We are late. It is a quarter to twelve. And I have to go out and change money, and I hope to find my two friends.—The q-b and I dash down the platform—no friends at the barrier. The station moderately empty. We bolt across to the departure platforms. The Naples train stands ready. In we pitch our bags, ask a naval man not to let anyone steal them, then I fly out into town while the q-b buys food and wine at the buffet.
It no longer rains, and Rome feels as ever—rather holiday-like and not inclined to care about anything. I get a hundred and three lira for each pound note: pocket my money at two minutes past twelve, and bolt[Pg 316] back, out of the Piazza delle Terme. Aha, there are the two missing ones, just descending vaguely from a carriage, the one gazing inquiringly through his monocle across the tram-lines, the other very tall and alert and elegant, looking as if he expected us to appear out of the air for his convenience.
Which is exactly what happens. We fly into each other’s arms. “Oh there you are! Where’s the q-b? Why are you here? We’ve been to the arrival platform—no sign of you. Of course I only got your wire half an hour ago. We flew here. Well, how nice to see you. — Oh, let the man wait.— What, going on at once to Naples? But must you? Oh, but how flighty you are! Birds of passage veramente! Then let us find the q-b, quick!—And they won’t let us on the platform. No, they’re not issuing platform tickets today.—Oh, merely the guests returning from that Savoy-Bavarian wedding in the north, a few royal Duchesses about. Oh well, we must try and wangle him.”
At the barrier a woman trying in vain to be let on to the station. But what a Roman matron can’t do, an elegant young Englishman can. So our two heroes wangle their way in, and fall into the arms of the q-b by the Naples train. Well, now, tell us all about it! So we rush into a four-branched candlestick of conversation. In my ear murmurs he of the monocle about the Sahara—he is back from the Sahara a week ago: the winter sun in the Sahara! He with the smears of paint on his elegant trousers is giving the q-b a sketchy outline of his now grande passion. Click goes the exchange, and him of the monocle is detailing to the q-b his trip to Japan, on which he will start in six weeks’ time, while him of the paint-smears is expatiating on the thrills of the etching needle, and concocting a plan for a month in Sardinia in May, with me doing the scribbles and he the pictures. What sort of pictures? Out flies the name of Goya.—And well now, a general rush into oneness, and won’t they come down to Sicily to us for the almond blossom: in about ten days’ time. Yes they will—wire when the almond blossom is just stepping on the stage and making its grand bow, and they will come next day. Somebody has smitten the wheel of a coach two ringing smacks with a hammer. This is a sign to get in. The q-b is terrified the train will slip through her fingers. “I’m frightened, I must get in.”—”Very well then! You’re sure you have everything you want? Everything? A fiasco of vino? Oh two! All the better! Well then—ten days’ time. All right—quite sure—how nice to have seen you, if only a glimpse.—Yes,[Pg 318] yes, poor q-b! Yes, you’re quite safe. Good-bye! Good-bye!”Share It