This June I read The Path to Rome as I always do during the anniversary of Belloc’s great walk but in a slightly different way. Instead of simply reading the book I read it out aloud. Every morning, I join my mother for breakfast. While she eats, I read for her. We take it in turns to decide on a book and, after we finished her choice of Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe in May, I began my choice: The Path to Rome. I knew from my previous readings of the book how important friendship was to Belloc but reading it aloud really brought the fact home. When you speak words, you dwell on them that little bit longer, and as a result, give them an opportunity to make a home in you that bit more. If you ask why was it Belloc and friendship that stuck with me, above and beyond anything else that he talks about, I would reply that it is because (the idea of) friendship is important to me, too, so the passages came as seed onto fertile ground.
Here are a few times that Belloc mentions friendship, or as he puts it, companionship:
On arriving in Flavigny: ‘There, by a special providence, I found the entertainment and companionship whose lack had left me wrecked all these early hours.” (p.37)
Belloc reflects on his friendship with two soldiers: ‘… I never see a powder-magazine without being filled at once with two very good feelings – laughter and companionship.’ (p.112)
On the way to Radicofani: ‘… not far from the climb up to Radicofani… I saw lights shining in a large farmhouse, and though it was my business to walk by bight, yet I needed companionship, so I went in.’ (p.407)
Before finishing, I should add that the page numbers relate to the 2003 Ignatius Press edition of The Path to Rome.