But the Blue Grotto? Oh, yes! Is it so blue? That depends upon the time of day, the sun, the clouds, and something upon the person who enters it. It is frightfully blue to some. We bend down in our rowboat, slide into the narrow opening which is three feet high, and passing into the spacious cavern, remain there for half an hour. It is, to be sure, forty feet high, and a hundred by a hundred and fifty in extent, with an arched roof, and clear water for a floor. The water appears to be as deep as the roof is high, and is of a light, beautiful blue, in contrast with the deep blue of the bay. At the entrance the water is illuminated, and there is a pleasant, mild light within: one has there a novel subterranean sensation; but it did not remind me of anything I have seen in the “Arabian Nights.” I have seen pictures of it that were much finer.
As we rowed close to the precipice in returning, I saw many similar openings, not so deep, and perhaps only sham openings; and the water-line was fretted to honeycomb by the eating waves. Beneath the water-line, and revealed here and there when the waves receded, was a line of bright red coral.
THE STORY OF FIAMMETTA
At vespers on the fete of St. Antonino, and in his church, I saw the Signorina Fiammetta. I stood leaning against a marble pillar near the altar-steps, during the service, when I saw the young girl kneeling on the pavement in act of prayer. Her black lace veil had fallen a little back from her head; and there was something in her modest attitude and graceful figure that made her conspicuous among all her kneeling companions, with their gay kerchiefs and bright gowns. When she rose and sat down, with folded hands and eyes downcast, there was something so pensive in her subdued mien that I could not take my eyes from her. To say that she had the rich olive complexion, with the gold struggling through, large, lustrous black eyes, and harmonious features, is only to make a weak photograph, when I should paint a picture in colors and infuse it with the sweet loveliness of a maiden on the way to sainthood. I was sure that I had seen her before, looking down from the balcony of a villa just beyond the Roman wall, for the face was not one that even the most unimpressible idler would forget. I was sure that, young as she was, she had already a history; had lived her life, and now walked amid these groves and old streets in a dream. The story which I heard is not long.
In the drawing-room of the Villa Nardi was shown, and offered for sale, an enormous counterpane, crocheted in white cotton. Loop by loop, it must have been an immense labor to knit it; for it was fashioned in pretty devices, and when spread out was rich and showy enough for the royal bed of a princess. It had been crocheted by Fiammetta for her marriage, the only portion the poor child could bring to that sacrament. Alas! the wedding was never to be;