" Breathless With Delight".
Three Of A Kind.
Every great metropolis has, of course, a large amount of poverty and suffering, but I believe that in no other European city are these evils so frightfully evident, when one looks a little below the surface, as in Naples. The official report of the Royal Commissary to King Humbert, in 1892, says. "For six months a famished mob has thronged the staircase of the municipality. In this multitude are children of both sexes absolutely destitute, mothers with dying babies at their milk-less breasts, and widows followed by a tribe of almost naked children, together with the aged and infirm, all hungry and in rags. One can," he adds, "but marvel at the docile nature of the Neapolitans who bear with resignation such unutterable misery." It must not be supposed, however, that efforts are not made to help these sufferers. In 1885 the King issued an order for the better housing of the poor in Naples, and a gift of ten million dollars and a loan of an equal sum were made for the same object. Much has been done in giving the city better drainage and a good supply of healthful drinking water; but other improvements have been slow, fettered by red tape, hindered by much dishonesty, and, worst of all, blindly opposed in many cases by the superstitious and ignorant people themselves.
In a recent visit to Naples the lower classes seemed to me more destitute and wretched than they had been a score of years before. The principal cause for this increase of misery is, I believe, the present military system of the Government. To maintain this, to build enormous battleships, and to keep up expensive African colonies, the people have been literally taxed to death. Italian ministers must rack their brains to invent new taxes. There is, for example, a tax on every box of matches that some poor woman tries to sell for a cent, a tax on every one who offers in the street a bit of fruit or fish, and a tax on every name displayed outside a building. The latest invention of the Italian minister of finance is a tax on empty bottles. I threw away one at Sorrento. A native told me that he wanted it, but that if he picked it up and brought it into Naples he would have to pay for the privilege. The wandering street musicians, also, have to pay a tax; so do the newsboys, guides, tram-car drivers, waiters in restaurants, and even the beggars who must have a license to solicit alms. Each village has its local custom-house. In driving the few miles from Naples to Sorrento we passed half a dozen of them; and every particle of food or merchandise which the half-starved inmates of those small towns brought in for their use was subject to a duty. Grapes are taxed on the vines when about half ripe. If, after that, they spoil, so much the worse for their owners; for the Government pays no money back. Moreover, wholesome, nourishing food is beyond the reach of the poor. Beef, for example, costs in Naples thirty cents a pound, and butter forty cents; good milk sells at twelve cents a quart, and goat's milk at fourteen cents; while a small chicken, which will not however tear un-der the wing, commands a price of sixty cents. Kerosene, also, costs nearly four times as much in Naples as in America; fuel is so dear that, among the very poor, vegetables are not boiled, but merely softened in hot water to save the long-continued use of the fire; and it is a pitiable sight to see old women or children buying a handful of charcoal at a time to do the cooking for the day. Yet, on account of the prevailing dishonesty in Italy, it is said that not more than two-thirds of the revenue from these taxes ever reaches the public treasury.
Faint From Exhaustion.
Earning Ten Cents A Day Plaiting Straw
It is, in my opinion, a terrible mistake for Italy to try to keep in step with Germany, France, and England. She has been flattered and cajoled into assuming a position in the politics of Europe which she cannot fill. She is doing what in an individual would be called "living beyond his means." It would be vastly better for her were she content to rank with Belgium, Switzerland, and Holland as a minor power. Her soil is supremely fertile; she is the chief custodian of ancient Art, the favorite of Nature, and the shrine of History. She should also be preeminently the land of Peace. The multitude of tourists and pilgrims -who every year enter her gates and spend their money freely in her cities - would make her prosperous were not one-half of her revenues used to pay the national debt, and if two-thirds of the remaining half were not expended on an army and a navy suitable only to a first-class, wealthy nation.