The be-shawled appeared with a dish of kid. Needless to say, the ignoranti had kept all the best portions for themselves. What arrived was five pieces of cold roast, one for each of us. Mine was a sort of large comb of ribs with a thin web of meat: perhaps an ounce. That was all we got, after watching the whole process. There was moreover a dish of strong boiled cauliflower, which one ate, with the coarse bread, out of sheer hunger. After this a bilious orange. Simply one is not fed nowadays. In the good hotels and in the bad, one is given paltry portions of unnourishing food, and one goes unfed.
The bus-driver, the only one with an earnest soul, was talking of the Sardinians. Ah, the Sardinians! They were hopeless. Why—because they did not know how to strike. They, too, were ignoranti. But[Pg 203] this form of ignorance he found more annoying. They simply did not know what a strike was. If you offered them one day ten francs a stint—he was speaking now of the miners of the Iglesias region.—No, no, no, they would not take it, they wanted twelve francs. Go to them the next day and offer them four francs for half a stint, and yes, yes, yes, they would take it. And there they were: ignorant: ignorant Sardinians. They absolutely did not know how to strike. He was quite sarcastically hot about it. The whole tone of these three young men was the tone of sceptical irony common to the young people of our day the world over. Only they had—or at least the driver had—some little fervour for his strikes and his socialism. But it was a pathetic fervour: a pis-aller fervour.
We talked about the land. The war has practically gutted Sardinia of her cattle: so they said. And now the land is being deserted, the arable land is going back to fallow. Why? Why, says the driver, because the owners of the land won’t spend any capital. They have got the capital locked up, and the land is dead. They find it cheaper to let all the arable go back to fallow, and raise a few head of cattle, rather than to pay high wages, grow corn, and get small returns.
Yes, and also, chimes in the carabiniere, the peasants[Pg 204] don’t want to work the land. They hate the land. They’ll do anything to get off the land. They want regular wages, short hours, and devil take the rest. So they will go into France as navvies, by the hundred. They flock to Rome, they besiege the Labor bureaus, they will do the artificial Government navvy-work at a miserable five francs a day—a railway shunter having at least eighteen francs a day—anything, anything rather than work the land.
Yes, and what does the Government do! replies the bus-driver. They pull the roads to pieces in order to find work for the unemployed, remaking them, across the campagna. But in Sardinia, where roads and bridges are absolutely wanting, will they do anything? No!Share It