Outside the villages there were fields with vines. The fields were brown and the vines coarse and thick. The houses were white, and in the streets the men, in their Sunday clothes, were playing bowls. Against the walls of some of the houses there were pear trees, their branches candelabraed against the white walls. The pear trees had been sprayed, and the walls of the houses were stained a metallic blue-green by the spray vapor. There were small clearings around the villages where the vines grew, and then the woods.
In a village, twenty kilometers above Spezia, there was a crowd in the square, and a young man carrying a suitcase came up to the car and asked us to take him in to Spezia.
“There are only two places, and they are occupied,” I said. We had an old Ford coupé.
“I will ride on the outside.”
“You will be uncomfortable.”
“That makes nothing, I must go to Spezia.”
“Should we take him?” I asked Guy.
“He seems to be going anyway,” Guy said. The young man handed in a parcel through the window.
“Look after this,” he said. Two men tied his suitcase on the back of the car, above our suitcases. He shook hands with every one, explained that to a Fascist and a man as used to traveling as himself there was no discomfort, and climbed up on the running-board on the left-hand side of the car, holding on inside, his right arm through the open window.
“You can start,” he said. The crowd waved. He waved with his free hand.
“What did he say?” Guy asked me.
“That we could start.”
“Isn’t he nice?” Guy said.
The road followed a river. Across the river were mountains. The sun was taking the frost out of the grass. It was bright and cold and the air came through the open windshield.
“How do you think he likes it out there?” Guy was looking up the road. His view out of his side of the car was blocked by our guest. The young man projected from the side of the car like the figurehead of a ship. He had turned his coat collar up and pulled his hat down and his nose looked cold in the wind.
“Maybe he’ll get enough of it,” Guy said. “That’s the side our bum tire’s on.”
“Oh, he’d leave us if we blew out,” I said. “He wouldn’t get his traveling clothes dirty.”
“Well, I don’t mind him,” Guy said—“except the way he leans out on the turns.”
The woods were gone; the road had left the river to climb; the radiator was boiling; the young man looked annoyedly and suspiciously at the steam and rusty water; the engine was grinding, with both Guy’s feet on the first-speed pedal, up and up, back and forth, and up, and, finally, out level. The grinding stopped, and in the new quiet there was a great churning bubbling in the radiator. We were at the top of the last range above Spezia and the sea. The road descended with short, barely rounded turns. Our guest hung out on the turns and nearly pulled the top-heavy car over.
“You can’t tell him not to,” I said to Guy. “It’s his sense of self-preservation.”
“The great Italian sense.”
“The greatest Italian sense.”
We came down around curves, through deep dust, the dust powdering the olive trees. Spezia spread below along the sea. The road flattened outside the town. Our guest put his head in the window.
“I want to stop.”
“Stop it,” I said to Guy.
We slowed up, at the side of the road. The young man got down, went to the back of the car and untied the suitcase.
“I stop here, so you won’t get into trouble carrying passengers,” he said. “My package.”
I handed him the package. He reached in his pocket.
“How much do I owe you?”
“I don’t know,” I said.
“Then thanks,” the young man said, not ‘thank you,’ or ‘thank you very much’, or ‘thank you a thousand times’, all of which you formerly said in Italy to a man when he handed you a time-table or explained about a direction. The young man uttered the lowest form of the word ‘thanks’ and looked after us suspiciously as Guy started the car. I waved my hand at him. He was too dignified to reply. We went on into Spezia.