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John says it is only a side view of the hills, and that while it may appear steep, we must take into consideration that the road winds back and forth. This seems practical, for we all know that we cannot judge of the length of a woman's mouth if her picture is a profile, except that it is sure to be large since the picture is a profile. I once thought that going over a mountain must be a steeper climb than going over a hill, but now I have learned that the emperors who built roads wished to carry their armies as easily over the high altitudes as over the lesser ones, and since time or expense was not an item for consideration in those days, they twisted the path in and out and around the mountains on a grade seldom over ten per cent.
Like most things in life, a hill is never as bad when we get to it as it is from a distance, a philosophic truism which should be classed along with the "road that has no turning" and the "bridge that is not to be crossed until it is reached" as Axioms for Anxious Axles. But the pictures of the hills in my Pathfinder were enough to quake the stoutest roadster, the long ones being the most fearful, for they are often divided into two or three parts. We will be sailing up the road in our car, having just recognised t.l.c. (uffici telegrafici con orario completo et stazione carabinieri. In God's language, all night telegraph office and lockup) with the summit of the hill ahead, when the profile in my book reaches the margin and plunges us into space. After that there is no enjoyment for me until I see with my own eyes that the other half of the mountain is still there, although once the shock is over I find it in the plan at the foot of the preceding page. We had a rehearsal when we reached Terni, and there I found that it was not right to read the groups of letters backwards too, and having learned this, I could decipher the meaning of the symbols so well that before we reached Spoleto John had invested me with a number of imaginary orders for proficiency, all beautifully jewelled.
Italian towns are like the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead. When they are good, they are very, very good, but when they are bad they are like Terni. Terni was a town
with an attraction-falls, very splendid ones, Baedeker says, four miles from the It was a depressing moment for us. We knew that we should go; the artist said so and the cab drivers, the latter even offering to take us there, and there were seven official guides who would enjoy the ride and point out mulberry-trees on the way.
As usual, the spirit of opposition that has kept us out of all the show places in Europe rose up and possessed us, and when we found a whole wall of the Albergo Europa's courtyard displaying a painting of the turbulent waters, we gave a glad cry of admiration, as though the genuine article rose before us. John pantomimed stepping hurriedly from a carriage, and rushed towards the beautiful scene, then, ever the perfect gentleman, he returned to me, for I was somewhat hampered by a trained gown of rich brocade, and half carried me over the rocky dell towards the booming cataract. We commented to the servants of the Hotel Europa, who had gathered curiously about us, on the moisture of the spray that threw its sparkling dewdrops upon us, and my husband, with loving care, covered the long plumes on my hat with his exquisite handkerchief (through which the gasoline had been strained).
A goodly crowd had now gathered, but this did not surprise us, for the beautiful sight was well worth a visit, and, loath to leave the place, we ordered from the waiters vermouth and selzer to be served directly in front of the largest fall. The servants of the hotel, who by this time, with the Italian appreciation of all mimicry, had apportioned to us only that mild place among lunatics to which we really belong, received our order gravely. Then, after some whispered delay, while John's thirst was rapidly developing, returned empty handed and solemnly went through the pantomime of serving the beverage.
The principal actors in the audience. roared with delight. The sum of thirtyeight cents was circulated among the audience, and the real mixture was produced by the lesser lights of the drama. Truly, it is a poor Italian town which lacks both architecture and artists.
If Terni was a plain, Spoleto was a peak, the zenith of one's ambition and
the acme of delight. It sat on a hill clothed to the throat in vineyards, and built houses leaning out at right angles over the valley. If one were to look from the windows on the under side, he would surely fall on his neighbour below; but to atone for such waywardness, there was a main street comparatively level and flagged with great square blocks. It is necessary to have a street like this in all the Italian towns, that the little iron tables on the sidewalk belonging to the caffés can get a purchase without putting one of their iron feet in the lap of the guest; and when we drive through these thoroughfares towards evening, with the smiling people picking up their tables to make way for us, an escort of little boys hurrahing behind, and a hand organ reeling out a march ahead, we are just as near greatness as we ever shall be.
In Spoleto we had not only a big motor car to live up to. but the Hotel Lucini, and a bedroom of the Hotel Lucini and the chairs of the bedroom of the Hotel Lucini. When John had backed the auto for two blocks up a narrow street into a stable (our democratic Means taking it as gracefully as though King Vittorio Emmanuele himself were dismissing it from his presence) and approached our room, I called to him. "Act as though you were used to it," was my warning, and John, entering, and finding me sitting in an ancient throne chair, threw himself on a quattro cento fauteil, yawned, and nodding to the maid in attendance, remarked that this was indeed reminiscent of his far-away home. While we had been allotted the best chamber, as befitted a motor-car king, the treasures of the house were not all contained in the spare room. The place was a museum of old china, paintings and carvings, left about with a faith in the honesty of man that tempted one to teach the proprietor the lesson learned only by experience.
I was so impressed with the trappings of my hostelry that nothing less aristocratic than the search for coats-of-arms would tempt me out into the narrow ways. There I would go about, craning my neck to get a view of the escutcheons that hung over the doors, so eager that all the Spoletese, to whom arms were most ordinary matters, thought I had made some
interesting discovery, and followed me down the hill with their necks stretched in imitation of mine. If there was anything unusual in the emblem of a Pope, with the quarterings of some historymaker of Umbria glowering down over the door of the shoemaker or the cheesemonger, then the signora came from a mad country that knew nothing of the sweets of republicanism and of the mingling of rich and poor.
They are not far from the right. A Scotchman has recently written a delightful book on America, and called it The Land of Contrasts. I grant him all but the title. It is here where the poor live at the portals of the rich, where the hospitals rise in the midst of squalor, the churches in the midst of sin, where the freedom of the servant towards you is equalled only by his attitude of respect, where animals are tormented and children go unpunished, where the gentlest acts of courtesy in the caffé of the middle class are only less astounding than the filthiness of the table manners. An ancient palace of perfect proportions will stand by the side of a new mansion hideous in its architecture; the treasures of my dear Hotel Lucini are placed in rooms papered in glaring patterns and made more dreadful by cheap wall pockets and the calenders of insurance companies.
On all sides the lovely and the leprous, the grim and the gay, go hand in hand, and since it is Italy, John and I would not have it otherwise; while I am admiring what he calls "a fine wad" of armorial bearings, he is talking to the family of the concierge, who are standing around a table in a gorgeous court, fishing out frizzled octopi with their fingers, munching their dry bread and drinking the wine which is one of our luxuries.
One needs the sunny attitude of these people to remind the stranger how agreeably they have survived the tyranny of early centuries. There is nothing left but the carven stone emblems to prove them once a people ground to the dust in the effort to support the great warring families, and while guide-book erudition has long been alien to us, a knowledge of the histories of Etruria, Umbria, the Marche and much of the province of Emilia is well worth knowing. Only a student can
appreciate the erratic landscape of Umbrian painters, until one has seen himself the tender slopes, the abrupt hills, the castles on the peaks and the snake-like roads. And this is not to be enjoyed from car windows.
The famous majolica of the various cities is not understood until we are familiar with the warring factions depicted, and can recognise the arms of the families who encouraged the art; the Trinci of Foligno, the Montefeltro of Urbino, the Sforza of Pesaro, the Malatesta of Rimini, the Bentivoglio of Bologna; they are everywhere, and above them, hideous, all conquering, the crossed keys and the mitre of the church.
I hope all this doesn't sound stilted. I spent a good deal of time over it, because I think of reading several chapters of my tour to the Minerva Club when I am All Alone. I want to show them that with Freedom comes wisdom, so that's why I get a little high flown in my language now and then. Just thinking of the Minerva Club seems to develop my style along oratorical lines. When I think of John I get quite common again, all of this proving that I must be about my diary or I shall soon become as ordinary as he is.
Whenever he and I are absolutely overcome by the gloom of past Italian history, we go into the level flagged street, which is always named after King Humbert or Garibaldi or one of the very new heroes. Nothing can be newer than these heroes except the street itself, but always Italian in character, never Kokomo, Indiana, or Jackson, Michigan. In Spoleto John found one thing he considered newer even than this street-found it in the caffeand that was a really pretty woman, Italian, and, to adopt our East Side Polish dialect, a "stylisher." Women in Italy are rarely lacking in good looks; they average much better than we do, but when they are beautiful, and "stylishers" besides, they are rooted in carriages, and never get out until within their courtyards, when the gorgeous bewanded porter shuts the gates, so that for all we know it may be quite true that the "Queen of Spain has no legs."
It did John a great deal of good to see a very pretty woman in a shirt-waist suit
standing on two very nice French-heeled feet. It was "Art for Art's Sake" with him, he said, and while I knew it was nothing of the sort, I thought if he could be distracted from that giraffe, Mrs. Baring, I wasn't the narrow kind of a wife to prevent his admiring her. I did, too, and so did every one else in the caffé, and when she said "complimenti" to the patrons, and went out with an elderly griffin, John and I rose as one man and followed her. She led us over hill and dale, and finally disappeared through a chink in the wall, or seemingly so, and, as John remarked mysteriously, proving she was a fairy just as he had thought from the first-not a flesh and blood "stylisher" after all. Still, I endeavoured to keep up his enthusiasm in the effort to dispel old illusions. "Quite the best looking woman I have seen in Italy, John." This over coffee in the little garden.
"Yes," replied John absently; "always excepting you-and Mrs. Baring."
At this reference to the huge shadow that was darkening my life, I didn't start or break my coffee cup or do anything dramatic, but I made a resolve, a deep one and a good one, of course; no resolves can be bad, the word is onomatopoeic. This one was to flee from that Nemesis on our track if I had to keep the throttle open with my life's blood. It's generally done with the foot, so my agitation may be understood.
When I registered that vow last night in Spoleto I little knew what avail would be my heart's blood upon the throttle, if John's foot was there, too, or what a relentless foot it was, and how deaf to my entreaties. And as I sit in my room at Foligno, with the rain splashing against the window pane, I wonder if surely this is not the worst that can happen to me. Perhaps some day this will be only a mild little thing that was needed to form my character. I thought one formed characters at clubs-never in a hotel bedroom in Foligno. But I keep learning and learning.
It was such a pleasant day in Spoleto. Musica in the morning under our windows, an accordeon, a guitar and a woman who watched for the money. I
kept throwing them down pennies at the end of each piece, just as they would be going round the corner. Then they would laugh and come back and play again. The children don't dance on the pavements here as they do in New York, and when I danced round my big room all the neighbourhood stood outside of the windows and kept time with their heads, the little ones crying, "ancora, ancora, signorina," the signorina to flatter me as though I were a young girl.
So I danced all the old-fashioned dances, the bon ton and the racquet, and gave them a taste of the two-step besides, which they loved. Even John stopped figuring up his gasoline expense list and whistled with them, and it occurred to me with just half a chance I could make him forget all about the pretty Italian and Mrs. Baring and even the motor car; and while it meant a very delicate manipulation of the plans for my future good, and might possibly conflict a little with gathering the evidence for my divorce, still it would be very nice to have more power, even if I didn't have as much muscle as large, tall women.
John, of course, was not to know of this fight for his soul, for that is what the struggle will mean-no petty jealousy, although a great wave of pain comes over me now and then, a sick feeling around my heart, and later an awful desire to break all the furniture in the room-just break it to be breaking. I never felt anything like it before, and I think it must be Strength of Purpose.
I don't know why one small lie can make so much trouble when I am sure I've told worse ones, and nothing has happened at all, especially since this was for John's soul. He was sleeping when it happened, before dinner in Spoleto; I was in the garden, and I heard that whirring sound of Mrs. Baring's Dago. It's always noisier than ours, but to-day it was much noisier, and the engine laboured as it came up to the hotel. Miss Grey was looking nervous, but I didn't feel sorry for anybody but myself and for John, who would soon be in the toils again.
Here she was choo-chooing into my Eden, and we weren't to meet until Foligno, as she perfectly understood. She
simply couldn't keep away from John, and it made me so furious that I slipped down and whispered to the porter to tell her we had left. I heard her exclaim in disappointment, and then go on towards Foligno. Foligno. I didn't hear what she had said, because I was hiding behind a sixth century sarcophagus. I don't know why, only I remembered as I did so that I always hid when I was a little girl and told a fib. I thought I was getting away from God.
I met the porter an hour afterwards, and he said the grande signora had found that her cylinder oil had been stolen from her tool chest at Narni, and that she had hoped to borrow some from us. However, she had decided to go on to Foligno and run the chance of overheated bearings. I was terribly frightened, and gave the man two francs to keep him quiet. Then I tried to induce John to get away early, but he wanted the run after dinner with his searchlight going, and was perfectly obdurate. He's very fond of his searchlight, and would use it as a bedroom candle if he could, so there was nothing for it but wait, and I wasn't altogether happy. It seemed so strange that one had to be underhand when struggling for a soul.
The ride through the dusk would have been delightful but for a storm that. canopy or no canopy, could not wait until we got to Foligno, since, as it rumbled out, it had given us fair warning. John didn't seem to mind. He pretends to like rain, but I was wet, and miserable in my heart, and while he wasn't very solicitous. for me, he kept hoping all the time that Mrs. Baring was safely sheltered.
"She's a woman, after all, you know, if she does run her own car. She'll be wet to the skin. It's too bad. She ought to have a man to look after her. She-Why, what's the matter, Peggy?" For I had jerked the searchlight from the side of the road to the path ahead and held it there with a steady hand. Again he asked the question, but I did not answer him, and he drove on in our narrow streak of light, little knowing that back on the highway, half concealed in a nook of the road, lay Mrs. Baring's disabled motor car, with Mrs. Baring working over it.
There is no use attempting to recount
all of the thoughts that pass through a woman's mind when she is angry, afraid and conscience-stricken, but after two hours at the hotel, with John foaming around for Mrs. Baring's safety, I took hold of the back of a chair, with my eyes glued on the floor, and began a sort of prepared speech. I didn't know I had been preparing it until I started. Then it all sounded familiar, as though I had repeated it many times before.
"If you want to know where Mrs. Baring is," I said, "you will find her back on the road near the Temple of Clitumnus with that female companion of hers, working on the car. Her cylinder oil had been stolen at Narni, and they stopped on the way through Spoleto to ask if you had gone. I sent word you had."
If John had believed me I never would have forgiven him, although it was hard to go over it all again. When the truth came to him, every bit of it, my lying as well as Mrs. Baring with the breakdown, he didn't wait for leggings or oilskins, but grabbed his cap and started for the door. I stepped in front of it.
"Say something, John!" I cried. didn't touch me just looked.
"There isn't a creature so mean and small who travels the road who will not help a fellow in distress. There isn't a woman of the class you draw away from who would hit one of her kind when down." And John thrust open the door. "John, I'm sorry-I'm sorry, John," but the door had slammed
I suppose all husbands and wives are the same. Of a sudden one of them finds that the other is a poor, miserable thing, and the poor, miserable thing, who had known about herself all along, but was trying to keep it a secret, thinks that now the end has come, and there will be no more peace and happiness in her life. She stays awake all night over it, thinking how strange their attitude will be towards each other when they sit opposite at breakfast, and she comes into the room trembling terribly, and there the other person, the strong, good one, is stirring his coffee, and he says, "Well,
what shall we do to-day?" Then the poor, miserable one, ready for heroics, says instead, "Anything at all, John," or whatever his name is, of course, and stirs her coffee too.
From that time they go on to all intents and purposes the same as ever, but in his heart he must loathe her, and the poor, miserable one knows that she must behave herself and be very loving to him in order to blot out from his mind the ugly memory of the night before. And she must keep it up forever and foreveror for days, anyway.
So I determined to do so, although I felt a little sorry for myself when I realised that I must go through life misunderstood, for nobody can save a man's soul and tell him about it, too. There's nothing at all romantic about that. Besides, he would laugh. If Mrs. Baring ever heard of it I should die of shame. I'd rather have her think I told that lie just to spite her. But I'd rather above all things that she would never know anything about it, and I don't think she will. When the two cars came into the town about midnight, John having oiled her engine on the road, he came to my door and asked if I were asleep.
"John, of course not," I quavered. "I
"Don't say anything more," he broke in. "I don't pretend to understand womenkind. The fact remains that you did it. I just want to tell you that Mrs. Baring thinks the servant in Spoleto misunderstood her, and that I heard the truth about her breakdown from a clout whom she had dispatched to Foligno for assistance, but who has probably strayed to some wayside tavern. She said she had tried to attract our attention when we passed, but we were gone too quickly. I thank the Lord I was able to get you out of it so easily." Then he went into his room.
So I continued meek all the morning, and poked about with the Douglas Warwick, who had arrived on an early train and was sketching like mad. Foligno has a beautiful square and some handsome palaces, and, as always, enough Italiani about to make the world gay. I like to go into the churches through these towns; not being great show places, there are no