The knapsack and the kitchenino were dropped on the repulsive floor, which I hated to touch with my boots even. I turned back the sheets and looked at other people’s stains.
“There is nothing else?”
“Niente,” said he of the lank, low forehead and beastly shirt-breast. And he sullenly departed. I gave the flutterer his tip and he too ducked and fled. Then the queen-bee and I took a few mere sniffs.
“Dirty, disgusting swine!” said I, and I was in a rage.
I could have forgiven him anything, I think, except his horrible shirt-breast, his personal shamelessness.
We strolled round—saw various other bedrooms,[Pg 172] some worse, one really better. But this showed signs of being occupied. All the doors were open: the place was quite deserted, and open to the road. The one thing that seemed definite was honesty. It must be a very honest place, for every footed beast, man or animal, could walk in at random and nobody to take the slightest regard.
So we went downstairs. The only other apartment was the open public bar, which seemed like part of the road. A muleteer, leaving his mules at the corner of the Risveglio, was drinking at the counter.
This famous inn was at the end of the village. We strolled along the road between the houses, down-hill. A dreary hole! a cold, hopeless, lifeless, Saturday afternoon-weary village, rather sordid, with nothing to say for itself. No real shops at all. A weary-looking church, and a clutch of disconsolate houses. We walked right through the village. In the middle was a sort of open space where stood a great, grey motor-omnibus. And a bus-driver looking rather weary.
Where did the bus go?
It went to join the main railway.
At half-past seven in the morning.[Pg 173]
“Thank God we can get out, anyhow,” said I.
We passed on, and emerged beyond the village, still on the descending great high-road that was mended with loose stones pitched on it. This wasn’t good enough. Besides, we were out of the sun, and the place being at a considerable elevation, it was very cold. So we turned back, to climb quickly uphill into the sun.
We went up a little side-turning past a bunch of poor houses towards a steep little lane between banks. And before we knew where we were, we were in the thick of the public lavatory. In these villages, as I knew, there are no sanitary arrangements of any sort whatever. Every villager and villageress just betook himself at need to one of the side-roads. It is the immemorial Italian custom. Why bother about privacy? The most socially-constituted people on earth, they even like to relieve themselves in company.
We found ourselves in the full thick of one of these meeting-places. To get out at any price! So we scrambled up the steep earthen banks to a stubble field above. And by this time I was in a greater rage.
Evening was falling, the sun declining. Below us[Pg 174] clustered the Sodom-apple of this vile village. Around were fair, tree-clad hills and dales, already bluish with the frost-shadows. The air bit cold and strong. In a very little time the sun would be down. We were at an elevation of about 2,500 feet above the sea.Share It