In we charged, past a railway, along the flat darkening road into a flat God-lost town of dark houses, on the marshy bay-head. It felt more like a settlement than a town. But it was Terranova-Pausanias. And after bumping and rattling down a sombre uncouth, barren-seeming street, we came up with a jerk at a doorway—which was the post-office. Urchins, mudlarks, were screaming for the luggage. Everybody got out and set off towards the sea, the urchins carrying luggage. We sat still.
Till I couldn’t bear it. I did not want to stay in the automobile another moment, and I did not, I did not want to be accompanied by our new-found friend to the steamer. So I burst out, and the q-b followed. She too was relieved to escape the new attachment, though she had a great tendre for him. But in the end one runs away from one’s tendres much harder and more precipitately than from one’s durs.
The mudlarking urchins fell upon us. Had we any more luggage—were we going to the steamer? I asked how one went to the steamer—did one walk? I thought perhaps it would be necessary to row out. You go on foot, or in a carriage, or in an aeroplane, said an impudent brat. How far? Ten minutes. Could one go on board at once? Yes, certainly.
So, in spite of the q-b’s protests, I handed the sack to a wicked urchin, to be led. She wanted us to go alone—but I did not know the way, and am wary of stumbling into entanglements in these parts.
I told the bus-Hamlet, who was abstract with nerve fatigue, please to tell his comrade that I would not forget the commission: and I tapped my waistcoat pocket, where the paper lay over my heart. He briefly promised—and we escaped. We escaped any further friendship.
I bade the mud-lark lead me to the telegraph office: which of course was quite remote from the post-office. Shouldering the sack, and clamouring for the kitchenino which the q-b stuck to, he marched forward. By his height he was ten years old: by his face with its evil mud-lark pallor and good-looks, he was forty. He wore a cut-down soldier’s tunic which came nearly to his knees, was barefoot, and sprightly with that alert mudlarking quickness which has its advantages.
So we went down a passage and climbed a stair and came to an office where one would expect to register births and deaths. But the urchin said it was the telegraph-office. No sign of life. Peering through the wicket I saw a fat individual seated writing in the distance. Feeble lights relieved the big, barren, official spaces—I wonder the fat official wasn’t afraid to be up here alone.
He made no move. I banged the shutter and demanded a telegraph blank. His shoulders went up to his ears, and he plainly intimated his intention to let us wait. But I said loudly to the urchin: “Is that the telegraph official?” and the urchin said: “Si signore”—so the fat individual had to come.Share It