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from long-extinguished censers hung upon the chilly air of the interior, and silence befitting the entrance to a city of the dead brooded over all. The silence and its appropriate suggestions had but little chance, however, for Felice had managed to get hold of a bell leading somewhere, and was adding to its janglings his vociferations for somebody to come. At last, through a narrow doorway, a bent figure entered, “an old, weak, palsy-stricken, church-yard thing," shielding with a thin hand the spark of a little antique lamp. With a reverence to the signori proportioned to the magnitude of the tip in expectancy, he led the way through the sacristy to a steep stairway, and a descent of half a minute brought us to a rock-hewn gallery leading off into darkness. From this main avenue countless passages branched off, their walls covered with trough-like excavations, some large, some small. "Reglar bunks," as Felice forcibly put it, “babies up there, grown folks down below."
Catacombs, however, are no longer wonders in these days of universal travel, and there is a slight monotony about their appearance hardly favorable to detailed description. These, so far as they are connected with Christian history, have no particular individuality. There is the usual number of XP; rude symbols of the early Church cover the walls, interspersed with half-obliterated Greek inscriptions, and a curious white cross, that appears only when the light strikes it at a particular angle, is a source o much wonder and admiration to the guides.
But the Christians were but modern tenants of this subterranean city, whose origin, like its extent, is shrouded in uncertainty ; the passages have been explored for a long distance, but as yet only partially, and there are strange legends of men being lost in their windings and coming to the surface miles away upon the Catanian coast. Various have been the explanations given of their purpose and the period to which they belong; but whether they are quarries of the Hellenic epoch, mortuary chambers of the still more ancient Phænician times, or the burrows of that semi. mythical race of Sicani, whom, like the Etruscans, the mists of early ages magnify into phantom forms of demi-gods and giants, research has failed to show. As Thomas Fuller said of the pyramids: “Doting with age, they have forgotten the names of their founders."
Nor does tradition help one much in a country overflowed by so many distinct waves of conquest, that have obliterated or swept into the interior the different races, leaving only the fossils of their successive periods. Here one sees columns, whose awkward proportions betray their Roman origin, imbedded in a wall pierced with Norman windows, and a delicate Grecian capital scarcely sustaining the weight of a Byzantine archway, the crystallized remains of distinct civilizations. But the people are as modern in their ways as the Neapolitans, and to them antiquity means the time when “I Saraceni,” used to descend upon the coast, and these subterranean caves were places of refuge.
The windings of many passages at last terminated in a small cruciform gallery, whose low arches bore the emblems of the Evangelists, and in the apsidal end of one arm stood a rough stone altar.
This was evidently the climix. The bent seneschal had straightened himself up to observe the effect upon his audience, and was nodding triumphant approval, while Felice related how the great San Paolo had said mass and preached there on his way to Rome.
They must have been disappointed, for the Russian was politely skeptical, and the American's thoughts, I fear, had wandered away into dear sinful Pagan times. Ah, Felice mio, these strange caverns belong to an antiquity in whose presence your Christianity makes but small noise in centuries. Beautiful are the kneeling forms of saints, and the soft radiance of madonna eyes, beautiful is the light falling aslant on white clouds of incense, and the loud chanting from dim cathedral aisles; but it is not these that we have come out hither for to see, but a reed shaken by the wind, the flower of the antique world, broken and bruised by the trampling of priestly feet, the mourning spirit of a lost civilization, a wanderer and an outcast from palaces enriched with the spoils of her shrines. It is the sights and sounds, and odors of Sicily, not Palestine, that we are seeking, caro mio. Show us great Pan striding at noonday through the thickets, and Demeter wandering sadly from door to door. Arouse those fellows in the cellarage of Ætna, and let the winds laden with fragrance of lotus blossoms bear to us the clanging of their hammers mingled with the shouting and the horn-blasts that herald the triumph of Galat “Yes, signori, he did say mass there, and underneath is the tomb of the holy San Marciano, and there to the left is a column of torture. Worn smooth it is on the side where they bound the blessed martyrs, and O, miraculous, on the fifteenth of every July it sweat greatly!"
O antique seneschal, cease that pantominic nodding, and leads us from this dank tomb into upper air and sunlight.
Dionysius the First, tyrant of Syracuse, was a remarkable man. Not content with furnishing the simile of the sword of Damocles, which, with that of the Augean stables, and one or two others, is one of the most valuable boons that antiquity has bequeathed to us, he set himself to work and built a prison of such conformation that the wretched inmates could have no secrets, their very whisperings being conveyed by certain acoustic contrivances to an apartment which he called his Ear. There the eaves-droppings were caught, and matrimony and the clumsier rack thus rendered superfluous as a means of eliminating confessions. One hardly likes to think of such a genius in his old age, driven from his throne and forced to maintain himself amid only the dim shadow of his former tyranny by keeping school at Corinth-though it was Diocletian too, wasn't it, who voluntarily spent his last years in the training of young cabbage-heads ?
Well, when I heard Felice's direction to the driver : “All' Orecchio di Dionysio," the old story flashed across my mind, and this time there was no hesitation about dismounting when the carriage stopped at a gateway upon a rocky hillside, the entrance to the Latomia, or quarry, del Paradiso. From a narrow passage we emerged into a circular crater cut in the rock, five hundred feet in diameter and over ninety deep, with perpendicular walls which the luxuriance of tropical foliage has covered with thick drapery. In the center rose a tower-like mass of rock, and the mouths of caves appeared at intervals in the ragged overhanging sides.
The peculiarities of one of these have earned it the name of the Orecchio. The walls taper upward in an ogive curve, sixty feet high, winding back into the rock in the form of an S, and such are its acoustic properties that the least sound is prolonged in an infinity of echoes. The cocking of my Sharp's repeater became the ticking of innumerable clocks, and its report deafened us with a perfect, salvo. According to the guide-books, the most remark
able convergance of sound occurs just at the top of the opening, which point is reached by means of a rope from above; and dear old snobbish, garrulous Murray adds: “The English tourist of today may, perhaps, desire to accomplish this feat, when he is told that the Prince of Wales, on his recent visit to Syracuse, did not hesitate to be let down in a chair from the face of the cliff.” As even this failed to arouse a spirit of emulation in my breast, I was content to follow the foot-steps of a small boy, who perched me in an aperture leading from the interior apex to the hillside above, at which point the whispers of the others at the farther end, two hundred feet away, and the faint tearing of a scrap of paper were distinctly audible.
It certainly answers to the description of Dionysius's prison in a remarkable manner, but unfortunately for tradition, the name . Orecchio was first given to it by the painter Caravaggio, who was struck with the correspondence.
That the Latomie, of which there are several upon the northern ridge of the city, served as prisons, there is, however, the strongest evidence. One of them, called de' Cappucini, was probably the pit into which the captive army of Nicias was thrust down, and whose horrors, as pictured in the glowing pages of Thucydides, scenes nearer home have taught us to look upon as not exaggerated.
The damp of evening was beginning to fall upon the gloomy depths of the Latomia del Paradiso as we emerged, and ascending the hill to the westward, entered the Grecian theater. Hewn in the rock the seats rise in a series of semi-circles, the outermost nearly five hundred feet across, fronting the land-locked bay and the yellow towers of Syracuse. The stream from a mill above, fed by an antique aqueduct, flows in a little cascade down one side and disappears beneath the stage, whose columns and costly marbles have long since vanished. Mounting by its brink the steps to the summit, we threw ourselves down upon some seats, whose half-obliterated inscriptions marked them the property of some Grecian “stockholder," and lay while the sun went down magnificently behind the western mountains.
“Go to Naples," a friend of mine had said to me just before leaving home, “ go to Naples, because, thank God, there are no pictures there." I did better. I crossed the straits of Messina.
Oh, to eyes weary with Kugler and the catalogues, the inexpressible relief of the soft evening light upon the meadows of the Anapus, those gray olive orchards dotted with the pink of almond trees in bloom and fringed with the darker foliage of the orange; while beyond, the yellow coast-line, brightly marked against the Mediterranean, lost itself in hazy distance ; churches forgotten, and the nearest picture-gallery three hundred miles away.
Sicily will soon cease to be the terra incognita that she was of old. Already the tide of invalids has begun to flow toward her sunny shores, and the railways are intersecting her“ spoilt earth ;"' but though the one may hackney her antiquities and the other drown in smoke the perfume of her orange groves, they cannot steal the color from her glowing sky and sea, nor smooth the ruggedness of the volcanic crags that lie at Ætna's feet.
I fear the fatal Lotus-breath hung over us that afternoon; the neglected guide-book fell from my Russian's hands, and I was scarcely combating the inclination to yield myself up to eternal drowsiness (in which case you see I should not have been bored with writing this article) when a plaintive murmur that mingled with the quiet tune of the mill-stream stole upon my dreamy mood, winning me back to revery and then to consciousness. It was Felice, whose heart, softened by the sweet influences, was pouring forth the story of his woes. “I was too in America, gentlemen, as fisherman in Florida. Lived just like gentleman myself, with nigger to wait on me and five-a-dollars a day." America was a wonderful place, and he was very comfortable there, but the war came, and poor Felice had to go into the Southern navy. This was not quite so agreeable, and one day when in a pilot-boat he was fired at by a United States frigate and so “damscared” that he took the first opportunity of deserting, and got back to Sicily again, where, though very poor and much worked, he meant to stay. Wise Felice! O my friend, let us share his toil, lying here always on these rock-hewn seats, content
“With half-shut eyes ever to seem
Which will not leave the myrrh-bush on the height." “Excuse, but it is the hour of dinner at the Locanda and one should not be late.”
The ancient kitchen del Sole did well by us that evening, and