Suddenly a yell—”OO—ahh!!”
“È qua! È qua! È qua! È qua!” gasped broad-cloth four times. “He’s here!” And then: “Beppin’—she’s going, she’s going!”
Beppin’ appeared, a middle-aged man also in black broad-cloth, with a very scrubby chin and a bundle, running towards us on fat legs. He was perspiring, but his face was expressionless and innocent-looking. With a sardonic flicker of a grin, half of spite, half of relief, Rochester put on the brakes again, and we stopped in the street. A woman tottered up panting and holding her breast. Now for farewells.
“Andiamo!” said Rochester curtly, looking over his shoulder and making his fine nose curl with malice. And instantly he took off the brakes again. The fat woman shoved Beppin’ in, gasping farewells, the brother-in-law handed in the ox-blood-red suit-case, tottering behind, and the bus surged savagely out of Orosei.
Almost in a moment we had left the town on its slope, and there below us was a river winding through marshy flats to the sea, to where small white surf broke on a flat, isolated beach, a quarter of a mile away. The river ran rapidly between stones and then between belts of high sere reeds, high as a man. These tall reeds advanced almost into the slow, horizontal sea, from which stood up a white glare of light, massive light over the low Mediterranean.
Quickly we came down to the river-level, and rolled over a bridge. Before us, between us and the sea rose another hill, almost like a wall with a flat top, running horizontal, perfectly flat, parallel with the sea-edge, a sort of narrow long plateau. For a moment we were in the wide scoop of the river-bed. Orosei stood on the bluff behind us.
Away to the right the flat river-marshes with the thick dead reeds met the flat and shining sea, river and sea were one water, the waves rippled tiny and soft-foot into the stream. To the left there was great loveliness. The bed of the river curved upwards and inland, and there was cultivation: but particularly, there were noble almond trees in full blossom. How beautiful they were, their pure, silvery pink gleaming so nobly, like a transfiguration, tall and perfect in that strange cradled river-bed parallel with the sea. Almond trees were in flower beneath grey Orosei, almond trees came near the road, and we could see the hot eyes of the individual blossoms, almond trees stood on the upward slope before us. And they had flowered in such noble beauty there, in that trough where the sun fell magnificent and the sea-glare whitened all the air as with a sort of God-presence, they gleamed in their incandescent sky-rosiness. One could hardly see their iron trunks, in this weird valley.
But already we had crossed, and were charging up the great road that was cut straight, slant-wise along the side of the sea-hill, like a stairway outside the side of the house. So the bus turned southward to run up this stairway slant, to get to the top of the sea’s long table-land. So, we emerged: and there was the Mediterranean rippling against the black rocks not so very far away below on our right. For, once on the long table-land the road turned due north, a long white dead-straight road running between strips of moorland, wild and bushy. The sea was in the near distance, blue, blue, and beating with light. It seemed more light than watery. And on the left was the wide trough of the valley, where almond trees like clouds in a wind seemed to poise sky-rosy upon the pale, sun-pale land, and beyond which Orosei clustered its lost grey houses on the bluff. Oh wonderful Orosei with your almonds and your reedy river, throbbing, throbbing with light and the sea’s nearness, and all so lost, in a world long gone by, lingering as legends linger on. It is hard to believe that it is real. It seems so long since life left it and memory transfigured it into pure glamour, lost away like a lost pearl on the east Sardinian coast. Yet there it is, with a few grumpy inhabitants who won’t even give you a crust of bread. And probably there is malaria—almost sure. And it would be hell to have to live there for a month. Yet for a moment, that January morning, how wonderful, oh, the timeless glamour of those Middle Ages when men were lordly and violent and shadowed with death.Share It