Oh this government corn! What a problem those sacks represent!
The country became wider as we dropped lower. But it was bleak and treeless once more. Stones cropped up in the wide, hollow dales. Men on ponies passed forlorn across the distances. Men with bundles waited at the cross-roads to pick up the bus. We were drawing near to Nuoro. It was past three in the afternoon, cold with a blenched light. The landscape seemed bare and stony, wide, different from any before.
We came to the valley where the branch-line runs to Nuoro. I saw little pink railway-cabins at once, lonely along the valley bed. Turning sharp to the right, we ran in silence over the moor-land-seeming slopes, and saw the town beyond, clustered beyond, a little below, at the end of the long declivity, with sudden mountains rising around it. There it lay, as if at the end of the world, mountains rising sombre behind.[Pg 242]
So, we stop at the Dazio, the town’s customs hut, and velveteens has to pay for some meat and cheese he is bringing in. After which we slip into the cold high-street of Nuoro. I am thinking that this is the home of Grazia Deledda, the novelist, and I see a barber’s shop. De Ledda. And thank heaven we are at the end of the journey. It is past four o’clock.
The bus has stopped quite close to the door of the inn: Star of Italy, was it? In we go at the open door. Nobody about, free access to anywhere and everywhere, as usual: testifying again to Sardinian honesty. We peer through a doorway to the left—through a rough little room: ah, there in a dark, biggish room beyond is a white-haired old woman with a long, ivory-coloured face standing at a large table ironing. One sees only the large whiteness of the table, and the long pallid face and the querulous pale-blue eye of the tall old woman as she looks up questioning from the gloom of the inner place.
“Is there a room, Signora?”
She looks at me with a pale, cold blue eye, and shouts into the dark for somebody. Then she advances into the passage and looks us up and down, the q-b and me.
“Are you husband and wife?” she demands, challenge.
“Yes, how shouldn’t we be,” say I.
A tiny maid, of about thirteen, but sturdy and brisk-looking, has appeared in answer to the shout.
“Take them to number seven,” says the old dame, and she turns back to her gloom, and seizes the flat iron grimly.
We follow up two flights of cold stone stairs, disheartening narrow staircase with a cold iron rail, and corridors opening off gloomily and rather disorderly. These houses give the effect, inside, of never having been properly finished, as if, long, long ago, the inmates had crowded in, pig-sty fashion, without waiting for anything to be brought into order, and there it had been left, dreary and chaotic.
Thumbelina, the little maid, threw open the door of number seven with eclat. And we both exclaimed: “How fine!” It seemed to us palatial. Two good, thick white beds, a table, a chest of drawers, two mats on the tiled floor, and gorgeous oleographs on the wall—and two good wash-bowls side by side—and all perfectly clean and nice. What were we coming to! We felt we ought to be impressed.Share It