Meanwhile we eat the apples from yesterday’s dessert, and the remains of the q-b’s Infant-Jesus-and-dove cake. The land is drawing nearer—we can see the shape of the end promontory and peninsula—and a white speck like a church. The bulk of the land is forlorn and rather shapeless, coming towards us: but attractive.
Looking ahead towards the land gives us away. The mosquito swoops on us. Yes—he is not sure—he thinks the white speck is a church—or a lighthouse.[Pg 94] When you pass the cape on the right, and enter the wide bay between Cape Spartivento and Cape Carbonara, then you have two hours sail to Cagliari. We shall arrive between two and three o’clock. It is now eleven.
Yes, the sailing ships are probably going to Naples. There is not much wind for them now. When there is wind they go fast, faster than our steamer. Ah Naples—bella, bella, eh? A little dirty, say I. But what do you want? says he. A great city! Palermo of course is better.
Ah—the Neapolitan women—he says, à propos or not. They do their hair so fine, so neat and beautiful—but underneath—sotto—sotto—they are dirty. This being received in cold silence, he continues: Noi giriamo il mondo! Noi, chi giriamo, conosciamo il mondo. We travel about, and we know the world. Who we are, I do not know: his highness the Palermitan carpenter lout, no doubt. But we, who travel, know the world. He is preparing his shot. The Neapolitan women, and the English women, in this are equal: that they are dirty underneath. Underneath, they are dirty. The women of London—
But it is getting too much for me.
“You who look for dirty women,” say I, “find dirty women everywhere.”[Pg 95]
He stops short and watches me.
“No! No! You have not understood me. No! I don’t mean that. I mean that the Neapolitan women and the English women have dirty underclothing—”
To which he gets no answer but a cold look and a cold cheek. Whereupon he turns to the q-b, and proceeds to be simpatica. And after a few moments he turns again to me:
“Il signore is offended! He is offended with me.”
But I turn the other way. And at last he clears out: in triumph, I must admit: like a mosquito that has bitten one in the neck. As a matter of fact one should never let these fellows get into conversation nowadays. They are no longer human beings. They hate one’s Englishness, and leave out the individual.
We walk forward, towards the fore-deck, where the captain’s lookout cabin is. The captain is an elderly man, silent and crushed: with the look of a gentleman. But he looks beaten down. Another, still another member of the tray-carrying department is just creeping up his ladder with a cup of black coffee. Returning, we peep down the sky-light into the kitchen. And there we see roast chicken and sausages—roast chicken and sausages! Ah, this is where the sides of kid and the chickens and the good things go: all down the[Pg 96] throats of the crew. There is no more food for us, until we land.Share It