Idyll – Pre-Intermediate Level
The train had just left on its journey from Genoa to Marseille. In the last carriage, a young woman and man were sitting opposite each other. They were strangers. When one wasn’t watching, the other would quickly look at them, hoping not to be seen.
She was about twenty-five and sitting on the door side of the carriage, looking out through the window. She was a large, round-faced working class woman from Piedmont with black hair and a big chest. Having pushed several packages under the wooden seat, she was now holding a basket on her knees.
The young man was about twenty, very thin and with the dark skin of someone who works outside under a hot sun. Beside him in a bag were all the clothes that he owned – a pair of shoes, a shirt, a pair of trousers and a jacket. Under his seat he had put some tools, tied together with rope. He was hoping to find work in France.
As the sun came up it poured a rain of fire over the land. It was late May and pleasant smells filled the air and came in through the lowered carriage windows. Orange and lemon trees in flower breathed into the peaceful sky. They could also smell the wild flowers which grew beside the train tracks.
The train was moving slowly as if it wanted to stay and enjoy this beautiful garden. It kept stopping at small stations where a few white houses stood. Then, after giving a long whistle, it continued on its way. No one ever got on. It was as if the whole world was sleeping late and slow to move on that hot spring morning.
From time to time the woman’s eyes would close then quickly fly open again as she just managed to save the basket from falling off her knees. She would examine the things inside for a while and then fall asleep again. Drops of sweat appeared on her face and she was breathing with difficulty, as if she was ill. The young man was sleeping the deep, sound sleep of a country boy.
Suddenly, as they were leaving a small station, the woman woke up. Opening her basket she took from it a large piece of bread, some boiled eggs, a bottle of wine and some fruit. She began to eat. The young man, who had also woken up, watched her. His eyes followed each piece of food as it went from her knees to her lips. He sat, watching carefully, with his arms crossed and his own mouth closed.
The woman seemed to greatly enjoy the food, greedily drinking wine to help the boiled eggs down. She finished everything – the bread, the eggs, the fruit and all the wine. As soon as it was gone the young man closed his eyes again. The woman opened the top buttons of her dress to be more comfortable. He suddenly looked up at her again. As if it was a quite natural thing to do, she went on unbuttoning her dress. The pressure of her large breasts pushed out on the cloth. As the opening got bigger, her white under-clothes and a little of her skin could be seen. Feeling much better now the woman said in Italian: “The heat makes it hard to breathe.”
“Good weather for travelling,” the young man answered in the same language.
“You from Piedmont?” she asked.
“I’m from Casale.”
The two saw that they were from neighbouring villages and began to talk. As is often the case among people not much used to talking with strangers, they began with unimportant things. When talking about their villages, they found that there were some people that both knew. As the list of people they had each recently met grew, the two became friends. Short, quick words fell from their lips. They moved on to personal matters.
She was married with three children who were now in the care of her sister. She herself had found a good job as wet-nurse to a rich woman living in Marseille. The man was looking for employment. He had been told he was sure to find some in Marseille since there was a lot of building work on offer.
After a time the two people stopped talking. The heat in the carriage was becoming unbearable. The smell of the orange and lemon trees as well as of the wild flowers became stronger and heavier. They fell asleep once more.
They both opened their eyes again at the same time. The sun was sinking towards the sea, causing its blue waters to shine brightly. The air had become a touch cooler. Even with her dress open, the wet-nurse was breathing heavily. She looked very unwell, and said in a weak voice: “I haven’t given the breast since yesterday. I feel like I am about to faint.”
Not knowing what to say, he did not answer.
“When a woman produces as much milk as I do, she has to give the breast three times a day. If not it starts to hurt. It’s like something heavy pushing down on me. Stops me breathing. Does me in. That much milk’s a real problem.”
“I’m sure it must be hard for you,” he said.
She did look in a very bad way, as if she might faint at any minute.
“I’ve only got to touch it for the milk to come pouring out. It’s unbelievable. All the neighbours at Casale used to come and watch.”
“Oh really?” he said.
“Yes really. I’d show you now only it wouldn’t be any help to me. Not enough comes out that way.”
She said no more until the train stopped. Standing outside was a poor, thin woman dressed in old clothes. She was carrying a crying baby in her arms. The wet-nurse looked at her sadly.
“Now there’s a woman I could help. I’m not rich, else I wouldn’t be leaving my home and family to find work away. But I’d happily give a day’s pay to have that baby for ten minutes and give it the breast. I’d be a new woman.”
As the train continued, her face became covered with sweat. She had to wipe it with her hot hand several times. “I can’t stand it any more!” she cried. “I’ll die in a minute.”
Without being at all shy about it, she opened her dress completely to show her huge, full right breast with its brown nipple. The poor woman was crying out: “Oh my God! I don’t know what to do! What can I do?”
The train had set off again and was continuing its journey. The smell of flowers now deepened in the warmth of the evening. From time to time a fishing boat would appear, sleeping on the still waters of the blue sea.
Embarrassed, the young man said shyly: “Perhaps I could… perhaps I could help you?”
In a broken voice she answered: “Oh yes, if you will. That’d be a great help. I can’t… I really can’t stand it any more!”
He went down on his knees in front of her. She moved towards him and pushed the dark nipple towards his mouth. The movement she made to offer her breast to the man caused a drop of milk to appear. He touched it with his tongue. Then, as if on a fruit, he closed his lips greedily on the heavy breast. He put both arms around the woman so as to bring her closer to him. Then he sucked slowly and deeply, making movements with his neck like a baby each time his mouth was full.
Suddenly she said: “There, that’s enough on that side. Take the other one now.”
He did as she asked and moved to the other breast. She put her two hands on the young man’s back and breathed deeply and happily. She was enjoying the sweet smell of flowers in the air that blew into the carriage as they moved.
“Smells lovely round here,” she said.
He did not answer and continued to drink. His eyes were closed as if he was enjoying it greatly. Finally, however, she pushed him away.
“That’s enough. I feel much better now. It’s put new life in me.”
He got up, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
“That was a great help, thanks very much,” she said as she placed her breasts back inside her dress.
“I was very happy to help,” he answered. “I haven’t had any food for two days.”