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List Of Contents | Contents of Saunterings, by Charles Dudley Warner
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Perhaps he is dearer to the people than ever; and I confess that I
like him much better than many grander saints, in stone, I have seen
in more conspicuous places.  If ever I am in rough water and foul
weather, I hope he will not take amiss anything I have here written
about him.

Sunday, and it happened to be St. Valentine's also, was the great
fete-day of St. Antonino.  Early in the morning there was a great
clanging of bells; and the ceremony of the blessing of the pigs took
place,--I heard, but I was not abroad early enough to see it,--a
laziness for which I fancy I need not apologize, as the Catholic is
known to be an earlier religion than the Protestant.  When I did go
out, the streets were thronged with people, the countryfolk having
come in for miles around.  The church of the patron saint was the
great center of attraction.  The blank walls of the little square in
front, and of the narrow streets near, were hung with cheap and
highly-colored lithographs of sacred subjects, for sale; tables and
booths were set up in every available space for the traffic in
pre-Raphaelite gingerbread, molasses candy, strings of dried nuts,
pinecone and pumpkin seeds, scarfs, boots and shoes, and all sorts of
trumpery.  One dealer had preempted a large space on the pavement,
where he had spread out an assortment of bits of old iron, nails,
pieces of steel traps, and various fragments which might be useful to
the peasants.  The press was so great, that it was difficult to get
through it; but the crowd was a picturesque one, and in the highest
good humor.  The occasion was a sort of Fourth of July, but without
its worry and powder and flowing bars.

The spectacle of the day was the procession bearing the silver image
of the saint through the streets.  I think there could never be
anything finer or more impressive; at least, I like these little
fussy provincial displays,--these tag-rags and ends of grandeur, in
which all the populace devoutly believe, and at which they are lost
in wonder,--better than those imposing ceremonies at the capital, in
which nobody believes.  There was first a band of musicians, walking
in more or less disorder, but blowing away with great zeal, so that
they could be heard amid the clangor of bells the peals of which
reverberate so deafeningly between the high houses of these narrow
streets.  Then follow boys in white, and citizens in black and white
robes, carrying huge silken banners, triangular like sea-pennants,
and splendid silver crucifixes which flash in the sun.  Then come
ecclesiastics, walking with stately step, and chanting in loud and
pleasant unison.  These are followed by nobles, among whom I
recognize, with a certain satisfaction, two descendants of Tasso,
whose glowing and bigoted soul may rejoice in the devotion of his
posterity, who help to bear today the gilded platform upon which is
the solid silver image of the saint.  The good old bishop walks
humbly in the rear, in full canonical rig, with crosier and miter,
his rich robes upborne by priestly attendants, his splendid footman
at a respectful distance, and his roomy carriage not far behind.

The procession is well spread out and long; all its members carry
lighted tapers, a good many of which are not lighted, having gone out
in the wind.  As I squeeze into a shallow doorway to let the cort6ge
pass, I am sorry to say that several of the young fellows in white
gowns tip me the wink, and even smile in a knowing fashion, as if it
were a mere lark, after all, and that the saint must know it.  But
not so thinks the paternal bishop, who waves a blessing, which I
catch in the flash of the enormous emerald on his right hand.  The
procession ends, where it started, in the patron's church; and there
his image is set up under a gorgeous canopy of crimson and gold, to
hear high mass, and some of the choicest solos, choruses, and
bravuras from the operas.

In the public square I find a gaping and wondering crowd of rustics
collected about one of the mountebanks whose trade is not peculiar to
any country.  This one might be a clock-peddler from Connecticut.  He
is mounted in a one-seat vettura,, and his horse is quietly eating
his dinner out of a bag tied to his nose.  There is nothing unusual
in the fellow's dress; he wears a shiny silk hat, and has one of
those grave faces which would be merry if their owner were not
conscious of serious business on hand.  On the driver's perch before
him are arranged his attractions,--a box of notions, a grinning
skull, with full teeth and jaws that work on hinges, some vials of
red liquid, and a closed jar containing a most disagreeable
anatomical preparation.  This latter he holds up and displays,
turning it about occasionally in an admiring manner.  He is
discoursing, all the time, in the most voluble Italian.  He has an
ointment, wonderfully efficacious for rheumatism and every sort of
bruise: he pulls up his sleeve, and anoints his arm with it, binding
it up with a strip of paper; for the simplest operation must be
explained to these grown children.  He also pulls teeth, with an ease
and expedition hitherto unknown, and is in no want of patients among
this open-mouthed crowd.  One sufferer after another climbs up into
the wagon, and goes through the operation in the public gaze.  A
stolid, good-natured hind mounts the seat.  The dentist examines his
mouth, and finds the offending tooth.  He then turns to the crowd and
explains the case.  He takes a little instrument that is neither
forceps nor turnkey, stands upon the seat, seizes the man's nose, and
jerks his head round between his knees, pulling his mouth open (there
is nothing that opens the mouth quicker than a sharp upward jerk of
the nose) with a rude jollity that sets the spectators in a roar.
Down he goes into the cavern, and digs away for a quarter of a
minute, the man the while as immovable as a stone image, when he
holds up the bloody tooth.  The patient still persists in sitting
with his mouth stretched open to its widest limit, waiting for the
operation to begin, and will only close the orifice when he is well
shaken and shown the tooth.  The dentist gives him some yellow liquid
to hold in his mouth, which the man insists on swallowing, wets a
handkerchief and washes his face, roughly rubbing his nose the wrong
way, and lets him go.  Every step of the process is eagerly watched
by the delighted spectators.

He is succeeded by a woman, who is put through the same heroic
treatment, and exhibits like fortitude.  And so they come; and the
dentist after every operation waves the extracted trophy high in air,
and jubilates as if he had won another victory, pointing to the stone
statue yonder, and reminding them that this is the glorious day of
St. Antonino.  But this is not all that this man of science does.  He
has the genuine elixir d'amour, love-philters and powders which never
fail in their effects.  I see the bashful girls and the sheepish
swains come slyly up to the side of the wagon, and exchange their
hard-earned francs for the hopeful preparation.  O my brown beauty,
with those soft eyes and cheeks of smothered fire, you have no need
of that red philter!  What a simple, childlike folk!  The shrewd
fellow in the wagon is one of a race as old as Thebes and as new as
Porkopolis; his brazen face is older than the invention of bronze,
but I think he never had to do with a more credulous crowd than this.
The very cunning in the face of the peasants is that of the fox; it
is a sort of instinct, and not an intelligent suspicion.

This is Sunday in Sorrento, under the blue sky.  These peasants, who
are fooled by the mountebank and attracted by the piles of adamantine
gingerbread, do not forget to crowd the church of the saint at
vespers, and kneel there in humble faith, while the choir sings the
Agnus Dei, and the priests drone the service.  Are they so different,
then, from other people?  They have an idea on Capri that England is
such another island, only not so pleasant; that all Englishmen are
rich and constantly travel to escape the dreariness at home; and
that, if they are not absolutely mad, they are all a little queer.
It was a fancy prevalent in Hamlet's day.  We had the English service
in the Villa Nardi in the evening.  There are some Englishmen staying
here, of the class one finds in all the sunny spots of Europe, ennuye
and growling, in search of some elixir that shall bring back youth
and enjoyment.  They seem divided in mind between the attractions of
the equable climate of this region and the fear of the gout which
lurks in the unfermented wine.  One cannot be too grateful to the
sturdy islanders for carrying their prayers, like their drumbeat, all
round the globe; and I was much edified that night, as the reading
went on, by a row of rather battered men of the world, who stood in
line on one side of the room, and took their prayers with a certain
British fortitude, as if they were conscious of performing a
constitutional duty, and helping by the act to uphold the majesty of
English institutions.


There is always a mild excitement about mounting donkeys in the
morning here for an excursion among the hills.  The warm sun pouring
into the garden, the smell of oranges, the stimulating air, the
general openness and freshness, promise a day of enjoyment.  There is
always a doubt as to who will go; generally a donkey wanting;
somebody wishes to join the party at the last moment; there is no end
of running up and downstairs, calling from balconies and terraces;
some never ready, and some waiting below in the sun; the whole house
in a tumult, drivers in a worry, and the sleepy animals now and then
joining in the clatter with a vocal performance that is neither a
trumpet-call nor a steam-whistle, but an indescribable noise, that
begins in agony and abruptly breaks down in despair.  It is difficult
to get the train in motion.  The lady who ordered Succarina has got a
strange donkey, and Macaroni has on the wrong saddle.  Succarina is a
favorite, the kindest, easiest, and surest-footed of beasts,--a

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