It is Saturday afternoon and four o’clock. The country is wild and uninhabited, the train almost empty, yet there is the leaving-off-work feeling in the atmosphere. Oh twisty, wooded, steep slopes, oh glimpses of Gennargentu, oh nigger-stripped cork-trees, oh smell of peasants, oh wooden, wearisome railway carriage, we are so sick of you! Nearly seven hours of this journey already: and a distance of sixty miles.[Pg 169]
But we are almost there—look, look, Sorgono, nestling beautifully among the wooded slopes in front. Oh magic little town. Ah, you terminus and ganglion of the inland roads, we hope in you for a pleasant inn and happy company. Perhaps we will stay a day or two at Sorgono.
The train gives a last sigh, and draws to a last standstill in the tiny terminus station. An old fellow fluttering with rags as a hen in the wind flutters, asked me if I wanted the Albergo, the inn. I said yes, and let him take my knapsack. Pretty Sorgono! As we went down the brief muddy lane between hedges, to the village high-road, we seemed almost to have come to some little town in the English west-country, or in Hardy’s country. There were glades of stripling oaks, and big slopes with oak trees, and on the right a saw-mill buzzing, and on the left the town, white and close, nestling round a baroque church-tower. And the little lane was muddy.
Three minutes brought us to the high-road, and a great, pink-washed building blank on the road facing the station lane, and labelled in huge letters: RISTORANTE RISVEGLIO: the letter N being printed backwards. Risveglio if you please: which means waking up or rousing, like the word reveille. Into the doorway of the Risveglio bolted the flutterer. “Half a[Pg 170] minute,” said I. “Where is the Albergo d’Italia?” I was relying on Baedeker.
“Non c’è più,” replied my rag-feather. “There isn’t it any more.” This answer, being very frequent nowadays, is always most disconcerting.
“Well then, what other hotel?”
“There is no other.”
Risveglio or nothing. In we go. We pass into a big, dreary bar, where are innumerable bottles behind a tin counter. Flutter-jack yells: and at length appears mine host, a youngish fellow of the Esquimo type, but rather bigger, in a dreary black suit and a cutaway waistcoat suggesting a dinner-waistcoat, and innumerable wine-stains on his shirt front. I instantly hated him for the filthy appearance he made. He wore a battered hat and his face was long unwashed.
Was there a bedroom?
And he led the way down the passage, just as dirty as the road outside, up the hollow, wooden stairs also just as clean as the passage, along a hollow, drum-rearing dirty corridor, and into a bedroom. Well, it contained a large bed, thin and flat with a grey-white counterpane, like a large, poor, marble-slabbed tomb in the room’s sordid emptiness; one dilapidated chair on which stood the miserablest weed of a candle I have[Pg 171] ever seen: a broken wash-saucer in a wire ring: and for the rest, an expanse of wooden floor as dirty-grey-black as it could be, and an expanse of wall charted with the bloody deaths of mosquitoes. The window was about two feet above the level of a sort of stable-yard outside, with a fowl-house just by the sash. There, at the window flew lousy feathers and dirty straw, the ground was thick with chicken-droppings. An ass and two oxen comfortably chewed hay in an open shed just across, and plump in the middle of the yard lay a bristly black pig taking the last of the sun. Smells of course were varied.Share It