Palermo has two great streets, the Via Maqueda, and the Corso, which cross each other at right-angles. The Via Maqueda is narrow, with narrow little pavements, and is always choked with carriages and foot-passengers.
It had ceased raining. But the narrow road was paved with large, convex slabs of hard stone, inexpressibly greasy. To cross the Via Maqueda therefore was a feat. However, once accomplished, it was done. The near end of the street was rather dark, and had mostly vegetable shops. Abundance of vegetables—piles of white-and-green fennel, like celery, and great sheaves of young, purplish, sea-dust-colored artichokes, nodding their buds, piles of big radishes, scarlet and bluey purple, carrots, long strings of dried figs, mountains of big oranges, scarlet large peppers, a last slice of pumpkin, a great mass of colors and vegetable freshnesses. A mountain of black-purple cauliflowers, like niggers’ heads, and a mountain of snow-white ones next to them. How the dark, greasy, night-stricken street seems to beam with these vegetables, all this fresh delicate flesh of luminous vegetables piled there in the air, and in the recesses of the windowless little caverns of the shops, and gleaming forth on the dark air, under the lamps. The q-b at once wants to buy vegetables. “Look! Look at the snow-white broccoli. Look at the huge finocchi. Why don’t we get them? I must have some. Look at those great clusters of dates—ten francs a kilo, and we pay sixteen. It’s monstrous. Our place is simply monstrous.”
For all that, one doesn’t buy vegetables to take to Sardinia.
Cross the Corso at that decorated maelstrom and death-trap of the Quattro Canti. I, of course, am nearly knocked down and killed. Somebody is nearly knocked down and killed every two minutes. But there—the carriages are light, and the horses curiously aware creatures. They would never tread on one.
The second part of the Via Maqueda is the swell part: silks and plumes, and an infinite number of shirts and ties and cuff-links and mufflers and men’s fancies. One realises here that man-drapery and man-underwear is quite as important as woman’s, if not more.
I, of course, in a rage. The q-b stares at every rag and stitch, and crosses and re-crosses this infernal dark stream of a Via Maqueda, which, as I have said, is choked solid with strollers and carriages. Be it remembered that I have on my back the brown knapsack, and the q-b carries the kitchenino. This is enough to make a travelling menagerie of us. If I had my shirt sticking out behind, and if the q-b had happened merely to catch up the table-cloth and wrap it round her as she came out, all well and good. But a big brown knapsack! And a basket with thermos flask, etc! No, one could not expect such things to pass in a southern capital.
But I am case-hardened. And I am sick of shops. True, we have not been in a town for three months. But can I care for the innumerable fantasias in the drapery line? Every wretched bit of would-be-extra chic is called a fantasia. The word goes lugubriously to my bowels.Share It