However, all this is long ago. The very coast has changed since then. The smitten sea has sunk and fallen back, the weary land has emerged when, apparently, it didn’t want to, and the flowers of the coast-line are miserable bathing-places such as Ladispoli and seaside Ostia, desecration put upon desolation, to the triumphant trump of the mosquito.
The wind blew flat and almost chill from the darkening sea, the dead waves lifted small bits of pure green out of the leaden greyness, under the leaden sky. We got up from the dark grey but soft sand, and went back along the road to the station, peered at by the few people and officials who were holding the place together till the next bathers carne.
At the station there was general desertedness. But our things still lay untouched in a dark corner of the buffet, and the man gave us a decent little meal of cold meats and wine and oranges. It was already night. The train came rushing in, punctually.
It is an hour or more to Cività Vecchia, which is a port of not much importance, except that from here the regular steamer sails to Sardinia. We gave our things to a friendly old porter, and told him to take us to the nearest hotel. It was night, very dark as we emerged from the station.
And a fellow came furtively shouldering up to me.
‘You are foreigners, aren’t you?’
‘You have your permission to reside in Italy–or your passport?’
‘My passport I have–what do you want?’
‘I want to look at your passport.’
‘It’s in the valise! And why? Why is this?’
‘This is a port, and we must examine the papers of foreigners.
‘And why? Genoa is a port, and no one dreams of asking for papers.’
I was furious. He made no answer. I told the porter to go on to the hotel, and the fellow furtively followed at our side, half-a-pace to the rear, in the mongrel way these spy-louts have.
In the hotel I asked for a room and registered, and then the fellow asked again for my passport. I wanted to know why he demanded it, what he meant by accosting me outside the station as if I was a criminal, what he meant by insulting us with his requests, when in any other town in Italy one went unquestioned–and so forth, in considerable rage.
He did not reply, but obstinately looked as though he would be venomous if he could. He peered at the passport–though I doubt if he could make head or tail of it–asked where we were going, peered at B.’s passport, half excused himself in a whining, disgusting sort of fashion, and disappeared into the night. A real lout.
I was furious. Supposing I had not been carrying my passport–and usually I don’t dream of carrying it–what amount of trouble would that lout have made me! Probably I should have spent the night in prison, and been bullied by half a dozen low bullies.Share It