A ragged and dirty girl was nursing a fat and moist and immovable baby and tending to a grimy fat infant boy. She stood a yard away and gazed at us as one[Pg 74] would gaze at a pig one was going to buy. She came nearer, and examined the q-b. I had my big hat down over my eyes. But no, she had taken her seat at my side, and poked her face right under my hat brim, so that her towzled hair touched me, and I thought she would kiss me. But again no. With her breath on my cheek she only gazed on my face as if it were a wax mystery. I got up hastily.
“Too much for me,” said I to the q-b.
She laughed, and asked what the baby was called. The baby was called Beppina, as most babies are.
Driven forth, we wandered down the desolate avenue of shade and sun towards the ship, and turned once more into the town. We had not been on shore more than ten minutes. This time we went to the right, and found more shops. The streets were dark and sunless and cold. And Trapani seemed to me to sell only two commodities: cured rabbit skins and cat-skins, and great, hideous, modern bed-spread arrangements of heavy flowered silk and fabulous price. They seem to think nothing of thousands of liras, in Trapani.
But most remarkable was bunny and pussy. Bunny and pussy, flattened out like pressed leaves, dangling in clusters everywhere. Furs! white bunny, black bunny in great abundance, piebald bunny, grey bunny:—then pussy, tabby pussy, and tortoiseshell[Pg 75] pussy, but mostly black pussy, in a ghastly semblance of life, all flat, of course. Just single furs. Clusters, bunches, heaps, and dangling arrays of plain-superficies puss and bun-bun! Puss and bun by the dozen and the twenty, like dried leaves, for your choice. If a cat from a ship should chance to find itself in Trapani streets, it would give a mortal yell, and go mad, I am sure.
We strolled for ten more minutes in this narrow, tortuous, unreal town, that seemed to have plenty of flourishing inhabitants, and a fair number of Socialists, if one was to judge by the great scrawlings on the walls: W. Lenin and Abasso La Borghesia. Don’t imagine, by the way, that Lenin is another Wille on the list. The apparent initial stands for Evviva, the double V.
Cakes one dared not buy, after looking at them. But we found macaroon biscuits, and a sort of flat plaster-casts of the Infant Jesus under a dove, of which we bought two. The q-b ate her macaroon biscuits all through the streets, and we went towards the ship. The fat boatman hailed us to take us back. It was just about eight yards of water to row, the ship being moored on the quay: one could have jumped it. I gave the fat boatman two liras, two francs. He[Pg 76] immediately put on the socialist-workman indignation, and thrust the note back at me. Sixty centimes more! The fee was thirteen sous each way! In Venice or Syracuse it would be two sous. I looked at him and gave him the money and said: “Per Dio, we are in Trapani!” He muttered back something about foreigners. But the hateful, unmanly insolence of these lords of toil, now they have their various “unions” behind them and their “rights” as working men, sends my blood black. They are ordinary men no more: the human, happy Italian is most marvellously vanished. New honors come upon them, etc. The dignity of human labour is on its hind legs, busy giving every poor innocent who isn’t ready for it a kick in the mouth.Share It