(Essentials of European Literature)

As late as the last decade of the nineteenth century the political air of Italy and Sicily was troubled by the events of the Garibaldi uprisings of 1848 and 1860. There were still people of influence who looked back a half century to the time when the Bourbons had dominated Italy. There were also those who had followed Garibaldi in his revolution, and now, among the younger people, there were those who had become Socialists and took to heart all the preachings of that doctrine. Italian politics were as confused as they were corrupt.

In Sicily, where a representative to the Chamber of Deputies had died, a campaign was under way for a successor to represent the district of Girgenti. One of the candidates was Roberto Auriti, who at twelve years of age had been with Garibaldi in Rome and whose father had been a Garibaldist leader. Auriti was opposed by Capolino, who was backed by the clerical party, and Flaminio Salvo, a capitalist who owned the coal and sulphur mines in the district.

The situation was particularly strained for Salvo because he wanted to marry his spinster sister to Auriti’s uncle, Prince Ippolito Laurentano, an old man who still believed in the Bourbon influence and lived apart from the world on his Sicilian estate. Salvo’s plans for the marriage were blocked because the old man refused to submit to the civil ceremony of a government he had never recognized. The prince swore he would have only the Church officiate at his wedding. Salvo was also disturbed because the old man’s grown son, Gerlando Laurentano, declared that he would not attend his father’s wedding, thus withholding his sanction. Since Salvo was after money and power, it was necessary for his honor that young Laurentano be at his father’s second marriage ceremony.

To further complicate the affairs of Salvo, there was a real effort to foster discontent among his workers by the Socialists, under the leadership of Gerlando Laurentano. His activities did not endear young Laurentano to the financier, who stood to lose much by the young man’s refusal to agree to terms that Salvo thought reasonable and proper.

When the election returns had been counted and the excitement of the election had begun to die down, it was found that Capolino had been elected to represent the district in which Salvo’s interests were located. Salvo was soon to discover, however, that the government did not take kindly to his candidate because of the backing which Capolino had also received from the clericals. Capolino was reduced to a place among the minority opposition in the Chamber of Deputies.

Meanwhile Capolino’s wife, Nicoletta, a woman much younger than her husband, had formed an attachment for another deputy, a scapegrace named Corrado Selmi, who owed a great deal of money and who had been Auriti’s backer...

(The entire section is 1157 words.)