The end of May! And all over again I felt the excitement that comes with a journey, for I was started for Genoa on the twenty-fifth with Miss Meek to see that I got aboard the White Star ship safely, and Sam to see that Miss Meek and I weren’t bored.
“And how could you help it, with your friends up the Fiesole way? Mr. Wake told me that you were going to visit them out there within a year or so. Told me so when he arranged for me to take you to Genoa and put you on the boat, don’t you know.”
“Well, that’s awfully nice,” I said, and Sam said he thought so too.
Then - the flying landscape. White oxen dragging creaking carts. Little clusters of houses in pastel tones. White roads that circled terraced hills and groves of olive trees.
“Of course,” I said, “I want to see my people,” and I did want to, so much that my eyes filled as I thought of it.
“Of course,” said Miss Meek.
“But it is hard to leave friends, isn’t it?” I added.
And Miss Meek nodded. Sam put his hand over mine then, and then Miss Meek seemed to drowse.
The journey was very short. I cannot remember a shorter-seeming one, though it does take over five hours. Baedecker says “The view of the Mediterranean beyond Pisa is sadly marred by the frequent tunnels.” There are over ninety of them; Sam helped me count them. Before I knew it we had had our lunch and had settled back again, and then we were in the city that is proud of Columbus, whose statue stands in one of the public squares on the hillsides, and is surrounded with tall, spikey, sharp palm trees.
Out in the bay my ship was moored, and I was to go on it that night so that Miss Meek and Sam might go back to Florence. I didn’t want to. I had to think of Mother very hard to keep from crying. It is really complicated to love several countries and many friends, for it makes so much tugging and not a little hurt.
I said that just before I said goodbye.
Then Sam, who had been coughing quite a little, and always before he spoke, asked me if I had my tickets, and I said, for the fortieth time anyway, that I had, and Miss Meek said, “Look at the birds circling around the ship. Jolly, what?”
“They follow it,” I said.
“A lot will follow that ship,” said Sam.
And then Miss Meek kissed me, and Sam said, “Look here, dear, if you can kiss Mr. Hemmingway, I guess you might take a chance on me?”
And I said I guessed so, and I kissed him. And Miss Meek wiped her eyes, and kept saying, “No end jolly, a sea trip, don’t you know?”
And I said, “Yes,” and I kept my hand in Sam’s, and Sam didn’t say anything. But he did look quite a lot of things.
And then somehow, I was on board, and alone, and at last in my stateroom which I was to share with an American woman from Florence who was going home to visit her mother.
It was honestly a relief to have the goodbyes over. And after I took off my hat and coat, and had hung up the things from my suitcase in a half of the small cupboard, I got out the book that the choir had given me before I left. It is a very nice book made of puffy leather, and it has “My Trip Abroad” written across it in gold letters, and of course I had written in it, because that was what was expected.
I opened it and read:
“The Madonna of the Chair is in the Pitti Gallery, and it is by Raphael. The Gallery is very big. It took Sam and me four hours to go through it.”
“Sam and I walked today, up near Fiesole, and we saw the Villa Medici where the Princess Mary and Viscount Lascelles visited Lady Sybil Scott, at the end of their honeymoon. It is a lovely place. It seems to be so nice that they could be there.”
Then, over the page, I found a note about the Riccardi Palace.
“There is a picture in the chapel of the Riccardi Palace,” I had written, “that was painted by candlelight by a man named Gozzoli, who has been dead for several years. It is a fine picture and has lots of gold in it and the portraits of the Medicis who lived in the palace. Sam and I went down near the Arno and bought buns after seeing it, which was very inspiring.”
On the next page I had an item about the twins, who were better, and a note about the tombs of the Medicis and a new tie I had helped Sam to buy. I was very glad I kept that record. I knew that it would be helpful. After I had looked at it until I saw all Florence through it, and Florence was beginning to blur and wiggle because of something that crept from my heart up into my eyes, I went up on deck and looked off toward Genoa which lay, in a tangle of many gentle colors, against the hill. And I took a long, long look at this bit of Italy, the Italy I loved so very much.
I knew that somewhere that day, my Miss Sheila - I still called her that - and Mr. Wake were touring along through pretty country; together, after the long years apart.
And I knew that Leslie, and Viola, and Miss Bannister and Miss Meek, and Mr. Hemmingway were happy.
And I knew that Sam was miserable. And it sounds strange to say, but that helped me as much as anything.
Then I looked at the birds that were flying in wide arcs around the ship, the birds that followed it. And I knew that Sam was right in saying that other things would go along with me. And I needed them, although I needed, more than anything just then, my mother. And I needed her because of Sam Deane, which I can’t explain.
I fumbled in my pocket, and I found her letter, and a little piece of paper that had been torn from the edge of a newspaper, on which Sam had written.
“Dear, dear Jane Jones,” and then, all in a hurried tangle, “I love you!” (Sam had written this while Miss Meek dozed and an Italian officer who was smoking outside in the corridor looked in at us.)
For a fraction of a second I felt more miserable than I ever had before, and then a warm breeze sprung up and it seemed to fan a warm, let-down, easy feeling into me. And after that I looked down in the water, and in it I saw the front door of our house, and the porch which slants toward the steps, and my own mother in the doorway, smiling and trying not to cry and Roberta back of her. And the twins jumping up and down by the gate, and shrilly screaming, “Mother, she’s here! She’s here, Mother!”
And then I felt myself get out of Daddy’s flivver and hurry up the walk. And I saw everyone hugging and kissing me, and everyone crying. I saw this, before it ever happened, just as it really was to be!
But I didn’t see the table as it was, which I knew would have on it all the things I liked best to eat, for I didn’t forecast the hothouse roses; I never dreamed that Roberta would blow her allowance on these when she could have picked them right out in the garden! But it was all wonderful! Nor did I see the banner that the twins had made that had WELCUM painted on it with shoe blackening - they had each ruined a dress through this - nor did I dream that Elaine McDonald would send me an angel cake!
But everything was nicer than I could imagine it would be!
I wondered, as I thought of my people and getting home, whether any other girl was as lucky as I, and I decided that none could be. And realizing how happy I was made me feel a little sad; humble, and uncomfortably grateful, so I forgot it as soon as I could and tried to feel natural.
And Sam’s smile - which I was to see a whole lot and which seemed to belong with the things I loved - and my people, helped me to do this.
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