“OOn bigliay pour ung—trozzième classe.”
Fortunately or unfortunately her inquisitiveness got the better of her, and she fell into her native Italian. What were we, where did we come from, where were we going, why were we going, had we any children, did we want any, etc. After every answer she nodded her head and said Ahu! and watched us with energetic dark eyes. Then she ruminated over our nationalities and said, to the unseeing witnesses: Una bella coppia, a fine couple. As at the moment we felt neither beautiful nor coupled, we only looked greener. The grim man-at-arms coming up to ask us again if we weren’t going to have a little wine, she lapsed into her ten-pounder French, which was most difficult to follow. And she said that on a sea-voyage one must eat, one must eat, if only a little. But—and she lapsed into Italian—one must by no means drink wine—no—no! One didn’t want to, said I sadly. Whereupon the grim man-at-arms, whom, of course, we had cheated out of the bottle we refused to have opened for us, said with a lost sarcasm that wine made a man of a man, etc., etc. I was too weary of that underground,[Pg 65] however. All I knew was that he wanted wine, wine, wine, and we hadn’t ordered any. He didn’t care for food.
The Cagliarese told us she came now from Naples, and her husband was following in a few days. He was doing business in Naples. I nearly asked if he was a little dog-fish—this being the Italian for profiteer, but refrained in time. So the two ladies retired to lie down, I went and sat under my tarpaulin.
I felt very dim, and only a bit of myself. And I dozed blankly. The afternoon grew more sunny. The ship turned southwards, and with the wind and waves behind, it became much warmer, much smoother. The sun had the lovely strong winey warmth, golden over the dark-blue sea. The old oak-wood looked almost white, the afternoon was sweet upon the sea. And in the sunshine and the swishing of the sea, the speedier running of the empty ship, I slept a warm, sweet hour away, and awoke new. To see ahead pale, uplooming islands upon the right: the windy Egades: and on the right a mountain or high conical hill, with buildings on the summit: and in front against the sea, still rather far away, buildings rising upon a quay, within a harbor: and a mole, and a castle forward to sea, all small and far away, like a view. The buildings[Pg 66] were square and fine. There was something impressive—magical under the far sunshine and the keen wind, the square and well-proportioned buildings waiting far off, waiting like a lost city in a story, a Rip van Winkle city. I knew it was Trapani, the western port of Sicily, under the western sun.
And the hill near us was Mount Eryx. I had never seen it before. So I had imagined a mountain in the sky. But it was only a hill, with undistinguishable cluster of a village on the summit, where even now cold wisps of vapour caught. They say it is 2,500 feet high. Still it looks only a hill.Share It