This is the great Florentine 'Festa,' of which I had often heard and never seen. We were too idle to go down to the ceremonies at the cathedral in the morning, but in the afternoon there were Vespers at the baptistery, and the sight was most characteristic and curious. Every child that is born in Florence is still baptised there, and the water is still salted as of old. There were men, women, and children crowding through - both of the large doors being opened wide to the sunny Piazza. These openings were veiled during the service by a long, black, thin curtain. In the middle, raised on an altar and again raised on steps, was the beautiful jewelled Benvenuto Cellini John the Baptist shrine. The people went up and touched it, and mothers after touching the shrine then touched the babies in their arms, who held up their tiny hands to receive the touch, and afterwards reverently kissed their own fingers.

Strong peasant men were there, young and old. It cannot be one of the least of the mysterious Florentine bonds, this baptistery which brings back to the inhabitants the recollection of every child that is born to them, more especially as the infant mortality must be prodigious. A handsome mother and daughter knelt just before me on the marble floor, types of to-day. The mother, old and tired and hot, mumbled prayers, but not with devotion. The cold hand of Time had laid hold on her. If the old are religious it is mentally, not passionately, and it takes the form of 'calm repose and peace divine.' The daughter, handsome though not very young, with coal-black hair, said her prayers with closed eyelids and a passionate pathos in her face, softening for a time her somewhat masculine features - a perfect example of life's disappointments, not yet utterly without hope.

Passing out into the glorious evening sunshine, we went inside the large bare Duomo, beautiful to me from its size, its majesty, its cool shades, illuminated by the pouring in of the bright summer western sun, which formed rays of light across the darkness. A full choral Vesper was not yet quite ended, and the boys threw back their heads and flung out their high notes echoing into the dome. It was not very reverent or beautiful, but it sounded well, as it mounted in wave upon wave of sound into the echoing cavities of the great vault. Many people think the inside of the Duomo ugly, and of course one can see how it was the origin of much ugliness that came afterwards; but it has a grand beauty of its own, and the jewelled glass is the exact sort of old glass I admire - most vague in design, but strong in colour, and glowing with a richness beyond the finest enamel.

Later in the evening we went on to a balcony on the Lung' Arno, to see the fireworks let off from the opposite hill of San Miniato. I had not seen good fireworks for many years. They may be as good at the Crystal Palace, and no doubt are, but never can the whole scene be anything like as lovely as those fireworks on this night of San Giovanni, with the background of the San Miniato hill, and the river in front a mirror of reflections. Every street poured its crowd in all directions on to the Lung' Arno. We had excellent places, and my companion, in a burst of enthusiasm, seized my arm and said: 'I don't care, it is simply the most beautiful thing in Art or Nature I have ever seen.' High over all hung the young moon in the clear lapis lazuli sky. The crowd poured along in a ceaseless stream, but it was impossible to imagine anything more quiet and orderly. From the absence of strangers, the streets were so empty in the daytime one wondered where the people could possibly all come from now.