There it is, however. The bus-driver, with dark shadows under his eyes, represents the intelligent portion of the conversation. The carabiniere is soft and will go any way, though always with some interest. The little Greek-looking conductor just does not care.
Enters another belated traveller, and takes a seat at the end of the table. The be-shawled brings him soup and a skinny bit of kid. He eyes this last with contempt, and fetches out of his bag a large hunk of roast[Pg 205] pork, and bread, and black olives, thus proceeding to make a proper meal.
We being without cigarettes, the bus-driver and his companion press them on us: their beloved Macedonia cigarettes. The driver says they are squisitissimi—most, most exquisite—so exquisite that all foreigners want them. In truth I believe they are exported to Germany now. And they are quite good, when they really have tobacco in them. Usually they are hollow tubes of paper which just flare away under one’s nose and are done.
We decide to have a round drink: they choose the precious aqua vitae: the white sort I think. At last it arrives—when the little dark-eyed one has fetched it. And it tastes rather like sweetened petroleum, with a dash of aniseed: filthy. Most Italian liquors are now sweet and filthy.
At length we rise to go to bed. We shall all meet in the morning. And this room is dead cold, with frost outside. Going out, we glance into the famous stanza. One figure alone lies stretched on the floor in the almost complete darkness. A few embers still glow. The other men no doubt are in the bar.
Ah, the filthy bedroom. The q-b ties up her head in a large, clean white kerchief, to avoid contact with the unsavory pillow. It is a cold, hard, flat bed, with[Pg 206] two cold, hard, flat blankets. But we are very tired. Just as we are going to sleep, however, weird, high-pitched singing starts below, very uncanny—with a refrain that is a yelp-yelp-yelp! almost like a dog in angry pain. Weird, almost gruesome this singing goes on, first one voice and then another and then a tangle of voices. Again we are roused by the pounding of heavy feet on the corridor outside, which is as hollow and resonant as a drum. And then in the infernal crew-yard outside a cock crows. Throughout the night—yea, through all the black and frosty hours this demoniac bird screams its demon griefs.
However, it is morning. I gingerly wash a bit of myself in the broken basin, and dry that bit on a muslin veil which masquerades upon the chair as a towel. The q-b contents herself with a dry wipe. And we go downstairs in hopes of the last-night’s milk.
There is no one to be seen. It is a cold, frost-strong, clear morning. There is no one in the bar. We stumble down the dark tunnel passage. The stanza is as if no man had ever set foot in it: very dark, the mats against the wall, the fire-place grey with a handful of long dead ash. Just like a dungeon. The dining-room has the same long table and eternal table-cloth—and[Pg 207] our serviettes, still wet, lying where we shovelled them aside. So back again to the bar.Share It