“Yes,” he said. “We—going.”
“Oh,” cried she. “Do you speak English?”
“Ye-es. Some English—I speak.”
As a matter of fact he spoke about forty disconnected[Pg 333] words. But his accent was so good for these forty. He did not speak English, he imitated an English voice making sounds. And the effect was startling. He had served on the Italian front with the Scots Guards—so he told us in Italian. He was Milanese. Oh, he had had a time with the Scots Guards. Wheesky—eh? Wheesky.
“Come along bhoys!” he shouted.
And it was such a Scotch voice shouting, so loud-mouthed and actual, I nearly went under the table. It struck us both like a blow.
Afterwards he rattled away without misgiving. He was a traveller for a certain type of machine, and was doing Sicily. Shortly he was going to England—and he asked largely about first-class hotels. Then he asked was the q-b French?—Was she Italian?—No, she was German. Ah—German. And immediately out he came with the German word: “Deutsch! Deutsch, eh? From Deutschland. Oh yes! Deutschland über alles! Ah, I know. No more—what? Deutschland unter alles now? Deutschland unter alles.” And he bounced on his seat with gratification of the words. Of German as of English he knew half a dozen phrases.
“No,” said the q-b, “Not Deutschland unter alles. Not for long, anyhow.”[Pg 334]
“How? Not for long? You think so? I think so too,” said the bounder. Then in Italian: “La Germania won’t stand under all for long. No, no. At present it is England über alles. England über alles. But Germany will rise up again.”
“Of course,” said the q-b. “How shouldn’t she?”
“Ah,” said the bounder, “while England keeps the money in her pocket, we shall none of us rise up. Italy won the war, and Germany lost it. And Italy and Germany they both are down, and England is up. They both are down, and England is up. England and France. Strange, isn’t it? Ah, the allies. What are the allies for? To keep England up, and France half way, and Germany and Italy down.”
“Ah, they won’t stay down for ever,” said the q-b.
“You think not? Ah! We will see. We will see how England goes on now.”
“England is not going on so marvellously, after all,” say I.
“How not? You mean Ireland?”
“No, not only Ireland. Industry altogether. England is as near to ruin as other countries.”
“Ma! With all the money, and we others with no money? How will she be ruined?”
“And what good would it be to you if she were?”
“Oh well—who knows. If England were ruined—”[Pg 335] a slow smile of anticipation spread over his face. How he would love it—how they would all love it, if England were ruined. That is, the business part of them, perhaps, would not love it. But the human part would. The human part fairly licks its lips at the thought of England’s ruin. The commercial part, however, quite violently disclaims the anticipations of the human part. And there it is. The newspapers chiefly speak with the commercial voice. But individually, when you are got at in a railway carriage or as now on a ship, up speaks the human voice, and you know how they love you. This is no doubt inevitable. When the exchange stands at a hundred and six men go humanly blind, I suppose, however much they may keep the commercial eye open. And having gone humanly blind they bump into one’s human self nastily: a nasty jar. You know then how they hate you. Underneath, they hate us, and as human beings we are objects of envy and malice. They hate us, with envy, and despise us, with jealousy. Which perhaps doesn’t hurt commercially. Humanly it is to me unpleasant.Share It