I had had enough. Rising, I bowed and marched off. The q-b came after me. Good-night, said I, at the head of the corridor. She turned in, and I went round the ship to look at the dark night of the sea.
Morning came sunny with pieces of cloud: and the Sicilian coast towering pale blue in the distance. How wonderful it must have been to Ulysses to venture into this Mediterranean and open his eyes on all the loveliness of the tall coasts. How marvellous to steal with his ship into these magic harbours. There is something eternally morning-glamourous about these lands as they rise from the sea. And it is always the Odyssey which comes back to one as one looks at them. All the lovely morning-wonder of this world, in Homer’s day![Pg 342]
Our bounder was dashing about on deck, in one of those rain-coats gathered in at the waist and ballooning out into skirts below the waist. He greeted me with a cry of “It’s a long, long way to Tipperary.” “Very long,” said I. “Good-bye Piccadilly—” he continued. “Ciao,” said I, as he dashed jauntily down the steps. Soon we saw the others as well. But it was morning, and I simply did not want to speak to them—except just Good-day. For my life I couldn’t say two more words to any of them this morning: except to ask the mild one if he had been sick. He had not.
So we waited for the great Città di Trieste to float her way into Palermo harbour. It looked so near—the town there, the great circle of the port, the mass of the hills crowding round. Panormus, the All-harbour. I wished the bulky steamer would hurry up. For I hated her now. I hated her swankiness, she seemed made for commercial travellers with cash. I hated the big picture that filled one end of the state-room: an elegant and ideal peasant-girl, a sort of Italia, strolling on a lovely and ideal cliff’s edge, among myriad blooms, and carrying over her arm, in a most sophisticated fashion, a bough of almond blossom and a sheaf of anemones. I hated the waiters, and the cheap elegance, the common de luxe. I disliked the people, who all turned their worst, cash-greasy sides[Pg 343] outwards on this ship. Vulgar, vulgar post-war commercialism and dog-fish money-stink. I longed to get off. And the bloated boat edged her way so slowly into the port, and then more slowly still edged round her fat stern. And even then we were kept for fifteen minutes waiting for someone to put up the gangway for the first class. The second class, of course, were streaming off and melting like thawed snow into the crowds of onlookers on the quay, long before we were allowed to come off.
Glad, glad I was to get off that ship: I don’t know why, for she was clean and comfortable and the attendants were perfectly civil. Glad, glad I was not to share the deck with any more commercial travellers. Glad I was to be on my own feet, independent. No, I would not take a carriage. I carried my sack on my back to the hotel, looking with a jaundiced eye on the lethargic traffic of the harbour front. It was about nine o’clock.Share It