They are perfectly naïve about it. That’s what I like. He went on to say that he was a soldier: he had served eight years in the Italian cavalry. Yes, he was a cavalryman, and had been all through the war. But he had not therefore any quarrel with Germany. No—war was war, and it was over. So let it be over.
But France—ma la Francia! Here he sat forward on his seat, with his face near ours, and his pleading-dog’s eyes suddenly took a look of quite irrational blazing rage. France! There wasn’t a man in Italy who wasn’t dying to get at the throat of France. France! Let there be war, and every Italian would leap to arms, even the old. Even the old—anche i vecchi. Yes, there must be war—with France. It was coming: it was bound to come. Every Italian was waiting for it. Waiting to fly at the French throat. For why? Why? He had served two years on the French front, and he knew why. Ah, the French! For arrogance, for insolence, Dio!—they were not to be borne. The French—they thought themselves lords of the world—signori del mondo! Lords of the world, and masters of the world. Yes. They thought themselves no less—and what are they? Monkeys! Monkeys! Not better than monkeys. But let there be war, and Italy would show them. Italy would give them signori del mondo! Italy was pining for war—all, all, pining for war. With no one, with no one but France. Ah, with no one—Italy loved everybody else—but France! France!
We let him shout it all out, till he was at the end of it. The passion and energy of him was amazing. He was like one possessed. I could only wonder. And wonder again. For it is curious what fearful passions these pleading, wistful souls fall into when they feel they have been insulted. It was evident he felt he had been insulted, and he went just beside himself. But dear chap, he shouldn’t speak so loudly for all Italy—even the old. The bulk of Italian men are only too anxious to beat their bayonets into cigarette-holders, and smoke the cigarette of eternal and everlasting peace, to coincide at all with our friend. Yet there he was—raging at me in the bus as we dashed along the coast.
And then, after a space of silence, he became sad again, wistful, and looked at us once more with those pleading brown eyes, beseeching, beseeching—he knew not what: and I’m sure I didn’t know. Perhaps what he really wants is to be back on a horse in a cavalry regiment: even at war.
But no, it comes out, what he thinks he wants.
When are we going to London? And are there many motor-cars in England?—many, many? In America too? Do they want men in America? I say no, they have unemployment out there: they are going to stop immigration in April: or at least cut it down. Why? he asks sharply. Because they have their own unemployment problem. And the q-b quotes how many millions of Europeans want to emigrate to the United States. His eye becomes gloomy. Are all nations of Europe going to be forbidden? he asks. Yes—and already the Italian Government will give no more passports for America—to emigrants. No passports? then you can’t go? You can’t go, say I.Share It