But the inhabitants were churlish. We went into a sort of bar-place, very primitive, and asked for bread.
“Bread alone?” said the churl.
“If you please.”
“There isn’t any,” he answered.
“Oh—where can we get some then?”
“You can’t get any.”
And we couldn’t. People stood about glum, not friendly.
There was a second great automobile, ready to set off for Tortolì, far to the south, on the east coast. Mandas is the railway junction both for Sorgono and Tortolì. The two buses stood near and communed. We prowled about the dead, almost extinct town—or call it village. Then Mr. Rochester began to pip his horn peremptorily, so we scuffled in.
The post was stowed away. A native in black broad-cloth came running and sweating, carrying an ox-blood suit-case, and said we must wait for his brother-in-law, who was a dozen yards away. Ginger Mr. Rochester sat on his driver’s throne and glared in the direction whence the brother-in-law must come. His brow knitted irritably, his long, sharp nose did not promise much patience. He made the horn roar like a sea-cow. But no brother-in-law.
“I’m going to wait no longer,” said he.
“Oh, a minute, a minute! That won’t do us any harm,” expostulated his mate. No answer from the long faced, long-nosed ginger Hamlet. He sat statuesque, but with black eyes looking daggers down the still void road.
“Eh va bene”, he murmured through closed lips, and leaned forward grimly for the starting handle.
“Patience—patience—patience a moment—why—” cried the mate.
“Per l’amor’ di Dio!” cried the black broad-cloth man, simply sizzling and dancing in anguish on the road, round the suit-case, which stood in the dust. “Don’t go! God’s love, don’t start. He’s got to catch the boat. He’s got to be in Rome tomorrow. He won’t be a second. He’s here, he’s here, he’s here!”
This startled the fate-fixed, sharp-nosed driver. He released the handle and looked round, with dark and glowering eyes. No one in sight. The few glum natives stood round unmoved. Thunder came into the gloomy dark eyes of the Rochester. Absolutely nobody in sight. Click! went his face into a look of almost seraphic peace, as he pulled off the brakes. We were on an incline, and insidiously, oh most subtly the great bus started to lean forwards and steal into motion.
“Oh ma che!—what a will you’ve got!” cried the mate, clambering in to the side of the now seraphic-looking Rochester.
“Love of God—God!” yelled the broad-cloth, seeing the bus melt forwards and gather momentum. He put his hands up as if to arrest it, and yelled in a wild howl: “O Beppin’! Beppin—O!”
But in vain. Already we had left the little groups of onlookers behind. We were rolling downwards out of the piazza. Broad-cloth had seized the bag and was running beside us in agony. Out of the piazza we rolled, Rochester had not put on the engines and we were just simply rolling down the gentle incline by the will of God. Into the dark outlet-street we melted, towards the still invisible sea.Share It