When lo, the individual on the bottom step turns in the other direction. Another boat from the open[Pg 53] basin is sweeping up: it is a race: she is near, she is nearer, she is up. With a curvet the boat from the open rounds up at the ladder. The boat between the gulf backs its oars. The official individual shouts and waves, the old man backing his oars in the gulf below yells expostulation, the boat from the open carries off its prey, our ship begins slowly to puddle-puddle-puddle, working her screw, the man in the gulf of green water rows for his life—we are floating into the open basin.
Slowly, slowly we turn round: and as the ship turns, our hearts turn. Palermo fades from our consciousness: the Naples boat, the disembarking crowds, the rattling carriages to the land—the great City of Trieste—all fades from our heart. We see only the open gap of the harbour entrance, and the level, pale-grey void of the sea beyond. There are wisps of gleamy light—out there.
And out there our heart watches—though Palermo is near us, just behind. We look round, and see it all behind us—but already it is gone, gone from our heart. The fresh wind, the gleamy wisps of light, the running, open sea beyond the harbour bars.
And so we steam out. And almost at once the ship begins to take a long, slow, dizzy dip, and a fainting[Pg 54] swoon upwards, and a long, slow, dizzy dip, slipping away from beneath one. The q-b turns pale. Up comes the deck in that fainting swoon backwards—then down it fades in that indescribable slither forwards. It is all quite gentle—quite, quite gentle. But oh, so long, and so slow, and so dizzy.
“Rather pleasant!” say I to the q-b.
“Yes. Rather lovely really,” she answers wistfully. To tell the truth there is something in the long, slow lift of the ship, and her long, slow slide forwards which makes my heart beat with joy. It is the motion of freedom. To feel her come up—then slide slowly forward, with a sound of the smashing of waters, is like the magic gallop of the sky, the magic gallop of elemental space. That long, slow, waveringly rhythmic rise and fall of the ship, with waters snorting as it were from her nostrils, oh God what a joy it is to the wild innermost soul. One is free at last—and lilting in a slow flight of the elements, winging outwards. Oh God, to be free of all the hemmed-in life—the horror of human tension, the absolute insanity of machine persistence. The agony which a train is to me, really. And the long-drawn-out agony of a life among tense, resistant people on land. And then to feel the long, slow lift and drop of this almost empty ship, as she took the waters. Ah God, liberty, liberty,[Pg 55] elemental liberty. I wished in my soul the voyage might last forever, that the sea had no end, that one might float in this wavering, tremulous, yet long and surging pulsation while ever time lasted: space never exhausted, and no turning back, no looking back, even.Share It