The train has only first and third class. It costs about thirty francs for the two of us, third class to Mandas, which is some sixty miles. In we crowd with the joyful saddle-bags, into the wooden carriage with its many seats.
And, wonder of wonders, punctually to the second, off we go, out of Cagliari. En route again.
The coach was fairly full of people, returning from market. On these railways the third class coaches are not divided into compartments. They are left open, so that one sees everybody, as down a room. The attractive saddle-bags, bercole, were disposed anywhere, and the bulk of the people settled down to a lively conversazione. It is much nicest, on the whole, to travel third class on the railway. There is space, there is air, and it is like being in a lively inn, everybody in good spirits.
At our end was plenty of room. Just across the gangway was an elderly couple, like two children, coming home very happily. He was fat, fat all over, with a white moustache and a little not-unamiable frown. She was a tall lean, brown woman, in a brown full-skirted dress and black apron, with huge pocket. She wore no head covering, and her iron grey hair was parted smoothly. They were rather pleased and excited being in the train. She took all her money[Pg 128] out of her big pocket, and counted it and gave it to him: all the ten Lira notes, and the five Lira and the two and the one, peering at the dirty scraps of pink-backed one-lira notes to see if they were good. Then she gave him her half-pennies. And he stowed them away in the trouser pocket, standing up to push them down his fat leg. And then one saw, to one’s amazement, that the whole of his shirt-tail was left out behind, like a sort of apron worn backwards. Why—a mystery. He was one of those fat, good-natured, unheeding men with a little masterful frown, such as usually have tall, lean, hard-faced, obedient wives.
They were very happy. With amazement he watched us taking hot tea from the Thermos flask. I think he too had suspected it might be a bomb. He had blue eyes and standing-up white eyebrows.
“Beautiful hot—!” he said, seeing the tea steam. It is the inevitable exclamation. “Does it do you good?”
“Yes,” said the q-b. “Much good.” And they both nodded complacently. They were going home.
The train was running over the malarial-looking sea-plain—past the down-at-heel palm trees, past the mosque-looking buildings. At a level crossing the woman crossing-keeper darted out vigorously with her[Pg 129] red flag. And we rambled into the first village. It was built of sun-dried brick-adobe houses, thick adobe garden-walls, with tile ridges to keep off the rain. In the enclosures were dark orange trees. But the clay-coloured villages, clay-dry, looked foreign: the next thing to mere earth they seem, like fox-holes or coyote colonies.
Looking back, one sees Cagliari bluff on her rock, rather fine, with the thin edge of the sea’s blade curving round. It is rather hard to believe in the real sea, on this sort of clay-pale plain.Share It