Top and bottom of it is, I regretted my girovago, though I knew it was no good thinking of him. His way was not my way. Yet I regretted him, I did.
We found ourselves in a dining room with a long white table and inverted soup-plates, tomb-cold, lighted by an acetylene flare. Three men had accompanied us: the carabiniere, a little dark youth with a small black moustache, in a soldier’s short, wool-lined great-coat: and a young man who looked tired round his blue eyes, and who wore a dark-blue overcoat, quite smart. The be-shawled damsel came in with the inevitable bowl of minestrone, soup with cabbage and cauliflower and other things. We helped ourselves, and the fat carabiniere started the conversation with the usual questions—and where were we going tomorrow?
I asked about buses. Then the responsible-looking,[Pg 198] tired-eyed youth told me he was the bus-driver. He had come from Oristano, on the main line, that day. It is a distance of some forty miles. Next morning he was going on over the mountains to Nuoro—about the same distance again. The youth with the little black moustache and the Greek, large eyes, was his mate, the conductor. This was their run, from Oristano to Nuoro—a course of ninety miles or more. And every day on, on, on. No wonder he looked nerve-tired. Yet he had that kind of dignity, the wistful seriousness and pride of a man in machine control: the only god-like ones today, those who pull the iron levers and are the gods in the machine.
They repeated what the old roaster said: much nicer for us to go to Nuoro than to Abbasanta. So to Nuoro we decided to go, leaving at half-past nine in the morning.
Every other night the driver and his mate spent in this benighted Risveglio inn. It must have been their bedroom we saw, clean and tidy. I said was the food always so late, was everything always as bad as today. Always—if not worse, they said, making light of it, with sarcastic humor against the Risveglio. You spent your whole life at the Risveglio sitting, waiting, and going block-cold: unless you were content to drink[Pg 199] aqua vitae, like those in there. The driver jerked his head towards the dungeon.
“Who were those in there?” said I.
The one who did all the talking was a mercante, a mercante girovago, a wandering peddler. This was my girovago: a wandering peddler selling saints and youngsters! The other was his mate, who helped carry the pack. They went about together. Oh, my girovago was a known figure all over the country.—And where would they sleep? There, in the room where the fire was dying.
They would unroll the mats and lie with their feet to the hearth. For this they paid threepence, or at most fourpence. And they had the privilege of cooking their own food. The Risveglio supplied them with nothing but the fire, the roof, and the rush mat.—And, of course, the drink. Oh, we need have no sympathy with the girovago and his sort. They lacked for nothing. They had everything they wanted: everything: and money in abundance. They lived for the aqua vitae they drank. That was all they wanted: their continual allowance of aqua vitae. And they got it. Ah, they were not cold. If the room became cold during the night: if they had no coverings at all: pah, they waited for morning, and as soon as it was light they drank a large glass of aqua vitae. That was their[Pg 200] fire, their hearth and their home: drink. Aqua vitae, was hearth and home to them.Share It