The dreary black morning, the candle-light, the house looking night-dismal. Ah, well, one does all these things for one’s pleasure. So light the charcoal fire and put the kettle on. The queen bee shivering round half dressed, fluttering her unhappy candle.
“It’s fun,” she says, shuddering.
“Great,” say I, grim as death.
First fill the thermos with hot tea. Then fry bacon—good English bacon from Malta, a god-send, indeed—and make bacon sandwiches. Make also sandwiches of scrambled eggs. Make also bread and butter. Also a little toast for breakfast—and more tea. But ugh, who wants to eat at this unearthly hour, especially when one is escaping from bewitched Sicily.
Fill the little bag we call the kitchenino. Methylated spirit, a small aluminium saucepan, a spirit-lamp, two spoons, two forks, a knife, two aluminium plates, salt, sugar, tea—what else? The thermos flask, the various sandwiches, four apples, and a little tin of butter. So much for the kitchenino, for myself and the queen bee. Then my knapsack and the q-b’s handbag.
Under the lid of the half-cloudy night sky, far away at the rim of the Ionian sea, the first light, like metal fusing. So swallow the cup of tea and the bit of toast. Hastily wash up, so that we can find the house decent when we come back. Shut the door-windows of the upper terrace and go down. Lock the door: the upper half of the house made fast.
The sky and sea are parting like an oyster shell, with a low red gape. Looking across from the veranda at it, one shivers. Not that it is cold. The morning is not at all cold. But the ominousness of it: that long red slit between a dark sky and a dark Ionian sea, terrible old bivalve which has held life between its lips so long. And here, at this house, we are ledged so awfully above the dawn, naked to it.
Fasten the door-windows of the lower veranda. One won’t fasten at all. The summer heat warped it one way, the masses of autumn rain warped it another. Put a chair against it. Lock the last door and hide the key. Sling the knapsack on one’s back, take the kitchen in one’s hand and look round. The dawn-red widening, between the purpling sea and the[Pg 18] troubled sky. A light in the capucin convent across there. Cocks crowing and the long, howling, hiccuping, melancholy bray of an ass. “All females are dead, all females—och! och! och!—hoooo! Ahaa!—there’s one left.” So he ends on a moaning grunt of consolation. This is what the Arabs tell us an ass is howling when he brays.
Very dark under the great carob tree as we go down the steps. Dark still the garden. Scent of mimosa, and then of jasmine. The lovely mimosa tree invisible. Dark the stony path. The goat whinnies out of her shed. The broken Roman tomb which lolls right over the garden track does not fall on me as I slip under its massive tilt. Ah, dark garden, dark garden, with your olives and your wine, your medlars and mulberries and many almond trees, your steep terraces ledged high up above the sea, I am leaving you, slinking out. Out between the rosemary hedges, out of the tall gate, on to the cruel steep stony road. So under the dark, big eucalyptus trees, over the stream, and up towards the village. There, I have got so far.Share It