Meanwhile I munched my Infant-Jesus-and-Dove arrangement, which was rather like eating thin glass, so hard and sharp. It was made of almond and white of egg presumably, and was not so bad if you could eat it at all. It was a Christmas relic.—And I watched the Holy Family across the narrow board, and tried not to look all I felt.
Going on deck as soon as possible, we watched the loading of barrels of wine into the hold—a mild and happy-go-lucky process. The ship seemed to be almost as empty of cargo as of passengers. Of the latter, we were apparently twelve adults, all told, and the three children. And as for cargo, there were the[Pg 80] wooden chests of the officer, and these fourteen barrels of wine from Trapani. The last were at length settled more or less firm, the owner, or the responsible landsman seeing to it. No one on the ship seemed to be responsible for anything. And four of the innumerable crew were replacing the big planks over the hold. It was curious how forlorn the ship seemed to feel, now she was ready for sea again. Her innumerable crew did not succeed in making her alive. She ran her course like a lost soul across the Mid-Mediterranean.
Outside the harbour the sun was sinking, gorgeous gold and red the sky, and vast, beyond the darkening islands of the Egades group. Coming as we did from the east side of the island, where dawn beyond the Ionian sea is the day’s great and familiar event: so decisive an event, that as the light appears along the sea’s rim, so do my eyes invariably open and look at it, and know it is dawn, and as the night-purple is fused back, and a little scarlet thrills towards the zenith, invariably, day by day, I feel I must get up: coming from the east, shut off hermetically from the west by the steep spikes of the mountains at our back, we felt this sunset in the African sea terrible and dramatic. It seemed much more magnificent and tragic than our[Pg 81] Ionian dawn, which has always a suggestion of a flower opening. But this great red, trumpet-flaring sunset had something African, half-sinister, upon the sea: and it seemed so far off, in an unknown land. Whereas our Ionian dawn always seems near and familiar and happy.
A different goddess the Eryx Astarte, the woman Ashtaroth, Erycina ridens must have been, in her prehstoric dark smiling, watching the fearful sunsets beyond the Egades, from our gold-lighted Apollo of the Ionian east. She is a strange goddess to me, this Erycina Venus, and the west is strange and unfamiliar and a little fearful, be it Africa or be it America.
Slowly at sunset we moved out of the harbour. And almost as we passed the bar, away in front we saw, among the islands, the pricking of a quick pointed light. Looking back, we saw the light at the harbour entrance twitching: and the remote, lost town beginning to glimmer. And night was settling down upon the sea, through the crimsoned purple of the last afterglow.Share It