He is an amusing and vivacious boy, yet underneath a bit sad and wistful, with all his responsibility. The following day he darted to show us a book of views of Venice, left behind by the Chinese, as he persists in calling them, and asks if I want it. I don’t. Then he shows us two Japanese postage stamps, and the address of one of the Japanese gentlemen, written on a bit of paper. The Japanese gentleman and Albertino are to exchange picture postcards. I insist that the Japanese are not Chinese. ‘Er!’ says Albertino. ‘But the Japanese are also Chinese!’ I insist that they are not, that they live in a different country. He darts off, and returns with a school atlas. ‘Er! China is in Asia! Asia! Asia!’–he turns the leaves. He is really an intelligent boy, and ought to be going to school instead of running an hotel at the tender age of fourteen.
The guide to the tombs, having had to keep watch at the museum all night, wants to get a sleep after dawn, so we are not to start till ten. The town is already empty, the people gone out to the fields. A few men stand about with nothing doing. The city gates are wide open. At night they are closed, so that the Dazio man can sleep: and you can neither get in nor out of the town. We drink still another coffee–Albertino’s morning dose was a very poor show.
Then we see the guide, talking to a pale young fellow in old corduroy velveteen knee-breeches and an old hat and thick boots: most obviously German. We go over, make proper salutes, nod to the German boy, who looks as if he’d had vinegar for breakfast–and set off. This morning we are going out a couple miles, to the farthest end of the necropolis. We have still a dozen tombs to look at. In all, there are either twenty-five or twenty-seven painted tombs one can visit.
This morning there is a stiff breeze from the south-west. But it is blowing fresh and clear, not behaving in the ugly way the libeccio can behave. We march briskly along the highway, the old dog trundling behind. He loves spending a morning among the tombs. The sea gives off a certain clearness, that makes the atmosphere doubly brilliant and exhilarating, as if we were on a mountain-top. The omnibus rolls by, from Viterbo. In the fields the peasants are working, and the guide occasionally greets the women, who give him a sally back again. The young German tramps firmly on: but his spirit is not as firm as his tread. One doesn’t know what to say to him, he vouchsafes nothing, seems as if he didn’t want to be spoken to, and yet is probably offended that we don’t talk to him. The guide chatters to him in unfailing cheerfulness, in Italian: but after a while drops back with evident relief to the milder company of B., leaving me to the young German, who has certainly swallowed vinegar some time or other.Share It