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HOME > Classical Novels > The Miracles of Antichrist > II IN PALERMO
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At last, at last, it is one o’clock at night. Those who are afraid to oversleep rise from their beds, dress themselves and go out into the street.

And those who have sat and hung over a café table till now start up when they hear steps echo on the stone pavements. They shake the drowsiness from their bodies and hurry out. They mingle in the swiftly increasing stream of people, and the heavy feet of Time begin to move a little faster.

Mere acquaintances press each other’s hands with heartfelt warmth. It is plain that the same enthusiasm fills all souls. And the most absurd people are out; old university professors, distinguished noblemen and fine ladies, who otherwise never set their foot in the street. They are all equally joyous.

“God! God! that he is coming, that Palermo is to have him back again!” they say.

The Palermo students, who have not moved from their usual headquarters in Quattro Canti all night, have provided torches and colored lanterns. They were not to be lighted till four o’clock, when the man they expected was to come; but about two o’clock one or two of them begin to try whether their torches burn well. Then they light everything and greet the flames with cheers. It is impossible[330] to stand in darkness when so much joy is burning within them.

In the hotels the travellers are waked and urged to get up. “There is a festival in Palermo to-night, O signori!”

The travellers ask for whom. “For one of the socialists whom the government has pardoned out of prison. He is coming now in the steamer from Naples.”—“What kind of a man is he?”—“His name is Bosco, and the people love him.”

There are preparations everywhere in the night for his sake. One of the goatherds on Monte Pellegrino is busy tying little bunches of blue-bells for his goats to wear in their collars. And as he has a hundred goats, and they all wear collars—But it must be done. His goats could not wander into Palermo the next morning without being adorned in honor of the day.

The dressmakers have had to sit at their work till midnight to finish all the new dresses that are to be worn that morning. And when such a little dressmaker has finished her work for others, she has to think of herself. She puts a couple of plumes in her hat and piles up bunches of ribbon a yard high. To-day she must be beautiful.

The long rows of houses begin to be illuminated. Here and there a rocket whizzes up. Fire-crackers hiss and snap at every street corner.

The flower shops along Via Vittorio Emanuele are emptied again and again. Always more, more of the white orange-blossoms! All Palermo is filled with the sweet fragrance of the orange-blossoms.

The gate-keeper in Bosco’s house has no peace[331] for a moment. Magnificent cakes and towerlike bouquets are incessantly passing up the stairway, and poems of welcome and telegrams of congratulation are constantly coming. There is no end to them.

The poor bronze emperor on the Piazza Bologna, poor, ugly Charles the Fifth, who is forlorn and thin and wretched as San Giovanni in the desert, has in some inscrutable manner got a bunch of flowers in his hand. When the students standing on Quattro Canti, quite near by, hear of it, they march up to the emperor in a procession, light him with their torches, and raise a cheer for the old despot. And one of them takes his bunch of flowers to give it to the great socialist.

Then the students march down to the harbor.

Long before they get there their torches are burnt out, but they do not care. They come with arms about each other’s necks, singing loudly, and sometimes breaking off in their song to shout: “Down with Crispi! Long live Bosco!” The song begins again, but it is again broken off, because those who cannot sing throw their arms round the singers and kiss them.

Guilds and corporations swarm out of the quarters of the town where the same trade has been carried on for more than a thousand years. The masons come with their band of music and their banner; there come the workers in mosaic; here come the fishermen.

When the societies meet, they salute one another with their banners. Sometimes they take time to stop and make speeches. Then they tell of the five released prisoners, the five martyrs whom the government[332] at last has given back to Sicily. And all the people shout: “Long live Bosco! Long live Da Felice! Long live Verro! Long live Barbato! Long live Alagona!”

If any one who has had enough of the life in the streets comes down to the harbor of Palermo, he stops and asks: “What place is this? Madonna Santissima, where am I?”

For he has expected to find the harbor still deserted and dark.

All the boats and skiffs in the harbor of Palermo have been taken by different societies and unions. They are floating about in the harbor, richly hung with colored Venetian lights, and every minute great bunches of rockets are sent up from them.

Over the heavy thwarts priceless rugs and hangings have been spread, and on them sit ladies, the beautiful Palermo ladies, dressed in light silks and shaded velvets.

The small craft glide about on the water, now in big groups, now separately. From the big ships rise masts and oars covered with pennants and lights, and the little harbor steam-launches dart about with funnels wreathed in flowers.

Beneath it all the water lies and shines and mirrors and reflects, so that the light from one lantern becomes a stream of brightness, and the drops that fall from the oars are like a rain of gold.

Round about the harbor stand a hundred thousand, a hundred and fifty thousand people, quite delirious with joy. They kiss one another; they raise shouts of rapture, and they are happy, happy. They are beside themselves with joy. Many of them cannot keep from weeping.


Fire, that is joy. It is good that fires can be lighted. Suddenly a great blaze flames up on Monte Pellegrino, just over the harbor. Mighty flames burst from all the pointed mountain walls surrounding the town. There are fires on Monte Falcone, on San Martino, on the mountain of The Thousands, where Garibaldi passed.

Far out on the sea comes the big Naples steamer. And on the steamer is Bosco, the socialist.

He cannot sleep that night. He has gone up from his cabin, and paces to and fro on the deck. And then his old mother, who has journeyed to Naples to meet him, comes from her cabin to keep him company. But he cannot talk with her. He is thinking that he will soon be at home. Ah, Palermo, Palermo!

He has been in prison over two years. They have been two years of suffering and longing, and has it been of any good? That is what he wishes to know. Has it been of benefit that he has been faithful to the cause, and gone to prison? Has Palermo thought of him? Have his sufferings won the cause a single follower?

His old mo............
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