We have passed the cape—and the white thing is a lighthouse. And the fattish, handsome professor has come up carrying the little girl-child, while the femalish elder brother leads the rabbit-fluffy small boy by the hand. So en famille: so terribly en famille. They deposit themselves near us, and it threatens another conversation. But not for anything, my dears!
The sailors—not sailors, some of the street-corner loafers, are hoisting the flag, the red-white-and-green Italian tricolor. It floats at the mast-head, and the femalish brother, in a fine burst of feeling, takes off his funny hat with a flourish and cries:
“Ecco la bandiera italiana!”
Ach, the hateful sentimentalism of these days.
The land passes slowly, very slowly. It is hilly, but barren looking, with few trees. And it is not spikey and rather splendid, like Sicily. Sicily has style. We keep along the east side of the bay—away in the west is Cape Spartivento. And still no sight of Cagliari.
“Two hours yet!” cries the Cagliari girl. “Two hours before we eat. Ah, when I get on land, what a good meal I shall eat.”[Pg 97]
The men haul in the automatic log. The sky is clouding over with that icy curd which comes after midday when the bitter north wind is blowing. It is no longer warm.
Slowly, slowly we creep along the formless shore. An hour passes. We see a little fort ahead, done in enormous black-and-white checks, like a fragment of gigantic chess-board. It stands at the end of a long spit of land—a long, barish peninsula that has no houses and looks as if it might be golf-links. But it is not golf-links.
And suddenly there is Cagliari: a naked town rising steep, steep, golden-looking, piled naked to the sky from the plain at the head of the formless hollow bay. It is strange and rather wonderful, not a bit like Italy. The city piles up lofty and almost miniature, and makes me think of Jerusalem: without trees, without cover, rising rather bare and proud, remote as if back in history, like a town in a monkish, illuminated missal. One wonders how it ever got there. And it seems like Spain—or Malta: not Italy. It is a steep and lonely city, treeless, as in some old illumination. Yet withal rather jewel-like: like a sudden rose-cut amber jewel naked at the depth of the vast indenture. The air is cold, blowing bleak and bitter, the sky is all curd.[Pg 98] And that is Cagliari. It has that curious look, as if it could be seen, but not entered. It is like some vision, some memory, something that has passed away. Impossible that one can actually walk in that city: set foot there and eat and laugh there. Ah, no! Yet the ship drifts nearer, nearer, and we are looking for the actual harbour.
The usual sea-front with dark trees for a promenade and palatial buildings behind, but here not so pink and gay, more reticent, more sombre of yellow stone. The harbour itself a little basin of water, into which we are slipping carefully, while three salt-barges laden with salt as white as snow creep round from the left, drawn by an infinitesimal tug. There are only two other forlorn ships in the basin. It is cold on deck. The ship turns slowly round, and is being hauled to the quay side. I go down for the knapsack, and a fat blue-bottle pounces at me.Share It