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HOME > Classical Novels > The Miracles of Antichrist > III THE OUTCAST
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III THE OUTCAST
When Donna Micaela heard how the poor people had hooted Miss Tottenham out, she hurried to the hotel to express her condolence. She wished to beg her not to judge those poor creatures by what they had done when they had been put out of their heads with pleasure and wine. She would beg her not to take her hand from Diamante. She herself did not care very much for Miss Tottenham, but for the sake of the poor—She would say anything to pacify her.

When she came to the hotel Etna, she saw the whole street filled with baggage-wagons. So there was no hope. The great benefactress was going away.

Outside the hotel there was much sorrow and despair. The two old blind women, Donna Pepa and Donna Tura, who had always sat in the hotel court-yard, were now shut out, and they were kneeling before the door. The young donkey-driver, who loved all young English ladies, stood with his face pressed against the wall and wept.

Inside the hotel the landlord walked up and down the long corridor, raging at Providence for sending him this misfortune. “Signor Dio,” he mumbled, “I am beggared. If you let this happen, I will take my wife by the hand and my children in my arms and throw myself with them down into Etna.”

[205]

The landlady was very pale and humble. She scarcely dared to lift her eyes from the ground. She would have liked to creep about on her knees to prevail upon the rich signorina to remain.

“Do you dare to speak to her, Donna Micaela?” she said. “May God help you to speak to her! Alas! tell her that the Neapolitan boy, who was the cause of the whole misfortune, has been turned out of the town. Tell her that they all wish to make amends. Speak to her, signora!”

The landlady took Donna Micaela to the Englishwoman’s drawing-room and went in with her card. She came back immediately and asked her to wait a few minutes. Signorina Tottenham was having a business talk with Signor Favara.

It was the very moment when the advocate Favara asked Miss Tottenham’s hand in marriage; and while Donna Micaela waited she heard him say quite loud: “You must not go away, signorina! What will become of me if you go away? I love you; I cannot let you go. I should not have dared to speak if you had not threatened to go away. But now—”

He lowered his voice again, but Donna Micaela would hear no more and went away. She saw that she was superfluous. If Signor Favara could not succeed in keeping the great benefactress, no one could.

When she went out again through the gateway the landlord was standing there quarrelling with the old Franciscan, Fra Felice. He was so irritated that he not only quarrelled with Fra Felice, he also drove him from his house.

“Fra Felice,” he cried, “you come to make more[206] trouble with our great benefactress. You will only make her more angry. Go away, I tell you! You wolf, you man-eater, go away!”

Fra Felice was quite as enraged as the landlord, and tried to force his way past him. But then the latter took him by the arm, and without further notice marched him down the steps.

Fra Felice was a man who had received a great gift from his Creator. In Sicily, where everybody plays in the lottery, there are people who have the power to foretell what numbers will win at the next drawing. He who has such second sight is called “polacco,” and is most often found in some old begging monk. Fra Felice was such a monk. He was the greatest polacco in the neighborhood of Etna.

As every one wished him to tell them a winning tern or quartern, he was always treated with great consideration. He was not used to be taken by the arm and be thrown into the street, Fra Felice.

He was nearly eighty years old and quite dried-up and infirm. As he staggered away between the wagons, he stumbled, trod on his cloak, and almost fell. But none of the porters and drivers that stood by the door talking and lamenting had time that day to think of Fra Felice.

The old man tottered along in his heavy homespun cloak. He was so thin and dry that there seemed to be more stiffness in the cloak than in the monk. It seemed to be the old cloak that held him up.

Donna Micaela caught up with him and gently drew the old man’s arm through her own. She could not bear to see how he struck against the lamp-posts and fell over steps. But Fra Felice[207] never noticed that she was looking after him. He walked and mumbled and cursed, and did not know but that he was as much alone as if he sat in his cell.

Donna Micaela wondered why Fra Felice was so angry with Miss Tottenham. Had she been out to his monastery and taken down frescos from the walls, or what had she done?

Fra Felice had lived for sixty years in the big Franciscan monastery outside the Porta Etnea, wall to wall with the old church San Pasquale.

Fra Felice had been monk there for thirty years, when the monastery was given up and sold to a layman. The other monks moved away, but Fra Felice remained because he could not understand what selling the house of San Francisco could mean.

If laymen were to come there, it seemed to Fra Felice almost more essential that at least one monk should remain. Who else would attend to the bell-ringing, or prepare medicines for the peasant women, or give bread to the poor of the monastery? And Fra Felice chose a cell in a retired corner of the monastery, and continued to go in and out as he had always done.

The merchant who owned the monastery never visited it. He did not care about the old building; he only wanted the vineyards belonging to it. So Fra Felice still reigned in the old monastery, and fastened up the fallen cornices and whitewashed the walls. As many poor people as had received food at the monastery in former days, still received it. For his gift of prophecy Fra Felice got such large alms as he wandered through the towns of[208] Etna that he could have been a rich man; but every bit of it went to the monastery.

Fra Felice had suffered an even greater grief than for the monastery on account of the monastery church. It had been desecrated during war, with bloody fights and other atrocities, so that mass could never be held there. But that he could not understand either. The church, where he had made his vows, was always holy to Fra Felice.

It was his greatest sorrow tha............
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