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List Of Contents | Contents of Saunterings, by Charles Dudley Warner
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travelers going to Paestum, made a successful haul, and escaped into
the steep mountains beyond.  He didn't intend to become a regular
bandit, not at all.  He hoped that something might happen so that he
could steal back into Sorrento, unmarked by the government; or, at
least, that he could escape away to some other country or island,
where Fiammetta could join him.  Did she love him yet, as in the old
happy days?  As for him, she was now everything to him; and he would
willingly serve three or thirty years in the army, if the government
could forget he had been a brigand, and permit him to have a little
home with Fiammetta at the end of the probation.  There was not much
comfort in all this, but the simple fellow could not send anything
more cheerful; and I think it used to feed the little maiden's heart
to hear from him, even in this downcast mood, for his love for her
was a dear certainty, and his absence and wild life did not dim it.

My informant does not know how long this painful life went on, nor
does it matter much.  There came a day when the government was shamed
into new vigor against the brigands.  Some English people of
consequence (the German of whom I have spoken was with them) had been
captured, and it had cost them a heavy ransom.  The number of the
carbineers was quadrupled in the infested districts, soldiers
penetrated the fastnesses of the hills, there were daily fights with
the banditti; and, to show that this was no sham, some of them were
actually shot, and others were taken and thrown into prison.  Among
those who were not afraid to stand and fight, and who would not be
captured, was our Giuseppe.  One day the Italia newspaper of Naples
had an account of a fight with brigands; and in the list of those who
fell was the name of Giuseppe---, of Sorrento, shot through the head,
as he ought to have been, and buried without funeral among the rocks.

This was all.  But when the news was read in the little post office
in Sorrento, it seemed a great deal more than it does as I write it;
for, if Giuseppe had an enemy in the village, it was not among the
people; and not one who heard the news did not think at once of the
poor girl to whom it would be more than a bullet through the heart.
And so it was.  The slender hope of her life then went out.  I am
told that there was little change outwardly, and that she was as
lovely as before; but a great cloud of sadness came over her, in
which she was always enveloped, whether she sat at home, or walked
abroad in the places where she and Giuseppe used to wander.  The
simple people respected her grief, and always made a tender-hearted
stillness when the bereft little maiden went through the streets,--a
stillness which she never noticed, for she never noticed anything
apparently.  The bishop himself when he walked abroad could not be
treated with more respect.

This was all the story of the sweet Fiammetta that was confided to
me.  And afterwards, as I recalled her pensive face that evening as
she kneeled at vespers, I could not say whether, after all, she was
altogether to be pitied, in the holy isolation of her grief, which I
am sure sanctified her, and, in some sort, made her life complete.
For I take it that life, even in this sunny Sorrento, is not alone a
matter of time.




ST. MARIA A CASTELLO

The Great St. Angelo and that region are supposed to be the haunts of
brigands.  From those heights they spy out the land, and from thence
have, more than once, descended upon the sea-road between
Castellamare and Sorrento, and caught up English and German
travelers.  This elevation commands, also, the Paestum way.  We have
no faith in brigands in these days; for in all our remote and lonely
explorations of this promontory we have never met any but the most
simple-hearted and good-natured people, who were quite as much afraid
of us as we were of them.  But there are not wanting stories, every
day, to keep alive the imagination of tourists.

We are waiting in the garden this sunny, enticing morning-just the
day for a tramp among the purple hills--for our friend, the long
Englishman, who promised, over night, to go with us.  This excellent,
good-natured giant, whose head rubs the ceiling of any room in the
house, has a wife who is fond of him, and in great dread of the
brigands.  He comes down with a sheepish air, at length, and informs
us that his wife won't let him go.

"Of course I can go, if I like," he adds.  "But the fact is, I have
n't slept much all night: she kept asking me if I was going!"  On the
whole, the giant don't care to go.  There are things more to be
feared than brigands.

The expedition is, therefore, reduced to two unarmed persons.  In the
piazza we pick up a donkey and his driver for use in case of
accident; and, mounting the driver on the donkey,--an arrangement
that seems entirely satisfactory to him,--we set forward.  If
anything can bring back youth, it is a day of certain sunshine and a
bit of unexplored country ahead, with a whole day in which to wander
in it without a care or a responsibility.  We walk briskly up the
walled road of the piano, striking at the overhanging golden fruit
with our staves; greeting the orange-girls who come down the side
lanes; chaffing with the drivers, the beggars, the old women who sit
in the sun; looking into the open doors of houses and shops upon
women weaving, boys and girls slicing up heaps of oranges, upon the
makers of macaroni, the sellers of sour wine, the merry shoemakers,
whose little dens are centers of gossip here, as in all the East: the
whole life of these people is open and social; to be on the street is
to be at home.

We wind up the steep hill behind Meta, every foot of which is
terraced for olive-trees, getting, at length, views over the wayside
wall of the plain and bay and rising into the purer air and the scent
of flowers and other signs of coming spring, to the little village of
Arola, with its church and bell, its beggars and idlers,--just a
little street of houses jammed in between the hills of Camaldoli and
Pergola, both of which we know well.

Upon the cliff by Pergola is a stone house, in front of which I like
to lie, looking straight down a thousand or two feet upon the roofs
of Meta, the map of the plain, and the always fascinating bay.  I
went down the backbone of the limestone ridge towards the sea the
other afternoon, before sunset, and unexpectedly came upon a group of
little stone cottages on a ledge, which are quite hidden from below.
The inhabitants were as much surprised to see a foreigner break
through their seclusion as I was to come upon them.  However, they
soon recovered presence of mind to ask for a little money.  Half a
dozen old hags with the parchment also sat upon the rocks in the sun,
spinning from distaffs, exactly as their ancestors did in Greece two
thousand years ago, I doubt not.  I do not know that it is true, as
Tasso wrote, that this climate is so temperate and serene that one
almost becomes immortal in it.  Since two thousand years all these
coasts have changed more or less, risen and sunk, and the temples and
palaces of two civilizations have tumbled into the sea.  Yet I do not
know but these tranquil old women have been sitting here on the rocks
all the while, high above change and worry and decay, gossiping and
spinning, like Fates.  Their yarn must be uncanny.

But we wander.  It is difficult to go to any particular place here;
impossible to write of it in a direct manner.  Our mulepath continues
most delightful, by slopes of green orchards nestled in sheltered
places, winding round gorges, deep and ragged with loose stones, and
groups of rocks standing on the edge of precipices, like medieval
towers, and through village after village tucked away in the hills.
The abundance of population is a constant surprise.  As we proceed,
the people are wilder and much more curious about us, having, it is
evident, seen few strangers lately.  Women and children, half-dressed
in dirty rags which do not hide the form, come out from their low
stone huts upon the windy terraces, and stand, arms akimbo, staring
at us, and not seldom hailing us in harsh voices.  Their sole dress
is often a single split and torn gown, not reaching to the bare
knees, evidently the original of those in the Naples ballet (it will,
no doubt, be different when those creatures exchange the ballet for
the ballot); and, with their tangled locks and dirty faces, they seem
rather beasts than women.  Are their husbands brigands, and are they
in wait for us in the chestnut-grove yonder?

The grove is charming; and the men we meet there gathering sticks are
not so surly as the women.  They point the way; and when we emerge
from the wood, St. Maria a Castello is before us on a height, its
white and red church shining in the sun.  We climb up to it.  In
front is a broad, flagged terrace; and on the edge are deep wells in
the rock, from which we draw cool water.  Plentifully victualed, one
could stand a siege here, and perhaps did in the gamey Middle Ages.
Monk or soldier need not wish a pleasanter place to lounge.
Adjoining the church, but lower, is a long, low building with three
rooms, at once house and stable, the stable in the center, though all
of them have hay in the lofts.  The rooms do not communicate.  That
is the whole of the town of St. Maria a Castello.

In one of the apartments some rough-looking peasants are eating
dinner, a frugal meal: a dish of unclean polenta, a plate of grated
cheese, a basket of wormy figs, and some sour red wine; no bread, no
meat.  They looked at us askance, and with no sign of hospitality.
We made friends, however, with the ragged children, one of whom took
great delight in exhibiting his litter of puppies; and we at length
so far worked into the good graces of the family that the mother was
prevailed upon to get us some milk and eggs.  I followed the woman
into one of the apartments to superintend the cooking of the eggs.
It was a mere den, with an earth floor.  A fire of twigs was kindled
against the farther wall, and a little girl, half-naked, carrying a

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