« PreviousContinue »
the candies; all the children of larger size tumbled and grasped for them, and the lucky ones were bulging in every pocket with sugared almonds, for which they gambled and bartered between the sweet showers.
In this manner some of the adroit speculators had gathered vast wealth of sugar-plums, more or less dirty and broken, or even sticky from a farewell surreptitious sucking by the loser. Their winnings they swung in grey handkerchiefs or carried in their caps when the pockets could hold no more. A litter of trampled sugar sprinkled the pavement.
"Come in, everybody!" thus in Italian and English exclaimed the happy father, appearing first at the window, then at the door, and beckoning with both hands. "Come in," called the grandmother and aunt in duo, "Come in, everybody!" And under this pressure the ladies arose, gathered up their infants, leaving the toddlers outside with unconcern, and as even I, a stranger, had received a direct invitation, we all entered the narrow, dark passage of the house of rejoicing.
It led far back into a dusky kitchen, where the principal adornment consisted of four wallsful of scarlet peppers drying in festoons, then rightabout face into the diminutive bedroom, where it seemed the whole neighborhood was gathered, or rather the feminine half, for there was but a sprinkling of males pres
As one of these rare birds, I was most cordially greeted by the happy father, who at once insisted on my imbibing a perfumed drink from thimble-size tumbler to the health of the newcomer, and afterward partaking of Italian sausage and cake to the same good intent, and then of capping the mixture with beer. from a foaming bucket; at which point I was forced to cry: "Hold! Enough!"
I was then ushered into the front room, where lay the cause of all this joy a wee bundle of white linen and lace, patent leather shoes and elaborate frilled bonnet, under which finery was a tiny, swarthy baby girl, named Therese. How tired she was from this hubbub of welcome, I could see by the drooping eyelids over liquid orbs, luminous as two tiny black suns.
To my admiring expressions the father purred, of course, and when I told him I had a two-year-old boy at home, "One!" he exclaimed; "I gotta seex alreada!"
And I believe that if it were the twelfth, the newcomer would be welcomed as jubilantly as the first. May she live to see her own little Therese made welcome and her little Therese's Therese, is the good wish with which I would repay the overbrimming hospitality of the parents who invited the whole world to rejoice with them on their day of gladness.
If we persevere to the top of the hill, we will find the Irish in possession, a hardy race, the adventurous builders and defenders of homes that perch like sea-birds' nests on the edge of a crag.
Where there is a slope overlooking the bay, it is so precipitous that only by flying stairways can one mount it. Looking down such a street, one sees the houses apparently scaling the hill in the manner of soldiers storming a high wall by mounting on each other's shoulders.
To me these landmarks appear not as shanties cumbering the hillsides with unsightly angularities of frame, shabbiness of paint, or even lack of that garment of the house. Like the Highlanders of Scotland and the Tyrol, they are hardened to a nakedness of the joints that becomes them well, and their gauntness is that of the mountaineer. Supported on on wooden uprights, long, sinewy legs that dig their toes into the down slope, they hang on
with tooth and nail; buffeted by winds, drenched by every rain, for there is no sheltered side up there, muffled in sea fogs, menaced by landslides that may hurl them to destruction, yet they persist, grittily hanging on.
And along what goat paths, following the edge of the precipice, scamper the young scions of these houses, fearless of the slip of foot that would send them crashing down more than seven score feet to the floor of the quarry. But like their parental shanties, they hang
Not all these cliff dwellings are of humble appearance; indeed, some are veritable mansions in the skies, but their day of glory is over and nearly all of them are given over to decay. One of these relics of the hill's prosperity which stands directly above above the fire-belching fire-belching smoke-stack of the Vulcan Iron Works, has been sacked and pillaged by young vandals until it presents a tragic appearance. The pretty garden is laid waste, the paths and steps at the gateway choked with weeds and debris, most of the palms are uprooted, and the survivors become tether stakes for
goats, who nibble the rosebuds beiore they can blossom.
To enter the house, one must scramble through dismantled window or door openings, for steps and veranda have been carried away piecemeal; even the roof of of the porch has been robbed of its supporting posts and projects, hanging by its nails over the empty portal. Fragments of carved stone are scattered over the floor; roses, fruits, garlands of polished marble; remains of the ornate mantle pieces admired by our grandfathers.
The old mansion is a ruin, as touching to me as the medieval castles, which awaken, even in the breast of the personally conducted. tourist, such pensive reflections on the mournful text: "Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher, all is vanity." For although these walls were erected but yesterday, in perspective of world-history, still they have been the scene of melodramas, comedies and tragedies of human life; and now belong irrevocably to the past.
That is the charm which haunts all ruins, even the most recent-the Past. She is a pale, beautiful spirit composed of moonbeams and