After which considerable delay, we set off again. The bus, thank heaven, had gone, the savage dark street was empty of friends. We turned away to the harbour front. It was dark now. I saw a railway near at hand—a bunch of dark masts—the steamer showing a few lights, far down at the tip of a long spit of land, remote in mid-harbour. And so off we went, the barefoot urchin twinkling a few yards ahead, on the road that followed the spit of land. The spit was wide enough to carry this road, and the railway. On the right was a silent house apparently built on piles in the harbour. Away far down in front leaned our glimmering steamer, and a little train was shunting trucks among the low sheds beside it. Night had fallen, and the great stars flashed. Orion was in the air, and his dog-star after him. We followed on down the dark bar between the silent, lustrous water. The harbour was smooth as glass, and gleaming like a mirror. Hills came round encircling it entirely—dark land ridging up and lying away out, even to seaward. One was not sure which was exactly seaward. The dark encircling of the land seemed stealthy, the hills had a remoteness, guarding the waters in the silence. Perhaps the great mass away beyond was Tavolara again. It seemed like some lumpish berg guarding an arctic, locked-up bay where ships lay dead.
On and on we followed the urchin, till the town was left behind, until it also twinkled a few meagre lights out of its low, confused blackness at the bay-head, across the waters. We lad left the ship-masts and the settlement. The urchin padded on, only turning now and again and extending a thin, eager hand toward the kitchenino. Especially when some men were advancing down the railway he wanted it: the q-b’s carrying it was a slur on his prowess. So the kitchenino was relinquished, and the lark strode on satisfied.
Till at last we came to the low sheds that squatted between the steamer and the railway-end. The lark led me into one, where a red-cap was writing. The cap let me wait some minutes before informing me that this was the goods office—the ticket office was further on. The lark flew at him and said “Then you’ve changed it, have you?” And he led me on to another shed, which was just going to shut up. Here they finally had the condescension to give me two tickets—a hundred and fifty francs the two. So we followed the lark who strode like Scipio Africanus up the gangway with the sack.
It was quite a small ship. The steward put me in number one cabin—the q-b in number seven. Each cabin had four berths. Consequently man and woman must separate rigorously on this ship. Here was a blow for the q-b, who knows what Italian female fellow-passengers can be. However, there we were. All the cabins were down below, and all, for some mysterious reason, inside—no portholes outside. It was hot[Pg 302] and close down below already. I pitched the sack on my berth, and there stood the lark on the red carpet at the door.Share It