Perhaps it was not fair to watch him so closely from behind.
His mate was a bit of a bounder, with one of those rakish military caps whose soft tops cock sideways or backwards. He was in Italian khaki, riding-breeches and puttees. He smoked his cigarette bounderishly: but at the same time, with peculiar gentleness, he handed one to the ginger Hamlet. Hamlet accepted it, and his mate held him a light as the bus swung on. They were like man and wife. The mate was the alert and wide-eyed Jane Eyre whom the ginger Mr. Rochester was not going to spoil in a hurry.
The landscape was different from yesterday’s. As we dropped down the shallow, winding road from Nuoro, quite quickly the moors seemed to spread on either side, treeless, bushy, rocky, desert. How hot they must be in summer! One knows from Grazia Deledda’s books.
A pony with a low trap was prancing unhappily in the road-side. We slowed down and slid harmlessly past. Then again, on we whizzed down the looped road, which turned back on itself as sharply as a snake that has been wounded. Hamlet darted the bus at the curves; then softly padded round like an angel: then off again for the next parabola.
We came out into wide, rather desolate, moorland valley spaces, with low rocks away to the left, and steep slopes, rocky-bushy, on the right. Sometimes groups of black-and-white men were working in the forlorn distances. A woman in the madder costume led a panniered ass along the wastes. The sun shone magnificently, already it was hotter here. The landscape had quite changed. These slopes looked east and south to the sea, they were sun-wild and sea-wild.
The first stop was where a wild, rough lane came down the hill to our road. At the corner stood a lonely house—and in the road-side the most battered, life-weary old carriage I have ever seen. The jaunty mate sorted out the post—the boy with the tattered-battered brown carriage and brown pony signed the book as we all stood in the roadway. There was a little wait for a man who was fetching up another parcel. The post-bag and parcels from the tattered carriage were received and stowed and signed for. We walked up and down in the sun to get warm. The landscape was wild and open round about.
Pip! goes Mr. Rochester, peremptorily, at the horn. Amazing how obediently we scuffle in. Away goes the bus, rushing towards the sea. Already one felt that peculiar glare in the half-way heavens, that intensification of the light in the lower sky, which is caused by the sea to sunward.
Away in front three girls in brown costume are walking along the side of the white high-road, going with panniers towards a village up a slight incline. They hear us, turn round, and instantly go off their heads, exactly like chickens in the road. They fly towards us, crossing the road, and swifter than any rabbits they scuttle, one after another, into a deep side-track, like a deep ditch at right angles to the road. There, as we roll past, they are all crouched, peering out at us fearfully, like creatures from their hole. The bus mate salutes them with a shout, and we roll on towards the village on the low summit.Share It