An Ancient Story Of Politics And Reform -- By: Henry Huntington Powers
BSac 62:247 (July 1905) p. 401
An Ancient Story Of Politics And Reform
Let us begin by taking a walk through the famous old city of Florence,—not as we find it to-day, but as it was six centuries ago. We could walk all around it in a couple of hours, though it counts its inhabitants by the hundred thousand. But the walls, built long ago when the city was small, have not grown with its growth, and the teeming life of this most modern of cities has had to accommodate itself to narrow quarters. The streets, often too narrow for two carts to pass, are grudgingly allowed only on the ground level. Projecting upper stories economize the precious space above, and afford shade from the somewhat too faithful sun. The houses, built on surprisingly small foundations, rise to an imposing height, and, as if that were not enough, they are surmounted by a tower half as big as themselves, square and plain and bare of ornament, but crowding menacingly to the front as if they needed no excuse for their existence. We wonder what such a house is like inside. Perhaps we can get some idea through the windows. But now that we look for the windows we notice for the first time that there are none which will serve our purpose. The lowest are from eight to twelve feet from the ground, and even so they are scarce large enough for cellar windows, and are barred with iron rods, an inch thick, set upright and crosswise and close together. Higher up there
BSac 62:247 (July 1905) p. 402
are real windows, but still small, and with very businesslike shutters, which can be closed in case of need. Even the door is barely large enough to admit a single person, and most forbiddingly ironclad. Perhaps we have struck the jail by accident. But no; they are all alike. Decidedly the Florentine is prepared for emergencies.
The nature of these emergencies is made clear as we turn the corner. There is a clamor and a din of arms, as well as voices, between two groups who are ranged around two prominent contestants armed to the teeth. There are bruises and cuts and fallen partisans, and finally, of course, a beaten party, which falls back sullenly down a narrow street. We have scarce time to recover from our surprise at this flagrant breach of the peace when the door of a high house opens, and the beaten leader backs into it. There is a rush of the victors to enter, a slamming of the door and creaking of bolts, and meanwhile a shying of stones or hot water from the top of the tall tower already referred to, and the baffled victor withdraws, muttering and cursing.
Who are these brigands who thus disturb the peace? Brigands! These are the heads of noble Florentine families maintaining the honor of their house and Florentine tradition. Disturbers of the peace! What pea...
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