Therefore he determined to clear out—to disappear. He had a letter from Lilly, from Novara. Lilly was drifting about. Aaron wrote to Novara, and asked if he should come to Italy, having no money to speak of. “Come if you want to. Bring your flute. And if you’ve no money, put on a good suit of clothes and a big black hat, and play outside the best cafe in any Italian town, and you’ll collect enough to get on with.”
It was a sporting chance. Aaron packed his bag and got a passport, and wrote to Lilly to say he would join him, as invited, at Sir William Franks’. He hoped Lilly’s answer would arrive before he left London. But it didn’t.
Therefore behold our hero alighting at Novara, two hours late, on a wet, dark evening. He hoped Lilly would be there: but nobody. With some slight dismay he faced the big, crowded station. The stream of people carried him automatically through the barrier, a porter having seized his bag, and volleyed various unintelligible questions at him. Aaron understood not one word. So he just wandered after the blue blouse of the porter.
The porter deposited the bag on the steps of the station front, fired off more questions and gesticulated into the half-illuminated space of darkness outside the station. Aaron decided it meant a cab, so he nodded and said “Yes.” But there were no cabs. So once more the blue-bloused porter slung the big bag and the little bag on the strap over his shoulder, and they plunged into the night, towards some lights and a sort of theatre place.
One carriage stood there in the rain—yes, and it was free.
“Keb? Yes—orright—sir. Whe’to? Where you go? Sir William Franks? Yes, I know. Long way go—go long way. Sir William Franks.”
The cabman spattered his few words of English. Aaron gave the porter an English shilling. The porter let the coin lie in the middle of his palm, as if it were a live beetle, and darted to the light of the carriage to examine the beast, exclaiming volubly. The cabman, wild with interest, peered down from the box into the palm of the porter, and carried on an impassioned dialogue. Aaron stood with one foot on the step.
“What you give—he? One franc?” asked the driver.
“A shilling,” said Aaron.
“One sheeling. Yes. I know that. One sheeling English”—and the driver went off into impassioned exclamations in Torinese. The porter, still muttering and holding his hand as if the coin might sting him, filtered away.
“Orright. He know—sheeling—orright. English moneys, eh? Yes, he know. You get up, sir.”
And away went Aaron, under the hood of the carriage, clattering down the wide darkness of Novara, over a bridge apparently, past huge rain-wet statues, and through more rainy, half-lit streets.
They stopped at last outside a sort of park wall with trees above. The big gates were just beyond.