“From Guido Ferrari, Rome, to Il Conte Cesare Olfva, Naples.—Shall be with you on the 24th inst. Train arrives at 6:30 P.M. Will come to you as you desire without fail.”
Christmas Eve! The day had been extra chilly, with frequent showers of stinging rain, but toward five o’clock in the afternoon the weather cleared. The clouds, which had been of a dull uniform gray, began to break asunder and disclose little shining rifts of pale blue and bright gold; the sea looked like a wide satin ribbon shaken out and shimmering with opaline tints. Flower girls trooped forth making the air musical with their mellow cries of “Fiori! chi vuol fiori” and holding up their tempting wares—not bunches of holly and mistletoe such as are known in England, but roses, lilies, jonquils, and sweet daffodils. The shops were brilliant with bouquets and baskets of fruits and flowers; a glittering show of etrennes, or gifts to suit all ages and conditions, were set forth in tempting array, from a box of bonbons costing one franc to a jeweled tiara worth a million, while in many of the windows were displayed models of the “Bethlehem,” with babe Jesus lying in his manger, for the benefit of the round-eyed children—who, after staring fondly at His waxen image for some time, would run off hand in hand to the nearest church where the usual Christmas creche was arranged, and there kneeling down, would begin to implore their “dear little Jesus,” their “own little brother,” not to forget them, with a simplicity of belief that was as touching as it was unaffected.