The rain over, I go and squat against the canvas that is spread over the arched sky-lights on the small promenade deck, sitting on the seat that is fixed to the sky-light sides. The wind is cold: there are snatches of sun and spits of rain. The big cape has[Pg 62] come and is being left behind: we are heading for a far-off cape like a cloud in the grey air. A dimness comes over one’s mind: a sort of stupefaction owing to the wind and the relentless slither-and-rearing of the ship. Not a sickness, but a sort of dim faintness. So much motion, such moving, powerful air. And withal a constant triumph in the long, slow sea-gallop of the ship.
A great loud bell: midday and the crew going to eat, rushing to eat. After some time we are summoned. “The Signora isn’t eating?” asks the waiter eagerly: hoping she is not. “Yes, she is eating,” say I. I fetch the q-b from her berth. Rather wanly she comes and gets into her spin chair. Bash comes a huge plate of thick, oily cabbage soup, very full, swilkering over the sides. We do what we can with it. So does the third passenger: a young woman who never wears a hat, thereby admitting herself simply as one of “the people,” but who has an expensive complicated dress, nigger-coloured thin silk stockings, and suede high-heeled shoes. She is handsome, sturdy, with large dark eyes and a robust, frank manner: far too robustly downright for Italy. She is from Cagliari—and can’t do much with the cabbage soup: and tells the waiter so, in her deep, hail-fellow-well-met[Pg 63] voice. In the doorway hovers a little cloud of alpaca jackets grinning faintly with malignant anticipation of food, hoping, like blow-flies, we shall be too ill to eat. Away goes the soup and appears a massive yellow omelette, like some log of bilious wood. It is hard, and heavy, and cooked in the usual rank-tasting olive oil. The young woman doesn’t have much truck with it: neither do we. To the triumph of the blow-flies, who see the yellow monster borne to their altar. After which a long long slab of the inevitable meat cut into innumerable slices, tasting of dead nothingness and having a thick sauce of brown neutrality: sufficient for twelve people at least. This, with masses of strong-tasting greenish cauliflower liberally weighted with oil, on a ship that was already heaving its heart out, made up the dinner. Accumulating malevolent triumph among the blow-flies in the passage. So on to a dessert of oranges, pears with wooden hearts and thick yellowish wash-leather flesh, and apples. Then coffee.
And we had sat through it, which is something. The alpaca blue-bottles buzzed over the masses of food that went back on the dishes to the tin altar. Surely it had been made deliberately so that we should not eat it! The Cagliarese young woman talked to us. Yes, she broke into that awful language which[Pg 64] the Italians—the quite ordinary ones—call French, and which they insist on speaking for their own glorification: yea, when they get to heaven’s gate they will ask St. Peter for:Share It