He laughed fatly and comfortably.
“Ah Signora,” he said. “We have a language that you wouldn’t understand—not one word. Nobody here would understand it but me and him—” he pointed to the black-browed one. “Everybody would want an interpreter—everybody.”
But he did not say interpreter—he said intreprete,[Pg 192] with the accent on the penultimate, as if it were some sort of priest.
“A what?” said I.
He repeated with tipsy unction, and I saw what he meant.
“Why?” said I. “Is it a dialect? What is your dialect?”
“My dialect,” he said, “is Sassari. I come from Sassari. If I spoke my dialect they would understand something. But if I speak this language they would want an interpreter.”
“What language is it then?”
He leaned up to me, laughing.
“It is the language we use when the women are buying things and we don’t want them to know what we say: me and him—”
“Oh,” said I. “I know. We have that language in England. It is called thieves Latin—Latino dei furbi.”
The men at the back suddenly laughed, glad to turn the joke against the forward girovago. He looked down his nose at me. But seeing I was laughing without malice, he leaned to me and said softly, secretly:
“What is your affair then? What affair is it, yours?”
“How? What?” I exclaimed, not understanding.[Pg 193]
“Che genere di affari? What sort of business?”
“How—affari?” said I, still not grasping.
“What do you sell?” he said, flatly and rather spitefully. “What goods?”
“I don’t sell anything,” replied I, laughing to think he took us for some sort of strolling quacks or commercial travellers.
“Cloth—or something,” he said cajolingly, slyly, as if to worm my secret out of me.
“But nothing at all. Nothing at all,” said I. “We have come to Sardinia to see the peasant costumes—” I thought that might sound satisfactory.
“Ah, the costumes!” he said, evidently thinking I was a deep one. And he turned bandying words with his dark-browed mate, who was still poking the meat at the embers and crouching on the hearth. The room was almost quite dark. The mate answered him back, and tried to seem witty too. But the girovago was the commanding personality! rather too much so: too impudent for the q-b, though rather after my own secret heart. The mate was one of those handsome, passive, stupid men.
“Him!” said the girovago, turning suddenly to me and pointing at the mate. “He’s my wife.”
“Your wife!” said I.[Pg 194]
“Yes. He’s my wife, because we’re always together.”
There had become a sudden dead silence in the background. In spite of it the mate looked up under his black lashes and said, with a half smile:
“Don’t talk, or I shall give thee a good bacio to-night.”
There was an instant’s fatal pause, then the girovago continued:
“Tomorrow is festa of Sant ‘Antonio at Tonara. Tomorrow we are going to Tonara. Where are you going?”
“To Abbasanta,” said I.
“Ah Abbasanta! You should come to Tonara. At Tonara there is a brisk trade—and there are costumes. You should come to Tonara. Come with him and me to Tonara tomorrow, and we will do business together.”Share It