This is Sunday in Sorrento, under the blue sky. These peasants, who are fooled by the mountebank and attracted by the piles of adamantine gingerbread, do not forget to crowd the church of the saint at vespers, and kneel there in humble faith, while the choir sings the Agnus Dei, and the priests drone the service. Are they so different, then, from other people? They have an idea on Capri that England is such another island, only not so pleasant; that all Englishmen are rich and constantly travel to escape the dreariness at home; and that, if they are not absolutely mad, they are all a little queer. It was a fancy prevalent in Hamlet’s day. We had the English service in the Villa Nardi in the evening. There are some Englishmen staying here, of the class one finds in all the sunny spots of Europe, ennuye and growling, in search of some elixir that shall bring back youth and enjoyment. They seem divided in mind between the attractions of the equable climate of this region and the fear of the gout which lurks in the unfermented wine. One cannot be too grateful to the sturdy islanders for carrying their prayers, like their drumbeat, all round the globe; and I was much edified that night, as the reading went on, by a row of rather battered men of the world, who stood in line on one side of the room, and took their prayers with a certain British fortitude, as if they were conscious of performing a constitutional duty, and helping by the act to uphold the majesty of English institutions.
There is always a mild excitement about mounting donkeys in the morning here for an excursion among the hills. The warm sun pouring into the garden, the smell of oranges, the stimulating air, the general openness and freshness, promise a day of enjoyment. There is always a doubt as to who will go; generally a donkey wanting; somebody wishes to join the party at the last moment; there is no end of running up and downstairs, calling from balconies and terraces; some never ready, and some waiting below in the sun; the whole house in a tumult, drivers in a worry, and the sleepy animals now and then joining in the clatter with a vocal performance that is neither a trumpet-call nor a steam-whistle, but an indescribable noise, that begins in agony and abruptly breaks down in despair. It is difficult to get the train in motion. The lady who ordered Succarina has got a strange donkey, and Macaroni has on the wrong saddle. Succarina is a favorite, the kindest, easiest, and surest-footed of beasts,—a diminutive animal, not bigger than a Friesland sheep; old, in fact grizzly with years, and not unlike the aged, wizened little women who are so common here: for beauty in this region dries up; and these handsome Sorrento girls, if they live, and almost everybody does live, have the prospect, in their old age, of becoming mummies, with parchment skins. I have heard of climates that preserve female beauty; this embalms it, only the beauty escapes in the process. As I was saying, Succarina is little, old, and grizzly; but her head is large, and one might be contented to be as wise as she looks.