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HOME > Classical Novels > The Miracles of Antichrist > THIRD BOOK “And he shall win many followers” I THE OASIS AND THE DESERT
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THIRD BOOK “And he shall win many followers” I THE OASIS AND THE DESERT
In the spring of 1894 the Etna railway was begun; in the autumn of 1895 it was finished. It went up from the shore, made a circuit round the mountain in a wide half-circle, and came down again to the shore.

Trains come and go every day, and Mongibello lies subdued and makes no sign. Foreigners pass with amazement through the black, distorted lava streams, through the groves of white almond-trees, through the dark old Saracen towns. “Look, look! is there such a land on earth!” they say.

In the railway carriages there is always some one telling of the time when the Christ-image was in Diamante.

What a time! What a time! Each day new miracles were performed. They cannot tell of them all, but he brought as much happiness to Diamante as if the hours of the day had been dancing maidens. People thought that Time had filled his hour-glass with shining sands of gold.

[324]

If any one had asked who reigned in Diamante at that time, the answer would have been that it was the Christ-image. Everything was done according to his will. No one took a wife, or played in a lottery, or built himself a house without consulting him.

Many knife-thrusts were spared for the image’s sake, many old feuds settled, and many bitter words were never uttered.

The people had to be good, for they observed that the image helped those who were peaceable and helpful. To them he granted the pleasant gifts of happiness and riches.

If the world had been as it ought to be, Diamante would soon have become a rich and powerful town. But instead, that part of the world which did not believe in the image destroyed all his work. All the happiness he scattered about him was of no avail.

The taxes were constantly increased, and took all their money. There was the war in Africa. How could the people be happy when their sons, their money, and their mules had to go to Africa? The war did not go well; one defeat followed another. How could they be happy when their country’s honor was at stake?

Especially after the railway had been finished was it manifest that Diamante was like an oasis in a great desert. An oasis is exposed to the drifting sands of the desert and to robbers and wild beasts. So was also Diamante. The oasis would have to spread over the whole desert to feel secure. Diamante began to believe that it could never be happy until the whole world worshipped its Christ-image.

[325]

It now happened that everything that Diamante hoped and strove for was denied it.

Donna Micaela and all Diamante longed to get Gaetano back. When the railway was ready Donna Micaela went to Rome and asked for his release, but it was refused her. The king and the queen would have liked to help her, but they could not. You know who was minister then. He ruled Italy with a hand of iron; do you think that he allowed the king to pardon a rebellious Sicilian?

The people also longed that the Christchild of Diamante should have the adoration that was his due, and Donna Micaela sought an audience for his sake with the old man in the Vatican. “Holy Father,” she said, “let me tell you what has been taking place in Diamante on the slopes of Etna!” And when she had told of all the miracles performed by the image, she asked the pope to have the old church of San Pasquale purified and consecrated, and to appoint a priest for the worship of the Christchild.

“Dear Princess Micaela,” said the pope, “those incidents of which you speak, the church dares not consider miracles. But you need not at all despair. If the Christchild wishes to be worshipped in your town, he will give one more sign. He will show Us his will so plainly that We shall not need to hesitate. And forgive an old man, my daughter, because he has to be cautious!”

A third thing the people of Diamante had hoped. They had expected at last to hear something from Gaetano. Donna Micaela journeyed also to Como, where he was held prisoner. She had letters of recommendation from the highest quarters in Rom............
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