The afternoon had become hot—hot as an English June. And we had various other passengers—for one a dark-eyed, long-nosed priest who showed his teeth when he talked. There was not much room in the coupé, so the goods were stowed upon the little rack.
With the strength of the sun, and the six or seven people in it, the coupé became stifling. The q-b opened her window. But the priest, one of the loudtalking sort, said that a draught was harmful, very harmful, so he put it up again. He was one of the gregarious sort, a loud talker, nervy really, very familiar with[Pg 288] all the passengers. And everything did one harm—fa male, fa male. A draught fa male, fa molto male. Non è vero? this to all the men from Siniscola. And they all said Yes—yes.
The bus-mate clambered into the coupé, to take the tickets of the second-class passengers in the rotondo, through the little wicket. There was great squeezing and shouting and reckoning change. And then we stopped at a halt, and he dashed down with the post and the priest got down for a drink with the other men. The Hamlet driver sat stiff in his seat. He pipped the horn. He pipped again, with decision. Men came clambering in. But it looked as if the offensive priest would be left behind. The bus started venomously, the priest came running, his gown flapping, wiping his lips.
He dropped into his seat with a cackling laugh, showing his long teeth. And he said that it was as well to take a drink, to fortify the stomach. To travel with the stomach uneasy did one harm: fa male, fa male—non è vero? Chorus of “yes.”
The bus-mate resumed his taking the tickets through the little wicket, thrusting his rear amongst us. As he stood like this, down fell his sheepskin-lined military overcoat on the q-b’s head. He was filled with grief. He folded it and placed it on the seat, as a sort of cushion for her, oh so gently! And how he would love to devote himself to a master and mistress.
He sat beside me, facing the q-b, and offered us an acid drop. We took the acid drop. He smiled with zealous yearning at the q-b, and resumed his conversations. Then he offered us cigarettes—insisted on our taking cigarettes.
The priest with the long teeth looked sideways at the q-b, seeing her smoking. Then he fished out a long cigar, bit it, and spat. He was offered a cigarette.—But no, cigarettes were harmful: fanno male. The paper was bad for the health: oh, very bad. A pipe or a cigar. So he lit his long cigar and spat large spits on the floor, continually.
Beside me sat a big, bright-eyed, rather good-looking but foolish man. Hearing me speak to the q-b, he said in confidence to the priest: “Here are two Germans—eh? Look at them. The woman smoking. These are a couple of those that were interned here. Sardinia can do without them now.”Share It