Because I felt very happy in going back to Pompeii after a generation, and being alive to do so in the body, I resolved to behave handsomely by the cabman who drove me from my hotel to the station. I said to myself that I would do something that would surprise him, and I gave him his fee and nearly a franc over; but it was I who was surprised, for he ran after me into the station, as I supposed, to extort more. He was holding out a franc toward me, and I asked the guide who was bothering me to take him to Pompeii (where there are swarms of guides always on the grounds) what the matter was. "It is false," he explained, and this proved true, though whether the franc was the one I had given the driver or whether it was one which he had thoughtfully substituted for it to make good an earlier loss I shall now never know. I put it into my pocket, wondering what I should do with it; the question what you shall do with counterfeit money in Italy is one which is apt to recur as I have hinted, and in despair of solving it at the moment I threw the false franc out of the car-window; it was the false franc I have already boasted of throwing away.
This was, of course, after I got into the car, and after I had suffered another wrong, and was resolved at least to be good myself. I had taken first-class tickets, but, when we had followed several conductors up and down the train, the last of them said there were no first-class places left, though I shall always doubt this. I asked what we should do, and he shrugged. I had heard that if you will stand upon your rights in such a matter the company will have to put on another car for you. But I was now dealing with the Italian government, which has nationalized the railroads, but has apparently not yet repleted the rolling stock; and when the conductor found us places in a second-class carriage, rather than quarrel with a government which had troubles enough already I got aboard. I suppose really that I have not much public spirit, and that the little I have I commonly leave at home; in travelling it is burdensome. Besides, the second-class carriage would have been comfortable enough if it had not been so dirty; it looked as if it had not been washed since it was flooded with liquid ashes at the destruction of Pompeii, though they seemed to be cigar ashes.
The country through which we made the hour's run was sympathetically squalid. We had, to be sure, the sea on one side, and that was clean enough; but the day was gray, and the sea was responsively gray; while the earth on the other side was torn and ragged, with people digging manure into the patches of broccoli, and gardening away as if it had been April instead of January. There were shabby villas, with stone-pines and cypresses herding about the houses, and tatters of life-plant overhanging their shabby walls; there were stucco shanties which the men and women working in the fields would lurk in at nightfall. At places there was some cheerful boat building, and at one place there was a large macaroni manufactory, with far stretches of the product dangling in hanks and skeins from rows of trellises. We passed through towns where women and children swarmed, working at doorways and playing in the dim, cold streets; from the balconies everywhere winter melons hung in nets, dozens and scores of them, such as you can buy at the Italian fruiterers' in New York, and will keep buying when once you know how good they are. In Naples they sell them by the slice in the street, the fruiterer carrying a board on his head with the slices arranged in an upright coronal like the rich, barbaric head-dress of some savage prince.
Our train was slow and our car was foul, but nothing could keep us from arriving at Pompeii in very good spirits. The entrance to the dead city is gardened about with a cemeterial prettiness of evergreens; but, after you have bought your ticket and been assigned your guide, you pass through this decorative zone and find yourself in the first of streets where the past makes no such terms with the present. If some of the houses of an ampler plan had little spaces beyond the atrium planted with such flowers as probably grew there two thousand years ago, and stuck round with tiny figurines, it was to the advantage of the people's fancy; but it did not appeal so much to the imagination as the mould and moss, and the small, weedy network that covered the ground in the roofless chambers and temples and basilicas, where the broken columns and walls started from the floors which this unmeditated verdure painted in the favorite hue of ruin.