THE PROCESSION OF VELLETRI.
MARIA Grazia lived in a convent of nuns at Velletri, and did their errands for them. One night one of the nuns who was ill got much worse towards night, and the factor  not being there, the Superior called up Maria Grazia and said to her,--'Maria Grazia, Sister Maria such a one  is so very bad that I must get you to go and call the provost to her. I'm sorry to send you out so late, but I fear she won't last till morning.'
Maria Grazia couldn't say nay to such an errand, and off she set by a clear moonlight to go to the house of the provost, which was a good step off and out of the town. All went well till Maria Grazia had left the houses behind her, but she was no sooner in the open country than she saw a great procession of white-robed priests and acolytes bearing torches coming towards her, chanting solemnly. 'What a fine procession!' thought Maria Grazia; 'I must hasten on to see it. But what can it be for at this time of night?'
Still she never doubted it was a real procession till she got quite close, and then, to her surprise, the procession parted in two to let her go through the midst, which a real procession would never have done.
You may believe that she was frightened as she passed right through the midst of those beings who must have belonged to the other world, dazed as she was with the unearthly light of the flaring torches; it seemed as if it would last for ever. But it did come to an end at last, and then she was so frightened she didn't know what to do. Her legs trembled too much to carry her on further from home, and if she turned back there would be that dreadful procession again. Curiosity prompted her to turn her head, in spite of her fears; and what gave her almost more alarm than seeing the procession was the fact that it was no longer to be seen. What could have become of it in the midst of the open field? Then the fear of the good nun dying without the sacraments through her faint-heartedness stirred her, but in vain she tried to pluck up courage. 'Oh!' she thought, 'if there were only some one going the same road, then I shouldn't mind!'
She had hardly formed the wish when she saw a peasant coming along over the very spot where the procession had passed out of sight. 'Now it's all right,' she said; for by the light of the moon he seemed a very respectable steady-looking peasant.
'What did you think of that procession, good man,' said Maria Grazia; 'for it must have passed close by you, too?'
The peasant continued coming towards her, but said nothing.
'Didn't it frighten you? It did me; and I don't think I could have moved from the spot if you hadn't come up. I've got to go to the provost's house, to fetch him to a dying nun; it's only a step off this road, will you mind walking with me till I get there?'
The peasant continued walking towards her, but answered nothing.
'Maybe you're afraid of me, as I was of the procession, that you don't speak,' continued Maria Grazia; 'but I am not a spirit. I am Maria Grazia, servant in such and such a convent at Velletri.'
But still the peasant said nothing.
'What a very odd man!' thought Maria Grazia. 'But as he seems to be going my way he'll answer the purpose of company whether he speaks or not.' And she walked on without fear till she came to the provost's house, the peasant always keeping beside her but never speaking. Arrived at the provost's gate she turned round to salute and thank him, and he was nowhere to be seen. He too had disappeared! He too was a spirit!
When the archpriest came he had his nephew and his servant to go with him, and they carried torches of straw,  for it seems in that part of the country they use straw torches; so she went back in good company.
And Maria Grazia told me that herself.