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Title: Two Pilgrims' Progress
       from fair Florence, to the eternal city of Rome

Author: Elizabeth Robins Pennell
        Joseph Pennell

Release Date: August 31, 2015 [EBook #49831]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by The Online Distributed Proofreading Team and
Ernest Schaal at (This file was produced
from images generously made available by The Internet

Page 172.





Copyright, 1886,

By Roberts Brothers.

University Press:

John Wilson and Son, Cambridge.

Pilgrims' Progress

The eternal City of ROME:

Delivered under the Similitude of a

Wherein is Discovered,
The manner of their setting out,
Their Dangerous Journey; And safe
Arrival at the Desired City.

And Behold they wrought a Work on the Wheels.

By Joseph & Elizabeth Robins Pennell.

Licensed and Entred according to Order.

Published By

A FRIEND'S Apology

For this Booke.


Loe! what is this which Ime to sett before ye? It is, I ween, a very pleasant Story, How two young Pilgrimes who the World would see, Did Wheele themselves all over Italy. One meant to write on't, whence it may be said That for the Nonce hers was the Wheelwright's trade; Which is a clever Crafte, for yee have heard What flits about as a familiar Word Which in a Workshopp often meets the Eare, "Bad Wheelwright maketh a good Carpentere," If of a bad one such a Saying's true, Oh what, I pray, may not a good one do? For by Experience I do declare 'Tis easier to make Books than build a Chaire. Experto crede—I have tried them Both, And sweare a Book is easier—on my Oathe!
He who with her a Pilgriming did go,— That was her Husband. As this Book doth show, [pg vi] Rare skill he had when he would Sketches take, And from those Sketches prittie Pictures make. She with the Pen could well illuminate, He with the Pencil Nature illustrate. Oh, is't not strange that what they did so well In the Pen way meets in the Name Pen-nell? By which the Proverb doth approved appeare, Nomen est Omen,—as is plain and cleere. Which means to say that every Soule doth Bear A Name well suited to his charactere.
Now, when this Couple unto Mee did come, And askt me iff I'de write a little Pome, That Tale and Picture as they rouled along Might have some small Accomp'niment of Song, I set my Pen to Paper with Delighte, And quickly had my Thoughts in Black and White. Even as John Bunyan said he did of yore, So I, because I'd done the like before. Since I was the first man of modern time Who on the bycicle e'er wrote a Rime, How I a Lady in a Vision saw Upon a Wheel like that of Budda's Law, Which kept the Path and went exceeding fast; Loe! now my Vision is fulfilled at last, In this brave writer who with ready Hand Hath guided well the Wheel ore many a Land, Showing the World by her adventurous Course How one may travel fast as any Horse, [pg vii] Without a Steed, and stop where'er ye will, And have for oats or stable nere a Bill.
Now, for the Book I something have to say (Pray mark Mee well, good Reader, while you may). They say that in the Publick some there bee Who'll take it ill 'cause it doth Parody John Bunyan's Progress. That can ne'er be said By any who John Bunyan's Booke have read, Since he himself protests against the Whim Of those who said the selfsame thing of him, And thought he lightly treated solemn Things. List the Defence which to this Charge he brings: "This Book will make a Traveler of Thee, If by its Councill thou wilt guided be. And it is writ in such a Dialect As may the Minds of listless Men affect. It seems a Novelty, and yet contains Nothing but sound and honest Gospel Strains."
Now I can make no more Apologie Than Honest John did make for himself, d'ye see; As for the Rest—if you but cast your Eye Upon the Pictures ere the Booke ye buy, And if of Art you are a clever Judge, The Price for it you'll surely not begrudge. Now, Reader, I have praysed this Booke to Thee, I trust that Thou wilt scan Itt carefullie; 'Twill set before thee Portraiture of Townes, [pg viii] Castles and Towres, antient Villes and Downs, How rowling Rivers to ye Ocean hast, Of Roadside Inns and many a faire Palast, Served up, I ween, with so much gentle Mirthe, Thoulte fairly own thou'st gott thy Money's Worth. If thou art Cheated Mine shall bee the Sinn,— Turn o'er the Page, my Lady, and Begin!

Loe! Vanity Faire!—the Worlde is there, Hee and his Wife beside. Ye may see it afoot, or from the Traine, Or if on a Wheel you ride.



Who is responsible for our First Work Together,


Who has been the Great-Heart of many a Pilgrimage taken

in his Company,

We dedicate this Book.



The Start 11

In the Val d'Arno 14

At Empoli 22

The Road to Fair and Soft Siena 25

At Poggibonsi 34

In the Mountains 36

Fair and Soft Siena 45

An Italian By-Road 61

Monte Oliveto 81

Through the Wilderness to a Garden 94

We are detained in Montepulciano 101

In the Val di Chiana 109

Luca Signorelli's Town 118

To Perugia: by Train and Tricycle 122

At Perugia 128

Across the Tiber to Assisi 134

At Assisi 138

Virgil's Country 142

[pg xii]

Terni and its Falls 155

In the Land of Brigands 157

A Middling Inn 164

Across the Campagna 166

The Finish 173

Appendix 175



Over the Ponte Vecchio 14

In the Sunlight 18

Lastra 20

A Perugino Landscape 24

On the Arno—near Empoli 36

A Slight Obstruction 40

Noontime 42

By the River 50

Chiusure 68

Monte Oliveto 84

At the Foot of the Cross 96

Leaving Montepulciano 106

Cortona 118

On the Hill 126

The Bronze Pontiff's Benediction, Perugia 134

A Frown of Disapproval, Assisi 136

Gathering Leaves 146

"Piping down the Valley" 160

From Via Flaminia, near Ponte Molle 170

"Aspetto!" 172




"They are a couple of far-country men, and, after their mode, are going on Pilgrimage."

We stayed in Florence three days before we started on our pilgrimage to Rome. We needed a short rest. The railway journey straight through from London had been unusually tiresome because of our tricycle. From the first mention of our proposed pilgrimage, kind friends in England had warned us that on the way to Italy the machine would be a burden worse than the Old Man of the Sea; porters, guards, and custom-house officials would look upon it as lawful prey, and we should pay more to get it to Italy than it had cost in the beginning. It is wonderful how clever one's friends are to discover the disagreeable, and then how eager to point it out!

[pg 12] Our first experience at the station at Holborn Viaduct seemed to confirm their warnings. We paid eight shillings to have the tricycle carried to Dover, porters amiably remarking it would take a pile of money to get such a machine to Italy. Crossing the Channel, we paid five-and-sixpence more, and the sailors told us condolingly we should have an awful time of it in the custom-house at Calais. This, however, turned out a genuine seaman's yarn. The tricycle was examined carefully, but to be admired, not valued. "That's well made, that!" one guard declared with appreciation, and others playfully urged him to mount it. To make a long story short, our friends proved false prophets. From Calais to Florence we paid only nine francs freight and thirty-five francs duty at Chiasso. But unfortunately we never knew what might be about to happen. We escaped in one place only to be sure the worst would befall us in the next. It was not until the cause of our anxiety was safe in Florence that our mental burden was taken away.

But here were more friends who called our [pg 13] pilgrimage a desperate journey, and asked if we had considered what we might meet with in the way we were going. There was the cholera. But we represented that to get to Rome we should not go near the stricken provinces. Then they persisted that our road lay through valleys reeking with malaria until November at least. We should not reach these valleys before November, was our reply. Well, then, did we know we must pass through lonely districts where escaped convicts roamed abroad; and in and out of villages where fleas were like unto a plague of Egypt, and good food as scarce as in the wilderness? In a word, ours was a fool's errand. Perhaps it was because so little had come of the earlier prophecies that we gave slight heed to these. They certainly made no difference in our plans. On October 16, the third morning after our arrival, we rode forth sans flea-powder or brandy, sans quinine or beef-extract, sans everything our friends counselled us to take,—and hence, according to them, right into the jaws of death.

[pg 14]


"Now their way lay just upon the bank of the river; here, therefore, Christian and his companion walked with great delight."

The padrone who helped to strap our portfolio and two bags to the luggage-carrier, our coats to the handle-bars, and the knapsack to J.'s back, and Mr. Mead, the one friend who foretold pleasure, stood at the door of the Hotel Minerva to see us off. The sunlight streamed over the Piazza of Santa Maria Novella and the beggars on the church-steps and the cabmen who good-naturedly cried "No carriage for you," as we wheeled slowly on, over to the Via Tornabuoni, past Doni's, by Viesseux's, up the Lung' Arno to the crowded Ponte Vecchio where for this once at least we were not attacked by the little shopmen, by the Via de' Bardi, then [pg 15] back through the Borgo San Jacopo, again along the Lung' Arno, and then around with the twisting street-car tracks, through the Porta San Frediano, and out on the broad white road which leads to Pisa.

Over the Ponte Vecchio. Page 14.

But even before we left Florence we met with our first accident. The luggage-carrier swung around from the middle to the side of the backbone. The one evil consequence, however, was a half-hour's delay. Beyond the gate we stopped at the first blacksmith's. Had either of us known the Italian word for "wire," the delay might have been shorter. It was only by elaborate pantomime we could make our meaning clear. Then the blacksmith took the matter in his own hands, unstrapped the bags, and went to work with screw-driver and wire, while the entire neighborhood, backed by passing pedlers and street-car drivers and citizens, pronounced the tricycle "beautiful!" "a new horse!" "a tramway!" When the luggage-carrier was fastened securely and loaded again, the blacksmith was so proud of his success that he declared "nothing" was his charge. But he was easily persuaded to [pg 16] take something to drink the Signore's health. After this there were no further stops.

Our road for some distance went over streets laid with the great stones of the old Tuscan pavement,—and for tricyclers these streets are not very bad going,—between tall gray houses, with shrines built in them, and those high walls which radiate from Florence in every direction, and keep one from seeing the gardens and green places within. Women plaiting straw, great yellow bunches of which hung at their waists, and children greeted us with shouts. Shirtless bakers, their hands white with flour, and barbers holding their razors, men with faces half shaved and still lathered, and others with wine-glasses to their lips, rushed to look at this new folly of the foreigner,—for ours was the first tandem tricycle ever seen in Italy. At Signa, on the steep up-grade just outside the town, we had a lively spurt with a dummy engine, the engineer apparently trying to run us down as we were about to cross the track. After this we rode between olives and vineyards where there were fewer people. There was not a cloud in the sky, so blue overhead [pg 17] and so white above the far hill-tops on the horizon. The wind in the trees rustled gently in friendliness. Solemn, white-faced, broad-horned oxen stared at us sympathetically over the hedges. One young peasant even stopped his cart to say how beautiful he thought it must be to travel in Italy after our fashion. All day we passed gray olive-gardens and green terraced hillsides, narrow Tuscan-walled streams dry at this season, and long rows of slim straight poplars,—"white trees," a woman told us was their name. Every here and there was a shrine with lamp burning before the Madonna, or a wayside cross bearing spear and scourge and crown of thorns. Now we rode by the fair river of Arno, where reeds grew tall and close by the water's edge, and where the gray-green mountains rising almost from its banks were barren of all trees save dark stone-pines and towering cypresses, like so many mountains in Raphael's or Perugino's pictures. Now we came to where the plain broadened and the mountains were blue and distant. Mulberries the peasants had stripped of their leaves before their time, but not bare [pg 18] because of the vines festooned about them, broke with their even ranks the monotony of gray and brown ploughed fields. Here on a hill was a white villa or monastery, with long, lofty avenue of cypresses; there, the stanch unshaken walls and gates of castle or fortress, which, however, had long since disappeared. It is true, all these things are to be seen hastily from the windows of the railway train; but it is only by following the windings and straight ways of the road as we did that its beauty can be worthily realized.

Later in the afternoon, with a turn of the road, we came suddenly in view of Capraia, high up above, and far to the other side of the river,—so far, indeed, that all detail was lost, and we could only see the outline of its houses and towers and campanile washed into the whitish-blue sky. And all the time we were working just hard enough to feel that joy of mere living which comes with healthy out-of-door exercise, and, I think, with nothing else. Sometimes we rode seeing no one, and hearing no other sound than the low cries of a cricket in the hedge and the loud calls of an [pg 19] unseen ploughman in a neighboring field; then an old woman went by, complimenting us on going so fast without a horse; and then a baker's boy in white shirt and bare legs, carrying a lamb on his shoulders. But then, again, we met wagon after wagon, piled with boxes and baskets, poultry and vegetables, and sleeping men and women, and with lanterns swinging between the wheels,—for the next day would be Friday and market-day, and peasants were already on their way to Florence. There were pedlers, too, walking from village to village, selling straw fans and gorgeous handkerchiefs. Would not the Signora have a handkerchief? one asked, showing me the gayest of his stock. For answer I pointed to the bags on the luggage-carrier and the knapsack on J.'s back. "Of course," he said; we already had enough to carry; would the Signora forgive him for troubling her? And with a polite bow he went on his way.

In the Sunlight. Page 18.

We came to several villages and towns,—some small, where pots and bowls, fresh from the potter's wheel, were set out to dry; others large, like Lastra, with heavy walls and gates [pg 20] and old archways, and steps leading up to crooked, steep streets, so narrow the sun never shines into them; or like Montelupo, where for a while we sat on the bridge without the farther gate, looking at the houses which climb up the hillside to the cypress-encircled monastery at the top. Women were washing in the stream below, and under the poplars on the bank a priest in black robes and broad-brimmed hat walked with a young lady. But whenever we stopped, children from far and near collected around us. There were little old-fashioned girls, with handkerchiefs tied over their heads in womanly fashion, who kept on plaiting straw, and small boys nursing big babies, their hands and mouths full of bread and grapes. If, however, in their youthful curiosity they pressed upon us too closely, polite men and women, who had also come to look, drove them back with terrible cries of Via, ragazzi! ("Go away, children!") before which they retreated with the same speed with which they had advanced.

Lastra. Page 20.

Just beyond Montelupo, when a tedious up-grade brought us to a broad plateau, a cart [pg 21] suddenly came out a little way in front of us from a side road. A man was driving, and on the seat behind, and facing us, were two nuns, who wore wide straw hats which flapped slowly up and down with the motion of the cart. When they saw us, the younger of the two covered her face with her hands, as if she thought us a device of the Devil. But the other, who looked the Lady Abbess, met the danger bravely, and sternly examined us. This close scrutiny reassured her. When we drew nearer she wished us good-evening, and then her companion turned and looked. We told them we were pilgrims bound for Rome. At this they took courage, and the spokeswoman begged for the babies they cared for in Florence. We gave her a few sous. She counted them quite greedily, and then—but not till then—benevolently blessed us. They were going at jog-trot pace, so that we soon left them behind. "Buon viaggio," the Abbess cried; and the silent sister smiled, showing all her pretty white teeth, for we now represented a temptation overcome.

[pg 22]


"The pilgrim they laid in a large upper chamber whose window opened towards the sunrising; the name of the chamber was Peace; where he slept till break of day."

We put up that night at Empoli. The Albergo Maggiore was fair enough, and, like all large Italian inns, had a clean spacious stable in which to shelter the tricycle. The only drawback to our comfort was the misery at dinner of the black-eyed, blue-shirted waiter at our refusal to eat a dish of birds we had not ordered. He was very eager to dispose of them. He served them with every course, setting them on the table with a triumphant "Ecco!" as if he had prepared a delicious surprise. It was not until he brought our coffee that he despaired. Then he retired mournfully to the kitchen, where his loud talk [pg 23] with the padrona made us fear their wrath would fall upon us or the tricycle. But later they gave us candles, and said good-night with such gracious smiles that we slept the sleep which knows neither care nor fear.

The next morning their temper was as unclouded as the sky. They both watched the loading of the tricycle with smiling interest. He had seen velocipedes with two wheels, the waiter said, but never one with three. And that a Signora should ride, the padrona added, ah! that indeed was strange! Then she grew confidential. Only occasionally I caught her meaning, for my knowledge of Italian was small. She had had seven children, she said, and all were dead but one. And I, had I any? And where had I bought my dress? She liked it so much; and she took it in her hand and felt it. Should we stay long in Italy? and sometime we would come back to Empoli? Her son, a little fellow, was there too. He had been hanging about the machine when we came down to breakfast, and ever since. He stood speechless while J. was by, but when the latter went away for a few [pg 24] minutes,—less shy with me, I suppose, because he knew I could not understand him as well,—he asked what might such a velocipede cost? as much perhaps as a hundred francs? But J. coming back he was silent as before. They all followed us out to the street, the padrona shaking hands with us both, and the boy standing by the tricycle to the very last.

A Perugino Landscape. Page 24.

[pg 25]


"They went till they came into a certain country whose air naturally tended to make one drowsy."
"Let us not sleep as do others, but let us watch and be sober."

It was good to be in the open country again, warming ourselves in the hot sunshine. The second morning of our ride was better than the first. We knew beforehand how beautiful the day would be, and how white and smooth was the road that lay before us. The white oxen behind the ploughs, and the mules in their gay trappings and shining harness seemed like old acquaintances. The pleasant good-morning given us by every peasant we met made us forget we were strangers in the land. A little way from Empoli we crossed the Ponte d'Elsa, and then after a sharp turn to the right we were on the road to "fair and [pg 26] soft Siena." It led on through vineyards and wide fields lying open to the sun, by sloping hillsides and narrow winding rivers, by villas and gardens where roses were blooming. In places they hung over the wall into the road. We asked a little boy to give us one,—for the Signora, J. added. But the child shook his head. How could he? The roses were not his, he said. Once we passed a wayside cross on which loving hands had laid a bunch of the fresh blossoms. Sometimes we heard from the far-away mountains the loud blasting of rocks, and then the soft bells of a monastery; sometimes even the cracking of the whip of a peasant behind us, driving an unwilling donkey. Then we would pass from the stillness of the country into the noise and clamor of small villages, to hear the wondering cries of the women to which we were already growing accustomed, the piercing yells of babies, who well secured in basket go-carts could not get to us quickly enough, and the sing-song repetition of older children saying their lesson in school, and whom we could see at their work through the low windows.

[pg 27] About noon we rode into Certaldo,—Boccaccio's town. I know nothing that interferes so seriously with hero-worship as hunger. I confess that if some one had said, "You can go either to see Boccaccio's house or to lunch at a trattoria, but both these things you cannot do," our answer would have been an immediate order for lunch. We went at once to a trattoria on the piazza where Boccaccio's statue stands. I doubt if that great man himself ever gathered such numbers about him as we did. Excited citizens, when the tricycle was put away, stood on the threshold and stared at us until the door was shut upon them. Then they pressed their faces against the windows and peered over piles of red and yellow pears; and every now and then one, bolder than the rest, stealthily thrust his head in and then scampered off before he could be captured. This gave a spice of novelty and excitement to our midday meal. We ordered a very simple lunch,—soup, bread and cheese, coffee and vermouth. But the padrona had to send out for everything. Her sister, a young girl as fair as an Englishwoman, was her messenger. [pg 28] We were scarcely seated before she came back with coffee and a large bottle that she set before us. This, of course, was the vermouth, and we half filled our glasses and at once drank a little. The two women stared with a surprise we could not understand. The fair girl now disappeared on a second foraging expedition, and stayed away until we had finished our soup. "Ecco, vermouth!" she said on her return, putting another bottle in front of us. Then we knew the reason of their wonder. We had swallowed, like so much water, the not over-strong cognac intended only to flavor our coffee.

Presently the padrona entered into conversation with us. We were English, she supposed. No; Americans, we told her. At this there was great rejoicing. They had a brother in America. He lived in a large town called Buenos Ayres, where he kept a trattoria. Like theirs it was the Trattoria Boccaccio. They were glad to see any one from the same country, whether from north or south. Was it not all America? The padrona went upstairs to bring down his picture that we [pg 29] might see it. Her sister pointed to the purple woollen jersey she wore, and said with pride her brother had sent it to her. It too was American. They even called in their old mother, that she might see her son's fellow-countrymen.

We spent an hour wandering through the old town, on top of the hill, in which Boccaccio really lived. The sun was shining right down into the streets, in which the gay kerchiefs of the women, the bunches of straw at their waists, and their cornstalk distaffs made bright bits of color. Though we left the tricycle at the trattoria, our coming made a stir in the little place. Our clothes were not like unto those of the natives, and J.'s knee-breeches and long black stockings made them wonder what manner of priest he might be. As we stood looking at the loggia and tower and arched doorway of Boccaccio's house, the custodian, with a heavy bunch of keys, came to take us through it. But we declined his services. We cared more for the old streets and walls and palaces, which, though their greatness has gone, have not been changed since mediæval [pg 30] times, than for an interior, however fine, whose mediævalism dates from to-day. The old man turned rather sulkily. J., seeing there had been some mistake, explained we had not sent for him. Then his face cleared. The women had said we wanted him, else he would never have disturbed us; and he took off his hat, and this time went away with a friendly à rivederle.

The Palazzo Communale, at the highest point of the town, is still covered with the arms and insignia of other years, of the Medici and Piccolomini, of the Orsini and Baglioni. Its vaulted doorway is still decorated with frescos of the Madonna, and saints and angels. But everywhere the plaster is falling away, and in the courtyard grass grows between the bricks of the pavement; and instead of pages and men-at-arms, we there saw only a little brown-faced ragged child climbing cat-like over the roofs, and a woman scolding him from below. We left the town by the frescoed gateway, through which we saw the near hills, gray, bare, and furrowed, the long lines of cypresses, the stretches of gray [pg 31] olives, the valley below with its vineyards, and the far mountains, purple and shadowy, the highest topped with many-towered San Gimignano.

It is better not to be jocund with the fruitful grape in the middle of the day when one is tricycling. The cognac we had taken at lunch, weak as it was, and the vermouth made us sleepy and our feet heavy. I sympathized with the men who lay in sound slumbers in every cart we met. But their drowsiness forced us into wakefulness. Of the ride from Certaldo to Poggibonsi, I remember best the loud inarticulate cries of J. and his calls of "Eccomi!" as if he were lord of the land, to sleeping drivers. The Italian cry of the roads, rising to a high note and then suddenly falling and ending in a low prolonged one, which is indispensable to travellers, is not easy to learn. J.'s proficiency in it, however, made him pass for a native when he limited himself to howling. But often donkeys darted into ditches and oxen plunged across the road before the peasants behind them awoke. Like Sancho Panza they had a talent for sleeping.

[pg 32] Once, after we had climbed a short but steep hill and had passed by several wagons in rapid succession, we stopped under the shade to rest. It was a pleasant place. We looked over the broad valley, where the vines were festooned, not as Virgil saw them, from elm to elm, but from mulberry to mulberry, and up to San Gimignano, beginning to take more definite shape on its mountain-top. A peasant in peaked hat and blue shirt, with trousers rolled up high above his bare knees, crossed the road and silently examined the tricycle. "You have a good horse," he then said; "it eats nothing." We asked him if they were at work in his vineyard. No, he answered; but would we like to look in the wine-press opposite? And then he took us through the dark windowless building, where on one side the grape-juice was fermenting in large butts, and on the other fresh grapes had been laid on sets of shelves to dry. He picked out two of the finest bunches and gave them to me. When I offered to pay him he refused. The Signora must accept them, he said.

As the road was now a dead level and lumpy [pg 33] into the bargain, we were glad when Poggibonsi was in sight. We drew up on a bridge where a man was standing, to ask him if he knew of a good inn. He recommended the Albergo dell' Aquila. "It is good," he went on, "and not too dear. This is not a town where they take one by the neck," and he clutched his own throat. So to the Albergo dell'Aquila we went. We had only to ride through the wide avenue of shady trees, past a row of houses, out of one of which a brown-robed monk came, to rush back at sight of us, past a washing-place surrounded by busy chattering women, and we were at the door of the inn.

[pg 34]


"Then she asked him whence he was come and whither he was going; and he told her. She asked him also how he got into the way; and he told her. And last she asked his name."

The Albergo dell' Aquila was even more comfortable than the Maggiore in Empoli. We dined in a room from whose walls King Humbert and his Queen smiled upon us, while opposite were two sensational and suggestive brigands in lonely mountain passes. The padrona came up with the salad, and she and the waiter in a cheerful duet catechised us after the friendly Italian fashion, and then told us about the visit to their house of the American consul from Florence; of the hard times the cholera had brought with it for all Italy; of the bad roads to San Gimignano and the steep ones to Siena, along which peasants never travelled without bearing in mind the old saying, [pg 35] All' ingiù tutti i santi ajutano; ma all' insú ci vuol Gesù,—"Going down hill, call upon the saints; but going up, one needs Jesus." Before long J. joined in the talk, and the duet became a trio. Never had I been so impressed with his fluent Italian. Even the padrona was not readier with her words than he with his. When I spoke to him about it afterwards, he said he supposed it was wonderful; he had not understood half of it himself.

After dinner and in the twilight we walked through the lively crowded streets and into the church, where service was just over. A priest in white surplice left the altar, and another began to put the lights out when we entered. But in the unlit nave many of the faithful still knelt in prayer. The town grew quieter as night came on. But just as we were going to sleep some men went along the street below our window singing. One in a loud clear tenor sang the tune, the others the accompaniment like a part song, and the effect was that of a great guitar. Their song was a fitting good-night to a day to whose beauty there had been not a cloud.

[pg 36]


"He saw a most pleasant mountainous country, beautified with woods, vineyards, fruits of all sorts, flowers also with springs and fountains, very delectable to behold."

Though we left Poggibonsi in the beginning of the morning, a large crowd waited for us at the door of the inn. The padrona said farewell with many good wishes; men and women we had never seen before called out pleasantly à rivederle, two carabinieri watched us from the other side of the piazza, the railroad officials at the station cried "Partenza! Partenza!" and then we were off and out of the town. It would be su, su, su, all the way they told us at the inn, but for several miles we went fast enough, so that I felt sure the peasants we passed were still only calling on the saints. The ascent at first was very gradual, [pg 37] while the road was excellent. There were down as well as up grades, and for every steep climb we had a short coast. Now we came out on villas which but a little before had been above us, and now we reached the very summit of hills from which we looked forth upon mountain rising beyond mountain,—some treeless and ashen gray, others thickly wooded and glowing with golden greens and russets, and still others white and mist-like, and seeming to melt into the soft white clouds resting on their highest peaks. All along, the hedges were covered with clusters of red rose-berries and the orange berries of the pyracanthus. The grass by the roadside was gay with brilliant crimson pinks, yellow snapdragons and dandelions, and violet daisies. Once we came to a vineyard where the ripe fruit still hung in purple clusters from the vines, and where men and women, some on foot and others on ladders, were gathering and filling with them large buckets and baskets. At the far end of the field white oxen, their great heads decorated with red ribbons, stood in waiting. Boys with buckets slung on long poles were coming [pg 38] and going between the vines. In all the other vineyards we had passed the vintage was over, so we waited to watch the peasants as, laughing and singing, they worked away. But when they saw us, they too stopped and looked, and one man came down from his ladder and to the hedge to offer us a bunch of grapes.

On the Arno—near Empoli. Page 36.

The only town through which we rode was Staggia, where workmen were busy restoring the old tower and making it a greater ruin than it had ever been before. One town gate has gone, but from the battlements of the other grass and weeds still wave with the wind, while houses have been built into the broken walls. It is a degenerate little town, and its degeneracy, paradoxical as it may sound, is the result of its activity. For its inhabitants have not rested content like those of Lastra with the mediævalism that surrounds them. They have striven to make what is old new by painting their church and many of their houses in that scene-painting style which to-day seems to represent the art of the people in Italy. Often during our journey we saw specimens of this vile fashion,—houses with [pg 39] sham windows and shutters, churches with make-believe curtains and cords,—but nowhere was it so prominent as in Staggia.

Beyond Monteriggione, whose towers alone showed above its high walls, the road began to wind upward on the mountain-side. It was such a long, steady pull that although the surface was perfect we gave up riding and walked. Our machine was heavily loaded, and not too easy to work over prolonged up-grades. Besides, we were not time nor record makers, nor perambulating advertisements, and we had the day before us. We were now closed in with woods. On either side were chestnuts and dwarf-oaks and bushes, their leaves all "yellow and black and pale and hectic red." And occasional openings showed near mountain-tops covered with downy gray grass and a low growth like heather, and here and there were groups of dark pines. For an hour at least we were alone with the sounds and silence of the mountains. The wandering wind whispered in the wood and black swine rooted in the fallen leaves, but of human life there was no sign. Then there came from afar a regular [pg 40] tap-tap, low at first, but growing louder and louder, until, as we drew closer to it, we knew it to be the steady hammering of stone-breakers. There were two men at work in this lonely pass, and as we stood talking to them two more came from under the chestnuts. These had guns on their shoulders, and wore high boots and the high-crowned conventional brigand hats. Ever since we left Florence we had seen at intervals in the fields and woods a notice with the words, "È vietata la bandita," which we interpreted as a warning against the bandits or convicts for whom our Florentine friends had prepared us. And now we seemed to have come face to face with two of these brigands. But it turned out that there was little of the bandit about them save their appearance. Their guns were for birds, and later on we learned that the alarming signs were merely to forbid the trespassing of these very gentlemen.

A Slight Obstruction.

A mile or two farther on, the road began to go down again. We were both glad to be on the machine after our walk. We could see to the bottom of the hill, and there was no one in sight. J. let go the brake. None but cyclers [pg 41] know the delight of a five-minutes coast after hours of up-hill toiling. They, however, will sympathize with our pleasure in the mountains near Siena. But when it was at its fullest, and the machine was going at the rate of about twenty miles an hour, and neither brake nor back-pedalling could bring it to a sudden halt, a man (or the foul fiend himself) drove a flock of sheep out from the woods a few feet in front of us. When we reached them only the first had crossed the road; of course, all the rest had to follow. They tried to go on right through the wheels, but only succeeded in getting under them, setting the machine to pitching like a ship in a heavy sea. But I held on fast; J. stood on the pedals and screwed the brake down; the little wheel scattered the sheep like the cow-catcher of an engine, and we brought up in the gutter. Before we stopped, J. began a moral lecture to the shepherd, and was showing him how, if the machine had gone over, the consequences would have been worse for us than for his flock. The lecture ended rather immorally with accidente voi, and imbecile, the deadliest of all Italian maledictions, [pg 42] punishable in places by imprisonment. The shepherd looked as if he was ready to curse us in return, but before he had time we were out of hearing, though we first made sure that no sheep were injured. We were none the worse for the accident, and the tricycle was unhurt, save for a deep dent in the dress guard.

The rest of our way was divided between walking and riding. The woods with their solitude and wildness, but not the good road, came to an end. Once beyond them, we wheeled out by fields where men and women were at work, their oxen whiter than any we had yet seen, by contrast with the rich red of the upturned earth. In olive-gardens peasants were eating their midday meal; men with white aprons, women with enormous Sienese hats, and dogs and oxen were all resting sociably together. By the roadside others were making rope, the men twisting and forever walking backwards, a small boy always turning at the wheel. Scattered on the hill-tops and by the road were large red-brick farm-houses, instead of the white ones we had seen near Florence.

[pg 43]

Noontime. Page 42.

At one, where there was a well on the other side of the wall, we asked for a glass of water. A man brought it to the gate, where he was joined by three or four others. They stared inquiringly at the tricycle, at the bags, and at us, while J. squeezed lemon-juice into the water. Then one opened his mouth very wide and pointed to his teeth: "The little sir," he asked, "is he a dentist?"

It was noon when we first saw Siena, and we were then at the very walls. In the old days it was always said, "More than her gates, Siena opens her heart to you!" But the heart of him who sat in office by the city gate was shut against us. When we rode past him he bade us descend. To our "Perchè?" he said it was the law. Oh the vanity of these Sienese! Through the streets of Florence and over the crowded Ponte Vecchio we had ridden undisturbed; but in this mountain town, which boasts of but two hacks, and where donkeys and oxen are the only beasts to be frightened, we were forced to get down. The dignity of the law-makers of the city must be respected. So we two [pg 44] weary pilgrims had to walk along the narrow streets, between the tall palaces, while tanners in red caps, and women in flowered, white-ribboned festa hats, and priests and soldiers stared, and one man, with a long push-cart, kept close to us like an evil genius in a dream. He was now on one side, and now on the other, examining the wheels, asking endless questions, and always getting in the way. At all the street corners he hurried on before, and with loud shouts called the people to come and see. Then he was at our heels again, shrieking his loud, shrill trade-cry into our very ears. J. as a rule is not ill-tempered; but there is a limit to all things. The stupid sheep, the watchful guard, and now this plague of a flower-pedler brought his patience to an end, and on our way through the town he said much in good plain English which it was well the citizens could not understand.

[pg 45]


"For there where I go is enough and to spare."
"Read it so, if you will, in my Book."

Even pilgrims of old on their way to Rome sometimes tarried in castle or village. We could not pass through Siena, discourteous though her first welcome had been, as we had through smaller and less fair towns. So for a day or two we put away our tricycle and the "cockle-shells and sandal shoon" of our pilgrimage. We went to a pension, one at which J. had stayed before, and which he liked. I admit it was better in many ways than the inns in which hitherto we had slept and eaten. There was carpet on the floor of our room, and in it easy-chairs and a lounge. There were elaborate breakfasts at one, and still more elaborate dinners [pg 46] at six, and there was always a great plenty,—as the Englishwoman who sat next me, and who I fear had not always fared so well, said when she urged me to eat and drink more of the fruit and wine set before me. "You can have all you want in this house," she finished with a sigh, as if her crown of sorrow was in remembering unhappier things. But we both thought regretfully of the dining-rooms with the bad prints on the walls, and the more modest dinners of our own ordering. I think too we had found more pleasure in the half-understood talk of padroni and waiters than we did now in the elegant and learned conversation of our fellow-boarders, for they were all, it seemed, persons of learning and refinement. There was the retired English major-general who sat opposite and who had written a book, as he very soon let us know. He recognized us as Americans before we opened our mouths to speak, which fact he also let us know by his reminiscences, addressed not to us but to our neighbors. He had travelled in Spain with Mr. Fillmore, the ex-President, "the most courteous of gentlemen;" [pg 47] he said he well knew Mr. Marion Crawford, the talented novelist, and his uncle, "dear old Sam Ward;" he had counted among his best friends Bayard Taylor, "as you remember I have said in my book." This same book which made the major so communicative appeared to have crushed the spirit out of his wife; she sat silent during dinner, fortifying herself at intervals with weak whiskey and water.

Then there was the elderly English lady travelling abroad with her daughter "who has just taken up architecture;" she informed us, "she has always painted heads till now, but she is fascinated by her architectural work. Then I, you know, am so fond of water-colors." And there was the Swedish lady, who could talk all languages, speaking to us in something supposed to be English, and who was as eager in her pursuit of food for the body as for the mind. I count the way in which she greedily swallowed the vino santo in her glass, when our host passed round the table the second time with his precious bottle, one of the wonders of our visit to Siena. It was pathetic [pg 48] too to see her disappointment when he turned away, just before he reached her, his bottle empty. And there were still others who knew much about pictures and palaces, statues and studios, and no doubt we might greatly have profited thereby.

But we liked it better upstairs, where we were alone and there was less culture. Our window overlooked a high terrace in which marigolds and many-colored chrysanthemums were blooming, the gardens of the Piccolomini Palace full of broad-leaved fig-trees and pale olives, and the wide waste of mountain and moorland stretching from the red city walls to the high, snow-capped Apennines on the horizon. All the morning the sun shone in our windows, and every hour and even oftener we heard the church bells, and the loud, clear bugle-calls from the barracks, once a monastery, whose mass of red and gray walls rose from the near olives. They say it snows in Siena in the winter-time, and that it is cold and bleak and dreary; but I shall always think of it as a place of flowers and sunshine and sweet sounds.

[pg 49] But best of all were the hours when we wandered through the town, up and down dark alley-ways and flights of steps, under brick arches, along precipitate narrow streets where we had to press close to the houses, or retreat into an open door, to let the wide-horned oxen pass by with their load; now coming out at the very foot of La Mangia, on the broad, sunny piazza; now by the tanneries where little streams of brown water trickled down towards the washing-place at the foot of the hill, and where the walls were hung with dripping brown skins, probably just as they were when the little Catherine—her visions already beginning—and Stefano walked by them and towards home in the fading evening light, from a visit to the older and married sister Bonaventura. One hour we were with the past in the shadowy aisles of the Duomo, where Moses and Trismegistus, Solomon and Socrates, Sibyls and Angels looked up at us from the pavement, and rows of popes kept watch from above the tall black and white pillars, while in the choir beyond priests chanted their solemn psalms. Next we were with the present in the [pg 50] gay Lizza, under the acacias and yellow chestnuts, by flower-beds full of roses and scarlet sage, and walls now covered with brilliant Virginia creepers; and out on the fort above to see a golden sky, and the sun disappearing behind banks of purple, golden-edged, and red clouds, and pale, misty hills, and to look back across the hollow to the red town climbing up from low olive-gardens towards the Duomo on its hill-top, and tall La Mangia towering aloft from its own little hollow beyond. From every side came the voices of many people,—of soldiers in the barracks, of women and children under the trees, of ball-players in the old court below, and of applauding lookers-on lounging on the marble benches.

By the River. Page 50.

The tall unfinished arch of the Duomo that rises above houses and churches, and indeed above everything but the lofty La Mangia and the Campanile, tells the story of greatness and power and wealth suddenly checked. But the deadly plague, which carried off so many citizens that not even enough were left to make their city beautiful as they meant it should be, could not take away the great beauty it already [pg 51] had, nor kill the joyousness of its people. There are no Spendthrift Clubs in Siena now, nor any gay Lanos like him Dante met in the Inferno. But there are still laughter and song loving Sienese who in their own simple fashion go through life gathering rosebuds while they may. It seemed to me a very pretty fashion when I saw them holiday-making on Sunday afternoon, peasants, priests, officers, townspeople, all out in their Sunday best, and when on the Via Cavour, near the Loggia, we met two wandering minstrels singing love-songs through the town. One played on a mandolin which hung from his neck by a wide red ribbon, and as he played he sang. His voice was loud and strong and very sweet, and like another Orpheus he drew after him all who heard his music. His companion sold copies of the song, printed on pink paper, gay as the words. He went bowing and smiling in and out of the crowd,—from the women whose broad hats waved as they kept time to the singing, to the men who had stuck feathers in their soft felts worn jauntily on one side; from demure little girls holding their nurses' [pg 52] hands, to swaggering soldiers. Then when the first singer rested he, in his turn, sang a verse. There was with them a small boy who every now and then broke in in a high treble, so that there was no pause in the singing.

Wherever we went that afternoon, whether by the Duomo or out by the Porta Romana, on the Lizza or near San Domenico, we saw large written posters, announcing that at six in the evening there would be, at No. 17 Via Ricasoli, a great marionette performance of the Ponte dei Sospiri. Apparently this was to be the event of the day, and to it we determined to go. When a little before the appointed hour we came to the Via Ricasoli, we half expected to see a theatre ablaze with light. What we did find after much difficulty was a low doorway on the ground floor of a many-storied palace, and before it a woman by a table, lighting a very small lamp, to the evident satisfaction of half a dozen youngsters. Over the open doorway was a chintz curtain; behind it, darkness. This was not encouraging. But presently a woman with a child came to buy tickets. One of the groups of youthful [pg 53] admirers was then sent up and a second down the street, and after they had come back with mysterious bundles another lamp was produced, lit, and carried inside, and the first two of the audience followed. It was now five minutes of six, so we also bought our tickets, three soldi, or cents, for each, and the curtain was drawn for us.

A low crypt-like room with vaulted ceiling; at one end two screens covered with white sheets; between them a stage somewhat larger than that of a street Punch, with a curtain representing a characteristic Sienese brick wall enclosing a fountain; several rows of rough wooden benches, and one of chairs,—this was what we saw by the dim light of one lamp. We sat on the last bench. The audience probably would be more entertaining than the play. But the humble shall be exalted. The woman on the front row bade us come up higher. The small boy who acted as usher told us we might have two of the chairs for two soldi more. The ticket-seller even came in, and in soft pleading tones said that we might have any places we wanted; why then [pg 54] should we choose the worst? But we refused the exaltation.

The audience now began to arrive in good earnest. Five ragged boys of the gamin species, one of a neater order with his little sister by the hand, two soldiers, a lady with a blue feather in her bonnet, and her child and nurse, two young girls,—and the benches were almost filled. Our friend the ticket-seller became very active as business grew brisk. She was always running in and out, now giving this one a seat, now rearranging the reserved chairs, and now keeping the younger members of the audience in order. Ragazzini, she called the unruly boys who stood up on the benches and whistled and sang, so that I wondered what diminutive she gave the swells on the front row. This was amusing enough, but our dinner-hour was half-past six. J. looked at his watch; it was a quarter past. The ever-watchful keeper of the show saw him. "Ah, the Signore must not be impatient. Ecco! the music was about to begin." Begin it did indeed, to be continued with a persistency which made us fear it would never end. The [pg 55] musicians were two. A young man in velveteen coat and long yellow necktie played the clarionet, and another the cornet. They knew only one tune,—a waltz I think it was meant to be,—but that they gave without stint, playing it over and over again, even while the ticket-seller made them move from their chairs to a long, high box by the wall; and when a third arrived with a trombone they let him join in when and as it best pleased him. When we had heard at least the twenty-fifth repetition of the waltz, had looked at the scuffling of the ragazzini until even that pleasure palled, had seen the soldiers smoke sigaro Cavour after sigaro Cavour so that the air grew heavy, and had watched the gradual growth of the audience until every place was filled, our patience was exhausted. Behold! we said to the woman with the gentle voice, it was now seven. The play was announced for six. Was this right? In a house not far off every one was eating, and two covers were laid for us. But here we were in this dark room in our hunger, waiting for marionettes whose wires for aught we knew were broken. [pg 56] She became penitent. The signorini must forgive her. The wires were not broken, but he who pulled them had not arrived. There was yet time. Would we not go and dine and then come back? She would admit us on our return.

And so we went and had our dinner, well seasoned with polite conversation. The ticket-agent was true to her word. When we reappeared at her door, the curtain was pulled at once. In the mean time the musicians had been suppressed, not only out of hearing but out of sight. The room was so crowded that many who had arrived during our absence were standing. Indeed, there must have been by this time fully five francs in the house. All were watching with entranced eyes the movements of four or five puppets. The scene represented an interior, which I suppose, was that of the prison to one side of the Bridge of Sighs. That it was intended for a cell also seemed evident, because the one portable piece of furniture on the stage was a low, flat couch of a shape which as every one who has been to the theatre, but never to prison, knows is [pg 57] peculiar to the latter. It was impossible to lose sight of it, as the dramatis personæ made their exits and entrances over it. It was rather funny to see the villain of the piece after an outbreak of passion, or an elegant long-haired page in crimson clad, after a gentlemanly speech, suddenly vault over it. We could not discover what the play was about. Besides the two above-mentioned characters there was a puppet with a large red face and green coat and trousers who gave moral tone to the dialogue, and another with heavy black beard and turban-like head-dress, and much velvet and lace whom we took to be a person of rank. As they came in and out by turn, it was impossible to decide which was the prisoner. With the exception of the jumps over the couch, there was little action in the performance. Its only two noticeable features were—first, the fact that villain, page, moralist, and magnate spoke in exactly the same voice and with the same expression; and, secondly, that they had an irrepressible tendency to stand in the air rather than on the floor, as if they had borrowed Mr. Stockton's negative-gravity [pg 58] machine. The applause and laughter and rapt attention of the audience proved the play to be much to their liking. But for us inappreciative foreigners a little of it went a great way. As nothing but talk came of all the villany and moralizing and grandeur and prettiness,—which may have been a clever bit of realism of which the English drama is not yet capable,—and as there was no apparent reason why the dialogue should ever come to an end, we went away after the next act. The ticket-seller was surprised at our sudden change from eagerness to indifference, but not offended. She thanked us for our patronage and wished us a felice notte.

With the darkness the gayety of the town had increased. In the large theatre a play was being performed by a company of amateurs. Having had tickets given us, we looked in for a few minutes, but found it as wordy as that of the puppets. In a neighboring piazza the proprietor of a large van, like those to be seen at country fairs at home, was exhibiting a man, arrayed in a suit of rubber, with a large brass helmet-like arrangement on his head, who, it [pg 59] seemed, could live at the bottom of the sea, along with Neptune and the Naiads, as comfortably as on dry shore. Ecco! There was the tank within, where this marvel could be seen,—a human being living under the water and none the worse for it! Admission was four soldi, but per militari e ragazzi ("for the military and children") it was but two! So it seems that the soldiers who abroad are to strike terror into the enemy, at home are ranked with the young of the land, since like them their name is legion! There were about a dozen in the crowd, and, all unconscious of the sarcasm, they hurried up the steps and into the show, while an old man ground out of a hand-organ the appropriate tune of "O, que j'aime les militaires!"

But dramas and shows were not the only Sunday-evening amusements. The caffès were crowded. Judging from the glimpses we had into little black, cavern-like wine-shops, another Saint Bernardino is needed to set makers of gaming-tools in Siena to the manufacture of holier articles. And more than once, as we walked homewards in the starlight, we [pg 60] heard the voices of the three minstrels singing of human passion in the streets where Catherine so often preached the rapture of divine love. If swans were now seen in visions by fond Sienese matrons, they would wing their way earthward and not heavenward, as in the days when Blessed Bernardo's mother dreamed dreams.

[pg 61]


"And the name of the going up the side of the hill is called Difficulty."
"Is not the place dangerous? Hath it not hindered many in their pilgrimage?"

We left Siena the morning after the marionette exhibition. The major, when he heard at breakfast that we were going, asked us point blank several questions about Boston publishers, his book probably being still uppermost in his thoughts. Later he sent his card to our room to know at what hour we started; he wished to see us off. The young lady of architectural proclivities shook hands and bade us good-by, saying she had often ridden a sociable with her cousin in England.

After all, there was not much for the major to see. We could not ride through the streets, and so could not mount the machine for his [pg 62] benefit. But he was interested in watching us strap the bags to the luggage-carrier, and pleased because of this opportunity to entertain us with more American reminiscences. I am afraid his amusement in Siena was small. In return for the little we gave him he asked us to come and see him in Rome, where he would spend the winter, and added that if we expected to pass through Cortona he would like to write a card of introduction for us to a friend of his there, an Italian who had married an English lady. Cortona was a rough place, and we might be glad to have it. He had forgotten his friend's name, but he would run upstairs and his wife could tell him. In a minute he returned with the written card. We have had many letters of introduction, but never one as singular as the major-general's. As he knew our names even less well than that of his Cortona friends, he introduced us as "an American lady and gentleman riding a bicycle!" Only fancy! as the English say. Our parting with him was friendly. Then he stood with Luigi and Zara until we disappeared around the corner of the street.

[pg 63] What a ride we had from Siena to Buonconvento! This time the road was all giù, giù, giù. It was one long coast almost all the way, and we made the most of it. We flew by milestone after milestone. Once we timed ourselves: we made a mile in four minutes. The country through which we rode was sad and desolate. On either side were low rolling hills, bare as the English moors, and of every shade of gray and brown and purple. Here rose a hill steeper than the others, with a black cross on its summit; and here, one crowned with a group of four grim cypresses. Down the hillsides were deep ruts and gullies, with only an occasional patch of green, where women were watching sheep and swine. Once we came to where three or four houses were gathered around a small church, but they were as desolate as the land. We heard voices in the distance, but there was no one in sight. When on a short stretch of level road we stopped to look at this strange gray land, the grayer because dark clouds covered the sky, we saw that above the barrenness the sun shone on Siena, and that all her houses, overtowered by the [pg 64] graceful La Mangia and the tall Duomo Campanile, glistened in the bright light.

About five miles from the city the desolation was somewhat relieved, for there were hedges by the roadside, and beyond sloping olive-gardens and vineyards. Poplars grew by little streams and sometimes we rode under oaks. On the top of every gray hill, giving it color, was a farm-house, rows of brilliant pumpkins laid on its red walls, ears of yellow corn hung in its loggia, and gigantic haystacks standing close by. There were monasteries too, great square brick buildings with tall towers, and below spire-like cypresses. But between the farms and fertile fields were deep ravines and dry beds of streams. The road was lonely. Now and then flocks of birds flew down in front of the tricycle, or large white geese came out from under the hedge and hissed at us. For a few minutes a man driving a donkey-cart made the way not a little lively. He did not see us until we wheeled by him. Then he jumped as if he had been shot. "Dio!" he exclaimed, "but you frightened me!" He laughed, however, and whipping up his donkey [pg 65] rattled after us as if eager for a race, talking and shouting all the while until we were out of hearing. One or two peasants passed in straw chariot-shaped wagons, and once from a farm-house a woman in red blouse and yellow apron, with a basket on her head and a dog at her heels, came towards us. It was in this same farm-house we met a Didymus. We stopped, as we had a way of doing when anything pleased us, and he came out to have a better look at the tramway. And how far did we expect to go to-day? he asked. To Monte Oliveto, we told him, for, like pious pilgrims, we thought to make a day's retreat with the monks there. "To Monte Oliveto! and in a day, and on that machine!" and he laughed us to scorn. "In a week, the Signore had better say." Later a stone-breaker's belief in us made some amends for the farmer's contempt. We were riding then. "Addio!" he cried, even before we reached him.

I shall always remember a little village through which we rode that morning, because it was there we saw the first large stone-pine growing by the roadside, which showed we [pg 66] were getting farther south, and because of the friendliness of a peasant. It was a poor place. The people were ragged and squalid and sickly, as if the gloom of the hills had fallen upon them. We asked at a shop for a lemon, but there was not one to be had. "Wait," cried a woman standing close by, and she disappeared. She returned almost immediately with a lemon on whose stem there were still fresh green leaves. "Ecco!" she said, "it is from my garden." "How much?" asked J., as she handed it to him. "Oh, nothing, sir," and she put her hands behind her back. We made her take a few coppers, for the children we told her. As far as it lay in her power I think she was as courteous as those men in a certain Italian town who, in days long past, fought together for the stranger who came within their gates, so eager were they all, not to cheat him, as is the way with modern landlords, but to lodge him at their own expense, so that there were no inns in that town.

Before we reached Buonconvento the sun came out and the clouds rolled away. It had rained here earlier in the morning. The roads [pg 67] were sticky and the machine ran heavily, and trees and hedges were wet with sparkling raindrops. There is an imposing entrance to the little town, a pointed bridge over a narrow stream, with a Madonna and Child in marble relief at the highest point, an avenue of tall poplars with marble benches set between, and then the heavy brick walls blackened with age, and the gateway, its high Gothic arch decorated with the old Sienese wolf and a more recent crop of weeds.

We rode from one end to the other,—a two minutes' ride,—without finding a trattoria. At length we appealed to the crowd. Where was the trattoria? No one understood; and yet that very morning J. had been asked if he were not a Florentine! Perhaps monsieur speaks French? and a little Frenchman in seedy clothes jauntily worn, and with an indescribable swagger, came forward, hat in hand. The effect of his coming was magical. For unknown reasons, when it was found that J. could speak French after a fashion, his Italian was all-sufficient. The inn was here; we were directly in front of it, and the padrone, [pg 68] who had been at our elbows all the time, led the way into it. The Frenchman gallantly saw us through the crowd to the room where we were to dine. It was the best trattoria in the place, but poor enough, he said. Such bread and cheese! horrible! and he shrugged his shoulders and raised his hands to heaven in testimony thereof. He did not live in Buonconvento, not he. He came from Paris. Then he complimented J. on his Italian, to make up in some measure for the failure of the people to appreciate it, and with a bow that might have won him favor at court, and a "I salute you, monsieur and madame," he politely left us before our dinner was served. He was a strolling actor, the padrone said; he and his troupe would give a performance in the evening.

Chiusure. Page 68.

The fact that we were going to Monte Oliveto annoyed the padrone. The monastery is a too successful rival to his inn. Few travellers, except those who are on their way to Monte Oliveto, pass through his town, and few who can help it stay there over night. His list of the evils we should have to endure [pg 69] was the sauce with which he served our beefsteak and potatoes. We must leave the post road for one that was stony and steep. Our velocipede could not be worked over it. It would take hours to reach the monastery, and we had better not be out after dark, for there were dangers untold by the way. But when he had said the worst he became cheerful, and even seemed pleased when we admired his kitchen, where brass and copper pots and pans hung on the walls, and where in one corner was a large fireplace with comfortable seats above and a pigeon-house underneath. But when we complimented him on the walls of his town, Bah! he exclaimed, of what use were they? They were half destroyed. They would be no defence in war-times.

He was right. The walls, strong by the gate, have in parts entirely disappeared, and in others, houses and stables have been made of them. It is on the open space by these houses that the men have their playground. They were all there when we arrived, and still there when we left. Young men, others old enough to be their fathers, and boys were, each [pg 70] in turn, holding up balls to their noses, and then, with a long slide and backward twist of the arm, rolling them along the ground, which is the way Italians play bowls.

Before the afternoon was over we cursed in our hearts the Tuscan politeness we had heretofore praised. About a mile from Buonconvento the road to Monte Oliveto divided. We turned to the right. But two peasants with ox-teams called out from below that we must not go that way. It was all bad. But to the left it was good, and piano, ascending but gently, and we had much better take it. In an evil moment we did. That it ill behooves a wise man to seek counsel in every word spoken to him, we found to our cost. In the first place the ascent was not gentle,—we had not then learned that an Italian calls every hill that is not as straight up and down as the side of a house, piano,—and in the second place the road was not good, but vilely bad. Unfortunately, for half a mile or perhaps more it was fair enough. But when we had gone just so far that we were unwilling to turn back we discovered our mistake. The road we had [pg 71] not taken was that built by the monks hundreds of years ago; we had chosen the new and not yet finished by-way. It was heavy with dust and dirt, and full of ruts and loose stones. Over it we could not ride or even push the tricycle without difficulty. It was in keeping, however, with the abomination of desolation lying to each side. For we were now in a veritable wilderness, a land of deserts and of pits, where few men dwell. All around us were naked, colorless chalk-hills, abrupt precipices and ravines. A few chestnut-trees, a rose-bush covered with red berries growing from the gray earth, were the only green things we passed for miles. It was weary and slow work, and the sun was low on the hill-tops before we came to the point where the two roads met. At some distance above us we saw a large red building surrounded by cypresses, and we knew this must be Monte Oliveto Maggiore. So we took heart again.

But our trouble was not over. The road was better only by comparison, and it was still impossible to ride, and hard work to push or pull the tricycle. It was built of bricks, which [pg 72] lay as if they had been carelessly shot out of a cart and left where and how they fell. A little farther on it divided again. A woman was walking towards us, and J. asked her which was the road to the convent (il convento). "You must go back," she said; "it lies miles below,—Buonconvento." "These peasants are fools," said J. in angry English to her very face; but she, all unconscious, smiled upon us. We went to the left, which fortunately was just what we ought to have done. But it was provoking that instead of getting nearer to the monastery, we seemed to be going farther from it. With one turn of the road it appeared to be above, and with the next below us. Now it was on one side and now on the other, until I began to feel as if we were the answer to the riddle I had so often been asked in my childhood, the mysterious "What is it that goes round and round the house and never gets in?" Soon the sun set behind the hills, and the sky grew soft and golden. We met several peasants bearing large bundles of twigs on their heads. There were one or two shrines, a chapel, and a farm-house in front of which a [pg 73] priest stood talking to a woman. But on we went without resting, J. pushing the machine and I walking behind, womanlike shirking my share of the work. The road grew worse until it became nothing but a mass of ruts and gullies washed out by the rain, and led to a hill from which even Christian would have turned and fled. But we struggled up, reaching the top to see the gate of the monastery some sixty or seventy feet below. Finally we came to the great brick gateway which in the dull light—for by this time the color had faded from the sky—rose before us a heavy black pile, beyond whose archway we saw only shadow and mystery. As we walked under it our voices, when we spoke, sounded unnatural and hollow. On the other side the road wound through a gloomy grove of cypresses, growing so close together that they hedged us about with impenetrable darkness. Once several silent figures, moving noiselessly, passed by. Had we, by mischance, wandered into a Valley of the Shadow of Death?

The cypress grove, after several windings, brought us face to face with the building at [pg 74] which we had already so often looked from the distance. Even in the semi-darkness we could see the outline distinctly enough to know we were standing in front of the church, and that the detached building a little to our left was a barn or stable. But not a light shone in a window, not a doorway was in sight. I recalled my convent experience of bygone years, and remembered that after eight o'clock in the evening no one was admitted within its walls. Was there a rule like this at Monte Oliveto, and was six the hour when its bolts and bars were fastened against the stranger? As we hesitated where to go or what to do next, three or four workmen came from the stable. J. spoke to them, and one offered to show him the entrance to the monastery while I waited by the tricycle. It was strange to stand in the late evening and in the wilderness alone, with men whose speech I barely understood and whose faces I could not see. For fully five minutes I waited thus while they talked together in low voices. But at last I heard one cry, Ecco! here was the padrone; and they all took off their hats. A dog ran up and [pg 75] examined me, and then a man, who I could just make out in the gloom, wore a cassock and the broad-brimmed priestly hat, joined the group. "Buona sera," he said to me.

Could I speak to him in French, I asked. Yes, he assented, what was it I wanted? When I told him we wished to stay in the monastery, he said he had not expected us. We had not written.

"But," I exclaimed, "we thought strangers were allowed to stay here."

"Yes," he answered; "there is a pension in the monastery, but it is for artists."

"And my husband is an artist," I interrupted eagerly, for from his manner I feared he would refuse us admission. After all, what did he know about us except that, vagrant-like, we were wandering in the mountains at a most unseasonable hour? Indeed, when later I reflected on the situation, I realized that we must have seemed suspicious characters. At this critical moment J. returned. His guide had led him to a small side-door beyond the church. There he rang and rang again. The bell was loud and clear, and roused many [pg 76] echoes within, but nothing else. The guide, perplexed, then led him back. I told him with whom I was speaking, and he continued the conversation with the padrone. Had they talked in Italian only, or in French, they might have understood each other; but instead they used a strange mixture of the two, to their mutual bewilderment. If this kept on much longer we should undoubtedly spend the night in the open air. In despair I broke in in French: "But, my father, cannot we stay this one night?"

"Certainly," he said, fortunately dropping all Italian. "That is what I was explaining to monsieur. You can stay, but of course we have nothing prepared. We will do our best."

If he had said he would do his worst, provided we were rid of the tricycle for the night, and were ourselves taken indoors where we might sit down, we should have been thankful.

The bags were unstrapped and given into the care of one of the men, a place was made for the machine in the stable, and then we followed the padrone or Abate—for this was his real title—to the door where J. had rung [pg 77] in vain, and which he opened with his key. Within it was so dark that we groped our way through a hall and a small cloister. Then we came to a flight of steps, where at the bidding of the Abate, as if to reassure us that we were not being led to secret cells or torture-chambers, the man carrying our bags struck a solitary match. By this feeble light we walked up the broad stone stairs and through many passage-ways, not a sound breaking the stillness but our foot-falls and their loud echoes, to a door where the Abate left us, and at the same time the match burnt out. But the next minute he reappeared with a lighted taper, and at the end of the hall opened another door, lit a lamp on a table within, and showed us four rooms, which he said were at our disposal. The beds were not made, but they would be attended to immediately. He had now to say Office, but at nine supper would be served. Here was a very comfortable solution to the mystery into which the massive gateway seemed to lead. The Valley of the Shadow of Death had turned out to be a Delectable Land!

[pg 78] It was still more comfortable later, when, his Office said, the Abate came back and sat and talked with us. Now he could examine us by a better light I think he concluded we were not dangerous characters, probably only harmless lunatics. However that may be, after half an hour, when the supper-bell rang and we started off for the refectory, again by the light of his taper, we were the best of friends. The long corridor, thus dimly seen, seemed interminable. We went down one stairway to find the door locked against us, then up and down another. Here the light went out, leaving us in a darkness like unto that of Egypt. The Abate laughed as if it were the best of jokes. He took J.'s hand and J. took mine, and thus like three children we went laughing down the stairway and along more passages, and at last into a long refectory, at the farther end of which was a lamp, while a door to one side of that by which we entered opened, and a second monk in white robes, holding a lighted taper, came in, and when he saw us made a low bow. As there were no other visitors, we were to eat with him and his brother monk, the [pg 79] Abate said; and then he gave me the head of the table, asking me if I were willing to be the Lady Abbess.

If we had been two prodigals he could not have been kinder than he was now he had given us shelter. If we had been starving like the hero of the parable, he could not have been more anxious to set before us a feast of plenty. Nor would any fatted calf have been more to our taste than the substantial supper prepared for us. We must eat, he said; we needed it. He had seen us coming up the hill as he talked with a peasant by the roadside; but monsieur was push-pushing the velocipede and looking at nothing else, and madame was panting and swinging her arms, staring straight in front of her, and before he had time, we had passed. We must drink too; the wine was good for us. We must not mix water with it; it was Christian, why then should it be baptized? The white-robed brother spoke little, but he never allowed J.'s plate to remain empty. When the meat was brought in we were joined by Pirro, a good-sized dog with no tail to speak of, and Lupo, an unusually large cat, and his [pg 80] numerous family, who all had to be fed at intervals. But even while Pirro jumped nimbly into the air after pieces of bread thrown to him, and Lupo scratched, and his progeny made mournful appeals to be remembered, and we talked, I looked every now and then down the long narrow table to where it was lost in deep shadow. The cloth was laid its entire length, as if in readiness for the banished brothers whenever they might return. I should not have been surprised then to see the door open to admit a procession of white-robed monks, all with tapers in their hands.

The Abate must have realized that to a stranger there was something uncanny in his dark, silent, deserted monastery, and his last word as he bade us good-night was, that we were to fear nothing, and sleep in peace.



Of Monte Oliveto Maggiore,

We would say a Word of Thanks for the Golden Days

passed in his House Beautiful,

and for

The Great Kindnesses shown us in our farther


[pg 81]


"But, oh, what a favor is this to me, that yet I am admitted entrance here!"
"But they are to me golden hours in which such things happen to me."

The days we spent at Monte Oliveto were golden days. For we not only slept there one, but several nights, and the Abate declared we could remain as long as we might care to. Nothing could be more melancholy and wild than the country into which we had come. It is the most desolate part of all that strange desolation which lies to the southeast of Siena. The mountain on which the monastery is built is surrounded on every side but one by deep, abrupt ravines. Behind it rise higher mountains, bare and bleak and gray, like gigantic ash-piles, and on the very highest peak is the wretched little village of Chiusure. [pg 82] The other hills around are lower, and from the road by the convent gateway one can see Siena, pale and blue on the horizon, and southward, over the barren hill-tops, Monte Amiata. But Monte Oliveto, with its gardens and orchards and vineyards, is a green place in the midst of the barrenness. The mountain-sides are terraced, and olives and vines grow almost to the bottom of the ravine. It was said in old times that the Bishop of Arezzo was commanded in a vision to call the monastery after the Mount in Jerusalem. Now-a-days sceptics say the trees on the terraces explain the name, forgetting that in its beginning this hill was as bare as the others. Why cannot it be believed, for the legend's sake, that the olives were planted afterwards because of the name?

The first morning, the Abate took us to see the frescos representing the life of Saint Benedict, painted on the walls of the large cloister. I will be honest, and confess that they disappointed us. I doubt whether the artists were very proud of them. Luca Signorelli, before he had finished the first side of the cloister, gave up the work, as it is not likely he would [pg 83] have done had he cared much for it. Sodoma, when he took his place, was at first so careless that the then abbot took him to task, but the artist calmly told him more could not be expected for the price that was paid him. Certainly with neither were these frescos a labor of love, and this one feels at once. One wonders if this could have been the same Sodoma who painted the Saint Sebastian in Florence, and yet there is more charm in his pictures than in those of Signorelli. But what we cared for most were his portraits of himself, with heavy hair hanging about his face, and wearing the cloak the Milanese gentleman, turned monk, had given him, and of his wife and child; and the pictures of the raven and the other pets he brought with him to the monastery, to the wonder of the good monks. It is a pity every one cannot look at these frescos with such loving, reverential eyes as the Abate. He had shown them probably to hundreds of visitors; he had seen them almost every day for the many years he had been at Monte Oliveto; but his pleasure in them was as fresh as if it dated but from yesterday. He told the story [pg 84] of each in turn,—of how in this one the great Saint Benedict had set the devil to flight, and how in that he had by a miracle recalled an erring brother; and once he pointed to a palm-tree in a background. Sodoma, he said, had seen and admired a palm in the garden of the monastery, and so, after his realistic fashion, had painted it in just as he had his pets. That very tree was in the garden still; he would show it to us if we liked.

Monte Oliveto. Page 84.

There never was such another garden! It is close to the large brick house or palace by the gateway, where in old times lay visitors were lodged, and beyond which no woman was ever allowed to pass. It is small, but in it the monks only raised the rarest trees and plants. Here grew the precious herbs out of which in the pharmacy, whose windows overlook the quiet green enclosure, they prepared the healing draughts for which people came from far and near. The pharmacy is closed now. There is dust in the corners and on the quaint old chairs. Cobwebs hang from the ceiling. But brass scales are still on the heavy wooden counter, and pestle and mortar behind it, and [pg 85] glass retorts of strange shapes in the corners and above the doors. Majolica jars all marked with the three mountains, the cross, and the olive-branch,—the stemma of the monastic order,—are ranged on the brown shelves, many of the large ones carefully sealed, while from the smaller come forth strange odors of myrrh and incense and rare ointments. As in the refectory, everything here is in order for the monks when they return. But they will find more change in the garden below. The rare plants, the ebony and the hyssop, the cactuses and the palm (which made us think less of Sodoma's frescos than we had before), the pomegranates and the artichokes, are all there. But weeds grow in the paths, and by the old gray well, and in among the herbs; roses have run riot in the centre of the garden and turned it into a wild tangled growth. To us it seemed the loveliest spot in Monte Oliveto. The hours spent in it were like a beautiful idyl of Theocritus or Shelley. The sun shone and the air was filled with sweet spicy scents. To one side was the gray mountain, to the other dense cypresses, and above a blue, cloudless [pg 86] sky. The roses were still in bloom, and as we lingered there, the Abate went from bush to bush and picked for me a large bunch of fragrant buds. I hope if the monks ever do come back that, while they throw open the windows of the pharmacy and let the light in again upon the majolica and the dark woodwork, they will leave the gates of the garden locked. It is fairer in its confusion than it ever could be with weeded paths and well-clipped bushes.

The Abate took us everywhere,—through the empty guest-chambers of the palace to the tower, now a home for pigeons, from the top of which one has a wide view of the country, which with its squares of olives and its gray hills and fields marked by deep furrows, as if by boundary lines, looks like a large map or geological chart,—through the monastery, with its three hundred rooms with now but three monks to occupy them; its cloisters, for there are two besides the large frescoed one; its loggie, where geraniums and other green plants were growing; its great refectory, beyond the door of which fowl or flesh meat never passed, [pg 87] and which is now used no longer; and its library, at the very top of the house, where rows of white vellum volumes are ready for the students who so seldom come. Then he led us to the church, where there are more altars than monks to pray before them, and a wonderful choir with inlaid stalls; and in and out of little chapels, one of which contains the grotto where blessed Bernardo Tolomei, the founder of the order, lived for many years after he came to the wilderness, while another was the first church used by the brotherhood, and the Virgin with angels playing to her on harps and mandolins, above the altar, was painted long before Signorelli and Sodoma began their work. Then there was the lemon-grove to be seen, where the Abate filled our pockets with the ripe fruit which we were to keep, he said, in case we might be thirsty on the road some day when there was no wine or water near by to drink. And after that there was still to be visited the wine-press, with its deep shadows and dark corners and long subterranean passage to the room below, where men were filling small casks from large butts, and then carrying [pg 88] them off on their shoulders to be weighed and stored above. We had to taste the wine, and I think it, together with the sunshine and the flowers, must have gone to our heads that morning and stayed there so long as we were at Monte Oliveto, for everything about us seemed to belong less to the actual world than to a dreamland full of wonder and beauty, and sometimes of pathos.

It was the same in the afternoon, when the Abate had gone about his work,—for he is a busy man, like the centurion with many under him,—and J. and I wandered alone over the gray hills up to Chiusure. Life with its hardships must be real enough to the people of this little village, in which seeds of pestilence sown hundreds of years ago still bear the bitter fruit of wretchedness. It seems as if the brick walls which could not keep out the plague have ever since successfully barred the way to all prosperity, for generation after generation is born within them but to live and die in poverty. We saw melancholy figures there,—old hags of women, with thin white hair and bent almost double under heavy bundles of [pg 89] wood, toiling up steep stony streets with bare feet, and others crouching in the gloom opposite open doorways. Even the little priest, who, in his knee-breeches and long frock-coat and braided smoking-cap with tassels dangling in his eyes, was humorous enough to look at, was pathetic in his way. For after he had shown us his church with its decorations, poor as the people who worship in it, and offered us a glass of wine in his own parlor, he spread on the table before us some broken pieces of glass easily put together, on which a picture was painted. Was it of value? he asked, so eagerly that he told without further words the story of wants but ill supplied. He was willing to sell it, but he did not know what it was worth. Could we tell him? No, we could not, we said, for we really knew nothing about it, though we feared the hopes he had set upon it would never be realized. And then sadly he gathered together the pieces and put them away again in their newspaper wrapping.

It was more cheerful outside the gateway. There, in the late afternoon, the gray olives by the way were more clearly defined against the [pg 90] sky, and the gray ravines below more indistinct. Beyond, the hills, now all purple and soft, rolled away to the horizon and to the brilliant red sky above. One or two lights were lit in distant farm-houses, and once we heard a far-off bell. Before us the white road led by one green hill on whose top was a circle of cypresses, and in its centre a black cross, as in so many old pictures.

But the strangest part of this dream-life was the friendship that sprung up between us and the monks. I should not have been more surprised if Saint Benedict and Blessed Bernardo had come back to earth to make friends with us. It was not only that the Abate acted as our guide through the monastery,—this he does for every visitor who comes, since the Government took possession of it and turned it into a public art-gallery and pension for artists,—but he came to our room early in the morning to drink his coffee with us, and in the evening, after he had said his Office, for a little talk. And when we had finished our supper we sat together long over our wine, talking now in French, now in English, now in Italian, [pg 91] and occasionally understanding each other. Like all good fellows, we too had our jokes. But the Abate's favorite was to tell how he had seen us coming up the mountain, monsieur push-pushing the velocipede and madame puff-puffing behind him. Even Dom Giuseppe, the other monk,—the third was away,—relaxed from the dignity with which he had first met us, and took part in the talk and the laughter. Unreal as seemed these late suppers in the long refectory in the dim light, with Pirro forever jumping after choice morsels, while Lupo and his family growled with rage and envy from under the table, we strayed even farther into Wonderland the second day after our arrival, when both monks went out for a ride on the tricycle along the mulberry walk and by Blessed Bernardo's grotto.

The last day of our stay a number of visitors arrived,—a priest from Perugia, two nuns, and two English ladies. They were not expected, and dinner had to be prepared for them. The Abate is never pleased when guests come without giving him warning. When we met him in the refectory a little after twelve, we could [pg 92] see his patience had been tried. We must pardon him for being late, he said, but he had had to find something to eat for all these people. Were they to dine with us? we asked. No, indeed, was his answer; they were not members of the community. This confirmed our doubts as to whether we might not be monks without knowing it; for the first morning the Abate had given us a key of the great front door by which we could let ourselves in at all hours, without any ringing of bells or calling of porters; so that we felt as if we belonged to the convent. These visitors were the thorns in his present life, the Abate continued, and we were his roses. Then he brought out a bottle of the vino santo which he makes himself and prizes so highly that he never sells it as he does the other wines, and a plate of grapes for which he had sent a great distance. And when dinner was over he bade the servant put all that was left of grapes and wine away. They were for the community, and not for common folk. He introduced us to the Perugian priest, who might possibly, he said, be of use to us in Perugia. The latter almost [pg 93] embraced J. in his protestations of good-will, and came running back several times to press his hand, and say in a French of his own invention that we must call often during our stay in his city.

[pg 94]


"Now he bethought himself of setting forward."
"Here, also, they had the city itself in view, and they thought they heard all the bells therein to ring to welcome them thereto."

We left the monastery the next morning. It took courage on our part; but we knew it was best to go quickly. Every day we fell more under the dreamy influence of the place and became less willing for action. We must hasten from Monte Oliveto for the very reason which led Blessed Bernardo to it,—to flee temptation. The Abate was in our room by half-past seven. Dom Giuseppe was in the church saying Mass, but had sent his farewells. He himself had not yet said Mass, so he could not drink his coffee with us, but he sat by while we had ours. We should not reach San Quirico till noon, he feared, and we [pg 95] must have something in our pockets to eat in the mean time; and he went to his room and came back with two cakes. He brought besides two letters he had written introducing us to monks at San Pietro in Perugia. Then he came downstairs and out to the stable, though he was fasting, and the morning was wet and cloudy and cold. We did not get on the tricycle at once. We remembered the road too well. The Abate walked by our side, now and then patting J. on the back and calling him affectionately "Giuseppe, Giuseppe;" and he kept with us until, at some little distance from the gateway, we mounted the machine. After he had said good-by, he stood quietly watching us. Then there came a turn in the road which hid him from us, and when we saw him again he was walking on the footpath below the cypresses, with two little boys who had come out with him. He was on his way to take Dom Giuseppe's place at the altar. And then we went on sadly, for we knew we should not come to another resting-place where there was such perfect relief for pilgrims that are weary and faint in the way.

[pg 96] As the road was difficult going up, so was it dangerous coming down, and again we had to walk. To add to our discomfort, before long it began to rain, and it was so cold we had to blow on our fingers to keep them warm. During the night it had snowed on the far mountain-ranges. Beyond Buonconvento, when we returned to the post-road we went fast enough; but only for a while. There were more mountains to cross, up which J. could not go very fast because of the burden, or knapsack, that was on his back. Out of very shame I took my share in pushing and pulling the tricycle. Once or twice we had long coasts; but in places the road was sandy, and in descending wound as often as a small St. Gothard railway. Coasting would have been too great a risk, especially as I never could back-pedal going down hill, though on upgrades J. but too often complained that, like Dante on the hillside, my firm foot ever was the lower.

At the Foot of the Cross. Page 96.

The way still lay between and over hills of chalk, and we rode for miles through monotonous barrenness. It rained at intervals, but [pg 97] at times the sun almost broke through the clouds that followed it in long gray sweeps from the white masses on the snow-capped mountains bounding the horizon. To our right, Monte Amiata, bare and rugged, and with white top, was always in sight; and once above it the clouds rolled away leaving a broad stretch of greenish blue sky. There were many crosses by the wayside, and they were different from any we had yet seen. On each, over spear and sponge and crown of thorns, was a black cock, rudely carved to look as if it crowed. Just before we came to San Quirico, and towards noon, we saw at the foot of one of these crosses an old weary-looking peasant, with head bowed as if he listened for the Angelus.

We were prepossessed against San Quirico before we reached it. Olives with vines hanging from them in defiance of Virgil, brown fields, and red and yellow trees, could not reconcile us to the long climb up the mountain. It was worth our trouble, however, if only to see the cathedral. We left the tricycle at the trattoria, and at our leisure looked at the portal and its pillars, with quaintly carved [pg 98] capitals of animals and birds, and at those others, joined together with a Celtic-like twist and resting on leopards, and then at the two sea-monsters above. And while we wondered at the grotesque gargoyles on the walls, and the two figures for columns, and the lions on the south doorway, two carabinieri from a neighboring window examined us as if we were equal curiosities. This fine building is an incongruity in San Quirico, which—for our first impressions proved right—is at best but a poor place. We were cheated in it as we had never been before. When we went back to the trattoria four men were eating their dinner inside the fireplace in the kitchen. But we were ushered into what I suppose was the best room. It was dining-room and bed-chamber combined. On one side was a long table, on the other the bed. The dressing-table served as buffet, and the padrona brought from its drawers the cheese and apples for our dessert. In the garden below—for we were in the second story—weeds like corn grew so tall that they shaded the window. What happened in that room, and the difference that arose [pg 99] between the padrona and ourselves, are facts too unpleasant to recall. But I am sure the next foreigners who went to San Quirico heard woful tales of the evil doings of the two Inglesi who came on a velocipede.

After San Quirico there was the same barrenness, and only indifferent roads over rolling country. Until within half a mile of Pienza, where the hedges began again, not a tree grew by the roadside, and the only signs of vegetation were the reeds in the little dark pools dotting the gray fields. It was still bitterly cold, and my fingers tingled on the handles. Once we passed a farm-house where a solitary woman watched a herd of black swine, and once we met the diligence; that was all.

We rode into Pienza, though our way lay to one side of it. But we were curious to see the cathedrals and palaces Pius II. built there in the vain hope of turning his native village into an important town. Of all the follies of proud popes, I think this was the greatest. As well might he have hoped by his single effort to cover the creta, or chalk, with roses, as to raise a prosperous city in its midst. We saw the [pg 100] great brown buildings marked with the fine crescents of the Piccolomini and the papal tiara and keys, as out of place in Pienza as the cathedral seemed in San Quirico; we looked closer at the old stone well and its beautiful wrought-iron work. J. made a sketch of a fine courtyard, and then we were on the road again.

Near Montepulciano we came to a thickly wooded country, riding for several miles between chestnuts and oaks. There were open places, too, from which we saw far below the fair Val di Chiana, and in the distance Lake Thrasymene, pale and silvery, and close by olive-gardens, through whose gray branches we looked at the purple mountains and their snowy summits. Above were broad spaces of bright sky, for the dark clouds were rolling away beyond the lake, and those that floated around Monte Amiata were now glistening and white. We had left the wilderness for a garden. All the bells rang out as if in welcome when, after working up the long road, so winding that at times the city was completely hidden, we wheeled into the now dark and cold streets of Montepulciano.

[pg 101]


"They were therefore here in evil case, and were far from friends and acquaintances."
"Why, truly, I do not know what had become of me there, had not Evangelist happily met me."

It was in this high hill town that one of the pilgrims fell by the way. For two days J. was too ill to ride, and we feared our pilgrimage had come to an end. We stayed at the Albergo Marzocco. It was on the fifth floor of an old palace, and the entrance was through the kitchen. The padrone and his family were very sociable. Almost immediately his wife wanted to know the trade of the Signore. "Ah! an artist. Ecco me! I am a washerwoman!"

She was also cook. From the dining-room we could watch her as she prepared our meals. [pg 102] When she kept us waiting too long we had only to step into the kitchen and stand over her until the dish we had ordered was ready. We could look too into an adjacent room where during our stay one daughter of the house forever ironed table-cloths, while a second added up endless accounts.

But friendly as these people were, they were stupid. The padrone had a pizzicheria, or pork-shop, across the street. When anything was wanted at the Albergo it was brought from the shop. Every time I went to my window I saw messengers on their way between the two establishments. But no man can serve two masters; the pizzicheria drove a more thriving trade, and the Albergo suffered in consequence. It was left in the charge of a youth of unparalleled stupidity, who seldom understood what we asked for, and when he did, declared it something not to be had. But a friend was sent to us in our need.

It happened in this way. The first morning we went out for a walk. As we started, and were passing the palace with the Etruscan inscriptions on the heavy stones of its lower wall, [pg 103] a Harlequin newly painted in red and white struck nine from a house-top near by. In the Via dell' Erbe women, their heads covered with gay handkerchiefs or wide-brimmed, high-crowned felt hats, were selling vegetables and fruit. Just in front of us, walking hand in hand, were three beggars, two blind and one lame, and an old brown monk with a wine-cask on his shoulder. At almost every turn we saw through an archway the three far-away lakes of Montepulciano, Chiusi, and Thrasymene. But it was now J. began to feel ill, and we went to a caffè and called for cognac. As we sat there the door opened and a young Italian dressed à l'Anglaise, even to his silver-headed cane, came in. He took a seat at the table next to us. When his coffee was brought he asked the waiter if he had seen the English lady and gentleman who arrived the evening before on a velocipede. No, the waiter had not; he knew nothing of these foreigners. There was a pause, while the young Italian sipped his coffee. But presently he turned to us and said in good English, but with a marked accent:—

[pg 104] "I beg pardon, sare, but was it not you who came to Montepulciano on a tricycle?"

"Yes," said J., but rather curtly, for he was just then very miserably.

"Ah, I thought so!" continued the Italian, well satisfied with the answer. "I have seen it,—a Humber. It is a beautiful machine. I myself do ride a bicycle,—the Speecial Cloob. You know it? I do belong to the Cyclists' Touring Cloob and to the Speedvell Cloob. All the English champions do belong to that Cloob. I did propose some one for director at the last meeting; you will see my name on that account in the papers. Here is my card, but in the country around Montepulciano all call me Sandro or Sandrino. I have ridden from Florence to Montepulciano in one day. I have what you call the wheel fever,"—and he smiled apologetically and stopped, but only to take breath.

We were fellow-cyclers, and that was enough. He was at once our friend, though our greeting in return was not enthusiastic, and our record would have disgusted the Speedvell Cloob. He could sympathize. He was feeling [pg 105] vary bad himself, because the day before he had gone on his bicycle as far as Montalcino with a gun to keel the leetle birds. It was too far even for a champion. But he had taken the waters—Janos: he had great faith in the waters.

The cognac by this time had made J. better, and we started to leave the caffè. Sandrino, to give him his Montepulciano name, insisted on paying for everything. We must let him have that favor, he said, and also another. He was not a native of the town,—he was a Roman, as he supposed we could see by his nose,—but still he would like to do us the honors of the place. He would take us to see so fine a church we could not but be pleased with it; it was only a step. Foolishly we went. The step was a long one. It took us half-way down the mountain-side to the Madonna di San Biagio. But J. was now really too wretched to look at anything, and we turned back at once. As we walked slowly up again, Sandrino explained that he had lived in England several years; and it turned out that he had the English as well as the wheel [pg 106] fever. All his clothes were from London, he said, even his flannels; and he pulled down his sleeve that we might see. He smoked English tobacco,—a friend sent it to him; and he showed us the small paper box tied with a string in which he kept it. And most of his news was English, too. His friends wrote him. He had just had a letter—see—and he opened it. There had been fearful riots in England. He cared much for the politics of the country. But the refrain of all he said was praise of cycling. He offered to ride with us when we left Montepulciano. He could go any day but the next, which was his twenty-first birthday, when he was to have a great dinner and many friends and much wine. He would call, if we would allow him; and with profession of great friendship he left us at the door of the Albergo.

Leaving Montepulciano. Page 106.

He was true to his word. Indeed, I do not know what had become of us but for his kindness. After our return from our walk, J. was unable to leave his room. We were both depressed by this unlooked-for delay, and Sandrino not only helped to amuse, but was of [pg 107] practical use to us. He came twice the following day. The first time he stopped, he said, to tell us he did hear from friends in Castiglione del Lago, who, if we should ride to-morrow, would be glad to see us at lunch. "There will be nothing much," he concluded; "they will make no preparations. It will be some leetle thing." Though in the first glory of his twenty-one years, he went with me to a druggist's to act as interpreter. But I think he was repaid by his pleasure in carrying back a bottle of his favorite waters. The boy, when he saw it, with his usual cleverness followed into the room bringing three glasses. If we had asked for three he doubtless would have brought one. Sandrino's second visit was in the evening after he had eaten his great dinner and drunk much wine, which had again made him feel vary bad. Had we ever tasted the famous Montepulciano, "king of all wine"? he asked. No? Well, then, we must before leaving the town. It was not to be had anywhere else, and indeed even in Montepulciano could not be bought in the caffè or shops. He had been presented with many bottles.

[pg 108] He repeated his invitation to lunch in Castiglione, and it seemed that other friends in a villa near Cortona would also be charmed to see us, and to give us wine if we were tired.

[pg 109]


"Thy company, O sweet Evangelist, how desirable it is to us poor pilgrims."
"Then I saw in my dream they went very lovingly on together."

The next morning J. was much better, and we decided to ride. Sandrino arrived at half-past seven and breakfasted with us. In the uniform of the Speedvell Cloob, its monogram in silver on his cap, he was even more English than he had been the day before. Our last experience at the Albergo was characteristic. The waiter, overcome by Sandrino's appearance, became incapable of action. We called for our coffee and rolls in vain. Finally we all, our guest included, made a descent upon the kitchen and forced him to bestir himself.

It was Sunday morning, and the news of our going had been noised abroad. The aristocracy [pg 110] as well as the people turned out to see us off. Many of Sandrino's friends lingered in the barber-shop across the street; others waited just without the city gate with his mother and sister. When Sandrino saw the crowd here, he sprang upon his Speecial Cloob, worked with one foot and waved the other in the air, rode to the little park beyond and back, and then jumped off, hat in hand, at his mother's side, with the complacent smile of a champion. Indeed, the whole ride that day savored of the circus. He went down hills with his legs stretched straight out on either side. On level places he made circles and fancy figures in the road. Whenever we passed peasants,—and there were many going to church,—he shrieked a warning shrill as a steam-engine whistle. No wonder he said he had no use for a bell! He spoke to all the women, calling them his "beautiful cousins." And in villages the noise he made was so great that frightened people, staring at him, could not look behind, so that several times we all but rode over men and women who walked backward right into our wheels. And all the while J., like the ring-master, [pg 111] kept calling and shrieking, and no one paid the least attention to him.

Our way was through the beautiful Val di Chiana, no longer pestilential and full of stenches as in Dante's day, but fresh and fair, and in places sweet with clematis. There were no fences or hedges, and it stretched from mountains to mountains, one wide lovely park. About half-way to Castiglione we came to the boundary line between Tuscany and Umbria,—a canal with tall poplars on its banks, throwing long reflections into the water below, where a boat lay by the reeds. We stopped there some little time. Sandrino was polite, but I could see he did not approve. What would the Speedvell Cloob have thought? Farther on, when we waited again near a low farm-house under the oaks, he wheeled quickly on. But presently he came back. "Oh," he said, "I thought you must have had an accident!"

There could be no lovelier lake town than Castiglione del Lago. The high hill on which it stands projects far into Lake Thrasymene. The olives which grow from its walls down the hillside into the very water are larger and finer, [pg 112] with more strangely twisted trunks, than any I have ever seen. As we came near the town we rode between them, looking beneath their silvery-gray branches out to the pale blue lake beyond. A woman came from under their shade with a bundle of long reeds on her head; a priest passed us on a donkey.

We left our machines in a stable at the foot of the hill and walked through the streets. Here Sandrino's invitation came to nought; his friends were away. Whatever leetle thing we had must be found elsewhere. So we went to a trattoria, where another of his friends, a serious, polite young man who, we learned afterwards, owns the town and all the country thereabout, sat and talked with us while we ate our lunch. Poor Sandrino! He had to pay for his English clothes and foreign friends! The padrona, backed by her husband from the kitchen below, asked him no less than five francs for our macaroni and wine. A dispute, loud because of the distance between the disputants, followed; but in the end Sandrino paid four francs, though half that sum would have been enough. It was some consolation [pg 113] for us to know that, forestieri as we were, we had never been cheated so outrageously, not even in San Quirico.

It was pleasant wandering through the town, with the grave young man as guide, to the Palazzo Communale, where the red and white flag of the Duke of Cornia waving outside was the same as that painted in the old frescos within, and where councilmen holding council bowed to us as we passed; and then to the old deserted castle which, with its gray battlemented walls and towers, was not unlike an English ruin. But it was pleasanter when, Sandrino having kissed his friend, we were on the road again, riding between yellow mulberries by the side of the lake. Sheep were grazing on the grassy banks; donkeys and oxen were at rest in the meadows. But the peasants, Mass heard, were at work again. Women on ladders were stripping the mulberries of their leaves; men on their knees were digging in the fields.

At the villa, Sandrino's friends were at home. At the gate the gay bicycler gave his war-cry. A young lady ran out between the roses and [pg 114] chrysanthemums in the garden and by the red wall where yellow pumpkins were sunning, to welcome him. Then her mother and sister came and also gave him greeting. They received us with courtesy. We were led into the drawing-room, a bare, barn-like place with cold brick floor, where there were three or four chairs, a table, an old piano, faded cretonne curtains hung on rough sticks at the windows, and small drawings pinned on the walls. A man in blue coat and trousers, such as the peasants wear, followed us in and sat down by the young ladies. He was one of her men, the Signora explained. Then we had the wine Sandrino promised, and we became very friendly. One of the daughters knew a little English, but when we spoke to her she hid her face in her hands and laughed and blushed. She never, never would dare to say a word before us, she declared. She was very arch and girlish. One minute she played a waltz on the piano; the next she teased Sandrino, and there was much pleasantry between them. The mother spoke French after a fashion, but when she had anything to say she relapsed into [pg 115] Italian. She lived in Rome, she said. We must come and see her there. But would we not now stay at her villa all night, instead of in Cortona? Then she squeezed my hand. "Vous êtes bien sympathique," she said, and I think she meant to compliment me. Her husband, it seems, was a banker in Rome, and would be pleased, so she told us through Sandrino's interpretation, to do anything and everything for us.

Mother and daughters, men and maids, all walking amiably together, came to the garden gate with us. The Signora here squeezed my hand a second time. The skittish young lady said "good-by" and then hid behind a bush, and her sister gave us each some roses. It was here too we were to part with Sandrino. He must be back in Montepulciano by six; more friends were coming. Would we write him postal cards to tell him of the distance and time we made? And that map of Tuscany we said we would give him, would we not remember it? He was going to take some great rides, and it would help him. Then we turned one way, and he, riding his best for the [pg 116] young ladies, the other, to be seen by us no more.

It was roses all the way to Cortona. They grew in villa gardens and along the road up the mountain; there were a few even among the olives, on the terraces whose stone embankments make the city from below look as if it were surrounded by many walls instead of one only. Near the town we met two young lovers, their arms around each other's waists, and a group of men who directed us in our search for the inn up a short steep hill leading away from the main road. Above, inside the city gate, several other citizens told us we must go down again, for the road we had left led right by the door. Clearly the Albergo della Stella—for that was its name—was not well known in Cortona. After a climb of three miles it was provoking to go even a foot out of our way, and we turned back in no cheerful mood. It was more disheartening when, having finally come to the Albergo, we found the lower floor, by which we entered, the home of pigs and donkeys and oxen. The major was right, I thought; Cortona was a rough place. The [pg 117] contrast when on the third floor of this establishment we were shown into a large, clean, really well-furnished room with window overlooking the valley, made us neglect to drive a close bargain with the padrona,—a neglect for which we suffered later.

[pg 118]


"By this time the pilgrims had a desire to go forward."

The principal event of our stay in Cortona was a hunt for Luca Signorelli's house. Why we were so anxious to find it I did not know then, nor do I now; but we were very earnest about it. At the start a youth pursued us with the persistence of a government spy. It was useless to try and dodge him. No matter how long we were in churches or by what door we came out, he was always waiting in exactly the right place. In our indignation we would not ask him the way, but we did of some other boys, who forthwith led us such a wild-goose chase that I think before it was over there was not a street or corner of the town unvisited by us.


[pg 119] We next employed an old man as guide. Of course he knew all about Luca Signorelli. He could show us all his frescos and pictures in Cortona. Some of them were bad enough, as he supposed the Signore knew; they were painted in the artist's youth. But we wanted to see his house? Ah! we had but to follow him, and he led us in triumph to that of Pietro da Cortona. As this would not do, he consulted with an old woman, who recommended a visit to a certain padre. The padre was in his kitchen. He had never heard of Signorelli's house, and honestly admitted his ignorance. But could he show us some fine frescos or sell us antiquities? This failing, our guide hunted for some friends who, he declared, knew everything. But they were not in their shop, nor in the caffè, nor on the piazza, and in despair he took us to see another priest. The latter wore a jockey-cap and goggles, and was a learned man. He had heard of a life of Signorelli by a German. He had never read it, nor indeed could he say where it was to be had; but he knew there was such a book. He was certain our hunt was useless, [pg 120] since Signorelli had lived in so many houses the city could not afford to put tablets on them all, and so not one was marked. He himself was a professional letter-writer, and if the Signore had any letters he wished written—? We then gave up the search and dismissed the old man with a franc, though he declared himself still willing to continue it. It was in this way we saw Cortona.

For the last few days we had begun to be haunted by the fear of the autumn rains. If they were as bad as Virgil says, and were to fall in dense sheets, tearing the crops up by the roots, while black whirlwinds set the stubble flying, and vast torrents filled ditches and raised rivers, the roads must certainly be made unridable. Since the morning we left Monte Oliveto the weather had been threatening, and now in Cortona there were heavy showers. As we sat in our room at the Albergo after our long tramp, and J. made a sketch from the window, we saw dark clouds gradually cover the sky. The lake, so blue yesterday, was gray and dull. The valley and the mountains were in shadow, save where the sun breaking [pg 121] through the clouds shone on a small square of olives and spread a golden mist over Monte Amiata. Before J. had finished, the gold faded into white and then deepened into purple, and we determined to be off early in the morning.

[pg 122]


"Now you must note that the City stood upon a mighty hill, but the pilgrims went up that hill with ease."

The next day I was tired and in no humor for riding. J. wanted once to try the tricycle without luggage over the Italian roads. It was settled then between us that I should go alone by train to Perugia, where we should meet. Before seven we had our breakfast and the padrona brought us her bill. Because we had not bargained in the beginning she overcharged us for everything; but we refused to pay more than we knew was her due. There was the inevitable war of words, more unpleasant than usual because her voice was loud and harsh and asthmatic. She grew tearful before it was over, but finally thanked us for what we gave her, and asked us to come again so [pg 123] gently that we mistrusted her. I thought it wise to wait with the bags at the station, though my train would not start till eleven.

It was a beautiful coast down the mountain between the olives, four miles with feet up. The clouds had rolled away during the night, and it was bright and warm at the station when J. left me to go on his way. It was quiet too, and for some time I was alone with the porters. But presently a young woman with a child in her arms came by. She stopped and looked at me sympathetically. I spoke to her, and then she came nearer and patted me on the shoulder and said, "Poverina!" It seems she had seen J. bring me to the station and then turn back by himself. I do not know what she thought was the trouble, but she felt sorry for me. She was the wife of the telegraph operator, and lived in rooms above the station. She took me to them, and then she brought me an illustrated translation of "Gil Blas" to look at while she made me a cup of coffee. Every few minutes she sighed and said again, "Poverina!" She gave me her card,—Elena Olas, nata Bocci, was her [pg 124] name. I wrote mine on a slip of paper, and when the train, only an hour late, came, we parted with great friendship.

A regiment of soldiers was on its way to Perugia and made the journey very lively. Peasants who had somehow heard of its coming were in wait at every station with apples and chestnuts and wine, over which there was much noisy bargaining. At other times the soldiers sang. As the train carried us by the lake from which the mountains in the distance rose white and shadowy and phantom-like, and by Passignano,—built right in the water, with reeds instead of flowers around the houses, where fishermen were out in their boats near the weirs,—and then by Maggiore and Ellora on their hill-tops, I heard the constant refrain of the soldiers' song, and it reminded me of my friend at Cortona, for it was a plaintive regret for "Poverina mia!" Then there came a pause in the singing, and a voice called out, "Ecco, Perugia!" I looked from the carriage window, and there, far above on the mountain, I saw it, white and shining, like a beautiful city of the sun.

[pg 125] At the station J. met me. He had been waiting an hour, having made the thirty-six miles between Cortona and Perugia in three hours and a half. He too had had his adventures. Beyond Passignano he met a man on foot who spoke to him, and to whom he said, "Buon Giorno." "Good-morning," cried the man in good cockney English, and J. in sheer astonishment stopped the tricycle. The tramp—for tramp he was—explained that he was an Englishman and in a bad way. He had been at Perugia with a circus which had little or no success, and the rascally Frenchman who managed it had broken up and made off, leaving him with nothing. He was now on his way to Florence, where he wanted to be taken on by Prince Strozzi, who kept English jockeys. But in the mean time he was hungry and had no money, and must tramp it all the way. J. bethought him of the card to the gentleman of Cortona who had married an English wife. We had not used it, and it seemed a pity to waste it. The English lady doubtless would be glad of an opportunity to help a countryman. So he gave it to the [pg 126] tramp, together with a franc for his immediate wants. The latter looked at the money. He supposed he could do something with it, he grumbled. He really was grateful, however, for he offered to push the machine up a hill down which he had just walked. But J. telling him to hurry on, engaged instead the services of a small boy who was going his way. For pay, he gave the child a coast down the other side into his native village, than which soldi could not have been sweeter. Did not all his playmates see him ride by in his pride?

Arriving in Perugia, J. himself was a hero for a time. Many officers with their wives were in the station, and in their curiosity so far forgot their usual dignity as to surround him and pester him with questions as to his whence and whither and what speed he could make.

On the Hill. Page 126.

It is a long way from the station up the mountain to the town, but we went faster than we ever climbed mountain before, for we tied the tricycle to the back of the diligence. J. rode and steered it, but I sat inside, ending my day's journey as I had begun it, in commonplace [pg 127] fashion. The driver was full of admiration. We must go to Terni on our velocipede, he said; in the mountains beyond Spoleto we should go down-hill for seven miles. Ecco! no need of a diligence then!

[pg 128]


"And did see such things there, the remembrance of which will stick by me as long as I live."

The padrone of the Albergo at Perugia was a man of parts. He could speak English. When we complimented him on a black cat which was always in his office, he answered, with eyes fixed on vacancy, and pausing between each word like a child saying its lesson: "Yes-it-is-a-good-cat. I-have-one-dog-and-four-cats. This-cat-is-the-fath-er-of-the-oth-er-cats. One-are-red-and-three-is-white." And when we had occasion to thank him, he knew enough to tell us we were very much obliged.

But we gave him small chance to display his powers. There was little to keep us in the Albergo, when, after a few minutes' walk we could be in the piazza, where the sun shone on [pg 129] Pisano's fountain, and on the Palazzo of the Baglioni and the Duomo opposite. But what a fall was there! A couple of gendarmes, priests walking two by two, a few beggars, were the only people we saw in this broad piazza, where at one time men and women, driven to frenzy by the words of Saint Bernardino, spoken from the pulpit by the Duomo door, almost fell into the fire they had kindled to burn their false hair and ornaments, their dice and cards; and where at another Baglioni fought, with the young Raphael looking on to paint later one at least of the combatants; and where the beautiful Grifonetto lay in death agony, the avengers of his murdered kinsmen waiting to see him die, the heads of his fellow-assassins looking grimly down from the Palazzo walls, and Atalanta, his mother, giving him forgiveness for the deed, for which but yesterday she had cursed him. In the aisles of the Duomo, once so stained with the blood of the Baglioni that they had to be purified with wine before prayers could again be offered in them, a procession of white-robed priests and acolytes, bearing cross and censer, passed from [pg 130] one chapel to another before a congregation of two or three old women. It was the same in the narrow streets; all is now still and peaceful where of old Baglioni, single-handed, kept back the forces of Oddi, their mortal foes. Only the memory of their fierceness remains; though I have two friends who say that in the dark street behind the Palazzo, where brave Simonetto and Astore fought the enemy until corpses lay in piles around them, they one night heard voices singing sadly, as if in lamentation; and these voices led them onwards under one archway and then another until suddenly the sounds ceased. But when they turned to go homewards, lo! they had lost their way. The next morning they returned that they might by daylight see whence the music could have come. But all along the street was a dead wall. None but spirits could have sung there; and what spirits would dare to lift their voices in this famous street but those of Baglioni?

It must be the degeneracy of modern warriors that sets these heroes of the old school to singing lamentations. The Grifonettos and [pg 131] Astores who feasted on blood, could they come back to life and their native town, would have little sympathy with the captains and colonels who now drink tamarind-water in the caffè, booted and spurred though the latter be. The caffè is everywhere the lounging-place of Italian officers, but in Perugia it seemed to be their headquarters. There was one on the Corso, a few doors from the Palazzo, which they specially patronized. They were there in the morning even before the shops were opened, and again at noon, and yet again in the evening, while at other times they walked to and fro in front of it, as if on guard. But though the youngest as well as the oldest patronized it, the distinctions of rank between them were observed as scrupulously as Dickens says they are with the Chatham and Rochester aristocracy. The colonel associated with nothing lower than a major, the latter in turn drawing the line at the captain, and so it went down to the third lieutenant, who lorded it only over the common soldier. On the whole, I think the lesser officers had the best of it; for whether they eat cakes and drank sweet [pg 132] drinks, or played cards, they were always sociable and merry. Whereas, sometimes the colonel sat solitary in his grandeur, silent except for the few words with the boy selling matches as he hunted through the stock to find a box with a pretty picture.

We were long enough in Perugia to carry the Abate's letters to San Pietro. The monks to whom they were written were away, but a third came in their place and gave us welcome. He showed J. the inner cloister, to which I could not go: women were not allowed there. It was because of my skirts, he said; and yet he too wore skirts, and he spread out his cassock on each side. While they were gone I waited in the church. I wonder if ghostly voices are never heard within it. The monks, long dead, whose love and even life it was to make it beautiful until its walls and ceilings were rich and glowing, its choir a miracle of carving, and its sacristy hung with prayer-inspiring pictures, have, like the Baglioni, cause to bewail the degenerate latter day. The beauty they created now lives but for the benefit of a handful of monks whose monastery [pg 133] is turned into a Boys' Agricultural School, and for the occasional tourist. Later from the high terrace of the park opposite San Pietro we saw the boys in their blue blouses digging and hoeing in the fields under the olives, where probably the monks themselves once worked. There is in this little park an amphitheatre with archway, bearing the Perugian griffin in the centre. It is shaded by dense ilex-trees, from whose branches a raven must once have croaked; for evil has come upon the place, as it has upon the gray monastery so near. Instead of nobles and men-at-arms and councillors of state, two or three poor women with their babies sat on the stone benches gossiping. And as we lingered there in the late afternoon there came from San Pietro the sound, not of monks chanting vespers, but of some one playing the "Blue Danube" on an old jingling piano. Only the valley below, and the Tiber winding through it, and the mountains beyond are unchanged.

[pg 134]


"And I slept and dreamed again and saw the same two pilgrims going down the mountains along the highway towards the city."

When we left Perugia in the early morning we passed first by the statue of Julius II., thus receiving, we said to each other, the bronze pontiff's benediction. We imagined this to be an original idea; but it is useless to try to be original. Since then we have remembered the same thought came to Miriam and Donatello when they made the statue their trysting-place. Then we rode through the piazza, where a market was being held, and where at one end a long row of women holding baskets of eggs stood erect, though all around other women and even men, selling fruits and vegetables, sat comfortably on low stools.

The Bronze Pontiff's Benediction, Perugia. Page 134.

On the other side of the Porta Romana we saw that while Perugia was bright and clear in [pg 135] the sunlight, a thick white mist covered the valley, so that it looked as if a great lake, bounded by the mountains, lay below. The chrysanthemums and marigolds, hanging over high garden walls, and the grass by the road-side glistened with dew. Shining silver cobwebs hung on the hedges. Before many minutes, so fast did we go, we were riding right into the mist. We could see but a few feet in front of us, and the olives on either side, through the heavy white veil, looked like spectres. We passed no one but a man carrying a lantern and a cage of owls. It seemed but natural that so uncanny a ride should lead to a home of shadows. And when we came to the tomb of the Volumnii at the foot of the mountain we left the tricycle without, and went down for a while into its darkness and damp. When we came out the mist had disappeared and the road lay through sunshine.

A little farther on we had our first near view of the Tiber. We crossed it by the old Ponte San Giovanni, so narrow that there was not room for us to pass a boy and a donkey just in front. J. called, and the boy [pg 136] pushed his donkey close to the stone wall; but for all that we could not pass. Even as J. called he was stopped by a sudden sharp pain in his side, the result probably of his descent into the tomb while he was still warm; for he had back-pedalled coming down the mountain. And so we waited for many minutes on the bridge to see, not the yellow Tiber one always hears about, but a river blue in mid-stream, white where it came running over the mill-wheel and down the dam, and red and yellow and green where it reflected the poplars and oaks, and the skirts and handkerchiefs of the women washing on its banks. But after the bridge we left the river, for we were bound for Assisi. We had a quiet, peaceful ride for several miles on the Umbrian plain, where in the old times no one dared to go without the permission of the Baglioni, between vineyards and fields where men were ploughing, and through insignificant little villages, until we came out upon the large piazza in front of Santa Maria degli Angeli. It was crowded with peasants, for market was just over, and there came from every side the sound of many voices. When [pg 137] we rode by we were surrounded at once, two or three men keeping close to our side to sing the praises of the hotels at Assisi and shower their cards upon us. They pursued us even into the church, and as far as the little hermitage beneath the dome, to tell us that each and all could speak English.

A Frown of Disapproval, Assisi. Page 136.

If the Umbrians about Assisi were always like this, Saint Francis was a wise man to hide himself in the woods and make friends with beasts and birds. Over the sunny roads beyond Santa Maria, where he and Fra Egidio walked singing and exhorting men and women to repentance, we wheeled imploring, or rather commanding, them to get out of the way. It was a hard pull up the mountain-side, the harder because the great monastery on its high foundations seemed always so far above us. When almost at the city gate a monk in brown robes, the knotted cord about his waist, passed. He stopped to look, but it was with a frown of disapproval; I think Saint Francis would have smiled.

[pg 138]


"Methought these things did ravish my heart; I would have stayed at that man's house a twelvemonth but that I knew I had farther to go."

It was just noon when we reached Assisi, but we rode no more that day. We spent the afternoon in the town of Saint Francis. The Albergo we selected from the many recommended was without the large cloisters of the monastery. The waiter at once remembered that J. had been there before, though eighteen months had passed since his first visit. The Signore had two ladies with him then, he said. He was delighted with the velocipede. It was the first time in all his life he had seen one with three wheels. Nothing would do but he must show us the finest road to Rome. He spread our map on the table as we eat our dinner, and put on his glasses,—for he was a little [pg 139] bad in the eyes, he explained,—and then he pointed out the very route we had already decided upon. Ecco! here, between Spoleto and Terni, we should have a long climb up the mountain, but then there would be seven miles down the other side. Ah! that would be fine! This long coast to Terni was clearly to make up for the hardships we already had endured on toilsome up-grades.

After dinner we went to the church. Goethe, when he was in Assisi, saw the old Roman Temple of Minerva,—and then, that his pleasure in it might not be disturbed, refused to look at anything else in the town, and went quickly on his way. But when I passed out of the sunlight into the dark lower church and under the low rounded arches to the altar with Giotto's angels and saints above, it seemed to me he was the loser by his great love for classic beauty. Many who have been to this wonderful church have written descriptions of it, but none have really told, and indeed no one can ever tell, how wonderful it is. The upper church, with its great lofty nave and many windows through which the light streams in on [pg 140] the bright frescoed walls, is beautiful. But this lower one, with its dark, subdued color and dim light, and the odor of incense which always lingers in it, is like the embodiment of the mystery and love that inspired the saint in whose honor it was built. In it one understands, for the first time perhaps, what it is for which the followers of Saint Francis gave up life and action. Whoever was long under the influence of this place must, I thought, always stay,—like the old gray-haired monk we saw kneeling before a side altar rapt in contemplation. And yet on the very threshold we found three or four brothers laughing and joking with two women,—Italian Dr. Mary Walkers they must have been, for they wore men's collars and cravats and coats, with field-glasses slung over their shoulders, and stiff gray hats, and they were smoking long sigare Cavour. They were artists, and had been painting, oh, so badly! in the church all the morning.

The sun was setting when we left the monastery and walked through the streets, now silent and deserted, where Francis in his gay youth wandered with boon companions, singing [pg 141] not hymns but love-songs. A small boy came and walked with us, and, unbidden, acted as our guide. Here was the Duomo, he said, and here the Church of Santa Chiara; and, when we were on the road without the city gate, Ecco! below, Santa Maria degli Angeli! For from where we stood we looked down upon the huge church rising from the plain, where even now there are scarcely more houses than in the days when Franciscans, coming from far and near to hold counsel with their founder, built their straw huts upon it. Our self-appointed guide was a bright little fellow, and never once begged like the other children who followed us. So when he showed us the road to Foligno where we must ride on the morrow, J. gave him a sou. At the door of the Albergo he said he must go home, but not to supper; he never had any. He asked at what time we should leave in the morning, when he would like to come and say good-by. Felice notte—"a happy night"—were his last words as he turned away.

[pg 142]


"If we have such ill speed at our first setting out, what may we expect betwixt this and our journey's end!"

The next morning, with a select company of ragged boys, our young guide arrived in time to see us start. When I came out he nodded in a friendly way, as if to an old acquaintance, to the wonder and admiration of the other youngsters. The waiter, his glasses on, came to the gate with us. Two monks standing there asked how far we were going on our velocipede. "To Rome?" they cried. "Why, then, here are two pilgrims and two priests!" Our guide and his friend ran down the mountain-side after us until we gave the former another sou, when they at once disappeared. It seemed a little ungrateful; but I did not give him much thought, for just [pg 143] then J. bade me back-pedal with all my might. The machine went very fast, despite my hard work, and to my surprise J. suddenly steered into a stone-pile by the roadside. "The brake is broken!" was his explanation as we slowly upset.

Fortunately, however, the upright connecting the band of the brake with the handle had only slipped out of place, and though we could not fix it in again securely, J. could still manage to use it. This, so far as we could see, was the one defect in our tricycle, but defect it was. A nut on the end of the upright would have prevented such an accident. But this is one of the minor particulars in which tricycle-makers—and we have tried many—are careless. We had the rest of the coast without interruption. Half-way down, our little friend and his followers ran out from under the olives; he had taken a short cut that he might see us again.

From Assisi to Terni was a long day's ride by towns and villages, through fair valleys and over rough mountains. From the foot of the mountain at Assisi, past Monte Subasio, which, bare and rocky, towered above the lower olive-covered [pg 144] hills, the road was level until we rode by Spello with its old Roman gateway and ruined amphitheatre. But the hill here was not steep, and then again there came a level stretch into Foligno, the first lowland town to which we had come since we left Poggibonsi, and which, with its mass of roofs and lofty dome rising high above the city walls, looked little like the Foligno in Raphael's picture. Already in our short ride—for it is but ten miles from Assisi to Foligno—we noticed a great difference in the people. It was not only that many of the women wore bodices and long earrings, and turned their handkerchiefs up on top of their heads, but they, and the men as well, were less polite and more stupid than the Tuscans or Umbrians about Perugia.

Few spoke to us, and one woman to whom we said good-morning was so startled that she thanked us in return, as if unused to such civilities. For all J.'s shouts of a destra—to the right—and Eccomi! they would not make room for us; and now in Foligno one woman, in her stupidity or obstinacy, walked directly in front of the machine, and when the little [pg 145] wheel caught her dress, through no fault of ours, cried "Accidente voi!"—the voi, instead of le, being a far greater insult than the wishing us an accident. Then she walked on, cursing in loud voice, down the street, by the little stream that runs through the centre of the town, and into the market-place where Saint Francis, in mistaken obedience to words heard in ecstasy, sold the cloth he had taken from his father that he might have money to rebuild the church of San Damiano.

Even the beasts we met were stupid as the people. At our coming, horses, donkeys, and oxen tried to run. We therefore looked for at least a skirmish when, beyond Foligno, a regiment of cavalry in marching order advanced upon us. But the soldiers stood our charge bravely. Only the officer was routed and retreated into the gutter. Then, forgetting military discipline, he turned his back upon his men to see us ride.

We were now on the old Via Flaminia and in the valley of the Clitumnus,—Virgil's country. The poet's smiling fields and tall, stiff oaks, his white oxen and peasants behind [pg 146] the plough or enjoying the cool shade, were on either side. Crossing the fields were many stony beds of streams, dry at this season, lined with oaks and chestnuts, under whose shade women were filling large baskets with acorns and leaves. The upturned earth was rich and brown. Through the trees or over them we saw the whitish-blue sky, the purple mountains, some pointed like pyramids, and the gray olive hills with little villages in their hollows, and before long Trevi on its high hill-top. And then we came to the temple of the river god Clitumnus, of which Pliny writes, and where the little river, in which Virgil says the white flocks for the sacrifice bathed, runs below, an old mill on its bank and one willow bending over it.

Gathering Leaves. Page 146.

At the village of Le Vene, near the source of the stream, we stopped at a wine-shop to eat some bread and cheese. There was no one there but the padrone and a dwarf who wore a decent suit of black clothes and had a medallion of the Pope on his watch-chain. He had come in a carriage which waited for him at the door. I think he was a drummer. He [pg 147] drank much wine, and spoke to us in a vile patois. Indeed, the people thereabout all spoke in dialects worse, I am sure, than any Dante heard at the mouth of Hell. The dwarf had travelled, and had been in Florence, where he had seen a velocipede, but not like ours. It was finer, or perhaps he should say more commodious. The seats were side by side, and it had an umbrella attached, and it was worked by the hands. It went, oh, so fast! and he intimated that we could not hope to rival its speed. I suppose our machine without an umbrella seemed to him like a ship without a sail. But I think he had another tale to tell when, ten minutes later, he having started before we did, we passed him on the road. We were going so fast I only had time to see that in his wonder the reins fell from his hands.

Then came the small, wretched village of San Giacomo, with its old castle built up with the houses of the poor, and then Spoleto, where we lunched in a trattoria of the people which was much troubled by a plague of flies. A company of Bersaglieri, red caps on the backs of their heads and blue tassels dangling down [pg 148] their backs, sat at one table, ordering with much merriment their soup and meat and macaroni to be cooked à la Bersagliere; at another, two young men were evidently enjoying an unwonted feast; and at the table with us were three peasants, one of whom had brought his bread in his pocket: he eat his soup for dessert, and throughout the meal used his own knife in preference to the knife and fork laid at his place. Two dogs, a cat, and a hen wandered in from the piazza and dined on the bits of macaroni dropped by the not over-careful soldiers. The waiter greeted us cordially. He too had a machine, he said, but had never heard of velocipedes with three wheels. His had but two; the Signore must see it. And before he would listen to our order for lunch, he showed J. his bicycle,—a bone-shaker. He was very proud of it. He had ridden as far as Terni. Ah! what a beautiful time we should have before the afternoon was over! Seven miles down the mountain!

The thought of this coast made us leave Spoleto with light hearts, though we knew [pg 149] that first must come a hard climb. But if the road was as perfect as it had been all the morning, there was not much to dread. It was half-past two when we started from the trattoria, but we were fifteen minutes in walking to the other end of the town. There was no use riding. The streets were narrow and steep, and crowded with stupid men and women and donkeys, and with officers who instead of controlling were controlled by their horses. Beyond the gate the ascent at first was gradual and we rode easily, even as we worked looking back to the famous old aqueduct and the shadowy heights of Norcia. For some distance we went by the dried-up bed of a wide stream, meeting many priests on foot and peasants on donkeys. But as the way became steeper we left the stream far below, and came into a desolate country, where the mountains were covered with scrub-oaks, and priests and peasants disappeared; only one old man kept before us, making short cuts up the mountain-side, but after a while he too rode out of sight.

We soon gave up riding. J. tied a rope to the tricycle and pulled while I pushed. [pg 150] The sun was now hidden behind the mountain and the way was shady. But still it was warm work and wearisome; for before long the road became almost perpendicular and was full of loose stones. How much more of this was there, we asked a woman watching swine on the hillside? "A mile," was her answer; and yet she must have known there were at least three. Finally, after what seemed hours of toiling, we asked another peasant standing in front of a lonely farm-house how much farther it still was to the top. "You are here now," she said. She at least was truthful. A few feet more, and we looked down a road as precipitous as that up which we had come, and so winding that we could see short stretches of it, like so many terraces, all the way down the mountain. We walked for about a hundred yards, and it was as hard to hold back the machine as before it had been to push it. Then we began to ride, but the strain on the brake loosened the handle a second time. We dismounted, and J. tried to push it back into place: it snapped in two pieces in his hands. Here we were, eight [pg 151] miles from Terni, in a lonely mountain road in the evening,—the sun had already set,—with a brakeless machine, which, if allowed to start down-hill with its heavy load of two riders and much baggage, would soon be more unmanageable than a runaway horse. The seven miles' coast to which we had looked forward for days, was to be a walk after all. Like the King of France and his twenty thousand men, we had marched up the mountain that we might march down again. Is it any wonder that we both lost our tempers, and that an accident was the smallest evil we wished the manufacturers of our tricycle? Because they cared more for lightness than for strength,—since record-making is as yet the chief end of the cycling,—the necks of people who ride for pleasure are forsooth to be risked with impunity!

However, there was nothing to do but to walk into Terni. It was very cold, and we had to put on our heavy coats. Presently the moon rose above the mountains on our left. By its light we could see the white road,—now provokingly good, but steep and winding [pg 152] and all unknown,—the hills that shut us in on every side, and, far below, the stream making its way through the narrow pass. The way was unpleasantly lonely and silent. Now for an hour or more we went wearily on without hearing a sound but our steady tramp; and now we passed a farm-house within which many voices were raised in anger, while from the barn a dog barked savagely upon our coming. At times we thought we saw in the distance a castle with tall towers or an old ruin, but when we drew near we found in its place great rocks and cliffs of tufa. Once we went through a small village. The way here was not so steep, and for a few minutes we rode. Just beyond the houses three men, driving home a large white bull, walked in the middle of the road. J. shouted, that they might give us more space to pass; but they only laughed, and tried to set the bull on us with loud cries of Via! Before the last died away we were walking again.

On and on we walked, all the time holding back the tricycle. But at last we began to meet more people. Men with carts and [pg 153] donkeys went by at long intervals, but they spake never a word, and we too were silent. Now and then we heard the near tinkling of cow-bells, and came to olive-gardens, where in the moonlight the black twisted trunks took grotesque goblin shapes, and the branches threw a network of shadows across our path. Then we came to a railroad, and we knew we were at the foot of the mountains, and that Terni was not far off. We were at the end of the seven miles' coast and could ride again. Two men just then coming our way, J. asked them how far we were from the town; but they stood still and stared for answer. A second time he asked, and still they were speechless. "Imbecile!" he cried, and we left them there dumb and motionless. Not far beyond the road divided, and on either side were a few houses. A woman (or a fiend in female form) sat in front of one. "Which is the way to Terni?" we asked. She was silent. Once more we asked. Chi lo sa?—"Who knows?"—she answered. This was more than tired human nature could endure; J. turned upon her with a volley of choice Italian abuse. It [pg 154] conquered her as the prayers of Saint Anthony vanquished her sister demons. She arose and meekly showed us the way.

In another minute the lights of Terni were in sight. Then we wheeled by a foundry with great furnace in full blast, by a broad avenue with rows of gas-jets, to the gates of the city, to find them shut. There was a second of despair, but J. was now not to be trifled with, and he gave a yell of command which was an effectual "open-sesame." And so we rode on through lively streets and piazza to the hotel, to supper, and to bed!

[pg 155]


"Well, keep all things so in thy mind, that they may be as a goad in thy sides to prick thee forward in the way thou must go."
"What thing so deserving as to turn us out of the way to see it?"

I know little of Terni, except that in the month of October the hotel is so cold that the waiter comes into the dining-room in the morning with hat on, and wrapped in overcoat and muffler, and that there is an excellent blacksmith in the town; for the next morning, as soon as J. had had the brake mended, he paid the bill and loaded the tricycle. The padrone was surprised at the shortness of our stay. Did we not know there were waterfalls, and famous ones too, but three miles distant? We could not take the time to visit them? Well, then, at least we must look at their picture; and he showed us a chromo pasted on the [pg 156] hotel omnibus. I am afraid he took us for sad Philistines; but the fear of another kind of waterfall was still a goad to hurry us onward. Now we were so near our journey's end, no wonder, however great, could have led us from the straight path.

[pg 157]


"But by this place Christian went without much danger, whereat I somewhat wondered."

There was a great festa that day, and all along the street and out on the country road we met men and women in holiday dress carrying baskets and bunches and wreaths of pink chrysanthemums. In Narni, on the heights which Martial called inaccessible, men were lounging in the piazza or playing cards in the caffè. For the shepherds alone there was no rest from every-day work. Before we reached even Narni, but ten miles across the valley from Terni, we saw several driving their sheep and goats into the broad meadows. They wore goat-skin breeches, and by that sign alone we should have known we were nearing Rome. We lunched at Narni on coffee and cakes, for it was the last town through which [pg 158] we should pass on that day's ride. It was here that Quintus, in its Roman prosperity, stayed so long that Martial reproached him for his wearisome delay. Could he come to it now, I doubt if his friend would have the same reason for complaint. It did not seem an attractive place, and when we asked a man about the country beyond, he said it was "bruto." We did not learn till afterwards that this applied to the people, and not to the country, and that here we ought to have been briganded.

We were now high up on the mountain,—on one side steep rocks, on the other a deep precipice. Far below in a narrow valley ran the little river Nar, and on the bank above it the railroad. It was not an easy road to travel, and often the hills were too steep to coast or to climb. The few farm-houses by the way were closed, for the peasants had gone to church. We saw an occasional little gray town crowning the top of sheer gray cliffs, like those in Albert Dürer's pictures, or an old castle either deserted or else with farm-house built in its ruins, where peasants leaned over the battlemented walls. But the only villages [pg 159] through which we rode were Otricoli, just before we descended to the valley of the Tiber, where we created so great a sensation that an old woman selling chestnuts—cooked, I think, by a previous generation—was at first too frightened to wait on us, and Borghetto, on the other side of the valley, where we saw in the piazza the stage from Cività Castellana, in which town we were to spend the night.

There were a few people abroad. In the loneliest part of the mountain an old man in a donkey-cart kept in front of us on a long upgrade. Interested in the tricycle, he forgot the donkey, which gave up a straight for a spiral course, and monopolized the road. J. angrily asked its driver which side he meant to take. But the old man heaped coals of fire on his head by offering to carry us up in his wagon. After we left him far behind, we passed two travellers resting by the wayside. Their bags lay on the ground, and they looked weary and worn. They gave us good-day, and where we were going they of course wanted to know. They too were bound for Rome, it turned out, [pg 160] and had come from Bologna. After the two gentlemen of Bologna, we overtook a group of merry peasants, coats slung over their shoulders for no possible reason but the sake of picturesqueness, and hats adorned with gay pompons of colored paper and tinsel. One carried branches of green leaves and red fruit like cherries, and as we went by he gave us a branch and wished us a good journey. Next went by an old woman, who said with a smile that we could go without horse or donkey,—a witticism heard so often it could no longer make us laugh. And then a little boy all alone came "piping down the valley wild."

"Piping down the Valley."

We went with much content over the plain by the Tiber, where there were broad grassy stretches full of sheep and horses, and here and there the shepherds' gypsy-looking huts. It was such easy work now, that we eat our chestnuts as we rode; but beyond the bridge, on which Sixtus V. and Clement VIII. and Gregory XIII., in true papal fashion, have left their names, the hills began again. On we toiled, beneath shady oaks and by rocky places, until [pg 161] we came out on a wide upland. From the treeless road the meadows rolled far beyond to high mountains, on whose sloping side the blue smoke of charcoal-burners curled upward. The moon already had risen, and in the west the setting sun filled the sky with glowing amber light, against which the tired peasants going home were sharply silhouetted.

We were glad to see Cività Castellana. One or two men in answer to our questions had told us we were close to it, but we did not believe them. The fields seemed to stretch for miles before us, and there was not a house or tower in sight. But suddenly the road turned and went down-hill, and there below was the city perched on tufa cliffs, a deep ravine surrounding it. Two carabinieri, in cocked hats and folded cloaks like the famous two solitary horsemen, were setting out on their night patrol. Vespers were just over in the church near the bridge, and along the way where happy little Etruscan schoolboys once whipped homewards their treacherous schoolmaster, little Italian boys and girls, let loose from church, ran after us, torturing us with their shrill cries. [pg 162] Soon their elders joined them, and we were closely beset with admirers. The town too was in a hubbub about us, and in the streets through which we wheeled, men and women came from their houses to follow in our train. At the door of the Albergo, where we were detained for several minutes, the entire population collected. We had difficulty in getting a room. The festa, the padrone said, had brought many country people into the town, and the inns were full to overflowing. If J. would go with him he would see what could be done for us. The search led them through three houses. In the mean time I kept guard over the machine. It was well I did, for once J. had gone the natives closed upon me. Toddling infants and gray-haired men, ragged peasants and gorgeous officers pushed and struggled together in their desire to see. Every now and then a stealthy hand was thrust through the crowd and felt the tire or tried the brake. I turned from left to right crying, "Guarda! Guarda!" I lifted exploring hands from the wheels. But in vain. What was one against so many? A man sitting in the doorway took pity on my [pg 163] sad plight. He came out, and with a stick mowed the people back. Then J. returned, having found a room in the first house, which the padrone had thought fit to conceal until the last.

[pg 164]


"The good of the place is before you."
"But here they tarried and slept."

The Albergo of Cività Castellana was but a middling inn. The padrone, in English tweed, high boots, and Derby hat, looked half cockney, half brigand. His wife wore an elaborate false front, and much lace about her neck. But they were far finer than their house. We were lodged in the garret, in a room the size of a large closet. The way to it led through another bed-chamber, long and low, in which four cots were ranged in a row along the wall. When we crossed it on the way downstairs to dinner I devoutly prayed that on our return four nightcaps would not be nodding on the pillows. Later in the evening, when we had dined, we strolled out to the piazza. To see the life of an Italian town you have only to go [pg 165] to the caffè. We went to one near the Albergo. There were two tables in it. We sat at the smaller, and at the other were four ragged boys playing cards!

Fortunately we were the first to go to bed in the garret. All through the night, however,—for the mattress was hard and I slept little,—I heard loud snores and groans, and the sound of much tossing to and fro. We rose early in the morning, but when we opened our door the cots were empty, though they had not been so long.

[pg 166]


"They compassed them round on every side; some went before, some behind, and some on the right, some on the left."
"Here they were within sight of the city they were going to, also here met them some of the inhabitants thereof ... and drawing near the city they had yet a more perfect view thereof."

Early as we were, the whole town was stirring when we came downstairs. But who ever knew the hour when the people of an Italian town were not up and abroad? No sooner did J. bring the tricycle from the stable, where it had been kept all night, to the Albergo, than the piazza was again crowded. On they all came with us, men, women, and children, hooting and shouting, jumping and dancing through the vilely paved streets, and finally sprawling over the walls and on the rocks beyond the gate.

[pg 167] There they stayed until we had gone down the hill over the bridge, crossing the stream at its foot, and up the hill on the opposite side, passing from their sight around the first curve. Soon we were on an upland and now really at the beginning of the Campagna. The morning was cold. For many miles we rode through a champaign gleaming white with frost. But as the sun rose higher in the heavens, and the yellow light, which at first was spread over the sky, faded and left a clear blue expanse above, the air grew warmer and the frost disappeared. The road wound on and on between oak woods and wide cultivated fields, and green grassy plains which gradually changed into great sweeps of rolling treeless country, like the moors. By the roadside were thick bushes of low green sage and tangled blackberries, and in places the broad flagstones of the old Flaminian Way, with weeds and dandelions and pretty purple flowers growing from the crevices. Sometimes a paving of smaller stones stretched all across the road, so that for a minute or two we were badly shaken, or else, coming on them suddenly at the foot of a hill, [pg 168] all but upset. Truly, as has been said, it could have been no joke for the old Romans to ride.

To our left rose the great height of Soracte, not snow-covered as Horace saw it, but bare and brown save where purple shadows lay. At first we met numbers of peasants all astride of donkeys, going towards Cività Castellana, families riding together and eating as they went. Later, however, no one passed but an occasional lonely rider (who in his long cloak and high-pointed hat looked a genuine Fra Diavolo), or else sportsmen and their dogs. It was strange that though we saw many of the latter, we never once heard the singing or chirping of birds. There were hillsides and fields full of large black cattle, or herds of horses, or flocks of sheep and goats. There were shepherds, too, sleeping in the shade or by the roadside, leaning on their staffs or ruling their flock with rod and rustic word, as in the days when Poliziano sung. And if there was no bird's song to break the silence of the Campagna, there was instead a loud baaing of sheep, led by the shrill piercing notes of the lambs. If it was to such an accompaniment [pg 169] that Corydon and Thyrsis sang in rivalry, their song could have been poetical only in Virgil's verse.

How hard we worked now that our pilgrimage was almost ended! We scarcely looked at the little village through which we wheeled, and where a White Brother was going from door to door, nor at the ruins which rose here and there in the hollows and on the slopes of the hills; and when at last we saw on the horizon the dome coming up out of the broad undulating plain, we gave it but a short greeting, and then hurried on faster than ever. We would not even go to Castel Nuovo, which lies a quarter of a mile or so from the road, but eat our hasty lunch in a trattoria by the wayside, while a man—an engineer he said he was—showed us drawings he had made on his travels, and asked about our ride. How brave it was of the Signora to work! he exclaimed, and how brave of the Signore to sketch from his velocipede!

And after this "the hills their heights began to lower," and with feet up we went like the wind, and every time we looked at the dome it [pg 170] seemed larger and more clearly defined against the sky. But about six miles from Rome our feet were on the pedals again and we were working with all our might. Sand and loose stones covered the road, which grew worse until, in front of the staring pink quarantine building, the stones were so many that in steering out of the way of one we ran over another, and the jar it gave us loosened the screw of the luggage-carrier. We were so near Rome we let it go. This was a mistake. But a little farther, and the whole thing gave way, and bags and knapsack rolled in the dust. It took some fifteen minutes to set it to rights again; and all the time we stood in the shadeless road, under a burning sun, for the heat in the lower plains of the Campagna was as great as if it were still summer. As the luggage-carrier was slightly broken, we were afraid to put too great a strain upon it, and for the rest of the journey the knapsack went like a small boy swinging on behind.

From Via Flaminia, near Ponte Molle. Page 170.

Like those other pilgrims, we were much discouraged because of the way. But at last, wheeling by pink and white trattorie, whose [pg 171] walls were covered with illustrated bills of fare, and coming to an open place where street-cars were coming and going, the Ponte Molle, over a now yellow Tiber, lay before us, and we were under the shadow of the dome we from afar had watched for many hours. Over the bridge we went with cars and carts, between houses and gardens and wine-shops, where there was a discord of many hurdy-gurdies, to the Porta del Popolo, and so into Rome.

Carabinieri were lounging about the gate, and carriages were driving to the Pincian; but we rode on and up the street on the right of the piazza. When we had gone a short distance we asked a man at a corner our way to the Piazza di Spagna. We should have taken the street to our left, he said, but now we could reach it by crossing the Corso diagonally. As we did so we heard a loud sst, sst behind us, and we saw a gendarme running up the street; but we went on. When we wheeled into the Piazza di Spagna, however, a second, almost breathless, ran out in front of us, and cried, Aspetti! ("Wait!") But still we rode. Aspetti! he cried again, and half drew his sword. [pg 172] In a minute we were surrounded. Models came flying from the Spanish steps; an old countryman carrying a fish affectionately under his arm, bootblacks, clerks from the near shops, young Roman swells,—all these and many more gathered about us.

"Aspetti!" the gendarme still cried.

"Perchè?" we asked.

And then his fellow-officer, whom we had seen on the Corso, came up. "Get down!" he said, in fierce tones of command.

"Perchè?" we asked again.

"Per Christo!" was his only answer.

The crowd laughed with glee. Hackmen shouted their applause. It was ignominious, perhaps, but the wisest policy, to get down and walk to our hotel.

[pg 173]


"It pities me much for this poor man: it will certainly go ill with him at the last."

What pilgrim of old times thought his pilgrimage really over until he gave either out of his plenty or nothing in alms? Two months later we too gave our mite, not to the church or to the poor, but to the Government; for we were then summoned before a police magistrate and fined ten francs for "furious riding on the Corso, and refusing to descend when ordered."

And so our pilgrimage ended.

[pg 175]




From "Outing."

Who has not journeyed through a country with his favorite author long before he makes the actual trip himself? and who, when he comes to see with his own eyes that at which he has hitherto looked through some one else's, does not find himself his best guide? Long before I came to Italy I had travelled along its highways and by-ways with many authors, more especially with Hawthorne in his "Italian Note-Book," and Mr. Howells in his "Italian Journeys" and "Venetian Life." When it was finally my good fortune to make the journey myself, I was at first lucky enough to have for a companion, not his books, but Mr. Howells himself; and I frankly confess I found him far more delightful and satisfactory in person than in print. A year later I started for the same country, this time encumbered with a wife and a tricycle. Mr. Howells could no longer be my cicerone: in the first place he was back in Boston,—I might add, as if in parenthesis, calling me "lucky dog" for being able to go so soon again over the well-known ground; and, [pg 176] in the second place, because the route I now intended to take is not described in his books. But it is in Hawthorne's "Note-Book," a volume which, as I have just said, I had frequently studied. But of course I forgot to put it in my knapsack, and so had not a chance to see it until I arrived in Rome. When I there looked into it, naturally in a more critical spirit—inspired by personal knowledge of the subject—than I ever had before, the first thing that struck me was the advantage I had had over my old master in travelling by tricycle instead of by diligence. From the little village of Passignano to Rome we had followed exactly the same road, and though we began our rides at its opposite ends, I could still easily compare the time we had made, and the comfort and convenience and pleasure we had enjoyed by the way. As this comparison may be interesting to many who intend some day to make the cycling tour of Italy, I will here briefly indicate Hawthorne's experience, principally as to time and roads, and then mine:—



We passed through the Porta del Popolo at about 8 o'clock, and ... began our journey along the Flaminian Way.... The road was not particularly picturesque. The country undulated, but scarcely rose into hills.... Finally came to the village of Castel Nuovo di Porta ... between 12 and 1.... Afternoon, Soracte rose before us.... The road kept trending towards the mountain, following the line of the old Flaminian Way, which we could see at frequent intervals close beside the modern track. It is paved with large flagstones, laid so accurately together that it is still, in some places, as smooth and even as the floor of a church, and everywhere the tufts of grass found it difficult to root themselves into the interstices.... Its course is straighter than that of the road of to-day.... I forget where we finally lost it.... Passed through the town of Rignano—road still grew more and more picturesque.... Came in sight of the high, flat table-land, on which stands Cività Castellana.... After passing over the bridge, I alighted with J. and R. and made the ascent on foot.... At the top our vetturino took us into the carriage again, and quickly brought us to what appears to be a very good hotel.... After a splendid dinner we walked out into the little town, etc.



We left Cività Castellana at a quarter of eight. Road so rough, had to walk down-hill and up again. (So did Hawthorne's party.) Road very picturesque, and, before long, a distant glimpse of St. Peter's. Began to see, and occasionally to feel, the paving of the old Flaminian Way, which is abominable. Made of flagstones thrown roughly together, or else little blocks, like the Roman pavement. Coming on a stretch of it, at the foot of a hill, and hidden with dust, smashed our luggage-carrier, and loosened the machine,—more than the whole trip had done. Passed Rignano,—usual sensation,—good café. Under Soracte all morning. Reached Castel Nuovo di Porta at 11. (Distance to this village from Cività Castellana much farther than from it to Rome, yet we reached it one hour sooner than Hawthorne did, starting out from Rome.) Road got worse and worse. Finally nothing but ruts and stones. Hills not to be laughed at (though Hawthorne thought them scarcely perceptible). Arrived at the Porta del Popolo about half-past one. (About three and a half hours' better time than Hawthorne.) Distance, thirty-five Italian miles.


Roused at 4 o'clock this morning; ... ready to start between 5 and 6.... Remember nothing particularly till we came to Borghetto.... After leaving Borghetto, we crossed the broad valley of the Tiber.... Otricoli by and by appeared.... As the road kept ascending, and as the hills grew to be mountainous, we had taken on two additional horses, making six in all, with a man and boy ... to keep them in motion.... Murray's guide-book is exceedingly vague and unsatisfactory along this route.... Farther on [we saw] the gray tower of Narni.... A long, winding street passes through Narni, broadening at one point into a market-place; ... came out from it on the other side.... The road went winding down into the peaceful vale.... From Narni to Terni I remember nothing that need be recorded. Terni, like so many other towns in the neighborhood, stands in a high and commanding position.... We reached it between 11 and 12.... It is worth while to record, as history of vetturino commissary customs, that for breakfast we had coffee, eggs, and bread and butter; for lunch, an omelette, stewed veal, figs and grapes, and two decanters of wine; for dinner an excellent vermicelli soup, two young fowls fricasseed, and a hind-quarter of roast lamb, with fritters, oranges, and figs, and two more decanters of wine.


(We never got up at any such unearthly hours as Hawthorne indulged in.) Left Terni at 11 o'clock, having been obliged to get a new brake made. Terni, dead level, in low valley,—straight, wide road, ten miles across the valley,—surface of the road good. Just outside of Narni road climbs up a steep hill into the town. (There must have been an earthquake since Hawthorne's time, as Terni, which he saw in a high and commanding position, now stands in the lowest part of the valley, with mountains all around.) From Narni up nearly all the way to Otricoli, with the exception of here and there such a steep descent that we had to hold the machine back with all our might, riding for several hours was almost impossible. (Wish we had had six horses, a man, and a boy to pull us on.) From Otricoli, down and all across the valley, excellent riding to Borghetto; then big hill up, out on to the Campagna, and up and down—good road—all the way to Cività Castellana, which we reached between 6 and 7. Terrible sensation!!! (This day Hawthorne came in two hours ahead; but he had six horses and the hills in his favor.) We eat every day coffee, bread and butter, and rolls in the morning; for lunch, a beefsteak, or macaroni, and fruit, no wine, but fresh lemons and water; for dinner, soup, two meats, fruit, and a fiasco of wine. Distance about thirty-three Italian miles. (We carried Baedeker, and not Murray, and found it not unsatisfactory.)


At 6 o'clock this morning ... we drove out of the city gate of Terni.... Our way was now through the vale of Terni.... Soon began to wind among steep and lofty hills.... Wretched villages.... At Strettura we added two oxen to our horses, and began to ascend the Monte Somma, which ... is nearly four thousand feet high where we crossed it. When we came to the steepest part of the ascent, Gaetano allowed us to walk.... We arrived at Spoleto before noon.... After lunch ... we found our way up a steep and narrow street that led us to the city gate.... Resumed our journey, emerging from the city into the classic valley of the Clitumnus.... After passing Le Vene, we came to the little temple ... immortalized by Pliny.... I remember nothing else of the valley of Clitumnus, except that the beggars ... were well-nigh profane in the urgency of their petitions. The city of Terni seems completely to cover a high peaked hill.... We reached Foligno in good season yesterday afternoon. [This passage really belongs to his fourth day of travel, but as it shows at what time of the third day he reached Foligno, I have included it with the third.]


Left Assisi about 8. Splendid coast down into the valley. Beautiful ride over the undulating road, past Spello to Foligno, not stopping in the latter place, excepting to have accidents wished us by an old woman we almost ran over. Then through the beautiful valley of the Clitumnus—grand road—lovely day and wonderfully fair country. (We saw no beggars.) Rode by the little temple spoken of by Pliny. Ate some bread and cheese at Le Vene. Reached Spoleto at one; lunched; then rode up the steep street, through the gate at the other end of the city, and then began a tremendous climb of six miles over Monte Somma, most of which we had to walk. At last had hard work to push. Coming finally to the top, found the descent on the other side even steeper. Where it was a little less steep, we got on the machine, put on the brake, which came off in my hand. Bad brake was the one defect in our tandem. Had to walk the rest of the way. In Strettura, men set bull on us. (Not quite so pleasant as Hawthorne's experience.) Arrived in Terni at 8 o'clock, having walked the last few miles by moonlight,—about forty miles all together, of which we walked fully the last fourteen. (Made in one day what Hawthorne did in a day and a half.)


I have already remarked that it is still possible to live well in Italy at no great expense, and that the high prices charged to forestieri are artificial, and ought to be abated.... We left Foligno betimes in the morning; ... soon passed the old town of Spello.... By and by we reached Assisi. We ate our déjeûner, and resumed our journey.... We soon reached the Church of St. Mary of the Angels.... By and by came to the foot of the high hill on which stands Perugia, and which is so long and steep that Gaetano took a yoke of oxen to aid his horses in the ascent. We all, except my wife, walked a part of the way up.... The coach lagged far behind us.


(Expenses of this trip about five francs a day each.) Rode from Perugia to Assisi, a distance of fourteen miles, in about two hours. Splendid coast down the hill outside of Perugia (up which Hawthorne walked). Crossed the Tiber. Visited Santa Maria degli Angeli. Awful stitch in my side. Climbed up into Assisi, where we stayed all afternoon, to recover, and to see the church.


Left Perugia about 3 o'clock to-day, and went down a pretty steep descent.... The road began to ascend before reaching the village of Mugione; ... between 5 and 6 we came in sight of the Lake of Thrasymene, ... then reached the town of Passignano. (He stayed there all night.)


I covered their fifth and sixth days' ride, this time by myself on the tricycle, in three hours and a half actual riding time, and was pulled up the long hill into Perugia, in a most easy and delightful way, behind the diligence.

From Arezzo, Hawthorne went directly to Florence in one day, over a road which Italian cyclers have told me is excellent, and which is the post-road to Rome. We went by way of Montepulciano and Siena, being between two and three weeks on the way. I hope this short account of about one third of our ride will convince other people that cycling is far quicker than the old posting system, far pleasanter than riding in a stuffy railway-carriage, which whirls you through tunnels, and far the best way in which to see Italy,—a country which abounds in magnificent roads, and which should be thoroughly explored by all cyclers who care for something beside record-making.


We started at 6 o'clock ... [for Arezzo]. We saw Cortona, like so many other cities in this region, on its hill, and arrived about noon at Arezzo.

University Press: John Wilson and Son, Cambridge.

Transcriber Notes:

Throughout the dialogues, there were words used to mimic accents of the speakers. Those words were retained as-is.

In three instances there were cases where the word "eat" appeared one expect the word "ate". No change was made.

The illustrations have been moved so that they do not break up paragraphs and so that they are next to the text they illustrate.

In the Appendix, the pages were reformatted to to make it easier to read in an electronic form.

Errors in punctuations and inconsistent hyphenation were not corrected unless otherwise noted.

End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of Two Pilgrims' Progress, by 
Elizabeth Robins Pennell and Joseph Pennell


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