26th June 1901: The Kindness of the Cool

Belloc didn’t quite make it to Radicaofani today but note San Quirico d’Orcia between it and Siena

Belloc walked through the night and into the day. The sun rose and it was hot but interestingly he doesn’t blame the heat for soon making him stop.

It was not so much the sun, though that was intemperate and deadly; it was rather the inhuman aspect of the earth which made me despair. It was as though the soil had been left imperfect and rough after some cataclysm…

Hilaire Belloc The Path to Rome (Ignatius Press 2003) pp.401-2

He lay himself down in the shade of some bushes and remained there for the rest of the day, waking and sleeping in turns.

Belloc resumed walking late in the afternoon. He stopped at an inn where the Italians speaking to him tried to make themselves understood by shouting at him.

As the sun set, Belloc arrived in San Quirico. The cooler air made everything ‘kinder’ (The Path to Rome, p.403). He didn’t make any friends here but he did see kindness in action.

… for the first time I saw in procession one of those confraternities which in Italy bury the dead; they had long and dreadful hoods over their heads, with slits for the eyes.

The Path to Rome, pp.403-4

If you would like to see a representation of the people he is talking about, I thoroughly recommend watching A Room With A View – the Merchant Ivory adaptation of E. M. Forster’s great novel.

As I said, Belloc didn’t make any friends in San Quirico, but he did talk to the people there, and they made a positive impact on him.

They were upstanding, and very fine and noble in the lines of the face.

The Path to Rome, p.404

Leaving San Quirico, Belloc walked across a plan that led to Radicofani, which was perched on the side of a ravine. He came to a farmhouse, and desiring companionship, entered it. There, a very kindly farmer immediately took pity on the weary traveller and insisted that he stay the night. He took Belloc to the stable and settled him down among the oxen.

Having slept all day, Belloc was ready to walk all night but so as not to insult the farmer’s kindness, he took the bed of hay being offered to him. After the farmer had left, Belloc listened to the oxen eat and decided that when he arrived in Rome he would buy two ox horns and on his return home have them hollowed out and mounted so that they could be used as cups. He even composed two ditties to be engraved on the side of each. Then, Belloc sneaked out of the barn, and resumed his walk.

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