Issue 43, Summer 1968
“It’s hard to believe it wasn’t built to look that way,” Alice said, turning her back on the Forum. “Listen, Marshall, I want you to write to them about that furnace. I refuse to spend another winter like the last one.”
“You don’t seem to realize that what our tenants are complaining about is too much heat,” Marshall said, wiping his brow as though in sympathy.
Around the corner of some crumbling brickwork Mrs Bridge water appeared.’ ’Have you seen Fabia and Guglielmo ?’’ she asked. But her words were lost in the roar of traffic. Alice, however, had divined her question.
“They went that-a-way,” she said, pointing towards a hill which was crowned with trees.
Marshall glanced briefly about him, then began scattering check marks broadcast through the pages of a guidebook.
“He seems a nice enough young man, don’t you think, Alice?” Mrs Bridgewater asked.
“Oh, sure,” Alice said. “Say, how about this afternoon for a nice cool catacomb?”
“He has a sister who’s married to an American and lives in New Jersey,” Mrs Bridgewater continued. “Elizabeth, I think he said. The town.”
Marshall closed his guidebook with a snap. “According to The Rome Daily American, the heat is even worse there. Where do you suppose she’s dragged Irving off to now?”
“She has an insatiable appetite for granite. She claims there’s a Southern recipe that’s almost the same,” Mrs Bridgewater said.
“Did you see the card Alice got from Victor?” Marshall asked.
Alice fished in her pocketbook and retrieved it. “After waiting in line for half an hour at American Express I was rewarded by this,” she said.
Mrs Bridgewater took the card. The picture on the front showed a trailer camp in a pine woods. The message on the back read, “Saluti! Victor,” and, “Bons baisers à toutes et à tous—Paul.”
“How thoughtful,” Mrs Bridgewater said.
“Shall we go and rescue Fabia from the Tarpeian Rock?” Alice asked Marshall. “Or are you stanco?
“Look,” Marshall said. In the midst of the onrushing traffic careened an open carriage in which sat Irving and his mother. Mrs Kelso looked as though she had just pulled the name “Boadicea” out of a hat and was determined to see the thing through.
In a moment Irving was alighting at their feet with unusual alacrity. “Hi, folks,” he said. “This gentleman”—he indicated the driver—“has promised to give us a Cook’s Tour of the city for twenty dollars, tip included. We get to see the site of the 1942 World’s Fair and Ostia Antica, a ruined city—like Pompeii.”
“Ostia Antica, no,” the driver said, “il Foro Italico, si.”
Irving scanned the exhaust-fumed horizon. “I don’t see any sign of Fabia and that friendly native.”
“We can’t all fit in that,” Mrs Bridgewater said. “Besides, half would have to ride backwards.”
“I don’t think you’d find that Cesare—that’s the horse’s name—moves fast enough for you to become car-sick,” Mrs Kelso said. “He’s quite sluggish, as a matter of fact.”
“He’s not the only one,” Alice said.
“Would anyone like some grapes?” Mrs Kelso said. “Dr Bridgewater, I trust, is enjoying the Congress?”
“He seems to be having a high old time,” Mrs Bridgewater said. “He has made some new acquaintances and renewed others.” She lowered her voice. “I gather he finds the University of Padua of great antiquity in more than one sense. Of course he can’t speak too openly on the phone.”
Irving nodded. “Mother and I are keeping our fingers crossed until we get out of here,” he said. “Actually we both had a touch of slight indigestion after we got back to the hotel last night. Just the usual tourist stuff.”
Alice yawned and turned toward the view. In the sultry light, it was looking remarkably like a sepia reproduction of itself “I think I see Fabia,” she said, “and her cicisbeo.” Marshall looked at her reproachfully.
Two figures waved briefly at them from a nearby rise, and then began rather carefully to descend it.
“According to this,” Marshall held out his guidebook, “we are practically on top of the Golden House.”
Alice evinced no interest. “Perhaps it was whisked away in the night,” she said.
The driver of the carriage began simultaneously to mutter and to mop his brow. “I fear he’s growing impatient,” Irving said. “Though I did make a rather generous down payment. What is the Foro Italico, do you suppose?”
“It just rates a couple of lines of fine type in here,” Marshall said.
“All I know,” Alice said, “is that Abel Greeley puts it right up there with the Victor Emmanuel Monument and the Milan railway station.”
“Everything else closed,” the driver said. ”Chiuso, closed.”
“They vanished,” Mrs Bridgewater was saying, as a too commodious Simca drew up to the curb.
“Hop in, everybody,” Fabia said. “Memmo is taking us to the Protestant Cemetery.”