ページの画像
PDF
ePub

You may imagine my annoyance when I found by my reception that the note of the judge was nothing else than a kind of billet on the householder. It was an abuse of the power which the judge possesses to compel the inhabitants to furnish lodgings to any officer of government that may be passing through the country. As soon as I understood the position I occupied, I stated that it was a mistake on the part of the judge, as it was not my intention to accept his hospitality without payment; that I was a foreigner, travelling through his country for amusement, and that, in addition to payment, I should feel grateful to him if he could accommodate me for the night. My host said that he would not accept payment, but he would give the best accommodation he possessed. He said this, however, with none of that cordiality which enhances the favour, and if I had not been unwilling to get into a dispute, in my unprotected state, I should have left his house at once. I thought it impolitic to excite bad feelings, and took no notice of his not very courteous reception. Everything, however, that I saw rendered me uncomfortable, and I felt so little at my ease that I determined to wait on the clergyman, as a person in whom I might repose confidence. His house was one of the largest and best built in the village. On knocking, the door was opened by a young girl, who, seeing a stranger, retreated before I had time to utter a syllable, and I heard the bolt grate within. I was not, however, to be balked in this way, and I continued to knock in a most importunate manner, when she put her head out of a hole in the upper part of the house, and inquired in a trembling tone what I wanted. I told her that I wished to see the clergyman; she assured me he was asleep, and could not be disturbed. I said that my business was of that deep importance that I could take no denial, and after waiting a short time an old shrivelled face made its appearance at the hole, which seemed for the purpose of reconnoitring, and stated that it belonged to the curate. I requested the favour of a private audience, and, as I suppose my appearance did not betoken any sinister designs, he granted my request. The poor girl, more dead than alive, opened the door, and I found myself admitted to a dark staircase, which I ascended by groping along the wall. I was ushered into a small but neat room, well furnished with books, which naturally prepossessed me in his favour. The old gentleman received me with much genuine kindness, and inquired how he could be of use to me. I stated that I had taken the liberty of waiting on him, as the most trustworthy person in his village, to inquire if the country were really in the dangerous state that the judge had given me to understand, and as I knew that there were three different roads by which I might reach Nicastro, I was anxious to find out which he considered the most safe. I saw by his cautious answer that he was unwilling to give his countrymen a bad character, at the same time he recommended that I should give no hints as to the direction in which I intended to proceed to-morrow morning. . He stated that the people were in extreme poverty, and that this rendered travelling unsafe, if it were supposed that you carried property of any value with you. ... I found that I might have perfect confidence in the person in whose house I was to pass the night, and after thanking him for his kindness, and apologising for my intrusion, I returned to my host, where I found supper prepared. I exerted myself to overcome my un

[ocr errors]

pleasant introduction; and whether it was the agreeable nature of my conversation, or more likely some excellent wine, which we consumed in considerable quantity, we became at last great friends. It was long past midnight ere we closed our bacchanalian orgies, and he ended by stating that he was happy to have made my acquaintance. I found good reasons why the judge had selected him to be my host, as he was one of those who was under the surveillance of the police, and the billet was a punishment on him. I had sent to request the judge to furnish me with a guide to Nicastro, determining at the same time to proceed to-morrow to Nocera, and the following day I hope to reach Nicastro, believing that I shall in this way diminish the danger, and be enabled at the same time to visit the site of the ancient city, Terina.

XIV.

THIS morning I found that my host had quite forgotten the manner in which I had been introduced, and we parted on friendly terms. The guide sent by the judge made considerable opposition, when I requested him to conduct me to Nocera instead of Nicastro; and it was only by threatening to complain to the judge, and by offering the same sum of money, though the distance to Nocera was not one-third, that he was induced to yield. I could not conceive the cause of this unwillingness; it did not tend to make me more at ease. The freshness of the morning was exhilarating, and if I could have thought only of nature and its beauties, I should have enjoyed the scenery around. I passed some patches of Indian corn, and a few vineyards of small extent; in general, however, the country had a desolate and melancholy appearance, from the want of inhabitants. We descended into the channel of the river Savuto, the ancient Sabbatus, which rises in the table-land of La Sila from a fissure in the hill, at a spot called La Fontana del Labro, and becomes at once a large stream. It had, even at this period of the year, a considerable body of water, which rendered it no easy matter to cross on my guide's back. In the winter season it evidently spreads over a larger surface than it did at present, and it made our travelling less fatiguing by keeping along its winter channel. We crept along slowly in this way for several hours, when my guide suddenly stopped, and, pointing to a deep glen which ran up from the river into the mountains, told me that brigands were constantly in wait there, and that many murders had been committed. I observed to him that I did not think he could run much risk from encountering these men, of whom he spoke, and that I had no alternative, unless he could point out some way by which we could avoid the spot. He then proposed that we should strike across the river again and ascend the bank, which was thickly wooded. During this consultation we had halted, and were facing each other. I looked fixedly at him to discover if there was any faltering or confusion in his appearance; I could, however, perceive none, and as we should certainly be able thus to avoid the mouth of the glen, I acceded to his proposal, though I was not sure that it would not be an exemplification of Scylla and Charybdis, or our more homely proverb, “Out of the frying-pan into the fire.” It was no easy task to climb the bank, which was covered with short brushwood, and I was alarmed by observing the number of vipers and serpents that we disturbed while basking in the sun. At any other time I should have beat a rapid retreat from such a spot, but I dreaded at this moment the attack of man more than that of any other animal, and I persevered in mounting to the top. When we came opposite to the mouth of the glen, you may imagine with what anxiety I examined as far as my eye could reach, and how freely, I breathed, when I was satisfied that there was no human being within it. The opposite bank of the river was bare, and the white chalky cliffs made a disagreeable impression on the eye, particularly as the glare of the sun was directly upon them. As soon as we had left the glen a short distance behind us, I proposed that we should again descend to the bed of the river, as the bank, along which we were proceeding, had many inequalities, which rendered our progress slow and fatiguing. . It must have been close to this very spot that Henry, eldest son of Frederick II., was drowned on passing this river, and on looking at its winter channel I could believe that such an accident might easily take place. After some time we again left the river, and struck across the country, arriving at last at a few houses, which I found to be San Mango. I had been told that if I reached this village in safety, the rest of my journey to Nocera would be comparatively without danger. It was not, therefore, without a feeling of pleasure that I entered the miserable village of San Mango, which assumed in my eyes the delight of a city of refuge. I inquired for the house of the syndic, and, on entering it, a poor wretch came forward and acknowledged that he was the chief magistrate of the village. I stated to him that I was on my way to Nocera, and that I wished to know if the road was safe. He said that I should now meet with no danger, but expressed his astonishment that I had escaped bandits in my morning's walk. He assured me that no one ever ventured to Diano unless in company with others, and always with arms. This statement only made me the more thankful that I had been lucky enough to escape, and it would have been no easy matter to have tempted me to return to Diano. On entering into conversation with the syndic, I found that he had been elected to this office much against his inclination. It would appear that there are only two respectable families in the village, and they have carried on a deadly feud from time immemorial. Latterly the petty office of syndic had become additional cause of dissension, as they were thus able to employ their official power in oppressing the partisans of each other. The whole village was divided between the two rival clans, and I suppose that the poor man had been selected by government to his present office, as he was not likely, from his ignorance and stupidity, to wrest his power to the prejudice of either party. A few weeks ago the two rival factions had come to an open rupture, and a brother of the head of one of the clans had been slain in a mêlée. I found that government had ordered all those immediately connected with the murder to be arrested, and transmitted to the capital of the province. On inquiring what steps he had taken to bring the parties to justice, he looked very grave, and said it was easy for government to issue orders, but if it were imagined that he had the slightest intention to execute them, his life would not be worth an hour's purchase. I was amused to hear that government would be opposed by both parties, if any attempt were made to interfere in this private feud. At the moment I entered, he

had just received a letter from government, threatening imprisonment and confiscation of his goods if he did not forward, without delay, the sum of money at which his parish was rated. He was ordered to call his council, and lay the matter before them. This council, however, he frankly confessed, treated his summons with supreme contempt, and as he had no means at his command by which he could compel them, he stated that he had taken care to have information conveyed to him if government sent gendarmes to put their threat into execution, when he intended to take refuge in the mountains, and in this way add to the number of the brigands. I have not the slightest doubt that the poor man was giving a true account of his position, and that he had no more power than I had to execute the orders of government. He inquired with great earnestmess what I recommended him to do; but I saw no other step he could take, except to send a simple statement of the facts to government—a course from which he did not seem to anticipate success, as they would give no credit to his story. Though this syndic had all the outward appearance of poverty, both in his house and in his person, he spoke with great animation, and, as is the general practice of the Italians, his words were accompanied with a most significant pantomime, which left no difficulty in understanding his meaning. A sign, a gesture, an exclamation, stamped an emphasis far more marked than any mere words could have done. His whole frame quivered, and the difficulties in which he was involved seemed to have made such an impression on his mind as gave him, for the moment, a species of inspiration. Yet I was afterwards told, by those who ought to have known their countrymen well, that after all it might have been an attempt to impose upon me. The manners of the southern Italians are supple and insinuating; they are full of finesse and subtlety, qualities which they may in some respects have inherited from their Greek ancestors. I was amused at the compassionate way in which he talked of the brigands, of whom I had begun to feel so wholesome a dread; they were, in his eyes, “poveretti,” “poor devils,” apparently more sinned against than sinning; and indeed, if many of them had been driven to join them for the same reasons that seemed likely to induce him, I could scarcely help feeling indulgence for them. My guide petitioned to be allowed to return home, and as I understood that I should have no difficulty in finding my way to Nocera, I granted his request. After I had rested a short time at San Mango, I proceeded on my solitary way to Nocera, which I reached with only one slight deviation from the direct road. It is prettily situated on the declivity of a hill, and near it flows the river Savuto, falling into the sea about two miles below Nocera. This is the first interruption in that mountain ridge which I had crossed at Paola. The valley is about one mile in breadth, when the mountains again rise suddenly to a considerable height, and are wooded to the top. It is one of the most romantic spots that I ever beheld; and as I now felt perfectly safe, I lay down under the shade of a tree, and enjoyed in undisturbed quiet the beauties of nature. It was necessary, however, that I should take some steps to procure a lodging, and I accordingly entered Nocera, where I found the people crowding to church to wait on the bishop, who was visiting this part of his diocese for the purpose of confession. It is said that many of the priests employ this power to discover the political sentiments of their people, and convey the information to government. All those who neglect this sacred ordinance of the Church are reported to the police, and taken under their surveillance, as likely to be disaffected to government. I went forward with the crowd into the church, though I saw many inquisitive eyes upon me, and resolved to act like Naaman in the Temple of Rimmon, bowing my head that I might excite no uproar among the people. This was neither the place nor the time to show my heretical opinions. The church was small, and closely packed by the Calabrese of the lower orders. On entering, there was the holy water, which on this great occasion was sprinkled by an attendant priest, as you crossed the threshold, but in general you must apply it with your own hands. This custom, as you very well know, is a remnant of Paganism, like many others of the Romish Church. Virgil (AEn. vi. 229) alludes to it:

Idem ter socios pura circumtulit unda,
Spargens rore levi et ramo felicis oliva; ;
Lustravitgue viros.
Old Corymaeus compass'd thrice the crew,
And dipp'd an olive-branch in holy dew;
Which thrice he sprinkled round.

Enough of the water reached me to enable me to find that it was a mixture of salt and water, as Theocritus (Idyll. xxiv. 95) says it was in former times, about B.C. 272.

[ocr errors]

We had on this solemn occasion high mass, Messa Cantata, as it is called, when the priest, standing in front of the altar, sprinkles the holy water towards the congregation before he proceeds to the performance of the service. The Romans seem to have had something of the same kind when they were performing sacrifice, if Propertius (iv. 6, 7) gives a correct account—

Spargite me lymphis; carmengue recentibus aris
Tibia Mygdoniis libet eburna Cadis.

“Sprinkle me with water, and let the ivory pipe offer a divine song, accompanied by a libation of Mygdonian wine on the fresh altar.” Is there not the same idea in the Romish Church respecting the wine, which they confine to the priests? The bishop was a venerable old man, who went through his duties with great dignity, performing the Sacrifizio della Messa very impressively. When the Host (Hostia), the wafer or consecrated bit of bread, was raised, the whole congregation prostrated themselves on the floor, as far as the crowd would permit, with unaffected piety; and yet, with Cicero (De Nat. Deor., iii. 16), I could not help saying, Sed ecquem tam amentem esse putas, qui illud, quo vescatur, Deum credat esse?, “Do you think that there was ever a man so mad as to take that on which he feeds as a god?” And yet this is the distinguishing article of faith in the creed of Rome. Of course we had incense without stint, and this hot day the odour was most grateful; it may be, too, that it is good in a sanitary point of view, otherwise the

« 前へ次へ »