After a long time the water boiled, and we drank our hot tea and ate our sardines and bread and bits of remaining Nuoro sausage, sitting there alone in the intense starry darkness of that upper deck. I said[Pg 305] alone: but no, two ghoulish ship’s cats came howling at us for the bits. And even when everything was eaten, and the sardine-tin thrown in the sea, still they circled and prowled and howled.
We sat on, resting under the magnificent deep heavens, wrapped together in the old shepherd’s shawl for which I have blessed so often a Scottish friend, half sheltered from the cold night wind, and recovering somewhat from the sixty miles bus-ride we had done that day.
As yet there was nobody on the ship—we were the very first, at least in the first class. Above, all was silent and deserted. Below, all was lit-up and deserted. But it was a little ship, with accommodation for some thirty first-class and forty second-class passengers.
In the low deck forward stood two rows of cattle—eighteen cattle. They stood tied up side by side, and quite motionless, as if stupefied. Only two had lain down. The rest stood motionless, with tails dropped and heads dropped, as if drugged or gone insensible. These cattle on the ship fascinated the q-b. She insisted on going down to them, and examining them minutely. But there they were—stiff almost as Noah’s Ark cows. What she could not understand was that they neither cried nor struggled. Motionless—terribly motionless. In her idea cattle are wild and indomitable creatures. She will not realise the horrid strength of passivity and inertia which is almost the preponderant force in domesticated creatures, men and beast alike. There are fowls too in various coops—flappy and agitated these.
At last, at about half past seven the train from the island arrived, and the people surged out in a mass. We stood hanging over the end of the upper deck, looking down. On they poured, in a thick mass, up the gangway, with all conceivable sorts of luggage: bundles, embroidered carry-alls, bags, saddle-bags—the q-b lamenting she had not bought one—a sudden surging mass of people and goods. There are soldiers too—but these are lined upon the bit of a quay, to wait.
Our interest is to see whether there will be any more first-class passengers. Coming up the wide board which serves as gangway each individual hands a ticket to the man at the top, and is shooed away to his own region—usually second class. There are three sorts of tickets—green first-class, white second, and pink third. The second-class passengers go aft, the third class go forward, along the passage past our cabins, into the steerage. And so we watch and watch the excited people come on board and divide. Nearly all are second-class—and a great many are women. We have seen a few first-class men. But as yet no women. And every hat with ospreys gives the q-b a qualm.
For a long time we are safe. The women flood to the second-class. One who is third, begs and beseeches to go with her friends in the second. I am glad to say without success. And then, alas, an elderly man with a daughter, first-class. They are very respectable and pleasant looking. But the q-b wails: “I’m sure she will be sick.”Share It