We are entering the harbour-basin, however, past the old castle out on the spit, past the little lighthouse, then through the entrance, slipping quietly on the now tranquil water. Oh, and how pleasant the fulness of the afternoon sun flooding this round, fast-sleeping harbour, along whose side the tall palms drowse, and whose waters are fast asleep. It seems quite a small, cosy harbour, with the great buildings warm-colored in the sun behind the dark tree-avenue of the marina. The same silent, sleeping, endlessly sun-warmed stateliness.
In the midst of this tranquillity we slowly turn round upon the shining water, and in a few moments are moored. There are other ships moored away to the[Pg 72] right: all asleep, apparently, in the flooding of the afternoon sun. Beyond the harbour entrance runs the great sea and the wind. Here all is still and hot and forgotten.
“Vous descendez en terre?” shouts the young woman, in her energetic French—she leaves off holding the young men’s hands for the moment. We are not quite sure: and we don’t want her to come with us, anyhow, for her French is not our French.
The land sleeps on: nobody takes any notice of us: but just one boat paddles out the dozen yards to our side. We decide to set foot on shore.
One should not, and we knew it. One should never enter into these southern towns that look so nice, so lovely, from the outside. However, we thought we would buy some cakes. So we crossed the avenue which looks so beautiful from the sea, and which, when you get into it, is a cross between an outside place where you throw rubbish and a humpy unmade road in a raw suburb, with a few iron seats, and litter of old straw and rag. Indescribably dreary in itself: yet with noble trees, and lovely sunshine, and the sea and the islands gleaming magic beyond the harbour mouth, and the sun, the eternal sun full focussed. A few mangy, nothing-to-do people stand disconsolately about, in[Pg 73] southern fashion, as if they had been left there, water-logged, by the last flood, and were waiting for the next flood to wash them further. Round the corner along the quay a Norwegian steamer dreams that she is being loaded, in the muddle of the small port.
We looked at the cakes—heavy and wan they appeared to our sea-rolled stomachs. So we strolled into a main street, dark and dank like a sewer. A tram bumped to a standstill, as if now at last was the end of the world. Children coming from school ecstatically ran at our heels, with bated breath, to hear the vocal horrors of our foreign speech. We turned down a dark side alley, about forty paces deep: and were on the northern bay, and on a black stench that seemed like the perpetual sewer, a bank of mud.
So we got to the end of the black main street, and turned in haste to the sun. Ah—in a moment we were in it. There rose the palms, there lay our ship in the shining, curving basin—and there focussed the sun, so that in a moment we were drunk or dazed by it. Dazed. We sat on an iron seat in the rubbish-desolate, sun-stricken avenue.Share It