Among the Brigands
By Prof. James de Mille
H. M. Caldwell Company Publishers New York and Boston
Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1871, by Lee and Shepard in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
Among the Brigands
Stranger in a strange Land.—A Citadel of Trunks.—Besieged.—Retreat in good Order.—A most tremendous Uproar.—Kicks! Thumps!—Smash of Chairs!—Crash of Tables!—A general Row!—The Cry for Help!—The Voice of David!—The Revelation of the Darkness!—The fiery Eyes!—The Unseen!—The Revelation of the Mystery.—A general Flight.
How in the World did it get there?—A joyous Ride.—Hark! Hark! The Dogs-do bark! Beggars come to Town; some in Rags, some in Tags, and some in a tattered Gown!—A pleasant Meditation on a classic Past very rudely, unexpectedly, tad even savagely interrupted, and likely to terminate in a Tragedy!—Perilous Position of David and Clive.
Out into the Country.—The Drive.—The glorious Land.—Sorrento and eternal Summer.—The Cave of Polyphemus.—The Cathedral—The mysterious Image.—What is it?—David Relic-hunting.—A Catastrophe.—Chased by a Virago.—The Town roused.—Besieged.—A desperate Onset—Flight—Last of the Virago.
Salerno and the sulky Driver.—Paestum and its Temples.—A great Sensation.—An unpleasant Predicament—Is the Driver a Traitor?—Is he in League—with Bandits?—Arguments about the Situation, and what each thought about it.
They discuss the Situation.—They prepare to foot it—A toilsome Walk, and a happy Discovery.—The Language of Signs once more.—The Mountain Cavalcade.—Bob's Ambition.—Its results.—Bob vanishes.—Consternation of the Donkey Boy.—Consternation of the Cavalcade.—"E Perduto!".
Flight of Both—Difference between a tame Donkey and a wild Ass.—Carried off to the Mountains.—The headlong Course.—The Mountain Pass.—The Journey's End.—Ill-omened Place.—Confounded by a new Terror.—The Brigands.
The Lurking-place of the Brigands.—The captive Boy.—The hideous Household.—The horrible old Hag.—The slattern Woman.—The dirty Children.—The old Crone and the evil Eye.—Despondency of Bob. —Is Escape possible?—Night.—Imprisoned.—The Bed of Straw. —Outlook into the Night from the Prison Windows.
The worn-out Captive.—Light Slumbers.—Fearful Wakening.—The stealthy Step.—The overmastering Horror.—The lone Boy confronted by his Enemy.—The hungry Eyes.—Is it real, or a Nightmare?—The supreme Moment.
The Cavalcade in Pursuit—Hopes and Fears.—Theories about the lost Boy.—A new Turn to Affairs.—Explanations.—On to Salerno.—Inquiries.—Baffled.—Fresh Consternation and Despondency.—The last Hope.
The captive Boy and his grisly Visitant—The Hand on his Head.-Denouement.—The Brigand Family.—The old Crone.—The Robber Wife.—The Brigand Children.—A Revolution of Feeling.—The main Road.—The Carriage.—In Search of Bob.
The Return.—The tender Adieus.—Back to Salerno.—On to Castellamare.—A pleasant Scene.—An unpleasant Discovery.—David among the Missing.—Woes of Uncle Moses.—Deliberations over the Situation.—Various Theories.—The Vengeance of the Enemy.—Back to Sorrento in Search of the lost One.
The Waking of David.—A glorious Scene.—A Temptation.—David embarks upon the wide, wide Sea.—Youth at the Prow and Pleasure at the Helm.—A daring Navigator.—A baffled and confounded Navigator.—Lost! Lost! Lost!—Despair of David.—At the Mercy of Wind and Sea.—The Isle of the Brigands.—The Brigand Chief.
David captured.—The big, bluff, burly, brusque, bearded, broad-shouldered, beetle-browed Bully of a Brigand.—A terrific Inquisition.—David's Plea for Mercy.—The hard-hearted Captor and the trembling Captive.—A direful Threat—David carried off helpless and despairing.—The Robber's Hold.
On the Way to Sorrento again.—A mournful Ride.—A despairing Search.—A fearful Discovery.—The old Virago again.—In a Trap.—Sorrento aroused.—Besieged.—All lost—A raging Crowd.—The howling Hag.—Harried Consultation.—The last forlorn Hope.—Disguise, Flight, and Concealment.
In the Robber's Hold.—The Brigand's Bride.—Sudden, amazing, overwhelming, bewildering, tremendous, astounding, overpowering, and crashing Discovery.—The Situation.—Everybody confounded.—The Crowd at Sorrento.—The Landlord's Prayers.—The Virago calls for Vengeance.
More Troubles for poor David.—Onset of four Women.—Seized by an old Crone and three Peasant Girls.—Fresh Horror of David.—A new Uproar in the Yard of the Inn.—Uncle Moses bent double.
Vesuvius.—Ponies and Sticks.—Sand and Lava.—The rocky Steps.—The rolling, wrathful, Smoke-clouds.—The Volcano warns them off.—The lost Boy.—A fearful Search.—A desperate Effort.—The sulphurous Vapors.—Over die sliding Sands.
Pompeii, the City of the Dead.—The Monuments of the Past.—Temples, Towers, and Palaces.—Tombs and Monuments.—Theatres and Amphitheatres.—Streets and Squares.
Lofty classical Enthusiasm of David, and painful Lack of Feeling on the Part of Frank.—David, red-hot with the Flow of the Past, is suddenly confronted with the Present.—The Present dashes cold Water upon his glowing Enthusiasm.—The Gates.—Minos, Aeacus, and Rhadamanthus.—The Culprits.
The Glories of Naples.—The Museum.—The Curiosities.—How they unroll the charred Manuscripts exhumed from Herculaneum and Pompeii.—On to Rome.—Capua.—The Tomb of Cicero.—Terracina. —The Pontine Marshes.—The Appii Forum.
The Pontine Marshes.—A Change comes over the Party.—The foul Exhalations.—The Sleep of Death.—Dreadful Accident.—Despair of Frank.—A Breakdown.—Ingenuity of the Driver.—Resumption of the Journey.
The March ended.—A lonely Inn.—Evil Faces.—Beetling Brows.—Sinister Glances.—Suspicions of the Party.—They put their Heads together.—Conferences of the Party.—A threatening Prospect—Barricades.—In Time of Peace prepare for War.—The Garrison arm themselves.
The sleepless Watch.—The mysterious Steps.—The low Whispers.—They come! They come!—The Garrison roused.—To Arms! To Arms!—The beleaguered Party.—At Bay.—The decisive Moment—The Scaling Ladders.—Onset of the Brigands.—End of Troubles.
A beautiful Country.—Magnificent Scenery.—The Approach to Albano.—Enthusiasm of the Boys.—Archaeology versus Appetite.—The Separation of the Boys.—The Story of the Alban Lake and the ancient subterranean.
The lonely Path.—The sequestered Vale.—The old House.—A feudal Castle.—A baronial Windmill.—A mysterious Sound.—A terrible Discovery.—At Bay.—The wild Beast's Lair!—What is it?—A great Bore.
Despair of Uncle Moses.—Frank and Bob endeavor to offer Consolation.—The Search.—The Discovery at the Convent—The Guide.—The old House.—The Captives.—The Alarm given.—Flight of Uncle Moses and his Party.—Albans! to the Rescue!—The delivering Host!
Arma Virumque cano!—The Chase of the wild Boar!—The Prisoners at the Window.—The Alban Army.—Wild Uproar.—Three hundred and sixty-five Pocket Handkerchiefs.—Flame.—Smoking out the Monster.—A Salamander.
The Salamander inaccessible to Fire.—The last Appeal—Frank takes Action.—He fires.—Casualty to Frank and Bob.—Onset of the Monster.—Flight.—Tremendous Sensation.—The Guide's Story.—Another Legend of Albano.—On to Rome.
THE YOUNG DODGE CLUB.
AMONG THE BRIGANDS.
Stranger in a strange Land.—A Citadel of Trunks.—Besieged.—Retreat in good Order.—A most tremendous Uproar.—Kicks! Thumps!—Smash of Chain!—Crash of Tables!—A general Row!—The Cry for Help!—The Voice of David!—The Revelation of the Darkness!—The fiery Eyes!—The Unseen!—The Revelation of the Mystery.—A general Fight.
Mr. Moses V. Sprole had passed the greater part of his life in his native village, and being anxious to see the world, resolved upon a tour in Europe. As he did not care to go alone, he offered to take with him his four nephews, who were great favorites with their bachelor uncle, and his chief associates. This offer met with an eager response from the boys, and a willing assent from their parents, who fully believed that a tour of this description would be of immense benefit to them. This brief explanation will serve to account for the appearance of Uncle Moses in Naples, where he landed on a mellow day in February, en route for Switzerland, bowed down with the responsibility of several heavy trunks, and the still heavier responsibility of four fine lumps of boys, of whose troubles, trials, tribulations, and manifold adventures, he seemed, on the present occasion, to have a mournful presentiment.
These troubles began at once; for scarcely had they landed when they found themselves surrounded by the lazzaroni, and the air was filled with a babel of exclamations.
"Signori!" "Signo!" "Moosoo!" "Meestaire!" "Sare!" "Carra ze baggage!" "Tek ze loggage!" "Show ze hotel!" "Hotel della Europa!" "Hotel dell' Inghelterra!" "Hotel dell' America!" "Eccelenza, you wanta good, naisy, rosbif, you comma longsida me!" "Come long!" "Hurrah!" "Bravo!" "O, yais." "Ver nais." "O, yais. You know me. American Meestaire!"
All this, and ever so much more, together with scraps of French, German, Bohemian, Hungarian, Russian, and several other languages which the lazzaroni had picked up for the purpose of making themselves agreeable to foreigners. They surrounded Uncle Moses and his four boys in a dense crowd—grinning, chattering, gesticulating, dancing, pushing, jumping, and grimacing, as only Neapolitan lazzaroni can; and they tried to get hold of the luggage that lay upon the wharf.
Bagged, hatless, shirtless, blessed with but one pair of trousers per man; bearded, dirty, noisy; yet fat and good-natured withal; the lazzaroni produced a startling effect upon the newly arrived travellers.
Uncle Moses soon grew utterly bewildered by the noise and disorder. One idea, however, was prominent in his mind, and that was his luggage. He had heard of Italian brigands. At the sight of this crowd, all that he had beard on that subject came back before him. "Rinaldo Rinaldini," a charming brigand book, which had been the delight of his childhood, now stood out clear in his recollection. The lazzaroni seemed to be a crowd of bandits, filled with but one purpose, and that was to seize the luggage. The efforts of the lazzaroni to get the trunks roused him to action. Springing forward, he struck their hands away with a formidable cotton umbrella, and drew the trunks together in a pile. Three lay in a row, and one was on the top of these. The pile was a small pyramid.
"Here, boys," he cried; "you keep by me, Don't let these varmints get the trunks. Sit down on 'em, and keep 'em off."
Saying this, Uncle Moses put the two Clark boys on a trunk on one side, and the two Wilmot boys on a trunk on the other; and mounting himself upon the middle trunk, he sat down and glared defiantly at the enemy.
This action was greeted by the lazzaroni with a burst of laughter and a shout of,—
To which Uncle Moses and the boys made no reply. In fact, it would have been a little difficult for them to do so, as not one of them understood a word of any language spoken among men except their own. So they said nothing; but constituting themselves into a beleaguered garrison, they intrenched themselves within their citadel, and bade defiance to the foe.
The foe, on the other hand, pressed round them, bombarding the garrison with broken English, broken French, and broken German, and sometimes made an assault upon the trunks.
Time passed on, and the garrison sat there, holding their own. At length they all became aware of the fact that they were excessively hungry. It was very evident that this kind of thing could not last much longer.
Meanwhile Uncle Moses had recovered his presence of mind. He was naturally cool and self-possessed, and after mounting the trunks, and gathering the boys about him, he quickly rallied from his confusion, and looked eagerly around to find some way by which he might be extricated from his difficulty.
At last a way appeared.
Around him, in his immediate neighborhood, stood the lazzaroni, as urgent, as patient, and as aggressive as ever, with their offers of assistance. Beyond these were people passing up and down the wharf, all of whom were foreigners, and therefore inaccessible. Beyond these again was a wide space, and in the distance a busy street, with carriages driving to and fro.
Uncle Moses looked for a long time, hoping to see something like a cab. In vain. They all seemed to him to be "one-hoss shays," and what was worse, all seemed to be filled.
"Boys," said he at last, "I'm goin' to make a move. You jest sit here, and hold on to the trunks. I'll go an hunt up one of them one-hoss shays. There ain't nothin' else that I can do. Hold on now, hard and fast, till I come back."
With these words off went Uncle Moses, and the boys remained behind, waiting.
A very fine-looking set of boys they were too.
There was Frank Wilmot, about fifteen years of age, tall, stout, with fine, frank face, and crisp, curly hair.
There was Clive Wilmot, about fourteen, tall and slight, with large eyes and dark hair.
There was David Clark, about Frank's age, rather pale, with serious face, and quiet, thoughtful manner.
And there was Robert, or, as he was always called, Bob Clark—an odd-looking boy, with a bullet head, pug nose, comical face, brown eyes, and short shingled hair.
Uncle Moses was not gone long. By some wonderful means or other he had succeeded in procuring a vehicle of that kind which is universal in this city, and he now reappeared to the delighted boys, coming at a tearing pace towards them, seated in a Neapolitan caleche.
The Neapolitan caleche is a wonderful machine, quite unequalled among wheeled vehicles. The wheels are far back, the shafts are long, and horse draws it. But in the caleche it is a very common thing for any quantity of people to pile themselves. There is a seat for two, which is generally occupied by the most, worthy, perhaps; but all around them cluster others,—behind them, before them, and on each side of them,—clinging to the shafts, standing on the axle, hanging on the springs. Indeed, I have heard of babies being slung underneath, in baskets; but I don't believe that.
At any rate, Uncle Moses and his party all tumbled in triumphantly. Two trunks were put in front, one behind, and one suspended underneath. David and Clive sat behind, Frank and Uncle Moses on the seat, while Bob sat on the trunk in front, with the driver. The lazzaroni looked on with mournful faces, but still proffered their services. In patient perseverance few people can equal them.
The driver saw at once the purpose of the Americans, though they could not tell him what they wanted. So he drove them to a hotel in the Strada Toledo, where he left them, after having been paid by Uncle Moses the largest fare he had ever received in his life; for Uncle Moses gave him about five dollars, and felt grateful to him besides.
Their apartments were very nice rooms in the sixth story. The hotel was a quadrangular edifice, with a spacious court-yard. Around this court-yard ran galleries, opening into each story, and communicating with one another by stairways, which were used by all the occupants of the house.
From the gallery in the sixth story a door opened into their parlor. On the left side of this was a snug bedroom, of which Uncle Moses took possession; on the right side was another, which was appropriated by David and Clive; while the third, which was on the other side, and looked out into the street, was taken by Frank and Bob.
Thus the four boys paired off, and made themselves very comfortable..
That night they all went to bed early. Uncle Moses retired last. All slept soundly, for they were very much fatigued.
But just before daybreak, and in the dim morning twilight, Frank and Bob were suddenly roused by a most tremendous uproar in the parlor—kicks, thumps, tables upsetting, chairs breaking, and a general row going on; in the midst of which din arose the voice of David, calling frantically upon themselves and Uncle Moses.
This was certainly enough to rouse anybody.
Up jumped Frank, and rushed to the door.
Up jumped Bob, and sprang after him.
The noise outside was outrageous. What was it? Could it be robbers? No. Robbers would prefer to do their work in silence. What was it?
Slowly and cautiously Frank opened the door, and looked forth into the parlor. It was as yet quite dark, and the room into which he peered was wrapped in the shades of night. What little he could see he saw but indistinctly. Yet he saw something.
He saw a dark, shadowy figure in rapid motion backward and forward, and at every movement some article of furniture would go with a crash to the floor. Sometimes the figure seemed to be on the table, at other times it was leaping in the air. Suddenly, as he looked, the door, which opened out into the parlor, was banged back with a violent blow, and shut again. Frank was nearly knocked down.
"What is it?" asked Bob.
"I don't know," said Frank, "unless it's a madman."
"What shall we do?"
"If we were all together," said Frank, "we might make a rush at him, and secure him. I've a great mind to make a start, as it is."
"It must be a brigand!" said Bob; for his mind, like the minds of the rest of the party, was largely filled with images of Italian bandits.
"Perhaps so," said Frank; "but at any rate let's make a rush at him. Will you do it?"
"Of course," said Bob.
At this Frank carefully opened the door again, and looked forth. The noise had ceased for the time. Bob poked his head forth also. They looked eagerly into the room.
Suddenly Frank touched Bob.
"Look!" he whispered, "by the table."
It was certainly a singular sight that met their view. In the midst of the gloom they could see two balls of light that seemed like eyes, though there was no form visible to which these glaring, fiery eyes might belong. And the eyes seemed to glare out of the darkness directly at them. All was still now; but the very stillness gave additional horror to that unseen being, whose dread gaze seemed to be fastened upon them.
Suddenly David's voice was heard from the next room,—
"Hallo!" cried both boys.
"What shall we do? Can't you do something?"
"I'll see," cried Frank. "Bob, light the lamp."
"I haven't any matches," said Bob.
"What a pity!" said David. "Can't you wake Uncle Moses? Your room is next to his."
At this Bob went to the wall between his room and that of Uncle Moses, and began to pound with all his might. Uncle Moses did not respond, but there came a response from another quarter. It was from the thing in the parlor. Once more the fearful uproar began. Crash! went the chairs. Bang! went the tables. A rapid racket of hard footfalls succeeded, mingled with the smash of the furniture.
Frank closed the door.
"If I only had a light," said he, "I should know what to do. But what can a fellow do in the dark?"
"I wonder what's the matter with Uncle Moses."
"He? O, he would sleep through anything."
"I wonder if it is a brigand, after all," said Bob.
"I don't know. I still think it may be a madman."
"I don't like those glaring eyes."
"If I only had a fair chance, and could see," said Frank, fiercely, "I'd soon find out what is behind those glaring eyes."
Louder grew the din while they were speaking—the rattle, the bang, the smash, the general confusion of deafening sounds.
"I should like to know," said Frank, coolly, "how much longer this sort of thing is going to last."
For some time longer the boys kept the door shut, and the noise at length ceased as suddenly as it had begun. It had now grown much lighter, for in these southern countries twilight, whether in the morning or the evening, is but of short duration, and light advances or retires with a rapidity which is startling to the natives of more northern latitudes.
This increase of light gave fresh courage to Frank, who, even in the dark, and in the face of the mystery, had behaved very well; and he began to arrange a plan of action. His arrangements were soon completed. He simply drew a jackknife from his pocket, and opened it.
"Now, Bob," said he, "you follow me."
"All right," said Bob, cheerily.
Frank quietly opened the door, and looked forth, while Bob, in eager curiosity, looked out the same instant. There was now sufficient light for them to see every object in the room. A scene of wild disorder revealed itself. All the furniture was turned topsy-turvy. The door leading to the gallery was open, and there, before their eyes, standing on the sofa, was the being that had created such excitement.
One look was enough.
One cry escaped both the boys:—
"A billy goat! A miserable billy goat!" cried they.
And the next moment both of them sprang forward and seized the animal by the horns.
Then began a struggle. The goat was strong. He was also excited by the singularity of his surroundings and the suddenness of the attack. So he showed fight, and resisted desperately. Frank and Bob, however, clung most tenaciously to the horns which they had seized. Backward and forward the combatants pushed and dragged one another, with a new uproar as loud as the previous one.
In the midst of this they were interrupted by the appearance of Uncle Moses.
The door of his room opened, and that venerable personage made his appearance in a long night-gown, which reached to his heels, and wearing a long, starched night-cap, which nearly touched the ceiling.
"Wal, I never!" was his ejaculation. "What's this, boys? Why, whatever air you doin' with that thar goat?"
The boys returned no answer, for they were struggling with their enemy. By this time David and Clive made their appearance, and each seized one of the goat's hind legs. This additional help decided the contest. The animal was thrown down and held there, still kicking and struggling violently.
Scarcely had they taken breath when there was another interruption. This time it was at the outside door. A burly Italian made his appearance there—very brown, very bearded, very dirty, and very unsavory. For some time he stood without saying one word, staring into the room, and fixing his eyes now on the goat as it was held down by the boys, again on the broken furniture, and finally on the long, and somewhat ghostly figure of Uncle Moses.
This Was the exclamation that at last burst from the big, burly, brown, bearded, dirty, and unsavory Italian. At this the boys looked up, unconsciously loosening their grasp as they did so. The goat, feeling the grasp relax, made a mighty effort, and rolled over. Then he leaped to his feet. Then he made a wild bound to the door, over the prostrate forms of David and Clive. The big, burly, brown, bearded, dirty, and unsavory Italian made an effort to evade the animal's charge. He was not quick enough. Down he went, struck full in the breast, and away went the goat into the gallery, and down the stairs, and so into the outer world.
How in the World did it get there?—A joyous Ride.—Hark! Hark! The Dogs do bark! Beggars come to Town; some in Rags, some in Tags, and some in a tattered Gown!—A pleasant Meditation on a classic Past very rudely, unexpectedly, and even savagely interrupted, and likely to terminate in a Tragedy!—Perilous Position of David and Clive.
Fortunately, no bones were broken. The Italian slowly picked himself up, and casting a stupid look at the boys, moved slowly away, leaving the occupants of the standing there in their night-clothes, and earnestly discussing the question,—How in the world did the goat get there?
This was indeed a knotty question, till at length it was unravelled by Uncle Moses.
"Wal, I declar," said he, "ef I didn't go an leave the door open."
"You!" cried all.
"Yes," said he. "You see it was dreadful close an suffocatin last night; so when you went to bed, I jest left that door open to cool off. Then I went off to bed, and forgot all about it."
That was clear enough as far as it went, but still it did not account for the presence of a goat in the sixth story of a hotel. This they found out afterwards. That very day they saw flocks of goats being driven about from house to house. At other times they saw goats in their own hotel. They were hoisted up to the various stories, milked, and left to find their way down themselves. The fashion of using goat's milk was universal, and this was the simple way in which families were supplied. As to their visitor, the billy goat, he was undoubtedly the patriarch of some flock, who had wandered up stairs himself, perhaps in a fit of idle curiosity.
"If it hadn't been dark," said Frank. "If it hadn't been so abominably dark!"
"We were like Ajax," said David,—who was a bit of a pedant, and dealt largely in classical allusions,—"we were like Ajax, you know:—
'Give as but light, and let as see our foes, We'll bravely fall, though Jove himself oppose.'"
"O, that's all very well," said Uncle Moses; "but who's goin to pay for all that thar furnitoor? The goat can't."
"Uncle Moses," said Bob, gravely, "there's a great deal in what you say."
Uncle Moses turned away with a look of concern in his mild face, and retreated into his room.
(It may as well be stated here, that Uncle Moses had to pay for that furniture. The landlord called up an interpreter, and they had a long and somewhat exciting interview. It ended in the landlord's recovering a sum of money which was sufficient to furnish a whole suit of apartments in another part of the house.)
Being now fairly introduced to Naples, the boys were all eager to see the place and its surroundings, and Uncle Moses was quite willing to gratify them in any way. So they hired a carriage, found a guide, named Michael Angelo, who could speak English, and, thus equipped, they set out first for Baiae.
Through the city they went, through the crowded streets; past the palaces, cathedrals, gardens; past the towers, castles, and quays; till at last there arose before them the mighty Grotto of Posilipo. Through this they drove, looking in astonishment at its vast dimensions, and also at the crowds of people who were passing through it, on foot, on horseback, and on wheels. Then they came to Pozzuoli, the place where St. Paul once landed, and which is mentioned in the New Testament under its ancient name—Puteoli.
Here they were beset by beggars. The sight of this produced strange effects upon the little party. Uncle Moses, filled with pity, lavished money upon them, in spite of the remonstrances of the guide. Clive's sensitive nature shuddered at the spectacle. Frank tried to speak a few words of Italian to them, which he had caught from Michael Angelo. David muttered something about the ancient Romans, while Bob kept humming to himself these elegant verses:—
"Hark! hark! The dogs do bark! Beggars come to town, Some in rags, some in tags, Some in a tattered gown!"
The beggars followed them as far as they could, and when they left them, reinforcements always arrived.
Thus they were beset by them at the crater of the extinct volcano of Solfatura.
They encountered them at the gateway of Cumae,
At the Grotto of the Comaean Sibyl,
At Nero's Baths,
At the Lucrine Lake,
In fact everywhere.
Still, they enjoyed themselves very well, and kept up their pursuit of sights until late in the day. They were then at Baiae; and here the party stopped at a little inn, where they proposed to dine. Here the beggars beset them, in fresh crowds, till Uncle Hoses was compelled to close his purse, and tear himself away from his clamorous visitants. Frank and Bob went off to see if they could find some donkeys, ponies, or horses, so as to have a ride after dinner; while David and Clive strolled off towards the country.
"Come, Clive," said David, "let Frank and Bob enjoy their jackasses. For my part, I want to get to some place where I can sit down, and see this glorious land. It's the most classic spot in all the world."
"It's the most beautiful and poetic," said Clive, who was given to sentiment.
Walking on, they came to a place which projected into the sea, and here they sat down.
"O, what a glorious sight!" exclaimed Clive. "Look at this wonderful Bay of Naples! How intensely blue the water is! How intensely blue the sky is! And look at Vesuvius opposite. What an immense amount of smoke is coming from the crater!"
"Yes," said David, clearing his throat, "this is the place that the elder Pliny sailed from at the time of the destruction of Herculaneum and Pompeii. And look all around. That little town was once the luxurious Baiae. Over yonder is Lake Lucrine, which Virgil sings about. On that side is Misenum, where the Roman navy lay. There is Caligula's Bridge. What a glorious place! Everything that we have ever read of in classic story gathers about us here. Cicero, Caesar, Horace, Virgil, Tiberius, and Juvenal, seem to live here yet. Nero and Agrippina, Caligula and Claudius,—every old Roman, good or bad. And look, Clive, that is land out there. As I live, that is Capraea! And see,—O, see, Clive,—that must be the—"
"Datemi un carlino, signori, per l'amor di Dio. Sono povero—molto povero!"
It was in the middle of David's rather incoherent rhapsody that these words burst upon his ears. He and Clive started to their feet, and found close behind them a half dozen of those miserable beggars. Two of them were old men, whose bleary eyes and stooping frames indicated extreme age. One was a woman on, crutches. Number Four was a thin, consumptive-looking man. Number Five and Number Six were strong-limbed fellows, with very villanous faces. It was with one universal whine that these unwelcome visitors addressed the boys.
"Datemi un carlino, signori, per l'amor di Dio."
David shook his head.
"Sono miserabile," said Number Five.
"I don't understand," said David.
"Noi abbiam fame," said Number Six.
"Non capisco," said Clive, who had learned that much Italian from Michael Angelo.
"O, signori nobilissime!"
"I tell you, I don't understand," cried David.
"Non capisco," repeated Clive.
"Siamo desperati," said Number Six, with a sinister gleam in his eyes, which neither of the boys liked.
"Come, Clive," said David, "let's go back. Dinner must be ready by this time."
And they turned to go.
But as they turned, Number Five and Number Six placed themselves in the way.
"Date qualche cosa," they whined; and each of them seized a boy by the arm. The boys tried to jerk their arms away, but could not.
"Let us go," cried David, "or it will be the worse for you."
The two beggars now talked in Italian without relaxing their hold. Then they tried to pull the boys away; but the boys resisted bravely, and began to shout for help. At this the other beggars came forward menacingly, and Number Five and Number Six put their arms round the boys, and their hands over their mouths. Neither David nor Clive could now utter a cry. They could scarcely breathe. They were at the mercy of these miscreants!
It was, in truth, a perilous position in which David and Clive found themselves. Those ragged rascals, the beggars, were as remorseless as they were ragged. They had the boys at their mercy. The place was sufficiently far from the town to be out of hearing; and though the road was near, yet there were no people living in the vicinity. It was, therefore, sufficiently solitary to permit of any deed of violence being done with impunity.
David and Clive gave themselves up for lost With a last frantic effort, David tore his head loose, dashed his fist into the face of beggar Number Six, who was holding him, and tried to escape.
"Scelerate!" cried Number Six; and he threw David to the ground, and held him down, while he caught him by the throat. But though thus overpowered, David still struggled, and it was with some difficulty that the big brute who held him was able to keep him under.
Suddenly, at this moment, when all hope seemed lost, a loud cry was heard. There was a rush of two figures upon the scene; and the next instant Number Six was torn away, and rolled over on his back. A firm grasp was fixed on his throat, and a tremendous blow descended on his head from a stout stick, which was wielded by the youthful but sinewy arm of Frank Wilmot. At the same instant, also, Bob Clark had bounded at Number Five, leaped on his back, and began beating him about the head.
The attack had been so sudden, and so utterly unexpected, that it carried all before it. Away, with a wild cry of terror, fled the four decrepit beggars, leaving Number Five and Number Six on the field to themselves and the four boys. Number Six groaned with pain, and struggled furiously. He wrenched himself from beneath his assailants, but they again got the upper hand, and held on firmly. But Number Six was too strong to be easily grappled with, and it went hard with his assailants.
Meanwhile Clive, relieved by Bob, had become an assailant also. Snatching up a stone, he dashed it full in the face of Number Five. The man staggered back and fell, and Bob narrowly escaped falling under him. But Number Five sprang up instantly, and before Bob or Clive could close with him again, darted off without attempting to help Number Six, and ran for his life. Cowardly by nature, the beggars did not think of the size of their assailants; their fears magnified the boys to men; and they only thought of safety in a panic flight But Number Six was there yet, with Frank Wilmot's sinewy arms about him, and Bob and Clive now rushed to take part in that struggle. This addition to the attacking force turned the scale completely.
The struggle that now followed was most violent, the Italian making the most furious efforts to free himself; but Frank was very large and strong for his years; he was possessed of bull-dog tenacity and high-strung courage, and was strenuously assisted by the other three; so that the union of all their forces formed something to which one man was scarcely equal. In a very short time, therefore, after the arrival of Bob and Clive, the would-be robber was lying on his face, held firmly down by the four boys.
"Boys," said Frank, who was sitting on his shoulders, "fold his arms over his back."
As they did this, he twisted his handkerchief tightly, and then bound it around the man's hands as firmly as if it had been a rope. Bob and Clive held him down by sitting on his legs, while David sat on his neck. Frank now asked for their hand, kerchiefs, twisted them, tied them together, and then directed Bob to fasten the man's feet. This was Bob's task, and he did it as neatly as though he had been brought up to that particular business exclusively.
The man was now bound hard and fast, and lay on his face without a word, and only an occasional struggle. The weight of the boys was so disposed that it was not possible for him to get rid of them, and Frank watched all his attempted movements so vigilantly, that every effort was baffled at the outset. Frank also watched Bob as he tied the knots, and then, seeing that the work was well done, he started up.
"Come, boys," said he, "let's give the rascal a chance to breathe."
At this the boys all got up, and the Italian, relieved from their weight, rolled over on his back, and then on his side, staring all around, and making desperate efforts to free himself. He was like the immortal Gulliver when bound by the Lilliputians, except that one of his assailants, at least, was no Lilliputian, for in brawn, and sinew, and solid muscle, Frank, boy though he might be, was not very much, if at all, his inferior. As he struggled, and stared, and rolled about, the boys looked on; and Frank watched him carefully, ready to spring at him at the first sign of the bonds giving way. But the knots had been too carefully tied, and this the Italian soon found out. He therefore ceased his useless efforts, and sat up; then, drawing up his feet, he leaned his chin on his knees, and stared sulkily at the ground.
"And now," said David, "what are we to do?"
"I don't know," said Frank.
"Let's go for Uncle Moses," said Bob, "or Michael Angelo."
"We'd better hunt up a policeman," said Clive.
"No," said Frank, "let's get Uncle Moses here first. You go, Bob; and be quick, or else those other beggars'll be back here and release him."
Upon this Bob set out, and the others guarded the prisoner. Bob was not gone long, however, but soon returned in company with Uncle Moses. Bob had found him at the inn, and in a breathless way had told him all, but he had scarcely understood it; and as he now came upon the scene, he looked around in wonder, and seemed utterly bewildered. Had he found his beloved boys captured by bandits, he would have been shocked, but not very much surprised—for that was the one terror of his life; but to find the tables turned, and a bandit captured by his boys, was a thing which was so completely opposed to all his ordinary thoughts, that he stood for a moment fairly stupefied. Nor was it until David had told the whole story, and thus given him a second and Davidian edition of it, that he began to master the situation.
"Dear! dear! dear!" he cried, looking slowly at each of the boys in succession, and then at their silent and sulky captive, "and so you railly and truly were attacked and made prisoners by bandits. Dear! dear! dear!"
He looked inexpressibly shocked, and for some time stood in silence amid the loud clatter of the boys.
"Well, Uncle Moses," said Frank, at last, "what are we to do with him?"
To this Uncle Moses made no reply. It was certainly a somewhat puzzling inquiry; and his own life had been so peaceful and uneventful, that the question of the best way of dealing with a captured bandit was, very naturally, a somewhat perplexing one to answer. He stood, therefore, with his head bent forward, his right hand supporting his left elbow, and his left hand supporting his forehead, while his mild eyes regarded the captive robber with a meek and almost paternal glance, and his mind occupied itself in weighing that captives destiny.
"Well, Uncle Moses," said Frank a second time, somewhat impatiently, "what, are we to do with him? We must do something,—and be quick about it too,—or else the other beggars'll be back."
"Wal," said Uncle Moses, slowly and thoughtfully, "that's the very identical pint that I'm a meditatin on. An the long an the short of it is, that I'm beginnin to think, that the very best thing you can do is to take your handkerchees back, and come back with me to the inn, and get some dinner. For I've every reason to believe that dinner's ready about this time, bein as I remember hearin a bell a ringin jest before Bob came for me."
At this the boys stared in amazement at Uncle Moses, not knowing what in the world to make of this.
"What do you mean," said Frank, "about our handkerchiefs, when we've tied up the bandit with them?"
"Why," said Uncle Moses, "I think if you come you may as well bring yer handkerchees with you—as I s'pose you prefer havin em."
"But we'd have to untie them," said Bob.
"Wal, yes," said Uncle Moses, dryly; "that follers as a nat'ral consequence."
"What!" cried Frank, in an indignant voice, "untie him? Let him go? And after he has nearly killed David and Clive?"
"Wal, he didn't quite kill em," said Uncle Moses, turning his eyes benignantly upon the two boys. "They seem to me jest now to be oncommon spry—arter it all. They don't look very nigh death, as far as appearances go. No harm's done, I guess; an so, I dare say, we'd best jest let em go."
At this Frank looked ineffably disgusted.
"You see, boys," said Uncle Moses, "here we air, in a very peculiar situation. What air we? Strangers and sojourners in a strange land; don't know a word of the outlandish lingo; surrounded by beggars and Philistines. Air there any law courts here? Air there any lawyers? Air there any judges? I pause for a reply. There ain't one. No. An if we keep this man tied up, what can we do with him? We can't take him back with us in the coach. We can't keep him and feed him at the hotel like a pet animule. I don't know whar the lock-up is, an hain't seen a policeman in the whole place. Besides, if we do hand this bandit over to the police, do you think it's goin to end there? No, sir. Not it. If this man's arrested, we'll be arrested too. We'll have to be witnesses agin him. An that's what I don't want to do, if I can help it. My idee an aim allus is to keep clear of the lawyers; I'd rather be imposed on; I'd rather pay out money unjustly, be cheated, humbugged, and do any thin, than put myself in the power of lawyers. Depend upon it, they're as bad here as they air home. They'd have us all in jail, as witnesses. Now, I don't want to go to jail."
The words of Uncle Moses produced a strong impression upon the boys. Even Frank saw that handing the man over to the authorities would involve some trouble, at least, on their part. He hated what he called "bother." Besides, he had no vengeful feelings against the Italian, nor had Bob. As for David and Clive, they were the only ones who had been really wronged by the fellow; but they were the last in the world to harbor resentment or think of revenge. Their victory had also made them merciful. So the end of it was, that they did according to Uncle Moses' suggestion, and untied the bonds.
Number Six was evidently amazed. He rose to his feet, looked warily at the party, as though expecting some new attack, then looked all around, and then, with a bound, he sprang away, and running towards the road, soon disappeared. The rest did not delay much longer, but returned as soon as possible to the inn, where they found their dinner ready. This they ate, and then drove back to Naples.
The opportune arrival of Frank and Bob was soon explained. They had been riding on donkeys, and had seen the crowd around David and Clive, and the struggle. Fearing some danger for their companions, they had hastened to the spot, and reached it in time to be of service. The adventure might have been most serious to David and Clive; but as it happened, the results were of no very grave character. They felt a little sore; that is all. Bob, also had a bad bruise on his left arm; but on the whole, very little harm had been done, nor did the boys regret afterwards that they had let the scoundrel go free.
As for their guide, Michael Angelo, he had been busy in another direction, during this adventure, and when he heard of it, he was very anxious to have them arrested; but Uncle Moses, for reasons already stated, declined to do anything.
Out into the Country.—The Drive.—The glorious Land.—Sorrento and eternal Summer.—The Cave of Polyphemus.—The Cathedral.—The mysterious Image.—What is it?—David Relic-hunting.—A Catastrophe. —Chased by a Virago.—The Town roused.—Besieged.—A desperate Onset.—Plight.—Last of the Virago.
A few days after the affair related in the last chapter, our party set out from Naples on an excursion round the environs. With the assistance of their landlord they were able to get a carriage, which they hired for the excursion, the driver of which went with them, and was to pay all their expenses for a certain given sum. They expected to be gone several days, and to visit many places of surpassing interest; for Naples is a city whose charms, great as they are, do not surpass the manifold loveliness with which it is environed, and the whole party would have been sorry indeed if they had missed any one of those scenes of enchantment that lay so invitingly near them.
As they drove along the shore they were all in the highest spirits. The sky was cloudless, and of that deep blue color which is common to this climate; and the sun shone with dazzling brightness, being only warm enough to be pleasant, and not in any way oppressive. For many miles the way seemed nothing else than a street. Houses arose on each side; crowds of people, and multitudes of wagons, and droves of cattle constantly met their eyes. Caleches dashed about in all directions. The street itself was paved with the large lava blocks which prevail throughout the city; and in fact it seemed as though Naples was prolonging itself indefinitely.
At length they emerged from the close-built city, and entered the country. All the way the scenery was exquisite. On the left extended green fields, and orchards, and vineyards; spreading away for miles, they rose up the sides of high mountains. Upon these were small villas and hamlets, while occasionally a castle perched upon some inaccessible height threw an air of romantic attraction about the scene. They passed several villages, and at length reached Castellamare, a town on the shore of the bay. Passing beyond this, they found a change in the scenery. The road wound along cliffs which overhung the sea, and was ornamented by trees. The road itself was a magnificent one, as smooth as a floor, and by its circuitous course afforded a perpetual variety. The far white houses of Naples, the towers that dotted the shore on every side, the islands that rose from oat the waters, the glorious bay, the gloomy form of Vesuvius, with its smoke clouds overhanging, all united to form a scene which called forth the most unbounded admiration. Besides all these general features there were others of a more special character, as from time to time they came to some recess in the shore; and the road running in brought them to some little hamlet, which, nestling here, seemed the abode of peace, and innocence, and happiness. Through such variations of scenery they passed, and at length arrived at Sorrento.
This little town is most beautifully situated near the month of the Bay of Naples, and around it arise high, encircling hills which protect it from the cold blasts of winter and the hot winds of summer. Sorrento has a perfect climate, All the seasons are blended together here, and in the orange groves, that surround the town, there may be seen at the same time the strange spectacle of trees in blossom side by side with trees that are loaded with fruit fully ripe.
It was evening when they arrived, and they had not much time to spare; so they at once procured a guide from the hotel, and set forth to see what they could before dark. First, the guide took them to a deep chasm, which was so wild and abrupt, so deep and gloomy, that it looked like the work of a recent earthquake. Not far from this were some ancient reservoirs, the work of the times of imperial Rome. The arches were yet perfect, and over the reservoir was a garden of orange trees. Not far distant was a ruined temple, in the enclosure of which was a myrtle plant, five hundred years old, and so large that it formed a respectable tree.
After showing them these things and several others, the guide took them to the sea-shore, to a place which goes by the name of the Cave of Polyphemus. This is a large cavern in the cliff, in front of which is a huge fragment of rock. Here the boys recalled the story of Ulysses; and David volunteered to give it in full to Uncle Moses. So David told how Ulysses ventured to this place with his companions; how the one-eyed Cyclops caught them; how he imprisoned them in the cabin, shutting up its mouth by means of a huge rock, which David thought might have been that very fragment that now lay on the shore before their eyes; how the monster began to devour them; how Ulysses devised a plan of escape, and succeeded in putting out the eye of the monster; how he then effected his escape from the cave, and regaining his vessel, put forth to sea.
Then they went to visit the house in which Tasso was born. They were not able to enter it, and as it was now dark, they retreated to their hotel.
Oh the following morning they all set oat without the guide, to see the town for themselves. A festival of some kind was going on, which attracted many people, and the cathedral was filled. The boys, haying nothing else to do, wandered away towards the common centre of attraction. They soon lost one another in the crowd, and one by one they worked their way into the interior of the place. The organ was sounding forth, the priests were intoning service, on the altar candles were burning, and far on high, through the lofty vaulted nave, there rolled "the smoke of incense and the wail of song!"
David found himself a little distance away from a side chapel, which was evidently the chief attraction to the worshippers within the sacred edifice. A dense crowd assembled about it, and in front of it. Through these David managed to make his way, full of curiosity about the cause of their interest. He at length forced himself far enough forward to see inside the chapel. He saw a structure, in the centre of the chapel, covered with drapery, upon which was a cushion. Lying on this cushion was the image of a child, clothed in rich attire, and spangled with jewels, and adorned with gold and silver. Whether it was made of wood or wax he could not tell, but thought it was the former. The sight of it only tempted his curiosity the more, and he longed to look at it more closely. It was evidently considered by the surrounding crowd to be an object of great sanctity, for they regarded it with the utmost reverence, and those nearest were on their knees. Upon the altar, at the end of this chapel, lights were burning, and a priest was engaged in religious ceremonies.
David's desire to go closer was so strong, that he waited patiently in this one spot for the opportunity of gratifying his curiosity. He had to wait for a long time; but at length he had the satisfaction of seeing a movement among the people, which showed that they were on the point of dispersing. After this the crowd lessened, and the people began to take their departure. At length but a few remained, some of whom were still on their knees around the image.
David now, in a slow and unassuming manner, advanced towards the image. He could go close to it, and was able to see it perfectly. An iron rail surrounded the structure on which it was laid, preventing too close an approach; but standing here, outside of the rail, David saw that the image was very rudely carved out of wood, and was intended to represent a child. Why such an image should be the object of such interest and devotion he could not for the life of him imagine. He could only postpone any investigation into this until he could find out from some one.
And now there came over him an overwhelming desire to obtain a fragment from some portion of this image, or, its dress, or its surroundings, to serve as a relic. His relic-hunting propensities had never been stronger than they were at this moment, and no sooner did the idea suggest itself than he looked all around to see what were the chances.
As he looked around he saw that the cathedral was nearly empty: a priest was near the high altar, two boys were in the middle of the nave, by the chief entrance was a little group just preparing to leave. Nearer him, and close by the image, were two women. They were on their knees, and appeared to be absorbed in their devotions. It seemed to David that it would be quite easy to possess himself of some small and unimportant portion of the drapery. He was quite unobserved, for the two women who were nearest were not regarding him, the drapery was within easy reach, and a row of tassels, upon which he could lay his hand, offered an irresistible temptation. If he could but get one of those tassels, what an addition it would be to his little stock of treasures!
David once more looked all around. The priests were still at the altar; but the boys had gone from the nave, and those who had been near the door had departed. The women seemed as intent as ever upon their devotions. David looked at the drapery once more, and upon one of the tassels which was nearest him.
Once more he looked all around, and then, stretching forward his hand, he touched the coveted tassel.
Then he drew back his hand, and putting it in his pocket, he drew forth his knife, which he opened.
Then he looked around once more.
Then, for the last time, he put his hand forward, holding the knife so as to cut the tassel. But the cord which bound the tassel to the drapery was strong, and the knife was very dull, and David found that it was not so easy as he had supposed. But he was determined to get it, and so he sawed away, with his dull old knife, at the cord, severing one by one the filaments that composed it, but doing this so slowly that he began to grow impatient. The women were not looking. There was no danger. To work with one hand was useless, and so he reached forth both hands, and began sawing away more vigorously than ever. But his impatience, and his vehement pulls and tugs, produced an effect which he had not expected. The heavy drapery, which had been loosely thrown over, began to slide off towards him as he pulled. David did not notice this, but continued his work, looking around to see whether the women were noticing him or not. At length he had sawed the cord almost through, and gave a quick pull at it to break it.
The next moment the heavy drapery came sliding down towards him, and, to his horror, the wooden image came with it, falling with a crash on the marble pavement.
In an instant the two women started to their feet, staring with wild eyes at the image and the drapery. Then their wild eyes caught sight of David, whose frightened face would have revealed him as the guilty cause of this catastrophe, even if it had not been shown by the tassel and the knife, which were in his hands.
With a sharp, shrill scream, one of the women sprang towards him. David instinctively leaped back, and eluded her. The woman chased. David dodged her around a pillar.
The woman followed.
David dodged behind another pillar.
The woman cried out, "O Scellerato! Birbone! Furbo! Ladrone!" And though David's knowledge of the Italian language was but slight, yet it sufficed to show him that these names which she yelled after him had a very direful signification.
Thus David fled, dodging, the woman behind pillar after pillar, until at length he came near to the door. Had the other woman taken part in the chase, David would certainly have been captured. But the other woman did not. She stood as if petrified—motionless and mute, staring at the fallen sanctuary, and overwhelmed with horror. So the flight went on, until at length, reaching the door, David made a rush for it, dashed through, and ran as fast as his legs could carry him. The woman followed, but at a slower rate of speed, and saw him go into the hotel. Then she returned to the church, after which she went abroad with the story of the horrible desecration through all Sorrento.
On reaching the hotel, David found the rest of the party there, at dinner. He said nothing of his recent adventure, but took his seat at the table.
Before long, the party became conscious of a great tumult and uproar in the street in front of the house. Frank and Bob went to the windows, and looked out. A sudden exclamation of surprise brought Clive and Uncle Moses to their side. David followed slowly, with a strange feeling of apprehension, and with the recollection of his late flight still strong in his mind.
He looked out.
A great crowd presented itself to his horrified eyes—a crowd representing all Sorrento; old, the middle-aged, the young; the rich, poor; male and female; old men, old women, boys, and children. At the head of this, and immediately in front of the door, was the very old woman who bad discovered his sacrilege, and had chased him through the cathedral. Now he had hoped that the old woman had forgotten him; but her appearance now was tenfold more terrible than ever. Here she was—a virago—with a great following, whom she was exciting by violent harangues, and urging by wild gesticulations, to do something or other which David could not understand, but which he could well imagine to be something that had reference to his own humble, unworthy, and very much terrified self.
Before they had fairly grasped the whole of the scene that was thus so suddenly presented, they were accosted by the landlord and the driver, who entered the room hurriedly, and in some excitement, in search of them.
"One grand meesfortune haf arrive," said the landlord. "De people declare you haf insult de Bambino. Dey cry for vengeance. How is dis?"
"What?" asked Frank; "insult what?"
"Yes. It is de consecrate image—de Bambino—does miracles, makes cures; wonderful image, de pride of Sorrento; an dis is de day sacred to him. What is dis meesfortune dat I hear of? It is one grand calamity—for you—eef you do not take care."
"Bambino? insult?" said Frank. "We haven't insulted anything whatever. They're crazy."
Here David, finding concealment useless, confessed all. The boys listened in astonishment The landlord shook his head with an expression of concern and perplexity.
Then he had a long conversation with the driver.
Then they both left the room. The landlord went outside, and tried to appease the crowd. He might possibly, have succeeded, had it not been for David's old woman, who shook her fists in his face, stamped, appealed to Heaven, raved, and howled, all the time he was speaking. The consequence was, that the landlord's words had no effect.
He then entered the hotel once more, and after seeing the driver, and speaking a few words, he hurried up to our party, who by this time were in a state of general alarm.
"You must run—fly—leaf Sorrento—now—widout delay," he cried, breathlessly. "I haf order de carriage. I sall tell de people dat you sall be arrest, an pacify dem for a few moments, till you get start."
The landlord once more left them, and going out to the crowd, he made a few remarks, to the effect that the hotel was being searched now for the offender against the Bambino, and when he was found he would at once be handed over to the authorities. He urged them to wait patiently, and they should see that justice would be done.
The crowd now grew calmer, and waited. The landlord then went back, and led the party down to the court-yard. Here the carriage was all in readiness, and the driver was waiting. They all got in at once, unseen by the crowd in the street; and then, cracking his whip, the driver urged the horses off at full speed through the gates. The crowd fell back on either side, so as to make away, and were not in a position to offer any obstacles to so sudden an onset. They also had the idea that the culprit was inside the hotel, in the hands of the authorities.
But the old woman was not to be deceived; she saw it all in a moment, and in a moment she raised the alarm. Having, howling, gesticulating wildly, dancing, and jumping, she sprang after the carriage. The crowd followed. But the carriage had already got a good start; it had burst through the people, and those who stood in the way were only too glad to get out of it, and thus, with the horses at full speed, they dashed up the street; and before long they had left Sorrento, and the hotel, and the insulted Bambino, and the excited crowd, and the raving old beldam far behind.
David's adventure in Sorrento had been a peculiar one, and one, too, which was not without danger; but if there was any satisfaction to be got out of it, it was in the fact that the tassel which he had acquired, remained still in his possession, to be added to his little stock of relics.
Salerno and the sulky Driver.—Paestum and its Temples.—A great Sensation.—An unpleasant Predicament.—Is the Driver a Traitor?—Is he in League with Bandits?—Arguments about the Situation, and what each thought about it.
After a very pleasant drive through a country as beautiful as it had been ever since they left Naples, the party reached Salerno, where they passed the night. Salerno is a lovely place, situated at the extremity of a bay, like Naples, of which it may be called a miniature. It is protected from the wind by the high hills that encircle it, and its delicious climate makes it a great resort for invalids. But formerly Salerno had a different character, and one far more prominent in the eyes of the world. Salerno has a history full of events of the most varied and stirring character. Fought for by Greek, and Roman, and German, and Saracen, and Norman, its streets have witnessed the march of hundreds of warlike arrays, and it has known every extreme of good or evil fortune. Two things make. Salerno full of interest to the traveller who loves the past. One is, its position as a seat of learning daring the middle ages. Here once arose the greatest school of medicine in, the world, the chairs of which were thrown open, to Jewish and Arabian professors, who at that time far outstripped the students of the Christian world in scientific attainments. The other thing is, that here the great pope, Gregory VII., found refuge, after his long struggle, and, flying from Rome, obtained rest here among the friendly Normans, for it was in Salerno that he uttered those memorable dying words of his: "I have loved righteousness, and hated iniquity, and therefore I die in exile."
Here at Salerno they had a slight misunderstanding with their driver. He insisted on getting more pay. As they had already made a full contract with him, this demand seemed like an imposition, and was rejected by the whole of them. The driver grew furiously excited, gesticulated vehemently, stamped, his feet, rolled his eyes, struck his fists together, and uttered language which sounded like Italian oaths, though they could not make it out. Uncle Moses seemed a little appalled at his vehement, and was inclined to yield to his demands for the sake of peace; but the boys would not listen to this for a moment. After watching the raging Italian till they were tired, Frank at length started to his feet, and in a peremptory tone ordered him out of the room. The Italian was so unprepared for this decisive conduct on the part of one who appeared to be but a boy, that he stopped short in the midst of a most eloquent tirade against them, in which he was threatening to denounce them to the authorities for sacrilege; and having stopped, he stared at Frank, and seemed unable to go on once more. Frank now repeated his orders, accompanying them with a threat that he would call in the police. At this the driver's brow lowered into a sullen scowl, and muttering some expressions of rage and vengeance, he left the room.
The boys chatted a little about the mutiny of the driver, as they called it, but soon dismissed the thought from their minds.
After passing the night at Salerno, they prepared, on the following morning, to continue their journey. Early in the day, the driver made his appearance. He was quiet, and not communicative, and much changed from his former self. Frank addressed a few remarks to him, but perceiving that he was sulky, he gave up all attempts to appease his wrath. In fact, he began to think that it might, perhaps, have been as well to comply with his request, for the request for more money had been based upon his recent rescue of them from the hands of the mob at Sorrento. Had the driver made his request a little more meekly, and not presented it with such an assertion of right, there is no doubt that they would have cheerfully given what he asked. But his tone excited their resentment; and afterwards, when the driver chose to lose his temper and scold them, they were more determined than ever to refuse. Had he appeared at this time with his former good-natured expression, and had he shown any signs of compunction for his insolent behavior, there is no doubt that they would have brought up the subject of their own accord, and promised him as handsome a sum as his exploit deserved. But his continued sulks prevented them from introducing the subject, and so they concluded to defer it to some other time, when he might be restored to himself.
They now drove along the road en route for Paestum. At first they drove along the sea-shore, but after a few miles the road turned off into the country. All around them were fields, which were covered with flocks and herds, while in the distance were hills that were clothed with vineyards and olive groves, that adorned their sloping declivities with mantles of dark green and light. In the country, on either side, they also saw some indications of Italian life, which excited strong feelings of repugnance within them; for here and there, in many places, women were toiling in the fields just as the men, with heavy hoes, or with ploughs, or with harrows. In some places it was even worse, for they saw women laboring in the fields, while the men lolled on the fences, or sat smoking under the shade of some tree. The implements of labor used excited their surprise. The hoes were as ponderous, as clumsy, and as heavy as pickaxes; the ploughs were miserably awkward things—a straight pole with a straight wooden share, which was sometimes, though by no means always, pointed with iron. These ploughs were worked in various ways, being sometimes pulled by donkeys, sometimes by oxen, and on one memorable occasion a donkey and a woman pulled the plough, while a man, who may have been the woman's husband, guided it through the furrow.
The road was a good one, and was at first well travelled. They met soldiers, and priests, and peasants. They met droves of oxen, and wine carts, and large herds of those peculiar hairless pigs which are common to this country. As they drove on farther, the travel diminished, and at length the country seemed more lonely. It was still fertile, and covered with luxuriant vegetation on every side; but the signs of human habitation decreased, until at length they ceased. The reason of this lies in the unhealthy character of the country, which, like many places in Italy, is subject to malaria, and is shunned by the people. This is the nature of the country which lies around ancient Paestum; and though the fields are cultivated, yet the cultivators live at a distance upon the slopes of the mountains.
At about midday they arrived at Paestum. Here they descended from the carriage, and giving instruction to the driver to remain at this place until they should return, they started off to explore the ruined city. It had been their intention to make use of the driver as guide, to show them the objects of interest in the town; but his long-continued sulks drove this from their minds, and they concluded to trust to themselves and their guide-books. The carriage was drawn up on the side of the road, not far from where there stood an archway, still entire, which once formed one of the gates of Paestum.
Towards this they directed their steps. The gateway was formed of large blocks of stone laid upon each other without cement, and by their great size they had resisted the ravages of time. On either side of this could be seen the foundation stones of the city walls, which have fallen or have been removed in the course of ages. But the circuit of the walls can be traced by the fragments that yet remain, and from this circuit the size of the city may be judged. Beyond the gates and in the enclosure of the walls are some majestic and world-famed ruins, some of which are little else than masses of rubbish, while others are so well preserved, that they might now be used for the purpose to which they were originally devoted. There are the remains of a theatre and of an amphitheatre, which, however, are confused heaps, and some public edifices in the same condition. The foundations of some private houses may also be seen. But the most noted and most interesting of the remains of Paestum are its two Temples and Basilica—edifices whose origin reaches back to the depths of an immemorial antiquity, but which still remain in a state of preservation so perfect as to be almost incredible. For these edifices are as old, at least, as Homer, and were probably in existence before his day. Phoenician sailors or merchants may have set eyes on these temples, who also saw the Temple of Solomon at its completion. They existed in the age of the Pharaohs, and rival in antiquity, in massive grandeur, and in perfect preservation, the Pyramids of Egypt. In the age of imperial Rome, and even of republican Rome, these temples were ancient, and the Emperor Augustus visited them, and regarded them as remains of venerable antiquity.
Of these three edifices, the most majestic, and probably the most ancient, is the one which is called the Temple of Neptune. The stone of which it is built, is found in the neighborhood still, and presents a most singular appearance. At a distance it appears very rough and full of holes, like cork. A closer examination shows that it is really composed of innumerable fragments of wood, compressed together in a vast, solid mass, and petrified. The stone is exceedingly hard and durable. The blocks of this stone out of which this temple, and the others also, are built, are of such enormous size, that they can only be compared to those immense masses that were heaped up to form the Pyramids of Egypt and the Temples of Karnak. Piled up here upon one another without cement, they have defied the ravages of time.
The Temple of Neptune is approached by three immense steps, which extend around every side of it. It is about two hundred feet in length, and eighty in breadth, while on every side there is a row of enormous columns of the Doric order, thirty-six in number. They are all fluted, and have an aspect of severe and massive grandeur that is unequalled in any other temple. Above these columns rise an enormous Doric frieze and cornice, the height of which is equal to half the height of the columns; and these proportions give such vastness to the mass above, that it heightens the sublime effect. The columns, which extend round the Temple, are thirty feet high, and seven feet in diameter at the base. Inside, the pavement is well preserved; and, though the altar is gone, yet the place where it stood can easily be seen. There is no roof above, and probably never was any; for many of the vast edifices of antiquity were open to the sky—a circumstance which made the task of the architect much easier, since it relieved him of the necessity of sustaining a vast weight in the air, and also of the equal difficulty of lighting the interiors of his buildings. From within the temple enclosures, as from within the theatres and amphitheatres, the blue sky could be seen overhead, while the too fervid rays of a midsummer sun, or the storms of winter, could be warded off from those within by means of an awning thrown over the open roof, and stretched on cables.
Near the Temple of Neptune is another, which is called the Temple of Ceres. It is neither so large nor so grand as the former, but it possesses more elegance and beauty. It is about a hundred feet long and fifty feet wide. Like its companion, it is surrounded on all sides by a colonnade, six pillars being in the front, six in the rear, and twelve on either side. The altar here is gone, but its foundations remain. Various signs show a greater degree of splendor in the interior adornment of this temple, especially the fact that the pavement was mosaic work. There is reason to suppose that this temple was turned into a Christian church some time in the fourth century. Such a transformation as this was common enough throughout the Roman empire during that great triumph of Christianity which took place under Constantine, and after him, so that in this, case there need be little room for doubt as to the truth of the statement.
Not far from this is the third of the great edifices of Paestum. It is about as large as the Temple of Neptune, being nearly two hundred feet long, and about eighty feet wide. Like the others, it is surrounded by a colonnade, but the architecture is less massive than that of the first temple. Of these columns, nine are in front, nine in the rear, and sixteen are on either side, making fifty in all. In this edifice there are no signs whatever of an altar; and this circumstance has led to the belief that it was not a temple at all, but a court of law. Accordingly, it is called the Basilica, which term was used by the Romans to indicate a place used for public trials. Inside, the pavement yet remains, and there are the remains of a row of columns which once passed along the middle of the building from front to rear, dividing it into two parts.
Of all the three, the Temple of Neptune is the grandest, the best preserved, and the most famous. But the others are fit companions, and the giant forms of these mighty relics of hoary antiquity, unsurpassed by any other edifice, rise before the traveller, exciting within him emotions of reverential awe.
The party visited all these various objects of interest, and at length returned to the gate. They had spent about two hours in their Purvey of Paestum, and had seen all that there was to be seen; and now nothing more remained but to return as soon as possible, and spend that night at Salerno. They had seen nothing of the driver since they left him, and they accounted for this on the ground that he was still maintaining himself in his gigantic sulk, and brooding over his wrongs; and they thought that if he chose to make a fool of himself, they would allow him to do so as long as it was agreeable to him.
With these thoughts they approached the gateway. As they drew near, they were surprised to find that there were no signs of the carriage. The view was open and unobstructed. Here and there mounds or fragments of stone arose in the place where once had been the wall of the city of Paestum, and before them was the simple arch of the massive gateway, but no carriage or horses were visible.
This excited their surprise, and also their alarm. They remembered that the sullen mood of the driver made him quite capable of playing off some malicious trick upon them, and they recalled, also, his threats of the evening before. Could he have chosen this way to put his threats into execution? It seemed, indeed, very much like it.
Still, there was one hope left. It was just possible that the carriage had been drawn up more under the arch, so that it was hidden from view. As this was the last hope that was left them, they hurried forth to put an end to their suspense as soon as possible. Nearer and nearer they came.
At last they reached the arch.
They rushed through it, and beyond it.
There was nothing there!
No carriage! No horses! No driver!
At this they all stopped, and stared at one another in silent consternation.
"He's gone," cried Clive. "He's left us here—to get back the best way we can."
"He swore last night," said David, "that he'd pay us up; and this is the way he's done it."
"Yes," said Bob; "he's been sulky all day. He's been concocting some plan."
"I don't see what good it'll do him," said Frank.
"He'll lose his fare. We won't pay him."
"O. he'll give up that for the pleasure of revenge," said Clive.
"Wal, wal, wal," cried Uncle Moses, looking all around with a face of dark and doleful perplexity. "This here doos beat all I ever seen in all my life. An now, what upon airth we can do—I'm sure I can't tell."
"Whatever we do," said Frank, "it won't do to wait here. It's too late now."
"Perhaps he hasn't run off at all," said David, who always was inclined to believe the best of people. "Perhaps he has driven up the road, and intends to return."
Frank shook his head.
"No," cried he. "I believe the scoundrel has left us. We paid him half of his fare at Sorrento; the rest was to be paid at Naples; but he has thrown that up, in order to have the pleasure of being revenged on us. And where he's gone to now is a mystery to me."
"O, I dare say he's driven off to Naples."
"Perhaps so. But he may intend something more. I've heard that there are brigands about here."
"Yes. And I shouldn't wonder if he has gone off with the intention of bringing some of them here to pay their respects to us. He may have started off immediately after we left him; and, if so, he's had two hours already—time enough, as I think, to do a good deal of mischief."
"Brigands!" cried Uncle Moses, in a voice of horror. He stared wildly around, and then looked, with moistened eyes, upon the boys.
"O, boys," he sighed, "why did we ever ventoor out so far in this here I-talian land, or why did we ever come to Italy at all? Brigands! It's what I've allus dreaded, an allus expected, ever sence I fust sot foot on this benighted strand. I ben a feelin it in my bones all day. I felt it a comin over me yesterday, when the mob chased us; but now—our hour hev come!"
"Nonsense, Uncle Moses!" cried Frank, in a hearty, joyous voice. "What's the use of giving up in that fashion? Cheer up. We'll be all right yet."
They discuss the Situation.—They prepare to foot it.—A toilsome Walk and a happy Discovery.—The Language of Signs once more.—The Mountain. Cavalcade.—Bob's Ambition.—Its Results—Bob vanishes.—Consternation of the Donkey Boy.—Consternation of the Cavalcade.—E Perduto!
The mention of brigands produced a startling and powerful effect upon the whole party, and after Uncle Moses' wail of despair, and Frank's rebuke, there was silence for a time.
"Well," said David, "I don't know. I don't believe in brigands altogether. Millions of people come to Italy without seeing anything of the kind, and why should we? For my part, I still think it very likely that the driver has driven back to some place on the road where he can get better entertainment for man and beast than is offered at Paestum."
"Where could he go?" said Frank. "There isn't any inn for miles."
"O you don't know," said David. "There are some by-roads, I dare say, that lead to houses on the hills. I dare say he'll soon be back. From what I've seen of the Italians, I think they'd stand a great deal before losing any money. The driver would wait till he got his pay, and then try to take his revenge."
"Well, it may be so," said Frank; "burin any case, it will be best for us to start off at once. There's no use waiting here any longer. We can foot it, after all. And we may come to houses, or we may pick up a wagon, and get a lift."
This was evidently the best thing that could be done, and so they all at once set off on foot, on their way back to Salerno.
Fortunately for them, they were quite fresh. They had been driving all the morning; and for two hours they had been strolling up and down within a small circuit, looking at temples, or sprawling on the grass. They had eaten a good lunch before leaving the carriage, and had not had time yet to feel hungry. The weather was mild and pleasant. The sun shone brightly, without being too hot, and everything was favorable to a walk. More than all, the road was very good, and not being much travelled, it was grass-grown to a great extent, and this grass afforded an easy and agreeable path for their feet.
They set out in high spirits, walking pretty vigorously, yet not too rapidly, for they wished to husband their strength, chatting all the while, and debating the point as to the driver's intentions. Frank maintained that he had deserted them out of malice, and Bob coincided with this view. David, on the other hand, believed that he had merely driven away to find refreshment, and would return, and Clive sided with him. But, as mile after mile was traversed, and still no signs of the driver appeared, David's theory grew weak, and Frank's grew strong. As for Uncle Moses, he said nothing, his feeling being chiefly one of intense anxiety to get the boys home before meeting with brigands. The awful images of Italian banditti, which Frank's words had called up in his mind, were not to be easily got rid of.
They walked on for about two hours, and by that time had succeeded in putting some seven or eight miles between themselves and Paestum. The road now became wider, and quite free from grass, giving every indication of being a well-trodden thoroughfare, and exciting the hope that they would find some wine cart at least, or other mode of conveyance, by means of which they could complete their journey to Salerno.
Suddenly, on making a turn in the road, they saw before them some moving objects, the sight of which elicited a shout of joy from Bob.
"Donkeys! Donkeys!" he cried. "Hurrah, boys!"
"Why, what good are they?" said David.
"Good?" cried Bob; "every good in the world. We can hire them, or buy them, and ride back to Salerno."
"That's a capital idea," cried Frank, in great delight. "I hoped to find wine carts, or ox carts; but donkeys are infinitely better."
Hurrying forward, they soon overtook the donkeys. There were six or eight of them, guided by an old man and a boy. Frank instantly accosted them. Of course he could not speak Italian, but by means of signs he succeeded in conveying to the old man's mind the requisite idea. On this occasion he felt most strongly the benefit which he had received from his intercourse with Paolo. Frank thus pointed to his feet, and then backward, and then forward, and then pointing to the donkey nearest, he made a motion to mount, after which he showed the old man some money, and tapping it, and pointing to the donkey, he looked inquiringly at him, as if to ask, "How much?"
The old man made some signs which seemed to Frank to be a question, "How far?" so he roared out, in stentorian tones, "Salerno."
Upon this the old man stood for a little while in silent thought. Then he looked at Frank, and then, pointing with one hand at Frank's money, with the other he touched the donkey which seemed to say that he would let the donkey go for that price. As there was not quite a dollar in Frank's hand, in loose change, the charge seemed to him to be very reasonable, and even, as he expressed it, dirt cheap. So thought all the rest, and they all proceeded to bring forth their loose change, and pass it over to the old-man. The hands of the latter closed over the silver, with a nervous and almost convulsive clutch, and after one long, hungry look at each lot that was given him, he would insert each very carefully in the remote corner of an old sheepskin poach that hung in front of him, suspended around his waist.
But now arose a difficulty. The donkeys had no saddles. That was a small matter, however, and was not the real difficulty. The real difficulty lay in the fact that they had no bridles. How could they guide them?
Frank tried by signs to express this difficulty to the old man, and the latter understood him, for he smiled, nodded, shrugged his shoulders, and then pointed to his boy, and waved his band in the direction they wished to go. The boy also smiled and nodded, and made signs of his own, by which he plainly showed them that he intended to accompany them as guide, and lead the drove, while they might ride.
This being understood, the boys felt satisfied, and each one now proceeded to select the donkey which was most to his taste. Bob had already made his selection, and was mounted on the back of the biggest donkey of the lot—an animal whose size, breadth of chest, and slender limbs gave him an air of actual elegance. All the boys envied Bob his mount; but none of them complained. Frank secured a solid animal, that had a matter-of-fact expression, and looked as though he had no nonsense in him. Clive chose one that had a slight shade of melancholy in his face, as though he had known sorrow. David's donkey was a shaggy, hard-headed, dogged-looking animal, that seemed bent on having his own way. Uncle Moses' mount was rather eccentric. He chose the smallest animal of the lot,—a donkey, in fact,—which was so small that its rider's feet could only be kept from the ground with difficulty. Uncle Moses, indeed, if he had chosen, might have taken steps on the ground, and accelerated the motion of his beast by propelling him with his own feet.