“Something to read—I shall have to FLY—See you at lunch,” and he had turned and elegantly hastened, but not too fast, back to his carriage. The porter was holding the door for him. So Francis looked pleasantly hurried, but by no means rushed. Oh, dear, no. He took his time. It was not for him to bolt and scramble like a mere Italian.
The people in Aaron’s carriage had watched the apparition of the elegant youth intently. For them, he was a being from another sphere —no doubt a young milordo with power wealth, and glamorous life behind him. Which was just what Francis intended to convey. So handsome—so very, very impressive in all his elegant calm showiness. He made such a bella figura. It was just what the Italians loved. Those in the first class regions thought he might even be an Italian, he was so attractive.
The train in motion, the many Italian eyes in the carriage studied Aaron. He, too, was good-looking. But by no means as fascinating as the young milordo. Not half as sympathetic. No good at all at playing a role. Probably a servant of the young signori.
Aaron stared out of the window, and played the one single British role left to him, that of ignoring his neighbours, isolating himself in their midst, and minding his own business. Upon this insular trick our greatness and our predominance depends—such as it is. Yes, they might look at him. They might think him a servant or what they liked. But he was inaccessible to them. He isolated himself upon himself, and there remained.
It was a lovely day, a lovely, lovely day of early autumn. Over the great plain of Lombardy a magnificent blue sky glowed like mid-summer, the sun shone strong. The great plain, with its great stripes of cultivation—without hedges or boundaries—–how beautiful it was! Sometimes he saw oxen ploughing. Sometimes. Oh, so beautiful, teams of eight, or ten, even of twelve pale, great soft oxen in procession, ploughing the dark velvety earth, a driver with a great whip at their head, a man far behind holding the plough-shafts. Beautiful the soft, soft plunging motion of oxen moving forwards. Beautiful the strange, snaky lifting of the muzzles, the swaying of the sharp horns. And the soft, soft crawling motion of a team of oxen, so invisible, almost, yet so inevitable. Now and again straight canals of water flashed blue. Now and again the great lines of grey-silvery poplars rose and made avenues or lovely grey airy quadrangles across the plain. Their top boughs were spangled with gold and green leaf. Sometimes the vine-leaves were gold and red, a patterning. And the great square farm-homesteads, white, red-roofed, with their out-buildings, stood naked amid the lands, without screen or softening. There was something big and exposed about it all. No more the cosy English ambushed life, no longer the cosy littleness of the landscape. A bigness—and nothing