A Street Group.
A Naples Street.
On such occasions nothing could induce me to pass through one of the narrow streets. The toiletmaking of the children is much simpler. It does not differ much from that of a dog. Both have the same acute but fleeting trials, which must be overcome in much the same way. In viewing them, I could not doubt the truth of the proverb that it is the little things in life that most annoy us. Moreover, the garments of a Neapolitan boy are fully open to the breezes from the bay; and as these constitute his only clothes, he wears them till they drop to pieces or else are, patch by patch, so thoroughly renewed that - like the famous knife which had in turn new blades and a new handle, yet was still the same - he finally acquires on the same old model a new set of rags.
You can imagine, then, that amid such surroundings a walk or drive through Naples presents some startling surprises. On leaving my hotel one morning, the first thing I encountered was a flock of goats which, though belonging to the gentler sex, marched along as proudly as a Prussian regiment in Berlin. At frequent intervals these little wandering dairies halted, while one of them, obedient to her driver's call, climbed the stairs of an apartment house from which a signal had been given. If milk was wanted on the ground floor, some member of the family brought out a pail, or even a bottle, to be filled.
An Itinerant Dairy.
At other times, I saw these articles lowered in a basket from an upper story, to be drawn up again by strings. Cows are, also, driven through many of the Neapolitan streets and, like the goats, are milked upon the sidewalks, at so much a pint. I have often had to step aside for them while thus engaged. Whatever, therefore, may be said about the unwholesome meats and vegetables in their markets, the Neapolitans beyond a doubt secure fresh milk. The owners of the cows and goats, however, seemed profoundly sad. They are the only men in Italy who cannot cheat. I did not dare inform them of the privileges of our milkmen. If I had told them that in free America the milk is fre-quently diluted, and that the cans are sometimes rinsed with impure water, conveying thus to hundreds of consumers germs of typhoid fever, they might at once have emigrated to the United States. Another characteristic scene in Neapolitan streets is a portable kitchen and lunch-counter where fish, fruit, cakes, and various kinds of soup are sold in portions costing about a cent. They are the cafes of the lazzaroni, the homeless vagabonds of Naples who live without working, and who, if they should ever so far forget themselves as to do a stroke of honest labor, would no longer be lazzaroni. For most of these people meat, even of the poorest kind, is an unlooked-for luxury. Even macaroni, on which we generally suppose the Neapolitans exist, is too expensive for the poorest classes, save upon rare occasions, when, almost breathless with delight, they eat it with tomatoes, and in their subsequent dreams are quite unable to distinguish heaven from spaghetti. When a tourist has watched the manufacture of macaroni in Naples - has seen the filthy men who make it and, finally, beholds great sheets of it hung up to dry like portieres of yellow beads, amidst the dust, rags, and wretchedness of Neapolitan streets - he gives a new interpretation to the ancient proverb, "See Naples and die." My friend was almost ill from merely recollecting that he had eaten macaroni here the night before, and nothing would induce him after that to touch the dish, however skillfully prepared; but to a Neapolitan lazzaroni such squeamishness appears incredible.
One night, in driving through a market-place, we saw a vender of spaghetti. Stopping the carriage, I paid him to distribute twenty platefuls to the people, that we might watch them eat it. The rumor of this spread like wildfire, and in three minutes our cab was like an island in a sea of roaring, struggling humanity. In vain the vender tried to single out one person at a time. The instant that one wretched man received a plate a dozen others jumped for it; and four or five black fists grabbed handfuls of the steaming mass, and thrust the almost scalding mixture down their throats. I had expected to be amused, but this mad eagerness for common food denoted actual hunger. Some famished-looking women and children seemed so disappointed at not getting any that my heart ached for them. The poverty of Naples is distressing, and to most of these poor vagabonds life is a desperate struggle for existence. Some years ago the Italian Senator, Professor Villari, investigated the condition of the poor of Naples, and his report reveals a depth of misery which, without such authority, would seem incredible. It is estimated that there are in Naples hundreds of children who have practically never known father or mother, and who live for the most part on the refuse of the streets, and sleep on church steps or in empty boxes. Others perhaps, less fortunate, are huddled into horrible window-less tenements, which a German doctor calls "the most ghastly human dwellings on the face of the earth." At least a quarter of a million human beings in Naples literally live from hand to mouth. Thousands of them have no. home whatever. They sleep in kennels and dark corners, they rob the dying of their clothes, and are perpetually hungry. I was informed that, on an average, four or five people die here daily of starvation. Physicians call it heart-failure or exhaustion, but the cause is really lack of food.