Passengers have gathered again, some in hoods, some in nothing. Youths in thin, paltry clothes stand out in the pouring rain as if they did not know it was raining. One sees their coat-shoulders soaked. And yet they do not trouble to keep under shelter. Two large station dogs run about and trot through the standing trains, just like officials. They climb up the footboard, hop into a train and hop out casually when they feel like it. Two or three port-porters, in canvas hats as big as umbrellas, literally, spreading like huge fins over their shoulders, are looking into more empty trains. More and more people appear. More and more official caps stand about. It rains and rains. The train for[Pg 30] Palermo and the train for Syracuse are both an hour late already, coming from the port. Flea-bite. Though these are the great connections from Rome.
Loose locomotives trundle back and forth, vaguely, like black dogs running and turning back. The port is only four minutes’ walk. If it were not raining so hard, we would go down, walk along the lines and get into the waiting train down there. Anybody may please himself. There is the funnel of the great unwieldy ferry-object—she is just edging in. That means the connection from the mainland at last. But it is cold, standing here. We eat a bit of bread and butter from the kitchenino in resignation. After all, what is an hour and a half? It might just as easily be five hours, as it was the last time we came down from Rome. And the wagon-lit, booked to Syracuse, calmly left stranded in the station of Messina, to go no further. All get out and find yourselves rooms for the night in vile Messina. Syracuse or no Syracuse, Malta boat or no Malta boat. We are the Ferrovia dello Stato.
But there, why grumble. Noi Italiani siamo così buoni. Take it from their own mouth.
Ecco! Finalmente! The crowd is quite joyful as the two express trains surge proudly in, after their half-a-mile creep. Plenty of room, for once. Though[Pg 31] the carriage floor is a puddle, and the roof leaks. This is second class.
Slowly, with two engines, we grunt and chuff and twist to get over the break-neck heights that shut Messina in from the north coast. The windows are opaque with steam and drops of rain. No matter—tea from the thermos flask, to the great interest of the other two passengers who had nervously contemplated the unknown object.
“Ha!” says he with joy, seeing the hot tea come out. “It has the appearance of a bomb.”
“Beautiful hot!” says she, with real admiration. All apprehension at once dissipated, peace reigns in the wet, mist-hidden compartment. We run through miles and miles of tunnel. The Italians have made wonderful roads and railways.
If one rubs the window and looks out, lemon groves with many wet-white lemons, earthquake-broken houses, new shanties, a grey weary sea on the right hand, and on the left the dim, grey complication of steep heights from which issue stone river-beds of inordinate width, and sometimes a road, a man on a mule. Sometimes near at hand, long-haired, melancholy goats leaning sideways like tilted ships under the eaves of some scabby house. They call the house-eaves the dogs’ umbrellas. In town you see the dogs trotting close under the wall out of the wet. Here the goats lean like rock, listing inwards to the plaster wall. Why look out?Share It