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List Of Contents | Contents of Saunterings, by Charles Dudley Warner
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and contemplated him as one does the Farnese Hercules.  One likes to
see to what a splendor his species can come, even if the brains have
all run down into the calves of the legs.  There were also the pages,
the officers of the pope's household, in costumes of the Middle Ages;
the pope's Swiss guard in the showy harlequin uniform designed by
Michael Angelo; the foot-soldiers in white short-clothes, which
threatened to burst, and let them fly into pieces; there were fine
ladies and gentlemen, loafers and loungers, from every civilized
country, jabbering in all the languages; there were beggars in rags,
and boors in coats so patched that there was probably none of the
original material left; there were groups of peasants from the
Campagna, the men in short jackets and sheepskin breeches with the
wool side out, the women with gay-colored folded cloths on their
heads, and coarse woolen gowns; a squad of wild-looking Spanish
gypsies, burning-eyed, olive-skinned, hair long, black, crinkled, and
greasy, as wild in raiment as in face; priests and friars, Zouaves in
jaunty light gray and scarlet; rags and velvets, silks and serge
cloths,--a cosmopolitan gathering poured into the world's great place
of meeting,--a fine religious Vanity Fair on Sunday.

There came an impressive moment in all this confusion, a point of
august solemnity.  Up to that instant, what with chanting and singing
the many services, and the noise of talking and walking, there was a
wild babel.  But at the stroke of the bell and the elevation of the
Host, down went the muskets of the guard with one clang on the
marble; the soldiers kneeled; the multitude in the nave, in the
aisles, at all the chapels, kneeled; and for a minute in that vast
edifice there was perfect stillness: if the whole great concourse had
been swept from the earth, the spot where it lately was could not
have been more silent.  And then the military order went down the
line, the soldiers rose, the crowd rose, and the mass and the hum
went on.

It was all over before one; and the pope was borne out again, and the
vast crowd began to discharge itself.  But it was a long time before
the carriages were all filled and rolled off.  I stood for a half
hour watching the stream go by,--the pompous soldiers, the peasants
and citizens, the dazzling equipages, and jaded, exhausted women in
black, who had sat or stood half a day under the dome, and could get
no carriage; and the great state coaches of the cardinals, swinging
high in the air, painted and gilded, with three noble footmen hanging
on behind each, and a cardinal's broad face in the window.



Everybody who comes to Naples,--that is, everybody except the lady
who fell from her horse the other day at Resina and injured her
shoulder, as she was mounting for the ascent,--everybody, I say, goes
up Vesuvius, and nearly every one writes impressions and descriptions
of the performance.  If you believe the tales of travelers, it is an
undertaking of great hazard, an experience of frightful emotions.
How unsafe it is, especially for ladies, I heard twenty times in
Naples before I had been there a day.  Why, there was a lady thrown
from her horse and nearly killed, only a week ago; and she still lay
ill at the next hotel, a witness of the truth of the story.  I
imagined her plunged down a precipice of lava, or pitched over the
lip of the crater, and only rescued by the devotion of a gallant
guide, who threatened to let go of her if she didn't pay him twenty
francs instantly.  This story, which will live and grow for years in
this region, a waxing and never-waning peril of the volcano, I found,
subsequently, had the foundation I have mentioned above.  The lady
did go to Resina in order to make the ascent of Vesuvius, mounted a
horse there, fell off, being utterly unhorsewomanly, and hurt
herself; but her injury had no more to do with Vesuvius than it had
with the entrance of Victor Emanuel into Naples, which took place a
couple of weeks after.  Well, as I was saying, it is the fashion to
write descriptions of Vesuvius; and you might as well have mine,
which I shall give to you in rough outline.

There came a day when the Tramontane ceased to blow down on us the
cold air of the snowy Apennines, and the white cap of Vesuvius, which
is, by the way, worn generally like the caps of the Neapolitans,
drifted inland instead of toward the sea.  Warmer weather had come to
make the bright sunshine no longer a mockery.  For some days I had
been getting the gauge of the mountain.  With its white plume it is a
constant quantity in the landscape: one sees it from every point of
view; and we had been scarcely anywhere that volcanic remains, or
signs of such action,--a thin crust shaking under our feet, as at
Solfatara, where blasts of sulphurous steam drove in our faces,--did
not remind us that the whole ground is uncertain, and undermined by
the subterranean fires that have Vesuvius for a chimney.  All the
coast of the bay, within recent historic periods, in different spots
at different times, has risen and sunk and risen again, in simple
obedience to the pulsations of the great fiery monster below.  It
puffs up or sinks, like the crust of a baking apple-pie.  This region
is evidently not done; and I think it not unlikely it may have to be
turned over again before it is.  We had seen where Herculaneum lies
under the lava and under the town of Resina; we had walked those
clean and narrow streets of Pompeii, and seen the workmen picking
away at the imbedded gravel, sand, and ashes which still cover nearly
two thirds of the nice little, tight little Roman city; we had looked
at the black gashes on the mountain-sides, where the lava streams had
gushed and rolled and twisted over vineyards and villas and villages;
and we decided to take a nearer look at the immediate cause of all
this abnormal state of things.

In the morning when I awoke the sun was just rising behind Vesuvius;
and there was a mighty display of gold and crimson in that quarter,
as if the curtain was about to be lifted on a grand performance, say
a ballet at San Carlo, which is the only thing the Neapolitans think
worth looking at.  Straight up in the air, out of the mountain, rose
a white pillar, spreading out at the top like a palm-tree, or, to
compare it to something I have seen, to the Italian pines, that come
so picturesquely into all these Naples pictures.  If you will believe
me, that pillar of steam was like a column of fire, from the sun
shining on and through it, and perhaps from the reflection of the
background of crimson clouds and blue and gold sky, spread out there
and hung there in royal and extravagant profusion, to make a highway
and a regal gateway, through which I could just then see coming the
horses and the chariot of a southern perfect day.  They said that the
tree-shaped cloud was the sign of an eruption; but the hotel-keepers
here are always predicting that.  The eruption is usually about two
or three weeks distant; and the hotel proprietors get this
information from experienced guides, who observe the action of the
water in the wells; so that there can be no mistake about it.

We took carriages at nine o'clock to Resina, a drive of four miles,
and one of exceeding interest, if you wish to see Naples life.  The
way is round the curving bay by the sea; but so continuously built up
is it, and so inclosed with high walls of villas, through the open
gates of which the golden oranges gleam, that you seem never to leave
the city.  The streets and quays swarm with the most vociferous,
dirty, multitudinous life.  It is a drive through Rag Fair.  The
tall, whitey-yellow houses fronting the water, six, seven, eight
stories high, are full as beehives; people are at all the open
windows; garments hang from the balconies and from poles thrust out;
up every narrow, gloomy, ascending street are crowds of struggling
human shapes; and you see how like herrings in a box are packed the
over half a million people of Naples.  In front of the houses are the
markets in the open air,--fish, vegetables, carts of oranges; in the
sun sit women spinning from distaffs or weaving fishing-nets; and
rows of children who were never washed and never clothed but once,
and whose garments have nearly wasted away; beggars, fishermen in red
caps, sailors, priests, donkeys, fruit-venders, street-musicians,
carriages, carts, two-wheeled break-down vehicles,--the whole tangled
in one wild roar and rush and babel,--a shifting, varied panorama of
color, rags,--a pandemonium such as the world cannot show elsewhere,
that is what one sees on the road to Resina.  The drivers all drive
in the streets here as if they held a commission from the devil,
cracking their whips, shouting to their horses, and dashing into the
thickest tangle with entire recklessness.  They have one cry, used
alike for getting more speed out of their horses or for checking
them, or in warning to the endangered crowds on foot.  It is an
exclamatory grunt, which may be partially expressed by the letters
"a-e-ugh."  Everybody shouts it, mule-driver, "coachee," or
cattle-driver; and even I, a passenger, fancied I could do it to
disagreeable perfection after a time.  Out of this throng in the
streets I like to select the meek, patient, diminutive little
donkeys, with enormous panniers that almost hide them.  One would
have a woman seated on top, with a child in one pannier and cabbages
in the other; another, with an immense stock of market-greens on his
back, or big baskets of oranges, or with a row of wine-casks and a
man seated behind, adhering, by some unknown law of adhesion, to the
sloping tail.  Then there was the cart drawn by one diminutive
donkey, or by an ox, or by an ox and a donkey, or by a donkey and
horse abreast, never by any possibility a matched team.  And,
funniest of all, was the high, two-wheeled caleche, with one seat,
and top thrown back, with long thills and poor horse.  Upon this
vehicle were piled, Heaven knows how, behind, before, on the thills,
and underneath the high seat, sometimes ten, and not seldom as many

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