Sicilian railways are all single line. Hence, the coincidenza. A coincidenza is where two trains meet in a loop. You sit in a world of rain and waiting until some silly engine with four trucks puffs alongside. Ecco la coincidenza! Then after a brief conversazione between the two trains, diretto and merce, express and goods, the tin horn sounds and away we go, happily, towards the next coincidence. Clerks away ahead joyfully chalk up our hours of lateness on the announcement slate. All adds to the adventurous flavour of the journey, dear heart. We come to a station where we find the other diretto, the express from the other direction, awaiting our coincidential arrival. The two trains run alongside one another, like two dogs meeting in the street and snuffing one another. Every official rushes to greet every other official, as if they were all David and Jonathan meeting after a crisis. They rush into each other’s arms and exchange cigarettes. And the trains can’t bear to part. And the station can’t bear to part with us. The officials tease themselves and us with the word pronto, meaning ready! Pronto! And[Pg 33] again Pronto! And shrill whistles. Anywhere else a train would go off its tormented head. But no! Here only that angel’s trump of an official little horn will do the business. And get them to blow that horn if you can. They can’t bear to part.
Rain, continual rain, a level grey wet sky, a level grey wet sea, a wet and misty train winding round and round the little bays, diving through tunnels. Ghosts of the unpleasant-looking Lipari islands standing a little way out to sea, heaps of shadow deposited like rubbish heaps in the universal greyness.
Enter more passengers. An enormously large woman with an extraordinarily handsome face: an extraordinarily large man, quite young: and a diminutive servant, a little girl-child of about thirteen, with a beautiful face.—But the Juno—it is she who takes my breath away. She is quite young, in her thirties still. She has that queenly stupid beauty of a classic Hera: a pure brow with level dark brows, large, dark, bridling eyes, a straight nose, a chiselled mouth, an air of remote self-consciousness. She sends one’s heart straight back to pagan days. And—and—she is simply enormous, like a house. She wears a black toque with sticking-up wings, and a black rabbit fur spread on her shoulders. She edges her way in carefully: and once seated, is terrified to rise to her feet. She sits with that motionlessness of her type, closed lips, face muted and expressionless. And she expects me to admire her: I can see that. She expects me to pay homage to her beauty: just to that: not homage to herself, but to her as a bel pezzo. She casts little aloof glances at me under her eyelids.
It is evident she is a country beauty become a bourgeoise. She speaks unwillingly to the other squint-eyed passenger, a young woman who also wears a black-rabbit fur, but without pretensions.Share It