I laughed, but did not answer.
“Come,” said he. “You will like Tonara! Ah, Tonara is a fine place. There is an inn: you can eat well, sleep well. I tell you, because to you ten francs don’t matter. Isn’t that so? Ten francs don’t matter to you. Well, then come to Tonara. What? What do you say?”
I shook my head and laughed, but did not answer.[Pg 195]
To tell the truth I should have liked to go to Tonara with him and his mate and do the brisk trade: if only I knew what trade it would be.
“You are sleeping upstairs?” he said to me.
“This is my bed,” he said, taking one of the home-made rush mats from against the wall. I did not take him seriously at any point.
“Do they make those in Sorgono?” I said.
“Yes, in Sorgono—they are the beds, you see! And you roll up this end a bit—so! and that is the pillow.”
He laid his cheek sideways.
“Not really,” said I.
He came and sat down again next to me, and my attention wandered. The q-b was raging for her dinner. It must be quite half-past eight. The kid, the perfect kid would be cold and ruined. Both fire and candle were burning low. Someone had been out for a new candle, but there was evidently no means of replenishing the fire. The mate still crouched on the hearth, the dull red fire-glow on his handsome face, patiently trying to roast the kid and poking it against the embers. He had heavy, strong limbs in his khaki clothes, but his hand that held the spit was brown and tender and sensitive, a real Mediterranean hand. The girovago, blond, round-faced, mature and aggressive[Pg 196] with all his liveliness, was more like a northerner. In the background were four or five other men, of whom I had distinguished none but a stout soldier, probably chief carabiniere.
Just as the q-b was working up to the rage I had at last calmed down from, appeared the shawl-swathed girl announcing “Pronto!”
“Pronto! Pronto!” said everybody.
“High time, too,” said the q-b, springing from the low bench before the fire. “Where do we eat? Is there another room?”
“There is another room, Signora,” said the carabiniere.
So we trooped out of the fire-warmed dungeon, leaving the girovago and his mate and two other men, muleteers from the road, behind us. I could see that it irked my girovago to be left behind. He was by far the strongest personality in the place, and he had the keenest intelligence. So he hated having to fall into the background, when he had been dragging all the lime-light on to himself all the evening. To me, too, he was something of a kindred soul that night. But there we are: fate, in the guise of that mysterious division between a respectable life and a scamp’s life divided us. There was a gulf between me and him,[Pg 197] between my way and his. He was a kindred spirit—but with a hopeless difference. There was something a bit sordid about him—and he knew it. That is why he was always tipsy. Yet I like the lone wolf souls best—better than the sheep. If only they didn’t feel mongrel inside themselves. Presumably a scamp is bound to be mongrel. It is a pity the untamable, lone-wolf souls should always become pariahs, almost of choice: mere scamps.Share It