THE CANOPY OF DUST.
By Friday, April 13th, the eruption was practically at an end. Vesuvius had spent itself in the enormous convulsion of the 7th and 8th and the subsequent minor explosions and had returned to its normal state, ceasing to give any signs of life, except the cloud of smoke which still rose from its crater and spread like a thick curtain over and around the mountain. Looked at from Naples, there was none of the familiar aspects of the volcano, with its output of smoke and ashes by day and fiery gleam by night. Now it lay buried in darkness and obscurity, clothed in a dense pall of smoke. At Rome there was sunshine, but twenty miles south hung a misty veil, and twenty-five miles above Naples a zone of semi-obscurity began, blotting out the sun, whose light trickled through with a sickly glare. Everything was whitened with powdery dust; pretty white villas were daubed and dripping with mud, and people were busy shoveling the ashes from their roofs.
The crowds at the stations resembled millers, their clothes flour covered; the Campania presented the appearance of a Dakota prairie after a blizzard of snow, though everything was gray instead of white. The ashes lay in drifts knee deep. As the volcano was approached semi-night replaced the day, the gloom being so deep that telegraph poles twenty feet away could not be seen. Breathing was difficult, and the smoke made the eyes water. At Naples, however, a favorable wind had cleared the air of smoke, the sun shone brightly, and the versatile people were happy once more. The goggles and eye-screens had disappeared, but the streets were anything but comfortable, for some six thousand men were at work clearing the ashes from the roofs and main streets and piling them in the middle of the narrow streets, making the passage of vehicles very difficult and the sidewalks far from comfortable for foot passengers.
But while brightness and joy reigned at Naples, there were gruesome scenes within the volcanic zone. At Bosco Trecase soldiers carried on the work of exhumation, being able to work only an hour at a time on account of the advanced stage of decomposition of the bodies. Many of these were shapeless, unrecognizable masses of flesh and bones, while others were little disfigured. To lessen the danger of an epidemic the bodies were buried as quickly as possible in quicklime.
On Sunday, the 15th, the searchers at Ottejano were surprised at finding two aged women still alive, after six days’ entombment in the ruins. They were among those who had been buried by the falling walls a week before. The rafters of the house had protected them, and a few morsels of food in their pockets aided to keep them alive. At some points there the ashes were ten feet deep. At San Giuseppe bodies of women were found in whose hands were coins and jewels, and one woman held a jewelled rosary. This recalls the results of exploration at Herculaneum and Pompeii, where were similar instances of death overtaking the victims of the volcano while fleeing with their jewels in their hands.