Selling Oranges In Palermo.
A Sicilian Cart.
Art And Nature.
Sometimes, like the corricoli of Naples, they carry far too many human beings; but oftener their painted sides enclose such loads as wine casks, bags of sulphur, baskets of charcoal, bales of hay, or fruits and vegetables, whose names and prices the vociferous drivers shout from house to house in piercing cries which call to mind the streets of eastern towns, and the old Arab race that once was dominant in Sicily. It may seem strange for me to affirm that these fantastic vehicles give an air of gaiety to the city streets, but such is certainly the case, - at least if they are seen in bright Sicilian sunshine; for on a rainy day their gaudy colors seem as out of place as an Egyptian obelisk in a London fog. Viewed at their best, however, they not alone attract the eye, but interest the mind by the inquiry they awaken as to what is meant by the symbolic or historic paintings on their panels. These carts are not found merely in Palermo. The finest that I saw were there, but all Sicilian towns possess them; and though an unpainted wagon may exist in Sicily, I never met one, and finally came to the conclusion that a Sicilian peasant would feel less ashamed to have a naked child than an undecorated cart. But what surprised me most in this connection was the assertion frequently made to me that not the decorators but the purchasers of these conveyances choose the subjects to be painted on them. " How does it happen," I inquired, "that the illiterate laborers and peasants of this island have learned enough of such old histories and heroes to make selections by them possible ? " The explanation was that many of these stories of the past - of course immensely altered and exaggerated in the telling - have been made known to the common people through the medium of the public story-teller, who until recently was almost as popular in Sicily a; in the Orient. Moreover, in the cheap-priced, marionette theatres, found in all Trina-crian cities, the chief adventures of the famous mythical and mediaeval heroes are constantly exhibited by means of little puppets, worked by wires. These make the gaping populace familiar with a mass of names and legends, of which they otherwise would be completely ignorant.
Perambulating Picture Galleries.
Carts And Cargoes.
Statue Of Garibaldi, Palermo.
Although in my description of these vehicles I have intentionally placed the cart before the horse, I must, in justice to their general effect, say something of the animals that draw them. They are almost invariably the tiniest of donkeys, which are themselves absurdly loaded with a mass of decoration that anywhere, except in Sicily, would seem incredible. Upon the donkey's head is of ten balanced a surprisingly big pompon, surpassed in size, however, by another (sometimes two and a half feet high), which rises from the middle of the donkey's back! Moreover, every part of the harness gleams with hammered brass-work, tinkling bells, rosettes, red tassels, variegated cords, blinders adorned with mirrors, green and scarlet plumes, thin copper disks, brass-headed nails, and countless bits of tinsel, such as one might use to decorate a Christmas tree. I wish that all this ornamentation furnished proof that the poor beasts themselves were properly fed and kindly treated. But, usually, thin as scarecrows, often pitifully lame, and bleeding from great raw spots scraped by every motion of the harness, the wretched quadrupeds of Sicily are even worse than those of Naples. This makes a sojourn on the island so distressing to a lover of dumb animals, that merely with a view to bringing and retaining tourists there, the government certhing to ameliorate the lot of tortured horses, mules, and donkeys, for which the average Italian seems to feel no sentiment of compassion whatsoever. Foreigners, it is true, have taken action in the matter, and chiefly through the generosity of English and American tourists and their friends there has been recently formed in the Sicilian city of Girgenti a branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals at Naples, which, under the direction of the philanthropist, Leonard T. Hawksley, has in the last few years achieved so much in lessening the misery of beasts of burden. When one beholds in the office of this society in Naples (2 Via Vittoria) several thousand instruments of torture, actually used upon dumb animals, and confiscated by the society's inspectors, one realizes that, although the task of making Neapolitans and Sicilians merciful is a colossal one, still something certainly has been done. Thus, in the year 1903, twenty-three thousand instruments of cruelty were seized in Naples only, and people were compelled to alight there from more than tzventy-one thousand overloaded vehicles! During the same length of time also about one thousand instruments of torture were confiscated in Girgenti. It is a worthy and an eminently necessary charity, the character of which is attested by the fact that among the regular contributors to its funds is King Edward VII. of England.