25th June 1901: To Cut a Story By Telling a Story

Belloc neither started in Lucca nor finished In Siena today

Belloc walked through the night. He ‘saw nothing’ and refuses to tell us what he was thinking, even though

… my interior thoughts alone would have afforded matter for this part of the book]; but of these if you have not had enough in near six hundred miles of travel, you are a stouter fellow than I took you for.

Hilaire Belloc The Path to Rome, p.389

As the sun rose, Belloc took his rest ‘under a tree of a kind I had never seen’ (The Path to Rome, p.390). He slept well and, as he thought, long but actually woke after just one hour. It sounds like Belloc had something of a power nap.

It was in a trattoria that Belloc found out the time (his watch had stopped working), and while there he counted his money – three francs and a few centimes. Not much, but money was waiting for him at the post office in Siena. Did he have enough to get there? Yes, if he took the train… And so, he did.

From the way he writes it doesn’t look like Belloc seriously considered walking. According to Google Maps, doing so would have taken between 21-23 hours – but that’s if he had started from Lucca. By the time he reached the trattoria, Belloc had walked all night. We don’t know how many miles he had done, but let’s say it was around 12 and he was now in or near Castelfranco di Sotto. Depending on the route, Siena would have been between 52-59 miles ahead. That would have taken Belloc two long days or three shorter ones to accomplish.

He could have walked that. But only if he had reigned in his spending. It was wise, therefore, of him to take the train, for as we saw between Como and Milan, reigning in his spending was not one of Belloc’s strong points.

In Siena, Belloc collected his money, heard Mass and left. He had spent less than an hour there,

“After all, my business is not with cities, and already I have seen far off the great hill whence one can see far off the hills that overhang Rome.”

The Path to Rome, p.394

Belloc now skips over the next 20 -30 miles of his journey by telling an amusing story about human attitudes to bureaucracy, authority, and the long arm of the law. He justifies not telling us about his journey by saying that it was made in the dark ‘the description of which would have plagued you worse than a swarm of hornets’ (The Path to Rome, p.400)

And that is the end of today’s entry. As you can see from the above quotation, we have reached the 400th page (for the sticklers among you, today’s entry actually ends on p.401). Only 48 to go. Will Belloc find friendship further on? More to the point, will he tell us if he does?

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