“If I can,” said I. “But it is not easy.”
He nodded his head at me with the most complete bright confidence, quite sure now that he had settled his case perfectly.
On the paper he had written his name and his address, and if anyone would like him as chauffeur they have only to say so. On the back of the scrap of paper the inevitable goodwill: Auguri infiniti e buon Viaggio. Infinite good wishes and a good journey.
I folded the paper and put it in my waistcoat pocket, feeling a trifle disconcerted by my new responsibility. He was such a dear fellow and such bright trustful eyes.
This much achieved, there was a moment of silence. And the bus-mate turned to take a ticket of a fat, comfortable man who had got in at the last stop. There was a bit of flying conversation.
“Where are they from?” asked the good-looking stupid man next to me, inclining his head in our direction.
“Londra,” said our friend, with stern satisfaction: and they have said so often to one another that London is the greatest city in the world, that now the very word Londra conveys it all. You should have seen the blank little-boy look come over the face of the big handsome fellow on hearing that we were citizens of the greatest city in the world.
“And they understand Italian?” he asked, rather nipped.
“Sicuro!” said our friend scornfully. “How shouldn’t they?”
“Ah!” My large neighbour left his mouth open for a few moments. And then another sort of smile came on to his face. He began to peep at us sideways from his brown eyes, brightly, and was henceforth itching to get into conversation with the citizens of the world’s mistress-city. His look of semi-impudence was quite gone, replaced by a look of ingratiating admiration.
Now I ask you, is this to be borne? Here I sit, and he talks half-impudently and patronisingly about me. And here I sit, and he is glegging at me as if he saw signs of an aureole under my grey hat. All in ten minutes. And just because, instead of la Germania I turn out to be l’Inghilterra. I might as well be a place on a map, or a piece of goods with a trade-mark. So little perception of the actual me! so much going by labels! I now could have kicked him harder. I would have liked to say I was ten times German, to see the fool change his smirk again.
The priest now chimed up, that he had been to America. He had been to America and hence he dreaded not the crossing from Terranuova di Sardegna to Cività Vecchia. For he had crossed the great Atlantic.
Apparently, however, the natives had all heard this song of the raven before, so he spat largely on the floor. Whereupon the new fat neighbour asked him was it true that the Catholic Church was now becoming the one Church in the United States? And the priest said there was no doubt about it.Share It