In The Yellow Country.
A Fish Peddler.
From Hand To Mouth.
It was bad enough to hear descriptions of it from a man who had repeatedly visited the region, and explored it thoroughly. Yet, to confirm his statements, I quote from a report made on this subject by Signor Adolf Rossi, of the Roman "Tribuna," who with a member of the Italian Parliament made, a few years ago, a visit to one of these mines employing thirteen hundred laborers.
"We began the descent, stooping over and holding with our hands to the vaulted roof. The steps, dug in the soil, are very irregular, sometimes low, sometimes high, now worn away, now dry and dusty, sometimes wet and slippery. We had gone a few yards when we distinguished a faint light. It came from the lamps of a few carusi who were coming up, bending under their loads of sulphur. Then we heard their sighs of anguish, growing more distinct as they drew nearer to us, - the sighs of young children scarcely able to go forward, yet obliged to stagger on for fear that the miner should come to beat them with his stick, or burn their legs with his lamp. De Felice and I felt our hearts bursting, as we stepped to one side to let this procession of pariahs pass. As we saw them, bent under their burdens, trembling on their unsteady legs, pity so seized on us that we ourselves wept like two children. We stopped some of them, and saw for ourselves that they had the skin of their shoulders and spines all the way down the back either red and raw, or callous where it had been abraded; and there were many scars and bruises. Farther on, in a gallery where the steps were higher and more difficult, we came on another procession of these carusi, bending under their terrible loads, which are from sixty to one hundred and fifty pounds; enough, one would think, to kill a child by exhaustion. I heard one say, weeping, to a companion, 'I can go on no more; I must let the sack fall.' At a third turn there was another, with his burden on the ground. He wept as he crouched beside it. He had fair hair and blue eyes; but the eyes were reddened with weeping, and the tears fell over pale, hollow cheeks. In my career as a journalist I have seen men shot, hanged, lynched, and massacred; I have seen horrors of every kind and deaths in every way; but I have seen nothing which affected me like this." In the city of Girgenti, but a few miles from these sulphur mines, a young man of refined appearance, gentle manners, and appealing eyes begged me to take him with me, and to let him work for me in even the most menial capacity. For this he asked no wages whatsoever, but said that he would be both grateful and contented to have sufficient food, some clothing, and a decent home. In answer to inquiries, he told me, quite as a matter of course and as a thing too common to be mentioned with surprise, that many people in the neighborhood annually die of hunger. The character and limits of this sketch of Sicily do not permit me to dwell further on this painful subject, or to discuss at length the problem of such awful poverty. But since it positively is not due to drunkenness, or even to idleness, the blame must lie far more with the Government than with the governed. The principal causes seem to be the absentee-ownership of large estates, which are in consequence worked by heartless middlemen; and the oppressive taxes levied by a nation more ambitious to have fleets and armies and to play the r61e of one of the leading European Powers, than to protect her citizens from hunger, wretchedness, and the necessity of emigration. Under such circumstances can we wonder at the growth of socialism, or that the truest friends of Italy are begging her to make some changes in the social status of her people?
Vender Of Snails.
The Age Of Poverty, And The Poverty Of Age.
Hard Times In Girgenti.
Crier Of Delinquent Tax Sales.