are buying them all up to make table-cloths and pillow covers. Soon it will be impossible to find them. I never saw a better piece, you shall have it at your own price. In confidence, the _padrone di casa_ says if he is not paid his rent to-day he will turn us out. What a bad season we have had! No travellers since June. Those Florentine antiquarians put lies in the papers about there being plague or cholera, or some such _porcheria_ in Rome, just to keep the voyagers away from us. We make nothing; but we must eat and pay our rent all the same! The _padrone_....”
“With respect, he is an infamous beast, they all are, _Madonna mia_!” Nena broke in. When she took Sora Giulia’s part I knew that the antiquarian was really in straits. We bought the _reticella_ for the sum due the landlord, and Nena went downstairs to the baker’s shop to change the bill.
“Sora Nena will tell you that I speak the truth. That brute of a _padrone_ extorted her rent yesterday, took her last _centesimo_. What is the result? I tell you, this morning Nena’s daughter had nothing to eat for her breakfast but one raw lemon. In consequence, the child at the breast has colic, which is not strange.”
“What about the child’s father?”
“He is a _muratore_ (mason), but he gets no work. Sora Nena gives him to eat as well as his wife.”
Nena is a Venetian, and she takes snuff. She has other faults but I hear oftenest of these from the other servants. Before we went to Roccaraso I asked her if she had ever owned a silk dress. She laughed at the question; “silks were not for the likes of her,” etc. In parting I gave her a cast-off black satin, with rather peculiar wide stripes. The first Sunday after our return Pompilia went to mass in the satin dress, and poor pathetic little Nena in her old snuff-stained cotton gown. When I asked an explanation, she said that she had sold the satin to the cook: “Pompilia can afford to wear silk; I ask you, whom has she in the world belonging to her? Some cousins, who send her a basket of flowers on her _festa_! She puts every _soldo_ she can scrape together on her back. Well, let that console her for being a _zitella_! “If you could have heard the spiteful hiss of her _zitella_ (old maid). Nena has a daughter, an idle son-in-law, and seven grandchildren to support, but she pities Pompilia, who has only herself to think of!
“When the _forestieri_ come, you will recommend me to them?” said Sora Giulia in parting. I can do so with a good conscience. If she guarantees a candlestick to be silver, you may be sure it is not merely plated. If a bargain is struck she will keep her side of it; as much cannot be said of all her Christian confrères among antiquarians.
It is strange how the _antichità_ mania attacks people in Italy. Every one we know collects some manner of junk. A friend of J.’s who goes in for old coins was driving near Girgente, in Sicily, through the wildest, most primitive country. A peasant digging in a field offered him a handful of coins, moist with mud, just turned up with the spade.
They were all ancient Roman coins, copper or silver, familiar and not particularly valuable, with the exception of one rare Greek goldpiece which he bought for a large price. Afraid of being robbed, he took the next boat for Naples, pushed on to Rome, where he had been passing the winter, showed his treasure trove to an expert, and learned that there were but three others known to be in existence: one in Berlin, another in the British Museum, a third in a private collection. When he reached London, he showed his coin to the gentleman in charge of the collection at the British Museum. They compared it with the specimen in the case. The Girgente coin seemed as good a specimen; as a last test it was put under a powerful lens, which showed it to be a brand new imitation!
The Muse of Via Gregoriana, J. C., has a catholic taste and buys all manner of things from empire furniture to silver lamps. Her last craze is for peasant jewelry. She “acquires”--one does not buy _antiquità_--every piece she can lay her hands on. Some of the designs are excellent; the jewels are mostly flat rose diamonds, garnets, and misshapen pearls set in silver. Out of half a dozen odd earrings she will construct you a charming ornament, necklace, pendant, what not, and sell it to you at a small profit, which she devotes to helping young Roman musicians, several of whom owe their education to her. I call that a pleasant combination, to make your hobby carry your charity.
I believe Rome is the best place in Europe to buy jewels, because princes as well as peasants are continually throwing them on the market. One day our jeweller, Signor Poce (he lives in a little shop in the Corso, near the Piazza del Popolo), showed us a set of the finest emeralds I have seen in years. He said they belonged to some great lady who was obliged to part with them. That night we met those emeralds at a ball! they were in the shop again the next morning! Don’t be too sorry for the lady: she is a sensible English woman; and we happened to hear that she has lately redeemed a long-neglected estate belonging to her Roman husband, and is putting in modern improvements in the way of oil and wine presses. It is the same with the poorer people. What you read about the peasants parting with their precious possessions, furniture, laces, jewels, is true, but it is only part of the truth; they are selling them to buy better things--health and education! When you read about the heavy taxes, remember what they pay for! What Italy has done since 1870 is as wonderful as what France did in paying off the war debt to Germany out of the farmers’ stockings. Reading and writing are better than pearl earrings. The Tiber embankment, alone, cost the Romans a pretty penny. It spoiled the picturesqueness of the river--the sloping banks covered with trees and flowers must have been wonderful--and it did away with the Roman fever! The river used to overflow its banks every spring and to flood whole districts of the city. J. remembers boats rowed by sailors going
[Illustration: _The Tiber, at the Ponte Nomantana_
From a photograph]
about the Piazza Rotonda and along the Via di Ripetta, carrying bread to the people in the submerged houses. When the river receded, “came the famine, came the fever.” When I was in Rome for the first time, as a girl, I had a bad case of old-fashioned Roman fever. Since my return, I have seen Suora Gabriella, the dear nun who nursed me so faithfully (she really saved my life) through that long dreadful illness. In speaking of the character of the work done by the nursing sisterhood to which she belongs, she said, “Since there is no more fever, the character of our work has changed somewhat; we now take surgical cases!” The doctors and hotel-keepers claim that Rome is the second healthiest city in Europe, having the lowest death rate after London. If this is true, we owe it to Garibaldi, for he it was who urged the Romans to build the Tiber embankment,--their best monument to his memory.
October 25, 1898.
This morning, Maria, the porter’s wife, was announced. She had come on “_ambasciata_” from the wife of the wine merchant opposite. “You remember the poor little _gobbetto_ (hunch-back), Signora? the one who has brought you so much luck, since that day when you rubbed his hump?”
“I remember him, yes; what of him?”
“He is very ill; he suffers much, cannot sleep, cannot eat. One sees all his bones! His mother, poor woman, prays that you will ask the American Marchesa who lives at the Palazzo Giraud Torlonia to lend her carriage for the transportation of the _santo bambino_ (the holy child) from the church of Santa Maria in Aracieli, to her house.”
“But why does she want the _santo bambino_ at her house?”
“After that blessed image visits his bedside, the poor _gobbetto_ will either recover or find repose in death. It is too terrible to see him suffer!”
“Is this thing which you tell me true?”
“It is most true, as you will see.”
I knew the poor crippled child, had one day taken him up in my arms. Maria, seeing me, had supposed I knew the superstition that it is lucky to touch the back of a _gobbo_.
“Will it be permitted to bring the _bambino_ to the house?”
“If a carriage can be sent of the proper style--there must be one servant on the box and one to walk beside, there must be two horses; an ordinary hired carriage from the piazza will not do.”
“If the Marchesa consents?”
“The _bambino_, attended by two priests, will be brought to the _gobbetto’s_ bedside. Then the thing will soon be over for the poor child--one way or the other!”
I went on the errand to my neighbor, Mrs. Haywood. (The Haywoods having a title from the Vatican, she is called Marchesa by the poor people of our quarter, but among her American friends she remains Mrs. Haywood.) She is a kind woman and an excellent neighbor. I found her at home in that splendid old Palazzo Giraud, built in 1503 (some say by the great architect Bramante), occupied by Cardinal Wolsey when he was papal legate. J.’s studio, by the way, is in one wing of this palace. Mrs. Haywood gave me tea in the library, one of the finest rooms in Rome. It has a balcony running around it, filled with rare books and manuscripts, for Mr. Haywood is a great bibliophile.
I told her my “_ambasciata_.” Though she was kindly sympathetic, she said “no” firmly, then explained. The Haywoods are the only people in the Borgo (outside the Vatican) who keep a carriage. When they first came to live here, they began by lending it whenever it was asked for, to bring the _santo bambino_ to the sick. They soon found that, if they ever wished to use their carriage themselves, they must make a hard and fast rule to refuse all such requests. Knowing this, Maria and the _gobbetto’s_ mother induced me to make the petition, on the chance that the Marchesa might grant to a compatriot what she would deny them. When it was found that my mission had failed, Maria, of the kind heart, opened a subscription to pay for the hire of a suitable carriage. Every member of our household, including Nena, has contributed to the fund. “_Bisogna vivere a Roma coi costumi di Roma_,” says the Italian proverb, “When you are in Rome do as Rome does!”
ROMAN CODGERS AND SOLITARIES
PALAZZO RUSTICUCCI, November 28, 1898.
To-day being the last Saturday in the month, Fra Antonio, the begging friar, called for his _obolo_. I surprised him in the act of offering a shabby horn snuff-box to Filomena. She had taken a pinch daintily between a finger and thumb, and was folding it in a sheet of my best Irish linen note paper.
“_Una presa di tabaco per Sora Nena_ (A pinch of snuff for Mrs. Nena),” she explained. Poor Nena, little withered old woman, the servants’ drudge, it doesn’t matter about _her_ habits! Filomena, eighteen, rosy as Aurora,--so pretty that young men make excuses to call at our old green door to see her open it,--feared the shadow of suspicion that the snuff was for her own use! Snuff is still taken in Italy by the old and the old fashioned: it has the sanction of the clergy. In Rome, it is thought hardly seemly for a priest to smoke, they nearly all use snuff; indeed I have seen a priest take a sly pinch while officiating at the altar. Snuff is the only luxury our monk Antonio knows. Do you blame J. for sometimes keeping back a little of the money which we ought to give the _frate_ for the general fund of the brotherhood, and investing it in a packet of snuff for the old fellow’s particular comfort? I do not.
“_Frate_,” I said, “why did you become a monk?”
“Signora, the Madonna herself bade me take the vows.”
“You lead a happy life at the monastery?”
“Like others I have my troubles, mainly rheumatism.” (His poor old veined feet looked cold in their sandals.)
“About those vows, now, how many are there?”
“They are three,” he counted them off on the knots of his rope girdle, “poverty, obedience, chastity. Circumstances might conceivably release me from the first and the second, but believe me, Signora,” he fixed an earnest, rheumy eye upon me as he said it, “not even the Holy Father himself could absolve me from the third vow.”
“_S’intende_ (One understands),” Filomena assented.
J. says we women folk all make a great fuss over the _frate_; during the time old Santi (formerly the valet of Crawford _père_, ever since more or less dependent on the family) was with us the _frate_ was rather snubbed. Santi, for many years the majordomo of a rich monsignore, scorned our dear Fra Antonio. He always forgot to serve the modest gift the old monk brought us every month, a head of _barba di cappucini_ (capuchin’s beard) a sort of curly lettuce the monks raise in their garden. Santi was a character for you: he had an unctuous ecclesiastical manner suggestive of sacerdotal ceremonial. When he passed a plate of steaming _fettuccie fatt’ in casa_ (ribbons made in the house, home-made macaroni) one was reminded of an acolyte handling a smoking censer. He was not with us long; though he was as handsome as a king, with the most distinguished manners, we were relieved to be rid of him; he who had served cardinals and princes of the Church seemed out of place waiting on our small table. I have recognized Santi’s sacerdotal manner in Cardinal Rampolla’s servants and in the attendants of other churchmen we have visited.
Cardinal Rampolla lives over there at the Vatican. The day we called on him we merely had to walk across the Square of St. Peter and knock at his door, as it were! We were astonished at being taken up to his apartment in an elevator--an elevator at the Vatican seems an anachronism! Living not a stone’s throw from the Vatican we are strangely aware of the mighty heart of the Catholic Church, and have grown sensitive to its pulsations, whether stirred by events at the Philippines or in the New York elections! Cardinal Rampolla is in constant attendance upon the Pope. A friend of ours once invited him to his villa outside Rome.
“It would rest your Eminence to get away for a few hours!” he urged.
“_Aimè, magari potessi_ (If I only could)!” sighed the cardinal. Our friend says the sigh and look showed a depth of weariness he had never suspected in the dark energetic man at the helm. They say the cardinal has only slept outside the Vatican once since the day the Pope appointed him secretary of state years ago! That was on the night of his mother’s death; the next day he came back to the cold palace with its hundreds of rooms inhabited by four thousand men and not one woman or child. I often wonder about the dusting of those endless halls, chapels, and suites of apartments!
Do you suppose that vast hive of celibates is the magnet that draws to Rome its hoards of codgers and solitaries? I assure you their habits may be studied better here than anywhere in the world. Though many of the Roman codgers are more or less connected with the Vatican, there are scores who have no relations with it, Protestants, Greek Orthodox, Hebrews, and the like.
Rome must have been more picturesque when the Pope took his airing on the Pincio, instead of walking and driving inside the walls of the Vatican garden, as he does now. In those days the whole populace went down on their knees whenever he appeared. Then the cardinals wore their splendid vermilion robes every day: they must have made a joyful note of color in the landscape! Now they wear sad black gowns, save at a _festa_ or some special function. Driving out into the Campagna on a fine afternoon, one is almost sure to pass a sober, closed carriage drawn by a pair of fat black horses, waiting by the roadside; a little farther on, one meets some cardinal walking with his secretary. It is not etiquette for a cardinal to walk in the streets of Rome while their head remains the Prisoner of the Vatican; they must drive about to do their errands, and get their airing outside the walls. Isn’t that fascinating? But in society the cardinals often wear their pretty bright robes.
At the Haywoods’ the other day, a cardinal came to tea; our host and hostess met him at the entrance, each carrying a lighted waxen torch. All the guests (except heretics like ourselves) courtesied, kotowed, and kissed his ring. It is not etiquette for a lady to be decolletée when a churchman is to be of the party. It is just these endless traditions--“links with the past”--which make Roman society to us shadowless-moneyed-above-board republicans so absorbingly interesting! Social life here is rich in shadows and lights, full of color and imagination; no wonder the novelists never tire of using it for a background.
Cardinal Hohenlohe, a true prince of the Church, keeps high state in the historic Villa d’Este, among his wonderful cypresses, fountains, terraces, and frescoed casinos. He surrounds himself with artists and musicians, pays little heed to any gentle hint from the Vatican, and is one of the most interesting persons one can see: his independence--he is said to be a Rosminian--is due to his position as well as to his character; he is of the Prussian royal family, cousin to the Emperor William, and is possessed of a free and liberal spirit not easy to control. The Hohenlohes are older than the Hohenzollerns, and a friend of the cardinal’s once said to a friend of mine, that his Eminence in a moment of wrath, for some reason or other, cried out: “Ugh! Hohenzollern! They once were considered highly honored with the post of holding the stirrup for the head of my house.” Was not that nice and spiteful?
The cardinal’s banishment from Tivoli was extremely diverting. Two English noblewomen of high rank, in Rome for the winter, wished to meet all the distinguished personages possible. A dinner was arranged for them by Baron Blanc, to which Cardinal Hohenlohe was invited. After all the other guests had assembled, the company was thrown into a flutter by the arrival of Crispi. Instead of Hohenlohe’s withdrawing (the usual etiquette when exalted Black and White personages meet by chance in society) they all went merrily in to dinner together. There were no end of toasts, Prince and Patriot pledged each other in Baron Blanc’s best wine. Mr. Stillman, who was of the company, remarked that it was pleasant to see Eminences and “Eccellenzas” drinking each other’s health. A neighbor at table whispered to the dauntless Stillman, “How imprudent you are!” (As if he was ever anything else!)
Other people were proved to have been imprudent. The next day the great prince cardinal was summoned to an interview with the Pope. What passed between them gossip does not say, but the cardinal packed his bag and left that afternoon for Perugia, where he passed three months in exile. Another imprudence of the cardinal’s was his lending the Villa d’Este for a political meeting in the campaign of Guido Baccelli (son of the famous physician) who was at that time running for parliament. The story of the poisoned figs used by Zola in his novel “Rome” was founded on a sad incident at the Villa d’Este. Some poisoned food meant for the cardinal was eaten by his steward, who died, I have been told, before his very eyes.
Codgers, both clerical and lay, are usually shy; you must not let them know they are under observation if you hope to learn anything of their habits. In spite of this, they are distinctly social and gregarious, while the solitary lives and often dies alone. I asked one old gentleman codger--an American--who often drops in on his way to his browsing ground, the Vatican Library--what road first led him to Rome.
“The _via vegetaria_,” he said; “Rome has the finest vegetable market in the world.” He may be right, I certainly know no city where vegetables are so cheap, various, and good, but it seemed an odd reason for settling here.
“Artichokes,” he went on, “are no dearer than potatoes; as to _finocchio_, it is cheaper than bread.”
“Why could we not raise _finocchio_ at home?” I asked.
“Wait till we grow poor and thrifty,” he said, “till we drink sheep’s milk, eat _capretto_ (kid) and miscellaneous fungi; then we shall find the way to turn wild American fennel into domestic Italian _finocchi_.”
_Finocchi_ is a root something like celery; it has the same crisp crunchiness, though it tastes rather like aniseed; the Romans eat it raw, we prefer it braised and served with black butter. Why not try to raise it in your garden? If you succeed in introducing a new vegetable, you will acquire merit in the eyes of every dinner-ordering wretch in the land. Fennel and kid. Two new dishes! There is a chance for you to reach every heart between Maine and Alaska!
Poor old Mr. X---- died the other day; I shall miss him dreadfully. He was the only snob variety of the genus codger in Rome; they are rare anywhere, the codger’s social aspect being generally mild and mildewed. I once asked him what had brought him to Rome (he came here twenty-five years ago with two marriageable daughters).
“The fact that it is respectable to be idle here, and that one finds the best society.” He said “the best society” in the sort of voice with which raw and crude converts mention the Madonna or one of what the Romans call _i soliti santi_ (the same old saints). His daughter--she married Prince Q----, is a particularly nice woman; the comfort the old gentleman took in his grandchildren’s titles was pleasing to behold. At fifty he sat solidly down to enjoy the pleasures of “good society,” and the occupation of collecting engraved gems. That old law of compensation, you know, which makes some men after an idle youth leap with fiery ardor to embrace hard work, was reversed for him. Having grubbed all his youth he had the luck (it is rare) to find out how much fun there may be in play, after all!
I went to see the Princess Q---- soon after the old gentleman’s death. She told me something of his last days. “The night before my father died he made me promise for the twentieth time that I would send his body home. I asked him why he was so set on the idea. He rose right up in bed and said in a loud voice, ‘I can’t bear to think that on the last day I might rise from the dead along with these damned Italians!’”
Wasn’t that a death-bed revelation for you? The old man had been a New York newsboy, had gone West, made his pile in rum; then sunk the shop for good and all. He never talked about his early life, or where he came from; he bragged of his daughter’s fine acquaintances, of his son-in-law’s manners--but when his hour was come, he wished to lie in the consecrated ground of his native land!
Never shall I forget the only visit I ever received from the prince of solitaries, poor old Galli, the mad painter. He came in with his dauntless, threadbare air, made a sweeping bow, and paid me an elaborate compliment. His business, however, was plainly not with me.
“I have come, Signorino Jacca, to ask the favor of a few old clothes.”
He said it in such a spirited fashion that we felt the favor was conferred rather than asked. I wish I could make you see Galli! He has the hall mark of genius stamped upon him. Eyes like live coals, hair--when J. first remembers him blue-gray, now a rich silver--worn long, growing in masses with big waves, like the head of Zeus at the Vatican. He tries in every way to keep up the pace of his youth; instead of walking he shambles along at a funny bear’s trot; “having less time than I once had,” he said to J., “I cannot afford to walk slowly like some people of my age, so I am obliged to run.”
Galli is a Milanese, a descendant of those blond barbarians from the North, the Lunghe Barbe. There is something ardent and free about him, a starriness of the eyes, a breezy, untrammelled quality of mind which suggests some far-off Teutonic ancestor. Among the dead level of the people one meets, Galli stands out a marked man. As to the madness--was Ludwig of Bavaria really mad, or a poet born in the wrong place? Mad or sane, Galli is interesting: once you recognize that a man cannot be both ordinary and extraordinary, cannot possess common sense and uncommon sense, the vagaries of genius cease to annoy!
Whenever I hear the artists talking of Galli, I listen and try to remember what they say: some day his history must be written; the material will be found in the memories of people who knew him, not “in the files”; he is not one the journalists delight to honor.
No one seems to know Galli’s age. He might have been born in 1819--so many remarkable people were born that year that I often wonder if there is not something in astrology, after all. When he was young, Galli went to England with good letters of introduction. He was soon spoken of as a painter “with the right stuff in him--imagination, ideality, the artistic temperament,” all the rest of it. As he was a well-bred man, he had a social as well as an artistic success, and became a fashionable portrait painter. He played his little part in the fascinating drama of the London life of his day. It must have been a wonderful time, when all that was best in the English race came to the surface. Sympathy for Italy was at its height, the great scheme for the unification was growing silently and strongly. England, the mighty ally, was helping Italy prepare for the struggle. Looking back at the England of that day, one seems to see a whole army of Raleighs spreading their cloaks before the feet of the young Queen Victoria. All England seems to have shared in the youth, the hope, the courage of the Queen. With Galli, the romantic Italian, the universal enthusiasm became personal; he fell in love, not with the sovereign, but with the woman, which makes all the difference.
He began to neglect his work, to spend all his time and money in hansom cabs, pursuing her whenever she went abroad. The police investigated his case, found him to be harmless and respectable, were content to keep an eye upon him, until that day when he tried to drive up to the private entrance of Buckingham Palace where the Queen was living. That was going too far even for the patience of Scotland Yard. Galli was arrested and given twenty-four hours to get out of England or into Bedlam. He left for the continent the same day, came to Rome, hired for his studio an old building, once the orange house of the Palazzo Borghese. It is built under a cliff, from the top of which ivy and _madre selva_ (mother of the wood--we call it clematis) hang over in trailing masses. One day a large snail from the ivy crawled through a broken pane of the window to the studio wall, down the wall, and up again, leaving a damp, slimy track which formed something like the letter V. A friend coming in surprised Galli standing staring at the wall with open mouth and eyes.
“Why, man, what are you looking at?”
“At the letter.”
“The royal letter V.”
“What an odd chance!”
“You call it chance”--he smiled mysteriously.
“What do you call it?”
“It is the sign.”
“_Che pazzia_ (What madness)! what do you believe that little animal to be?”
“I believe what I believe, _amico mio_. The eyes of affection see what other eyes cannot see. It is a miracle, if you will, not more wonderful than others. The spirit of my august lady, the sovereign of England, has taken the shape of _quella lumaca benedetta_ (that blessed snail)!”
Galli tamed the royal snail, kept it in cotton wool and rose-leaves, fed it on tender green leaves till it died,--when he forgot the whole matter.
Soon after J. came to Rome as an art student. Galli was “discovered” by some of the Spanish artists, then the most powerful group of painters in Rome. For the moment Galli’s only home was a large tree outside the Porta Salaria. Some boards laid between the branches made his bed; he shared the tree with a flock of friendly turkeys. He had been fairly comfortable through the summer and autumn; with December came the fierce _tramontana_, blowing away the leafy walls of his house. The artists--they are the most charitable people in the world--clubbed together, hired a room for Galli in the Via Flaminia--fancy the real old Flaminian way--and fitted it up nicely as a bedroom and studio. One bitter winter evening J. and Villegas--they also had studios in the Via Flaminia--on their way home chanced to look up at his window. Outside on an iron balcony stood Galli, with nothing on but a thin cotton nightshirt.
“In the name of Bacchus, what are you doing?” roared the great Villegas, who had borne a large share of the expense of rescuing Galli from the turkey roost. Galli nodded, and smiled down upon them.
“_Ombre vivo_,” cried the fiery Spaniard, “go in, or you will take your death.” Galli only smiled the more and shook his head. The two below rushed upstairs and dragged him indoors.
“Don’t disturb yourselves, _amici miei_,” Galli explained, “my room, as you perceive, is cold, my bed has no blankets; I find if I stand out on the balcony in my shirt for a few moments, my room seems warm afterwards by comparison.”
Not long after this, Galli came up to J.’s table one night at the Café Greco (the haunt of artists). “Caro Signorino Jacca, you see many Americani; they are all immensely rich, as is known to you. For charity’s sake, sell a picture of mine to one of them.”
The hint was taken, a charming picture of Galli’s was unearthed (a small Madonna); the purchaser, an American girl, found. The day after the sale J. went to the Café Greco, where he knew he should find Galli, and with the inexperience of youth handed him the price of the picture, one hundred and fifty francs. If ever a poor painter-man needed one hundred and fifty francs, J. says that it was Galli at that moment. His boots were so broken that as he walked his toes came in view between the uppers and the lowers with every step; his trousers were deeply fringed about the ankle; his shirt was without a collar, he wore his inevitable long overcoat--buttoned up to conceal what was _not_ under it--and a shabby silk hat; whatever his fortunes he was never seen in any but a top hat; J. thinks it was the last trace of the coxcombry of his London youth.
“_Ecco il denaro_ (Here is the money)!” said J. Galli took it with a gay, swaggering air:
“_Grazie tante sai? Ci vedremo, caro Jacca_ (So many thanks, till we meet again).” With that he plunged across the street to the shop of the King’s hatter opposite in the Corso, where he bought a silk hat of the latest English model. He next trotted up to the Piazza di Spagna, got into the first cab on the stand, and engaged all the other cabbies to follow him: “Drive to the _tomba di Nerone_; you others, do me the favor to follow.”
The _tomba di Nerone_ is a ruin outside the walls of Rome which the archæologists say has nothing to do with Nero and never was a tomb. After they had gone a short distance Galli cried, “Halt.” The procession stopped short, Galli got out.
“What has happened, _padrone mio_?” asked the cabman.
“Nothing at all; you may now take your place at the end of the cue!” He dismissed the man with a wave of the hand and got into the second cab. Riding in this progressive fashion, by the time they reached the _tomba di Nerone_, Galli had ridden by turn in all the carriages.
“With your help, my friends,” he said to the cabbies, “I will climb to the top of the tomb;” two of them boosted him up. “If you will listen, I will tell you some things about the great Nero you never heard before. He was, after all, an artist; the historians have been too hard upon him, as we artists ought not to forget.”
Perhaps Galli’s long speech glorifying Nero set the present fashion for the whitewashing of Cæsars generally! The cabmen squatted round on their hunkers, smoked their pipes and listened, for the enlightenment of future _forestieri_--till Galli scrambled down from the rostrum, and jumped into the first cab, crying,--
“_Andiamo!_ to the Piazza di Spagna, as we came!”
At the Café Greco that evening Galli, penniless but proud of his adventure, borrowed of Signorino Jacca twenty centesimi (four cents) to buy a piece of bread and a few pickled gherkins, which he brought back in a piece of paper and munched contentedly for his supper.
Remembering Galli’s talent for likenesses, J. once persuaded a pretty young American girl to sit to him for her portrait. When they arrived at the studio for the first sitting, the room was so littered with rubbish that there was hardly space to turn round; tiers of vile-smelling old petroleum cases were piled against the wall. “What on earth have you got in those boxes, Galli?” J. demanded.
“They contain my invention,” said Galli.
“May one ask its nature?”
“_Altro!_ it is the model of a bridge to cross the Atlantic from Italy to the United States.”
It was a cold day; to warm the room for his sitter, Galli had picked up a few bits of charcoal, which smouldered in a frying-pan without a handle (his only stove) in the middle of the studio. While Galli was finding a chair for the lady, J. discovered seven rat traps, each inhabited by a large family of mice.
“They disturbed me so much, scrabbling about and gnawing things,” Galli explained, “that I was obliged to catch them.”
“If the mice disturb you, why do you keep them? You have not the heart to kill them? Tell the janitor to put the traps in a pail of water; it will be over in a minute,” said the practical American girl.
“Drown them--my only companions? See--their beautiful little ears are veined like the petal of a flower, look at their bright eyes, their dear little feet.” He held the cage up to the light. “They know me, they depend upon me for their food!”
He took half a roll--J. says it was half of Galli’s own breakfast--from his pocket and began crumbling it into one of the traps.
“Show us what you have been painting lately, Signor Galli,” said the young lady. The old man moved his easel into the light.
“This is my latest picture.”
J. says that American girl showed real breeding; she neither laughed nor cried at the thing Galli uncovered. If it was not a picture it was the work of a man of rare imagination. The divine spark had kindled at a moment when no tools were at hand. His credit on that almost inexhaustible fund, the generosity of his brother artists, had long been overdrawn. His friends were tired of supplying canvas, paints, brushes. Galli lacking everything, possessed only of the idea, could not rest till it was expressed. He had cut off the tail of his gray flannel shirt, stretched it for a canvas, found a piece of old blue cardboard, pasted it on for the sky; he had dried lettuce leaves and applied them for the middle distance, and used for the detail of the foreground bits of dried water-melon rind and other such rubbish. The “picture” was a thing to draw tears from a stone!
The rumor of the invention in the petroleum boxes suggested to some of the younger artists a plan by which fresh interest might be aroused for Galli’s benefit. They asked him to prepare a lecture explaining the theory of his bridge. Tickets were sold and quite a large audience gathered at the Artists’ Club to hear him. When he appeared some of the more boisterous spirits began to guy him; this nettled the old fellow:
“You perhaps think this invention of mine an impossibility,” he began. “To show you how simple it is to get to America without going on one of those abominable steamers, I will explain to you how to get to the moon. You all know that the moon is _una femina_ (a female)? Well, all females are devoured by curiosity. Only let all the people upon the earth assemble together in one place, and the moon will observe that something out of the common is going on down here: she will approach nearer and nearer to see what it is all about, until she gets so near that all we shall have to do is to jump over on her and then she will not be able to get away.”
* * * * *
[Galli’s last commission was to decorate one of the cheap Roman cafés. Villegas says that it was a wonderful piece of work, full of power and originality. Not long after it was finished some smug swine of a painter (one of those poor craftsmen who have cheapened the name of Italian art) persuaded the proprietor to let him paint out Galli’s work and redecorate the café with his own vulgar trash. This broke the old man’s heart; soon after he was found dead in his studio lying between two chairs. It was inevitable that he should come to some such end, and a thousand times better for him to drop in harness than to wear out the years in idleness. Unlike my friend, the newsboy-rumseller-grandfather of princes, _his_ only joy was in labor, in striving to express to others the beauty that possessed his soul. Is it not by this sign that the elect are known?]
BLACK MAGIC AND WHITE--WITCH’S NIGHT
PALAZZO RUSTICUCCI, ROME, March 16, 1899.
Letters from Maine and New Hampshire give accounts of dreadful freshets and blizzards. We read them with some surprise, and then go up to the terrace and pick our pansies and violets. We have some fine spirea and lilacs coming on fast! The wall flowers are already in bloom, and the roses make occasional little gifts, but it is far too early for these dear ones to give their perfect blossoms. Rose week--rose madness--in Rome comes at the end of April.
The strangest thing about life in Rome is that you not only do as the Romans do, but end by thinking as the Romans think, feeling as the Romans feel! Take, for example, the feeling most of the foreign residents have about the evil eye, the _malocchio_ or _jettatura_, as it is indifferently called. I never knew an Italian who did not hold to this superstition more or less. Americans who have lived long in Rome either reluctantly admit that “there does seem to be something in it,” or if they are Roman born, quietly accept it as one of those things in heaven and earth that philosophy fails to take account of. In some things the Italian is free from superstition compared with the Celt or the Scot: for instance, the fear of ghosts or spirits is so rare that I have never met with it; on the other hand, the belief in the value of dreams as guides to action is deep rooted and widespread. The dreambook in some families is hardly second in importance to the book of prayer. The Italian’s eminently practical nature makes him utilize his dreams in “playing the _lotto_,” as the buying of lottery tickets is called. To dream of certain things indicates that you will be lucky and should play. The choice of the number is the chief preoccupation of the hardened lottery player. It is decided by the oddest chance,--the number on a banknote which one has lost and found again, the number of a cab which has brought one home from some delightful festivity. The number must always be associated with something lucky. I remember in Venice once calling on a friend who lives in a noble old palace on the Canale Grande. The _pali_, the dark posts rising out of the green water for the mooring of gondolas, bear the heraldic colors of the owner of the palace, and the doge’s cap, showing that the family gave a doge to Venice. Stepping from my gondola to the water-worn marble stair, I was helped by one of the servants, an old man with the suave, sympathetic manners that make the Italians the best servants in the world. I put him down as a majordomo of the old school whom my friends probably had taken over with the palace, the library, and the historic murder that goes with them. I had brought some flowers, which he insisted upon carrying. He led the way across a square courtyard to an outer stairway with a wonderful carved marble balustrade, lions rampant at the top and bottom. Suddenly he stopped and whispered to me:
“Signora,--a thousand excuses for the liberty,--but will you have the inexpressible gentility to tell me your age?”
The question was so startling that he got the right answer before my inevitable counter-question, “Why do you wish to know?” which he pretended not to hear, drowned in a flood of gratitude.
“You have conferred an immense benefit on me. The signora is expecting you.”
He had my wrap off and the drawing-room door open in a twinkling. That was not fair play; he had his answer: I would have mine. I put my question to his mistress. She laughed indulgently.
“Beppino is up to his old tricks. I told him this morning I was expecting a lady he did not know; he was on the lookout for you. When a stranger comes to the house for the first time it is the greatest possible luck to play in the _lotto_ the figures which make up his age.”
Our servants all play regularly, sometimes winning small sums, always imagining that they will win the _quaterno_. The lottery and the _Monte di pietà_--somehow one associates them together--are now under government control, as they were formerly under the control of the Church. It is assumed as a foregone conclusion that men will gamble, that men will pawn their goods; therefore it is expedient that these inevitable concomitants of city life should be administered by the government, in order that the accruing profits should return to the people by helping to pay the expenses of their government. The lottery always appears to me like a tax offered to the citizens in the form of a gilded pill.
The _Monte di pietà_ seems to be a really beneficent institution; it is well administered, the percentage charged on the money loaned being as low as is practicable. Poor old Nena’s coral earrings and gold beads live there chronically, only appearing upon her small person periodically on “feast” days. Several times webs of fine linen, silverware, and other household furnishings have been offered me at so low a price by one of our clients (we use the old Roman term for the army of hangers-on which has grown up about us) that I feared to buy them lest I should be purchasing stolen goods. On investigation I found the woman’s business was to buy unredeemed pledges at the regular sales of the Monte, and to hawk them about to private customers. After that I had not the heart to buy anything she offered, it seemed like building our house of the driftwood of despair. The Monte is a huge gray palace occupying a whole square behind the Palazzo Santacroce. Over the main entrance hangs a life-sized crucifix. The institution was founded in the year 1539 and has been in operation ever since.
The evolution of Christian out of pagan Rome is not more interesting than the evolution still going on of Rome the modern capital out of that picturesque, mediæval Rome of the “forties,” which my mother has described to me so vividly that it is as if I myself had seen it.
Since we have been here, the old meek horse-cars have been taken off, and horrible “electrics” whiz by our door and stop at the corner of the Piazza of St. Peter’s. And--even worse, I am almost afraid to write it to you--we have a telephone!
A telephone in the Eternal City! In the beginning I was as much shocked by the idea as you can be. The first conversation over the wire consoled me. Ice-chests, electric cars, and telephones only bring home more strongly the feeling that life in Rome is modern, mediæval, and pagan, all at the same time; it is all here in strata, like the rubbish Signor Boni is excavating from the Roman Forum. When you first come here you assume that you must burrow about in ruins and prowl in museums to get back to the days of Numa Pompilius or Mark Antony. It is not necessary; you only have to live, and the common happenings of daily life--yes, even the trolley car and your bicycle--carry you back in turn to the Dark Ages, to the early Christians, even to prehistoric Rome!
The day our telephone was installed I was called by the ding-a-ling of the bell, and “_centrale_” put me in communication, not only with our friend, Mrs. Z----, but with the Rome of Horace and the witch Canidia as well.
“Can you come to dinner next Monday?” Mrs. Z---- began.
“We will come with leaps and shrieks of joy.”
“Wait; do not accept till you hear who else is coming. We are giving the dinner in honor of M. de Gooch.”
“So much the better. We like to meet distinguished Frenchmen.”
“You are sure you do not mind meeting this particular Frenchman?”
“Why in the name of common sense should we mind?”
“Well, you know what they say about him?”
“And you are not afraid? I am positively grateful to you. We are having the hardest time to fill the eight places at the table.”
“What particular variety of heathen are you inviting?”
That afternoon we had a visit from an American gentleman, a friend of ours and of the Z----’s.
“Shall we meet next Monday at the Z----’s dinner?” I asked in the course of conversation.
“No, they were good enough to invite me, but I got out of it.”
I stared at him--he is one of the Z----’s greatest friends.
“Yes, the fact is I will not go where I have to meet that man.”
“You? _you_ believe that M. de Gooch has the evil eye?”
“It is all very well for you to look scornful! Just wait a little. I used to take your point of view, but so many uncomfortable things happened that I now avoid the man like the plague.”
“What sort of uncomfortable things?”
“We were once at a hotel in Naples. The first time that person--it is not well to mention his name--came into the dining-room, a waiter stumbled and dropped a tray full of valuable Venetian glass; every piece was smashed: the second time, the big chandelier fell down from the ceiling. That evening the proprietor begged this person to leave the hotel, said all the other guests would go if he did not, as it was evident he had the _malocchio_. _Basta!_ let us speak of other things.”
After the visitor left I went up to the terrace to feed the goldfish. Pompilia was on her knees digging around the roots of the big honeysuckle. I looked at Soracte, beloved of Horace. Soracte looked at me.
“Pompilia, do you know any one who has the _malocchio_?” She turned pale, scrambled to her feet, and made the sign against witchcraft with the first and fourth finger.
“_Signora mia, che pavra mi ha fatto_ (What a fright you gave me)!” She reflected a moment: “You remember the _carbonaro_ who used to bring the charcoal every Saturday? I told you he cheated us; you discharged him. It was not true, he gave good measure. I do not wish to harm him, but every time he came into the kitchen some _disgrazia_ happened. The soup was burned, the milk curdled, or the salt got into the ice-cream.”
“Do you believe the _carbonaro_ wished to injure us? Did he desire to bring misfortune?”
“It is his misfortune to bring misfortune,” Pompilia reluctantly explained; “one may even be sorry for him, but one spits as one passes him, and makes the _corni_ (horns) with the hand behind the back to avert the _jettatura_. _Ma, Signora mia, per carità, parliamo d’altre cose_ (For charity’s sake, let us talk of other things)! Observe this noble tulip, the first to bloom of those Hollandish bulbs we set out in the autumn.” She feels the flowers to be hers quite as much as ours, as indeed they are, she is so faithful in caring for them.
We put on all our war-paint for the Z----’s party; so did the other guests. It was one of the best dinners I have seen in Rome. Everybody seemed on their mettle to make it go off well. It was put through with unlimited conversational fireworks and champagne. De Gooch thawed out as I have never known him to do before; he is usually congealed by the chilly atmosphere which he, poor man, brings with him. I asked Mr. Z---- how he accounted for the evil stories. He said:
“Some enemy, who spreads the reports, takes this dreadful way to destroy him!”
The dinner was so merry that the coming of the coffee instead of being a relief was a surprise. M. de Gooch after a moment’s hesitation refused the cup offered him.
“I am rather proud of my coffee, change your mind and try a little,” said Mrs. Z----.
I was sitting on the other side of De Gooch, and heard him say in a low voice,--
“Are you sure of your cook?”
“Perfectly; he is a Piedmontese, he has been with us ten years, his coffee may be trusted.”
Do you know what that meant? It meant that De Gooch is afraid of being poisoned, that poison is most commonly administered in coffee or chocolate, _vide_ the Roman idiom, “_Ha bevuto una tazza di cioccolata_ (He has drunk a cup of chocolate).” I asked Mr. Z---- if he believed anybody wanted to murder De Gooch. He said:
“I do not believe him in more danger of poison than of a lightning stroke. It is not wonderful, however, that he thinks he is.”
“Is not the _malocchio_ very like the voodoo?” I asked.
“It is a horse of the same color. Both came out of darkest Africa, whose shadows fall across the broad earth.”
I take back every word I ever said against missionaries!
Poisoning, like other sins, has two degrees, the mortal and the venial. If M. de Gooch is in no danger from the mortal, we, according to Nena and Pompilia, were in danger of the venial not so long ago. During a short absence of Pompilia’s we had a foreign cook, and parted with her not on the best terms. The day after she left Pompilia returned, coming to me in the course of the morning with a long list of groceries; those staples, _farina_, _Parmegiano_, and _caffé_, headed the memorandum.
“But we cannot have used up five kilos of coffee. It is impossible that we are out of flour and Parmesan cheese; we bought them only three days ago.”
You see I am getting on, I now manage--though it is highly disapproved of by the powers that be--to lay in a few groceries, which I buy at the _Unione Militare_--government stores like the Army and Navy Stores in London.
“When I returned this morning, there was not a crumb in the house,” said Pompilia. Nena was appealed to.
“Nena, what about the _Parmegiano_, the _farina_, and the _caffé_ you bought the other day?”
“Signora, I was obliged to throw them all into the _immondezza_ (garbage).”
“Signora! I say nothing. That black Tedesca, when she left, did not wish us others well, nor even your signorial selves. I did what I did for the best.” She looked at Pompilia for confirmation. The cook shook her handsome head.
“With respect, Nena has done right. I would neither have served on your table, nor allowed another to touch any food that black German had in her hands. What bad thing may she not have mixed with it?”
I suppose I looked annoyed at the thought of the good food wasted; they both eyed me judicially, but firmly.
“Remember, Madama, that you commanded me three times before I would take that blessed order to the _Unione_,” Nena urged. “I myself knew it was a waste of money to buy those groceries when the German was leaving so soon. You asked me the first time Monday, on the stairs; I told you that the shop shut early on account of a _festa_; you asked me again Tuesday, upon the terrace (you were potting the large acanthus at the time) if I had been to the _Unione_; I told you that my rheumatism was too bad for me to walk so far. You told me for the third time Wednesday, in this very room, in the presence of the Tedesca, to buy those things! I ask you, was it possible for me to longer disobey, especially as the Tedesca heard you give the order?”
Nena is perfectly honest in deed, if not in word; I would trust her with uncounted money. This was no comedy, such as they often play for my benefit; I felt the reality of it.
“What sort of bad thing do you mean? Poison?” I blurted out with the coarse Anglo-Saxon instinct of calling a spade a spade. Such brusqueness hurts the subtler Latin nature. “Signora! I make no charges. I would not say poison, no, but something that might make one very ill for a day or for an hour; how do I know?”
They got away as soon as they could; we have not spoken of the matter since. The next time I was at the Vatican I dropped into the Sala Borgia, and took a good look at the charming portrait of Lucrezia Borgia, by Pinturicchio, filled with a realizing sense that the Rome of the Borgias was not so far away from my Rome as I had formerly supposed.
It is hard for us to realize the deadly significance to an Italian of the suggestion that one may have the evil eye. I was walking one day with a young American girl to whom I had been unfolding some of the tragedies I have known connected with the superstition. She took it all lightly and joyously, after the manner of her kind; and later during our walk, when a saucy, tormenting beggar pursued us, she made the sign of the _corni_ as I had described it to her, shaking the hand slightly, with the first and fourth finger extended. Then the beggar became convulsed with anger and seemed almost beside herself, shrieking out such a torrent of abuse that we were glad to jump into a cab and fly from the wrath to come. The poor creature was not to be blamed: she knew that once the shadow of suspicion falls, it means social excommunication, banishment outside the pale of whatever society one belongs to--a thing, like illness or death, as much to be dreaded by the pauper as by the Pope. Many people, by the way, believed that Pius IX had the evil eye, and made the sign of the _corni_ behind hat or fan as they received his benediction in front of St. Peter’s. The Romans generally are not supposed to be as superstitious as the Neapolitans. In Naples most people wear, as a charm, a little hand of gold, coral, or mother of pearl, with the fingers in the attitude to avert evil. Even the horses wear horns upon their harnesses! Some of our Roman friends are not without faith in the efficacy of horns. One day, when my painter had occasion to go behind the big canvases in his studio, he found that an artist who had dropped in during his absence had drawn horns with a bit of charcoal all over the backs of his pictures. Later, when the work was finished and the Queen came to the studio to see it, the friend claimed some of the credit for the royal visit.
“You owe all your luck to my horns,” he said, half in fun, half in earnest.
June 24, 1899.
Last night was St. John’s eve. I gave Pompilia and Filomena a holiday, meaning to take the opportunity to get rid, with Nena’s aid, of some of the year’s accumulation of worn-out kitchen utensils. Pompilia is very obstinate about giving up such things; she must have had
[Illustration: _A Lost Love_
From a red chalk drawing in the Collection of Mr. Thomas W. Lawson]
[Illustration: Copyright, 1900, by John Elliott.
From a Copley Print. Copyright, 1901, by Curtis & Cameron, Publishers, Boston.]
a rag-and-bottle man for an ancestor. Nena, who sells every conceivable bit of trash I give her, aids and abets me in these acts of insubordination. She was not in her usual spirits. I heard her scolding the little Jew boy who brought home an old terra-cotta cinerary urn we had bought in the morning from his mother Sora Giulia.
“What dirty _robaccia_ do you bring into this clean house?” she demanded in her gruff sailor’s voice.
“_Cosa ne so io?_ the signori bought it to-day. I heard my father say it once contained the ashes of a soldier of the Pretorian guard.”
“Of the old time, a hundred years ago, maybe; they were like the _carabinieri_.”
Nena took the urn, grumbling under her breath, “_Li mortacci tuoi_ (Your miserable dead)!”
“_Hein?_ what did you say?”
“_Va a mori ammazzato_ (Go and die killed)!” She slammed the door upon him.
A minute later she brought the urn into the den and put it carefully down on the table where I was writing. “That rascally boy of Sora Giulia’s brought this home.”
“You formerly were friendly with Sora Giulia.”
She wiped her eyes with a little red wrinkled hand that trembled; something troubled her seriously.
“What has happened? tell me frankly.”
She began to cry openly: “_Miché_ (the cat) has been gone three days; he will never return. I shall not again see that dear animal!”
“_Miché_ will come back; perhaps he has had a fight, as he did once before.”
“No, no, Signora! then he was only absent one night, after the manner of cats. No, _era troppo bello, era troppo bello_ (he was too beautiful),” she wailed. I suppose I looked as puzzled as I felt, for she broke into impassioned explanations. “He was too beautiful, he was fat and tender as well; _quelli maladetti Ebrei_ (those cursed Jews) have killed him to make one of their accursed feasts; they have doubtless already eaten him; _povera bestia, era troppo bello_!”
To console her I proposed that we get to work on the business before us. In a closet on the stairs, of which Nena has a duplicate key, Pompilia had locked up empty green wicker _ricotta_ baskets, marmalade bottles, petroleum cans, a pair of discarded brooms, and other such rubbish.
“Can you sell the petroleum cans?”
“_Ma certo_, I get a _paulo_ (ten cents apiece) for them. The poor use them for flower pots and for many other things.”
“And these old brooms, can you get anything for them?”
“The brooms I shall not sell. It would offend the _scoparo_, who is my friend and has a family to support; but as we happen to be in need of them, I will, with your permission, take these brooms home.”
“All the articles in this closet are yours, and welcome, on condition you take them away this evening. It is known to you that if Pompilia were here she would never let them go.”
“You have reason, Signora; I will go immediately, taking with me all I can carry and returning for the rest.”
After she left I went up to the terrace for the sunset. The swallows were swooping low overhead; the smell of the gardenias would have been overpowering indoors; the passion flower vine was in full bloom, the oleanders ablaze with tender pink blossoms the same color as the sky. As I was mooning about, leaning on the parapet and watching the blue fade out of Peter’s dome, I became aware of a hubbub in the street below. There were cries of “_Una strega, una strega_ (A witch, a witch),” “_Scacciala, scacciala_ (Chase her, chase her),” hoots of derision, screams of laughter.
“How she runs! _Brava vecchiarella_ (Good for you, old woman)!”
The noise grew nearer, the crowd seemed to be stopping at our _portone_.
“_Che te possono scanna_ (May you be slaughtered)!” The deep bass voice was familiar. I leaned over the parapet just in time to see Nena, a tiny figure, with two brooms over her shoulder, turn and hurl defiance at her tormentors, in the front rank of whom I recognized the little Jew boy.
“_Guastate_ (May you waste away)! “With this true witch’s curse Nena managed to shut the door of the big _portone_ in the faces of her pursuers. I ran and opened the old green door of the apartment to let her in.
“What in the name of the apostles has happened?”
Nena was trembling with passion.
“Ah, that Hebrew Jew! I will punish him yet. He led the others on, saying I was a witch. Truly, Signora, it was not a happy chance that made you give me those brooms to take home this particular evening, the night on which the ignorant and superstitious believe that the witches ride. In every other house in the Borgo a dish of salt and a broom are placed outside the window, that the witches may be averted from entering and fly away on the broomstick. Doubtless Pompilia saved these brooms for that object--but, as you know, I am not superstitious, I don’t believe such stuff. To take me for a witch, _me_!”
Nena cannot be more than four feet seven inches high; she has a rough gray head, sharp black eyes, and a long nose. She wears a queer, old-fashioned three-cornered shawl over her stooping shoulders, her feet swim about in a pair of my old boots. There was, I confess, some excuse for the jest!
St. John’s eve! Witch’s night! In order that no harm may befall one, it is safest to sit up all night. To sit up all night alone, or in the company of one’s family, is rather cold comfort; so the sociable Romans spend the night in one vast nocturnal picnic. We left home at ten o’clock; in the Piazza Scossa Cavalli we found every cab gone except the _gobbo’s_ (hunchback’s). This was great luck, to be driven by the _gobbo_, all the more as it was by chance; if we had engaged him beforehand, it would not have counted. As soon as we started J. sneezed.
“_Salute, Signore_ (Your health, sir,--the equivalent of ‘Bless you’),” said the _gobbo_. This meant more luck. By the time we reached the Via Merulana the _gobbo’s_ white horse--a white horse is lucky--dropped into a walk. The crowd of cabs was so great that from there on to the Piazza San Giovanni we were obliged to move at a snail’s pace.
“_Volete spigo, Signori?_” cried a vendor, thrusting a bunch of lavender into the cab.
“_Bisogna prenderla, Signori_,” said the _gobbo_; “you must buy lavender for yourself, for me, even for my poor beast. It is the rule to wear lavender on St. John’s eve.” We bought lavender for the party, the white horse included.
A little farther on another vendor stopped us.
“How is this?” he said gravely; “you are without red carnations; that is not well.”
“He is right, Signori,” said the _gobbo_; “we must wear red carnations as well as lavender.”
We bought enough red carnations for an army.
“What do the lavender and the carnations signify?”
“Who knows, Signora? it is the custom to wear them. One says it brings _buona fortuna_, another that it keeps the witches away; it is well to be on the safe side.”
As the cab came to a dead stop for a moment outside a _trattoria_, a saucy boy sprang on the step and asked for a _soldo_ to buy a dish of snails.
“Do not refuse,” said the _gobbo_; “he is a good boy; it is the custom on the eve of San Giovanni to eat snails and _polenta_, as you may see for yourselves.”
Over the door of the _trattoria_ hung an illuminated transparency: on one side was a picture of a large snail, on the other a witch riding a broomstick.
“_Aglo, Aglo_ (Garlic). Who wants _aglo_? There is nothing so good against the _fascino_ (fascination) as _aglo_!”
We bought a pair of long-stemmed garlic blossoms, in shape not unlike the classic thyrsus.
“_Campanelle, campanelle_, who wants the _campanelle_? The witches fly away at the sound of these marvellous _campanelle_.”
Everybody but ourselves had apparently already bought _campanelle_; all the people in the carriages and on the sidewalk carried these small terra-cotta bells, which they rang violently at each other and at the witches. The bells were of two sizes.
“Buy a large one for yourself, Signore, and a small one for the lady,” counselled the _gobbo_.
“And one for you and one for the mare?”
“Naturally. The animal cannot well spare a hand to ring her _campanello_, so we will tie it about her neck.”
Peacock feathers were next offered; the _gobbo_ was prejudiced against them and advised us not to buy them. There seems to be a divided feeling about peacocks’ feathers; some people hold that they bring bad luck, others that they avert it.
We left the carriage at the piazza, which was lined with booths, illuminated with flaring torches. These stalls extend quite a distance down the Via Appia Nuova, outside Porta San Giovanni. Some displayed the classic bush, from the earliest time the sign of the wine shop. Outside one of the most important booths hung a large painted head of the wine god crowned with leaves, bearing the words, “_A Baccho_.” At some stalls fried pancakes and _gnocchi di patate_ were sold. _Gnocchi_ is one of the delicious Roman dishes. It is made of potatoes and corn meal, bewitched together into miniature oval croquettes, and served with a rich sauce of tomato conserve and Parmesan cheese; truly a dish fit for the gods. Near the _gnocchi_ booth was a stall hung with evergreens, where a man in white linen clothes and cap stood beside an enormous roasted hog, brandishing a huge knife.
“_Majale arosto--ah che bel majale_ (Roast pig--oh, what a beautiful pig).”
At some of the stands toys and dolls were sold. I was kept away from certain of these, as J. said the toys were shockingly indecent; those I saw were ordinary every-day toys which the elders bought for the children. When one goes to the _festa_ of San Giovanni one takes the whole family along,--grandmothers, grandfathers, babies, and all. The noisy people were all gathered together in the piazza and the Via Appia Nuova; the quieter sort were scattered about in groups on the outskirts of the crowd. On the right-hand side, at a little distance from the Church of St. John Lateran, there is a hillside with ancient ilex trees. This dark hillside was dotted with torches and candles, each the centre of a knot of people. We soon left the turmoil in the neighborhood of the booths, and strayed about among the quieter folks. Under a dark gnarled tree a group of people had made themselves comfortable. On the trunk above their heads two long garlic stalks were nailed crosswise to avert evil. Directly below the cross sat a lovely young woman suckling a large baby; it must have been eighteen months old. Beside her an aged woman held in her lap a four-year-old child whose chubby hands were stretched out to touch the nursling; in the shadow behind stood a grave bearded man. The huckster’s cart that had brought them was drawn up near by, the donkey could be dimly seen munching a bundle of hay.
“Behold Mary and the Child, St. Elizabeth and St. John, with the good St. Joseph taking care of them all,” said Vincenzo, who had seen us and followed us up from the piazza. As we stood entranced before this living Holy Family the moon rose full and yellow over the dark hillside; for a moment we saw it behind the head of that young mother like a halo. It was a group worthy the pencil of Raphael.
“_Che belli fanciulli_ (What beautiful children),” I said to Vincenzo. St. Elizabeth, hearing the innocent words, caught the little St. John behind her, scowling and muttering angrily at me.
“Come away, quickly,” said Vincenzo, urging me down the hill; “don’t you know that you must never praise a child in that way of all times on the night of San Giovanni!”
“It is time to go home,” said J. I begged a few minutes’ grace, for just at that moment a heavy car hung with laurel garlands drawn by milk-white oxen with gilded horns creaked into the piazza. The car was filled with young men in costume singing to the music of guitar and mandolin. They were all masked; from the trappings of the car and their cultivated voices we fancied them to be persons of some distinction.
A high tenor voice pierced the babel of sound: “_Sei la Rosa piu bella che c’è_ (Thou art the most beautiful rose that is)!”
It was near midnight: the fun was growing fast and furious. J., who from the first had objected to the expedition, backed up by Vincenzo, now declared that it was impossible for me to stay longer. An unwilling Cinderella, I was torn away on the stroke of twelve. “It is not a seemly revel,” I was told; “dreadful things happen, respectable people do not stay after midnight.” To me it was all a wonderful revelation; I was in pagan Rome, where Bacchus and Vesta were worshipped, where Italy’s spoiled children, the Roman populace, took their pleasure, as they have done with little change ever since Rome was, since “step bread” was distributed gratis on the steps of the Capitol, and the costly games of the Colosseum kept them amused and pacific!
Till broad daylight I heard the people coming home ringing their little terra-cotta bells, singing sntches of the song of the evening: “_Sei la Rosa piu bella che c’è._” As I look back at that riot of youth and age, where the faces of faun and satyr leered at nymph and dryad, the whole pagan scene is sweetened and purified by that vision of the Holy Family.
CASAMICCIOLA, ISLAND OF ISCHIA, July 10, 1899.
Our coming to this volcanic islet--tossed up out of the sea an æon ago, still warm with the earth’s vital heat--was due to chance, like most things that are worth while. We had driven over that morning from Sorrento to Castellamare through odorous orange and lemon groves, and were so filled with the beauty of land and sea, that going to any city, even to our Rome, seemed a waste of life. We reluctantly boarded the crowded train for Naples. In the same carriage were a _mercante di campagna_ and his daughter, the most lovely Italian girl I ever saw. Her hair clustered in purple shadowed masses like bunches of grapes about her perfect face; her complexion was golden and red--no pink and white prettiness, but a rich and memorable beauty. They had left home early; to have more time in the city, they partook of their breakfast, Bologna sausage, bread, garlic, and wine on the train. They were so friendly that we forgave them everything--even their fourteen bundles which entirely filled the luggage rack--even their garlic! The father opened the conversation.
“My son, he is in America; he worked on the Brooklyner Bridger. You have seen it, yes?”
“We have seen it many times, we have even crossed it.”
This brought us all very near together. Putting his hand into his pocket the _mercante di campagna_ brought out a fistful of rice, which he presented to me.
“Behold a sample of the rice I am taking to Naples to sell.”
Not knowing exactly what else to do with it, I tied the rice in a corner of my pocket handkerchief. He next handed me the _Corriere di Napoli_, two days old. The first thing in the newspaper that caught my eye was an advertisement of the _Società Napoletana di Navigazione a Vapore_. “The steamer for Ischia sails at eleven o’clock; return tickets eight francs.”
We were due in Naples at ten, the train for Rome left at three! Five hours in Naples, which has for us but three resources: the museum, the aquarium, the antiquarians! It was the day
From a photograph]
of Sts. Peter and Paul, a national holiday--that meant the museum would be closed; we know every fish in the great aquarium, the finest in the world. Do we not always go there? did we not spend two hours there on our way down, pay to see the awful octopus fed, and to receive a shock from the electric fish? A visit to the antiquarians for some varieties of junk even more enticing than our Roman haunts would cost us more than eight francs.
Ischia! The name set vibrating a deep chord of memory. O Edward Lear, Edward Lear, you are responsible for many vagarious wanderings! I could think of nothing but the picture in the Nonsense Book of the old person of Ischia. Is he still growing friskier and friskier? still dancing jigs, eating figs?
“Have you ever been to Ischia?” I asked the _mercante di campagna_.
“Frankly, the sea incommodes me too much to make the voyage; but I have a brother who drives a cab at Casamicciola. The signori should not fail to visit the island,” he said.
The girl smiled encouragement. “This is just the season for the baths,” she said; “they are miraculous for rheumatism, gout, every kind of lameness. When they went there Olivetta, the wife of my uncle Ercole, could not walk at all--_adesso, corre com’un diavolo_ (now she runs like a devil).”
“_Pur troppo_ (Altogether too much)!” grumbled the _mercante_, just like any other brother-in-law.
“The signori will employ my uncle Ercole? he drives a piebald horse. They will give the uncle and aunt _tanti saluti_ from me?” the beauty persisted.
Her influence, combined with Edward Lear’s, was too strong to resist. Rome is always there; it was now or never for Ischia!
We caught the little steamer which carried us steadily enough across the Bay of Naples. The shores were a living panorama done in sapphire and emerald. Fishing smacks with slanting lateen sails colored, discolored, one with a picture of Maria Stella del Mare painted upon it, flitted by us before the light breeze. The steamer had once been a private yacht; though her brasses are neglected and her deck less like polished satin than it must have been in her palmy days, she still has a sporting, rakish air, in keeping with our escapade. We passed Procida, a shining isle of beauty, where I was half tempted to land and search for the enchanted princess who must inhabit it!
We landed at Casamicciola in a small boat. The patient women waiting on the quay took our trunks on their heads, the cabmen mobbed us politely, trying to wrest our hand-bags from us.
“Ercole!” cried J. “Is Ercole, he who drives a piebald horse, among you?”
“_Ecco mi quà, Signor Marchese_ (Behold me here, Lord Marquis)!” Ercole (Hercules) scarcely looks his part. He is small and wizened, but he has the merry eyes of his brother, the _mercante di campagna_, while his laugh oddly recalls his lovely niece’s. From the beginning Ercole took and still keeps possession of us. “First to the Piccola Sentinella,” he announced. The piebald breasted the steep hill at a sharp pace. Ten minutes’ climb brought us to the Hotel of the Small Sentinel, a low building with a roof of light corrugated iron. Most of the hotels in southern Italy are old palaces or monasteries, heavily built of stone or stucco. Madam Dombré, the proprietress (she is an Englishwoman and makes us exceedingly comfortable), says that all the buildings put up on the island since the earthquake have been constructed under government supervision and are lightly built like the hotel. Everything here dates from the earthquake. Ercole says such a thing took place before the _terremoto_, or so many years after it. Mme. Dombré, whose daughter was killed by it, speaks as if it happened yesterday.
“There was a concert in the dining-room of our hotel at the time, it was on the 28th of July, 1883, mid-season, you know; the house was full. There came a dreadful rumbling noise. The house shook once, twice, sideways, and then came crashing down in a ruined heap. The pianist at the piano, the singer with the song on her lips, were dashed into Purgatory without an instant’s warning! Out of a population of thirty-five hundred, seventeen hundred of our people perished in the earthquake.”
Since that time Casamicciola has been almost deserted by foreigners who are now only just beginning to return; a few more come each year.
The morning after our arrival Ercole drove me willy-nilly to the _stabilimento_, as they call the baths. Somehow he had divined the heel of Achilles,--my bicycle ankle. The smiling _medico_ agreed with him that the treatment was “indicated,” and forthwith delivered me over into the hands of Olivetta--she who once was lame and now runs like a devil. The baths are large, not so smartly appointed as some of the German establishments, such as Homburg or Ems, yet they have a certain classical flavor of architecture, pleasantly suggestive of the old Greek inhabitants who were driven away from the island (they called it Pithecusa) in the fifth century B.C. by the fearful eruptions of Mt. Epomeo. Olivetta led me to a small marble room, put me in a comfortable chair, placed the offending ankle on a bench, and bade me “_abbia pazienza_ (have patience),” while she went to get the “_fango_.” In five minutes she returned, bringing a jar full of liquid gray clay very like what sculptors use.
“_Guardi, questo fango viene proprio caldo dalle viscere della terra_ (Observe, this mud comes hot from the entrails of the earth).” The giant Typhoëus, transfixed by Zeus’s thunderbolt, lies chained under the island; the roar of the earthquake is his voice, the lava flood his tears. You may believe it or not: I do not find it difficult to accept. Poor old giant, I feel sorry for him, reduced to tending hospital fires, to warming up poultices for the gouty!
Olivetta built a sort of mould of hot clay wherein the foot was comfortably coddled for thirty minutes. She next gave it a hot douche for five minutes, then left me to meditate for another thirty minutes in a warm mineral bath which smelt of hot flat-irons.
The serious business of the day over, we were free to explore the country. Ercole and the piebald took us for a nineteen-mile drive around the island, which rises sharply from the sea to its highest point, Mt. Epomeo. The vineyards wrap Ischia from seashore to mountain peak in a shimmering screen of green. The vines hang from tree to tree, making a leafy roof overhead and green sun-pierced walls to the long alleys, where innumerable classic bunches are slowly ripening. The grapes are still small and immature, but exquisite in form and color. In October, the season of the vintage, this must be the most beautiful place on earth. Here one understands why the Roman soldiers in Britain, when they first saw the Kentish hop vines, thought they had found the nearest thing to the grape that savage northland produced. In their efforts to make wine from hops they produced the first beer made in England.
On our way home we met a pair of boys driving a donkey laden with the coarse gray pottery which has been made here since the days of the Romans. The _creta_ (gray clay) from which it is made, looks very like the mud used at the _stabilimento_. We stopped to examine the mugs, the jugs, the donkey, and his astonishing garments.
“Behold, Madama, _l’asino del colonello_!” said Ercole.
“Who is the colonel?”
“_Un gran signore, un Inglese._ He comes here every year for the baths.”
“What can a _gran signore_ do with this poor little animal?”
“He protects it. When he first saw this donkey, the poor beast being much afflicted with sores, was sadly tormented by flies. The _colonello_ taking pity upon it provided pantaloons--two pair; a pair for the hind legs, a pair for the fore legs, as you perceive. He also pays the boys two francs a month to treat the creature well; he provides petroleum to bathe its sores, and now and again orders it a sea bath. It is his idea. He may be right. How do I know? With respect, the soul of his grandmother may have entered the body of that ass.”
A little further on Ercole drew up the piebald again.
“Behold other of the _colonello’s_ beneficiaries,” he said. Two tiny dwarfs saluted us, asking with Ischian gentleness for alms. There was no whine to their voices, no consciousness of degradation, nothing of that brazen effrontery of the Neapolitan beggar, which makes one despair of the regeneration of the Neapolitan “submerged tenth”!
“_Sono buoni ed onesti_ (They are good and honest),” said Ercole, adding a soldo from his own pocket to what J. gave them.
“They are called Pasquale and Restituta. It is only a few years that they have been obliged to beg. They worked at their trades--he at brick making, she at straw braiding; they are past working now. They are not very old, but such people have little vigor. I remember their wedding. All the town was there, the _sindaco_ and the schoolmaster as well. We all gave something for their housekeeping, one a goat, one a pair of fowls, one a piece of furniture. If you could have seen their little marriage-bed, _Signora mia_, it was like a doll’s bed.”
We drove along for another mile or two, passed the straw factory, where we were obliged to buy some ugly fans, out of respect to Ercole’s views. On the Marina he stopped again to let us see “_Il Fungo_,” a big mushroom-shaped rock in the sea. The setting sun touched Procida into an unearthly beauty, it shone like the golden city of Jerusalem.
“There is Teodora!” said Ercole, pointing with his whip to a group of sailors sitting on the bottom of an overturned boat. In their midst sat a strange figure mending a net.
“You see that old woman sewing? She is a deaf-mute, and she believes that she is a man. If it were true it would be miraculous, _perché ha fatto una figlia_ (because she has “made” a daughter). She avoids all women, spends all her time with the fishermen. As she cannot talk and mends their nets for them--they do not object.”
Teodora laid down the long black cigar she was smoking and took off her hat to us. Save for a short dark skirt she was dressed like a man.
“It is against the law for a woman to wear pantaloons,” Ercole explained.
“But not for asses or men?”
Ercole laughed immoderately--part of his pleasant flattery.
We made the ascent of Mt. Epomeo; after completing the course of eleven baths, we wished to put to the test what they had done for me. We drove to Fontana, taking our luncheon with us--why do things taste best out of a basket? We left Ercole and the piebald at the inn and climbed to the summit of the extinct volcano where there is a curious hermitage dedicated to St. Nicola cut out of the volcanic tufa rock. The view from here is not so fine as it is half way up the mountain. It is rather too much like looking down upon a dissected map, but it does give one a wonderful geographical sensation, fixes the relations between the Sorrentine peninsula, Vesuvius, the islands of the Sirens, Capri, the promontory of Circeo (where Circe lived), Procida the golden, and the other points of this earthly paradise, between Terracina on the north and the Punta di Campanella on the south. We were helped to orient ourselves by Lucia, a “lady guide,” who joined us half way up the mountain. She is a handsome old woman with wild white hair, bright blue eyes, and a shrewd peasant face. She hailed me at sight as an American.
“How do you know that I am not English?” I asked.
“I can always recognize the _Americani, Signora mia_.”
“By what sign do you know us?” I asked.
“By the expression of the countenance.”
When I first came to Italy I should have scoffed at this; now I have lived away from home so long that I too recognize the American expression,--nervous, sensitive, masterful,--the Look Dominant!
“_Si vede Procida, La Spagna, io veggio a te!_” Lucia crooned a stave of the old Neapolitan song, Funiculi Funicula, in a cracked voice.
“Yes, yes, I know both _Americani ed Inglesi_; my daughter’s husband is an _Inglese_.”
“Where did she meet him?”
“Here on Mt. Epomeo, where else? _Una bella ragazza_ (She was a pretty girl)! You may not believe it, Signori, but there is no difference between my daughter and me save a matter of fifteen years. At fifty she is just what I was,--at sixteen she was her mother over again. You would not think it, eh? Well, one can speak about it, now that one is so old. She was called the most beautiful girl in all Ischia. How do I know if it was true? I could not think so, you see, because she was myself over again, and I never saw any difference between myself and the other girls.”
“I hope your daughter has a good husband.”
“_Grazie a Dio_, a good husband, yes, yes, a good husband.”
“Who was that pretty girl at the inn down at Fontana?” J. asked.
“_Bella? quella ragazza? faccia di patate_ (Pretty? that girl? a potato face)! Ai! if you could have seen my Eva! The Madonna herself was not more beautiful. That girl, the innkeeper’s daughter, is as awkward as a cow, and she squints besides, as her mother did before her.”
“_No, no_,” J. protested; “_è un bel pezzo di donna_ (she is a fine piece of a woman).”
Lucia gave him a keen look. “The signore should not laugh at the poor girl. _Il buon Dio_ does not give a handsome face to every woman.”
“Fortunately, for the peace of the world, that is true.”
“But the signore is an artist? one sees that from his manner of looking at things. Well, if the innkeeper’s Anna is a pretty girl, call me a _bruttona_ (big ugly thing). If my daughter had not been out of the common, do you think a rich gentleman would have married her? Yes, yes, I am telling you the truth. She does no work, they live in a palazzo, my daughter has servants to wait on her, do you believe it? she does not even comb her own hair! And she has jewels, such diamonds! For every child she gives him, he gives her a great pearl, each bigger than the last.”
“How many children have they?”
“_Ha fatto quattro maschi e tre femmine_ (She has borne four males and three females), all straight and well formed. The youngest is Lucia, for the poor old _nonna_ (grandmother) at Ischia.”
“Where do they live?”
She pointed across the sea. “What do I know of foreign countries? I am of the island. Here I was born, here I shall die.”
“You must be very proud of your grandchildren.” This is always a safe remark.
“_Ha ragione, eccellenza, guardi_ (You are right, excellency, observe), I am only a poor _ignorante_, but I made the great _matrimonio_ for my daughter. Eva was always here with me, upon the flanks of Epomeo, guiding the foreigners, but for me she would be here still, as my mother and her mother before her were here. In those days before the _terremoto_ many strangers came to Epomeo. From the first moment the young _Inglese_ saw the girl he was _innamorato_. He came every day, he pretended to sketch the mountain. I knew he was no artist; why, any one could see he was _un gran signore_ by the way he spent his money. One day he asked leave to paint my daughter. I said, ’_Scuse, Signore_, you are a rich gentleman, I am only a beggar, _ma io sono padrona della mia figlivola_ (I am the mistress of my little daughter). The day Eva takes a husband he will be _padrone_; till that time, _scusi, Signore, ma sono padrona io_!’ Would you believe it? a week from that day Eva and the _Inglese_ were married by the priest who married her father and mother and who gave her the holy rite of baptism.”
Sing me a song of the wisdom of old women!
I was bent upon exploring the hermitage, in spite of Lucia. The hermit has departed the way of hermits and others. In his stead reigns Orlando, a cross old man, between whom and Lucia there is war to the knife.
“Their excellencies are not going down without seeing the hermitage?” he whined.
“Certainly not,” J. assured him.
“Do not go in; it is a dirty hole, and there is nothing to see,” whispered Lucia, catching me by the sleeve.
“That silly old woman is tiring out the lady,” said Orlando to J.; “drive her away, she is a pest.” As I put my foot on the lowest step of the rough-hewn rock stairway leading to the hermitage, Lucia fell back and said no more. I was evidently out of her domain and in the enemy’s territory. As she had said, there was little to see in the two rooms cut out of the living rock. Orlando’s bed, a pile of straw, occupied the outer room, the inner cell served as his kitchen and larder. He offered bread and wine; we were firm in refusing refreshment; his feelings were soothed by a _mancia_, and by telling him we should come again and take his photograph (our kodak had been forgotten).
“The next time their excellencies come they must not let that old _chiacchierone_ (gossip) hang on to them. She pesters the travellers so with her talk that she frightens them away. Truly you will find it set down in the red book of the strangers (Baedeker) that a guide is unnecessary, though a few _soldi_ are due to the person living in the hermitage, who is ready and able to explain intelligently the view and the locality.”
At the foot of the steps Lucia again took us in charge, after an exchange of malevolent glances with Orlando.
“_Stregona_ (Big old witch),” Orlando muttered.
“_Birbacaione_ (Big rogue),” mumbled Lucia.
She came down with us as far as the cab.
“_Addio, eccellenza, e mille grazie._”
“_Addio_, Lucia, and thanks to you.” At the turn of the road we looked back and saw the strong, bent little woman leaning against the wall, waiting to guide the next _forestieri_ who might turn up.
“Is it true what Lucia tells us about her daughter?” I asked Ercole.
“Who knows? these old women gossip to amuse strangers. There is a new story for every day in the week. We must not believe everything that we hear.”
Was Ercole jealous, too?
The next time I saw Olivetta she began to chatter about Lucia.
“She told you about her daughter? Yes? It is quite true. The girl caught the fancy of a rich milord, and he married her. One thing I am sure Lucia did not tell you. Her son-in-law has bought her a nice cottage, the best house in Fontana, he gives her a handsome income; truly, Lucia is rich, but she is avaricious. I ask you, does she not look like a beggar? That is all a comedy; she has good clothes and shoes. Truly, I should not be surprised if, when she dies, we should find that Lucia is the richest woman in Ischia; it is a shame that she should ask money from the strangers.”
“Perhaps it is not the money so much as the occupation Lucia likes,” I suggested.
“_Ma ché_, she is robbing others who would gladly take her place. There is the excellent Orlando, he is my relation. Poor man, he is lame and cannot work. As long as Lucia remains there is no chance for another guide; _è fina quella donna_ (she is a sharp one, that woman). Ask the _colonello_,--he can tell you all about Lucia and her daughter.”
The _colonello_, protector of the poor and purveyor of pantaloons to suffering donkeys, is at this hotel. He is a delightful, warm-blooded creature, who cannot be quite comfortable unless everybody else in sight--even an ass--is comfortable too. Like the others, he had a great deal to say about Lucia; of all the personages we have met--the place is full of personages--she seems to have the most marked character.
“Gad, sir, the old woman is right,” said the colonel. “The day she goes out of the guide business she will go to pieces. Why should she give up her job because her daughter has married into another sphere? I’m d--d if I don’t like her spirit!”
“What is the daughter like?” I asked.
“She is a good sort,” said the colonel. “When her husband took her to his mother’s house, what do you suppose they did with her? sent her to school, had her taught like a child. She learned many things, how to talk small talk, how to behave at table, how to dress and all the rest of it. When they thought she had learned enough she came home to her husband. He gave a great dinner to introduce her to his family--oh, they all acted sensibly. The bride behaved very nicely and quietly, they all liked her for her pretty manners (you know the people hereabouts have excellent manners, better than half the aristocracy at home, I tell them) as well as for her remarkable beauty; she must have been worth seeing in those days. After the dinner was over and the guests had left the dining-room, the husband coming back for something found his wife going round the table collecting the ends of the cigars the men had left on their plates.
“‘What on earth do you want with those nasty things?’ he asked.
“‘I shall send them to my poor old father at Ischia!’
“She had been in the habit of picking up the ends of the travellers’ cigars for the old man. Do you wonder that she has made a good wife and mother? I tell you she has a good heart; if a woman has that, what else matters?”
When we made our second trip to Epomeo to keep faith with Orlando, Lucia was nowhere visible; we made the ascent without her. Orlando held undisputed possession of Epomeo.
“Where is your friend Lucia?” we asked.
He fairly spluttered, “_Una vecchiarella stupida senza educazione_ (A stupid old woman without education)! Do you know what I believe? I believe that her daughter and son-in-law are in Ischia. When they are on the island, Lucia sits all day at her window dressed in her Sunday clothes. To see her you would never fancy that she was the guide to Mt. Epomeo--not that there is any need of a guide, as you yourselves perceive.”
On our way through Fontana we passed a neat cottage, caught a whiff of fragrance of oleanders in the garden, a glimpse of an old woman sitting bolt upright in an armchair, a flash from her sharp blue eyes. It was Lucia, our little old guide, her wild hair neatly coifed by a peasant cap; she sat up as if she were sitting for her photograph, stiff, uncomfortable, wretched in her finery.
That night at the hotel an interesting couple who had arrived since the morning sat opposite to us at dinner; a tall, silent man who looked as if he might have been in the army, and a grave, handsome woman of fifty. She has a certain noble amplitude of brow, a width between the eyes, a calm quality of face and figure, very restful in contrast to certain giddy young ladies of her age who enliven the table d’hote. She speaks English with a slight accent. We made acquaintance over the mustard, which we both prefer _à l’Anglaise_. The gentleman spoke of Ischia and the neighboring parts of the country with such familiarity that I asked him about my enchanted island, Procida.
“It is such an ideal looking place that it ought only to be inhabited by beautiful rose-colored maidens,” I said.
He looked at his wife as he answered me.
“Ischia is the island for handsome women,” he said. “Procida is best seen as you have seen it, from a distance. It is the place where the Italian convicts are sent.”
Was not that a sad pricking of a rainbow bubble? His next words atoned for that shattered illusion; they were addressed to his wife.
“Eva, my dear,” he said, “let me give you a little of this _vino di paese_ (wine of the country). It comes from the _vigna_ on Mt. Epomeo, it is the kind you used to like when you were a girl.”
At the name Eva I looked at the _colonello_, who was devouring green figs at the end of the table. He answered my questioning look by one of acquiesence.
Orlando was right! Lucia’s daughter and the husband of Lucia’s daughter had come to Ischia to see Lucia!
“May I trouble you to hand me that other plate of figs?” said the _colonello_. “The figs of Ischia are the finest in the world. I sometimes wonder how many figs a man may eat and live.”
Suddenly light dawned! The _colonello_ is undoubtedly the “Old Person of Ischia.” On the flanks of Epomeo we had looked for him, in the sun-pierced alleys of Ischian vineyards, among the sailors on the Marina, even in the halls of the _stabilimento_--our quest, the magnet that drew us out of the path of duty (_that_ led back to Rome and the studio), the hero of Lear’s verse. He was here, sleeping under the same roof with us, sitting at the same table! Have not we ourselves seen him eat scores, possibly hundreds of figs? If we could postpone our return to Rome we should doubtless get up into the thousands, for,--
“There was an old person of Ischia, Whose conduct grew friskier and friskier. He danced hornpipes and jigs, And ate thousands of figs, This lively old person of Ischia.”
OLD AND NEW ROME--PALESTRINA
PALAZZO RUSTICUCCI, ROME, 1899.
Sunday afternoon we went over to hear vespers at St. Peter’s (the music was Palestrina’s). The service was celebrated in the gorgeous Cappella del Coro. It must have been some especial _festa_, for the chapel was even more magnificent than usual, the priests wore extra fine flowered brocade robes, the air was bluer and heavier with incense, there were more candles. The slumbrous canons, in purple gowns and gray squirrel-skin capes, dozed in their fretted stalls. Over their heads, in the carved and gilded gallery, stood the choristers, two by two, each pair holding between them a quaint, black-lettered music book; behind the choir was the organ, in front, the leader, baton in hand. They all wore white lace-trimmed cottas over black gowns. Their voices, dominated by the piercing sweetness of the Pope’s angel, a male soprano, filled the chapel with an almost overpowering melody, that flowed through the gilded gates and floated out into the distant aisles and transepts of the great church.
Wandering about after service, we came upon the tomb of Palestrina, in the transept near the chapel where his _magnificat_ had rung out so gloriously.
“The Church has a long memory for its saints, sinners, and master-workmen. If I thought it would remember me, now, I would take the vows to-morrow,” somebody said in my ear. It was Patsy.
“Jolly to think,” he went on, “of the old boy who led that choir and composed that music for ’em--he died, you know, in 1594,--lying here within the smell of the incense, within the sound of his own harmonics.” Patsy’s only instrument is the guitar.
“I like incense,” he went on; “the Roman populace smells no sweeter than in the days Shakespeare wrote about them; but the real value of incense, of course, lies in its being a germ destroyer, a safeguard to the priest. In the old days, when people did not know so much about health as they do now, they used to come to church to give thanks for recovery from smallpox while still in a state to give it to others.”
Here Helen came up. We had scarcely finished asking her news when Mr. Z---- joined us.
“Looking at the tomb of Palestrina?” he said. “That reminds me, would you ladies like to go and see the town from which he took his name? It is an opportunity, the greatest living authority on polygonal walls is going with us.”
“I never heard of a polygonal wall,” Helen began. (“You’d not give a hoot to see one,” murmured Patsy.) “But I would go anywhere for a day in the country this divine weather, provided the company was good.”
“And the luncheon,” Patsy put in.
Mr. Z---- smiled: “I think the ladies may trust me for that,” he said. Then he gave Helen and me directions for meeting at the station and left us.
“Z---- is a silly old gloat, but there is no malice in him,” Patsy said. “His Antonio is the best cook in Rome. It is part of the law of compensation that the biggest bores always have the best _chefs_.”
We had perfect weather for the trip to Palestrina. All the women, like Helen, had come for the day’s outing in the country, the men were grimly intent upon polygonal walls--all but one--Patsy, the uninvited, who turned up at the station and said he “would go along to have a try at the _vino di paese_ and to see if the girls of Palestrina were as pretty as the girls of Præneste.” As we did not feel responsible for him (he is a relation of the Z----’s) we were thankful to see his handsome face. Express trains do not stop at Palestrina, so we had to take a local, which crawled. One does not mind crawling across the Campagna, in sight of the trees and tombs of the Via Appia, beside the long lines of brown aqueducts, broken here and there into picturesque groups of arches. As we approached the Alban hills we found a hazy scarf of pink gauze spread about their feet and half way up to their knees; on nearer view this proved to be fruit trees in blossom.
At the dull little station of Monte Compatri Colonna there was a delay. Patsy, in search of diversion, tried to get out of the carriage. The door was locked. He put a long leg out of the window and made as if he would climb out. Excitement among the peasants on the platform. Everybody talked at once. Four women and three men rushed to the window.
“_Eccellenza_, for charity’s sake, have patience! The door is capable of being opened!” urged the vendor of _passa tempi_ (salted melon seeds).
An old woman, with a basket of assorted fruits, threw herself passionately in the breach.
“For the love of the Madonna, _illustrissimo_, have a care, you will do yourself an injury. The door opens, I assure you it is true. That _ignorante_ of a guard. Where has he gone? The _capo stazione_ himself should interest himself in your _signoria_.”
Patsy put out his head and one arm. The vendor of the straw-covered flasks of red and white wine joined the group.
“This is a serious affair, _amici miei_,” he said. “Signori, restrain the gentleman! Between ourselves now, is he mad? If so, my brother, who is of the _carabinieri_, can easily be summoned.”
Patsy by this time had got one shoulder out and was frantically waving an arm and a leg. That was too much for the immemorial beggar with the head and beard of Jove, who for forty years has sat upon that platform and begged. He laid down his tray of matches and hurried off on one leg and a crutch to the office of the _capo stazione_. Meanwhile, the guard came out of the restaurant furtively wiping his moustache. He rushed at the carriage with his key. Only one person on the platform had maintained his equilibrium,--the waiter from the restaurant, a man of the world, continued to walk calmly up and down the platform, offering his atrocious chiccory brew--he called it coffee--to the other passengers. He rather superciliously let us alone.
The guard hurried to the window. “I asked the signori before I allowed myself to attend to my duties at Colonna if any of the illustrious ones desired to descend. You yourself, excellency, assured me you desired nothing!” He fitted the key to the door as he spoke.
“Behold, did I not speak the truth?” said the fruit seller; “am I not right? the door opens.”
Patsy leaned comfortably back in the corner and lighted a cigarette. The _capo stazione_ arrived, hastily buttoning his gold-laced coat. He looked daggers at the guard.
“What is wrong? If there has been any inattention it shall be reported. How is this? One of the travellers obliged to get out of the window, and now that the door is open nobody alights?”
“That gentleman,” said Patsy, nodding towards Mr. Z----, “wished to see if he could climb out of the window. Do not trouble yourselves, he is not mad, merely an original. So sorry you should have been disturbed.” The _capo_ bowed politely to Patsy, fixed poor Z---- with a freezing stare, and returned with olympian dignity to that stuffy seat of authority, his office. The Jove-like beggar, leaning on his crutch, in his curiosity to see us forgot to beg.
“_Un fiasco di vino!_” said the wine seller, thrusting a flask into the carriage.
“_Portugalli!_” shrilled the old fruit woman.
“_Caffè due soldi la tazza_ (Coffee two cents a cup)!” cried the waiter.
“_Pronti_ (Ready)!” roared the guard.
“_Taratara!_” screamed the station master’s horn.
“_Partenza!_” and that was the last we saw of Monte Compatri Colonna.
Between Colonna and Palestrina Patsy allowed us to enjoy the view, really well worth seeing. We had enchanting glimpses of the Alban, Sabine, and Volscian mountains; the valleys between blazed with wild-flowers. At the station the party divided, Mr. Z----, the expert on polygonal walls, and the rest going in the stage, Patsy, Helen, and ourselves crowding into a _botte_.
“The trouble with those fellows is,” said Patsy, “that they know too much of one thing and too little of anything else. You’d be talked to death and sick of the subject if I had not come along to save your lives.”
“I _should_ like to know what we have come to see,” I feebly protested.
“Nonsense,” said Helen, “they have crammed it all out of books, you can cram a great deal better afterwards. It takes the edge off to read too much about a thing before you see it. Don’t read the guide-book till you have seen the thing and got your own impression neat.”
The road from the station leads up a sharp incline, winding through the steep and dirty streets of Palestrina, a hillside town, which stands upon the ruins of the Colonna’s mediæval stronghold, which again stands upon the ancient town of Præneste, extolled by the Latin poets. That Præneste, with its magnificent Temple of Fortune, the resort of the fashionable Romans of the days of Mæcenas, seems modern compared to the ancient Præneste, whose ruins are found beneath it, and whose _arx_ was the spot chosen for the picnic luncheon. It was a stiff climb. We left the carriage at Castel San Pietro and scrambled to the summit where that magnificent and indomitable race--Castellane calls them the _Italiotti_--built their citadel. Here we saw the ruins of the polygonal (we used to call them cyclopean) walls. Astonishing structures, making the walls of the three later periods--the latest, exquisite brick-work of the Empire--seem by comparison like the work of children! The huge rocks are fitted together without cement of any sort, and in some places the walls look as solid as the day they were built, long before Rome was! To make room for our table-cloth, an old shepherd obligingly drove his sheep a little lower down the mountain. He was knitting stockings for one of his grandchildren; he has four to bring up. Their mother is dead, their father--he went years ago to Buenos Ayres--has ceased to write or to send them money.
A pretty girl spinning with a distaff asked shyly if she could help us. Patsy sent her for water while he set the table.
“We could not have her handling the food, you know,” he said; “but she is so decorative that we want to look at her while we eat and drink. Antonio has outdone himself (he knew I was coming), this ham really has been boiled in _vino di Montefiascone_, as I suggested. The girls of Palestrina _are_ as handsome as the girls of Præneste.” Armida, our girl, had come back, a dripping _conca_ poised on her head.
“How do you know so much about the girls of Præneste?” I asked.
“Go to the Kircheriano Museum and look at the Ficoronian Cista and you will know as much as I do,” Patsy confessed. “It was found near here in the necropolis. It is a green bronze toilet casket, with the most corking pictures from the story of the Argonauts engraved upon it you ever saw! Pollux has just licked Amycus, you know, for interfering with the Greeks preempting the spring of water, and tied him up to a tree, as he deserved. Then you have the Greeks drinking out of the spring. In the harbor lies the good ship Argo; on shore you see Jason and Hercules, one of the Argonauts in the attitude of boxing, a fat old Silenus mimicking him. Female beauty is represented by Athena and Niké, who seem to be offering a victor’s crown to the lucky Pollux. It’s up to date, I can tell you. The girls are no prettier than Armida there; but find me the man who can ‘do’ her like the fellow who engraved that Cista, and I will pay him to make her portrait!”
“How long ago was the casket made?” Helen asked.
“If you must have a date, 700 B.C. is as good as another. Heigh ho! The world’s grown lazy! All this talk about modern energy makes me tired! Where’s the energy in any race on earth to-day to build an _arx_ like this? to live on the top of a steep hill like this? to trundle itself and its chattels up and down? Our civilization compared to Præneste’s is barbarism by every standard I know.”
“You don’t know much,” said Helen. “_I_ know you have waited too long for your luncheon. Your views will improve directly.”
As we ate our luncheon, Armida awkwardly weaving a garland of oak leaves after a pattern Patsy made her, watched us with shy, hungry eyes. She and I exchanged glances (not a word was spoken) which said,--
“Signora, I have rarely tasted white bread--never such a _pasticcio_ as the _signorino_ is giving to the shepherd’s dog!”
“_Figlia mia_, all that remains of the feast shall be for you and the shepherd; you will divide with him?”
“_Stia sicura_ (Rest assured)!” said Armida’s honest eyes.
There was wine in an amphora--how had Patsy managed it?--he poured the first glass on the ground in libation.
Looking at Armida and raising his glass, “_Alle belle ragaze di Palestrina!_” he said. The shepherd’s dog sniffed the spilt wine scornfully.
“_Tutti gli Inglesi sono matti!_ (The English are all mad)!” muttered the shepherd.
PALAZZO RUSTICUCCI, ROME, 1899.
June in Italy is heaven. The weather is delicious. Life is pleasant and calm. J. has found a small American ice-chest, the only one in Rome; we are as proud as peacocks about it; Pompilia shows it off as if it were the great kohinoor. It is an economy in ice, which has only lately been introduced, and is fabulously dear. Nena fetches a tiny slab of artificial ice every afternoon, it is wrapped in thick felt, put into the American ice-chest, where it keeps the milk and wine cool. Green nuts are part of the
[Illustration: _The Lady K._
From a red chalk drawing in the Collection of Mr. Thomas W. Lawson]
[Illustration: Copyright, 1900, by John Elliott. From a Copley Print. Copyright, 1901, by Curtis & Cameron, Publishers, Boston.]
summer bill of fare, fresh filberts in their jackets, green almonds and English walnuts as much nicer fresh than dried as fresh figs are better than dry, or grapes than raisins.
Ignazio, our gardener, handsome, sympathetic, with a timid laugh, a hesitating manner, a real passion for his calling, was recommended to us as knowing more about roses than any man in Rome. The burthen of caring for our beloved flowers had become too great. The improvement since the expert took hold and properly grafted our roses is astonishing. Ignazio has to be restrained from quite ruining us. To him the natural order would be to spend the greater part of one’s income upon one’s flowers--I am not so sure he is not right! For weeks he has been talking about a new rare flower--just the thing for the terrace--whose name he could not remember. When I asked him he took off his old cap, rubbed his head in a puzzled way, and complained that the English names were “too difficult.” I caught his enthusiasm, ordered some of these rare exotics, though the price was high. To-day arrived six fine specimens of the wild American purple aster, which overruns the fields and roadsides at home!
Signor Giacomo Boni, the architect in charge of the public buildings of ancient Rome, has a rival terrace on the roof of his house: we went to see his Japanese lilies the other day. Fancy, he has a cherry tree with ripe cherries on it, a peach tree with peaches, a tame starling in a cage, and quite the most wonderful collection of plants and flowers I ever saw in so small a space. Signor Boni has planted on the Palatine, in the Forum, and in the Baths of Caracalla, the flowers and shrubs mentioned in the classics as growing in those places. The good work is beginning to tell already; now there are roses and fleur-de-lis growing in the Forum. The vandalism which stripped the Colosseum of its glorious robe of flowered green and exposed its gaunt skeleton to view, is at an end, but the havoc it wrought is irreparable--at least in my lifetime. Fancy, there were five hundred different varieties of wild-flowers growing on that splendid old ruin. Many of these are unknown in other parts of Europe and are supposed to have sprung from seeds that were mixed in the various kinds of fodder imported from Africa to feed the wild beasts which fought in the old blood-soaked arena.
PALAZZO RUSTICUCCI, ROME, August 3, 1899.
It was too hot for sleep last night, a rare thing in Rome. At half-past four this morning, when I went out on the terrace to water the plants, the smooth red tiles were still warm to bare feet. The Piazza of St. Peter’s was a sea of fog, out of which loomed the lantern of Angelo’s dome; no other part of the great church was visible. A white mist from the Tiber rose like a wall between us and Mt. Soracte; the river and the mountain Horace loved are still the dearest things in the wide view of the Roman landscape. When the plants had been watered it was half-past five, just the right time for bicycling, so we set out. At this hour few people are about, save the drivers of the heavy wains of hay--drawn by big, soft-eyed gray oxen with magnificent branching horns. These wagons of fragrant hay are not allowed in the streets after eight o’clock in the morning. Though the Forum was reached before six, Signor Boni and his aids were already hard at work. Swarms of men, like so many busy ants, were passing to and from the excavations, wheeling barrows full of earth, returning a little later with empty barrows.
“Where do you put the rubbish that you take out?” I asked. The _capo_ smiled indulgently. “Every particle of the earth of the Forum is sacred,” he said. “We skim it off carefully in layers, keeping each layer quite separate from the others. Then we sift it layer by layer, sort whatever it contains, examine each bit of broken glass, metal, pottery, and, where it is possible, piece the fragments together.”
In a sacrificial layer, composed chiefly of the ashes and bones of victims offered at the altars of the gods, the _capo_ lately found the jaw bones of several large dogs. These did not properly belong here, among the bones of beeves, sheep, and goats, the regulation sacrificial animals. The layer in which they were found proved to be of the time of Marcellus. Now, what were the bones of these big dogs doing there?
One dark night--it was in the days of Marcellus--the Goths descended for the first time upon Rome, the citadel came within an ace of being taken--would have been, but for the cackling of the silly geese which roused the sleeping guards. The silly geese became sacred geese, and the faithless watch-dogs, who had failed to bark and give the alarm, were slaughtered at the altar,--and that is how the big canine jaw bones turn up to-day in the sacrificial layer of Marcellus! The _capo’s_ dreamy blue eyes, the eyes of an enthusiast, glowed with an inner light as he unfolded this theory. Imagination, you see, is as important to the successful archæologist as it is to any other discoverer. He must have other things as well--a thorough knowledge of the classics, for instance. Did not Mme. Schlieman learn the whole of Homer by heart, to aid her husband in his search for the tomb of Agamemnon?
If in reading Tacitus or Livy the _capo_ finds mention of a missing building or statue, he goes and looks for it in the place where according to the historians it ought to be--and where, nine times out of ten, he finds it! While he talked to us his eyes never left the skilful hands of a workman patiently matching together pieces of brown terra-cotta from a large pile of shards.
“If we could only make up one complete tile!” he sighed.
We were in the temporary museum where the latest “finds” of the Forum are kept. The man at the next table was putting together a really beautiful vessel of dark-blue glass. It might have been the Myrrhene goblet of Petronius!
“The tiles are so ugly, so monotonous--why should you care? I could understand, now, if a piece of that enchanting blue glass were missing!” I said.
“The cup is only a cup,--beautiful if you will,--but what does it teach us? nothing new. If we could find a whole tile, now, it would fix the date of a building we are in doubt about.”
Scientific methods, you see; even in Rome we cannot escape them! Then we went and looked at the spot where the Jewish citizens of Rome piously burned the body of Julius Cæsar, and at what remains of the house where Cæsar lived, a corner of the dining-room, with the white mosaic pavement, and a piece of wall painted with a decoration of fruit, flowers, green trees, and a pointed bamboo trellis, in the same style as the Villa Livia, built by the widow of Augustus, who, perhaps, had admired Aunt Calpurnia’s dining-room, and when her time came to build imitated it!
In the house of the Vestal Virgins we saw some fine pavements lately uncovered. Vesta is by far the most interesting of the Roman divinities. Is there a shrine to her at Radcliffe? There should be; we owe Rome the “higher education,” as we owe her the law we live by, the army we conquer by. Close to the Temple of Vesta we saw the place where earthquakes were foretold by the simplest contrivance. On a white marble platform finely adjusted weights were placed so as to oscillate with the first, otherwise imperceptible, tremors of the earth; in this way the knowing ones were enabled to foretell the earthquakes to the populace. Not far from here is the point where lightning once struck, making a hole ever after held sacred. It was turned into a sacred well, wherein jewels, cups, and other precious offerings were thrown by the devout or the superstitious. Both these shrines are very near the Temple of Vesta. Was it by chance that the fanes of the three things primitive man fears most, fire, earthquake, and lightning, should be so near together? The _capo_ thinks not.
“Now come and see the Republican well I have just found,” he said, leading the way to a deep pit in the form of an _amphora_, with smooth rounded sides lined with cement.
“Notice the work they did in the days of the Republic; it is far better than the work of the Empire. See this cement, as perfect as the day it was laid.”
“What did you find in this well?” we asked.
“Come and see. Here are a great number of styluses--the Roman pens used for writing on wax tablets” (do you suppose some poor devil of a literary man threw them in in a moment of despair?) “and the entire contents of a Republican butcher’s shop. See, there is the great cleaver, these are the knives--even the wooden handles are intact. These round stones are the weights, here is the thigh bone of the last ox slaughtered before the shop came to grief, and here--take it carefully, it is of terra-cotta--is the butcher’s lamp. Do you make out the design? It is in the shape of an inflated oxhide.”
I never saw the like of that lamp! Of all the precious things the _capo_ has unearthed, I most covet the Republican butcher’s squat little earthenware lamp with the neck of the skin pursed together to hold the wick.
“Now come and look at the true Via Sacra; you see it lies several feet below the road we used to call the Sacred Way. Do you observe how much finer this early pavement is than the later paving? But wait, I shall show you better yet,--the earlier the work, the better the workmanship.”
As we stood on the large squares of smooth gray stone, a cloud veiled the hot August sun, a shadow crossed the pavement. Might it not have been just here that Horace tacked to avoid meeting that bore Crispinus? When midsummer comes and everybody goes away, and there remains only Rome, ourselves, and the mighty ghosts,--these grow so real that I wonder if I dreamed the tea-party-picnicking Rome of winter and spring.
“Here is the Basilica Emilia. We should not have been able to excavate this if it had not been for Mr. St. Clair Baddeley, who raised the money in England to buy the land and indemnify the owners of the houses we were obliged to pull down. Look at these two delightful bas-reliefs; have you ever seen such a treatment of the acanthus?”
The reliefs are the most florid--one might almost say “baroque”--acanthus designs I have ever seen. In one the flower in the centre of the “curly cue” ends in a prancing horse; the other terminates in some apochryphal beast, like a dragon.
“Wait, wait till I make a copy of this adorable white and green pavement,” I cried. It was a geometrical design in Emilia’s Basilica. A design that I have never seen either in Egypt or Greece.
“For that you will not need me,” said the _capo_; “it is growing late and hot; now for the Lapis Niger!” Like a child he had kept the best of the feast for the last. As we went, I picked up a small piece of iridescent glass, opal, rose, and pearl, a bit of heaven’s rainbow dug from the “sacred earth.”
“What might this have been?” I asked.
“That we shall see, perhaps part of a tear bottle, perhaps a fragment of the vessel in which the vestals daily brought lustral water for the altars from the Fountain of Egeria!” Was he laughing at me?
I shall not forget the sensation produced by the first sight of the Lapis Niger, the black stone of the so-called tomb of Romulus. Whether the smooth slab of black marble actually covered the ashes of Romulus, or was a later monument put up to his memory, has not yet, I believe, been established. They do know that the inscription on the cippus beneath the stone is written in the most ancient Latin which has yet come to light--the epigraphists are still cracking their brains trying to read it. Is it not pleasant to have the sceptical German historians routed? To have our Romulus and Remus given back to us, our Tarquins, our Numa Pompilius, and Egeria? To tell the truth, I never gave them up, I always kept a sneaking belief in demigods and heroes, took Hawthorne’s word against the Teutons. Now I am being justified right and left. Boni finds the Tomb of Romulus in the Roman Forum, Dr. Evans finds the palace of Minos, and the labyrinth of the Minotaur in Crete.
To comfort-loving persons Rome is the most satisfactory place in the world for the study of man--from the savage of thirty centuries ago in his tree coffin, fished up from the bottom of Lake Trasimeno (now at the Museum Papa Giulio), to Victor Emmanuel in his tomb at the Pantheon. Think of it, the first king of Young Italy sleeping in a temple of Ancient Rome which has been in use ever since it was built in the year 27 B.C. Athens is a thousand times more beautiful than Rome, but to the ultra modern Greece seems on the outskirts of “to-day.” Here, here in Rome, we fancy we are in the midst of things, and creature comforts are still to be had, as in the days of Lucullus (I recommend you an _omelette soufflée aux surprises à la Grand Hotel_! Outside an ordinary hot soufflée--the surprise is the heart, cold sublimated chocolate ice-cream)!
Not long since, while lunching at that luxurious restaurant, we became aware of a personage at the next table. Everybody looked at him; it was impossible not to look at him. He was a large, masterful man with a high color, young gray hair, and a look of power I have not often met. We began to guess his nationality. I immediately claimed him. “He is an American, a Western senator, from Montana or Washington State.”
There was something large and dauntless about him, the free look of one coming from a young country.
“Please find out who that gentleman at the next table is?” our host said to the waiter.
The man seemed surprised at the question.
“That is Cecil Rhodes, sir,” he answered.
After that we could not help catching some of his talk--perhaps we did not try very hard--it was brilliant, exhilarating, and cordial. His guests were hardly more _en rapport_ with him than the rest of us in the room. He was not unconscious that the people who sat near, the waiters, even the sphinx-like manager, hovering in the offing with impassive face, were thrilled by being in his company: nor could his attitude be called conscious. He merely seemed aware of us, could no more help dominating the chance crowd in a fashionable restaurant than his fellows in the Transvaal.
It happened that after lunch we took our friends “sightseeing” to the Kircheriano Museum, where we found one of the earliest Roman citizens and his wife, still lying side by side in the very earth the mourners threw over them, his rude stone weapons, her primitive household utensils close to their hands. There, you see, are the two ends of your chain of interest (there is not a missing link between),--the prehistoric man at the Kircheriano Museum and the man who is making history, Cecil Rhodes, on his way to South Africa, lunching at the Grand Hotel!
THE ANNO SANTO
PALAZZO RUSTICUCCI, ROME, February 7, 1900.
“If I am ever a rich man,--” Patsy began.
“Which heaven forfend--you have not the gift!” said the monsignore.
“Wait and see!--I shall build a great church.”
“Like St. Peter’s there?”
We were on the terrace. The sun was setting behind the chapel of the Vatican. There was still light enough for the yellow of the sun-soaked façade, the pale blue of the dome, to tell against the gray and rosy sky.
“Oh, make it the Parthenon! They both give a fellow the same sort of feeling as being in love does, or seeing Niagara.”
“It is not a bad use to put a fortune to,” the monsignore agreed.
“It is about time the artists had their innings!” Patsy declared. “I should like to be referee. Gladiators, prize-fighters wouldn’t be in it. What fun _can_ there be in backing such creatures, or even a horse? I would rather stake my fortune on an architect like Bramante--trust my future reputation to a painter like Pinturricchio than to a Flying Childers or a Goldsmith Maid.”
“First catch your hare,” said the monsignore.
“The woods are full of ’em. Give the artists a chance, and you’ll see the trouble is not with them! The opportunity must come first. A country has the art it deserves. When we Americans want beauty as much as we want rapid transit we shall get it.”
“There are _some_ signs,” said the monsignore. “We have art patrons who pay enormous sums for old masters.”
“Our art patrons lack imagination,” said Patsy. “It is so easy, so obvious, to buy ‘old masters,’ to patronize Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli! I should pick my men, give ’em the track, and let ’em show their paces. Wait till I build my cathedral: you will see an architect, a painter, and a sculptor or two.”
“‘The hand that rounded Peter’s dome, wrought with a sad sincerity,’” quoted the monsignore. He had come to tell us about the Pope’s opening the _Porta Santa_ on Christmas eve,--the first of the many functions of this _Anno Santo_.
Finally we “muzzled” Patsy, and the monsignore seized his chance to speak.
“As the ceremony was in the portico of St. Peter’s,” he said, “a comparatively small place, very few invitations were issued. The papal throne was erected near the _Porta Santa_,--the Jubilee door,--it is the one on the extreme right of the portico, you will remember it by the cross upon it. The Pope knocked three times upon the _Porta Santa_ with a mallet, saying as he did so, “_Aperite mihi portas justitiae_ (Open to me the door of justice).” At the words the door (which was last opened by Leo the Twelfth, in 1825) fell away as if by magic, and His Holiness walked alone into the vast empty church, where there was no other living being but himself. He tottered down the aisle, past the splendid tombs of his predecessors, beneath that unmarked sepulchre over the door, where Pius the Ninth lies waiting the day when he must make room for him in his tomb as he made room for him on his throne. At the shrine of St. Peter the Pope knelt and said a prayer. For me that was the great moment in the whole gorgeous ceremony.”
“It all comes back to the simple human situation of an old man passing the tomb where he soon must lie!” was Patsy’s comment.
“It is just the simple human situation that the Church always comes back to,” said the monsignore.
“Oh, I say! simple, you know! That’s putting it a little strong. The scene you describe is simple and touching, but, as a rule, the services over there are more gorgeous and theatrical than religious!”
“Granted,--St. Peter’s is the stage on which the dramas of the church are played. Why not? Why not use every art to the glory of God--music, the drama, all the rest? There are a hundred quiet parish churches where one can go for devotion and aspiration.”
Patsy’s company is always stimulating, but he rather interfered with my getting all the information I wanted from the monsignore. I did manage to extract the facts that the _Anno Santo_ was instituted by Boniface VIII., in 1300, that it was originally meant to celebrate it every hundred years; that the Romans petitioned to have the time shortened to every fifty years, then to thirty-three years (the supposed earthly life of Christ), and finally to every twenty-five years; that at the five other Basilicas in Rome ceremonies like those at St. Peter’s were celebrated on the same day--a cardinal opening the _Porta Santa_ in each, and that during the _Anno Santo_ plenary indulgence is obtainable by all Catholics who pass a certain number of times in a given number of days, through the holy doors of St. Peter’s, and the five other Basilicas, repeating the appointed prayers.
“Every twenty-five years, you say?” Patsy insisted, “and the last Jubilee was in 1825--how is that?”
“In 1850 and again in 1875 Rome was so unsettled that the observance of the _Anno Santo_ was not expedient,” said the monsignore, shortly.
“Let me see,” mused Patsy; “in 1850 Pius the Ninth was at Gaeta, trying a change of air for his health, and Mazzini was at the head of the Roman Republic. In 1875, Pius still thought that the Dukes of Savoy were only casual visitors and had not yet realized that they had come to Rome to stay. Isn’t that about the size of it?”
“My dear boy,” said the monsignore imperturbably, “_now_ you are talking about things you do _not_ understand.” He talked of other things for a few moments and then went away.
On Christmas Eve the pilgrims began to arrive in torrents, and have been pouring in and out of the city ever since. They will not be allowed to come in July and August--supposed to be the least healthy months. They have gathered from the uttermost parts of the earth hordes of strangers invading Rome as I believe it has not been invaded since the days of Attila and his Huns. From the terrace we see pilgrims from all the Catholic nations of the earth pass to bow the knee and drop the _obolo_ at the feet of the Prisoner of the Vatican. These vast pilgrimages, sometimes several thousand strong--are admirably managed. A dearth of cabs is the first sign we notice of their arrival. The piazza is deserted, not a cab in sight. A little later a procession of cabs, crowded with pilgrims (six to a carriage) and their belongings--the queerest boxes, bales, bundles begin to rattle across the piazza to the vast buildings in the rear of the Vatican where the pilgrims lodge. They usually stay three days; during that time they are received by the Pope, visit all the Basilicas, see the sights, and depart richer in experience and plenary indulgence, leaving the Pope, the shop keepers, hotel keepers, and cabmen richer in money. Each flood gilds (or silver plates) poor old Rome till it shines as it has not shone in years.
I did not suppose there were so many splendid costumes left in the world as have passed through the Piazza of St. Peter’s and under my eyes during these few months! Hungarians in tight-fitting black breeches, jackets trimmed with black astrakhan and long high boots. Herzegovinians with wonderful garments of white sheepskin, embroidered in red silk outlined designs (the woolly side of the sheepskin is worn next the person, the outside looks like parchment), fur-trimmed boots, hair cut square across the shoulders, faces of rapt devotion. The Poles were a superb group, the women wore costumes of striped vermilion and emerald green, the men, scarlet breeches, green jackets, and picturesque woollen caps. There were Cossacks from the river Don, with long, gray woollen caftans down to their heels, high pointed caps, and cartridge belts over their shoulders, they would be ugly customers to come up against on a less peaceful excursion. While driving, we passed one Don Cossack who reminded us so vividly of Taras Bulba, the hero of Gogol’s Iliad of the North, that we followed him for half an hour, as he stalked about the city, looking at the sights as if they were all perfectly familiar to him. He was a giant with a mane of bronzed hair, dark eyes, high cheek bones, and a look of indomitable power, of silent reserved strength, that made the careless casual passer-by seem an effete, over-civilized being. He wore jewel-handled daggers stuck in a waist belt, fastened with turquoises “as big as my two thumbs.” He must be “somebody” at home.
The other evening J. brought home the news that there were a lot of pilgrims lodged in the wing of the Palazzo Torlonia, opposite his studio. The next morning R. and I hurried over to the Borgo St. Angelo to see what was to be seen. The Palazzo Giraud Torlonia, which has a splendid front on the Borgo Nuovo, only a block away from the Rusticucci--has two long wings in the rear, with a courtyard between them, the entrance to both wings being on the Borgo St. Angelo, rather a squalid back street. The studio is a vast room as big as a church on the second floor. When my mother was in Rome, on her wedding journey, she danced in this room at one of the famous balls, given by old Torlonia, the banker prince, the founder of the family, and grandfather of the present incumbent, J.’s landlord. The studio--at the time J. took it the only available one in Rome large enough for his purpose--could only be had by hiring the whole wing, with its three stories, the right to _re-let_ being refused. This makes him master of all he surveys, as the grim, stone-paved courtyard, with its ever-flowing fountain fringed with maidenhair fern, goes with his wing.
I received a shock on entering the studio, and looking at the big picture for the first time in days. The little blindfold Love who led the procession of the centuries in The Flight of Time, has been painted out! He now exists only in my memory, and in the cartoon, a red chalk drawing hanging in our hall. Though the composition is better without him, it gave me a pang to find him gone. To console me, I found three portrait studies of the beautiful Lady K.
From the studio windows we could see into the vast high rooms of the opposite ell, which is hired for the pilgrims, when, as on this occasion, they cannot all be accommodated in the huge _lazzaretto_ the Pope built during the last cholera summer. That was in 1884. Naples was decimated by the disease; everybody believed that the cholera would come to Rome (everybody except J., who calmly passed the summer here). The Pope built the great _lazzaretto_ against the cholera’s coming; King Humbert, of the high courage, went to meet the cholera, went to pest-stricken Naples, walked through the hospital wards where the cholera patients lay, spoke comfortably to them, won new glory for the brave house of Savoy, a fresh hold on his people’s hearts. As the _lazzaretto_--it has never been used as such--was not big enough to hold the French pilgrimage, some of it spilled over into the empty wing of the Torlonia Giraud Palace, across the courtyard from the studio.
When R. and I arrived on the scene it was the hour of bedmaking. We could see the neat, light figures of the nuns (to whose care the entertainment of the pilgrims is entrusted) tucking in the sheets, smoothing out the pillows of the long lines of white cots that filled the rooms. On the sidewalk, outside the green door--all our doors in the Borgo seem to be green--sat a group of old men smoking the solemn, after-breakfast pipe. Feeling that we must see the pilgrims at nearer view, we went down to the street and out of our door just in time to meet a rosy young sister as she came out of the opposite door with a little old peasant woman, whose face was wrinkled and brown as an English walnut. The old peasant wore over a full white linen shirt a dark cloth jacket cut square at the bosom, with straps going over the shoulders. The double-breasted jacket was fastened with silver buttons and heavily embroidered in a charming pattern with variegated silks. On her head was a plain white cap of sheer muslin turned back over the ears, and hanging to the shoulders. Under the muslin cap was a sort of gilt skull-cap. She wore a heavy plaited skirt of dark blue broadcloth, sabots painted black, long earrings of filigree gold inset with seed pearls. Even beside the pure linen of the sister, she positively shone with cleanliness.
“Look well at that jacket,” I said to R., “did you ever see one like it before?”
“Why, it is _our_ Breton jacket!”
_You_ perhaps remember that at the old yellow house where R. lives there is a trunk full of “dressing up things,” the theatrical wardrobe of the children, largely made up of the old finery of three preceding generations!
“Did you ever see that cap before?” I asked R.
“Why it’s grandmama’s cap!”
“Long ago, when you were only a baby, grandmother and I passed a summer in Brittany. At Quimper, where we spent some happy weeks, a jacket like that was made for me, and we found the one and only model for grandmama’s cap.”
The little old peasant woman carried a large blue cotton umbrella, with time-yellowed ivory handle and points, a perfect ark, under which three even four generations might take refuge from a deluge. I looked at her so intently, with such a passion of longing memory, that she must have seen something more than common curiosity in my glance, for she gave me a second look less preoccupied, more gentle than the first, and then paused. I grasped the opportunity, and going up to her asked in French how things were at Quimper? She listened patiently, politely, understanding nothing of what I said till I pronounced the magic word “Quimper.” Then the old eyes grew keen and intent. She put out a hand and answered me in a flood of kindly Breton, whose sound only was familiar to me. For some minutes we stood there in the middle of the Borgo St. Angelo, shaking hands, looking intently at each other, first one, then the other repeating the word “Quimper!” To her it meant home; to me, the one thing dearer! Then with a last tightening of the hands we parted. We recognized other of the Breton costumes, from St.-Pol-de-Leon, Douarnenez, the Morbihan, we remembered having seen some of them at the great pardon of Ploërmel. The caps of Quimper are quite distinct from the caps of Quimperle, you understand, though the towns are not far apart!
That afternoon, with a roll of thunder drums and a flash of lightning, the deluge descended upon the Borgo. I rushed to the watch-tower--our upper terrace, to see the storm. From the four quarters of the sky the lightning swords smote at each other; from the soft white clouds above the Castle St. Angelo came rose-colored lightning with a growl; from a purple rack over St. Peter’s a piercing yellow zigzag, like a Saracen blade, followed by the crack of cannon. Veils of rain fell, mixed with the white spray of the fountains, and were driven in smoky sheets across the square. The piazza was alive with pilgrims coming away from St. Peter’s, where service was just over, the steps were black with people. The pilgrims scattered like leaves before the storm; the skirts of women and priests were blown about, like the bewitched draperies of the Bernini statues on the façade of the church. In the midst of the hurrying, scurrying crowd I made out the blue umbrella ark of Quimper, valiantly held up by a tall young peasant; my little old woman--perhaps his mother--paddled along on one side, a stout wench--perhaps his wife--on the other. The cabs were all snatched up in a moment. Down in the Borgo I could see the _gobbo_ waiting for me at our door. I had to keep a pressing engagement and dared not delay till the tempest passed, lest the _gobbo_ and his cab be ravished from my sight. As we rattled along the Borgo Nuovo, I recognized the _parroco_; he was without an umbrella and was getting soaked to the skin. As we would pass his door it seemed the part of friendship to give him a lift.
“Stop!” I cried to the _gobbo_; “the _parroco_ is going our way, we will take him home.”
“There is no use in stopping,” said the _gobbo_. I insisted. Sulky and grumbling he drew up just outside the hospital of the Santo Spirito. The water was rushing through the gutter like a small millstream.
“Jump in, _padre_, we will take you home.”
“No, no. Thank you--it is impossible!”
“Drive on!” he cried impatiently to the _gobbo_. To me more gently, “It would not do for me to be seen driving with a lady.”
As the _gobbo_ whipped up the old white horse, a crowded carriage containing four women and two foreign-looking priests passed us. I looked back at the _parroco_; he shrugged his shoulders, his lips formed the words, “What can you expect? They are French!”
“What did I tell you, _Signora mia_?” murmured the _gobbo_. “It would have been a scandal for the poor _parroco_ to be seen driving with you!”
Wasn’t that slap at the French nice? The _parroco_ served his two years in the army when he was young; he is a good Italian, a son of the soil, a son of the Church. The passions of his race are strong in him, and in spite of his cassock he hates a Frenchman!
Coming home late that evening we found behind our door a small wallet lined with coarse red morocco. It contained nothing but memoranda of modest expenditures:
Cab, one franc.
Candles, six sous.
Tobacco, fifty centimes.
Rosary of amethyst beads (for Berthe), four francs.
Souvenirs of Rome, seven francs, etc.
Crabbedly written on the flyleaf was the address of a priest of Vaucluse. _Vaucluse!_ Isn’t that a name to conjure with? We read the poor priest’s case as easily as his simple record of expenses. No people are quite so attentive to the pilgrims as the “light-fingered gentry.” The thief who stole the pocket-book, after taking out whatever of value it contained, threw it into our doorway to be rid of it. J. has sent it by post to the priest at Vaucluse; it will at least help him to make up his accounts.
“Souvenirs,” always a staple of Roman trade, are more in evidence in the shop windows than ever. The French pilgrims buy a great many souvenirs. We saw our old friend from Quimper in a shop in the Borgo. To get another look at her, and to show her to Patsy, who was with me, we went in and looked at souvenirs. Besides the “articles of religion” there were semi-religious articles; spoons, pens, pins, a thousand useless nothings bearing the triple crown, the keys of Peter, the sacred initials. The shop-keeper laid a tray full before Patsy, who turned them over indifferently. “Fancy keeping stamps in this,” he held up a box with the white dove of the _Spirito Santo_ inlaid upon the cover, “or cutting _Punch_ with that!” he displayed a paper knife with the figure of the Lamb. “I say, you know, the common use the shop-keepers put these sacred symbols to is more than I can stand!”
The shop-keeper thought he understood; we caught his whisper to his wife, “They are not Christians, they are Saracens!” to us he said, “Have patience, sir, here is your affair!”
He opened a drawer under the counter. It contained the same souvenirs, the same boxes, spoons, pens, paper-knives, what-nots, with Mahomedan symbols, instead of Christian--the crescent, the star, the scimitar, the monogram of the prophet.
“No, not quite our affair,” said Patsy. “We are not Mahomedans.”
The shop in which we were chaffering is in the very shadow of Peter’s dome; the bells in the clock tower were ringing the _Ave_.
The cry is, Still they come! Pilgrims, pilgrims, pilgrims. By just sitting tight on our terrace and using our eyes, the uttermost parts of Christendom have been brought to us. Sardinians, for instance. When Patsy came back from his moufflon hunting trip in Sardinia, and talked familiarly about “Sards,” we were devoured with curiosity to see them for ourselves. A week after, the “Sards” arrived in force. They are more like Corsicans, or even Spaniards, than like Italians; they have grave, dark, impassive faces, and an expression of sombre reserve. The men’s dress is in keeping with their character; a black woollen, knitted bonnet, like a sailor’s cap, hangs on one side to the shoulder, close-fitting jacket, leggings, and sash, all black. Their coarse homespun linen shirts, made very full in the bosom and sleeves, and worn without starch, are a great improvement on the dreadful stiff, white armor in which our men encase themselves for their sins! The “Sards’” only ornaments were silver buckles worn at the knees and on the shoes.
One morning J., who had started early for the studio, came back to tell me that a group of Filipinos had just gone over to St. Peter’s.
“How do you know they are Filipinos?”
“I don’t _know_; they look like two Filipino art students who used to be in Rome. One of them was named Luna. He was the best draughtsman in the studio; he beat everybody at drawing; seemed to have a dash of the Japanese dexterity.”
“Was he any relation to General Luna?”
“Only his brother,” said J. Now that is Rome, and that is J.!
I hurried over to St. Peter’s and caught up with the Filipinos before they had made the third chapel of prayer. They are small, swarthy men; their faces show a strange mingling of races, something of the Malay, he Mongol, the Latin, with a fourth element I did not recognize,--rather deadly looking folk, I thought, but very devout in their behavior at church.
When royalty comes to the Vatican there is a deal of pother. The morning of the King of Siam’s visit to the Pope, we were waked at dawn by the carts fetching the royal yellow sand, and the men spreading it thick over the streets where the wheels of royalty were to pass. The King, whom we saw perfectly, is a fierce-looking little fellow; he was dressed in quite the most lovely uniform I have ever seen; white broadcloth, embroidered in gold. Do you suppose their good clothes are any mitigation to the _ennui_ of sovereigns? I should think they might be.
Easter Sunday, 1900.
We thought we had seen Rome crowded before, but we had not! During the past week, the crowds have been almost inconceivable. By Wednesday all the bathrooms at the Grand Hotel that could be spared had been turned into bedrooms. Last night a pair of travellers slept in the red plush cushioned elevator, and two in the big comfortable hotel omnibus. Cabs are a rare commodity--even the _gobbo_ has deserted us and hired himself out by the week to the pilgrims. The electric cars (did I tell you they had put these pests in under our very windows?) are so jammed that we go for the most part “shanks’ mare.” Many of our friends have let their apartments, and gone away for the rest of the season. We could have got a good price for ours; but in spite of the undeniable inconvenience (the cost of provisions has almost doubled), we would not have missed the experience. The city has been a Babel of foreign tongues, a kaleidescope of foreign faces and costumes. One tastes life as from a goblet filled and brimming over with sparkling, heady wine. That old gogpate, Z----, has let his villa, carriage, servants, even his precious Antonio, the best cook in Rome. He said to J., “I cannot afford to stay in Rome when the price of _filet_ has doubled and I can get my whole year’s rent by letting the villa for three months.”
“We cannot afford _not_ to stay in Rome when it is so interesting,” said J. There you have the two ways of looking at life--the Philistine’s and the artist’s!
We have taken part in a canonization--there remained but that--of all the ceremonials on “that stage of the Church” incomparably the most sumptuous we have seen. When I heard that the new saint’s name was La Salle, stirred by memories of Parkman’s “Discovery of the Great West,” I insisted upon having tickets to one of the private tribunes. I confess it was a disappointment to find that we were making a saint of the wrong Lasalle, _not_ our own René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, but another doubtless excellent person described as “a distinguished educator priest.” You have heard about so many ceremonies that I will only speak of the _river_ of bishops! I did not suppose there were so many bishops in the world. They passed down the vast church in a line of seething white and gold, stretching from the entrance down the nave to the very chair of Peter behind the high altar. Every bishop carried a tall white wax torch, whose yellow flame lighted up his white and gold vestments, his gold-tipped mitre and crozier. I shall never forget that dazzling splendor! I have seen so many of these great pageants that I am rather _blasée_ about them, but those gorgeous bishops in their immaculate white and gold robes outshone even the arrogant vermilion cardinals, the purple canons with their gray fur capes--even that man of ivory and iron, Leo XIII., carried aloft in the Sedia Gestatoria, on the shoulders of six crimson lackeys, the triple crown blazing on his head.
On the 31st of May I happened in to Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, a dear church, built on the ruins of an ancient temple of Minerva. Fra Angelico is buried here (how can his native Fiesole spare his bones)? There is an ancient Greek sarcophagus, with Hercules taming the Nemean lion in relief; there is a picture of Torquemada, the terrible confessor of Isabella; there is an adorable flower-bespattered tomb carved by that sweetest of statuaries, Mino da Fiesole, and a hundred other “features”! In the piazza outside stands an engaging marble elephant, with the smallest of Egyptian obelisks on his back; altogether the place is a good example of what one is forever harking back to,--Rome’s golden blending of things Greek, Egyptian, classic, pagan, early Christian, renaissance, and rococo!
In the pulpit who should be thundering away, whacking the dusty crimson cushions till the beautiful old carved pulpit shook, but our friend the _parroco_! He seemed so much in earnest that I paid two cents for a chair and sat down to listen to him. His subject was the erudition of Mary, “the most learned woman,” he said, “who has ever lived. Her knowledge of languages--she spoke at least twenty--proves this. She is known to have talked with Moabites, Samaritans, Egyptians, and other persons, to the number of twenty different nationalities.” The hypothesis that some of these persons may have spoken Aramaic, Mary’s own language, was not admitted by the preacher.
Coming out after church, I overheard one well-dressed _contadina--senza cappello_ (without a hat), a social grade is marked by the wearing of a hat--say to another peasant woman,--
“My son has preached a new sermon on the Madonna on each of the thirty-one days of her month. He has done well.” I thought he had!
It was the _parroco’s_ mother. She had the same soft dark eyes, the same mouth, the same smile--the mother for whose sake, as he himself told us, he became a priest. “_Poverella_,” he said, “it was her wish; I am all that she has; how could I disappoint her? and she believes that one day I shall receive the cardinal’s hat!”
He had come as he always does, the Saturday before Easter, to bless the house. Pompilia and Filomena had been on their marrow-bones for a week, rubbing, scrubbing, polishing, setting the house in order for the rite. On the kitchen dresser the prescribed food to be eaten on Easter Sunday was neatly arranged: eggs and _mortadella_ for breakfast; lamb, green peas, a certain broth made with lemon and eggs, served only on this day of the year, and the sweet dish already prepared,--what the Italians call _zuppa Inglese_, and we call Italian cream! In a vase were carefully preserved the blossoms of wall flowers, stocks, and violets, from the sepulchre of Holy Thursday at the church near by in the Piazza Scossa Cavalli; these, according to tradition, must deck our Easter dinner table. It was four o’clock when the _parroco_ reached our house. He was very smart in his neat beretta,--a high, square, black silk cap,--his best white linen cotta trimmed with handsome lace, freshly starched and ironed. It was “done up,” I’ll be bound, by that good brown mother of his. He was followed by an imp of a boy with the oddest snub nose, and hair growing almost down to his eyebrows, who made the responses and carried the silver holy-water vessel by a pair of enchanting wrought handles. We formed a procession, headed by the _parroco_ and the imp; next came the _padrona di casa_ (myself); behind me walked Pompilia the cook in the time-honored striped black silk which I had given to Nena, and she, “_per miseria_,” had sold to the cook; after her, Filomena, the prettiest girl in the Borgo, in her best blue frock and a rose in her hair; the procession was brought up in the rear by Nena,--the witch, the snuff-taker, the footman, the mainstay and comfort of the whole household. She had borrowed a clean apron, smoothed her rough, gray hair, and redeemed her coral beads and gold earrings from pawn at the Monte di Pieta. There were flowers everywhere in the house, the terrace had been rifled, roses, roses, roses, red, pink, saffron. In the very best vase were a single white rose from my mother’s favorite tree, the Catherine Cook, and one mammoth pink one from Captain Christy. We marched first to the salon, the most honorable room. The _parroco_ dipped a silver sprinkler in the lustral water, which he sprinkled in four directions, north, south, east, west, saying as he did so, “Bless, O Lord, this place, that in it may be health, chastity, victory, virtue, humility, goodness, sweetness, the fulness of law and thanksgiving, and may this blessing abide in this place and upon all those who dwell herein.”
Whether by chance or intention, a few drops fell upon a group of family portraits hanging on the wall. Our dear sunny chamber was next blessed, then the dining-room, the den, finally the servants’ quarters and the kitchen. In each room the prayer was repeated, the water sprinkled. The _parroco_ was in a hurry, he could not wait to taste a _gocciatino di vino_ or a bit of the _pizze_ Filomena’s mother had sent us from her home in Umbria,--there were many more houses to be blessed before nightfall. We went with him to the door, shook hands, slipping into his palm a small envelope--the imp carried openly the silver plate in which I dropped his share of the modest offering, then with hasty bows and smiles and “_buona pasqua_ (happy Easter)” the pair of them clattered down the long _travertina_ staircase, past the recumbent Etruscan ladies, with their button-like eyes, who guard our stair, leaving me to enjoy our clean, sweet-smelling house. On the terrace an hour later, drinking in the glory of the sunset, came an odd sense of the fitness and familiarity of it all. This blessing the house, the food, the penates, the tools, the effigies of ancestors is the Little Ambervalia Pater describes so deliciously in Marius, the Epicurean; there is, too, an echo in it of the Vestalia, the festival in honor of Vesta, held at the house of the Vestal Virgins on the 9th of June, “after which the temple was closed for five days for ceremonial cleansing!” At home, in God’s own country, the ceremony survives under the name of spring cleaning. It was a wonderful stormy sunset; St. Peter’s and the piazza seen in this ferment of light and shadow recalled a curious allegorical design of Bernini’s, in which the two curving wings of his colonnade are made to suggest the arms of Christ’s Vicar, spread out to enfold the world, Angelo’s dome being worked in as a sort of papal tiara floating over the whole.
THE QUEEN’S VISIT
PALAZZO RUSTICUCCI, ROME, Easter, 1900.
“Buona Pasqua!” said Filomena, when we came into breakfast this morning. Her Easter offering lay on the table, two hard-boiled eggs in a little basket of twisted bread at each plate. Soon after, Pompilia brought her inevitable _regalo_, a pair of lilac tissue paper fans (she has a relative who works in the paper factory). As I passed the door Pompilia’s annual basket of flowers, sent by her cousins every Easter, was brought in. Ignazio, the gardener, met us on the terrace with a pot of the biggest violets I have ever seen.
“Only yourself, Signora, and the Princess Doria, in all Rome, have these magnificent violets, the last novelty from Londra. The Prince has just introduced them. His gardener is my friend; _così_ I am able to offer this _bel’ vasino di fiori_!”
A little later, Lorenzo, Villegas’ factotum, arrived with a basket of lemons from the Villino garden, covered with their own glossy green leaves and intoxicating blossoms; the petals are thick, pink outside, white inside, like orange flowers, only larger, and with a less cloying perfume.
We were up on the terrace in time to see the Host carried through the street; that was not allowed when we first came to live in the Borgo Nuovo. Little by little the old picturesque ceremonies of the Church are creeping back. It is a pretty sight. First march lovely little girls in white, scattering flowers; then come acolytes, deacons, young clerics--I am hazy about their titles--swinging censers, carrying the crucifix and banner; the arch-priest bearing the Sacrament in a golden monstrance, over which he holds protectingly the sides of his long, stiff, embroidered vestment, above his head a white and gold _baldacchino_ supported by four young priests. The whole procession, children, acolytes, priests, attendant women in black veils, went singing across the piazza of St. Peter’s and down our street under a rain of pink and green disks of tissue paper thrown from the windows in lieu of flowers. Across the street Giuseppe, the baker, in white cap and drawers, naked to the waist, stood at his shop door cooling his heated body. Behind him in the dark shop as the boy opened the oven door and fed the flame with armfuls of brushwood, we caught the roar and blaze of fagots in a fiery cavern.
Giuseppe, a radical (the _parroco_ says a Freemason, that means sure damnation) stood at his door as the procession passed and nodded to his little girl, the prettiest of the attendant cherubim, dropping rosebuds. It is pleasant to see one’s daughter chosen before others, and religion is an excellent thing in woman, according to Giuseppe’s philosophy. The crisp, appetizing smell of his hot bread suggested luncheon, which, in honor of the _festa_, was served on the terrace. The atmosphere has been ecstatically clear and golden all day, the view sublime, snow-clad peaks in the distance, the foreground purple, hazy, delicious. The bells of St. Peter’s (silent since Holy Thursday) have made constant music in the air. A fine day, with a trifle too much breeze for dignity; it blows the girls’ curls and draperies, even the scant skirts of the young priest pacing back and forth on the monastery terrace across the way, breviary in hand. He always ignores our presence, looks through us as if we were made of glass; but I catch him gazing with longing eyes at our roses and lilies that nod and gossip behind their screen of ivy; at the passion flowers and honeysuckles, haunts of the bee and butterfly. He knows as well as we do every stage of our roof garden’s history since that day six years ago when we potted the pink ivy geranium and the white carnation from the Campo di Fiori, the beginning of this earthly paradise. We have had a great deal of rain lately, which has been good for the yellow and orange-colored lichens that enamel the tiled roofs all about us, and alas! very good for slugs and snails. As to wall flowers, they simply ramp from every crack and cranny of the gorgeous _cinque cento_ cornice, with its sharp-cut egg and dart (symbols of life and death), fragments of which still cling to the inner walls of our courtyard. The wild flowers run riot over the Corridojo di Castello, the quaint old fortified passage leading from the Vatican to the Castel Sant’ Angelo. The Corridojo, built of tufa stone, is two stories high; the upper story is open like a loggia, the lower closed, with little slits to let in the light. Just behind our Palazzo the Corridojo crosses a back street by an enchanting arch, with the arms of the Pope who built or restored it carved on a stone escutcheon. In the old days the passage was used in time of danger as an escape from the Vatican to the fortress of Sant’ Angelo; the Pope himself always kept the keys, according to Patsy, who dropped in for tea and _maritozzi_ and gave us a discourse on the subject.
“Who keeps the keys now?” I asked.
“_Chi lo sa?_ Since 1870 the Corridojo has been walled up. I once got a peep into it. ’T is going to wrack and ruin, which is a shame and disgrace.”
“Whose fault is it?”
“_Chi lo sa?_ Lay it to the municipality,--they deserve a few extra curses thrown in for luck, on account of the artificial rockwork with which they are defacing the Pincio and the Janiculum.”
“Perhaps the Corridojo is no-man’s-land, now that the Vatican belongs to the Pope and the fortress to the King?”
“_Chi lo sa?_” said Patsy again. “When the Italians came to Rome they meant to leave the Borgo under the temporal control of the papacy. Consequently at the first plebiscite (October 2, 1870) no urn was provided for the Borgo’s vote. You don’t suppose a fellow like that,” he pointed to the baker, “would let such a little thing keep him out of United Italy? The first returns of the day were brought in from this, the fourteenth, _rione_ (ward), by two strapping fellows, who marched up to the Capitol carrying between them a big urn with the votes from the Borgo. I have heard that your friend the baker’s father was one of them.”
“And this morning that man’s granddaughter walked in the procession of the Sacrament!”
“For the matter of that, here comes Prince Nero’s grandson wearing the King’s uniform. Both Blacks and Whites, _Dio grazie_, are fast fading into Grays.”
Beppino, very stiff in his military togs, was shown up on the terrace by Nena the shabby, who always manages to open the door to fashionable visitors.
“How do you like your service, Beppino? Your uniform is very becoming,” I began.
“I don’t like it at all! Fancy being obliged to clean one’s own horse, to polish one’s own boots--it’s not to be endured!”
It has to be endured; and, moreover, Beppino is enormously improved by his six months’ endurance of the obligatory military service. Those fiery brown eyes of his have grown serious.
“Is it true that you voted at the last election?” asked Patsy.
“It is true,” said Beppino.
“How did your grandfather take it?” Patsy persisted.
“I asked the Prince’s leave,” Beppino replied. “He said that for thirty years he had obeyed the Pope and abstained from voting, that he was too old to change his politics, but that I was free to do as I liked.”
“How do you account for such an extraordinary change of heart?”
“It’s all the Queen’s doing; she is so good; she is so clever. We Italians owe more to her than to any one alive to-day!”
Beppino is the son of the son of one of the stoutest pillars of the Church.
“_Avanti la caccia_ (On with the chase)!” Patsy and I had been snail hunting when Beppino came up.
“Here is a sharp stick; if you run it round under the edge of the flower-pot you will get them quicker. Snail, I condemn you to the parabolic death!” Beppino threw a large fat snail out over the terrace wall. “That’s the easiest way; it spares our feelings and gives the snail a chance for his life. He disappears in a parabolic curve; he may fall upon a passing load of hay and be carried away to batten upon other rose-leaves.”
Suddenly, like thunder out of a clear sky, there appeared upon the peaceful terrace the _parroco_, with two black-a-vised French priests, preceded and announced by Nena. The _parroco_ apologized; he said the gentlemen were anxious to see our view. The elder Frenchman never looked at the view at all, but examined the walls of the palace in a way I did not like. The _parroco_ is always a welcome, if scarcely an easy guest. I hated his friends; they glanced with so indifferent an eye at the flowers and seemed so much more interested in the chimneys that J. and Lorenzo had cleverly contrived to keep me warm. When at last the three black figures disappeared down the terrace stairs, we other three drew a long breath.
“Good riddance,” said Patsy.
“You have not seen the last of their cassocks nor them,” said Beppino (he had an English nurse and governess, and speaks rather better English than most people). “I believe they mean to buy the palazzo over your heads. When will your lease be up?”
“In September; but we have the right to renew.”
“No Roman lease holds in case of sale,” said Beppino. “You will find that clause in your contract. You will see I am right. Some time ago _Sua Santita_ requested such religious orders as had no house in Rome to establish one here. During the _Anno Santo_ many have acted on the hint and bought property in Rome. I heard my grandfather say there were some French monks looking out for a place near the Vatican. This is just the sort of thing that would suit them.”
Was not that a thunder clap? Characteristic too that Beppino, the astute Roman, should first suspect it. When J. came home from the studio and heard of the priests’ visit, he said: “Beppino is right; the Palazzo Rusticucci will be transformed into a monastery. They have already turned Mr. Vedder out of his studio after twenty years; we shall be the next to go.”
I can’t and won’t believe that this may be our last Easter here. Just as terrace and house have grown to fit us like soul and body, to be turned out into the bare, ugly world of hotels,--impossible!
The other day when I was at the studio J. told me that in consequence of the disappearance of ten francs he had finally decided to part with Pietro. He has often arrived at this decision before, but the creature, with a sort of uncanny second sight, always disarms him just in time by some act of faithfulness, some pretty attention; for Pietro is one of those Italians with a real genius for service. I happened to be at the studio when he applied to J. for the place and overheard their conversation.
“Signorino,” Pietro began, “you are my unique hope; do not abandon me, the poor _disgraziato_ you have befriended so long: I regard you as my father.” (Pietro is at least twenty years older than J.)
“Where have you been all this time?” J. asked.
“Signorino, it is necessary for me to tell you the truth, or some unsympathetic person might do so: I have been in prison, though I am quite innocent.”
“What were you charged with?”
“It was that affair with Fagiolo the model; you perhaps remember.”
“The time you bit Fagiolo in the leg and gave him such a _coltellata_ (stab) that he had to be sent to San Giacomo (the hospital)? I remember.”
“_La storia era molto esaggerata, però non potevo mai vedere quell’uomo_ (The story was much exaggerated, but I never could bear the sight of that man).”
J. remembered the affair, and thought Pietro had been rather hardly dealt with.
“Since I was discharged it is impossible to find employment; nobody wants a man, however innocent, who has been in prison.”
“Where is your wife?”
“_Aimé!_ was there ever so unfortunate a man? Zenobia, who, as you know, is a good seamstress and my sole means of support, broke her leg yesterday; this morning they carried her to the hospital of the Santo Spirito.”
J. engaged him on the spot, and Pietro has been in charge of the studio ever since. He has done very well; the only trouble has been that small sums of money, cigarettes, and boxes of matches are always disappearing. J. has spoken several times to Pietro about it. He always denies having taken anything. J. feels very half hearted about sending him away; he says that it will be impossible for the man to get another situation if he dismisses him for stealing. Besides, except for the pilfering, Pietro is the very man for the place; he takes good care of the studio, knows all about cleaning palettes and washing brushes, keeps the courtyard neat and full of such growing things as can exist with the little sun that penetrates to it, and is devoted to J.’s happy family, which just now consists of Checca, the lame jackdaw, bought from some boys in the street who were tormenting her, a pair of ducks, a stray black dog, and the prettiest maltese kitten you ever saw.
The jackdaw, a most diverting bird, is as curious as a coon. The other day she flew up on the easel from behind and pecked a hole in the picture on which J. was working. She put her closed bill through the canvas, then opened it wide, which made a straight up and down tear, to which the creature put her ridiculous eye and peeped through to see what J. was doing.
“Do you really think Pietro is the thief?” I asked. “It would be too suicidal in him to throw away his last chance!”
“Just what Pietro says,” answered J., “but who else can it be? There is a Yale lock to the door with two keys; I keep one, Pietro the other.”
While we were talking about him, Pietro came in to move an old stove which had stood in the corner of the studio all winter without being lighted. J. is sending it with other household stuff to the auction room. As Pietro moved the stove its door swung open and out rolled a quantity of cigarettes, matches, silver and copper coin, paint rags, orange peel, and among the rubbish a brand new ten-franc note.
“Caw, Caw!” screamed Checca, flapping across the floor and scolding at Pietro.
“_Ah! Madonna dei setti dolori!_” Pietro, swearing horribly, fell upon his knees, clasped his hands, invoked every holy thing he knew.
“_Santa Maria, eccomi vindicato! Ah ladrone! Ah birborne_ (Behold me vindicated. O thief! O villain)!”
“Caw, Caw!” screamed Checca, pecking at Pietro’s legs. He was at first ready to wring her neck; then he grew lachrymose and tender.
“_Ah! Ah! Pietro sfortunato! Guardi, Signora mia_, was I not born unlucky? First I am sent to prison on the false oath of a rascally man. _Adesso, anche la gazza m’inganna, mi perseguita_, (Now even the jackdaw deceives me, persecutes me)!”
Plumped down on his knees there in the middle of the studio, poor Pietro began to cry like a baby. It ended in his getting the ten-franc note as a _mancia_, and Checca’s being so stuffed with good things that she is in a state of coma and on the verge of apoplexy. Truth really is stranger than fiction. I never before had much faith in the Jackdaw of Rheims.
June 10, 1900.
As we sat at dinner last night a messenger from the Casa Reale was announced. J. went out to receive him in person. He had brought a letter from a great personage at court to say that the Queen would come to the studio the next day to see J.’s decoration for the Boston Public Library. That was rather short notice for such an honor, but we did all we could to make the old barrack of a studio fit to receive the dear and lovely lady. We were up at dawn. Pietro had already turned the hose on the brick paved floors and stone steps. The first thing in the morning we were warned by the police that no one, not even our servants, must know of the visit beforehand, so we gave it out that Lord Curry, the British Ambassador, was coming to the studio, which was quite true. J. had called up the Embassy, and Lord Curry had promised, by telephone, to be on hand.
We telephoned the Signora Villegas asking if she could spare Lorenzo, who turned up at eleven with, I should think, every flower the Villino garden contained. The bouquet for the Queen I made myself of flowers from the terrace, gardenias, passion flowers, and maidenhair fern. We sent over to the studio from the house the fine old Portuguese leather armchair in which my mother sat to Villegas for her portraits some rugs, and the gold screens Isabel and Larz brought us from Japan.
You never saw a more squalid street than the Borgo Sant’ Angelo. I very much doubt if the Queen had ever entered so queer a door as the little antique green studio door with the modern Yale lock. The studio is up two long flights of stairs, with an iron railing, quite like a prison stair. If we had been given longer notice we could have done more to make things presentable; but that was a mere detail. The main thing was that the afternoon was fine, the light perfect. The days here are so much longer than at home that the hour named, six o’clock, was the very best in the twenty-four to see the pictures. We had never really believed that the Queen would come to the studio, though we had heard of her interest in seeing the work. There is a sort of tradition that the royal family very rarely come over to the Borgo, out of regard for the feelings of the Pope. During the day one and another secret service man in plain clothes arrived in the Borgo on their bicycles, and lounged about the street corners or in the cafés. At five several _guardie_ in uniform arrived. We went over to the studio at half-past five in order to be in time to receive Lord Curry. J. went by the Borgo Nuovo and stopped at the front of the Palazzo Giraud Torlonia (the studio, you remember, is in the rear of the palace, with an entrance on the back street, Borgo Sant’ Angelo) to ask the proud young porter of the Torlonia to open the studio door, and generally stand by us. The Haywards, who live on the _piano nobile_, are the swells of the Borgo; they pay the proud young porter his wages, and they are in close relation with the Vatican. Fortunately they were out of town and never knew that we borrowed their porter to open the door to the Queen.
“The _Ambasciatore Inglese_ and other _personnaggi_ of importance are to visit my studio presently; do me the favor to open the door for them,” said J.
“_Volontiere, Signore mio, un momento_; I will change my coat and be with you instantly!”
The nearest way from the front of the Torlonia to the back is by the Vicolo dell’ Erba, a narrow little alley which runs beside the palace. We never use it--’t is so evil smelling, badly paved, and generally poverty stricken--unless we are in a great hurry. J. being pressed for time naturally took the _vicolo_. He happened to be wearing a red cravat,--in Italy, especially in Rome, supposed to be the badge of the anarchists and avoided by the Romans, and, one would fancy, by the anarchists accordingly. Of course all the _guardie_ of our quarter know the _pittore Inglese_ by sight, but the extra ones detailed for the day did not. Hurrying through the _vicolo_, J. ran round the corner into the Borgo Sant’ Angelo, and into the arms of one of these extraneous _guardie_, ordered to be on the lookout for suspicious characters. His eye caught the red cravat.
“_Scusi, Signore_; where might you be going in such a hurry?”
“I am going to No. 125, Borgo Sant’ Angelo.”
“You have business of importance there, or you would not be in so much haste?”
“Yes; I am late for an appointment.”
“That is a private matter and one which does not concern----”
At this hectic moment the proud young porter came hurrying along the _vicolo_, buttoning his gold-laced coat as he ran. He took in the situation at a glance, and with the exquisite tact of his people went bail for the _pittore Inglese_ without seeming to do so.
“Is there anything I can do for you in the studio, Signore, before their excellencies arrive?” he asked.
“You know this gentleman?” demanded the _guardia_ suspiciously.
“Know him! I have known him all my life! It is the gentleman who occupies the studio in the rear of the palace.”
“A thousand pardons, Signore,” said the _guardia_, with a magnificent military salute. J. had to thank the porter for not having been detained as “a suspicious person” during the time of the Queen’s visit to his studio.
A minute or two before the appointed hour we all went down into the vestibule. There was an odd hushed feeling in the street: a watering cart had just passed, the square gray cobble-stones were still wet, the air moist. Pietro had found time to pull up the weeds and grass from the pavement (worn into ruts by centuries of cart-wheels) in front of our door, and to clear away the bits of water-melon rind which the boys of the Borgo use as roller skates, in a game that I believe is indigenous to our quarter. Just as the bells of the Castle Sant’ Angelo were ringing six, we heard the jingling of chains and the sound of tramping horses. We were all on the sidewalk as the carriage with the scarlet liveries drew up before the studio. The proud young porter, his hand on the knob of the studio door, made the most sumptuous bow as the footman opened the door of the landeau. Lord Curry handed out the Queen,
From a pastel drawing in the Collection of Mrs. David Kimball]
[Illustration: From a Copley Print. Copyright, 1899, by Curtis & Cameron, Publishers, Boston.]
presented J., then gave her his arm and led her up the dreadful long stair. Her lady in waiting, the Duchess Massimo, and the gentleman of the court in attendance, followed, looking aghast and rather scornful at the queer steps; but the royal lady never flinched; she walked up the stairway with as gay and light a step as if she were treading the red carpet of the Quirinale. Once in the studio one lost sight of the royal personage in the _connoisseur_, the lover and patron of art. It is no wonder that the artists look upon her as their friend. To her art is one of the serious concerns of life, one of the matters which it is her duty as a sovereign, as the mother of her people, to foster by every means in her power.
She looked at the decoration from every point of view, asked many questions about its destination. She knew of the Boston Public Library, and said many pleasant things of it, and of J.’s ceiling for it. She liked the funny old studio, with its big fireplace, its enormous window, and explored it with the fresh curiosity of a young girl. She asked what this and what that picture was, insisted on being shown canvases that stood with their faces to the wall. J.’s drawing of Dante and the death mask from which it was made interested her deeply; she is evidently a student of the divine poet. The portrait of the Duke of Cambridge which J. made last spring was standing on an easel. She laughed heartily when she saw it, and said, “It is so exactly like the old man that it makes me laugh.”
They stayed half an hour. Part of that time the Queen sat in the old Portuguese leather chair which our own dear mother queen always sat in when she was with us. As they went away, the Duchess Massimo said to me, “I assure you the Queen has been much interested and much pleased.”
We all went down to the carriage; the Borgo was one compact mass of people. We watched the carriage drive away, caught the sweet parting smile of our lovely visitor, and then went back to the studio to talk it all over. In a few minutes two of our best friends turned up. They had come over by chance to have tea at the studio, and had received quite a sensation at seeing the royal carriage with the scarlet liveries standing before the shabby old green door and the Borgo crammed with the Roman populace.
July 16, 1900.
Saturday evening as we sat at dinner another messenger from the Casa Reale was announced. He brought a letter from the Countess Villamarina, the Queen’s maid of honor, to J., in which she begged to send him, in the name of her “august sovereign,” the accompanying jewel for his wife, in memory of her visit to the studio. The jewel is a medallion of dark blue enamel, with M., the Queen’s initial, in diamonds, with a royal crown above it. On the reverse are the arms of Savoy, the red cross on the white field, the whole surrounded by a hoop of diamonds hanging from a bar of diamonds, set as a brooch, and very elegant.
J. says that we cannot afford to stay in the Borgo if we remain in Rome, we must move to a new quarter. Ever since the Queen’s visit, the _gobbo_, our favorite cabby, has called him Signor Marchese, and expects a larger _mancia_ than he can afford to give.
STRAWBERRIES OF NEMI
LAKE OF NEMI, July 8, 1900.
The _fruttajola_ of the Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina, and the waiter of the Café di Roma are responsible for our coming to Nemi. I like to linger chaffering in the _fruttajola’s_ shop (at this season it smells of strawberries and apricots) not only because she has the best fruit in Rome but because she has three of the prettiest daughters--the youngest looks as the Fornarina, the baker’s daughter beloved of Raphael, might have looked. When the _fruttajola_ was young she must have been even handsomer than her daughters, though their cheeks seem like duplicates of the peaches and nectarines they handle so daintily; she has an intensity of expression, a look of power that none of her girls have.
“You tell me these strawberries are from Nemi,” I said; “how is that possible? For the past month you have sold me strawberries from Nemi, always from Nemi! All over Rome I see the strawberries of Nemi advertised. Is it likely now that a little town like Nemi can supply such a great city as Rome with strawberries all these many weeks?”
You see I remembered what the Tuscan wine grower said to us about the wine of Chianti. The _fruttajola_ tossed her handsome head. “Signora, you have but to see Nemi to understand!” she said, laying on the counter a little blue paper box she had been making and lining with grape leaves as she talked and which she now filled with purple figs and yellow _nespole_. That night, wishing to give our servants “an evening off,” we dined at the Café di Roma. Of course we had the inevitable dishes of this season, chicken, hunter’s fashion (braised, with green peppers), salad of tomato and endive, finishing off with strawberries from Nemi, and of course the cream was too thin. J. asked Leandro, the waiter who always serves us, if it was not possible to get better cream. He has often asked the same question before.
“Signore,” said Leandro, “this cream comes from the dairy next door. We always order the best for you, and this is what they send us. Why do you not yourself step in and speak to the proprietor? He will take more pains for you than for me.” Pricked by memories of Jersey cream which those ravishing strawberries evoked, J. sought the _padrone_ of the dairy.
“Is it not possible to have thicker cream than that you send to the restaurant?” he asked. The man looked surprised. “The Signore desires thicker cream? Why, of course, it is possible to have the cream as thick as he wishes, only have a moment’s patience.” As he spoke the _padrone_ took up a fine hair sieve, put into it a lump of some soft white stuff which he mashed with a big spoon into a paste; this he passed through the sieve, every now and then letting a few drops fall out of the spoon to show how thick the cream had become.
“Is that thick enough, Signore?” he finally asked.
“Quite thick enough, thank you,” said poor J. grimly. “Will you do me the favor of telling me what you use to thicken the cream?”
“But surely! Various things are used; the best is this that you see, the brains of a young calf nicely boiled.”
When J. came back to the restaurant he said that, on the whole, he preferred his strawberries with wine and sugar, as the Romans eat them. The waiter pushed a flask hung on a swivel towards him; J. drowned his plate in a flood of red Genzano. Isn’t it odd that in Roman restaurants wine is sold by weight? Leandro weighed the flask before putting it on the table, and again when he took it off after dinner.
In order to make conversation I said, “Leandro, do you know where these strawberries really come from?”
“Do I know? They are from my own town, it may be from our own land! the proprietor of this restaurant buys oil, fruit, and wine of my uncle, who lives at Nemi. I myself have a little property at Nemi. The oil the Signora had of me came from there. Ah! you should see Nemi, you should eat the strawberries fresh from the vines.”
That settled it; we had been promising ourselves a little Fourth of July outing somewhere in the country, so the next day we took the train for Albano and drove over to Nemi, where we are decently settled at the Trattoria Desanctis.
Nemi is an enchanting little mediæval town perched high above the edge of the Lake of Nemi called by the ancients the Mirror of Diana. Sitting in the terraced garden of the old castle of the Orsini, near our inn, you look down the steep sides of the crater of an extinct volcano, over three hundred feet, to the lake, a big sparkling sapphire, three miles in circumference, lying at the bottom of a green enamelled cup. There is no soil in the world, the landlord says, quite as rich as this volcanic soil. Every inch of the land is highly cultivated, and here, _here_ on the sloping sides of the old volcano grow the wild and the tame strawberries of Nemi. I trust it is not necessary to tell you that the wild ones are by far the best. We clambered down a steep path jewelled with wild flowers to the very edge of Diana’s mirror. I dipped my hand in the clear cold water. It is hard to realize that where this gemlike lake now sparkles in the sunlight there was once a pit of fire, that the sides where the pleasant strawberries grow were once coated with a velvet bloom of sulphur like the crater of Vesuvius. We turned and looked up the slope; a breeze ruffled the green leaves and exposed the vines beneath, laden with myriads of strawberries, red as rubies. As the _fruttajola_ foretold, I now understand how the little town of Nemi supplies the big city of Rome with strawberries.
[Illustration: _The Palace of the Orsini at Nemi_
From a photograph]
The lake is more than one hundred feet deep and is drained by an artificial emissarium--ancient Roman, of course. The peasants say that the lake has no bottom. As there is a sort of whirlpool in the middle from the suction of the water into the emissarium, it is considered unsafe for boating or bathing. There is a story of a mad Englishman who tried to swim across and was never seen again, his body having been sucked down into the bowels of the earth--not a bad way of disposing of it. A few years ago they found the remains of a Roman state barge at the bottom of the lake. The bronze ornaments and even part of the wooden walls were intact. The barge was presumably used as a float in some imperial pageant of old Rome.
At sunset the women and girls who had been busy all day gathering fruit began to pass by our inn, bearing vast loads of fragrant strawberries on their heads. The berries are picked into flat wide baskets with handles, through which a long stick is passed, joining together the ten or twelve baskets that constitute a load. As each sun-browned wench trudged past, our eyes were rejoiced with a superb flare of scarlet, and our noses--ah! nothing in this world has ever tasted so good as the strawberries of Nemi smell.
Just where the white highroad, following the line of the old crater, curves and is hidden by a group of dark ilex trees, the women halted beside the line of gay painted carts waiting to carry the strawberries to Rome. We discovered the _carretta_ of Leandro’s uncle, a fine affair painted blue and yellow, with long shafts and a comfortable seat beneath a red and white striped awning. Oreste, the driver, a shrewd peasant, in spite of his loutish, grumpy manner, has a certain family resemblance to his cousin the waiter, but how contact with the world has sharpened Leandro’s wits, polished his manners! Oreste and Leandro! Don’t you love the classic names? They linger here in the country and help to bring back to you Theocritus and the golden age of Magna Grecia.
“At what hour do you start?” J. asked Oreste.
“At ten o’clock.”
“It must be a very long drive; do you not get dreadfully tired? what time do you reach Rome?”
Oreste answered my remarks in the order they were put.
“The distance is twenty miles; when I am tired I sleep; with luck I shall reach the gates of Rome by four o’clock in the morning.”
“Who minds the cart while you sleep?”
“Lupetto here;” he patted the dearest little dog on the seat beside him. Lupetto looks like a young fox, he has the brightest eyes, the smallest pointed ears, and a soft furry tan coat clipped like a lion’s.
“As long as Lupetto is quiet and I hear this music,” he touched with his long carter’s whip the string of bells round the horse’s neck, “I doze in peace. When the bells stop jingling or Lupetto barks I rouse myself to find out what is the matter.”
“Have you ever been robbed?”
“That sometimes happens with a load of wine, but with fruit, no. Everybody knows that I never carry money and that I have a good knife!” he drew the knife from his boot and ran his thumb along the blade, testing the sharpness of the edge.
The moon, a golden sickle, hung low in the sky, the big soft stars seemed nearer to the earth than usual. Lupetto gave an impatient little bark, the horse stirred uneasily, jingling his bells. The last basket of strawberries had been loaded on the cart; it was clearly time to be off. Oreste gathered up his reins and whistled to his horse.
“_Felice notte_ (A happy night).” He grunted the pretty greeting to us over his shoulder awkwardly. After watching Oreste with his two best friends, his horse and his dog, start on the long night journey to Rome, we went back to the castle garden, where our landlord treated us to anecdotes touching that interesting family, the Orsini.
Everything comes to him who knows how to wait! Ever since we first went to live at the Palazzo Rusticucci I have longed to climb to the top of Monte Cavo, the highest of the Alban hills. From our terrace you can see the front of the old Passionist monastery on its summit glinting white in the sun. Yesterday the long waiting came to an end and I have seen my Carcassonne! We reached the summit after a two hours’ walk up the old Via Triumphalis--the steep paved way along which the Roman generals once passed to celebrate the military triumphs at the temple of Jupiter Latiaris, which stood at the top of Monte Cavo. It is a wonderful road; in some places the old basalt pavement is as good as on the day when it was laid, some time “before the year one”! Truly a glorious walk, with sudden splendid vistas over plain and mountains, and cool odorous groves where we found the wild heartsease, sensitive ethereal flowers, poor relations of our fat, stall-fed purple and gold terrace pansies. A good bath of nature, such as we had climbing the flanks of Monte Cavo, makes man and all his works--even the higher cultivation of flowers--seem a vain thing. We passed the vast crater of another extinct volcano called the Camp of Hannibal, who according to local tradition once bivouacked here. In a few days the garrison will come from Rome for its annual summer camping out, and Beppino, our fascinating young friend with the burning brown eyes, will pitch his tent possibly on the very spot where Hannibal slept.
The temple of Jupiter is gone; its ruins were destroyed by Cardinal York, one of the last of the Stuarts, in 1777, when he built the monastery. Was not that trying of him? and so inappropriate too, for whatever their faults may have been the Stuarts have always been protectors of the arts. Half of the monastery is now a government meteorological station, the other half an inn, which concerned us more. We ordered supper and while waiting for it moused about in the old garden till we found the little that remains of the temple, a few fragments of the foundation and some pieces of marble roughly built into the garden wall. “_Sic transit gloria mundi_,” the temple is gone, the monastery too; meanwhile remain eggs in black butter for hungry travellers, and the imperishable beauty of the view. The wise old monks always chose the most magnificent sites for their monasteries. Good air and a fine outlook were what they held to be essential; they found the ideal site, and somehow screwed up the real to fit it. Do you know a better rule for building one’s house? I do not.
How do you suppose it felt after having been grilled alive on the stones of Rome for a month, to borrow a shawl from the landlady, in order to sit out after sunset and enjoy the wonderful prospect? Below, at the foot of Monte Cavo, lay the lakes of Albano and Nemi, darkly blue where they were not silver, and far, far off, a pale blue bubble on the horizon, gleamed the dome of St. Peter’s. If we could have borrowed a spyglass from the meteorological bureau, I am sure we could have made out the white columns of our terrace in the shadow of the great dome. When it grew too cold to sit out, the landlady showed us to a pair of tiny stone cells. In the watches of the night I knocked on the thick wall that separated us, “for company,” as some lonely Passionist monk may have rapped a greeting to a brother in the dark winter nights of long ago. In spite of the odor of sanctity (stronger here than I have ever known it), hardness of bed, flabbiness of pillow, in spite of the keen chill before dawn, that one cool night in the old Passionist monastery will remain a delicious memory when the hot pavements of a Roman July are forgotten!
Early the next morning we made the descent by a short cut, a steep path that brought us out on the highway not far from Nemi.
Near the town we overtook Oreste on his way back from Rome. He had drawn up his cart in an olive grove and was examining the fruit on the trees. Lupetto, whose turn it was to sleep, lay snugly curled up on the seat. We sat down to rest in the pleasant shade of the gray green leaves. There are twelve aged olive trees in the grove, and another larger and more picturesque than the rest originally belonging to the same group, standing alone, on the other side of the white high road. The trunk of this old tree is almost hollow, a mere shell of shaggy bark. The knotted roots reach out an amazing distance from the stem before they grip the earth. The twisted trunk and limbs look like a tortured human being with uplifted arms, and suggest the men turned to trees of the Inferno.
“This is the finest olive tree I have seen in Italy,” J. said. Oreste gloomily assented.
“It is a noble tree worth any three of the others. See how many olives it has. Leandro will come soon to gather them.”
“Your cousin, Leandro?”
“Yes; this is his tree. My grandfather of blessed memory who owned these thirteen trees had thirteen children. When he died he left one olive tree to each child. The mother of Leandro was his favorite daughter, there is no denying that, and to her he left this tree, though by good rights it should have come to the eldest son, my father. They quarrelled at the time, but my uncle the priest patched things up between them, he said it was a disgrace for kindred to quarrel over an inheritance. All very well for him to preach,--priests are obliged to, that is how they earn their living. I was a mere child, or the matter would not have been so easily settled, I can tell you. It is too late now; this famous tree is Leandro’s, I must content myself with that blighted one yonder, plainly the poorest of the lot.”
“Your tree has not been so well cared for as the others,” J. said. “Look how wisely these branches have been pruned. The sun reaches every part.” The branches in the middle of the big olive had been neatly cut away leaving an open space the shape of a cup in the centre.
“There may be something in what you say,” grumbled Oreste, “indeed I have little time to care for my property. I must always be on the road, now with wine, now with olives, now with strawberries. Besides, I have not Leandro’s opportunities; he sells to the strangers!”
“We will try your oil; bring the first you make to the Palazzo Rusticucci.” On this we parted. We shall see Oreste in Rome before long and ascertain if the oil from his tree is as good as that of the famous old patriarch tree which we have had in other years from Leandro. To know the vines that bear your grapes and the trees that give your olives and oil is the next best thing to owning them, don’t you think?
The most interesting person we have met in Nemi is an old soldier of Garibaldi’s. We were watching the sunset from the terrace of the inn one evening, when we fell into talk with him. He is a grave, thoughtful man; stern of expression, slow of speech, not quite like any other Italian I have ever known. He walks with a cane, and stoops badly; I am sure if he could stand upright he would measure six feet two inches in height. His face is a network of wrinkles, he has an ugly red scar across one cheek.
The conversation beginning with the weather soon changed to politics. At first he spoke in English, of which he has a small stock of words. Something was said about the Pope and the temporal power. He bristled all over, growing red as a turkey cock as he said,--
“The Popay as a Popay, very welley; the Popay as a Kingay, not at alley!”
After this he relapsed into Italian and would not be induced to speak more English. Cruel, was it not? He is gloomy enough about the present political situation; pessimistic about the future.
He spoke with slow cold anger of a recent act of the Italian parliament, which he cannot forgive.
“They to pass a vote of censure on Francesco Crispi! The whole lot of them are not worth one finger of his hand!” he said.
“Everybody knows that it was the result of a political cabal against Crispi.”
“No, not everybody; some are wholly ignorant and others forget! We who were with him in Sicily, where he was as the right hand of Garibaldi, know the man for what he is. He has been insulted, and his friends will be slow to forget the insult.”
“You also were in Sicily with Garibaldi?”
“I am one of the Thousand.”
It was as if he had said “I am one of the Three Hundred of Thermopylæ,” or the “Six Hundred of Balaclava!” It was electrifying to find oneself in the company of one of those “few and good men” who sailed with Garibaldi from Quarto, on the 5th of May, 1860, landed six days later at Marsala under the protection of the British gunboats Intrepid and Argus, made the glorious march to Palermo, and freed Sicily and Naples from the hateful yoke of the Bourbons.
“I have heard that you of the Thousand loved your chief as if he had been your father; is this true?”
“Our acts, not merely our words, proved it to be true. We would have died for him to the last man. Even the women and priests wanted to take up arms and follow Garibaldi. You know the story of the nuns? A whole convent of nuns, from the old mother abbess to the youngest novice, gave him the kiss of peace, they would not be denied!” He grew visibly younger as he talked, there was fire in the man; it took but the breath of our sympathy to blow the embers to a flame.
“Was that scar on your cheek made by an Austrian or a French bayonet?” He rubbed the old wound with a stiff hand smiling grimly to himself. “By neither--worse yet! At Calatafini, when the royal troops--they were Neapolitans--had exhausted their cartridges, they threw stones at us. Have you not heard what Garibaldi said of that action? ‘The old misfortune, a fight between Italians, but it proves to me what can be done with this family united.’ One day while the chief was watering his horse at a spring a Franciscan friar suddenly appeared among us. Some of the men tried to arrest him, but he forced his way to the chiefs side, threw himself on his knees, and begged to be taken along with us. There were some who believed him an enemy in disguise, but the man, his name was Fra Pantaleo, did good service and proved true as steel!”
As long as the talk is of the old time our ancient soldier is a hero; when it touches to-day he degenerates into a grumbler. He seems less dissatisfied with the army than with most things modern. “My grandson is serving his four years. Where do you suppose his regiment is quartered? In Milan; that is as it should be, the North and the South must know each other. It is well to send the men of Sicily to Piedmont and the Piedmontese to Sicily. In this manner they may learn that they are before all things Italians.”
The veterans who fought for the Unification of Italy are treated very much as we treat the veterans who fought for the preservation of our Union; they are scolded, laughed at, loved, and forgiven many things that would be unpardonable in others. On national holidays the old Garibaldians turn out in their red shirts, white kerchiefs, and peaked caps. They are fewer now, their blouses have faded to a softer red than when I first saw them in the year 1878, mustered to meet Garibaldi, already mortally ill, when he came up from rocky Caprera to Rome for the funeral of Victor Emanuel, the man he had made King of Italy. I remember it as if it had all happened yesterday. We were in the square outside the railroad station when he arrived. The Piazza di Termini was packed with silent people waiting patiently hour after hour. At last we heard the whistle of an engine; the crowd was shaken by a murmur, “Garibaldi has come!”
A landeau was driven across the piazza at a footpace, Garibaldi lay across the carriage, his head raised on a pillow. He wore the classic gray felt hat and the red blouse. At first his eyes were closed as if he were in pain. His face reminded one that God made man in His own image. The features were fine and firm, the hair and beard were a rich silver, the complexion white and rose, like a child’s. He was always described as “bronzed”; the delicacy came from his long illness. Once he opened his eyes, those who stood near caught an eagle’s glance. A tall woman lifted her child high over her head, whispering to it, “Never, never, never forget that thou hast seen the face of Garibaldi.” There was no applause; many women, some men were weeping. As the carriage passed, the guard of honor, his old companions in arms, closed around it. F., who was near us in the crowd, was singing under his breath the words of the old Carbonari song,
“_Zitto! silenzio, chi passa la ronda? evviva la republica, evviva liberta_ (Hush, silence! Who passes the patrol? Long live the republic, and long live liberty)!”
I wonder if F. remembers! He is a Pope’s man now and denies the virtue of republics.
I described this scene to our old soldier; his bloodshot eyes grew redder yet as he said gruffly,--
“I too was there!”
* * * * *
To-morrow we go back to Rome. We have ordered a basket of strawberries to take with us. I have written to the _gobbo_ to meet us at the station; as we pass the _fruttajola’s_ shop I shall stop and tell her that I now understand all about the strawberries of Nemi.
PALAZZO RUSTICUCCI, ROME, July 14, 1900.
This summer I am again trying the Roman method of supineness; I eat very little, sleep a great deal, and keep mostly indoors. Last year I exhausted myself with bicycling and other violent exercise. The English and German residents recommend this energetic course, but I find that the Romans are right. The terrace is too lovely, ablaze with marigolds, cannas, cockscombs, balsams, oleanders, and portulacas. Our only failure has been the dahlias, which all died. The vines are all doing famously; the red honeysuckle which J. dug up (in the very face of the white bull) at the Villa Madama, has grown to an astonishing size. Our large passion-flower vine covered half the terrace pergola; it had out-grown the largest flower-pot that is made, so to save its life J. gave it to Signor Boni for the Roman forum. Four men carried it downstairs. It was tragic to see the beautiful branches broken and trailing as they put it in a cart and drove it away.
This is the beginning of the end! Beppino was right, the Palazzo Rusticucci is sold to a brotherhood of French monks, and we must deliver up the apartment and the terrace to them on the first day of September. Many of our beloved plants will be bought by friends, others we shall give away. The honeysuckles and some of the roses follow the passion-flower to the forum; others go to the garden of the American School of Archæology, where the dear Nortons will care for them, and some to the Spanish Academy, where the Signora Villegas will have an eye to them.
Camphoring goes on to-day; the general wretchedness of “things in the saddle” is in the air. How stupidly we complicate life by acquiring fleeces of Miletus and other perishable objects. How to dispose of the accumulations of all these years? Diogenes had the right of it. In future a tub and the sunlight will suffice me.
This afternoon as we were sitting comfortably together in the big old studio (the coolest place in Rome) enjoying our tea, Signor Boni threw a bombshell into our camp.
“I notice,” he said, “that those cracks in the wall have widened perceptibly since I was last here.”
The studio is forty feet high, sixty feet long. Among the jocose charcoal sketches scrawled on the walls certain evil-looking cracks zigzag from the high-pitched wooden roof to the red brick pavement. When we first came they were no more than mere cracks in the whitewash; now they gape wide enough to hold my finger. As we were examining the cracks we all started at a sound like the snapping of a pistol over our heads.
“What was that noise?” I cried.
“Only the creaking of the ceiling beams, it happens every now and again,” said J.
“Before we restored the Ducal Palace in Venice, and saved it from tumbling down, the same thing went on,” said Signor Boni; “but, _amici miei_, do you not see what all this means?”
“It means that this old barrack is going to pieces,” said J.; “some day they will either have to shore it up or tear it down.”
“Listen,” said the Venetian, impressively. “Last Sunday morning the Palazzo Piombino, in the Via della Scrofa, not half a mile from here, fell in a heap of ruins, all in a second, with no more warning than you have had. If it had not been _festa_, and a fine day, there would have been a great loss of life. As it was the people were all out gadding about the town.”
Pietro, who had been listening, now chimed in. “_Scuse Signore_, there was the cook, a friend of mine, who was obliged to remain at home in order to freeze the ice cream,--thirsty work on a hot day. _Magari_, that cook’s thirst saved his life. He had just climbed through the grating into the wine cellar to get a _fiaschetta_ of the wine of Orvieto, when piff, paff, pifferty! down came the house crashing about his ears. The wine cellar had a vaulted stone roof so strong that it resisted all the bricks, mortar, and rubbish that fell upon it. They heard that cook shrieking like a small devil, and dug him out; the flask of Orvieto was still in his hand, though he had not drunk a drop; he believed that the catastrophe was a judgment upon him for taking the wine.”
“The Palazzo Rusticucci to be sold over our heads, the studio threatening to fall down upon them--our Roman world is crumbling about us!” I cried.
To which Pietro’s “What are you going to do about it?” was cold comfort.
THE KING IS DEAD. LONG LIVE THE KING!
PALAZZO RUSTICUCCI, ROME, July 29, 1900.
I was awakened at six o’clock this morning by a loud knocking and the shrill voices of my maids calling to me. Hurrying out to the hall I found the three pale, shivering women huddled together near our door.
“What is the matter?” I asked.
Old Nena could only lift her withered hands to heaven and cry aloud to the Madonna. Filomena stood staring dully, saying over and over again,----
“Murdered, murdered, murdered!”
Pompilia the Tuscan seemed less distraught than the others.
“Tell me quickly what has happened?” I said to her.
“They have killed our King!” wailed Pompilia.
“It is true,” Filomena sobbed; “I heard it when I went to mass.”
We dressed immediately and went out into the street, to find that it was only too true. Giuseppe the baker standing at his shop door, white as his linen clothes, read aloud the dreadful news from his morning paper. In the dark shop behind, his boy fed the crackling fire with brushwood as if nothing out of the common had happened. The loaves were ready for the oven; it was his business to keep up the fire.
“Last night, at half-past ten o’clock, as the King was getting into his carriage at Monza, he was shot and almost instantly killed. As he fell, those nearest caught him in their arms imploring him to say if he were seriously hurt. His Majesty answered, _Non è niente_ (It is nothing).’ These were his last words, he died almost immediately after.”
Ignazio our gardener who had just come up, a damp newspaper crumpled in his hand, echoed the words:
“It is nothing! It is nothing! Was not that like him? Ah! he was a brave man.”
“The assassin was with difficulty saved from the mob;” Giuseppe continued to read.
“Why _did_ they save him?” interrupted Ignazio. “They should have let the people tear the wretch to pieces, and that would have been too good for him!”
“It is nothing!” Giuseppe repeated. “Ah! you may well say he was a brave man. Do you remember the last time they tried to murder our good King? He was on his way to the races. The officer in the carriage with him was wounded; Re Umberto sent the injured man back to Rome while he himself drove on to Tor di Quinto as if nothing had happened. In the royal box he said to one of his suite that being shot at was one of ‘_gl’incerti del mestiere_ (the risks of the profession).’ Ah! he _was_ a brave man; he deserved a better trade.”
“Well they have killed him at last,” said Ignazio. “What do you suppose will be done to the murderer? Will they hang him? No, indeed; nothing so sensible! We tax-payers must support that vile assassin for the rest of his life. I ask you, is there any sense in that? They should let the people have him; we will give him justice. Ah! if I had only been there!”
Ignazio, perhaps the gentlest man I have ever known, was quite transported with rage. Cursing and crying he dashed the tears from his eyes with his clenched fist.
Old Nena took Ignazio by the sleeve: “Come away, man,” she said gruffly; “will it help matters for you to have a fit of apoplexy?”
Filomena, the soft hearted, took his other arm; between them they led him into the house. Pompilia, made of sterner stuff, remained to listen to the baker.
“We have no capital punishment in Italy,” Giuseppe explained to me. “The King’s assassin will be sentenced to solitary confinement for life.”
“Was the man an anarchist?” I asked.
“An anarchist, yes; and an Italian--more shame to him. But, _Signora mia_, he comes from your country; read for yourself.” The regicide has lived in Paterson, New Jersey. It is said that two Italian anarchist newspapers published in that town have advocated the murder of sovereigns in general, of King Umberto in particular. The paper Giuseppe handed me attacks our Government sharply for allowing the publication of these incendiary sheets.
Rome is very quiet; the grief seems to be genuine and universal. The Prince and Princess of Naples are cruising in the Mediterranean. It is believed that a message from a semaphore was understood upon the royal yacht, and hoped that the young King will soon land and make his proclamation. The evening papers speak of him already as King Victor Emanuel III. and of our dear Queen Margaret as the Queen Mother! As soon as Pope Leo heard of the murder he celebrated mass for the repose of the King’s soul.
The twenty-two years of King Umberto’s reign seem to me like a dream. I am haunted by a song of my mother’s; I hear the tragic pathos of her voice singing the words which when I was a little child and could not understand their meaning always sent me shamefaced into the corner to hide my tears:
“Kingdoms have passed away since last we met: See from their thrones of pride monarchs like spectres glide, Love’s law doth still abide, Love reigneth yet!”
I was in Rome when this dead King’s father, Victor Emanuel, died; I strewed roses before his sumptuous funeral car with its eight black horses; I saw King Umberto receive the oath of allegiance from his troops, take the vow to support the constitution. Again I am in Rome; if I live so long I shall see his funeral pageant, and yet I feel as young as ever I did in my life, and my feelings are hurt when people treat me as if I were not so. Read me this riddle if you can: mystery of mysteries!
This morning Patsy, sent back to Rome as a special correspondent of the “Daily----” surprised us at breakfast. You may imagine if we were glad to see him. People here are so tense, so overstrained and excited, that his presence is like a fresh north wind after days of sirocco. He brought us the latest bulletins from the Press Club.
“Yesterday,” he said, “the young King and Queen landed from their yacht somewhere on the coast of Calabria and went directly to Monza by way of Naples, where Crispi, old, broken, and nearly blind, met them at the station. The son of the murdered King hurrying to his father’s body stops to embrace the old Minister. Can’t you imagine it? Though Crispi is out of office and out of public favor, the young man remembers the time when he was a child and Crispi was his father’s right hand. That was a meeting worth seeing. I wish I had been there.”
History will judge both King and Minister more fairly than contemporaries have done; it will find the King worthy of the great name he bore. I gather from Patsy’s talk that the reaction is beginning already.
“The Italians are finding out,” he said, “that the King inherited more than his name from Humbert of the White Hand; he had the same colossal loyalty, courage, and honesty. It sounds brutal to say it, but I believe his tragic death has done more to secure the throne to the dynasty than any act of his life could have done. Sympathy is already wiping out the memory of his mistakes. There could not be a more propitious opening for the new reign.”
Rome is crowded. It is strange to see the hotels open, the Corso alive with people, the Pincio and Villa Borghese filled with carriages at this usually dead season. The Court, the people of the embassies, special envoys from all the countries of Europe, and I should think nearly every distinguished personage in Italy, are here for the King’s funeral to-morrow. All these people augment rather than lessen the universal gloom; after six months of jubilation Rome is a mourning city. This afternoon we drove to the Quirinal Palace to inscribe our names in the Queen’s book. A dozen large folios lie on as many tables in the entrance hall; here all who wish to express their sympathy may write their names. I recognized among those waiting to sign, the French Ambassador, Beppino (Prince Nero’s grandson), and our Ignazio. One table was surrounded by poorly dressed lads,--they looked like newsboys, messengers, and the like. They are the best witnesses of the progress made in the last twenty years; when King Umberto came to the throne, the street boys of Rome did not write their names. To-night the walls are covered with manifestoes from the various trades, guilds, and associations, expressing horror at the crime, sympathy for the royal family, grief for the murdered King, loyalty to his house.
The King’s funeral was to-day. The weather was fair and very cool for the season. We left home at half-past five in the morning and drove to the Corso, where we were obliged to leave our carriage. We had a pass which took us through the lines of cavalry stretched across the Piazza Venezia. We reached the balcony we had secured (thanks to kind Mr. Iddings, of our embassy) in the Via Nazionale, half an hour before the funeral procession started. We kept a place for Patsy, who soon joined us, looking, for him, rather jaded. He had been up all night, having come down from Monza on the special train which brought the King’s body.
“It was a wonderful journey,” Patsy said. “The bells were tolled in every town we passed through; all the stations were hung with crape; everywhere, even at the poorest villages, we were met by citizens bringing flowers. When we arrived, the train was half buried in laurel and roses.”
“Were you late in reaching Rome?”
“That was the best of it: there was no confusion, no delay, we were exactly on time. It was half-past six when the Duke of Aosta stepped from the train,--he was in command of the guard which escorted the body from Monza--and saluted King Victor, who was waiting on the platform. The cousins--they are about of an age, I fancy--looked hard at each other, shook hands, then embraced.”
Patsy had evidently been a good deal moved by the scene, which is not surprising. You know Aosta is the heir presumptive and has a son, while the young King is still childless.
“How did King Victor look?”
“Soldierly; as the coffin touched the soil of Rome, his lip trembled; it seemed for a moment as if he would give way; but he controlled himself,--that was the only sign of weakness.”
The procession opened with a troop of lancers, dashing fellows, well mounted and well set up. Then followed artillery, infantry, engineers, sailors, marines, and in the place of honor nearest to the cortege, the trim, smart _bersaglieri_, a crack regiment of riflemen. Their dress is very picturesque: dark blue uniforms, crimson facings, and large round hats with cocks’ feathers worn on one side. The crowd in the streets was extraordinarily quiet; the only sounds were the tramp, tramp of the soldiers’ feet, the muffled drums of the dead march. Many of the people had waited all night to secure their places. The civic officers of Rome marched in fine mediæval costumes, the dresses of the _gonfalonieri_, red and yellow cloth, were among the best.
“Have you ever seen such a well-drilled procession, or such a well-behaved crowd?” said Patsy.
I confessed that I had never seen better. Just as we were commenting on the fine gravity and self-control of those who marched, and of those who waited and watched, the silence--which till then really had been remarkable--was broken by a sound like the buzzing of thousands of insects.
“Who can these be?” I asked.
“The lawyers are coming,” said Patsy.
The members of the court of cassation, and other legal lights, dressed in crimson and black velvet robes, with large square velvet hats to match, and thick gold chains about their necks, went chattering by; they could not be silent! Siena sent a dozen pretty pages in fifteenth-century dress: puffed satin doublets and jerkins, long silk hose, and golden lovelocks on their shoulders. The gondoliers of Venice (famous loyalists) were a fine group; two of the tallest carried between them an enormous wreath of laurel, the gift of their guild.
There was a sudden stir in the crowd; then a deep sigh, as a gun carriage drawn by two lean artillery horses came in sight, driven by a grizzled gunner, the coffin strapped behind in the place of the gun. An officer carrying King Umberto’s sword walked before, another followed, bearing on a cushion the iron crown of Savoy; an orderly led his favorite horse, the saddle draped in crape, the empty boots turned backwards in the stirrups. King Victor followed close behind the coffin on foot, with the Princes of Savoy, the Russian Grand Duke Alexis, the Duke of Argyle, and other special envoys and guests of honor; among them were Lord Currie, Mr. Iddings, and Colonel Needham, looking like a pale-brown ghost.
Just as the gun carriage had passed, at a sudden unexplained noise--I believe it was merely the knocking over of a chair--the panic-stricken crowd surged into the street, broke up the procession, and nearly swept King Victor off his feet.
There was a moment of sickening suspense; the gun carriage halted; the King drew his sword, his kinsmen pressed close about him as if to protect him. Then in the opposite balcony a tall handsome woman dressed in mourning rose to her feet, and leaning well over the balcony waved her handkerchief with a majestic gesture that quelled the panic. The crowd understood the signal to mean “No danger!” The women in the neighboring windows began to clap their hands. Meanwhile the gun carriage waited, the young King stood at bay, startled, but ready for whatever might happen. At the clapping of hands, the groans, the cries of “Anarchists!” “A bomb!” “Traitors!” ceased, the insensate pushing and jostling stopped, and before one could believe it possible order was restored, and the procession took up its line of march. I never saw a finer example of one individual of nerve and presence of mind controlling the blind panic of a crowd.
Late, late in the procession marched a small band of old Garibaldians. We recognized our friend from Nemi hobbling among them.
“They should not have been put off at the end of the procession, along with the tailors and shoemakers of Rome. If it had not been for them there would be no United Kingdom of Italy to-day,” J. said.
“Policy, my friend, policy!” said Patsy, his eyes a little dim at the sight of the faded red shirts and the broken men who wore them.
“Nobody,” Patsy confessed, “feels the charm of gold lace more than I, but did you notice how well the plain black coat of the American Chargé d’Affaires looked among all those glittering liveries of kings? The sight of it made me feel rather proud of being an American citizen!”
We waited in our balcony to see the return to the palace. Patsy, who went to the Pantheon, where the funeral services were held, reported them as admirably short and impressive.
“Throughout the ceremony,” he said, “Queen Margaret was given the place of honor. At the end, just as they were about to leave the church, she made a deep courtesy to her son, and stood back while the young King and his wife went out before her. Think what that means! Queen Margaret, from her fifteenth year the first lady in the land, entered the church Queen of Italy and left it Queen Dowager. With that courtesy she stepped from the first to the second place in the kingdom.”
“As long as she lives she will be first in every true Italian heart!”
“There’s the rub! She should not be.”
“That may be true; she will be all the same!”
There was a sudden sound of bugles, the clatter of horses’ feet. The King’s guard, picked men, every one of them over six feet tall, came dashing up the street to the crisp music of the royal march. In their midst we caught a glimpse of King Victor, in a closed carriage, on his way to take possession of the Quirinal Palace.
The King is dead. Long live the King!
It is written that our last days in Rome shall not hang heavy on our hands; emotion follows emotion! Last evening J. went to the station to see Patsy off on the special train provided for Queen Elena’s sister (married to the Russian Grand Duke) and the other royal and distinguished personages who came to the funeral. They had all stayed on to hear King Victor’s maiden speech to his Parliament--which, by the way, was capital; he spoke of his mother in a manner that went to the hearts of all good sons and daughters. Patsy told us, with the young newspaper man’s air of supreme knowledge, that he had it on the best authority that the King wrote his own speech. I believe this, more from internal than external evidence; it rings true, not like an address prepared by a minister for a monarch to deliver.
Patsy being gone, we thought to set about closing up our affairs in earnest, when this morning arrives a note written on the back of an old envelope in his hand.
“Send me some soup! I can’t stand this hospital diet. I am a bit shaken up by the collision at Castel Giubileo last night. Nothing serious in my condition, except the appetite.”
The scrawl was dated from the hospital of San Giacomo, where Filomena’s brother has been a patient for a month past. I packed a basket with provisions and drove directly to the hospital, taking Filomena with me. We stopped on our way to see Dr. Massimo, who gave us a letter of introduction to the house surgeon. The porter of the hospital took in my card and note of introduction while we waited in the lodge. As we got out of the cab Filomena behaved rather strangely; she asked the _gobbo_, our cabman, to bring in the basket, and when he set it down on the not too clean pavement, she let it remain where he put it.
“Please to take the basket off the pavement,” I said.
“Excuse me, Signora, it will be better to wait till the porter returns and ask him either to carry the basket himself or to send another with it. These people are very suspicious; they might think that _I_ was trying to smuggle something into the hospital. The idea is, of course, ridiculous, but these hospital employés are strangely suspicious people.”
At that moment an enormous red-haired woman wearing a checked apron came towards us; she spoke pleasantly to Filomena. “Well, my girl, I hear that your brother is getting better fast. Ah! he has a good sister.” As she spoke the giantess enveloped Filomena in a capacious embrace. Beginning at the girl’s slender throat she passed her great arms and hands down her body to the very feet, feeling her all over, pressing the light cotton skirts so close about her that she looked like a Tanagra figurine. Though Filomena endured the searching embrace with composure, I saw her glance at me, and there is no denying that she turned scarlet.
“Nothing contraband this morning, eh?” said the good-natured giantess.
“This is my mistress,” Filomena interposed, anxious to shield herself under my ægis. “She has brought some refreshments to a gentleman who was hurt in the railroad accident last night. She has a letter from Dr. Massimo.”
The giantess bowed to me politely. “There will be no difficulty, that will arrange itself,” she said. “Won’t you be seated, Madam, till the doctor comes? It is against the rule to allow any provisions to pass without a special permission from the house physician. This pretty one does not see the use of that rule, do you, my dear?”
If looks could kill, the giantess would have died, slain by the rage in Filomena’s beautiful eyes.
I found Patsy, smelling horribly of carbolic acid, in a small iron bed, a chart of his injuries--slight but numerous--fixed at the head of the cot. His powers of speech had not been impaired.
“I knew you would come. Have you brought the soup, and some decent wine? There’s the jolliest sister who takes care of me--that tall one with the red cheeks--isn’t she a corker? She will heat the broth and cool the wine.”
I asked the sister how long she would be obliged to keep her troublesome patient. She said, “Only a few days; he might possibly be moved to-morrow.” That was a hint for us to take him home, which I offered to do. Patsy would not hear of this.
“Think of the copy I am getting,” he said. “I know more about the Italian medical profession, nurses, and hospitals than I could have learned in a year’s study outside. I have notes for three articles already.”
“What are your views?”
“The doctors are clever fellows, the nurses angels, the hospital one hundred years behind the times.”
When he had finished his soup Patsy told me about the accident.
“At Castel Giubileo, about eight miles out from Rome, another train ran into ours and the two telescoped. Fortunately I was in the last of the wrecked carriages--that was bad enough. I can’t talk about the other people yet, the newspapers will give you all the dreadful details. In our carriage there was only a fat deputy, the Honorable Somebody, and myself. After the crash I found that I was pinned to the floor by a beam and could not stir hand or foot. Presently a guard came along; he said we were in no danger, and that we must lie still till they could dig us out. I fancy I fainted or went to sleep then, for quite suddenly it was dawn, and the deputy was crying out that he was dying and should never see his Amelia again. Then I saw a man come clambering over the wrecked smoking ruins of the cars towards us. Somehow he managed to reach down through the débris and get the deputy by the hand.
“‘Courage, courage, _Onorevole_, thou art saved!’ he said in the jolliest voice. A little later we heard his voice again, giving orders to the men he had brought to dig us out; we were buried deep under the splintered car ahead of us. As soon as I found myself in the blessed cool air, I looked to see what sort of man had saved me from that pit of hell; it was the King.”
“The King? are you sure?”
“Oh, you will find it all in the papers if you don’t believe me. The Grand Duchess sent one of her suite directly to the palace to tell her sister, Queen Elena, that she was not hurt, before she should hear of the accident from any other source.
“The messenger waked the King and Queen--it was one o’clock in the morning, they were asleep--told them what had happened and that a relief train was being made up. Those young people dressed, and ran all the way from the Quirinal to the railroad station--it must be close on a mile--hoping to catch the relief train; they were too late; it had already gone when they arrived. Outside the station they took the first cab they met, and started to drive the eight miles to Castel Giubileo. At the Porta Salaria the cab was overtaken by one of the royal carriages from the Quirinal stables, which brought them the rest of the way. As the Deputy and I were in the last of the wrecked carriages, we were less hurt than anybody else, I fancy; we certainly were the last attended to; and I saw the dreadful business through. The Queen worked over the wounded women, trotting from one to the other, doing everything she could to make them comfortable. At nine o’clock in the morning the Mayor of Rome and some other old fogies came lumbering up in a landeau. They met the King, black with smoke and grime, just starting to drive back to town.”
“A man of action, like his father and grandfather before him,” I said.
“A chip of the old block,” cried Patsy. “She is admirable; if ever I saw a pair of lovers, it is those two--that must be the best of it all.”
The tall sister evidently thought that Patsy was talking too much, so I took my leave. If I had stayed ten minutes I too should have seen the young King and Queen as Filomena saw them. At three o’clock they visited the wounded at San Giacomo’s.
Filomena told me about it with flashing eyes.
“Ah, Signora, it is a pity you were in such a hurry. While I was talking with my brother, who should come into the ward but the King and Queen! They spoke to all the people who had been hurt in the accident. The Queen is tall--oh, very tall! with great dark eyes and such hair, twice as much as I have. I wish you had seen her dress, Signora, it was of white silk and lace, and her hat! It was in the last fashion, and quite the prettiest hat I ever saw. When the sick people saw who had come to visit them, what do you think they did? In spite of the doctors and the sisters, those patients sat up in their beds and cheered and clapped their hands. I think they were perfectly right to do so; even the very sick must have been made better by the sight of those royal spouses, and the sound of the _evvivas_!”
Our last day in Rome! The trunks were sent to the station this morning; they have been forwarded direct to Genoa, where we take ship for home on the 10th of September. We intend making a slight detour, going by way of Oberammergau (where our seats and lodgings are engaged) to see the Passion Play. The few pieces of furniture that remain--our beds, some chairs, the dinner table and service--will be taken away to-morrow morning. We consider it quite a feat to break up housekeeping after nearly seven years in the Palazzo Rusticucci, and to sleep the last night in Rome under our own roof. Very busy all day saying good-by. In the morning Ignazio carried away the last load of our beloved plants. Before he came I gathered all the flowers, and took an armful of roses, oleanders, and jessamine to the cemetery in memory of the dear one who made this Eternal City a second home to me--who shall say to how many others?
Sora Giulia came in just after the trunks had gone, with some ravishing old lace and embroidery. She is genuinely sorry we are going; we have been good customers. As to Nena, tough old Spartan, she is nearer weeping than she likes.
Patsy, discharged from the hospital this morning, came in to report himself. He had talked so much with nurses, doctors, and patients, been so busy getting his notes together, that a fever set in which kept him at San Giacomo’s ten days after his bruises were healed. He confesses that it was his own fault! Patsy stayed on to dine, so we had a little feast, and, thanks to him, were able to make merry to the last--just what I wished!
“Do you know,” Patsy said, “that you made a great mistake in the name of your palace? It has always been known to the initiated as the Palazzo Accoramboni. Whoever told you the name was Rusticucci was no better than a fool.”
“He was a very wise man. To-morrow, when we shall have gone, the palace will return to its old name; consequently we shall be the only people who have ever lived in the Palazzo Rusticucci!” Don’t you think my argument a good one?
After Patsy left we took our last look at the terrace. It was full moon, as on that first night; the piazza, the fountains, the colonnade, the obelisk were all there, just as we found them. The terrace, which J. made as fragrant and lovely for me as the hanging gardens of Babylon, is again as bare as my hand. Even the red rose of the monsignore which we found here has been sent with other favorite flowers to a friend. I do not think that black-a-vised French priest, the head of the fraternity, would have cared for it, and it was the beginning of all our joy! In the farthest corner of the terrace I saw a small dark object moving slowly across the floor.
“It is Jeremy Bentham!” said J. We had almost forgotten our poor tortoise, the least demonstrative of all our pets. We shall leave him and the nightingale at the Spanish Academy to-morrow before going to the station. The bells of St. Peter’s rang twelve before we came down. We looked at all the familiar points, Soracte, Monte Cavo, the Castle of Sant’ Angelo, and last and longest at St. Peter’s before we said “_Addio, Roma Beata!_”
This is my last letter from Rome. There are many more things I want to say to you, but I must leave you and say good-night. Pan the nightingale wants to go to sleep, and is piping piteous appeals to me to go away and leave him at peace in the pleasant darkness. Another little pipe. Good-night!
 In the stillness of the morning at dawn, in the distance, and then nearer to the residence--this has a very characteristic effect.
 In the crowd of the day, in the tumult of carriages and carts, this minor air is very noticeable.
 Cardinal Hohenlohe, since dead, left what remained of his fortune to the son of the man who in this way was the means of saving his life. At the sale of the cardinal’s effects Monsignor O’Connell, of the American College, bought the grand piano on which Liszt has so often played.