I was surprised at the contempt, tolerant and yet profound, with which these three men in the dining-room spoke of the others in the stanza. How contemptuous, almost bitter, the driver was against alcohol. It was evident he hated it. And though we all had our bottles of dead-cold dark wine, and though we all drank: still, the feeling of the three youths against actual intoxication was deep and hostile, with a certain burning moral dislike that is more northern than Italian. And they curled their lip with real dislike of the girovago: his forwardness, his impudent aggressiveness.
As for the inn, yes, it was very bad. It had been quite good under the previous proprietors. But now—they shrugged their shoulders. The dirty-breast and the shawled girl were not the owners. They were merely conductors of the hotel: here a sarcastic curl of the lip. The owner was a man in the village—a young man. A week or two back, at Christmas time, there had been a roomful of men sitting drinking and roistering at this very table. When in had come the proprietor, mad-drunk, swinging a litre bottle round his head and yelling: “Out! Out! Out, all of you! Out every one of you! I am proprietor here. And[Pg 201] when I want to clear my house I clear my house. Every man obeys—who doesn’t obey has his brains knocked out with this bottle. Out, out, I say—Out, everyone!” And the men all cleared out. “But,” said the bus-driver, “I told him that when I had paid for my bed I was going to sleep in it. I was not going to be turned out by him or anybody. And so he came down.”
There was a little silence from everybody after this story. Evidently there was more to it, that we were not to be told. Especially the carabiniere was silent. He was a fat, not very brave fellow, though quite nice.
Ah, but—said the little dark bus-conductor, with his small-featured swarthy Greek face—you must not be angry with them. True the inn was very bad. Very bad—but you must pity them, for they are only ignorant. Poor things, they are ignoranti! Why be angry?
The other two men nodded their heads in agreement and repeated ignoranti. They are ignoranti. It is true. Why be angry?
And here the modern Italian spirit came out: the endless pity for the ignorant. It is only slackness. The pity makes the ignorant more ignorant, and makes the Risveglio daily more impossible. If somebody let[Pg 202] a bottle buzz round the ears of the dirty-breast, and whipped the shawl from the head of the pert young madam and sent her flying down the tunnel with a flea in her ear, we might get some attention and they might find a little self-respect. But no: pity them, poor ignoranti, while they pull life down and devour it like vermin. Pity them! What they need is not pity but prods: they and all their myriad of likes.Share It