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XI VICTORY
Far back in ancient days the great philosopher Empedokles lived in Sicily. He was the most beautiful and the most perfect of men; so wonderful and so wise that the people regarded him as an incarnate god.

Empedokles owned a country-place on Etna, and one evening he prepared a feast there for his friends. During the repast he spoke such words that they cried out to him: “Thou art a god, Empedokles; thou art a god!”

During the night Empedokles thought: “You have risen as high as you can rise on earth. Now die, before adversity and feebleness take hold of you.” And he wandered up to the summit of Etna and threw himself into the burning crater. “When no one can find my body,” he thought, “the people will say that I have been taken up alive to the gods.”

The next morning his friends searched for him through the villa and on the mountain. They too came up to the crater, and there they found by the crater’s mouth Empedokles’ sandal. They understood that Empedokles had sought death in the crater in order to be counted among the immortals.

He would have succeeded had not the mountain cast up his shoe.

[316]

But on account of that story Empedokles’ name has never been forgotten, and many have wondered where his villa could have been situated. Antiquaries and treasure-seekers have looked for it; for the villa of the wonderful Empedokles was naturally filled with marble statues, bronzes, and mosaics.

Donna Micaela’s father, Cavaliere Palmeri, had set his heart on solving the problem of the villa. Every morning he mounted his pony, Domenico, and rode away to search for it. He was armed as an investigator, with a scraper in his belt, a spade at his side, and a big knapsack on his back.

Every evening, when Cavaliere Palmeri came home, he told Donna Micaela about Domenico. During the years that they had ridden about on Etna, Domenico had become an antiquary. Domenico turned from the road as soon as he caught sight of a ruin. He stamped on the ground in places where excavations should be made. He snorted scornfully and turned away his head if any one showed him a counterfeit piece of old money.

Donna Micaela listened with great patience and interest. She was sure that in case that villa finally did let itself be found Domenico would get all the glory of the discovery.

Cavaliere Palmeri never asked his daughter about her undertaking. He never showed any interest in the railway. It seemed almost as if he were ignorant that she was working for it.

It was not singular however; he never showed interest in anything that concerned his daughter.

One day, as they both sat at the dining-table, Donna Micaela all at once began to talk of the railway.

[317]

She had won a victory, she said; she had finally won a victory.

He must hear what news she had received that day. It was not merely to be a railway between Catania and Diamante, as she first had thought; it was to be a railway round the whole of Etna.

By Falco’s death she had not only been rid of Falco himself, but now the people believed also that the great Mongibello and all the saints were on her side. And so there had arisen an agitation of the people to make the railway an actuality. Contributions were signed in all the towns of Etna. A company was formed. To-day the concession had come; to-morrow the work was to begin in earnest.

Donna Micaela was excited; she could not eat. Her heart swelled with joy and thankfulness. She could not help talking of the tremendous enthusiasm that had seized the people. She spoke with tears in her eyes of the Christchild in the church of San Pasquale.

It was touching to see how her face shone with hope. It was as if she had, besides the happiness of which she was speaking, a whole world of bliss in expectation.

That evening she felt that Providence had guided her well and happily. She perceived that Gaetano’s imprisonment had been the work of God to lead him back to faith. He would be set free by the miracles of the little image, and that would convert him so that he would become a believer as before. And she might be his. How good God was!

And while this great bliss stirred within her, her father sat opposite her quite cold and indifferent.

“It was very extraordinary,” was all he said.

[318]

“You will come to-morrow to the ceremony of the laying of the foundations?”

“I do not know; I have my investigations.”

Donna Micaela began to crumble her bread rather hastily. Her patience was exhausted. She had not asked him to share her sorrows, but her joys; he must share her joys!

All at once the shackles of submission and fear, which had bound her ever since the time of his imprisonment, broke.

“You who ride so much about Etna,” she said with a very quiet voice, “must have also come to Gela?”

The cavaliere looked up and seemed to search his memory. “Gela, Gela?”

“Gela is a village of a hundred houses, which is situated on the southern side of Monte Chiaro, quite at its foot,” continued Donna Micaela, with the most innocent expression. “It is squeezed in between Simeto and the mountain, and a branch of the river generally flows through the principal street of Gela so that it is very unusual to be able to pass dry-shod through the village. The roof of the church fell in during the last earthquake, and it has never been mended, for Gela is quite destitute. Have you really never heard of Gela?”

Cavaliere Palmeri answered with inexpressible solemnity: “My investigations have taken me up the mountain. I have not thought of looking for the great philosopher’s villa in Gela.”

“But Gela is an............
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