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List Of Contents | Contents of Saunterings, by Charles Dudley Warner
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the convent; and the women were loaded into them, packed into them,
carried and put in, if they were too infirm to go themselves.  They
were driven away, cross and wet and bedraggled.  They found their
dwelling on the hill not half prepared for them, leaking and cold and
cheerless.  They experienced very rough treatment, if I can credit my
informant, who says she hates the government, and would not even look
out of her lattice that day to see the carriages drive past.

And when the Lady Superior was driven away from the gate, she said to
the officials, and the few faithful attendants, prophesying in the
midst of the rain that poured about her,  "The day will come shortly,
when you will want rain, and shall not have it; and you will pray for
my return."

And it did not rain, from that day for three years.

And the simple people thought of the good Superior, whose departure
had been in such a deluge, and who had taken away with her all the
moisture of the land; and they did pray for her return, and believed
that the gates of heaven would be again opened if only the nunnery
were repeopled.  But the government could not see the connection
between convents and the theory of storms, and the remnant of pious
women was permitted to remain in their lodgings at Massa.  Perhaps
the government thought they could, if they bore no malice, pray as
effectually for rain there as anywhere.

I do not know, said my informant, that the curse of the Lady Superior
had anything to do with the drought, but many think it had; and those
are the facts.


The common people of this region are nothing but children; and
ragged, dirty, and poor as they are, apparently as happy, to speak
idiomatically, as the day is long.  It takes very little to please
them; and their easily-excited mirth is contagious.  It is very rare
that one gets a surly return to a salutation; and, if one shows the
least good-nature, his greeting is met with the most jolly return.
The boatman hauling in his net sings; the brown girl, whom we meet
descending a steep path in the hills, with an enormous bag or basket
of oranges on her head, or a building-stone under which she stands as
erect as a pillar, sings; and, if she asks for something, there is a
merry twinkle in her eye, that says she hardly expects money, but
only puts in a "beg" at a venture because it is the fashion; the
workmen clipping the olive-trees sing; the urchins, who dance about
the foreigner in the street, vocalize their petitions for un po' di
moneta in a tuneful manner, and beg more in a spirit of deviltry than
with any expectation of gain.  When I see how hard the peasants
labor, what scraps and vegetable odds and ends they eat, and in what
wretched, dark, and smoke-dried apartments they live, I wonder they
are happy; but I suppose it is the all-nourishing sun and the equable
climate that do the business for them.  They have few artificial
wants, and no uneasy expectation--bred by the reading of books and
newspapers--that anything is going to happen in the world, or that
any change is possible.  Their fruit-trees yield abundantly year
after year; their little patches of rich earth, on the built-up
terraces and in the crevices of the rocks, produce fourfold.  The sun
does it all.

Every walk that we take here with open mind and cheerful heart is
sure to be an adventure.  Only yesterday, we were coming down a
branch of the great gorge which splits the plain in two.  On one side
the path is a high wall, with garden trees overhanging.  On the
other, a stone parapet; and below, in the bed of the ravine, an
orange orchard.  Beyond rises a precipice; and, at its foot, men and
boys were quarrying stone, which workmen raised a couple of hundred
feet to the platform above with a windlass.  As we came along, a
handsome girl on the height had just taken on her head a large block
of stone, which I should not care to lift, to carry to a pile in the
rear; and she stopped to look at us.  We stopped, and looked at her.
This attracted the attention of the men and boys in the quarry below,
who stopped work, and set up a cry for a little money.  We laughed,
and responded in English.  The windlass ceased to turn.  The workmen
on the height joined in the conversation.  A grizzly beggar hobbled
up, and held out his greasy cap.  We nonplussed him by extending our
hats, and beseeching him for just a little something.  Some passers
on the road paused, and looked on, amused at the transaction.  A boy
appeared on the high wall, and began to beg.  I threatened to shoot
him with my walkingstick, whereat he ran nimbly along the wall in
terror The workmen shouted; and this started up a couple of yellow
dogs, which came to the edge of the wall and barked violently.  The
girl, alone calm in the confusion, stood stock still under her
enormous load looking at us.  We swung out hats, and hurrahed.  The
crowd replied from above, below, and around us, shouting, laughing,
singing, until the whole little valley was vocal with a gale of
merriment, and all about nothing.  The beggar whined; the spectators
around us laughed; and the whole population was aroused into a jolly
mood.  Fancy such a merry hullaballoo in America.  For ten minutes,
while the funny row was going on, the girl never moved, having
forgotten to go a few steps and deposit her load; and when we
disappeared round a bend of the path, she was still watching us,
smiling and statuesque.

As we descend, we come upon a group of little children seated about a
doorstep, black-eyed, chubby little urchins, who are cutting oranges
into little bits, and playing "party," as children do on the other
side of the Atlantic.  The instant we stop to speak to them, the
skinny hand of an old woman is stretched out of a window just above
our heads, the wrinkled palm itching for money.  The mother comes
forward out of the house, evidently pleased with our notice of the
children, and shows us the baby in her arms.  At once we are on good
terms with the whole family.  The woman sees that there is nothing
impertinent in our cursory inquiry into her domestic concerns, but, I
fancy, knows that we are genial travelers, with human sympathies.  So
the people universally are not quick to suspect any imposition, and
meet frankness with frankness, and good-nature with good-nature, in a
simple-hearted, primeval manner.  If they stare at us from doorway
and balcony, or come and stand near us when we sit reading or writing
by the shore, it is only a childlike curiosity, and they are quite
unconscious of any breach of good manners.  In fact, I think
travelers have not much to say in the matter of staring.  I only pray
that we Americans abroad may remember that we are in the presence of
older races, and conduct ourselves with becoming modesty, remembering
always that we were not born in Britain.

Very likely I am in error; but it has seemed to me that even the
funerals here are not so gloomy as in other places.  I have looked in
at the churches when they are in progress, now and then, and been
struck with the general good feeling of the occasion.  The real
mourners I could not always distinguish; but the seats would be
filled with a motley gathering of the idle and the ragged, who seemed
to enjoy the show and the ceremony.  On one occasion, it was the
obsequies of an officer in the army.  Guarding the gilded casket,
which stood upon a raised platform before the altar, were four
soldiers in uniform.  Mass was being said and sung; and a priest was
playing the organ.  The church was light and cheerful, and pervaded.
by a pleasant bustle.  Ragged boys and beggars, and dirty children
and dogs, went and came wherever they chose--about the unoccupied
spaces of the church.  The hired mourners, who are numerous in
proportion to the rank of the deceased, were clad in white cotton,--a
sort of nightgown put on over the ordinary clothes, with a hood of
the same drawn tightly over the face, in which slits were cut for the
eyes and mouth.  Some of them were seated on benches near the front;
others were wandering about among the pillars, disappearing in the
sacristy, and reappearing with an aimless aspect, altogether
conducting themselves as if it were a holiday, and if there was
anything they did enjoy, it was mourning at other people's expense.
They laughed and talked with each other in excellent spirits; and one
varlet near the coffin, who had slipped off his mask, winked at me
repeatedly, as if to inform me that it was not his funeral.  A
masquerade might have been more gloomy and depressing.


The most serviceable saint whom I know is St. Antonino.  He is the
patron saint of the good town of Sorrento; he is the good genius of
all sailors and fishermen; and he has a humbler office,--that of
protector of the pigs.  On his day the pigs are brought into the
public square to be blessed; and this is one reason why the pork of
Sorrento is reputed so sweet and wholesome.  The saint is the friend,
and, so to say, companion of the common people.  They seem to be all
fond of him, and there is little of fear in their confiding relation.
His humble origin and plebeian appearance have something to do with
his popularity, no doubt.  There is nothing awe-inspiring in the
brown stone figure, battered and cracked, that stands at one corner
of the bridge, over the chasm at the entrance of the city.  He holds
a crosier in one hand, and raises the other, with fingers uplifted,
in act of benediction.  If his face is an indication of his
character, he had in him a mixture of robust good-nature with a touch
of vulgarity, and could rough it in a jolly manner with fishermen and
peasants.  He may have appeared to better advantage when he stood on
top of the massive old city gate, which the present government, with
the impulse of a vandal, took down a few years ago.  The demolition
had to be accomplished in the night, under a guard of soldiers, so
indignant were the populace.  At that time the homely saint was
deposed; and he wears now, I think, a snubbed and cast-aside aspect.

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