Later on, when I had slept, I thought as I have thought before, the Italians are not to blame for their spite against us. We, England, have taken upon ourselves for so long the rôle of leading nation. And if now, in the war or after the war, we have led them[Pg 344] all into a real old swinery—which we have, notwithstanding all Entente cant—then they have a legitimate grudge against us. If you take upon yourself to lead, you must expect the mud to be thrown at you if you lead into a nasty morass. Especially if, once in the bog, you think of nothing else but scrambling out over other poor devils’ backs. Pretty behaviour of great nations!
And still, for all that, I must insist that I am a single human being, an individual, not a mere national unit, a mere chip of l’Inghilterra or la Germania. I am not a chip of any nasty old block. I am myself.
In the evening the q-b insisted on going to the marionettes, for which she has a sentimental passion. So the three of us—we were with the American friend once more—chased through dark and tortuous side-streets and markets of Palermo in the night, until at last a friendly man led us to the place. The back streets of Palermo felt friendly, not huge and rather horrible, like Naples near the port.
The theatre was a little hole opening simply off the street. There was no one in the little ticket box, so we walked past the door-screen. A shabby old man with a long fennel-stalk hurried up and made us places on the back benches, and hushed us when we spoke of[Pg 345] tickets. The play was in progress. A serpent-dragon was just having a tussle with a knight in brilliant brass armour, and my heart came into my mouth. The audience consisted mostly of boys, gazing with frantic interest on the bright stage. There was a sprinkling of soldiers and elderly men. The place was packed—about fifty souls crowded on narrow little ribbons of benches, so close one behind the other that the end of the man in front of me continually encroached and sat on my knee. I saw on a notice that the price of entry was forty centimes.
We had come in towards the end of the performance, and so sat rather bewildered, unable to follow. The story was the inevitable Paladins of France—one heard the names Rinaldo! Orlando! again and again. But the story was told in dialect, hard to follow.
I was charmed by the figures. The scene was very simple, showing the interior of a castle. But the figures, which were about two-thirds of human size, were wonderful in their brilliant, glittering gold armour, and their martial prancing motions. All were knights—even the daughter of the king of Babylon. She was distinguished only by her long hair. All were in the beautiful, glittering armour, with helmets and visors that could be let down at will. I am told this armour has been handed down for many generations. It[Pg 346] certainly is lovely. One actor alone was not in armour, the wizard Magicce, or Malvigge, the Merlin of the Paladins. He was in a long scarlet robe, edged with fur, and wore a three-cornered scarlet hat.Share It