This being the Festival of Corpus Christi, we went in the afternoon to the little church close by of Santa Margharita. Ouida describes, much better than I can do, 'the little, brown, square church with its bell clanging in the open tower high above in the sweet air on the hills; there is level grass all about it; and it has a cool, green garden, shut within walls on every side except where a long parapet of red dusky tiles leaves open the view of the Valdarno; underneath the parapet there are other terraces of deep grass and old, old Olive-trees, in whose shade the orchids love to grow and the blue Iris springs up in great sheaves of sword-like leaves.

'There are trees of every sort in the cloistered garden, the turf is rich and long, the flowers are tended with the greatest care, the little sacristy glows red in the sun, an Acanthus climbs against it; the sacristan's wife comes out bo you plaiting her straw, and brings you a cluster of her Roses; you sit on the stone seat, and lean over the parapet and look downward; birds flit about you; contadini go along the grass paths underneath and nod to you, smiling; a delicious mingled loveliness of Olive wood and Ilex foliage and blossoming vineyards shelve beneath you; you see all Florence gleaming far below there in the sun, and your eyes sweep from the snow that still lies on Vallombrosa to the blue shadows of the Carrara range.

'It is calm and golden and happy here at Santa Margharita's, high in the fragrant hill air, with the Guelder Roses nodding above head, and the voices of the vine-dressers echoing from the leaf-veiled depths below.'

That is an exact description of the spot; we went there often, and we, too, hung over the parapet and thought of the tempo passato. I could see the little church tower always from my bedroom window.

On this beautiful June afternoon we saw the most picturesque and characteristic procession - the Host carried from the church to the chapel of a villa about half a mile off. The houses round, year by year, take it in turns to be so honoured. The priests in general were very ugly and common-looking, but the young man who on this occasion carried the Host was superb, like the Giorgione in the Pitti. The lighted candles in the outdoor evening light, the white-robed priests, the long procession of peasants, were most striking. Arriving at the villa, they passed to the chapel under a loggia, the tessellated pavement of which was drawn out in a beautiful coloured pattern made of the petals of flowers - Poppies, Roses, Larkspurs, the brilliant yellow Broom - and all between the pattern filled in with little leaves of bright green Box. The effect was to me quite new and very decorative. The procession passed on each side, and the priest alone, carrying the Host, was esteemed worthy to walk straight down the middle of this Nature-coloured carpet. Nothing could have been more rurally peaceful and lovely than the whole scene. In the earlier days of the century we were taught to believe the troubles of Italy, like the troubles of Ireland, were owing to Catholicism. Now the theory is that the Latin races are dying out; but if this is true, is it certain they are dying of Catholicism? Is it not quite wonderfully clear the Italians have never lost their Paganism? I confess, as I watched the whole scene, I could only think of Pater's opening to 'Marius the Epicurean,' in which he describes how the purer forms of Paganism had lingered in the villages after the triumph of Christianity - 'a religion of usages rather than the facts of belief, and attached to very definite things and places.' Then comes the description of the 'little' or private Ambarvalia in the home of the youth Marius, and it almost exactly describes what I saw this June day quite at the end of the nineteenth century. 'At the appointed time all work ceases; the instruments of labour lie untouched, hung with wreaths of flowers; while masters and servants together go in solemn procession along the dry paths of vineyard and cornfield. . . . The old Latin words of the Liturgy, to be said as the procession moved on its way, though their precise meaning was long since become unintelligible.

'Early on that day the girls of the farm had been busy in the great portico, filling large baskets with flowers cut short from branches of Apple and Cherry, then in spacious bloom, to strew before the quaint images of the gods - Ceres and Bacchus, and the yet more mysterious Dea Dia - as they passed through the fields, carried in their little houses on the shoulders of white-clad youths, who were understood to proceed to this office in perfect temperance, as pure in soul and body as the air they breathed in the firm weather of that early summer-time. The clean lustral water and the full incense-box were carried after them.'

So far the description is exact. The butchery which disgusted Marius, Christianity has swept away; but everything else remains, almost entirely the same.

All trace of costume amongst the peasants has disappeared even in this Arcetri neighbourhood, the most simple and countrified side of Florence. The people, from the outside, look well-to-do and comfortable, and on festal days the young of both sexes walk about the roads in cheerful happy bands. They never go in couples, as we everlastingly see them on the same occasions in England; but the boys were together, and the girls together. The figures of the women in the long plain skirts and coloured shirts struck me as very graceful and dignified. George Eliot says of Romola: 'Let her muffle herself as she will, everyone wants to see what there is under her veil, for she has that way of walking like a procession.' That is just what one may say of many of these young Tuscan women. She also says: 'There has been no great people without processions, and the man who thinks himself too wise to be moved by them to anything but contempt is like the paddle that was proud of standing alone while the river rushed by.'