SEA AND SARDINIA
with. 8 pictures j n full color
by JAN JUTA
and With a map/bf Sardinia by the author.
O H N
L E N
SEA AND SARDINIA
SEA AND SARDINIA
D. H. LAWRENCE
WITH EIGHT PICTURES
IN COLOR BY
COPYRIG HT, Ip2I , BY
THOMAS SELTZER, INC
All rights reserved
Printed in the United States of America
I. As FAR AS PALERMO 1 1
II. THE SEA 44
III. CAGLIARI . 99
IV. MANDAS 127
V. To SORGONO 154
VI. To NUORO 212
VII. To TERRANOVA AND THE STEAMER . 260
VIII. BACK 312
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
MAP By D. H. Lawrence 44
TONARA ........... 148
SORGONO 1 8O
NUORO . 268
SEA AND SARDINIA
SEA AND SARDINIA
AS FAR AS PALERMO.
COMES over one an absolute necessity to move.
And what is more, to move in some particular
direction. A double necessity then: to get
on the move, and to know whither.
Why can't one sit still? Here in Sicily it is so pleas-
ant: the sunny Ionian sea, the changing jewel of Cala-
bria, like a fire-opal moved in the light ; Italy and the
parorama of Christmas clouds, night with the dog-star
laying a long, luminous gleam across the sea, as if
baying at us, Orion marching above j how the dog-star
Sirius looks at one, looks at one! he is the hound of
heaven, green, glamorous and fierce! and then oh
regal evening star, hung westward flaring over the
jagged dark precipices of tall Sicily: then Etna, that
wicked witch, resting her thick white snow under
heaven, and slowly, slowly rolling her orange-coloured
smoke. They called her the Pillar of Heaven, the
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Greeks. It seems wrong at first, for she trails up in
a long, magical, flexible line from the sea's edge to
her blunt cone, and does not seem tall. She seems
rather low, under heaven. But as one knows her
better, oh awe and wizardy! Remote under heaven,
aloof, so near, yet never with us. The painters try
to paint her, and the photographers to photograph her,
in vain. Because why? Because the near ridges, with
their olives and white houses, these are with us. Be-
cause the river-bed, and Naxos under the lemon groves,
Greek Naxos deep under dark-leaved, many-fruited
lemon groves, Etna's skirts and skirt-bottoms, these still
are our world, our own world. Even the high villages
among the oaks, on Etna. But Etna herself, Etna of
the snow and secret changing winds, she is beyond a
crystal wall. When I look at her, low, white, witch-
like under heaven, slowly rolling her orange smoke
and giving sometimes a breath of rose-red flame, then
I must look away from earth, into the ether, into the
low empyrean. And there, in that remote region, Etna
is alone. If you would see her, you must slowly take
off your eyes from the world and go a naked seer to the
strange chamber of the empyrean. Pedestal of heaven!
The Greeks had a sense of the magic truth of things.
Thank goodness one still knows enough about them to
find one's kinship at last. There are so many photo-
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graphs, there are so infinitely many water-colour draw-
ings and oil paintings which purport to render Etna.
But pedestal of heaven! You must cross the invisible
border. Between the foreground, which is our own,
and Etna, pivot of winds in lower heaven, there is a
dividing line. You must change your state of mind.
A metempsychosis. It is no use thinking you can see
and behold Etna and the foreground both at once.
Never. One or the other. Foreground and a tran-
scribed Etna. Or Etna, pedestal of heaven.
Why, then, must one go? Why not stay? Ah, what
a mistress, this Etna! with her strange winds prowling
round her like Circe's panthers, some black, some white.
With her strange, remote communications and her ter-
rible dynamic exhalations. She makes men mad. Such
terrible vibrations of wicked and beautiful electricity
she throws about her, like a deadly net! Nay, some-
times, verily, one can feel a new current of her demon
magnetism seize one's living tissue and change the
peaceful life of one's active cells. She makes a storm
in the living plasm and a new adjustment. And some-
times it is like a madness.
This timeless Grecian Etna, in her lower-heaven
loveliness, so lovely, so lovely, what a torturer! Not
many men can really stand her, without losing their
souls. She is like Circe. Unless a man is very strong,
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she takes his soul away from him and leaves him not
a beast, but an elemental creature, intelligent and soul-
less. Intelligent, almost inspired, and soulless, like the
Etna Sicilians. Intelligent daimons, and humanly,
according to us, the most stupid people on earth. Ach,
horror! How many men, how many races, has Etna
put to flight? It was she who broke the quick of the
Greek soul. And after the Greeks, she gave the
Romans, the Normans, the Arabs, the Spaniards, the
French, the Italians, even the English, she gave them
all their inspired hour and broke their souls.
Perhaps it is she one must flee from. At any rate,
one must go: and at once. After having come back
only at the end of October, already one must dash
away. And it is only the third of January. And one
cannot afford to move. Yet there you are: at the
Etna bidding one goes.
Where does one go? There is Girgenti by the south.
There is Tunis at hand. Girgenti, and the sulphur
spirit and the Greek guarding temples, to make one
madder? Never. Neither Syracuse and the madness
of its great quarries. Tunis? Africa? Not yet, Not
yet. Not the Arabs, not yet. Naples, Rome, Florence?
No good at all. Where then?
Where then? Spain or Sardinia. Spain or Sardinia.
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Sardinia, which is like nowhere. Sardinia, which has
no history, no date, no race, no offering. Let it be
Sardinia. They say neither Romans nor Phoenicians,
Greeks nor Arabs ever subdued Sardinia. It lies out-
side ; outside the circuit of civilisation. Like the
Basque lands. Sure enough, it is Italian now, with its
railways and its motor-omnibuses. But there is an
uncaptured Sardinia still. It lies within the net of this
Eureopean civilisation, but it isn't landed yet. And the
net is getting old and tattered. A good many fish are
slipping through the net of the old European civilisa-
tion. Like that great whale of Russia. And probably
even Sardinia. Sardinia then. Let it be Sardinia.
There is a fortnightly boat sailing from Palermo
next Wednesday, three days ahead. Let us go, then.
Away from abhorred Etna, and the Ionian sea, and
these great stars in the water, and the almond trees in
bud, and the orange trees heavy with red fruit, and
these maddening, exasperating, impossible Sicilians,
who never knew what truth was and have long lost
all notion of what a human being is. A sort of sul-
phureous demons. Andiamo!
But let me confess, in parenthesis, that I am not at
all sure whether I don't really prefer these demons
to our sanctified humanity.
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Why does one create such discomfort for oneself!
To have to get up in the middle of the night half past
one to go and look at the clock. Of course this fraud
of an American watch has stopped, with its impudent
phosphorescent face. Half past one! Half past one,
and a dark January night. Ah, well! Half past one!
And an uneasy sleep till at last it is five o'clock. Then
light a candle and get up.
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, in-
deed and make bacon sandwiches. Make also sand-
wiches 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. Methy-
lated 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
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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
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, ter-
rible 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 kitchenino in one's hand and look round. The
dawn-red widening, between the purpling sea and the
SEA AND SARDINIA
troubled sky. A light in the capucin convent across
there. Cocks crowing and the long, howling, hiccup-
ing, 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 consola-
tion. 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 in-
visible. 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.
It is full dawn dawn, not morning, the sun will
not have risen. The village is nearly all dark in the
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red light, and asleep still. No one at the fountain by
the capucin gate: too dark still. One man leading a
horse round the corner of the Palazzo Corvaia. One
or two dark men along the Corso. And so over the
brow, down the steep cobble-stone street between the
houses, and out to the naked hill front. This is the
dawn-coast of Sicily. Nay, the dawn-coast of Europe.
Steep, like a vast cliff, dawn-forward. A red dawn,
with mingled curdling dark clouds, and some gold.
It must be seven o'clock. The station down below,
by the sea. And noise of a train. Yes, a train. And
we still high on the steep track, winding downwards.
But it is the train from Messina to Catania, half an
hour before ours, which is from Catania to Messina.
So jolt, and drop, and jolt down the old road that
winds on the cliff face. Etna across there is smothered
quite low, quite low in a dense puther of ink-black
clouds. Playing some devilry in private, no doubt.
The dawn is angry red, and yellow above, the sea takes
strange colors. I hate the station, pigmy, drawn out
there beside the sea. On this steep face, especially in
the windless nooks, the almond blossom is already out.
In little puffs and specks and stars, it looks very like
bits of snow scattered by winter. Bits of snow, bits
of blossom, fourth day of the year 1921. Only bios-
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SEA AND SARDINIA
som. And Etna indescribably cloaked and secretive in
her dense black clouds. She has wrapped them quite
round her, quite low round her skirts.
At last we are down. We pass the pits where men
are burning lime red-hot, round pits and are out on
the highway. Nothing can be more depressing than an
Italian high-road. From Syracuse to Airolo it is the
same: horrible, dreary, slummy high-roads the moment
you approach a village or any human habitation. Here
there is an acrid smell of lemon juice. There is a fac-
tory for making citrate. The houses flush on the road,
under the great limestone face of the hill, open their
slummy doors, and throw out dirty water and coffee
dregs. We walk over the dirty water and coffee dregs.
Mules rattle past with carts. Other people are going
to the station. We pass the Dazio and are there.
Humanity is, externally, too much alike. Internally
there are insuperable differences. So one sits and
thinks, watching the people on the station: like a line
of caricatures between oneself and the naked sea and
the uneasy, clouding dawn.
You would look in vain this morning for the swarthy
feline southerner of romance. It might, as far as
features are concerned, be an early morning crowd
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waiting for the train on a north London suburb station.
As far as features go. For some are fair and some
colorless and none racially typical. The only one that
is absolutely like a race caricature is a tall stout elderly
fellow with spectacles and a short nose and a bristling
moustache, and he is the German of the comic papers
of twenty years ago. But he is pure Sicilian.
They are mostly young fellows going up the line to
Messina to their job: not artizans, lower middle class.
And externally, so like any other clerks and shop-
men, only rather more shabby, much less socially self-
conscious. They are lively, they throw their arms
round one another's necks, they all but kiss.- One poor
chap has had earache, so a black kerchief is tied round
his face, and his black hat is perched above, and a comic
sight he looks. No one seems to think so, however.
Yet they view my arrival with a knapsack on my back
with cold disapprobation, as unseemly as if I had
arrived riding on a pig. I ought to be in a carriage,
and the knapsack ought to be a new suitcase. I know
it, but am inflexible.
That is how they are. Each one thinks he is as
handsome as Adonis, and as "fetching" as Don Juan.
Extraordinary! At the same time, all flesh is grass,
and if a few trouser-buttons are missing or if a black
hat perches above a thick black face-muffle and a long
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excruciated face, it is all in the course of nature. They
seize the black-edged one by the arm, and in profound
commiseration: "Do you suffer? Are you suffering?"
And that also is how they are. So terribly physically
all over one another. They pour themselves one over
the other like so much melted butter over parsnips.
They catch each other under the chin, with a tender
caress of the hand, and they smile with sunny melting
tenderness into each other's face. Never in the world
have I seen such melting gay tenderness as between
casual Sicilians on railway platforms, whether they be
young lean-cheeked Sicilians or huge stout Sicilians.
There must be something curious about the proximity
of a volcano. Naples and Catania alike, the men are
hugely fat, with great macaroni paunches, they are
expansive and in a perfect drip of casual affection and
love. But the Sicilians are even more wildly exur-
berant and fat and all over one another than the Nea-
politans. They never leave off being amorously
friendly with almost everybody, emitting a relentless
physical familiarity that is quite bewildering to one
not brought up near a volcano.
This is more true of the middle classes than of the
lower. The working men are perforce thinner and
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less exuberant. But they hang together in clusters,
and can never be physically near enough.
It is only thirty miles to Messina, but the train takes
two hours. It winds and hurries and stops beside the
lavender grey morning sea. A flock of goats trail over
the beach near the lapping wave's edge, dismally.
Great wide deserts of stony river-beds run down to the
sea, and men 1 on asses are picking their way across, and
women are kneeling by the small stream-channel wash-
ing clothes. The lemons hang pale and innumerable
in the thick lemon groves. Lemon trees, like Italians,
seem to be happiest when they are touching one another
all round. Solid forests of not very tall lemon trees
lie between the steep mountains and the sea, on the
strip of plain. Women, vague in the orchard under-
shadow, are picking the lemons, lurking as if in the
undersea. There are heaps of pale yellow lemons
under the trees. They look like pale, primrose-smoul-
dering fires. Curious how like fires the heaps of lemons
look, under the shadow of foliage, seeming to give off
a pallid burning amid the suave, naked, greenish trunks.
When there comes a cluster of orange trees, the oranges
are red like coals among the darker leaves. But lemons,
lemons, innumerable, speckled like innumerable tiny
stars in the green firmament of leaves. So many
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lemons! Think of all the lemonade crystals they will
be reduced to! Think of America drinking them up
I always wonder why such vast wide river-beds of
pale boulders come out of the heart of the high-rearing,
dramatic stone mountains, a few miles to the sea. A
few miles only: and never more than a few threading
water- trickles in river-beds wide enough for the Rhine.
But that is how it is. The landscape is ancient, and
classic romantic, as if it had known far-off days and
fiercer rivers and more verdure. Steep, craggy, wild,
the land goes up to its points and precipices, a tangle of
heights. But all jammed on top of one another. And
in old landscapes, as in old people, the flesh wears away,
and the bones become prominent. Rock sticks up fan-
tastically. The jungle of peaks in this old Sicily.
The sky is all grey. The Straits are grey. Reggio,
just across the water, is white looking, under the great
dark toe of Calabria, the toe of Italy. On Aspromonte
there is grey cloud. It is going to rain. After such
marvelous ringing blue days, it is going to rain. What
Aspromonte! Garibaldi! I could always cover my
AS FAR AS PALERMO
face when I see it, Aspromonte. I wish Garibaldi had
been prouder. Why did he go off so humbly, with his
bag of seed-corn and a flea in his ear, when His
Majesty King Victor Emmanuel arrived with his little
short legs on the scene. Poor Garibaldi ! He wanted to
be a hero and a dictator of free Sicily. Well, one can't
be a dictator and humble at the same time. One must
be a hero, which he was, and proud, which he wasn't.
Besides people don't nowadays choose proud heroes for
governors. Anything but. They prefer constitutional
monarchs, who are paid servants and who know it.
That is democracy. Democracy admires its own ser-
vants and nothing else. And you couldn't make a real
servant even of Garibaldi. Only of His Majesty King
Victor Emmanuel. So Italy chose Victor Emmanuel,
and Garibaldi went off with a corn bag and a whack
on the behind like a humble ass.
It is raining dismally, dismally raining. And this
is Messina coming. Oh horrible Messina, earthquake-
shattered and renewing your youth like a vast mining
settlement, with rows and streets and miles of concrete
shanties, squalor and a big street with shops and gaps
and broken houses still, just back of the tram-lines,
and a dreary squalid earthquake-hopeless port in a
lovely harbor. People don't forget and don't recover.
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The people of Messina seem to be today what they
were nearly twenty years ago, after the earthquake:
people who have had a terrible shock, and for whom
all life's institutions are really nothing, neither civili-
zation nor purpose. The meaning of everything all
came down with a smash in that shuddering earthquake,
and nothing remains but money and the throes of some
sort of sensation. Messina between the volcanoes,
Etna and Stromboli, having known the death-agony's
terror. I always dread coming near the awful place,
yet I have found the people kind, almost feverishly so,
as if they knew the awful need for kindness.
Raining, raining hard. Clambering down on to the
wet platform and walking across the wet lines to the
cover. Many human beings scurrying across the wet
lines, among the wet trains, to get out into the ghastly
town beyond. Thank heaven one need not go out into
the town. Two convicts chained together among the
crowd and two soldiers. The prisoners wear fawny
homespun clothes, of cloth such as the peasants weave,
with irregularly occurring brown stripes. Rather nice
handmade rough stuff. But linked together, dear God!
And those horrid caps on their hairless foreheads. No
hair. Probably they are going to a convict station on
the Lipari islands. The people take no notice.
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No, but convicts are horrible creatures: at least, the
old one is, with his long, nasty face: his long, clean-
shaven, horrible face, without emotions, or with
emotions one cannot follow. Something cold, sightless.
A sightless, ugly look. I should loathe to have to touch
him. Of the other I am not so sure. He is younger,
and with dark eyebrows. But a roundish, softish face,
with a sort of leer. No, evil is horrible. I used to
think there was no absolute evil. Now I know there
is a great deal. So much that it threatens life alto-
gether. That ghastly abstractness of criminals. They
don't know any more what other people feel. Yet
some horrible force drives them.
It is a great mistake to abolish the death penalty.
If I were dictator, I should order the old one to be
hung at once. I should have judges with sensitive,
living hearts: not abstract intellects. And because the
instinctive heart recognised a man as evil, I would have
that man destroyed. Quickly. Because good warm life
is now in danger.
Standing on Messina station dreary, dreary hole
and watching the winter rain and seeing the pair of
convicts, I must remember again Oscar Wilde on Read-
ing platform, a convict. What a terrible mistake, to
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let oneself be martyred by a lot of canaille. A man
must say his say. But noli me tangere.
Curious these people are. Up and down, up and
down go a pair of officials. The young one in a black
gold-laced cap talks to the elder in a scarlet gold-laced
cap. And he walks, the young one, with a mad little
hop, and his fingers fly as if he wanted to scatter them
to the four winds of heaven, and his words go off like
fireworks, with more than Sicilian speed. On and on,
up and down, and his eye is dark and excited and un-
seeing, like the eye of a fleeing rabbit. Strange and
beside itself is humanity.
What a lot of officials! You know them by their
caps. Elegant tubby little officials in kid-and-patent
boots and gold-laced caps, tall long-nosed ones in more
gold-laced caps, like angels in and out of the gates of
heaven they thread in and out of the various doors. As
far as I can see, there are three scarlet station-masters,
five black-and-gold substation-masters, and a countless
number of principalities and powers in more or less
broken boots and official caps. They are like bees
round a hive, humming in an important conversazione,
and occasionally looking at some paper or other, and
extracting a little official honey. But the conversazione
is the affair of affairs. To an Italian official, life seems
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to be one long and animated conversation the Italian
word is better interrupted by casual trains and tele-
phones. And besides the angels of heaven's gates, there
are the mere ministers, porters, lamp-cleaners, etc.
These stand in groups and talk socialism. A lamp-
man slashes along, swinging a couple of lamps. Bashes
one against a barrow. Smash goes the glass. Looks
down as if to say, What do you mean by it? Glances
over his shoulder to see if any member of the higher
hierarchies is looking. Seven members of higher hier-
archies are assiduously not looking. On goes the min-
ister with the lamp, blithely. Another pane or two
gone. Vogue la galere.
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 rain-
ing. 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
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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-tit y 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 cosi
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
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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 Mes-
sina 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 un-
"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 in-
ordinate 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
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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
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 y express and
goods, the tin horn sounds and away we go, happily,
towards the next coincidence. Clerks away ahead joy-
fully chalk up our hours of lateness on the announce-
ment 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 direc-
tion, 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
[ 32 ]
AS FAR AS PALERMO
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 ex-
traordinarily large man, quite young: and a diminutive
servant, a little girl-child of about thirteen, with a beau-
tiful 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,
[ 33 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
She edges her way in carefully: and once seated, is ter-
rified to rise to her feet. She sits with that motionless-
ness of her type, closed lips, face muted and expres-
sionless. 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
It is evident she is a country beauty become a bour-
geoise. She speaks unwillingly to the other squint-
eyed passenger, a young woman who also wears a black-
rabbit fur, but without pretensions.
The husband of Juno is a fresh-faced bourgeois
young fellow, and he also is simply huge. His waist-
coat would almost make the overcoat of the fourth
passenger, the unshaven companion of the squinting
young woman. The young Jupiter wears kid gloves:
a significant fact here. He, too, has pretensions. But
he is quite affable with the unshaven one, and speaks
Italian unaffectedly. Whereas Juno speaks the dialect
No one takes any notice of the little maid. She has
a gentle, virgin moon-face, and those lovely grey
Sicilian eyes that are translucent, and into which the
light sinks and becomes black sometimes, sometimes
dark blue. She carries the bag and the extra coat of
[ 34 ]
AS FAR AS PALERMO
the huge Juno, and sits on the edge of the seat between
me and the unshaven, Juno having motioned her there
with a regal inclination of the head.
The little maid is rather frightened. Perhaps she is
an orphan child probably. Her nut-brown hair is
smoothly parted and done in two pigtails. She wears
no hat, as is proper for her class. On her shoulders
one of those little knitted grey shoulder-capes that one
associates with orphanages. Her stuff dress is dark
grey, her boots are strong.
The smooth, moon-like, expressionless virgin face,
rather pale and touching, rather frightened, of the girl-
child. A perfect face from a mediaeval picture. It
moves one strangely. Why? It is so unconscious, as
we are conscious. Like a little muted animal it sits
there, in distress. She is going to be sick. She goes
into the corridor and is sick very sick, leaning her head
like a sick dog on the window-ledge. Jupiter towers
above her not unkind, and apparently feeling no re-
pugnance. The physical convulsion of the girl does
not affect him as it affects us. He looks on unmoved,
merely venturing to remark that she had eaten too much
before coming on to the train. An obviously true re-
mark. After which he comes and talks a few common-
places to me. By and by the girl-child creeps in again
and sits on the edge of the seat facing Juno. But no,
[ 35 1
SEA AND SARDINIA
says Juno, if she is sick she will be sick over me. So
Jupiter accommodatingly changes places with the girl-
child, who is thus next to me. She sits on the edge of
the seat with folded little red hands, her face pale and
expressionless. Beautiful the thin line of her nut-
brown eyebrows, the dark lashes of the silent, pellucid
dark eyes. Silent, motionless, like a sick animal.
But Juno tells her to wipe her splashed boots. The
child gropes for a piece of paper. Juno tells her to
take her pocket handkerchief. Feebly the sick girl-
child wipes her boots, then leans back. But no good.
She has to go in the corridor and be sick again.
After a while they all get out. Queer to see people
so natural. Neither Juno nor Jupiter is in the least
unkind. He even seems kind. But they are just not
upset. Not half as upset as we are the q-b want-
ing to administer tea, and so on. We should have
to hold the child's head. They just quite naturally
leave it alone to its convulsions, and are neither dis-
tressed nor repelled. It just is so.
Their naturalness seems unnatural to us. Yet I am
sure it is best. Sympathy would only complicate mat-
ters, and spoil that strange, remote virginal quality.
The q-b says it is largely stupidity.
Nobody washes out the corner of the corridor,
[ 36 ]
AS FAR AS PALERMO
though we stop at stations long enough, and there are
two more hours journey. Train officials go by and
stare, passengers step over and stare, new-comers stare
and step over. Somebody asks who? Nobody thinks
of just throwing a pail of water. Why should they?
It is all in the course of nature. One begins to be a
bit chary of this same "nature", in the south.
Enter two fresh passengers: a black-eyed, round-
faced, bright-sharp man in corduroys and with a gun,
and a long-faced, fresh-colored man with thick snowy
hair, and a new hat and a long black overcoat of
smooth black cloth, lined with rather ancient, once
expensive fur. He is extremely proud of this long
black coat and ancient fur lining. Childishly proud
he wraps it again over his knee, and gloats. The
beady black-eyes of the hunter look round with pleased
alertness. He sits facing the one in the overcoat, who
looks like the last sprout of some Norman blood. The
hunter in corduroys beams abroad, with beady black
eyes in a round red face, curious. And the other tucks
his fur-lined long coat between his legs and gloats to
himself: all to himself gloating, and looking as if he
were deaf. But no, he's not. He wears muddy high-
At Termini it is already lamp-light. Business men
[ 37 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
crowd in. We get five business men: all stout,
respected Palermitans. The one opposite me has
whiskers, and a many-colored, patched traveling rug
over his fat knees. Queer how they bring that feeling
of physical intimacy with them. You are never sur-
prised if they begin to take off their boots, or their
collar-and-tie. The whole world is a sort of bedroom
to them. One shrinks, but in vain.
There is some conversation between the black-eyed,
beady hunter and the business men. Also the young
white-haired one, the aristocrat, tries to stammer out,
at great length, a few words. As far as I can gather
the young one is mad or deranged and the other,
the hunter, is his keeper. They are traveling over
Europe together. There is some talk of "the Count".
And the hunter says the unfortunate "has had an acci-
dent." But that is a southern gentleness presumably,
a form of speech. Anyhow it is queer: and the hunter
in his corduroys, with his round, ruddy face and strange
black-bright eyes and thin black hair is a puzzle to me,
even more than the albino, long-coated, long-faced,
fresh-complexioned, queer last remnant of a baron as
he is. They are both muddy from the land, and
pleased in a little mad way of their own.
But it is half-past six. We are at Palermo, capital
of Sicily. The hunter slings his gun over his shoulder,
[ 38 ]
AS FAR AS PALERMO
I my knapsack, and in the throng we all disappear, into
the Via Maqueda.
Palermo has two great streets, the Via Maqueda, and
the Corso, which cross each other at right-angles.
The Via Maqueda is narrow, with narrow little pave-
ments, and is always choked with carriages and foot-
It had ceased raining. But the narrow road was
paved with large, convex slabs of hard stone, inexpress-
ibly greasy. To cross the Via Maqueda therefore was
a feat. However, once accomplished, it was done.
The near end of the street was rather dark, and had
mostly vegetable shops. Abundance of vegetables
piles of white-and-green fennel, like celery, and great
sheaves of young, purplish, sea-dust-colored artichokes,
nodding their buds, piles of big radishes, scarlet and
bluey purple, carrots, long strings of dried figs, moun-
tains of big oranges, scarlet large peppers,, a last slice
of pumpkin, a great mass of colors and vegetable fresh-
nesses. A mountain of black-purple cauliflowers, like
niggers' heads, and a mountain of snow-white ones
next to them. How the dark, greasy, night-stricken
street seems to beam with these vegetables, all this
fresh delicate flesh of luminous vegetables piled there
in the air, and in the recesses of the windowless little
[ 39 1
SEA AND SARDINIA
caverns of the shops, and gleaming forth on the dark
air, under the lamps. The q-b at once wants to buy
vegetables. "Look! Look at the snow-white broc-
coli. Look at the huge finocchi. Why don't we get
them? I must have some. Look at those great clus-
ters of dates ten francs a kilo, and we pay sixteen.
It's monstrous. Our place is simply monstrous."
For all that, one doesn't buy vegetables to take to
Cross the Corso at that decorated maelstrom and
death-trap of the Quattro Canti. I, of course, am
nearly knocked down and killed. Somebody is nearly
knocked down and killed every two minutes. But
there the carriages are light, and the horses curiously
aware creatures. They would never tread on one.
The second part of the Via Maqueda is the swell
part: silks and plumes, and an infinite number of shirts
and ties and cuff-links and mufflers and men's fancies.
One realises here that man-drapery and man-under-
wear is quite as important as woman's, if not more.
I, of course, in a rage. The q-b stares at every rag
and stitch, and crosses and re-crosses this infernal dark
stream of a Via Maqueda, which, as I have said, is
choked solid with strollers and carriages. Be it re-
membered that I have on my back the brown knapsack,
and the q-b carries the kitchenino. This is enough to
AS FAR AS PALERMO
make a travelling menagerie of us. If I had my
shirt sticking out behind, and if the q-b had happened
merely to catch up the table-cloth and wrap it round
her as she came out, all well and good. But a big
brown knapsack! And a basket with thermos flask,
etc! No, one could not expect such things to pass in
a southern capital.
But I am case-hardened. And I am sick of shops.
True, we have not been in a town for three months.
But can I care for the innumerable fantasias in the
drapery line? Every wretched bit of would-be-extra
chic is called a fantasia. The word goes lugubriously
to my bowels.
Suddenly I am aware of the q-b darting past me like
a storm. Suddenly I see her pouncing on three gig-
ling young hussies just in front the inevitable black
velveteen tarn, the inevitable white curly muffler, the
inevitable lower-class flappers. "Did you want some-
thing? Have you something to say? Is there some-
thing that amuses you? Oh-h! You must laugh,
must you? Oh laugh! Oh-h! Why? Why? You
ask why? Haven't I heard you! Oh you spik In-
gleesh! You spik Ingleesh! Yes why! That's
why! Yes, that's why."
The three gigling young hussies shrink together as
if they would all hide behind one another, after a
SEA AND SARDINIA
vain uprearing and a demand why? Madam tells
them why. So they uncomfortably squeeze together
under the unexpected strokes of the q-b's sledge-
hammer Italian and more than sledge-hammer retal-
iation, there full in the Via Maqueda. They edge
round one another, each attempting to get back of the
other, away from the looming q-b. I perceive that
this rotary motion is equivalent to a standstill, so feel
called upon to say something in the manly line.
"Beastly Palermo bad-manners," I say, and throw
a nonchalant "Ignoranti" at the end, in a tone of dis-
Which does it. Off they go down-stream, still
huddling and shrinking like boats that are taking
sails in, and peeping to see if we are coming. Yes,
my dears, we are coming.
"Why do you bother?" say I to the q-b, who is
towering with rage.
"They've followed us the whole length of the
street with their sacco militario and their parlano
inglese and their you sfiik Ingleesh, and their jeering
insolence. But the English are fools. They always
put up with this Italian impudence."
Which is perhaps true. But this knapsack! It
might be full of bronze-roaring geese, it would not
attract more attention!
[ 4* ]
AS FAR AS PALERMO
However, and however, it is seven o'clock, and the
shops are beginning to shut. No more shop-gazing.
Only one lovely place: raw ham, boiled ham, chickens
in aspic, chicken vol-au- vents, sweet curds, curd-cheese,
rustic cheese-cake, smoked sausages, beautiful fresh
mortadella, huge Mediterranean red lobsters, and
those lobsters without claws. "So good! So good!"
We stand and cry it aloud.
But this shop too is shutting. I ask a man for the
Hotel Pantechnico. And treating me in that gentle,
strangely tender southern manner, he takes me and
shows me. He makes me feel such a poor, frail, help-
less leaf. A foreigner, you know. A bit of an im-
becile, poor dear. Hold his hand and show him the
To sit in the room of this young American woman,
with its blue hangings, and talk and drink tea till mid-
night! Ah these naive Americans they are a good
deal older and shrewder than we, once it nears the
point. And they all seem to feel as if the world were
coming to an end. And they are so truly generous
of their hospitality, in this cold world.
[ 43 )
THE fat old porter knocks. Ah
more it is dark. Get up again before dawn.
A dark sky outside, cloudy. The thrilling
tinkle of innumerable goat-bells as the first flock enters
the city, such a rippling sound. Well, it must be
morning, even if one shivers at it. And at least it
does not rain.
That pale, bluish, theatrical light outside, of the
first dawn. And a cold wind. We come on to the
wide, desolate quay, the curve of the harbour Panor-
mus. That horrible dawn-pallor of a cold sea out
there. And here, port mud, greasy: and fish: and
refuse. The American girl is with us, wrapped in her
sweater. A coarse, cold, black-slimy world, she seems
as if she would melt away before it. But these frail
creatures, what a lot they can go through!
Across the great, wide, badly paved, mud-greasy,
despairing road of the quay side, and to the sea. There
D. H. Lawrence
MAP FOR SEA AND SARDINIA
lies our steamer, over there in the dawn-dusk of the
basin, half visible. "That one who is smoking her
cigarette," says the porter. She looks little, beside
the huge City of Trieste who is lying up next her.
Our row-boat is hemmed in by many empty boats,
huddled to the side of the quay. She works her way
out like a sheepdog working his way out of a flock
of sheep, or like a boat through pack-ice. We are on
the open basin. The rower stands up and pushes the
oars from him. He gives a long, melancholy cry to
someone on the quay. The water goes chock-chock
against the urging bows. The wind is chill. The
fantastic peaks behind Palermo show half -ghostly in
a half -dark sky. The dawn seems reluctant to come.
Our steamer still smokes her cigarette meaning the
funnel-smoke across there. So, one sits still, and
crosses the level space of half -dark water. Masts of
sailing-ships, and spars, cluster on the left, on the un-
Climb up, climb up, this is our ship. Up we go,
up the ladder. "Oh but!" says the American girl.
"Isn't she small! Isn't she impossibly small! Oh
my, will you go in such a little thing? Oh dear!
[ 45 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
Thirty two hours in such a little boat? Why no, I
wouldn't care for it at all."
A bunch of stewards, cooks, waiters, engineers, pan-
cleaners and what-not, mostly in black canvas jackets.
Nobody else on the ship. A little black bunch of
loutish crew with nothing to do, and we the first pas-
sengers served up to be jeered at. There you are, in
the grey light.
"Who is going?"
"We two the signorina is not going."
These are casual proletarian manners.
We are taken into the one long room with a long
table and many maple-golden doors, alternate panels
having a wedgewood blue-and-white picture inserted
a would-be Goddess of white marble on a blue ground,
like a health-salts Hygeia advertisement. One of the
plain panels opens our cabin.
"Oh dear! Why it isn't as big as a china-closet.
However will you get in!" cries the American girl.
"One at a time," say I.
"But it's the tiniest place I ever saw."
It really was tiny. One had to get into a bunk to
shut the door. That did not matter to me, I am no
Titanic American. I pitched the knapsack on one
bunk, the kitchenino on the other, and we shut the
[ 46 ]
door. The cabin disappeared into a maple-wood panel
of the long, subterranean state-room.
"Why, is this the only place you've got to sit in?"
cried the American girl. "But how perfectly awful!
No air, and so dark, and smelly. Why I never saw
such a boat! Will you really go? Will you really!"
The stateroom was truly rather subterranean and
stuffy, with nothing but a long table and an uncanny
company of screw-pin chairs seated thereat, and no
outlet to the air at all, but it was not so bad otherwise,
to me who have never been out of Europe. Those
maple-wood panels and ebony curves and those
Hygeias! They went all round, even round the
curve at the dim, distant end, and back up the near side.
Yet how beautiful old, gold-coloured maple-wood is!
how very lovely, with the ebony curves of the door
arch! There was a wonderful old-fashioned, Victor-
ian glow in it, and a certain splendour. Even one
could bear the Hygeias let in under glass the colour
was right, that wedge-wood and white, in such lovely
gold lustre. There was a certain homely grandeur
still in the days when this ship was built: a richness
of choice material. And health-salts Hygeias, wedge-
wood Greek goddesses on advertisement placards!
Yet they weren't advertisements. That was what
SEA AND SARDINIA
really worried me. They never had been. Perhaps
Weego's Health Salts stole her later.
We have no coffee that goes without saying.
Nothing doing so early. The crew still stands in a
gang, exactly like a gang of louts at a street-corner.
And they've got the street all to themselves this
ship. We climb to the upper deck.
She is a long, slender, old steamer with one little
funnel. And she seems so deserted, now that one
can't see the street-corner gang of the casual crew.
They are just below. Our ship is deserted.
The dawn is wanly blueing. The sky is a curdle
of cloud, there is a bit of pale gold eastwards, beyond
Monte Pellegrino. The wind blows across the har-
bour. The hills behind Palermo prick up their ears
on the sky-line. The city lies unseen, near us and
level. There a big ship is coming in: the Naples
And the little boats keep putting off from the near
quay, and coming to us. We watch. A stout officer,
cavalry, in grayey-green, with a big dark-blue cloak
lined with scarlet. The scarlet lining keeps flashing.
He has a little beard, and his uniform is not quite
clean. He has big wooden chests, tied with rope, for
[ 48 ]
luggage. Poor and of no class. Yet that scarlet, splen-
did lining, and the spurs. It seems a pity they must
go second-class. Yet so it is, he goes forward when
the dock porter has hoisted those wooden boxes. No
Boats still keep coming. Ha-ha! Here is the
commissariat! Various sides of kid, ready for roast-
ing: various chickens: fennel like celery: wine in a
bottiglione: new bread: packages! Hand them up,
hand them up. "Good food!" cries the q-b in antici-
It must be getting near time to go. Two more
passengers young thick men in black broadcloth
standing up in the stern of a little boat, their hands
in their pockets, looking a little cold about the chin.
Not quite Italian, too sturdy and manly. Sardinians
from Cagliari, as a matter of fact.
We go down from the chill upper-deck. It is grow-
ing full day. Bits of pale gold are flying among
delicate but cold flakes of cloud from the east, over
Monte Pellegrino, bits of very new turquoise sky come
out. Palermo on the left crouches upon her all-har-
bour a little desolate, disorderly, end-of-the-world,
end-of-the-sea, along her quay front. Even from
here we can see the yellow carts rattling slowly, the
SEA AND SARDINIA
mules nodding their high weird plumes of scarlet
along the broad weary harbour-side. Oh painted carts
of Sicily, with all history on your panels!
Arrives an individual at our side. "The captain
fears it will not be possible to start. There is much
wind outside. Much wind!"
How they love to come up with alarming, disquiet-
ing, or annoying news! The joy it gives them. What
satisfaction on all the faces: of course all the other
loafers are watching us, the street-corner loungers of
this deck. But we have been many times bitten.
"Ah ma!" say I, looking at the sky, '"not so much
wind as all that."
An air of quiet, shrugging indifference is most
effectual: as if you knew all about it, a good deal
more than they knew.
"Ah si! Molto vento! Molto vento! Outside!
With a long face and a dramatic gesture he points
out of the harbour, to the grey sea. I too look out of
the harbour at the pale line of sea beyond the mole.
But I do not trouble to answer, and my eye is calm.
So he goes away, only half triumphant.
"Things seem to get worse and worse!" cries the
[ 50 ]
American friend. "What will you do on such a boat
if you have an awful time out in the Mediterranean
here? Oh no will you risk it, really? Won't you
go from Civita Vecchia?"
"How awful it will be!" cries the q-b, looking
round the grey harbour, the many masts clustering in
the grey sky on the right: the big Naples boat turning
her posterior to the quay-side a little way off, and
cautiously budging backwards: the almost entirely shut-
in harbour: the bits of blue and flying white cloud
overhead: the little boats like beetles scuttling hither
and thither across the basin: the thick crowd on the quay
come to meet the Naples boat.
Time! Time! The American friend nvst go.
She bids us goodbye, more than sympathetically.
"I shall be awfully interested to hear how you get
So down the side she goes. The boatman wants
twenty francs wants more but doesn't get it. He
gets ten, which is five too much. And so, sitting
rather small and pinched and cold-looking, huddled
in her sweater, she bibbles over the ripply water to
the distant stone steps. We wave farewell. But
other traffic comes between us. And the q-b, feeling
nervous, is rather cross because the American friend's
SEA AND SARDINIA
ideas of luxury have put us in such a poor light. We
feel like the poorest of poor sea-faring relations.
Our ship is hooting for all she's worth. An im-
portant last-minuter comes surging up. The rope
hawsers are being wound clankily in. Seagulls they
are never very many in the Mediterranean sea-gulls
whirl like a few flakes of snow in the upper chill air.
Clouds spin. And without knowing it we are evapor-
ating away from the shore, from our mooring, between
the great City of Trieste and another big black steamer
that lies like a wall. We breathe towards this second
black wall of steamer: distinctly. And of course an
individual in an official cap is standing on the bottom
of our departure ladder just above the water, yelling
Barca! Barca! shouting for a boat. And an old
man on the sea stands up to his oars and comes pushing
his clumsy boat with gathering speed between us and
the other black wall. There he stands away below
there, small, firing his clumsy boat along, remote as
if in a picture on the dark green water. And our
black side insidiously and evilly aspires to the other
huge black wall. He rows in the canyon between,
and is nearly here.
When lo, the individual on the bottom step turns
in the other direction. Another boat from the open
[ 52 ]
basin is sweeping up: it is a race: she is near, she is
nearer, she is up. With a curvet the boat from the
open rounds up at the ladder. The boat between the
gulf backs its oars. The official individual shouts
and waves, the old man backing his oars in the gulf
below yells expostulation, the boat from the open
carries off its prey, our ship begins slowly to puddle-
puddle-puddle, working her screw, the man in the
gulf of green water rows for his life we are floating
into the open basin.
Slowly, slowly we turn round: and as the ship
turns, our hearts turn. Palermo fades from our con-
sciousness: the Naples boat, the disembarking crowds,
the rattling carriages to the land the great City of
Trieste all fades from our heart. We see only the
open gap of the harbour entrance, and the level, pale-
grey void of the sea beyond. There are wisps of
gleamy light out there.
And out there our heart watches though Palermo
is near us, just behind. We look round, and see it
all behind us but already it is gone, gone from our
heart. The fresh wind, the gleamy wisps of light,
the running, open sea beyond the harbour bars.
And so we steam out. And almost at once the ship
begins to take a long, slow, dizzy dip, and a fainting
[ 53 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
swoon upwards, and a long, slow, dizzy dip, slipping
away from beneath one. The q-b turns pale. Up
comes the deck in that fainting swoon backwards
then down it fades in that indescribable slither for-
wards. It is all quite gentle quite, quite gentle.
But oh, so long, and so slow, and so dizzy.
"Rather pleasant!" say I to the q-b.
"Yes. Rather lovely really " she answers wistfully.
To tell the truth there is something in the long, slow
lift of the ship, and her long, slow slide forwards
which makes my heart beat with joy. It is the motion
of freedom. To feel her come up then slide slowly
forward, with a sound of the smashing of waters, is
like the magic gallop of the sky, the magic gallop of
elemental space. That long, slow, waveringly rhyth-
mic rise and fall of the ship, with waters snorting as it
were from her nostrils, oh God what a joy it is to the
wild innermost soul. One is free at last and lilting
in a slow flight of the elements, winging outwards.
Oh God, to be free of all the hemmed-in life the
horror of human tension, the absolute insanity of
machine persistence. The agony which a train is to
me, really. And the long-drawn-out agony of a life
among tense, resistant people on land. And then to
feel the long, slow lift and drop of this almost empty
ship, as she took the waters. Ah God, liberty, liberty,
[ 54 ]
elemental liberty. I wished in my soul the voyage
might last forever, that the sea had no end, that one
might float in this wavering, tremulous, yet long and
surging pulsation while ever time lasted: space never
exhausted, and no turning back, no looking back, even.
The ship was almost empty save of course for the
street-corner louts who hung about just below, on the
deck itself. We stood alone on the weather-faded
little promenade deck, which has old oak seats with old,
carved little lions at the ends, for arm-rests and a
little cabin mysteriously shut, which much peeping
determined as the wireless office and the operator's
little curtained bed-niche.
Cold, fresh wind, a black-blue, translucent, rolling
sea on which the wake rose in snapping foam, and
Sicily on the left: Monte Pellegrino, a huge, inordin-
ate mass of pinkish rock, hardly crisped with the faint-
est vegetation, looming up to heaven from the sea.
Strangely large in mass and bulk Monte Pellegrino
looks: and bare, like a Sahara in heaven: and old-
looking. These coasts of Sicily are very imposing,
terrific, fortifying the interior. And again one gets
the feeling that age has worn them bare: as if old,
old civilisations had worn away and exhausted the soil,
[ 55 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
leaving a terrifying blankness of rock, as at Syracuse
in plateaus, and here in a great mass.
There seems hardly any one on board but ourselves:
we alone on the little promenade deck. Strangely
lonely, floating on a bare old ship past the great bare
shores, on a rolling sea, stooping and rising in the wind.
The wood of the fittings is all bare and weather-sil-
vered, the cabin, the seats, even the little lions of the
seats. The paint wore away long ago: and this timber
will never see paint any more. Strange to put one's
hand on the old oaken wood, so sea-fibred. Good old
delicate-threaded oak: I swear it grew in England.
And everything so carefully done, so solidly and ever-
lastingly. I look at the lions, with the perfect-fitting
oaken pins through their paws clinching them down,
and their little mouths open. They are as solid as
they were in Victorian days, as immovable. They will
never wear away. What a joy in the careful,
thorough, manly, everlasting work put into a ship: at
least into this sixty-year-old vessel. Every bit of this
old oak wood so sound, so beautiful: and the whole
welded together with joints and wooden pins far more
beautifully and livingly than iron welds. Rustless,
life-born, living-tissued old wood: rustless as flesh is
rustless, and happy-seeming as iron never can be. She
rides so well, she takes the sea so beautifully, as a
matter of course.
Various members of the crew wander past to look
at us. This little promenade deck is over the first-
class quarters, full in the stern. So we see first one
head then another come up the ladder mostly bare
heads: and one figure after another slouches past,
smoking a cigarette. All crew. At last the q-b stops
one of them it is what they are all waiting for, an
opportunity to talk and asks if the weird object on
the top of Pellegrino is a ruin. Could there be a
more touristy question! No, it is the semaphore
station. Slap in the eye for the q-b! She doesn't
mind, however, and the member of the crew proceeds
to converse. He is a weedy, hollow-cheeked town-
product: a Palermitan. He wears faded blue over-
alls and informs us he is the ship's carpenter: happily
unemployed for the rest of his life, apparently, and
taking it as rather less than his dues. The ship once
did the Naples-Palermo course a very important
course in the old days of the General Navigation
Company. The General Navigation Company sold
her for eighty thousand liras years ago, and now she
was worth two million. We pretend to believe: but
I make a poor show. I am thoroughly sick to death
[ 57 1
SEA AND SARDINIA
of the sound of liras. No man can overhear ten
words of Italian today without two thousand or two
million or ten or twenty or two liras flying like ven-
omous mosquitoes round his ears. Liras liras
liras nothing else. Romantic, poetic, cypress-and-
orange-tree Italy is gone. Remains an Italy smoth-
ered in the filthy smother of innumerable Lira notes:
ragged, unsavoury paper money so thick upon the air
that one breathes it like some greasy fog. Behind this
greasy fog some people may still see the Italian sun.
I find it hard work. Through this murk of Liras you
peer at Michael Angelo and at Botticelli and the rest,
and see them all as through a glass, darkly. For
heavy around you is Italy's after-the-war atmosphere,
darkly pressing you, squeezing you, milling you into
dirty paper notes. King Harry was lucky that they
only wanted to coin him into gold. Italy wants to
mill you into filthy paper Liras.
Another head and a black alpaca jacket and a ser-
viette this time to tell us coffee is ready. Not before
it is time, too. We go down into the subterranean
state-room and sit on the screw-pin chairs, while the
ship does the slide-and-slope trot under us, and we
drink a couple of cups of coffee-and-milk, and eat a
piece of bread and butter. At least one of the innum-
[ 58 ]
erable members of the crew gives me one cup, then
casts me off. It is most obviously his intention that I
shall get no more: because of course the innumerable
members of the crew could all just do with another
coffee and milk. However, though the ship heaves
and the alpaca coats cluster menacingly in the doorway,
I balance my way to the tin buffet and seize the coffee
pot and the milk pot, and am quite successful in ad-
ministering to the q-b and myself. Having restored
the said vessels to their tin altar, I resume my spin-
chair at the long and desert board. The q-b and I are
alone save that in the distance a very fat back with
gold-braid collar sits sideways and a fat hand disposes
of various papers he is part of the one-and-only table,
of course. The tall lean alpaca jacket, with a face of
yellow stone and a big black moustache moves from
the outer doorway, glowers at our filled cups, and goes
to the tin altar and touches the handles of the two
vessels: just touches them to an arrangement: as one
who should say: These are mine. What dirty foreign-
er dares help himself!
As quickly as possible we stagger up from the long
dungeon where the alpaca jackets are swooping like
blue-bottles upon the coffee pots, into the air. There
the carpenter is waiting for us, like a spider.
[ 59 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
"Isn't the sea a little quieter?" says the q-b wist-
fully. She is growing paler.
"No, Signora how should it be?" says the gaunt-
faced carpenter. "The wind is waiting for us behind
Cape Gallo. You see that cape?" he points to a tall
black cliff-front in the sea ahead. "When we get to
that cape we get the wind and the sea. Here " he
makes a gesture "it is moderate."
"Ugh!" says the q-b, turning paler. "I'm going
to lie down."
She disappears. The carpenter, finding me stony
ground, goes forward, and I see him melting into the
crowd of the innumerable crew, that hovers on the
lower-deck passage by the kitchen and the engines.
The clouds are flying fast overhead: and sharp and
isolated come drops of rain, so that one thinks it must
be spray. But no, it is a handful of rain. The ship
swishes and sinks forward, gives a hollow thudding
and rears slowly backward, along this pinkish lofty
coast of Sicily that is just retreating into a bay. From
the open sea comes the rain, come the long waves.
No shelter. One must go down. The q-b lies
quietly in her bunk. The state-room is stale like a
passage on the underground railway. No shelter,
[ 60 ]
save near the kitchen and the engines, where there is
a bit of warmth. The cook is busy cleaning fish, mak-
ing the whiting bite their tails venomously at a little
board just outside his kitchen-hole. A slow stream
of kitchen-filth swilkers back and forth along the ship's
side. A gang of the crew leans near me a larger
gang further down. Heaven knows what they can all
be but they never do anything but stand in gangs
and talk and eat and smoke cigarettes. They are
mostly young mostly Palermitan with a couple of
unmistakable Neapolitans, having the peculiar Nea-
politan hang-dog good looks, the chiselled cheek, the
little black moustache, the large eyes. But they
chew with their cheeks bulged out, and laugh with
their fine, semi-sarcastic noses. The whole gang looks
continually sideways. Nobody ever commands them
there seems to be absolutely no control. Only the
fat engineer in grey linen looks as clean and as com-
petent as his own machinery. Queer how machine-
control puts the pride and self-respect into a man.
The rain over, I go and squat against the canvas
that is spread over the arched sky-lights on the small
promenade deck, sitting on the seat that is fixed to
the sky-light sides. The wind is cold: there are
snatches of sun and spits of rain. The big cape has
[ 61 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
come and is being left behind: we are heading for a
far-off cape like a cloud in the grey air. A dimness
comes over one's mind: a sort of stupefaction owing
to the wind and the relentless slither-and-rearing of
the ship. Not a sickness, but a sort of dim faintness.
So much motion, such moving, powerful air. And
withal a constant triumph in the long, slow sea-gallop
of the ship.
A great loud bell: midday and the crew going to
eat, rushing to eat. After some time we are sum-
moned. "The Signora isn't eating?" asks the waiter
eagerly: hoping she is not. "Yes, she is eating," say
I. I fetch the q-b from her berth. Rather wanly
she comes and gets into her spin chair. Bash comes
a huge plate of thick, oily cabbage soup, very full,
swilkering over the sides. We do what we can with
it. So does the third passenger: a young woman who
never wears a hat, thereby admitting herself simply
as one of "the people," but who has an expensive com-
plicated dress, nigger-coloured thin silk stockings, and
suede high-heeled shoes. She is handsome, sturdy,
with large dark eyes and a robust, frank manner:
far too robustly downright for Italy. She is from
Cagliari and can't do much with the cabbage soup:
and tells the waiter so, in her deep, hail-fellow-well-
[ 62 ]
met voice. In the doorway hovers a little cloud of
alpaca jackets grinning faintly with malignant antici-
pation of food, hoping, like blow-flies, we shall be too
ill to eat. Away goes the soup and appears a massive
yellow omelette, like some log of bilious wood. It is
hard, and heavy, and cooked in the usual rank-tasting
olive oil. The young woman doesn't have much
truck with it: neither do we. To the triumph of the
blow-flies, who see the yellow monster borne to their
altar. After which a long long slab of the inevitable
meat cut into innumerable slices, tasting of dead noth-
ingness and having a thick sauce of brown neutrality:
sufficient for twelve people at least. This, with masses
of strong-tasting greenish cauliflower liberally weight-
ed with oil, on a ship that was already heaving its heart
out, made up the dinner. Accumulating malevolent
triumph among the blow-flies in the passage. So on
to a dessert of oranges, pears with wooden hearts and
thick yellowish wash-leather flesh, and apples. Then
And we had sat through it, which is something.
The alpaca blue-bottles buzzed over the masses of
food that went back on the dishes to the tin altar.
Surely it had been made deliberately so that we should
not eat it! The Cagliarese young woman talked to
us. Yes, she broke into that awful language which
SEA AND SARDINIA
the Italians the quite ordinary ones call French,
and which they insist on speaking for their own glori-
fication: yea, when they get to heaven's gate they will
ask St. Peter for:
"OOn bigliay pour ung trozzieme classe."
Fortunately or unfortunately her inquisitiveness got
the better of her, and she fell into her native Italian.
What were we, where did we come from, where were
we going, why were we going, had we any children,
did we want any, etc. After every answer she nodded
her head and said Ahu! and watched us with energetic
dark eyes. Then she ruminated over our nationalities
and said, to the unseeing witnesses: Una bella coppia,
a fine couple. As at the moment we felt neither beau-
tiful nor coupled, we only looked greener. The grim
man-at-arms coming up to ask us again if we weren't
going to have a little wine, she lapsed into her ten-
pounder French, which was most difficult to follow.
And she said that on a sea-voyage one must eat, one
must eat, if only a little. But and she lapsed into
Italian one must by no means drink wine no no!
One didn't want to, said I sadly. Whereupon the
grim man-at-arms, whom, of course, we had cheated
out of the bottle we refused to have opened for us,
said with a lost sarcasm that wine made a man of a
man, etc., etc. I was too weary of that underground,
however. All I knew was that he wanted wine, wine,
wine, and we hadn't ordered any. He didn't care for
The Cagliarese told us she came now from Naples,
and her husband was following in a few days. He
was doing business in Naples. I nearly asked if he was
a little dog-fish this being the Italian for profiteer,
but refrained in time. So the two ladies retired to lie
down, I went and sat under my tarpaulin.
I felt very dim, and only a bit of myself. And I
dozed blankly. The afternoon grew more sunny.
The ship turned southwards, and with the wind and
waves behind, it became much warmer, much smoother.
The sun had the lovely strong winey warmth, golden
over the dark-blue sea. The old oak-wood looked
almost white, the afternoon was sweet upon the sea.
And in the sunshine and the swishing of the sea, the
speedier running of the empty ship, I slept a warm,
sweet hour away, and awoke new. To see ahead pale,
uplooming islands upon the right: the windy Egades:
and on the right a mountain or high conical hill, with
buildings on the summit: and in front against the sea,
still rather far away, buildings rising upon a quay,
within a harbor: and a mole, and a castle forward to
ea ? all mali and far away, like a view, The buildings
SEA AND SARDINIA
were square and fine. There was something im-
pressive magical under the far sunshine and the keen
wind, the square and well-proportioned buildings wait-
ing far off, waiting like a lost city in a story, a Rip van
Winkle city. I knew it was Trapani, the western port
of Sicily, under the western sun.
And the hill near us was Mount Eryx. I had never
seen it before. So I had imagined a mountain in the
sky. But it was only a hill, with undistinguishable
cluster of a village on the summit, where even now cold
wisps of vapour caught. They say it is 2,500 feet high.
Still it looks only a hill.
But why in the name of heaven should my heart
stand still as I watch that hill which rises above the sea?
It is the Etna of the west: but only a town-crowned hill.
To men it must have had a magic almost greater than
Etna's. Watching Africa! Africa, showing her coast
on clear days. Africa the dreaded. And the great
watch-temple of the summit, world-sacred, world-
mystic in the world that was. Venus of the aborigines,
older than Greek Aphrodite. Venus of the aborigines,
from her watch-temple looking at Africa, beyond the
Egatian isles. The world-mystery, the smiling Astarte.
This, one of the world centres, older than old! and
the woman-goddess watching Africa! Eryciw ridens*
Laughing, the woman-goddess, at this centre of an
ancient, quite-lost world.
I confess my heart stood still. But is mere historical
fact so strong, that what one learns in bits from books
can move one so? Or does the very word call an echo
out of the dark blood? It seems so to me. It seems
to me from the darkest recesses of my blood comes a
terrible echo at the name of Mount Eryx: something
quite unaccountable. The name of Athens hardly
moves me. At Eryx my darkness quivers. Eryx,
looking west into Africa's sunset. Erydna ridens.
There is a tick-tocking in the little cabin against
which I lean. The wireless operator is busy communi-
cating with Trapani, no doubt. He is a fat young man
with fairish curly hair and an important bearing. Give
a man control of some machine, and at once his air of
importance and more-than-human dignity develops.
One of the unaccountable members of the crew lounges
in the little doorway, like a chicken on one foot, hav-
ing nothing to do. The girl from Cagliari comes up
with two young men also Sardinians by their thick-set,
independent look, and the touch of pride in their dark
eyes. She has no wraps at all: just her elegant fine-
cloth dress, her bare head from which the wisps of
hair blow across her brow, and the transparent "nigger"
silk stockings. Yet she does not seem cold. She talks
SEA AND SARDINIA
with great animation, sitting between the two young
men. And she holds the hand of the one in the over-
coat affectionately. She is always holding the hand of
one or other of the two young men: and wiping wisps
of wind-blown hair from her brow: and talking in her
strong, nonchalant voice, rapidly, ceaselessly, with
massive energy. Heaven knows if the two young
men they are third-class passengers were previous
acquaintances. But they hold her hand like brothers
quite simply and nicely, not at all sticky and libidinous,
It all has an air of "Why not?"
She shouts at me as I pass, in her powerful, extraor-
"Madame votre femme, elle est au lit?"
I say she is lying down.
"Ah ! " she nods. "Elle a le mal de mer ? "
No, she is not sea-sick, just lying down.
The two young men, between whom she is sitting
as between two pillows, watch with the curious Sar-
dinian dark eyes that seem alert and show the white
all round. They are pleasant a bit like seals. And
they have a numb look for the moment, impressed by
this strange language. She proceeds energetically to
translate into Sardinian, as I pass on.
We do not seem to be going to Trapani. There lies
the town on the left, under the hill, the square build-
[ 68 ]
ings that suggest to me the factories of the East India
Company shining in the sun along the curious, closed-in
harbour, beyond the running, dark blue sea. We seem
to be making for the island bulk of Levanzo. Perhaps
we shall steer away to Sardinia without putting in to
On and on we run and always as if we were going
to steer between the pale blue, heaped-up islands, leav-
ing Trapani behind us on our left. The town has been
in sight for an hour or more: and still we run out to sea
towards Levanzo. And the wireless-operator busily
tick-tocks and throbs in his little cabin on this upper
deck. Peeping in, one sees his bed and chair behind a
curtain, screened off from his little office. And all so
tidy and pleased-looking.
From the islands one of the Mediterranean sailing
ships is beating her way, across our track, to Trapani.
I don't know the name of ships but the carpenter says
she is a schooner: he says it with that Italian misgiving
which doesn't really know but which can't bear not to
know. Anyhow on she comes, with her tall ladder of
square sails white in the afternoon light, and her lovely
prow, curved in with a perfect hollow, running like a
wild animal on a scent across the waters. There the
scent leads her north again. She changes her tack from
the harbour mouth, and goes coursing away, passing
SEA AND SARDINIA
behind us. Lovely she is, nimble and quick and pal-
pitating, with all her sails white and bright and eager.
We are changing our course. We have all the time
been heading for the south of Levanzo. Now I see
the island slowly edging back, as if clearing out of the
way for us, like a man in the street. The island edges
and turns aside: and walks away. And clearly we are
making for the harbour mouth. We have all this time
been running, out at sea, round the back of the harbour.
Now I see the fortress-castle, an old thing, out forward
to sea: and a little light-house and the way in. And
beyond, the town-front with great palm trees and other
curious dark trees, and behind these the large square
buildings of the south rising imposingly, as if severe,
big palaces upon the promenade. It all has a stately,
southern, imposing appearance, withal remote from our
modern centuries: standing back from the tides of our
I remember the Crusaders, how they called here so
often on their way to the East. And Trapani seems
waiting for them still, with its palm trees and its silence,
full in the afternoon sun. It has not much to do but
The q-b emerges into the sun, crying out how lovely!
And the sea is quieter: we are already in the lea of the
harbour-curve. From the north the many-sailed ship
[ 70 ]
from the islands is running down towards us, with the
wind. And away on the south, on the sea-level, numer-
ous short windmills are turning their sails briskly,
windmill after windmill, rather stumpy, spinning gaily
in the blue, silent afternoon, among the salt-lagoons
stretching away towards Marsala. But there is a whole
legion of windmills, and Don Quixote would have
gone off his head. There they spin, hither and thither,
upon the pale-blue sea-levels. And perhaps one
catches a glitter of white salt-heaps. For these are
the great salt-lagoons which make Trapani rich.
We are entering the harbour-basin, however, past the
old castle out on the spit, past the little light-house,
then through the entrance, slipping quietly on the now
tranquil water. Oh, and how pleasant the fulness of
the afternoon sun flooding this round, fast-sleeping
harbour, along whose side the tall palms drowse, and
whose waters are fast asleep. It seems quite a small,
cosy harbour, with the great buildings warm-colored in
the sun behind the dark tree-avenue of the marina.
The same silent, sleeping, endlessly sun-warmed
In the midst of this tranquillity we slowly turn round
upon the shining water, and in a few moments are
moored, There are other ships moored away to the
[ 7' j
SEA AND SARDINIA
right: all asleep, apparently, in the flooding of the
afternoon sun. Beyond the harbour entrance runs the
great sea and the wind. Here all is still and hot and
"Vous descendez en terre?" shouts the young woman,
in her energetic French she leaves off holding the
young men's hands for the moment. We are not quite
sure: and we don't want her to come with us, anyhow,
for her French is not our French.
The land sleeps on: nobody takes any notice of us:
but just one boat paddles out the dozen yards to our
side. We decide to set foot on shore.
One should not, and we knew it. One should never
enter into these southern towns that look so nice, so
lovely, from the outside. However, we thought we
would buy some cakes. So we crossed the avenue
which looks so beautiful from the sea, and which,
when you get into it, is a cross between an outside place
where you throw rubbish and a humpy unmade road in
a raw suburb, with a few iron seats, and litter of old
straw and rag. Indescribably dreary in itself: yet with
noble trees, and lovely sunshine, and the sea and the
islands gleaming magic beyond the harbour mouth, and
the sun, the eternal sun full f ocussed. A few mangy,
nothing-to-do people stand disconsolately about, in
[ 72 ]
southern fashion, as if they had been left there, water-
logged, by the last flood, and were waiting for the
next flood to wash them further. Round the corner
along the quay a Norwegian steamer dreams that she is
being loaded, in the muddle of the small port.
We looked at the cakes heavy and wan they ap-
peared to our sea-rolled stomachs. So we strolled into
a main street, dark and dank like a sewer. A tram
bumped to a standstill, as if now at last was the end
of the world. Children coming from school ecstati-
cally ran at our heels, with bated breath, to hear the
vocal horrors of our foreign speech. We turned down
a dark side alley, about forty paces deep: and were on
the northern bay, and on a black stench that seemed like
the perpetual sewer, a bank of mud.
So we got to the end of the black main street, and
turned in haste to the sun. Ah in a moment we were
in it. There rose the palms, there lay our ship in
the shining, curving basin and there f ocussed the sun,
so that in a moment we were drunk or dazed by it.
Dazed. We sat on an iron seat in the rubbish-desolate,
A ragged and dirty girl was nursing a fat and moist
and immovable baby and tending to a grimy fat infant
boy. She stood a yard away and gazed at us as one
[ 73 1
SEA AND SARDINIA
would gaze at a pig one was going to buy. She came
nearer, and examined the q-b. I had my big hat down
over my eyes. But no, she had taken her seat at my
side, and poked her face right under my hat brim, so
that her towzled hair touched me, and I thought she
would kiss me. But again no. With her breath on
my cheek she only gazed on my face as if it were a
wax mystery. I got up hastily.
"Too much for me," said I to the q-b.
She laughed, and asked what the baby was called.
The baby was called Beppina, as most babies are.
Driven forth, we wandered down the desolate
avenue of shade and sun towards the ship, and turned
once more into the town. We had not been on shore
more than ten minutes. This time we went to the
right, and found more shops. The streets were dark
and sunless and cold. And Trapani seemed to me to
sell only two commodities: cured rabbit skins and cat-
skins, and great, hideous, modern bed-spread arrange-
ments of heavy flowered silk and fabulous price. They
seem to think nothing of thousands of liras, in Trapani.
But most remarkable was bunny and pussy.
Bunny and pussy, flattened out like pressed leaves,
dangling in clusters everywhere. Furs! white bunny,
black bunny in great abundance, piebald bunny, grey
bunny: then pussy, tabby pussy, and tortoiseshell
[ 74 ]
pussy, but mostly black pussy, in a ghastly semblance
of life, all flat, of course. Just single furs. Clusters,
bunches, heaps, and dangling arrays of plain-superficies
puss and bun-bun! Puss and bun by the dozen and
the twenty, like dried leaves, for your choice. If
a cat from a ship should chance to find itself in
Trapani streets, it would give a mortal yell, and go
mad, I am sure.
We strolled for ten more minutes in this narrow,
tortuous, unreal town, that seemed to have plenty of
flourishing inhabitants, and a fair number of Socialists,
if one was to judge by the great scrawlings on the walls:
W. LENIN and ABASSO LA BORGHESIA. Don't im-
agine, by the way, that Lenin is another Wille on the
list. The apparent initial stands for Evviva, the
Cakes one dared not buy, after looking at them.
But we found macaroon biscuits, and a sort of flat
plaster-casts of the Infant Jesus under a dove, of which
we bought two. The q-b ate her macaroon biscuits
all through the streets, and we went towards the ship.
The fat boatman hailed us to take us back. It was
just about eight yards of water to row, the ship being
moored on the quay: one could have jumped it. I
gave the fat boatman two liras, two francs. He im-
[ 75 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
mediately put on the socialist-workman indignation,
and thrust the note back at me. Sixty centimes more!
The fee was thirteen sous each way! In Venice or
Syracuse it would be two sous. I looked at him and
gave him the money and said: "Per Dio, we are in Tra-
pani ! " He muttered back something about foreigners.
But the hateful, unmanly insolence of these lords of
toil, now they have their various "unions" behind them
and their "rights" as working men, sends my blood
black. They are ordinary men no more: the human,
happy Italian is most marvellously vanished. New
honors come upon them, etc. The dignity of human
labour is on its hind legs, busy giving every poor inno-
cent who isn't ready for it a kick in the mouth.
But, once more in parenthesis, let me remind myself
that it is our own English fault. We have slobbered
about the nobility of toil, till at last the nobles naturally
insist on eating the cake. And more than that, we have
set forth, politically, on such a high and Galahad quest
of holy liberty, and been caught so shamelessly filling
our pockets, that no wonder the naive and idealistic
south turns us down with a bang.
Well, we are back on the ship. And we want tea.
On the list by the door it says we are to have coffee,
[ 76 1
milk and butter at 8.30: luncheon at 11.30: tea, coffee
or chocolate at 3.00: and dinner at 6.30. And more-
over: "The company will feed the passengers for the
normal duration of the voyage only." Very well
very well. Then where is tea? Not any signs! and
the alpaca jackets giving us a wide berth. But we find
our man, and demand our rights: at least the q-b does.
The tickets from Palermo to Cagliari cost, together,
583 liras. Of this, 250 liras was for the ticket, and
40 liras each for the food. This, for two tickets,
would make 580 liras. The odd three for usual
stamps. The voyage was supposed to last about thirty
or thirty-two hours: from eight of the morning of de-
parture to two or four of the following afternoon.
Surely we pay for our tea.
The other passengers have emerged: a large, pale,
fat, "handsome" Palermitan who is going to be pro-
fessor at Cagliari : his large, fat, but high-coloured wife:
and three children, a boy of fourteen like a thin, frail,
fatherly girl, a little boy in a rabbit-skin overcoat, com-
ing rather unfluffed, and a girl-child on the mother's
knee. The one-year-old girl-child being, of course,
the only man in the party.
They have all been sick all day, and look washed out.
We sympathise. They lament the cruelties of the
journey and senza servizio! senza servizio! without
[ 77 1
SEA AND SARDINIA
any maid servant. The mother asks for coffee, and a
cup of milk for the children: then, seeing our tea with
lemon, and knowing it by repute, she will have tea.
But the rabbit-boy will have coffee coffee and milk
and nothing else. And an orange. And the baby will
have lemon, pieces of lemon. And the fatherly young
"miss" of an adolescent brother laughs indulgently at
all the whims of these two young ones: the father
laughs and thinks it all adorable and expects us to
adore. He is almost too washed-out to attend prop-
erly, to give the full body of his attention.
So the mother gets her cup of tea and puts a piece
of lemon in and then milk on top of that. The rab-
bit boy sucks an orange, slobbers in the tea, insists on
coffee and milk, tries a piece of lemon, and gets a bis-
cuit. The baby, with weird faces, chews pieces of
lemon: and drops them in the family cup: and fishes
them out with a little sugar, and dribbles them across
the table to her mouth, throws them away and reaches
for a new sour piece. They all think it humorous and
adorable. Arrives the milk, to be treated as another
loving cup, mingled with orange, lemon, sugar, tea,
biscuit, chocolate, and cake. Father, mother, and elder
brother partake of nothing, they haven't the stomach.
But they are charmed, of course, by the pretty pranks
and messes of the infants. They have extraordinary
amiable patience, and find the young ones a perpetual
source of charming amusement. They look at one
another, the elder ones, and laugh and comment, while
the two young ones mix themselves and the table into
a lemon - milk - orange - tea-sugar-biscuit-cake-chocolate
mess. This inordinate Italian amiable patience with
their young monkeys is astonishing. It makes the
monkeys more monkey-like, and self-conscious incredi-
bly, so that a baby has all the tricks of a Babylonian
harlot, making eyes and trying new pranks. Till at
last one sees the southern Holy Family as an unholy
triad of imbecility.
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 al-
most 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
[ 79 1
SEA AND SARDINIA
wooden chests of the officer, and these fourteen barrels
of wine from Trapani. The last were at length set-
tled 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 in-
numerable 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 innumera-
ble crew did not succeed in making her alive. She ran
her course like a lost soul across the Mid-Mediter-
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, in-
variably, 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
[ 80 ]
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
A different goddess the Eryx Astarte, the woman
Ashtaroth, Erycina ridens must have been, in her pre-
historic dark smiling, watching the fearful sunsets be-
yond 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.
The islands loomed big as we drew nearer, dark in
the thickening darkness. Overhead a magnificent
evening-star blazed above the open sea, giving me a
pang at the heart, for I was so used to see her hang
just above the spikes of the mountains, that I felt she
might fall, having the space beneath.
[ 81 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
Levanzo and the other large island were quite dark:
absolutely dark, save for one beam of a lighthouse low
down in the distance. The wind was again strong and
cold: the ship had commenced her old slither and
heave, slither and heave, which mercifully we had
forgotten. Overhead were innumerable great stars
active as if they were alive in the sky. I saw Orion
high behind us, and the dog-star glaring. And swish!
went the sea as we took the waves, then after a long
trough, swish! This curious rhythmic swishing and
hollow drumming of a steamer at sea has a narcotic,
almost maddening effect on the spirit, a long, hissing
burst of waters, then the hollow roll, and again the
upheaval to a sudden hiss-ss-ss!
A bell had clanged and we knew the crew were once
more feeding. At every moment of the day and pre-
sumably of the night, feeding was going on or coffee-
We were summoned to dinner. Our young woman
was already seated: and a fat uniformed mate or purser
or official of some sort was finishing off in the distance.
The pale professor also appeared: and at a certain dis-
tance down the table sat a little hard-headed grey man
in a long grey alpaca travelling coat. Appeared the
beloved macaroni with tomato sauce: no food for the
sea. I put my hopes on the fish. Had I not seen
the cook making whiting bite their own tails viciously?
The fish appeared. And what was it? Fried ink-
pots. A calamaio is an ink-pot: also it is a polyp, a
little octopus which, alas, frequents the Mediterranean
and squirts ink if offended. This polyp with its tenta-
cles is cut up and fried, and reduced to the consistency
of boiled celluloid. It is esteemed a delicacy: but is
tougher than indiarubber, gristly through and through.
I have a peculiar aversion to these ink-pots. Once
in Liguria we had a boat of our own and paddled with
the peasant paddlers. Alessandro caught ink-pots: and
like this. He tied up a female by a string in a cave
the string going through a convenient hole in her end.
There she lived, like an Amphitrite's wire-haired ter-
rier tied up, till Alessandro went a-fishing. Then he
towed her, like a poodle behind. And thus, like a
poodly-bitch, she attracted hangers-on in the briny
seas. And these poor polyp inamorati were the victims.
They were lifted as prey on board, where I looked with
horror on their grey, translucent tentacles and large,
cold, stony eyes. The she-polyp was towed behind
again. But after a few days she died.
And I think, even for creatures so awful-looking,
this method is indescribably base, and shows how much
lower than an octopus even, is lordly man.
SEA AND SARDINIA
Well, we chewed a few ends of oil-fried ink-pots,
and gave it up. The Cagliari girl gave up too: the
professor had not even tried. Only the hard-headed
grey man in the alpaca coat chewed animatedly, with
bouncing jaws. Mountains of calamaio remained for
the joyous blue-bottles.
Arrived the inevitable meat this long piece of com-
pletely tasteless undercut in innumerable grey-brown
slices. Oh, Italy! The professor fled.
Arrived the wash-leather pears, the apples, the
oranges we saved an apple for a happier hour.
Arrived coffee, and, as a magnificent treat, a few
well-known pastries. They all taste wearily alike.
The young woman shakes her head. I shake mine, but
the q-b, like a child, is pleased. Most pleased of all,
however, are the blue-bottles, who dart in a black-
alpaca bunch to the tin altar, and there loudly buzz,
wildly, above the sallow cakes.
The citron-cheeked, dry one, however, cares darkly
nothing for cakes. He comes once more to twit us
about wine. So much so that the Cagliari girl orders
a glass of Marsala: and I must second her. So there
we are, three little glasses of brown liquid. The
Cagliari girl sips hers and suddenly flees. The q-b sips
hers with infinite caution, and quietly retires. I finish
the q-b's little glass, and my own, and the voracious
blow-flies buzz derisively and excited. The yellow-
cheeked one has disappeared with the bottle.
From the professorial cabin faint wails, sometimes
almost fierce, as one or another is going to be ill. Only
a thin door is between this stateroom and them. The
most down-trodden frayed ancient rag of a man goes
discreetly with basins, trying not to let out glimpses of
the awful within. I climb up to look at the vivid,
drenching stars, to breathe the cold wind, to see the
dark sea sliding. Then I too go to the cabin, and
watch the sea run past the porthole for a minute, and
insert myself like the meat in a sandwich into the tight
lower bunk. Oh, infinitessimal cabin, where we sway
like two matches in a match box! Oh strange, but
even yet excellent gallop of a ship at sea.
I slept not so badly through the stifled, rolling
night in fact later on slept soundly. And the day
was growing bright when I peered through the port-
hole, the sea was much smoother. It was a brilliant
clear morning. I made haste and washed myself
cursorily in the saucer that dribbled into a pail in a
corner: there was not space even for one chair, this
saucer was by my bunk-head. And I went on deck.
Ah the lovely morning! Away behind us the sun
was just coming above the sea's horizon, and the sky
[ 85 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
all golden, all a joyous, fire-heated gold, and the sea
was glassy bright, the wind gone still, the waves sunk
into long, low undulations, the foam of the wake was
pale ice-blue in the yellow air. Sweet, sweet wide
morning on the sea, with the sun coming, swimming up,
and a tall sailing bark, with her flat fore-ladder of
sails delicately across the light, and a far-far steamer
on the electric vivid morning horizon.
The lovely dawn: the lovely pure, wide morning in
the mid-sea, so golden-aired and delighted, with the
sea like sequins shaking, and the sky far, far, far above,
unfathomably clear. How glad to be on a ship!
What a golden hour for the heart of man! Ah if one
could sail for ever, on a small quiet, lonely ship, from
land to land and isle to isle, and saunter through the
spaces of this lovely world, always through the spaces
of this lovely world. Sweet it would be sometimes to
come to the opaque earth, to block oneself against the
stiff land, to annul the vibration of one's flight against
the inertia of our terra firma! but life itself would be
in the flight, the tremble of space. Ah the trembling
of never-ended space, as one moves in flight! Space,
and the frail vibration of space, the glad lonely wring-
ing of the heart. Not to be clogged to the land any
more. Not to be any more like a donkey with a log
[ 86 ]
on its leg, fastened to weary earth that has no answer
now. But to be off.
To find three masculine, world-lost souls, and world-
lost saunter, and saunter on along with them, across the
dithering space, as long as life lasts! Why come to
anchor? There is nothing to anchor for. Land has
no answer to the soul any more. It has gone inert.
Give me a little ship, kind gods, and three world-lost
comrades. Hear me! And let me wander aimless
across this vivid outer world, the world empty of man,
where space flies happily.
The lovely, celandine-yellow morning of the open
sea, paling towards a rare, sweet blue! The sun stood
above the horizon, like the great burning stigma of the
sacred flower of day. Mediterranean sailing-ships, so
mediaeval, hovered on the faint morning wind, as if
uncertain which way to go, curious, odd-winged insects
of the flower. The steamer, hull-down, was sinking
towards Spain. Space rang clear about us: the level
Appeared the Cagliari young woman and her two
friends. She was looking handsome and restored now
the sea was easy. Her two male friends stood touch-
ing her, one at either shoulder.
SEA AND SARDINIA
"Bonjour, Monsieur!" she barked across at me.
"Vous avez pris le cafe?"
"Pas encore. Et vous?"
"Non! Madame votre femme. . . ."
She roared like a mastiff dog: and then translated
with unction to her two uninitiated friends. How it
was they did not understand her French I do not know,
it was so like travestied Italian.
I went below to find the q-b.
When we came up, the faint shape of land appeared
ahead, more transparent than thin pearl. Already
Sardinia. Magic are high lands seen from the sea,
when they are far, far off, and ghostly translucent like
ice-bergs. This was Sardinia, looming like fascinating
shadows in mid-sea. And the sailing ships, as if cut
out of frailest pearl translucency, were wafting away
towards Naples. I wanted to count their sails five
square ones which I call the ladder, one above the
other but how many wing-blades? That remained
yet to be seen.
Our friend the carpenter spied us out: at least, he
was not my friend. He didn't find me simfatico, I
am sure. But up he came, and proceeded to entertain
us with weary banality. Again the young woman
[ 88 1
called, had we had coffee? We said we were just go-
ing down. And then she said that whatever we had
today we had to pay for: our food ended with the one
day. At which the q-b was angry, feeling swindled.
But I had known before.
We went down and had our coffee notwithstanding.
The young woman came down, and made eyes at one
of the alpaca blue-bottles. After which we saw a cup
of coffee and milk and two biscuits being taken to her
into her cabin, discreetly. When Italians are being
discreet and on the sly, the very air about them becomes
tell-tale, and seems to shout with a thousand tongues.
So with a thousand invisible tongues clamouring the
fact, the young woman had her coffee secretly and
gratis, in her cabin.
But the morning was lovely. The q-b and I crept
round the bench at the very stern of the ship and sat
out of the wind and out of sight, just above the foam-
ing of the wake. Before us was the open morning
and the glisten of our ship's track, like a snail's path,
trailing across the sea: straight for a little while, then
giving a bend to the left, always a bend towards the
left: and coming at us from the pure horizon, like a
bright snail-path. Happy it was to sit there in the
SEA AND SARDINIA
stillness, with nothing but the humanless sea to shine
But no, we were found out. Arrived the carpenter,
"Ah, you have found a fine place !"
"Molto bello!" This from the q-b. I could not
bear the irruption.
He proceeded to talk and as is inevitable, the war.
Ah, the war it was a terrible thing. He had become
ill very ill. Because, you see, not only do you go
without proper food, without proper rest and warmth,
but, you see, you are in an agony of fear for your life
all the time. An agony of fear for your life. And
that's what does it. Six months in hospital ! The
q-b, of course, was sympathetic
The Sicilians are quite simple about it. They just
tell you they were frightened to death, and it made
them ill. The q-b, woman-like, loves them for being
so simple about it. I feel angry somewhere. For
they expect a full-blown sympathy. And however the
great god Mars may have shrunk and gone wizened in
the world, it still annoys me to hear him so blasphemed.
Near us the automatic log was spinning, the thin
rope trailing behind us in the sea. Erratically it jerked
and spun, with spasmodic torsion. He explained that
the little screw at the end of the line spun to the speed
1 90 ]
of travelling. We were going from ten to twelve
Italian miles to the hour. Ah, yes, we could go twenty.
But we went no faster than ten or twelve, to save the
coal. , -Hilll
The coal il carbone! I knew we were in for it.
England 1'Inghilterra she has the coal. And what
does she do? She sells it very dear. Particularly to
Italy. Italy won the war and now can't even have
coal. Because why! The price. The exchange! il
cambio. Now I am doubly in for it. Two countries
had been able to keep their money high England and
America. The English sovereign la sterlina and
the American dollar sa y these were money. The
English and the Americans flocked to Italy, with their
sterlme and their dollari, and they bought what they
wanted for nothing, for nothing. Ecco! Whereas
we poor Italians we are in a state of ruination proper
ruination. The allies, etc., etc.
I am so used to it I am so wearily used to it. I
can't walk a stride without having this wretched cambio y
the exchange, thrown at my head. And this with an
injured petulant spitefulness which turns my blood.
For I assure them, whatever I have in Italy I pay for:
and I am not England. I am not the British Isles on
Germany La Germania she did wrong to make the
[ 91 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
war. But there you are, that was war. Italy and
Germany PItalia e la Germania they had always
been friends. In Palermo. . . .
My God, I felt I could not stand it another second.
To sit above the foam and have this miserable creature
stuffing wads of chewed newspaper into my ear no, I
could not bear it. In Italy, there is no escape. Say
two words, and the individual starts chewing old news-
paper aqd stuffing it into you. No escape. You be-
come if you are English l y lnghilterra y il car-
bone y and il .cambio; and as England, coal and
exchange you are treated. It is more than use-
less to try to be human about it. You are a
State usury system, a coal fiend and an exchange
thief. Every Englishman has disappeared into this
triple abstraction, in the eyes of the Italian, of the
proletariat particularly. Try and get them to be hu-
man, try and get them to see that you are simply an
individual, if you can. After all, I am no more than
a single human man wandering my lonely way across
these years. But no to an Italian I am a perfected
abstraction, England coal exchange. The Germans
were once devils for inhuman theoretic abstracting of
living beings. But now the Italians beat them. I am
a walking column of statistics, which adds up badly for
[ 9* ]
Italy. Only this and nothing more. Which being so,
I shut my mouth and walk away.
For the moment the carpenter is shaken off. But I
am in a rage, fool that I am. It is like being pestered
by their mosquitoes. The sailing ships are near and
I count fifteen sails. Beautiful they look! Yet if I
were on board somebody would be chewing newspaper
at me, and addressing me as England coal exchange.
The mosquito hovers and hovers. But 'the stony
blank of the side of my cheek keeps him away. Yet
he hovers. And the q-b feels sympathetic towards
him: quite sympathetic. Because of course he treats
her a bel -pezzo as if he would lick her boots, or
anything else that she would let him lick.
Meanwhile we eat the apples from yesterday's des-
sert, and the remains of the q-b's Infant-Jesus-and-
dove cake. The land is drawing nearer we can see
the shape of the end promontory and peninsula and
a white speck like a church. The bulk of the land is
forlorn and rather shapeless, coming towards us: but
Looking ahead towards the land gives us away. The
mosquito swoops on us. Yes he is not sure he
thinks the white speck is a church or a lighthouse.
[ 93 1
SEA AND SARDINIA
When you pass the cape on the right, and enter the
wide bay between Cape Spartivento and Cape Car-
bonara, then you have two hours sail to Cagliari. We
shall arrive between two and three o'clock. It is now
Yes, the sailing ships are probably going to Naples.
There is not much wind for them now. When there is
wind they go fast, faster than our steamer. Ah
Naples bella, bella, eh? A little dirty, say I. But
what do you want? says he. A great city! Palermo
of course is better.
Ah the Neapolitan women he says, a propos or
not. They do their hair so fine, so neat and beauti-
ful but underneath sotto sotto they are dirty.
This being received in cold silence, he continues: Not
giriamo il mondo! Not, chi giriamo, conoscmmo il
mondo. We travel about, and we know the world.
Who we are, I do not know: his highness the Paler-
mitan carpenter lout, no doubt. But we, who travel,
know the world. He is preparing his shot. The
Neapolitan women, and the English women, in this are
equal: that they are dirty underneath. Underneath,
they are dirty. The women of London
But it is getting too much for me.
"You who look for dirty women," say I, "find dirty
[ 94 ]
He stops short and watches me.
"No! No! You have not understood me. No!
I don't mean that. I mean that the Neapolitan women
and the English women have dirty underclothing "
To which he gets no answer but a cold look and a
cold cheek. Whereupon he turns to the q-b, and pro-
ceeds to be simpatica. And after a few moments he
turns again to me:
"II signore is offended! He is offended with me."
But I turn the other way. And at last he clears out :
in triumph, I must admit: like a mosquito that has bit-
ten one in the neck. As a matter of fact one should
never let these fellows get into conversation nowadays.
They are no longer human beings. They hate one's
Englishness, and leave out the individual.
We walk forward, towards the fore-deck, where the
captain's lookout cabin is. The captain is an elderly
man, silent and crushed: with the look of a gentleman.
But he looks beaten down. Another, still another
member of the tray-carrying department is just creep-
ing up his ladder with a cup of black coffee. Return-
ing, we peep down the skylight into the kitchen. And
there we see roast chicken and sausages roast chicken
and sausages! Ah, this is where the sides of kid and
the chickens and the good things go: all down the
[ 95 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
throats of the crew. There is no more food for us,
until we land.
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
f emalish elder brother leads the rabbit-fluffy small boy
by the hand. So en jamille: 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
"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."
[ 96 ]
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
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 his-
tory, 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.
[ 97 1
SEA AND SARDINIA
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 for-
lorn 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.
"You pay nine francs fifty."
I pay them, and we get off that ship.
THERE is a very little crowd waiting on the
quay: mostly men with their hands in their
pockets. But, thank Heaven, they have a
certain aloofness and reserve. They are not like the
tourist-parasites of these post-war days, who move to
the attack with a terrifying cold vindictiveness the mo-
ment one emerges from any vehicle. And some of
these men look really poor. There are no poor
Italians any more: at least, loafers.
Strange the feeling round the harbour: as if every-
body had gone away. Yet there are people about.
It is "festa" however, Epiphany. But it is so different
from Sicily: none of the suave Greek-Italian charms,
none of the airs and graces, none of the glamour.
Rather bare, rather stark, rather cold and yellow
somehow like Malta, without Malta's foreign liveli-
ness. Thank Goodness no one wants to carry my knap-
sack. Thank Goodness no one has a fit at the sight of
[ 99 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
it. Thank Heaven no one takes any notice. They
stand cold and aloof, and don't move.
We make our way through the Customs: then
through the Dazio, the City Customs-house. Then
we are free. We set off up a steep, new, broad road,
with little trees on either side. But stone, arid, new,
wide stone, yellowish under the cold sky and aban-
doned-seeming. Though, of course, there are people
about. The north wind blows bitingly.
We climb a broad flight of steps, always upwards,
up the wide, precipitous, dreary boulevard with sprouts
of trees. Looking for the Hotel, and dying with
At last we find it, the Scala di Ferro: through a
courtyard with green plants. And at last a little man
with lank, black hair, like an esquimo, comes smiling.
He is one brand of Sardinian esquimo looking.
There is no room with two beds: only single rooms.
And thus we are led off, if you please, to the "bagnio":
the bathing-establishment wing, on the dank ground
floor. Cubicles on either side a stone passage, and in
every cubicle a dark stone bath, and a little bed. We
can have each a little bath cubicle. If there's nothing
else for it, there isn't: but it seems dank and cold and
horrid, underground. And one thinks of all the un-
[ 100 ]
savory "assignations" at these old bagnio places. True,
at the end of the passage are seated two carabinieri.
But whether to ensure respectibility or not, Heaven
knows. We are in the baths, that's all.
The esquimo returns after five minutes, however.
There is a bedroom in the house. He is pleased, be-
cause he didn't like putting us into the bagnio. Where
he found the bedroom I don't know. But there it was,
large, sombre, cold, and over the kitchen fumes of a
small inner court like a well. But perfectly clean and
all right. And the people seemed warm and good-
natured, like human beings. One has got so used to
the non-human ancient-souled Sicilians, who are suave
and so completely callous.
After a really good meal we went out to see the
town. It was after three o'clock and everywhere was
shut up like an English Sunday. Cold, stony Cagliari:
in summer you must be sizzling hot, Cagliari, like a
kiln. The men stood about in groups, but without the
intimate Italian watchfulness that never leaves a passer-
Strange, stony Cagliari. We climbed up a street
like a corkscrew stairway. And we saw announcements
of a children's fancy-dress ball. Cagliari is very steep.
Half-way up there is a strange place called the bastions,
SEA AND SARDINIA
a large, level space like a drill-ground with trees, curi-
ously suspended over the town, and sending off a long
shoot like a wide viaduct, across above the corkscrew
street that comes climbing up. Above this bastion place
the town still rises steeply to the Cathedral and the
fort. What is so curious is that this terrace or bastion
is so large, like some big recreation ground, that it is
almost dreary, and one cannot understand its being sus-
pended in mid-air. Down below is the little circle of
the harbour. To the left a low, malarial-looking sea
plain, with tufts of palm trees and Arab-looking houses.
From this runs out the long spit of land towards that
black-and-white watch-fort, the white road trailing
forth. On the right, most curiously, a long strange
spit of sand runs in a causeway far across the shallows
of the bay, with the open sea on one hand, and vast,
end-of-the-world lagoons on the other. There are
peaky, dark mountains beyond this just as across the
vast bay are gloomy hills. It is a strange, strange
landscape: as if here the world left off. The bay is
vast in itself ; and all these curious things happening at
its head: this curious, craggy-studded town, like a great
stud of house-covered rock jutting up out of the bay
flats: around it on one side the weary, Arab-looking
palm-desolated malarial plain, and on the other side
great salt lagoons, dead beyond the sand-bar: these
[ 102 ]
backed again by serried, clustered mountains, suddenly,
while away beyond the plain, hills rise to sea again.
Land and sea both seem to give out, exhausted, at
the bay head: the world's end. And into this world's
end starts up Cagliari, and on either side, sudden, ser-
But it still reminds me of Malta: lost between
Europe and Africa and belonging to nowhere. Be-
longing to nowhere, never having belonged to any-
where. To Spain and the Arabs and the Phoenicians
most. But as if it had never really had a fate. No
fate. Left outside of time and history.
The spirit of the place is a strange thing. Our
mechanical age tries to override it. But it does not
succeed. In the end the strange, sinister spirit of the
place, so diverse and adverse in differing places, will
smash our mechanical oneness into smithereens, and
all that we think the real thing will go off with a pop,
and we shall be left staring.
On the great parapet above the Municipal Hall and
above the corkscrew high-street a thick fringe of people
is hanging, looking down. We go to look too: and
behold, below there is the entrance to the ball. Yes,
there is a china shepherdess in pale blue and powdered
hair, crook, ribbons, Marie Antoinette satin daintiness
[ 103 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
and all, slowly and haughtily walking up the road, and
gazing superbly round. She is not more than twelve
years old, moreover. Two servants accompany her.
She gazes supremely from right to left as she goes,
mincingly, and I would give her the prize for haughti-
ness. She is perfect a little too haughty for Watteau,
but "marquise" to a T. The people watch in silence.
There is no yelling and screaming and running. They
watch in a suitable silence.
Comes a carriage with two fat bay horses slithering,
almost swimming up the corkscrew high-street. That
in itself is a "tour-de-force": for Cagliari doesn't have
carriages. Imagine a street like a corkscrew stair, paved
with slippery stone. And imagine two bay horses row-
ing their way up it: they did not walk a single stride.
But they arrived. And there fluttered out three
strangely exquisite children, two frail, white satin Pier-
rots and a white satin Pierrette. They were like fragile
winter butterflies with black spots. They had a curious,
indefinable remote elegance, something conventional
and "fin-de-siecle". But not our century. The won-
derful artificial delicacy of the eighteenth. The
boys had big, perfect ruffs round their necks: and be-
hind were slung old, cream-colored Spanish shawls,
for warmth. They were frail as tobacco flowers, and
with remote, cold elegance they fluttered by the car-
[ 104 ]
riage, from which emerged a large black-satin Mama.
Fluttering their queer little butterfly feet on the pave-
ment, hovering round the large Mama like three frail-
tissued ghosts, they found their way past the solid,
seated Carabinieri into the hall.
Arrived a primrose-brocade beau, with ruffles, and
his hat under his arm: about twelve years old. Walk-
ing statelily, without a qualm up the steep twist of the
street. Or perhaps so perfect in his self -consciousness
that it became an elegant "aplomb" in him. He was a
genuine eighteenth-century exquisite, rather stiffer than
the French, maybe, but completely in the spirit. Curi-
ous, curious children! They had a certain stand-offish
superbness, and not a single trace of misgiving. For
them, their "noblesse" was indisputable. For the first
time in my life I recognized the true cold superbness
of the old "noblesse". They had not a single qualm
about their own perfect representing of the higher
order of being.
Followed another white satin "marquise", with a
maid-servant. They are strong on the eighteenth cen-
tury in Cagliari. Perhaps it is the last bright reality
to them. The nineteenth hardly counts.
Curious the children in Cagliari. The poor seem
thoroughly poor-bare-footed urchins, gay and wild in
[ 105 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
the narrow dark streets. But the more well-to-do
children are so fine: so extraordinarily elegantly-
dressed. It quite strikes one of a heap. Not so much
the grown-ups. The children. All the "chic," all
the fashion, all the originality is expended on the chil-
dren. And with a great deal of success. Better than
Kensington Gardens very often. And they promen-
ade with Papa and Mama with such alert assurance,
having quite brought it off, their fashionable get-up.
Who would have expected it?
Oh narrow, dark, and humid streets going up to the
Cathedral, like crevices. I narrowly miss a huge pail
of slop-water which comes crashing down from heaven.
A small boy who was playing in the street, and whose
miss is not quite a clean miss, looks up with that naive,
impersonal wonder with which children stare at a star
or a lamp-lighter.
The Cathedral must have been a fine old pagan
stone fortress once. Now it has come, as it were,
through the mincing machine of the ages, and oozed
out baroque and sausagey, a bit like the horrible balda-
chins in St. Peter's at Rome. None the less it is
homely and hole-and-cornery, with a rather ragged
high mass trailing across the pavement towards the
high altar, since it is almost sunset, and Epiphany.
[ 106 ]
It feels as if one might squat in a corner and play
marbles and eat bread and cheese and be at home: a
comfortable old-time churchey feel.
There is some striking filet lace on the various altar-
cloths. And St. Joseph must be a prime saint. He
has an altar and a verse of invocation praying for the
"Oh, St. Joseph, true potential father of Our Lord."
What can it profit a man, I wonder, to be the potential
father of anybody! For the rest I am not Baedeker.
The top of Cagliari is the fortress: the old gate,
the old ramparts, of honey-combed, fine yellowish
sandstone. Up in a great sweep goes the rampart wall,
Spanish and splendid, dizzy. And the road creeping
down again at the foot, down the back of the hill.
There lies the country: that dead plain with its bunch
of palms and a fainting sea, and inland again, hills.
Cagliari must be on a single, loose, lost bluff of rock.
From the terrace just below the fortress, above the
town, not behind it, we stand and look at the sunset.
It is all terrible, taking place beyond the knotted, ser-
pent-crested hills that lie, bluey and velvety, beyond
the waste lagoons. Dark, sultry, heavy crimson the
west is, hanging sinisterly, with those gloomy blue
cloud-bars and cloud-banks drawn across. All behind
[ 107 i
SEA AND SARDINIA
the blue-gloomy peaks stretches the curtain of sinister,
smouldering red, and away to the sea. Deep below
lie the sea-meres. They seem miles and miles, and
utterly waste. But the sand-bar crosses like a bridge,
and has a road. All the air is dark, a sombre bluish
tone. The great west burns inwardly, sullenly, and
gives no glow, yet a deep red. It is cold.
We go down the steep streets, smelly, dark, dank,
and very cold. No wheeled vehicle can scramble up
them, persumably. People live in one room. Men
are combing their hair or fastening their collars in
the doorways. Evening is here, and it is a feast day.
At the bottom of the street we come to a little bunch
of masked youths, one in a long yellow frock and a
frilled bonnet, another like an old woman, another in
red twill. They are arm in arm and are accosting the
passers-by. The q-b gives a cry, and looks for escape.
She has a terror of maskers, a terror that comes from
childhood. To say the truth, so have I. We hasten
invisibly down the far side of the street, and come out
under the bastions. Then we go down our own famil-
iar wide, short, cold boulevard to the sea.
At the bottom, again, is a carriage with more mask-
ers. Carnival is beginning. A man dressed as a
peasant woman in native costume is clambering with
[ 108 ]
his great wide skirts and wide strides on to the box,
and, flourishing his ribboned whip, is addressing a
little crowd of listeners. He opens his mouth wide
and goes on with a long yelling harangue of taking
a drive with his mother another man in old-woman's
gaudy finery and wig who sits already bobbing on the
box. The would-be daughter flourishes, yells, and
prances up there on the box of the carriage. The
crowd listens attentively and mildly smiles. It all
seems real to them. The q-b hovers in the distance,
half-fascinated, and watches. With a great flourish
of whip and legs showing his frilled drawers the
masker pulls round to drive along the boulevard by
the sea the only place where one can drive.
The big street by the sea is the Via Roma. It has
the cafes on one side and across the road the thick
tufts of trees intervening between the sea and us.
Among these thick tufts of sea-front trees the little
steam tram, like a little train, bumps to rest, after
having wound round the back of the town.
The Via Roma is all social Cagliari. Including the
cafes with their outdoor tables on the one side of the
road, and the avenue strand on the other, it is very
wide, and at evening it contains the whole town. Here,
and here alone carriages can spank along, very slowly,
[ 109 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
officers can ride, and the people can promenade "en
We were amazed at the sudden crowd we found
ourselves amongst like a short, dense river of people
streaming slowly in a mass. There is practically no
vehicular traffic only the steady dense streams of hu-
man beings of all sorts, all on a human footing. It
must have been something like this in the streets of
imperial Rome, where no chariots might drive and
humanity was all on foot.
Little bunches of maskers, and single maskers
danced and strutted along in the thick flow under the
trees. If you are a mask you don't walk like a human
being: you dance and prance along extraordinarily
like the life-size marionettes, conducted by wires from
above. That is how you go: with that odd jauntiness
as if lifted and propelled by wires from the shoulders.
In front of me went a charming coloured harlequin,
all in diamond-shaped colours, and beautiful as a
piece of china. He tripped with the light, fantastic
trip, quite alone in the thick crowd, and quite blithe.
Came two little children hand in hand in brilliant
scarlet and white costumes, sauntering calmly. They
did not do the mask trip. After a while a sky-blue
girl with a high hat and full skirts, very short, that
went flip-flip-flip, as a ballet dancer's, whilst she strut-
tedj after her a Spanish grandee capering like a
monkey. They threaded among the slow stream of
the crowd. Appeared Dante and Beatrice, in Para-
dise apparently, all in white sheet-robes, and with sil-
ver wreaths on their heads, arm in arm, and prancing
very slowly and majestically, yet with the long lilt
as if hitched along by wires from above. They were
very good: all the well-known vision come to life,
Dante incorporate, and white as a shroud, with his
tow-haired, silver-crowned, immortal Beatrice on his
arm, strutting the dark avenues. He had the nose
and cheek-bones and banded cheek, and the stupid
wooden look, and offered a modern criticism on the
It had become quite dark, the lamps were lighted.
We crossed the road to the Cafe Roma, and found a
table on the pavement among the crowd. In a
moment we had our tea. The evening was cold,
with ice in the wind. But the crowd surged on,
back and forth, back and forth, slowly. At the
tables were seated mostly men, taking coffee or
vermouth or aqua vitae, all familiar and easy,
without the modern self-consciousness. There was
a certain pleasant, natural robustness of spirit, and
something of a feudal free-and-easiness. Then ar-
SEA AND SARDINIA
rived a family, with children, and nurse in her native
costume. They all sat at table together, perfectly
easy with one another, though the marvellous nurse
seemed to be seated below the salt. She was bright
as a poppy, in a rose-scarlet dress of fine cloth, with
a curious little waistcoat of emerald green and purple,
and a bodice of soft, homespun linen with great full
sleeves. On her head she had a rose-scarlet and
white head-dress, and she wore great studs of gold
filigree, and similar ear-rings. The feudal-bourgeois
family drank its syrup-drinks and watched the crowd.
Most remarkable is the complete absence of self-
consciousness. They all have a perfect natural "sang-
froid," the nurse in her marvellous native costume
is as thoroughly at her ease as if she were in her own
village street. She moves and speaks and calls to a
passer-by without the slightest constraint, and much
more, without the slightest persumption. She is be-
low the invisible salt, the invisible but insuperable
salt. And it strikes me the salt-barrier is a fine thing
for both parties: they both remain natural and human
on either side of it, instead of becoming devilish,
scrambling and pushing at the barricade.
The crowd is across the road, under the trees near
the sea. On this side stroll occasional pedestrians.
And I see my first peasant in costume. He is an
elderly, upright, handsome man, beautiful in the black-
and-white costume. He wears the full-sleeved white
shirt and the close black bodice of thick, native frieze,
cut low. From this sticks out a short kilt or frill, of
the same black frieze, a band of which goes between
the legs, between the full loose drawers of coarse
linen. The drawers are banded below the knee into
tight black frieze gaiters. On his head he has the long
black stocking cap, hanging down behind. How hand-
some he is, and so beautifully male! He walks with
his hands loose behind his back, slowly, upright, and
aloof. The lovely unapproachableness, indomitable.
And the flash of the black and white, the slow stride
of the full white drawers, the black gaiters and black
cuirass with the bolero, then the great white sleeves
and white breast again, and once more the black cap
what marvellous massing of the contrast, marvellous,
and superb, as on a magpie. How beautiful maleness
is, if it finds its right expression. And how perfectly
ridiculous it is made in modern clothes.
There is another peasant too, a young one with a
swift eye and hard cheek and hard, dangerous thighs.
He has folded his stocking cap, so that it comes forward
to his brow like a phrygian cap. He wears close knee
breeches and close sleeved waistcoat of thick brownish
[ "3 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
stuff that looks like leather. Over the waistcoat a
sort of cuirass of black, rusty sheepskin, the curly
wool outside. So he strides, talking to a comrade.
How fascinating it is, after the soft Italians, to see
these limbs in their close knee-breeches, so definite, so
manly, with the old fierceness in them still. One re-
alises, with horror, that the race of men is almost ex-
tinct in Europe. Only Christ-like heroes and woman-
worshipping Don Juans, and rabid equality-mongrels.
The old, hardy, indomitable male is gone. His fierce
singleness is quenched. The last sparks are dying out in
Sardinia and Spain. Nothing left but the herd-pro-
letariat and the herd-equality mongrelism, and the
wistful poisonous self -sacrificial cultured soul. How
But that curious, flashing, black-and-white costume!
I seem to have known it before: to have worn it even:
to have dreamed it. To have dreamed it: to have
had actual contact with it. It belongs in some way
to something in me to my past, perhaps. I don't
know. But the uneasy sense of blood-familiarity
haunts me. I know I have known it before. It is
something of the same uneasiness I feel before Mount
Eryx: but without the awe this time.
In the morning the sun was shining from a blue,
blue sky, but the shadows were deadly cold, and the
wind like a flat blade of ice. We went out running to
the sun. The hotel could not give us coffee and milk:
only a little black coffee. So we descended to the sea-
front again, to the Via Roma, and to our cafe. It
was Friday: people seemed to be bustling in from the
country with huge baskets.
The Cafe Roma had coffee and milk, but no butter.
We sat and watched the movement outside. Tiny
Sardinian donkeys, the tiniest things ever seen, trotted
their infinitesimal little paws along the road, drawing
little wagons like handcarts. Their proportion is so
small, that they make a boy walking at their side look
like a tall man, while a natural man looks like a Cyclops
stalking hugely and cruelly. It is ridiculous for a
grown man to have one of these little creatures, hardly
bigger than a fly, hauling his load for him. One is
pulling a chest of drawers on a cart, and it seems to
have a whole house behind it. Nevertheless it plods
bravely, away beneath the load, a wee thing.
They tell me there used to be flocks of these don-
keys, feeding half wild on the wild, moor-like hills
of Sardinia. But the war and also the imbecile
wantonness of the war-masters consumed these flocks
too, so that few are left. The same with the cattle.
Sardinia, home of cattle, hilly little Argentine of the
[ "5 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
Mediterranean, is now almost deserted. It is war,
say the Italiana. And also the wanton, imbecile,
foul lavishness of the war-masters. It was not
alone the war which exhausted the world. It was
the deliberate evil wastefulness of the war-makers in
their own countries. Italy ruined Italy.
Two peasants in black-and-white are strolling in the
sun, flashing. And my dream of last evening was not
a dream. And my nostalgia for something I know
not what was not an illusion. I feel it again, at once,
at the sight of the men in frieze and linen, a heart
yearning for something I have known, and which I
want back again.
It is market day. We turn up the Largo Carlo-
Felice, the second wide gap of a street, a vast but
very short boulevard, like the end of something.
Cagliari is like that: all bits and bobs. And by the
side of the pavement are many stalls, stalls selling
combs and collar-studs, cheap mirrors, handkerchiefs,
shoddy Manchester goods, bed-ticking, boot-paste,
poor crockery, and so on. But we see also Madame
of Cagliari going marketing, with a servant accom-
panying her, carrying a huge grass-woven basket: or
returning from marketing, followed by a small boy
[ "6 ]
supporting one of these huge grass-woven baskets
like huge dishes on his head, piled with bread, eggs,
vegetables, a chicken, and so forth. Therefore we
follow Madame going marketing, and find ourselves
in the vast market house, and it fairly glows with eggs:
eggs in these great round dish-baskets of golden grass:
but eggs in piles, in mounds, in heaps, a Sierra Nevada
of eggs, glowing warm white. How they glow! I
have never noticed it before. But they give off a
warm, pearly effulgence into the air, almost a warmth.
A pearly-gold heat seems to come out of them.
Myriads of eggs, glowing avenues of eggs.
And they are marked 60 centimes, 65 centimes.
Ah, cries the q-b, I must live in Cagliari For in Sicily
the eggs cost 1.50 each.
This is the meat and poultry and bread market.
There are stalls of new, various-shaped bread, brown
and bright: there are tiny stalls of marvellous native
cakes, which I want to taste, there is a great deal of
meat and kid: and there are stalls of cheese, all cheeses,
all shapes, all whitenesses, all the cream-colours, on
into daffodil yellow. Goat cheese, sheeps cheese, Swiss
cheese, Parmegiano, stracchino, caciocavallo, torolone,
how many cheeses I don't know the names of! But
they cost about the same as in Sicily, eighteen francs,
twenty francs, twenty-five francs the kilo. And there is
[ "7 1
SEA AND SARDINIA
lovely ham thirty and thirty-five francs the kilo.
There is a little fresh butter too thirty or thirty-two
francs the kilo. Most of the butter, however, is
tinned in Milan. It costs the same as the fresh.
There are splendid piles of salted black olives, and
huge bowls of green salted olives. There are chickens
and ducks and wild-fowl: at eleven and twelve and
fourteen francs a kilo. There is mortadella, the enor-
mous Bologna sausage, thick as a church pillar: 16
francs: and there are various sorts of smaller sausage,
salami, to be eaten in slices. A wonderful abundance
of food, glowing and shining. We are rather late
for fish, especially on Friday. But a barefooted man
offers us two weird objects from the Mediterranean,
which teems with marine monsters.
The peasant women sit behind their wares, their
home-woven linen skirts, hugely full, and of various
colours, ballooning round them. The yellow baskets
give off a glow of light. There is a sense of profusion
once more.^ But alas no sense of cheapness: save the
eggs. Every month, up goes the price of everything.
"I must come and live in Cagliari, to do my shop-
ping here," says the q-b. "I must have one of those
big grass baskets."
We went down to the little street but saw more
baskets emerging from a broad flight of stone stairs,
[ "8 ]
enclosed. So up we went and found ourselves in
the vegetable market. Here the q-b was happier still.
Peasant women, sometimes barefoot, sat in their tight
little bodices and voluminous, coloured skirts behind
the piles of vegetables, and never have I seen a love-
lier show. The intense deep green of spinach seemed
to predominate, and out of that came the monuments
of curd-white and black-purple cauliflowers: but mar-
vellous cauliflowers, like a flower-show, the purple
ones intense as great bunches of violets. From this
green, white, and purple massing struck out the vivid
rose-scarlet and blue crimson of radishes, large radishes
like little turnips, in piles. Then the long, slim, grey-
purple buds of artichokes, and dangling clusters of
dates, and piles of sugar-dusty white figs and sombre-
looking black figs, and bright burnt figs: basketfuls
and basketfuls of figs. A few baskets of almonds,
and many huge walnuts. Basket-pans of native rais-
ins. Scarlet peppers like trumpets: magnificient fen-
nels, so white and big and succulent: baskets of new
potatoes: scaly kohlrabi: wild asparagus in bunches,
yellow-budding sparacelli: big, clean-fleshed carrots:
feathery salads with white hearts: long, brown-purple
onions and then, of course pyramids of big oranges,
pyramids of pale apples, and baskets of brilliant shiny
mandarini, the little tangerine oranges with their green-
[ "9 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
black leaves. The green and vivid-coloured world of
fruit-gleams I have never seen in such splendour as
under the market roof at Cagliari : so raw and gorgeous.
And all quite cheap, the one remaining cheapness, ex-
cept potatoes. Potatoes of any sort are 1.40 or 1.50
"Oh!" cried the q-b, "If I don't live at Cagliari
and come and do my shopping here, I shall die with
one of my wishes unfulfilled."
But out of the sun it was cold, nevertheless. We
went into the streets to try and get warm. The sun
was powerful. But alas, as in southern towns gener-
ally, the streets are sunless as wells.
So the q-b and I creep slowly along the sunny bits,
and then perforce are swallowed by shadow. We look
at the shops. But there is not much to see. Little>
frowsy provincial shops, on the whole.
But a fair number of peasants in the streets, and
peasant women in rather ordinary costume: tight-
bodiced, volume-skirted dresses of hand-woven linen
or thickish cotton. The prettiest is of dark-blue-and-
red, stripes-and-lines, intermingled, so made that the
dark-blue gathers round the waist into one colour, the
myriad pleats hiding all the rosy red. But when she
walks, the full-petticoated peasant woman, then the
[ 120 ]
red goes flash-flash-flash, like a bird showing its colours.
Pretty that looks in the sombre street. She has a
plain, light bodice with a peak: sometimes a little vest,
and great full white sleeves, and usually a handker-
chief or shawl loose knotted. It is charming the way
they walk, with quick, short steps. When all is said
and done, the most attractive costume for women in
my eye, is the tight little bodice and the many-pleated
skirt, full and vibrating with movement. It has a
charm which modern elegance lacks completely a
bird-like play in movement.
They are amusing, these peasant girls and women:
so brisk and defiant. They have straight backs, like
little walls, and decided, well-drawn brows. And
they are amusingly on the alert. There is no eastern
creeping. Like sharp, brisk birds they dart along the
streets, and you feel they would fetch you a bang
over the head as leave as look at you. Tenderness,
thank heaven, does not seem to be a Sardinian quality.
Italy is so tender like cooked macaroni yards and
yards of soft tenderness ravelled round everything.
Here men don't idealise women, by the looks of things.
Here they don't make these great leering eyes, the
inevitable yours-to-command look of Italian males.
When the men from the country look at these women,
SEA AND SARDINIA
then it is Mind-yourself, my lady. I should think
the grovelling Madonna-worship is not much of a
Sardinian feature. These women have to look out for
themselves, keep their own back-bone stiff and their
knuckles hard. Man is going to be male Lord if he
can. And woman isn't going to give him too much
of his own way, either. So there you have it, the
fine old martial split between the sexes. It is tonic
and splendid, really, after so much sticky interming-
ling and backboneless Madonna-worship. The Sar-
dinian isn't looking for the "noble woman nobly
planned." No, thank you. He wants that young
madam over there, a young stiff-necked generation
that she is. Far better sport than with the nobly-
planned sort : hollow frauds that they are. Better sport
too than with a Carmen, who gives herself away too
much. In these women there is something shy and
defiant and un-get-atable. The defiant, splendid split
between the sexes, each absolutely determined to de-
fend his side, her side, from assault. So the meeting
has a certain wild, salty savour, each the deadly
unknown to the other. And at the same time, each
his own, her own native pride and courage, taking
the dangerous leap and scrambling back.
Give me the old, salty way of love. How I am
[ 122 ]
nauseated with sentiment and nobility, the macaroni
slithery-slobbery mess of modern adorations.
One sees a few fascinating faces in Cagliari: those
great dark unlighted eyes. There are fascinating dark
eyes in Sicily, bright, big, with an impudent point of
light, and a curious roll, and long lashes: the eyes of
old Greece, surely. But here one sees eyes of soft,
blank darkness, all velvet, with no imp looking out
of them. And they strike a stranger, older note: be-
fore the soul became self-conscious: before the men-
tality of Greece appeared in the world. Remote, al-
ways remote, as if the intelligence lay deep within the
cave, and never came forward. One searches into
the gloom for one second, while the glance lasts. But
without being able to penetrate to the reality. It re-
cedes, like some unknown creature deeper into its lair.
There is a creature, dark and potent. But what?
Sometimes Velasquez, and sometimes Goya gives us
a suggestion of these large, dark, unlighted eyes. And
they go with fine, fleecy black hair almost as fine as
fur. I have not seen them. north of Cagliari.
The q-b spies some of the blue-and-red stripe-and-
line cotton stuff of which the peasants make their dress:
a large roll in the doorway of a dark shop. In we
[ 123 1
SEA AND SARDINIA
go, and begin to feel it. It is just soft, thickish cotton
stuff twelve francs a metre. Like most peasant pat-
terns, it is much more complicated and subtle than ap-
pears: the curious placing of the stripes, the subtle
proportion, and a white thread left down one side only
of each broad blue block. The stripes, moreover, run
across the cloth, not lengthwise with it. But the
width would be just long enough for a skirt though
the peasant skirts have almost all a band at the bottom
with the stripes running round-ways.
The man he is the esquimo type, simple, frank
and aimiable says the stuff is made in France, and this
the first roll since the war. It is the old, old pattern,
quite correct but the material not quite so good.
The q-b takes enough for a dress.
He shows us also cashmeres, orange, scarlet, sky-
blue, royal blue: good, pure- wool cashmeres that were
being sent to India, and were captured from a German
mercantile sub-marine. So he says. Fifty francs a
metre very, very wide. But they are too much
trouble to carry in a knapsack, though their brilliance
So we stroll and look at the shops, at the filigree
gold jewelling of the peasants, at a good bookshop.
But there is little to see and therefore the question is ;
shall we go on? Shall we go forward?
[ 124 ]
There are two ways of leaving Cagliari for the
north: the State railway that runs up the west side of
the island, and the narrow-gauge secondary railway
that pierces the centre. But we are too late for the
big trains. So we will go by the secondary railway,
wherever it goes.
There is a train at 2.30, and we can get as far as
Mandas, some fifty miles in the interior. When we tell
the queer little waiter at the hotel, he says he comes
from Mandas, and there are two inns. So after
lunch a strictly fish menu we pay our bill. It
comes to sixty odd francs for three good meals each,
with wine, and the night's lodging, this is cheap, as
prices now are in Italy.
Pleased with the simple and friendly Scala di Ferre,
I shoulder my sack and we walk off to the second sta-
tion. The sun is shining hot this afternoon burning
hot, by the sea. The road and the buildings look dry
and desiccated, the harbour rather weary and end of
There is a great crowd of peasants at the little
station. And almost every man has a pair of woven
saddle-bags a great flat strip of coarse-woven wool,
with flat pockets at either end, stuffed with purchases.
These are almost the only carrying bags. The men
[ 125 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
sling them over their shoulder, so that one great pocket
hangs in front, one behind.
These saddle bags are most fascinating. They are
coarsely woven in bands of raw black-rusty wool, with
varying bands of raw white wool or hemp or cotton
the bands and stripes of varying widths going cross-
wise. And on the pale bands are woven sometimes
flowers in most lovely colours, rose-red and blue and
green, peasant patterns and sometimes fantastic ani-
mals, beasts, in dark wool again. So that these striped
zebra bags, some wonderful gay with flowery colours
on their stripes, some weird with fantastic, griflin-
like animals, are a whole landscape in themselves.
The train has only first and third class. It costs
about thirty francs for the two of us, third class to
Mandas, which is some sixty miles. In we crowd with
the joyful saddlebags, into the wooden carriage with
its many seats.
And, wonder of wonders, punctually to the second,
off we go, out of Cagliari. En route again.
THE coach was fairly full of people, returning
from market. On these railways the third
-^j^duioD o;ut pspiAip ;ou SJ-E ssip^OD ss-ep
ments. They are left open, so that one sees every-
body, as down a room. The attractive saddlebags,
bercole y were disposed anywhere, and the bulk of the
people settled down to a lively conversazione. It is
much nicest, on the whole, to travel third class on the
railway. There is space, there is air, and it is like
being in a lively inn, everybody in good spirits.
At our end was plenty of room. Just across the
gangway was an elderly couple, like two children, com-
ing home very happily. He was fat, fat all over,
with a white moustache and a little not-unamiable
frown. She was a tall lean, brown woman, in a brown
full-skirted dress and black apron, with huge pocket.
She wore no head covering, and her iron grey hair
was parted smoothly. They were rather pleased and
excited being in the train. She took all her money
[ 1*7 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
out of her big pocket, and counted it and gave it to
him: all the ten Lira notes, and the five Lira and the
two and the one, peering at the dirty scraps of pink-
backed one-lira notes to see if they were good. Then
she gave him her half-pennies. And he stowed them
away in the trouser pocket, standing up to push them
down his fat leg. And then one saw, to one's amaze-
ment, that the whole of his shirt-tail was left out be-
hind, like a sort of apron worn backwards. Why
a mystery. He was one of those fat, good-natured,
unheeding men with a little masterful frown, such as
usually have tall, lean, hard-faced, obedient wives.
They were very happy. With amazement he
watched us taking hot tea from the Thermos flask.
I think he too had suspected it might be a bomb. He
had blue eyes and standing-up white eyebrows.
"Beautiful hot !" he said, seeing the tea steam.
It is the inevitable exclamation. "Does it do you
"Yes," said the q-b. "Much good." And they
both nodded complacently. They were going home.
The train was running over the malarial-looking
sea-plain past the down-at-heel palm trees, past the
mosque-looking buildings. At a level crossing the
woman crossing-keeper darted out vigorously with her
[ 128 ]
red flag. And we rambled into the first village. It
was built of sun-dried brick-adobe houses, thick adobe
garden-walls, with tile ridges to keep off the rain.
In the enclosures were dark orange trees. But the
clay-coloured villages, clay-dry, looked foreign: the
next thing to mere earth they seem, like fox-holes or
Looking back, one sees Cagliari bluff on her rock,
rather fine, with the thin edge of the sea's blade curv-
ing round. It is rather hard to believe in the real sea,
on this sort of clay-pale plain.
But soon we begin to climb to the hills. And soon
the cultivation begins to be intermittent. Extraordin-
ary how the heathy, moor-like hills come near the sea:
extraordinary how scrubby and uninhabited the great
spaces of Sardinia are. It is wild, with heath and
arbutus scrub and a sort of myrtle, breast-high. Some-
times one sees a few head of cattle. And then again
come the greyish arable-patches, where the corn is
grown. It is like Cornwall, like the Land's End re-
gion. Here and there, in the distance, are peasants
working on the lonely landscape. Sometimes it is one
man alone in the distance, showing so vividly in his
black-and-white costume, small and far-off like a soli-
tary magpie, and curioulsy distinct. All the strange
[ 129 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
magic of Sardinia is in this sight. Among the low,
moor-like hills, away in a hollow of the wide landscape
one solitary figure, small but vivid black-and-white,
working alone, as if eternally. There are patches and
hollows of grey arable land, good for corn. Sardinia
was once a great granary.
Usually, however, the peasants of the South have
left off the costume. Usually it is the invisible soldiers'
grey-green cloth, the Italian khaki. Wherever you go,
wherever you be, you see this khaki, this grey-green
war-clothing. How many millions of yards of the
thick, excellent, but hateful material the Italian gov-
ernment must have provided I don't know: but enough
to cover Italy with a felt carpet, I should think. It is
everywhere. It cases the tiny children in stiff and
neutral frocks and coats, it covers their extinguished
fathers, and sometimes it even encloses the women in
its warmth. It is symbolic of the universal grey mist
that has come over men, the extinguishing of all bright
individuality, the blotting out of all wild singleness.
Oh democracy! Oh khaki democracy!
This is very different from Italian landscape. Italy
is almost always dramatic, and perhaps invariably ro-
mantic. There is drama in the plains of Lombardy,
and romance in the Venetian lagoons, and sheer scenic
I 130 ]
excitement in nearly all the hilly parts of the peninsula.
Perhaps it is the natural floridity of limestone forma-
tions. But Italian landscape is really eighteenth-cen-
tury landscape, to be represented in that romantic-
classic manner which makes everything rather marvel-
ous and very topical: aqueducts, and ruins upon sugar-
loaf mountains, and craggy ravines and Wilhelm
Meister water-falls: all up and down.
Sardinia is another thing. Much wider, much more
ordinary, not up-and-down at all, but running away
into the distance. Unremarkable ridges of moor-like
hills running away, perhaps to a bunch of dramatic
peaks on the southwest. This gives a sense of space,
which is so lacking in Italy. Lovely space about one,
and traveling distances nothing finished, nothing
final. It is like liberty itself, after the peaky confine-
ment of Sicily. Room give, me room give me room
for my spirit: and you can have all the toppling crags
So we ran on through the gold of the afternoon,
across a wide, almost Celtic landscape of hills, our lit-
tle train winding and puffing away very nimbly. Only
the heath and scrub, breast-high, man-high, is too big
and brigand-like for a Celtic land. The horns of
black, wild-looking cattle show sometimes.
SEA AND SARDINIA
After a long pull, we come to a station after a stretch
of loneliness. Each time, it looks as if there were
nothing beyond no more habitations. And each time
we come to a station.
Most of the people have left the train. And as
with men driving in a gig, who get down at every
public-house, so the passengers usually alight for an
airing at each station. Our old fat friend stands up and
tucks his shirt-tail comfortably in his trousers, which
trousers all the time make one hold one's breath, for
they seem at each very moment to be just dropping
right down: and he clambers out, followed by the long,
brown stalk of a wife.
So the train sits comfortably for five or ten minutes,
in the way the trains have. At last we hear whistles
and horns, and our old fat friend running and clinging
like a fat crab to the very end of the train as it sets off.
At the same instant a loud shriek and a bunch of shouts
from outside. We all jump up. There, down the
line, is the long brown stork of a wife. She had just
walked back to a house some hundred yards off, for a
few words, and has now seen the train moving.
Now behold her with her hands thrown to heaven,
and hear the wild shriek "Madonna!" through all the
hubbub. But she picks up her two skirt-knees, and
with her thin legs in grey stockings starts with a mad
[ 132 ]
rush after the train. In vain. The train inexorably
pursues its course. Prancing, she reaches one end of
the platform as we leave the other end. Then she
realizes it is not going to stop for her. And then, oh
horror, her long arms thrown out in wild supplication
after the retreating train: then flung aloft to God: then
brought down in absolute despair on her head. And
this is the last sight we have of her, clutching her poor
head in agony and doubling forward. She is left
she is abandoned.
The poor fat husband has been all the time on the
little outside platform at the end of the carriage, hold-
ing out his hand to her and shouting frenzied scolding
to her and frenzied yells for the train to stop. And
the train has not stopped. And she is left left on
that God-forsaken station in the waning light.
So, his face all bright, his eyes round and bright as
two stars, absolutely transfigured by dismay, chagrin,
anger and distress, he comes and sits in his seat, ablaze,
stiff, speechless. His face is almost beautiful in its
blaze of conflicting emotions. For some time he is as
if unconscious in the midst of his feelings. Then
anger and resentment crop out of his consternation.
He turns with a flash to the long-nosed, insidious,
Phoenician-looking guard. Why couldn't they stop the
train for her! And immediately, as if someone had set
[ 133 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
fire to him, off flares the guard. Heh! the train
can't stop for every person's convenience! The train
is a train the time-table is a time-table. What did
the old woman want to take her trips down the line for?
Heh ! She pays the penalty for her own inconsiderate-
ness. Had she paid for the train heh? And the
fat man all the time firing off his unheeding and un-
heeded answers. One minute only one minute if
he, the conductor had told the driver! if he, the con-
ductor, had shouted! A poor woman! Not another
train! What was she going to do! Her ticket? And
no money. A poor woman
There was a train back to Cagliari that night, said
the conductor, at which the fat man nearly burst out
of his clothing like a bursting seed-pod. He bounced
on his seat. What good was that? What good was
a train back to Cagliari, when their home was in Snelli !
Making matters worse
So they bounced and jerked and argued at one
another, to their hearts' content. Then the conductor
retired, smiling subtly, in a way they have. Our fat
friend looked at us with hot, angry, ashamed, grieved
eyes and said it was a shame. Yes, we chimed, it was
a shame. Whereupon a self-important miss who said
she came from some Collegio at Cagliari advanced and
asked a number of impertinent questions in a tone of
[ 134 ]
pert sympathy. After which our fat friend, left alone,
covered his clouded face with his hand, turned his back
on the world, and gloomed.
It had all been so dramatic that in spite of ourselves
we laughed, even while the q-b shed a few tears.
Well, the journey lasted hours. We came to a sta-
tion, and the conductor said we must get out: these
coaches went no further. Only two coaches would
proceed to Mandas. So we climbed out with our traps,
and our fat friend with his saddle-bag, the picture of
The one coach into which we clambered was rather
crowded. The only other coach was most of it first-
class. And the rest of the train was freight. We were
two insignificant passenger wagons at the end of a long
string of freight-vans and trucks.
There was an empty seat, so we sat on it: only to
realize after about five minutes, that a thin old woman
with two children her grandchildren was chunter-
ing her head off because it was her seat why she had
left it she didn't say. And under my legs was her bun-
die of bread. She nearly went off her head. And
over my head, on the little rack, was her bercola, her
saddle-bag. Fat soldiers laughed at her good-natur-
edly, but she fluttered and flipped like a. tart, feather-
[ '3$ ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
less old hen. Since she had another seat and was
quite comfortable, we smiled and let her chunter. So
she clawed her bread bundle from under my legs, and,
clutching it and a fat child, sat tense.
It was getting quite dark. The conductor came and
said that there was no more paraffin. If what there
was in the lamps gave out, we should have to sit in the
dark. There was no more paraffin all along the line.
So he climbed on the seats, and after a long struggle,
with various boys striking matches for him, he man-
aged to obtain a light as big as a pea. We sat in
this dair-obscur, and looked at the sombre-shadowed
faces round us: the fat soldier with a gun, the hand-
some soldier with huge saddle-bags, the weird, dark
little man who kept exchanging a baby with a solid
woman who had a white cloth tied round her head,
a tall peasant-woman in costume, who darted out at a
dark station and returned triumphant with a piece of
chocolate: a young and interested young man, who told
us every station. And the man who spat: there is
Gradually the crowd thinned. At a station we saw
our fat friend go by, bitterly, like a betrayed soul, his
bulging saddle-bag hanging before and after, but no
comfort in it now no comfort. The pea of light
[ 136 ]
from the paraffin lamp grew smaller. We sat in in-
credible dimness, and the smell of sheeps-wool and
peasant, with only our fat and stoic young man to tell
us where we were. The other dusky faces began to
sink into a dead, gloomy silence. Some took to sleep.
And the little train ran on and on, through unknown
Sardinian darkness. In despair we drained the last
drop of tea and ate the last crusts of bread. We knew
we must arrive some time.
It was not much after seven when we came to Man-
das. Mandas is a junction where these little trains
sit and have a long happy chat after their arduous
scramble over the downs. It had taken us somewhere
about five hours to do our fifty miles. No wonder
then that when the junction at last heaves in sight
everybody bursts out of the train like seeds from an
exploding pod, and rushes somewhere for something.
To the station restaurant, of course. Hence there is
a little station restaurant that does a brisk trade, and
where one can have a bed.
A quite pleasant woman behind the little bar: a
brown woman with brown parted hair and brownish
eyes and brownish, tanned complexion and tight brown
velveteen bodice. She led us up a narrow winding
stone stair, as up a fortress, leading on with her candle,
SEA AND SARDINIA
and ushered us into the bedroom. It smelled horrid
and sourish, as shutup bedrooms do. We threw open
the window. There were big frosty stars snapping
ferociously in heaven.
The room contained a huge bed, big enough for eight
people, and quite clean. And the table on which stood
the candle actually had a cloth. But imagine that
cloth! I think it had been originally white: now, how-
ever, it was such a web of time-eaten holes and mourn-
ful black inkstains and poor dead wine stains that it
was like some 2000 B. C. mummy-cloth. I wonder if
it could have been lifted from that table: or if it was
mummified on to it! I for one made no attempt to
try. But that table-cover impressed me, as showing
degrees I had not imagined. A table-cloth.
We went down the fortress-stair to the eating-room.
Here was a long table with soup-plates upside down
and a lamp burning an uncanny naked acetylene flame.
We sat at the cold table, and the lamp immediately be-
gan to wane. The room in fact the whole of Sar-
dinia was stone cold, stone, stone cold. Outside the
earth was freezing. Inside there was no thought of
any sort of warmth: dungeon stone floors, dungeon
stone walls and a dead, corpse-like atmosphere, too
heavy and icy to move.
The lamp went quite out, and the q-b gave a cry.
[ 138 ]
The brown woman poked her head through a hole in
the wall. Beyond her we saw the flames of the cook-
ing, and two devil-figures stirring the pots. The
brown woman came and shook the lamp it was like a
stodgy porcelain mantelpiece vase shook it well and
stirred up its innards, and started it going once more.
Then she appeared with a bowl of smoking cabbage
soup, in which were bits of macaroni: and would we
have wine? I shuddered at the thought of death-cold
red wine of the country, so asked what else there was.
There was malvagia malvoisie, the same old malmsey
that did for the Duke of Clarence. So we had a pint
of malvagia, and were comforted. At least we were
being so, when the lamp went out again. The brown
woman came and shook and smacked it, and started it
off again. But as if to say "Shan't for you", it whipped
Then came the host with a candle and a pin, a large,
genial Sicilian with pendulous mustaches. And he
thoroughly pricked the wretch with the pin, shook it,
and turned little screws. So up flared the flame. We
were a little nervous. He asked us where we came
from, etc. And suddenly he asked us, with an excited
gleam, were we Socialists. Aha, he was going to hail
us as citizens and comrades. He thought we were a
pair of Bolshevist agents: I could see it. And as such
t 139 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
he was prepared to embrace us. But no, the q-b dis-
claimed the honor. I merely smiled and shook my
head. It is a pity to rob people of their exciting
"Ah, there is too much socialism everywhere!" cried
"Ma perhaps, perhaps " said the discreet Sicilian.
She saw which way the land lay, and added:
"Si vuole un -pocchetino di Socialismo: one wants a
tiny bit of socialism in the world, a tiny bit. But not
much. Not much. At present there is too much."
Our host, twinkling at this speech which treated of
the sacred creed as if it were a pinch of salt in the broth,
believing the q-b was throwing dust in his eyes, and
thoroughly intrigued by us as a pair of deep ones, re-
tired. No sooner had he gone than the lamp-flame
stood up at its full length, and started to whistle. The
q-b drew back. Not satisfied by this, another flame
suddenly began to whip round the bottom of the burner,
like a lion lashing its tail. Unnerved, we made room:
the q-b cried again: in came the host with a subtle smile
and a pin and an air of benevolence, and tamed the
What else was there to eat? There was a piece of
fried pork for me, and boiled eggs for the q-b. As
we were proceeding with these, in came the remainder
of the night's entertainment: three station officials, two
in scarlet peaked caps, one in a black-and-gold peaked cap.
They sat down with a clamour, in their caps, as if there
was a sort of invisible screen between us and them.
They were young. The black cap had a lean and sar-
donic look: one of the red-caps was little and ruddy ,
very young, with a little mustache: we called him the
maialinoy the gay little black pig, he was so plump and
food-nourished and frisky. The third was rather
puffy and pale and had spectacles. They all seemed to
present us the blank side of their cheek, and to intimate
that no, they were not going to take their hats off, even
if it were dinner-table and a strange signora. And
they made rough quips with one another, still as if we
were on the other side of the invisible screen.
Determined however, to remove this invisible screen,
I said Good-evening, and it was very cold. They mut-
tered Good-evening, and yes, it was fresh. An Italian
never says it is cold: it is never more than fresco. But
this hint that it was cold they took as a hint at their
caps, and they became very silent, till the woman came
in with the soup-bowl. Then they clamoured at her,
particularly the maialmo, what was there to eat. She
told them beefsteaks of pork. Whereat they pulled
faces. Or bits of boiled pork. They sighed, looked
gloomy, cheered up, and said beefsteaks, then.
SEA AND SARDINIA
And they fell on their soup. And never, from
among the steam, have I heard a more joyful trio of
soup-swilkering. They sucked it in from their spoons
with long, gusto-rich sucks. The maialino was the
treble he trilled his soup into his mouth with a swift,
sucking vibration, interrupted by bits of cabbage, which
made the lamp start to dither again. Black-cap was
the baritone j good, rolling spoon-sucks. And the one
in spectacles was the bass: he gave sudden deep gulps.
All was led by the long trilling of the maialino. Then
suddenly, to vary matters, he cocked up his spoon in
one hand, chewed a huge mouthful of bread, and swal-
lowed it down with a smack-smack-smack! of his tongue
against his palate. As children we used to call this
"Mother, she's clapping!" I would yell with anger,
against my sister. The German word is schmatzen.
So the maialino clapped like a pair of cymbals, while
baritone and bass rolled on. Then in chimed the swift
At this rate however, the soup did not last long.
Arrived the beefsteaks of pork. And now the trio was
a trio of Castanet smacks and cymbal claps. Triumph-
antly the maialino looked around. He out-smacked
The bread of the country is rather coarse and brown,
[ 142 ]
with a hard, hard crust. A large rock of this is perched
on every damp serviette. The maialino tore his rock
asunder, and grumbled at the black-cap, who had got a
weird sort of three-cornered loaf -roll of pure white
bread starch white. He was a swell with this white
Suddenly black-cap turned to me. Where had we
come from, where were we going, what for? But in
laconic, sardonic tone.
"I like Sardinia," cried the q-b.
"Why?" he asked sarcastically. And she tried to
"Yes, the Sardinians please me more than the Sici-
lians," said I.
"Why?" he asked sarcastically.
"They are more open more honest." He seemed
to turn his nose down.
"The padrone is a Sicilian," said the mamlmo y stuff-
ing a huge block of bread into his mouth, and rolling
his insouciant eyes of a gay, well-fed little black pig
towards the background. We weren't making much
"YouVe seen Cagliari?" the black-cap said to me,
like a threat.
"Yes! oh Cagliari pleases me Cagliari is beauti-
[ 143 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
full" cried the q-b, who travels with a vial of melted
butter ready for her parsnips.
"Yes Cagliari is so-so Cagliari is very fair," said
the black cap. "Cagliari e discrete." He was evi-
dently proud of it.
"And is Mandas nice?" asked the q-b.
"In what way nice?" they asked, with immense
"Is there anything to see?"
"Hens," said the maialino briefly. They all bristled
when one asked if Mandas was nice.
"What does one do here?" asked the q-b.
"Niente! At Mandas one does nothing. At Man-
das one goes to bed when it's dark, like a chicken. At
Mandas one walks down the road like a pig that is
going nowhere. At Mandas a goat understands more
than the inhabitants understand. At Mandas one needs
socialism. . . ."
They all cried out at once. Evidently Mandas was
more than flesh and blood could bear for another min-
ute to these three conspirators.
"Then you are very bored here?" say I.
And the quiet intensity of that naked yes spoke more
"You would like to be in Cagliari?"
[ H4 ]
Silence, intense, sardonic silence had intervened.
The three looked at one another and made a sour joke
about Mandas. Then the black-cap turned to me.
"Can you understand Sardinian?" he said.
"Somewhat. More than Sicilian, anyhow."
"But Sardinian is more difficult than Sicilian. It is
full of words utterly unknown to Italian "
"Yes, but," say I, "it is spoken openly, in plain
words, and Sicilian is spoken all stuck together, none
of the words there at all."
He looks at me as if I were an imposter. Yet it is
true. I find it quite easy to understand Sardinian. As
a matter of fact, it is more a question of human ap-
proach than of sound. Sardinian seems open and
manly and downright. Sicilian is gluey and evasive, as
if the Sicilian didn't want to speak straight to you.
As a matter of fact, he doesn't. He is an over-cul-
tured, sensitive, ancient soul, and he has so many sides
to his mind that he hasn't got any definite one mind
at all. He's got a dozen minds, and uneasily he's
aware of it, and to commit himself to any one of them
is merely playing a trick on himself and his interlocu-
tor. The Sardinian, on the other hand, still seems to
have one downright mind. I bump up against a down-
right, smack-out belief in Socialism, for example.
[ 145 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
The Sicilian is much too old in our culture to swallow
Socialism whole: much too ancient and ruse not to be
sophisticated about any and every belief. He'll go
off like a squib: and then he'll smoulder acridly and
sceptically even against his own fire. One sympathizes
with him in retrospect. But in daily life it is unbear-
"Where do you find such white bread?" say I to the
black cap, because he is proud of it.
"It comes from my home." And then he asks about
the bread of Sicily. Is it any whiter than Ms the
Mandas rock. Yes, it is a little whiter. At which
they gloom again. For it is a very sore point, this
bread. Bread means a great deal to an Italian: it is
verily his staff of life. He practically lives on bread.
And instead of going by taste, he now, like all the
world, goes by eye. He has got it into his head that
bread should be white, so that every time he fancies a
darker shade in the loaf a shadow falls on his soul.
Nor is he altogether wrong. For although, person-
ally, I don't like white bread any more, yet I do like
my brown bread to be made of pure, unmixed flour.
The peasants in Sicily, who have kept their own wheat
and make their own natural brown bread, ah, it is amaz-
ing how fresh and sweet and clean their loaf seems,
so perfumed, as home-bread used all to be before the
[ 146 ]
war. Whereas the bread of the commune, the regula-
tion supply, is hard, and rather coarse and rough, so
rough and harsh on the palate. One gets tired to death
of it. I suspect myself the maize meal mixed in.
But I don't know. And finally the bread varies im-
mensely from town to town, from commune to com-
mune. The so-called just and equal distribution is all
my-eye. One place has abundance of good sweet
bread, another scrapes along, always stinted, on an al-
lowance of harsh coarse stuff. And the poor suffer
bitterly, really, from the bread-stinting, because they
depend so on this one food. They say the inequality
and the injustice of distribution comes from the
Camorra la grande Camorra which is no more now-
adays than a profiteering combine, which the poor hate.
But for myself, I don't know. I only know that one
town Venice, for example seems to have an endless
supply of pure bread, of sugar, of tobacco, of salt
while Florence is in one continual ferment of irritation
over the stinting of these supplies which are all gov-
ernment monopoly, doled out accordingly.
We said Good-night to our three railway friends,
and went up to bed. We had only been in the room
a minute or two, when the brown woman tapped: and
if you please, the black-cap had sent us one of his little
white loaves. We were really touched. Such deli-
[ 147 1
SEA AND SARDINIA
cate little generosities have almost disappeared from
It was a queer little bread three-cornered, and
almost as hard as ships biscuit, made of starch flour.
Not strictly bread at all.
The night was cold, the blankets flat and heavy, but
one slept quite well till dawn. At seven o'clock it was
a clear, cold morning, the sun not yet up. Standing
at the bedroom window looking out, I could hardly
believe my eyes it was so like England, like Cornwall
in the bleak parts, or Derbyshire uplands. There was
a little paddock-garden at the back of the Station,
rather tumble-down, with two sheep in it. There were
several forlorn-looking out-buildings, very like Corn-
wall. And then the wide, forlorn country road
stretched away between borders of grass and low, dry-
stone walls, towards a grey stone farm with a tuft
of trees, and a naked stone village in the distance.
The sun came up yellow, the bleak country glimmered
bluish and reluctant. The low, green hill-slopes were
divided into fields, with low drystone walls and ditches.
Here and there a stone barn rose alone, or with a few
bare, windy trees attached. Two rough-coated winter
horses pastured on the rough grass, a boy came along
the naked, wide, grass-bordered high-road with a couple
of milk cans, drifting in from nowhere: and it was all
so like Cornwall, or a part of Ireland, that the old nos-
talgia for the Celtic regions began to spring up in me.
Ah, those old, drystone walls dividing the fields pale
and granite-blenched! Ah, the dark, sombre grass,
the naked sky! the forlorn horses in the wintry morn-
ing! Strange is a Celtic landscape, far more moving,
disturbing than the lovely glamor of Italy and Greece.
Before the curtains of history lifted, one feels the
world was like this this Celtic bareness and sombre-
ness and air. But perhaps it is not Celtic at all:
Iberian. Nothing is more unsatisfactory than our con-
ception of what is Celtic and what is not Celtic. I
believe there never were any Celts, as a race. As for
the Iberians !
Wonderful to go out on a frozen road, to see the
grass in shadow bluish with hoar-frost, to see the grass
in the yellow winter-sunrise beams melting and going
cold-twinkly. Wonderful the bluish, cold air, and
things standing up in cold distance. After two south-
ern winters, with roses blooming all the time, this
bleakness and this touch of frost in the ringing morning
goes to my soul like an intoxication. I am so glad,
on this lonely naked road, I don't know what to do
with myself. I walk down in the shallow grassy
ditches under the loose stone walls, I walk on the little
[ H9 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
ridge of grass, the little bank on which the wall is built,
I cross the road across the frozen cow-droppings: and it
is all so familiar to my feet, my very feet in contact,
that I am wild as if I had made a discovery. And I
realize that I hate lime-stone, to live on lime-stone or
marble or any of those limey rocks. I hate them.
They are dead rocks, they have no life thrills for the
feet. Even sandstone is much better. But granite!
Granite is my favorite. It is so live under the feet,
it has a deep sparkle of its own. I like its roundnesses
and I hate the jaggy dryness of limestone, that burns
in the sun, and withers.
After coming to a deep well in a grassy plot in a
wide space of the road, I go back, across the sunny
naked upland country, towards the pink station and its
out-buildings. An engine is steaming its white clouds
in the new light. Away to the left there is even a
row of small houses, like a row of railway-mens' dwell-
ings. Strange and familiar sight. And the station
precincts are disorderly and rather dilapidated. I
think of our Sicilian host.
The brown woman gives us coffee, and very strong,
rich goats' milk, and bread. After which the q-b
and I set off once more along the road to the village.
She too is thrilled. She too breathes deep. She too
feels s'pace around her, and freedom to move the limbs:
such as one does not feel in Italy and Sicily, where all
is so classic and fixed.
The village itself is just a long, winding, darkish
street, in shadow, of houses and shops and a smithy.
It might almost be Cornwall: not quite. Something,
I don't know what, suggests the stark burning glare of
summer. And then, of course, there is none of the
cosiness which climbing roses and lilac trees and cottage
shops and haystacks would give to an English scene.
This is harder, barer, starker, more dreary. An ancient
man in the black-and-white costume comes out of a
hovel of a cottage. The butcher carries a huge side of
meat. The women peer at us but more furtive and
reticent than the howling stares of Italy.
So we go on, down the rough-cobbled street through
the whole length of the village. And emerging on
the other side, past the last cottage, we find ourselves
again facing the open country, on the gentle down-
slope of the rolling hill. The landscape continues the
same: low, rolling upland hills, dim under the yellow
sun of the January morning: stone fences, fields, grey-
arable land: a man slowly, slowly ploughing with a
pony and a dark-red cow: the road trailing empty across
the distance: and then, the one violently unfamiliar
note, the enclosed cemetery lying outside on the gentle
SEA AND SARDINIA
hill-side, closed in all round, very compact, with high
walls: and on the inside face of the enclosure wall the
marble slabs, like shut drawers of the sepulchres, shin-
ing white, the wall being like a chest of drawers, or
pigeon holes to hold the dead. Tufts of dark and
plumy cypresses rise among the flat graves of the en-
closure. In the south, cemeteries are walled off and
isolated very tight. The dead, as it were, are kept
fast in pound. There is no spreading of graves over
the face of the country. They are penned in a tight
fold, with cypresses to fatten on the bones. This is the
one thoroughly strange note in the landscape. But
all-pervading there is a strangeness, that strange feeling
as if the deaths were barren, which comes in the south
and the east, sun-stricken. Sun-stricken, and the heart
eaten out by the dryness.
"I like it! I like it!" cries the q-b.
"But could you live here?" She would like to say
yes, but daren't.
We stray back. The q-b wants to buy one of those
saddle-bag arrangements. I say what for? She says
to keep things in. Ach! but peeping in the shops, we
see one and go in and examine it. It is quite a sound
one, properly made: but plain, quite plain. On the
white cross-stripes there are no lovely colored flowers
of rose and green and magenta: the three favorite Sar-
[ 152 ]
dinian colors: nor are there any of the fantastic and
griffin-like beasts. So it won't do. How much does
it cost? Forty-five francs.
There is nothing to do in Mandas. So we will take
the morning train and go to the terminus, to Sorgono.
Thus, we shall cross the lower slopes of the great cen-
tral knot of Sardinia, the mountain knot called Gen-
nargentu. And Sorgono we feel will be lovely.
Back at the station we make tea on the spirit lamp,
fill the thermos, pack the knapsack and the kitchenino,
and come out into the sun of the platform. The q-b
goes to thank the black-cap for the white bread, whilst
I settle the bill and ask for food for the journey. The
brown woman fishes out from a huge black pot in the
background sundry hunks of coarse boiled pork, and
gives me two of these, hot, with bread and salt. This
is the luncheon. I pay the bill: which amounts to
twenty-four francs, for everything. (One says francs
or liras, irrespective, in Italy.) At that moment ar-
rives the train from Cagliari, and men rush in, roaring
for the soup or rather, for the broth. "Ready,
ready!" she cries, going to the black pot.
t 153 ]
THE various trains in the junction squatted side
by side and had long, long talks before at
last we were off. It was wonderful to be
running in the bright morning towards the heart of
Sardinia, in the little train that seemed so familiar.
We were still going third class, rather to the disgust
of the railway officials at Mandas.
At first the country was rather open : always the long
spurs of hills, steep-sided, but not high. And from
our little train we looked across the country, across hill
and dale. In the distance was a little town, on a low
slope. But for its compact, fortified look it might have
been a town on the English downs. A man in the car-
riage leaned out of the window holding out a white
cloth, as a signal to someone in the far off town that
he was coming. The wind blew the white cloth, the
town in the distance glimmered small and alone in its
hollow. And the little train pelted along.
[ 154 ]
It was rather comical to see it. We were always
climbing. And the line curved in great loops. So
that as one looked out of the window, time and again
one started, seeing a little train running in front of
us, in a diverging direction, making big puffs of steam.
But lo, it was our own little engine pelting off around
a loop away ahead. We were quite a long train, but
all trucks in front, only our two passenger coaches
hitched on behind. And for this reason our own engine
was always running fussily into sight, like some dog
scampering in front and swerving about us, while we
followed at the tail end of the thin string of trucks.
I was surprised how well the small engine took the
continuous steep slopes, how bravely it emerged on the
sky-line. It is a queer railway. I would like to know
who made it. It pelts up hill and down dale and round
sudden bends in the most unconcerned fashion, not as
proper big railways do, grunting inside deep cuttings
and stinking their way through tunnels, but running
up the hill like a panting, small dog, and having a look
round, and starting off in another direction, whisking
us behind unconcernedly. This is much more fun than
the tunnel-and-cutting system.
They told me that Sardinia mines her own coal: and
quite enough for her own needs: but very soft, not fit
for steam-purposes. I saw heaps of it: small, dull,
[ 155 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
dirty-looking stuff. Truck-loads of it too. And
truck-loads of grain.
At every station we were left ignominiously planted,
while the little engines they had gay gold names on
their black little bodies strolled about along the side-
lines, and snuffed at the various trucks. There we sat,
at every station, while some truck was discarded and
some other sorted out like a branded sheep, from the
sidings and hitched on to us. It took a long time, this
All the stations so far had had wire netting over the
windows. This means malaria-mosquitoes. The ma-
laria climbs very high in Sardinia. The shallow up-
land valleys, moorland with their intense summer sun
and the riverless, boggy behaviour of the water breed
the pest inevitably. But not very terribly, as far as
one can make out: August and September being the
danger months. The natives don't like to admit there
is any malaria: a tiny bit, they say, a tiny bit. As soon
as you come to the trees there is no more. So they say.
For many miles the landscape is moorland and down-
like, with no trees. But wait for the trees. Ah, the
woods and forests of Gennargentu: the woods and for-
ests higher up: no malaria there!
The little engine whisks up and up, around its loopy
[ 156 ]
curves as if it were going to bite its own tail: we being
the tail: then suddenly dives over the skyline out of
sight. And the landscape changes. The famous woods
begin to appear. At first it is only hazel-thickets,
miles of hazel-thickets, all wild, with a few black cat-
tle trying to peep at us out of the green myrtle and
arbutus scrub which forms the undergrowth; and a
couple of rare, wild peasants peering at the train.
They wear the black sheepskin tunic, with the wool
outside, and the long stocking caps. Like cattle they
too peer out from between deep bushes. The myrtle
scrub here rises man-high, and cattle and men are
smothered in it. The big hazels rise bare above. It
must be difficult getting about in these parts.
Sometimes, in the distance one sees a black-and-white
peasant riding lonely across a more open place, a tiny
vivid figure. I like so much the proud instinct which
makes a living creature distinguish itself from its back-
ground. I hate the rabbity khaki protection-colouration.
A black-and-white peasant on his pony, only a dot in
the distance beyond the foliage, still flashes and domi-
nates the landscape. Ha-ha! proud mankind! There
you ride! But alas, most of the men are still khaki-
muffled, rabbit-indistinguishable, ignominious. The
Italians look curiously rabbity in the grey-green uni-
form: just as our sand-colored khaki men look doggy.
[ 157 1
SEA AND SARDINIA
They seem to scuffle rather abased, ignominious on the
earth. Give us back the scarlet and gold, and devil
take the hindmost.
The landscape really begins to change. The hill-
sides tilt sharper and sharper. A man is ploughing
with two small red cattle on a craggy, tree-hanging
slope as sharp as a roof-side. He stoops at the small
wooden plough, and jerks the ploughlines. The oxen
lift their noses to heaven, with a strange and beseeching
snake-like movement, and taking tiny little steps with
their frail feet, move slantingly across the slope-face,
between rocks and tree-roots. Little, frail, jerky steps
the bullocks take, and again they put their horns back
and lift their muzzles snakily to heaven, as the man
pulls the line. And he skids his wooden plough round
another scoop of earth. It is marvellous how they
hang upon that steep, craggy slope. An English la-
bourer's eyes would bolt out of his head at the sight.
There is a stream: actually a long tress of a water-
fall pouring into a little gorge, and a stream-bed that
opens a little, and shows a marvellous cluster of naked
poplars away below. They are like ghosts. They
have a ghostly, almost phosphorescent luminousness in
the shadow of the valley, by the stream of water. If
not phosphorescent, then incandescent: a grey, goldish-
[ 158 1
pale incandescence of naked limbs and myriad cold-
glowing twigs, gleaming strangely. If I were a
painter I would paint them: for they seem to have liv-
ing, sentient flesh. And the shadow envelopes them.
Another naked tree I would paint is the gleaming
mauve-silver fig, which burns its cold incandescence,
tangled, like some sensitive creature emerged from the
rock. A fig tree come forth in its nudity gleaming
over the dark winter-earth is a sight to behold. Like
some white, tangled sea anemone. Ah, if it could but
answer! or if we had tree-speech!
Yes, the steep valley sides become almost gorges,
and there are trees. Not forests such as I had im-
agined, but scattered, grey, smallish oaks, and some
lithe chestnuts. Chestnuts with their long whips, and
oaks with their stubby boughs, scattered on steep hill-
sides where rocks crop out. The train perilously wind-
ing round, half way up. Then suddenly bolting over
a bridge and into a completely unexpected station.
What is more, men crowd in the station is connected
with the main railway by a post motor-omnibus.
An unexpected irruption of men they may be
miners or navvies or land-workers. They all have
huge sacks: some lovely saddle-bags with rose-coloured
flowers across the darkness. One old man is in full
[ 159 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
black-and-white costume, but very dirty and coming to
pieces. The others wear the tight madder-brown
breeches and sleeved waistcoats. Some have the sheep-
skin tunic, and all wear the long stocking cap. And
how they smell! of sheep-wool and of men and goat.
A rank scent fills the carriage.
They talk and are very lively. And they have
mediaeval faces, ruse, never really abandoning their
defences for a moment, as a badger or a pole-cat never
abandons its defences. There is none of the brother-
liness and civilised simplicity. Each man knows he
must guard himself and his own: each man knows the
devil is behind the next bush. They have never known
the post-Renaissance Jesus. Which is rather an eye-
Not that they are suspicious or uneasy. On the con-
trary, noisy, assertive, vigorous presences. But with
none of that implicit belief that everybody will be and
ought to be good to them, which is the mark of our era.
They don't expect people to be good to them: they
don't want it. They remind me of half -wild dogs that
will love and obey, but which won't be handled. They
won't have their heads touched. And they won't be
fondled. One can almost hear the half-savage growl.
The long stocking caps they wear as a sort of crest,
as a lizard wears his crest at mating time. They are
always moving them, settling them on their heads.
One fat fellow, young, with sly brown eyes and a young
beard round his face folds his stocking-foot in three,
so that it rises over his brow martial and handsome.
The old boy brings his stocking-foot over the left ear.
A handsome fellow with a jaw of massive teeth pushes
his cap back and lets it hang a long way down his back.
Then he shifts it forward over his nose, and makes it
have two sticking-out points, like fox-ears, above his
temples. It is marvellous how much expression these
caps can take on. They say that only those born to
them can wear them. They seem to be just long bags,
nearly a yard long, of black stockinette stuff.
The conductor comes to issue them their tickets.
And they all take out rolls of paper money. Even a
little mothy rat of a man who sits opposite me has quite
a pad of ten-franc notes. Nobody seems short of a
hundred francs nowadays: nobody.
They shout and expostulate with the conductor.
Full of coarse life they are: but so coarse! The hand-
some fellow has his sleeved waistcoat open, and his
shirt-breast has come unbuttoned. Not looking, it
seems as if he wears a black undervest. Then sud-
denly, one sees it is his own hair. He is quite black
inside his shirt, like a black goat.
But there is a gulf between oneself and them, They
[ 161 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
have no inkling of our crucifixion, our universal con-
sciousness. Each of them is pivoted and limited to
himself, as the wild animals are. They look out, and
they see other objects, objects to ridicule or mistrust or
to sniff curiously at. But "thou shalt love thy neigh -
bour as thyself" has never entered their souls at all, not
even the thin end of it. They might love their neigh-
bour, with a hot, dark, unquestioning love. But the
love would probably leave off abruptly. The fascina-
tion of what is beyond them has not seized on them.
Their neighbour is a mere external. Their life is centri-
petal, pivoted inside itself, and does not run out towards
others and mankind. One feels for the first time the
real old mediaeval life, which is enclosed in itself and
has no interest in the world outside.
And so they lie about on the seats, play a game,
shout, and sleep, and settle their long stocking-caps:
and spit. It is wonderful in them that at this time of
day they still wear the long stocking-caps as part of
their inevitable selves. It is a sign of obstinate and
powerful tenacity. They are not going to be broken
in upon by world-consciousness. They are not going
into the world's common clothes. Coarse, vigorous,
determined, they will stick to their own coarse dark
stupidity and let the big world find its own way to its
[ 162 ]
own enlightened hell. Their hell is their own hell,
they prefer it unenlightened.
And one cannot help wondering whether Sardinia
will resist right through. Will the last waves of en-
lightenment and world-unity break over them and wash
away the stocking-caps? Or is the tide of enlighten-
ment and world-unity already receding fast enough?
Certainly a reaction is setting in, away from the old
universality, back, away from cosmopolitanism and
internationalism. Russia, with her Third Inter-
national, is at the same time reacting most violently
away from all other contact, back, recoiling on
herself, into a fierce, unapproachable Russian-
ism. Which motion will conquer? The workman's
International, or the centripetal movement into na-
tional isolation? Are we going to merge into one
grey proletarian homogeneity? or are we going to
swing back into more-or-less isolated, separate, defiant
Probably both. The workman's International move-
ment will finally break the flow towards cosmopolitan-
ism and world-assimilation, and suddenly in a crash
the world will fly back into intense separations. The
moment has come when America, that extremist in
world-assimilation and world-oneness, is reacting into
violent egocentricity, a truly Amerindian egocentricity.
[ 163 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
As sure as fate we are on the brink of American empire.
For myself, I am glad. I am glad that the era of
love and oneness is over: hateful homogeneous world-
oneness. I am glad that Russia flies back into savage
Russianism, Scythism, savagely self-pivoting. I am
glad that America is doing the same. I shall be glad
when men hate their common, world-alike clothes,
when they tear them up and clothe themselves fiercely
for distinction, savage distinction, savage distinction
against the rest of the creeping world: when America
kicks the billy-cock and the collar-and-tie into limbo, and
takes to her own national costume: when men fiercely
react against looking all alike and being all alike, and
betake themselves into vivid clan or nation-distinctions.
The era of love and oneness is over. The era of
world-alike should be at an end. The other tide has
set in. Men will set their bonnets at one another
now, and fight themselves into separation and sharp
distinction. The day of peace and oneness is over,
the day of the great fight into multifariousness is at
hand. Hasten the day, and save us from proletarian
homogeneity and khaki all-alikeness.
I love my indomitable coarse men from mountain
Sardinia, for their stocking-caps and their splendid,
animal-bright stupidity. If only the last wave of all-
[ 164 ]
alikeness won't wash those superb crests, those caps,
We are struggling now among the Gennargentu
spurs. There is no single peak no Etna of Sardinia.
The train, like the plough, balances on the steep, steep
sides of the hill-spurs, and winds around and around.
Above and below the steep slopes are all bosky. These
are the woods of Gennargentu. But they aren't woods
in my sense of the word. They are thin sprinkles of
oaks and chestnuts and cork-trees over steep hill-slopes.
And cork-trees! I see curious slim oaky-looking trees
that are stripped quite naked below the boughs, stand-
ing brown-ruddy, curiously distinct among the bluey
grey pallor of the others. They remind me, again
and again, of glowing, coffee-brown, naked aborigines
of the South Seas. They have the naked suavity, skin-
bare, and an intense coffee-red colour of unclothed
savages. And these are the stripped cork-trees. Some
are much stripped, some little. Some have the whole
trunk and part of the lower limbs ruddy naked, some
only a small part of the trunk.
It is well on in the afternoon. A peasant in black
and white, and his young, handsome woman in rose-red
costume, with gorgeous apron bordered deep with
[ 165 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
grass-green, and a little, dark-purple waistcoat over
her white, full bodice, are sitting behind me talking.
The workmen peasants are subsiding into sleep. It is
well on in the afternoon, we have long ago eaten the
meat. Now we finish the white loaf, the gift, and the
tea. Suddenly looking out of the window, we see
Gennargentu's mass behind us, a thick snow-deep knot-
summit, beautiful beyond the long, steep spurs among
which we are engaged. We lose the white mountain
mass for half an hour: when suddenly it emerges un-
expectedly almost in front, the great, snow-heaved
How different it is from Etna, that lonely, self-
conscious wonder of Sicily! This is much more hu-
man and knowable, with a deep breast and massive
limbs, a powerful mountain-body. It is like the
The stations are far between an hour from one to
another. Ah, how weary one gets of these journeys,
they last so long. We look across a valley a stone's
throw. But alas, the little train has no wings, and
can't jump. So back turns the line, back and back
towards Gennargentu, a long rocky way, till it comes
at length to the poor valley-head. This it skirts fuss-
ily, and sets off to pelt down on its traces again, gaily.
[ 166 ]
And a man who was looking at us doing our round-
about has climbed down and crossed the valley in five
The peasants nearly all wear costumes now, even
the women in the fields: the little fields in the half-
populated valleys. These Gennargentu valleys are all
half-populated, more than the moors further south.
It is past three o'clock, and cold where there is no
sun. At last only one more station before the ter-
minus. And here the peasants wake up, sling the bulg-
ing sacks over their shoulders, and get down. We see
Tonara away above. We see our old grimy black-and-
white peasant greeted by his two women who have
come to meet him with the pony daughters hand-
some in vivid rose and green costume. Peasants, men
in black and white, men in madder-brown, with the
close breeches on their compact thighs, women in rose-
and-white, ponies with saddle-bags, all begin to trail
up the hill-road in silhouette, very handsome, towards
the far-off, perched, sun-bright village of Tonara, a
big village, shining like a New Jerusalem.
The train as usual leaves us standing, and shuffles
with trucks water sounds in the valley: there are
stacks of cork on the station, and coal. An idiot girl
in a great full skirt entirely made of coloured patches
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SEA AND SARDINIA
mops and mows. Her little waistcoat thing is also in-
credibly old, and shows faint signs of having once been
a lovely purple and black brocade. The valley and
steep slopes are open about us. An old shepherd has
a lovely flock of delicate merino sheep.
And at last we move. In one hour we shall be
there. As we travel among the tree slopes, many
brown cork-trees, we come upon a flock of sheep. Two
peasants in our carriage looking out, give the most
weird, unnatural, high-pitched shrieks, entirely unpro-
duceable by any ordinary being. The sheep know,
however, and scatter. And after ten minutes the
shrieks start again, for three young cattle. Whether
the peasants do it for love, I don't know. But it is
the wildest and weirdest inhuman shepherd noise I
have ever heard.
It is Saturday afternoon and four o'clock. The
country is wild and uninhabited, the train almost
empty, yet there is the leaving-off-work feeling in
the atmosphere. Oh twisty, wooded, steep slopes, oh
glimpses of Gennargentu, oh nigger-stripped cork-
trees, oh smell of peasants, oh wooden, wearisome
railway carriage, we are so sick of you! Nearly seven
hours of this journey already: and a distance of sixty
[ 168 ]
But we are almost there look, look, Sorgono, nest-
ling beautifully among the wooded slopes in front.
Oh magic little town. Ah, you terminus and gang-
lion of the inland roads, we hope in you for a pleasant
inn and happy company. Perhaps we will stay a day
or two at Sorgono.
The train gives a last sigh, and draws to a last stand-
still in the tiny terminus station. An old fellow flut-
tering with rags as a hen in the wind flutters, asked
me if I wanted the Albergo y the inn. I said yes, and
let him take my knapsack. Pretty Sorgono! As we
went down the brief muddy lane between hedges, to
the village high-road, we seemed almost to have come
to some little town in the English west-country, or in
Hardy's country. There were glades of stripling
oaks, and big slopes with oak trees, and on the right
a saw-mill buzzing, and on the left the town, white and
close, nestling round a baroque church-tower. And
the little lane was muddy.
Three minutes brought us to the highroad, and a
great, pink-washed building blank on the road facing
the station lane, and labelled in huge letters: RISTOR-
ANTE RISVEGLIO: the letter N being printed back-
wards. Risveglio if you please: which means waking
up or rousing, like the word reveille. Into the door-
way of the Risveglio bolted the flutterer. "Half a
[ 169 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
minute," said I. "Where is the Albergo d'ltalia?"
I was relying on Baedeker.
"Non c'e piu," replied my rag-feather. "There
isn't it any more." This answer, being very frequent
nowadays, is always most disconcerting.
"Well then, what other hotel?"
"There is no other."
Risveglio or nothing. In we go. We pass into a
big, dreary bar, where are innumerable bottles behind
a tin counter. Flutter- jack yells: and at length appears
mine host, a youngish fellow of the Esquimo type,
but rather bigger, in a dreary black suit and a cutaway
waistcoat suggesting a dinner-waistcoat, and innumer-
able wine-stains on his shirt front. I instantly hated
him for the filthy appearance he made. He wore a
battered hat and his face was long unwashed.
Was there a bedroom?
And he led the way down the passage, just as dirty
as the road outside, up the hollow, wooden stairs also
just as clean as the passage, along a hollow, drum-
rearing dirty corridor, and into a bedroom. Well, it
contained a large bed, thin and flat with a grey-white
counterpane, like a large, poor, marble-slabbed tomb
in the room's sordid emptiness j one dilapidated chair
on which stood the miserablest weed of a candle I have
[ 170 ]
ever seen: a broken wash-saucer in a wire ring: and
for the rest, an expanse of wooden floor as dirty-grey-
black as it could be, and an expanse of wall charted
with the bloody deaths of mosquitoes. The window
was about two feet above the level of a sort of stable-
yard outside, with a fowl-house just by the sash.
There, at the window flew lousy feathers and dirty
straw, the ground was thick with chicken-droppings.
An ass and two oxen comfortably chewed hay in an
open shed just across, and plump in the middle of the
yard lay a bristly black pig taking the last of the sun.
Smells of course were varied.
The knapsack and the kitchenino were dropped on
the repulsive floor, which I hated to touch with my
boots even. I turned back the sheets and looked at
other people's stains.
"There is nothing else?"
"Niente," said he of the lank, low forehead and
beastly shirt-breast. And he sullenly departed. I
gave the flutterer his tip and he too ducked and fled.
Then the queen-bee and I took a few mere sniffs.
"Dirty, disgusting swine!" said I, and I was in a
I could have forgiven him anything, I think, except
his horrible shirt-breast, his personal shamelessness.
We strolled round saw various other bedrooms,
SEA AND SARDINIA
some worse, one really better. But this showed signs
of being occupied. All the doors were open: the
place was quite deserted, and open to the road. The
one thing that seemed definite was honesty. It must
be a very honest place, for every footed beast, man or
animal, could walk in at random and nobody to take
the slightest regard.
So we went downstairs. The only other apartment
was the open public bar, which seemed like part of
the road. A muleteer, leaving his mules at the corner
of the Risveglio, was drinking at the counter.
This famous inn was at the end of the village.
We strolled along the road between the houses, down-
hill. A dreary hole! a cold, hopeless, lifeless, Satur-
day afternoon-weary village, rather sordid, with noth-
ing to say for itself. No real shops at all. A weary-
looking church, and a clutch of disconsolate houses.
We walked right through the village. In the middle
was a sort of open space where stood a great, grey
motor-omnibus. And a bus-driver looking rather
Where did the bus go?
It went to join the main railway.
At half-past seven in the morning.
"Thank God we can get out, anyhow," said I.
We passed on, and emerged beyond the village, still
on the descending great high-road that was mended
with loose stones pitched on it. This wasn't good
enough. Besides, we were out of the sun, and the
place being at a considerable elevation, it was very cold.
So we turned back, to climb quickly uphill into the sun.
We went up a little side-turning past a bunch of
poor houses towards a steep little lane between banks.
And before we knew where we were, we were in the
thick of the public lavatory. In these villages, as I
knew, there are no sanitary arrangements of any sort
whatever. Every villager and villageress just betook
himself at need to one of the side-roads. It is the
immemorial Italian custom. Why bother about pri-
vacy? The most socially-constituted people on earth,
they even like to relieve themselves in company.
We found ourselves in the full thick of one of these
meeting-places. To get out at any price! So we
scrambled up the steep earthen banks to a stubble field
above. And by this time I was in a greater rage.
Evening was falling, the sun declining. Below us
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SEA AND SARDINIA
clustered the Sodom-apple of this vile village. Around
were fair, tree-clad hills and dales, already bluish with
the frost-shadows. The air bit cold and strong. In
a very little time the sun would be down. We were
at an elevation of about 2,500 feet above the sea.
No denying it was beautiful, with the oak-slopes
and the wistfulness and the far-off feeling of loneli-
ness and evening. But I was in too great a temper to
admit it. We clambered frenziedly to get warm.
And the sun immediately went right down, and the ice-
heavy blue shadow fell over us all. The village be-
gan to send forth blue wood-smoke, and it seemed
more than ever like the twilit West Country.
But thank you we had to get back. And run the
gauntlet of that stinking, stinking lane? Never.
Towering with fury quite unreasonable, but there you
are I marched the q-b down a declivity through a
wood, over a ploughed field, along a cart-track, and so
to the great high-road above the village and above
It was cold, and evening was falling into dusk. Down
the high-road came wild half -ragged men on ponies,
in all degrees of costume and not-costume: came four
wide-eyed cows stepping down-hill round the corner,
and three delicate, beautiful merino sheep which stared
at us with their prominent, gold-curious eyes: came an
ancient, ancient man with a stick: came a stout-chested
peasant carrying a long wood-pole: came a straggle of
alert and triumphant goats, long-horned, long-haired,
jingling their bells. Everbody greeted us hesitatingly.
And everything came to a halt at the Risveglio corner,
while the men had a nip.
I attacked the spotty-breast again.
Could I have milk?
No. Perhaps in an hour there would be milk.
Was there anything to eat?
No at half past seven there would be something
Was there a fire?
No the man hadn't made the fire.
Nothing to do but to go to that foul bedroom or
walk the highroad. We turned up the highroad again.
Animals stood about the road in the frost-heavy air,
with heads sunk passively, waiting for the men to
finish their drinks in the beastly bar we walked slow-
ly up the hill. In a field on the right a flock of merino
sheep moved mistily, uneasily, climbing at the gaps
in the broken road bank, and sounding their innumer-
able small fine bells with a frosty ripple of sound. A
figure which in the dusk I had really thought was
something inanimate broke into movement in the field.
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SEA AND SARDINIA
It was an old shepherd, very old, in very ragged dirty
black-and-white, who had been standing like a stone
there in the open field-end for heaven knows how
long, utterly motionless, leaning on his stick. Now
he broke into a dream-motion and hobbled after the
wistful, feminine, inquisitive sheep. The red was
fading from the far-off west. At the corner, climb-
ing slowly and wearily, we almost ran into a grey
and lonely bull, who came stepping down-hill in his
measured fashion like some god. He swerved his
head and went round us.
We reached a place which we couldn't make out:
then saw it was a cork-shed. There were stacks and
stacks of cork-bark in the dusk, like crumpled hides.
"Now Pm going back," said the q-b flatly, and she
swung round. The last red was smouldering beyond
the lost, thin-wooded hills of this interior. A fleece
of blue, half-luminous smoke floated over the obscure
village. The high-way wound downhill at our feet,
pale and blue.
And the q-b was angry with me for my fury.
"Why are you so indignant! Anyone would think
your moral self had been outraged! Why take it
morally? You petrify that man at the inn by the
very way you speak to him, such condemnation! Why
don't you take it as it comes? It's all life."
[ 176 ]
But no, my rage is black, black, black. Why,
heaven knows. But I think it was because Sorgono
had seemed so fascinating to me, when I imagined
it beforehand. Oh so fascinating! If I had expected
nothing I should not have been so hit. Blessed is he
that expecteth nothing, for he shall not be disappointed.
I cursed the degenerate aborigines, the dirty-breasted
host who dared, to keep such an inn, the sordid villagers
who had the baseness to squat their beastly human
nastiness in this upland valley. All my praise of the
long stocking-cap you remember? vanished from my
mouth. I cursed them all, and the q-b for an inter-
fering female. . . .
In the bar a wretched candle was weeping light
uneasy, gloomy men were drinking their Saturday-
evening-home-coming dram. Cattle lay down in the
road, in the cold air as if hopeless.
Had the milk come?
When would it come.
He didn't know.
Well, what were we to do? Was there no room?
Was there nowhere where we could sit?
Yes, there was the stanza now.
Now! Taking the only weed of a candle, and
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SEA AND SARDINIA
leaving the drinkers in the dark, he led us down a dark
and stumbly earthen passage, over loose stones and
an odd plank, as it would seem underground, to the
stanza: the room.
The stanza! It was pitch dark But suddenly I
saw a big fire of oak-root, a brilliant, flamy, rich fire,
and my rage in that second disappeared.
The host, and the candle, forsook us at the door.
The stanza would have been in complete darkness,
save for that rushing bouquet of new flames in the
chimney, like fresh flowers. By this firelight we saw
the room. It was like a dungeon, absolutely empty,
with an uneven, earthen floor, quite dry, and high bare
walls, gloomy, with a handbreadth of window high up.
There was no furniture at all, save a little wooden
bench, a foot high, before the fire, and several home-
made-looking rush mats rolled up and leaning against
the walls. Furthermore a chair before the fire on
which hung wet table-napkins. Apart from this, it
was a high, dark, naked prison-dungeon.
But it was quite dry, it had an open chimney, and
a gorgeous new fire rushing like a waterfall upwards
among the craggy stubs of a pile of dry oak roots.
I hastily put the chair and the wet corpse-cloths to
one side. We sat on the low bench side by side in
the dark, in front of this rippling rich fire, in front
1 178 ]
of the cavern of the open chimney, and we did not
care any more about the dungeon and the darkness.
Man can live without food, but he can't live without
fire. It is an Italian proverb. We had found the
fire, like new gold. And we sat in front of it, a little
way back, side by side on the low form, our feet on the
uneven earthen floor, and felt the flame-light rippling
upwards over our faces, as if we were bathing in some
gorgeous stream of fieriness. I forgave the dirty-
breasted host everything and was as glad as if I had
come into a kingdom.
So we sat alone for half an hour, smiling into the
flames, bathing our faces in the glow. From time to
time I was aware of steps in the tunnel-like passage
outside, and of presences peering. But no one came.
I was aware too of the faint steaming of the beastly
table-napkins, the only other occupants of the room.
In dithers a candle, and an elderly, bearded man in
gold-coloured corduroys, and an amazing object on a
long, long spear. He put the candle on the mantel-
ledge, and crouched at the side of the fire, arranging
the oak-roots. He peered strangely and fixedly in the
fire. And he held up the speared object before our
It was a kid that he had come to roast. But it was
[ 179 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
a kid opened out, made quite flat, and speared like a
flat fan on a long iron stalk. It was a really curious
sight. And it must have taken some doing. The
whole of the skinned kid was there, the head curled in
against a shoulder, the stubby cut ears, the eyes, the
teeth, the few hairs of the nostrils: and the feet curled
curiously round, like an animal that puts its fore-paw
over its ducked head: and the hind-legs twisted indes-
cribably up: and all skewered flat-wise upon the long
iron rod, so that it was a complete flat pattern. It re-
minded me intensely of those distorted, slim-limbed,
dog-like animals which figure on the old Lombard
ornaments, distorted and curiously infolded upon them-
selves. Celtic illuminations also have these distorted,
The old man flourished the flat kid like a banner-
ette, whilst he arranged the fire. Then, in one side of
the fire-place wall he poked the point of the rod. He
himself crouched on the hearth-end, in the half-shadow
at the other side of the fire-place, holding the further
end of the long iron rod. The kid was thus extended
before the fire, like a hand-screen. And he could
spin it round at will.
But the hole in the masonry of the chimney-piece
was not satisfactory. The point of the rod kept slip-
ping, and the kid came down against the fire. He mut-
[ 180 ]
tered and muttered to himself, and tried again. Then at
length he reared up the kid-banner whilst he got large
stones from a dark corner. He arranged these stones so
that the iron point rested on them. He himself sat
away on the opposite side of the fire-place, on the
shadowy hearth-end, and with queer, spell-bound black
eyes and completely immovable face, he watched the
flames and the kid, and held the handle end of the rod.
We asked him if the kid was for the evening meal
and he said it was. It would be good! And he said
yes, and looked with chargin at the bit of ash on the
meat, where it had slipped. It is a point of honour
that it should never touch the ash. Did they do all
their meat this way? He said they did. And wasn't
it difficult to put the kid thus on the iron rod? He said
it was not easy, and he eyed the joint closely, and felt
one of the forelegs, and muttered that was not fixed
He spoke with a very soft mutter, hard to catch,
and sideways, never to us direct. But his manner was
gentle, soft, muttering, reticent, sensitive. He asked
us where we came from, and where we were going: al-
ways in his soft mutter. And what nation were we,
were we French? Then he went on to say there was
a war but he thought it was finished. There was a
war because the Austrians wanted to come into Italy
SEA AND SARDINIA
again. But the French and the English came to help
Italy. A lot of Sardinians had gone to it. But let
us hope it is all finished. He thought it was -young
men of Sorgono had been killed. He hoped it was
Then he reached for the candle and peered at the
kid. It was evident he was the born roaster. He held
the candle and looked for a long time at the sizzling
side of the meat, as if he would read portents. Then
he held his spit to the fire again. And it was as if
time immemorial were roasting itself another meal.
I sat holding the candle.
A young woman appeared, hearing voices. Her
head was swathed in a shawl, one side of which was
brought across, right over the mouth, so that only her
two eyes and her nose showed. The q-b thought she
must have toothache but she laughed and said no.
As a matter of fact that is the way a head-dress is
worn in Sardinia, even by both sexes. It is something
like the folding of the Arab's burnoose. The point
seems to be that the mouth and chin are thickly cov-
ered, also the ears and brow, leaving only the nose
and eyes exposed. They say it keeps off the malaria.
The men swathe shawls round their heads in the same
[ 182 ]
way. It seems to me they want to keep their heads
warm, dark and hidden: they feel secure inside.
She wore the workaday costume: a full, dark-brown
skirt, the full white bodice, and a little waistcoat or
corset. This little waistcoat in her case had become
no more than a shaped belt, sending up graceful, stiff-
ened points under the breasts, like long leaves standing
up. It was pretty but all dirty. She too was pretty,
but with an impudent, not quite pleasant manner. She
fiddled with the wet napkins, asked us various questions,
and addressed herself rather jerkily to the old man,
who answered hardly at all Then she departed again.
The women are self-conscious in a rather smirky way,
When she was gone I asked the old man if she was
his daughter. He said very brusquely, in his soft
mutter, No. She came from a village some miles
away. He did not belong to the inn. He was, as
far as I understood, the postman. But I may have
been mistaken about the word.
But he seemed laconic, unwilling to speak about the
inn and its keepers. There seemed to be something
queer. And again he asked where we were going.
He told me there were now two motor-buses: a new
one which ran over the mountains to Nuoro. Much
better gp to Nuoro than to Abbasanta., Nuoro was
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SEA AND SARDINIA
evidently the town towards which these villages looked,
as a sort of capital.
The kid-roasting proceeded very slowly, the meat
never being very near the fire. From time to time
the roaster arranged the cavern of red-hot roots.
Then he threw on more roots. It was very hot. And
he turned the long spit, and still I held the candle.
Other people came strolling in, to look at us. But
they hovered behind us in the dark, so I could not make
out at all clearly. They strolled in the gloom of the
dungeon-like room, and watched us. One came for-
ward a fat, fat young soldier in uniform. I made
place for him on the bench but he put out his hand
and disclaimed the attention. Then he went away
The old man propped up the roast, and then he too
disappeared for a time. The thin candle guttered,
the fire was no longer flamy but red. The roaster re-
appeared with a new, shorter spear, thinner, and a great
lump of raw hog-fat spitted on it. This he thrust
into the red fire. It sizzled and smoked and spit fat,
and I wondered. He told me he wanted it to catch
fire. It refused. He groped in the hearth for the
bits of twigs with which the fire had been started.
These twig-stumps he stuck in the fat, like an orange
[ 184 ]
stuck with cloves, then he held it in the fire again.
Now at last it caught, and it was a flaming torch run-
ning downwards with a thin shower of flaming fat.
And now he was satisfied. He held the fat-torch
with its yellow flares over the browning kid, which he
turned horizontal for the occasion. All over the
roast fell the flaming drops, till the meat was all shiny
and browny. He put it to the fire again, holding the
diminishing fat, still burning bluish, over it all the time
in the upper air.
While this was in process a man entered with a loud
Good evening. We replied Good-evening and evi-
dently he caught a strange note. He came and bent down
and peered under my hat-brim, then under the q-b's
hat-brim, we still wore hats and overcoats, as did every-
body. Then he stood up suddenly and touched his
cap and said Scusi excuse me. I said Niente, which
one always says, and he addressed a few jovial words
to the crouching roaster: who again would hardly ans-
wer him. The omnibus was arrived from Oristano,
I made out with few passengers.
This man brought with him a new breezy atmos-
phere, which the roaster did not like. However, I
made place on the low bench, and the attention this
time was accepted. Sitting down at the extreme end,
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SEA AND SARDINIA
he came into the light, and I saw a burly man in the
prime of life, dressed in dark brown velvet, with a
blond little moustache and twinkling blue eyes and a
tipsy look. I thought he might be some local trades-
man or farmer. He asked a few questions, in a boister-
ous familiar fashion, then went out again. He ap-
peared with a small iron spit, a slim rod, in one hand,
and in the other hand two joints of kid and a handful
of sausages. He stuck his joints on his rod. But our
roaster still held the interminable flat kid before the
now red, flameless fire. The fat-torch was burnt out,
the cinder pushed in the fire. A moment's spurt of
flame, then red, intense redness again, and our kid be-
fore it like a big, dark hand.
"Eh," said the newcomer, whom I will call the giro-
vago, "it's done. The kid's done. It's done."
The roaster slowly shook his head, but did not ans-
wer. He sat like time and eternity at the hearth-end,
his face flame-flushed, his dark eyes still fire-abstract,
still sacredly intent on the roast.
"Na-na-na!" said the girovago. "Let another body
see the fire." And with his pieces of meat awkwardly
skewered on his iron stick he tried to poke under the
authorised kid and get at the fire. In his soft mutter,
the old man bade him wait for the fire till the fire was
ready for him. But the girovago poked impudently
[ 186 ]
and good humouredly, and said testily that the author-
ised kid was done.
"Yes, surely it is done," said I, for it was already a
quarter to eight.
The old roasting priest muttered, and, took out his
knife from his pocket. He pressed the blade slowly,
slowly deep into the meat: as far as a knife will go in
a piece of kid. He seemed to be feeling the meat in-
wardly. And he said it was not done. He shook his
head, and remained there like time and eternity at the
end of the rod.
The girovago said Sangue di Dio, but couldn't roast
his meat! And he tried to poke his skewer near the
coals. So doing his pieces fell off into the ashes, and
the invisible onlookers behind raised a shout of laugh-
ter. However, he raked it out and wiped it with his
hand and said No matter, nothing lost.
Then he turned to me and asked the usual whence
and whither questions. These answered, he said wasn't
I German. I said No, I was English. He looked at
me many times, shrewdly, as if he wanted to make out
something. Then he asked, where were we domi-
ciled and I said Sicily. And then, very pertinently,
why had we come to Sardinia. I said for pleasure,
and to see the island.
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SEA AND SARDINIA
"Ah, per divertimento!" he repeated, half -musingly,
not believing me in the least.
Various men had now come into the room, though
they all remained indistinct in the background. The
girovago talked and jested abroad in the company, and
the half -visible men laughed in a rather hostile manner.
At last the old roaster decided the kid was done.
He lifted it from the fire and scrutinised it thoroughly,
holding the candle to it, as if it were some wonderful
epistle from the flames. To be sure it looked mar-
vellous, and smelled so good: brown, and crisp, and
hot, and savoury, not burnt in any place whatever. It
was eight o'clock.
"It's done! It's done! Go away with it! Go."
said the girovago, pushing the old roaster with his hand.
And at last the old man consented to depart, hold-
ing the kid like a banner.
"It looks so good!" cried the q-b. "And I am so
"Ha-ha! It makes one hungry to see good meat,
Signora. Now it is my turn. Heh Gino " the
girovago flourished his arm. And a handsome, un-
washed man with a black moustache came forward
rather sheepishly. He was dressed in soldier's clothes,
neutral grey, and was a big, robust, handsome fellow
with dark eyes and Mediterranean sheepishness.
[ 188 ]
"Here, take it thou," said the girovago, pressing the
long spit into his hand. "It is thy business, cook the
supper, thou art the woman. But I'll keep the saus-
ages and do them."
The so-called woman sat at the end of the hearth,
where the old roaster had sat, and with his brown,
nervous hand piled the remaining coals together. The
fire was no longer flamy: and it was sinking. The
dark-browed man arranged it so that he could cook the
meat. He held the spit negligently over the red mass.
A joint fell off. The men laughed. "It's lost noth-
ing," said the dark-browed man, as the girovago had
said before; and he skewered it on again and thrust it
to the fire. But meanwhile he was looking up from
under his dark lashes at the girovago and at us.
The girovago talked continually. He turned to me,
holding the handful of sausages.
"This makes the tasty bit," he said.
"Oh yes good salsiccia," said I.
"You are eating the kid? You are eating at the
inn?" he said. I replied that I was.
"No," he said. "You stay and eat with me. You
eat with me. The sausage is good, the kid will soon
be done, the fire is grateful."
I laughed, not quite understanding him. He was
certainly a bit tipsy.
SEA AND SARDINIA
"Signora," he said, turning to the q-b. She did not
like him, he was impudent, and she shut a deaf ear to him
as far as she could. "Signora," he said, "do you
understand me what I say?"
She replied that she did.
"Signora," he said, "I sell things to the women.
I sell them things."
"What do you sell?" she asked in astonishment.
"Saints," he said.
"Saints!" she cried in more astonishment.
"Yes, saints," he said with tipsy gravity.
She turned in confusion to the company in the back-
ground. The fat soldier came forward, he was the
chief of the carabinieri.
"Also combs and bits of soap and little mirrors," he
"Saints!" said the girovago once more. "And also
ragazzini also youngsters Wherever I go there is a
little one comes running calling Babbo! Babbo!
Daddy! Daddy! Wherever I go youngsters.
And I'm the babbo."
All this was received with a kind of silent sneer
from the invisible assembly in the background. The
candle was burning low, the fire was sinking too. In
vain the dark-browed man tried to build it up. The
q-b became impatient for the food. She got up wrath-
[ 190 ]
fully and stumbled into the dark passage, exclaiming
"Don't we eat yet?"
"Eh Patience! Patience, Signora. It takes time
in this house," said the man in the background.
The dark-browed man looked up at the girovago
"Are you going to cook the sausages with your fing-
He too was trying to be assertive and jesting, but
he was the kind of person no one takes any notice of.
The girovago rattled on in dialect, poking fun at us
and at our being there in this inn. I did not quite
"Signora ! " said the girovago. "Do you understand
"I understand Italian and some Sardinian," she
replied rather hotly. "And I know that you are try-
ing to laugh at us to make fun of us."
He laughed fatly and comfortably.
"Ah Signora," he said. "We have a language that
you wouldn't understand not one word. Nobody
here would understand it but me and him " he
pointed to the black-browed one. "Everybody would
want an interpreter everybody."
But he did not say interpreter he said mtre^rete y
SEA AND SARDINIA
with the accent on the penultimate, as if it were some
sort of priest.
"A what? "said I.
He repeated with tipsy unction, and I saw what he
"Why?" said I. "Is it a dialect? What is your
"My dialect," he said, "is Sassari. I come from
Sassari. If I spoke my dialect they would understand
something. But if I speak this language they would
want an interpreter."
"What language is it then?"
He leaned up to me, laughing.
"It is the language we use when the women are
buying things and we don't want them to know what
we say: me and him "
"Oh," said I. "I know. We have that language
in England. It is called thieves Latin Latino dei
The men at the back suddenly laughed, glad to
turn the joke against the forward girovago. He
looked down his nose at me. But seeing I was laugh-
ing without malice, he leaned to me and said softly,
"What is your affair then? What affair is it, yours? "
"How? What?" I exclaimed, not understanding.
[ 192 ]
"Che genere di affari? What sort of business?"
"How affari?" said I, still not grasping.
"What do you sell?" he said, flatly and rather spite-
fully. "What goods?"
"I don't sell anything," replied I, laughing to think
he took us for some sort of strolling quacks or commer-
"Cloth or something," he said cajolingly, slyly,
as if to worm my secret out of me.
"But nothing at all. Nothing at all," said I. "We
have come to Sardinia to see the peasant costumes "
I thought that might sound satisfactory.
"Ah, the costumes!" he said, evidently thinking I
was a deep one. And he turned bandying words with
his dark-browed mate, who was still poking the meat
at the embers and crouching on the hearth. The room
was almost quite dark. The mate answered him back,
and tried to seem witty too. But the girovago was the
commanding personality! rather too much so: too im-
pudent for the q-b, though rather after my own secret
heart. The mate was one of those handsome, passive,
"Him!" said the girovago, turning suddenly to me
and pointing at the mate. "He's my wife,"
"Your wife! "said I.
[ 193 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
"Yes. He's my wife, because we're always to-
There had become a sudden dead silence in the
background. In spite of it the mate looked up under
his black lashes and said, with a half smile:
"Don't talk, or I shall give thee a good bacio to-
There was an instant's fatal pause, then the girovago
"Tomorrow is festa of Sant 'Antonio at Tonara.
Tomorrow we are going to Tonara. Where are you
"To Abbasanta," said I.
"Ah Abbasanta! You should come to Tonara. At
Tonara there is a brisk trade and there are costumes.
You should come to Tonara. Come with him and
me to Tonara tomorrow, and we will do business to-
I laughed, but did not answer.
"Come," said he. "You will like Tonara! Ah,
Tonara is a fine place. There is an inn: you can eat
well, sleep well. I tell you, because to you ten francs
don't matter. Isn't that so? Ten francs don't matter
to you. Well, then come to Tonara. What? What
do you say?"
I shook my head and laughed, but 4id not answer,
[ 194 ]
To tell the truth I should have liked to go to Tonara
with him and his mate and do the brisk trade: if only
I knew what trade it would be.
"You are sleeping upstairs?" he said to me.
"This is my bed," he said, taking one of the home-
made rush mats from against the wall. I did not take
him seriously at any point.
"Do they make those in Sorgono?" I said.
"Yes, in Sorgono they are the beds, you see ! And
you roll up this end a bit so land that is the pillow."
He laid his cheek sideways.
"Not really," said I.
He came and sat down again next to me, and my
attention wandered. The q-b was raging for her din-
ner. It must be quite half-past eight. The kid, the
perfect kid would be cold and ruined. Both fire and
candle were burning low. Someone had been out for
a new candle, but there was evidently no means of re-
plenishing the fire. The mate still crouched on the
hearth, the dull red fire-glow on his handsome face,
patiently trying to roast the kid and poking it against
the embers. He had heavy, strong limbs in his khaki
clothes, but his hand that held the spit was brown and
tender and sensitive, a real Mediterranean hand. The
girovago, blond, round-faced, mature and aggressive
t 195 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
with all his liveliness, was more like a northerner. In
the background were four or five other men, of whom
I had distinguished none but a stout soldier, probably
Just as the q-b was working up to the rage I had at
last calmed down from, appeared the shawl-swathed
girl announcing "Pronto!"
"Pronto! Pronto!' said everybody.
"High time, too," said the q-b, springing from the
low bench before the fire. "Where do we eat? Is
there another room?"
"There is another room, Signora," said the cara-
So we trooped out of the fire-warmed dungeon,
leaving the girovago and his mate and two other men,
muleteers from the road, behind us. I could see that
it irked my girovago to be left behind. He was by far
the strongest personality in the place, and he had the
keenest intelligence. So he hated having to fall into
the background, when he had been dragging all the
lime-light on to himself all the evening. To me, too,
he was something of a kindred soul that night. But
there we are: fate, in the guise of that mysterious di-
vision between a respectable life and a scamp's life
divided us. There was a gulf between me and him,
[ 196 ]
between my way and his. He was a kindred spirit
but with a hopeless difference. There was something
a bit sordid about him and he knew it. That is why
he was always tipsy. Yet I like the lone wolf souls
best better than the sheep. If only they didn't feel
mongrel inside themselves. Presumably a scamp is
bound to be mongrel. It is a pity the untamable, lone-
wolf souls should always become pariahs, almost of
choice: mere scamps.
Top and bottom of it is, I regretted my girovago,
though I knew it was no good thinking of him. His
way was not my way. Yet I regretted him, I did.
We found ourselves in a dining room with a long
white table and inverted soup-plates, tomb-cold, lighted
by an acetylene flare. Three men had accompanied us:
the carabiniere, a little dark youth with a small black
moustache, in a soldier's short, wool-lined great-coat:
and a young man who looked tired round his blue
eyes, and who wore a dark-blue overcoat, quite smart.
The be-shawled damsel came in with the inevitable
bowl of minestrone, soup with cabbage and cauliflower
and other things. We helped ourselves, and the fat
carabiniere started the conversation with the usual
questions and where were we going tomorrow?
I asked about buses. Then the responsible-looking,
SEA AND SARDINIA
tired-eyed youth told me he was the bus-driver. He
had come from Oristano, on the main line, that day.
It is a distance of some forty miles. Next morning
he was going on over the mountains to Nuoro about
the same distance again. The youth with the little
black moustache and the Greek, large eyes, was his mate,
the conductor. This was their run, from Oristano to
Nuoro a course of ninety miles or more. And every
day on, on, on. No wonder he looked nerve-tired.
Yet he had that kind of dignity, the wistful seriousness
and pride of a man in machine control: the only god-
like ones today, those who pull the iron levers and are
the gods in the machine.
They repeated what the old roaster said: much nicer
for us to go to Nuoro than to Abbasanta. So to Nuoro
we decided to go, leaving at half-past nine in the
Every other night the driver and his mate spent in
this benighted Risveglio inn. It must have been their
bedroom we saw, clean and tidy. I said was the food
always so late, was everything always as bad as today.
Always if not worse, they said, making light of it,
with sarcastic humor against the Risveglio. You spent
your whole life at the Risveglio sitting, waiting, and
going block-cold: unless you were content to drink
aqua vitae, like those in there. The driver jerked his
head towards the dungeon.
"Who were those in there?" said I.
The one who did all the talking was a mercante, a
mercante girovago, a wandering peddler. This was
my girovago: a wandering peddler selling saints and
youngsters! The other was his mate, who helped carry
the pack. They went about together. Oh, my giro-
vago was a known figure all over the country. And
where would they sleep? There, in the room where
the fire was dying.
They would unroll the mats and lie with their feet
to the hearth. For this they paid threepence, or at
most fourpence. And they had the privilege of cook-
ing their own food. The Risveglio supplied them
with nothing but the fire, the roof, and the rush mat.
And, of course, the drink. Oh, we need have no
sympathy with the girovago and his sort. They lacked
for nothing. They had everything they wanted:
everything: and money in abundance. They lived for
the aqua vitae they drank. That was all they wanted:
their continual allowance of aqua vitae. And they got
it. Ah, they were not cold. If the room became cold
during the night: if they had no coverings at all: pah,
they waited for morning, and as soon as it was light
fhey dr^-k 3 large glass of aqua vitae. That was their
E '?? ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
fire, their hearth and their home: drink. Aqua vitae,
was hearth and home to them.
I was surprised at the contempt, tolerant and yet
profound, with which these three men in the dining-
room spoke of the others in the stanza. How con-
temptuous, almost bitter, the driver was against alcohol.
It was evident he hated it. And though we all had our
bottles of dead-cold dark wine, and though we all
drank: still, the feeling of the three youths against
actual intoxication was deep and hostile, with a certain
burning moral dislike that is more northern than Italian.
And they curled their lip with real dislike of the giro-
vago: his forwardness, his impudent aggressiveness.
As for the inn, yes, it was very bad. It had been
quite good under the previous proprietors. But now
they shrugged their shoulders. The dirty-breast and
the shawled girl were not the owners. They were
merely conductors of the hotel: here a sarcastic curl of
the lip. The owner was a man in the village a young
man. A week or two back, at Christmas time, there
had been a roomful of men sitting drinking and roister-
ing at this very table. When in had come the pro-
prietor, mad-drunk, swinging a litre bottle round his
head and yelling: "Out! Out! Out, all of you!
Out, every one of you! I am proprietor here* And
[ 200 ]
when I want to clear my house I clear my house.
Every man obeys who doesn't obey has his brains
knocked out with this bottle. Out, out, I say Out,
everyone!" And the men all cleared out. "But,"
said the bus-driver, "I told him that when I had paid
for my bed I was going to sleep in it. I was not going
to be turned out by him or anybody. And so he came
There was a little silence from everybody after this
story. Evidently there was more to it, that we were
not to be told. Especially the carabiniere was silent.
He was a fat, not very brave fellow, though quite nice.
Ah, but said the little dark bus-conductor, with hib
small-featured swarthy Greek face you must not be
angry with them. True the inn was very bad. Very
bad but you must pity them, for they are only ig-
norant. Poor things, they are ignoranti\ Why be
The other two men nodded their heads in agreement
and repeated ignoranti. They are ignoranti. It is
true. Why be angry?
And here the modern Italian spirit came out: the
endless pity for the ignorant. It is only slackness.
The pity makes the ignorant more ignorant, and makes
the Risveglio daily more impossible. If somebody let
[ 201 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
a bottle buzz round the ears of the dirty-breast, and
whipped the shawl from the head of the pert young
madam and sent her flying down the tunnel with a flea
in her ear, we might get some attention and they might
find a little self-respect. But no: pity them, poor
ignoranti, while they pull life down and devour it like
vermin. Pity them! What they need is not pity but
prods: they and all their myriad of likes.
The be-shawled appeared with a dish of kid. Need-
less to say, the ignoranti had kept all the best portions
for themselves. What arrived was five pieces of cold
roast, one for each of us. Mine was a sort of large
comb of ribs with a thin web of meat : perhaps an ounce.
That was all we got, after watching the whole process.
There was moreover a dish of strong boiled cauliflower,
which one ate, with the coarse bread, out of sheer hun-
ger. After this a bilious orange. Simply one is not
fed nowadays. In the good hotels and in the bad, one
is given paltry portions of unnourishing food, and one
The bus-driver, the only one with an earnest soul,
was talking of the Sardinians. Ah, the Sardinians!
They were hopeless. Why because they did not
know how to strike. They, too, were ignoranti. But
[ 202 ]
this form of ignorance he found more annoying. They
simply did not know what a strike was. If you offered
them one day ten francs a stint he was speaking now
of the miners of the Iglesias region. No, no, no, they
would not take it, they wanted twelve francs. Go to
them the next day and offer them four francs for half
a stint, and yes, yes, yes, they would take it. And
there they were: ignorant: ignorant Sardinians. They
absolutely did not know how to strike. He was quite
sarcastically hot about it. The whole tone of these
three young men was the tone of sceptical irony com-
mon to the young people of our day the world over.
Only they had or at least the driver had some little
fervour for his strikes and his socialism. But it was a
pathetic fervour: a ps-aller fervour.
We talked about the land. The war has practically
gutted Sardinia of her cattle: so they said. And now
the land is being deserted, the arable land is going back
to fallow. Why? Why, says the driver, because the
owners of the land won't spend any capital. They
have got the capital locked up, and the land is dead.
They find it cheaper to let all the arable go back to fal-
low, and raise a few head of cattle, rather than to pay
high wages, grow corn, and get small returns.
Yes, and also, chimes in the carabiniere, the peasants
[ 203 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
don't want to work the land. They hate the land.
They'll do anything to get off the land. They want
regular wages, short hours, and devil take the rest.
So they will go into France as navvies, by the huuc , ed.
They flock to Rome, they besiege the Labor bureaus,
they will do the artificial Government navvy-work at
a miserable five francs a day a railway shunter having
at least eighteen francs a day anything, anything
rather than work the land.
Yes, and what does the Government do! replies the
bus driver. They pull the roads to pieces in order to
find work for the unemployed, remaking them, across
the campagna. But in Sardinia, where roads and
bridges are absolutely wanting, will they do anything?
There it is, however. The bus-driver, with dark
shadows under his eyes, represents the intelligent por-
tion of the conversation. The carabiniere is soft and
will go any way, though always with some interest.
The little Greek-looking conductor just does not care.
Enters another belated traveller, and takes a seat at
the end of the table. The be-shawled brings him soup
and a skinny bit of kid. He eyes this last with con-
tempt, and fetches out of his bag a large hunk of roast
[ 204 ]
pork, and bread, and black olives, thus proceeding to
make a proper meal.
We being without cigarettes, the bus-driver and his
companion press them on us: their beloved Macedonia
cigarettes. The driver says they are squisitissimi
most, most exquisite so exquisite that all foreigners
want them. In truth I believe they are exported to
Germany now. And they are quite good, when they
really have tobacco in them. Usually they are hollow
tubes of paper which just flare away under one's nose
and are done.
We decide to have a round drink: they choose the
precious aqua vitae: the white sort I think. At last it
arrives when the little dark-eyed one has fetched it.
And it tastes rather like sweetened petroleum, with a
dash of aniseed: filthy. Most Italian liquors are now
sweet and filthy.
At length we rise to go to bed. We shall all meet
in the morning. And this room is dead cold, with frost
outside. Going out, we glance into the famous stanza.
One figure alone lies stretched on the floor in the almost
complete darkness. A few embers still glow. The
other men no doubt are in the bar.
Ah, the filthy bedroom. The q-b ties up her head
in a large, clean white kerchief, to avoid contact with
the unsavoury pillow. It is a cold, hard, flat bed, with
[ 205 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
two cold, hard, flat blankets. But we are very tired.
Just as we are going to sleep, however, weird, high-
pitched singing starts below, very uncanny with a
refrain that is a yelp-yelp-yelp! almost like a dog
in angry pain. Weird, almost gruesome this singing
goes on, first one voice and then another and then a
tangle of voices. Again we are roused by the pound-
ing of heavy feet on the corridor outside, which is as
hollow and resonant as a drum. And then in the in-
fernal crew-yard outside a cock crows. Throughout
the night yea, through all the black and frosty hours
this demoniac bird screams its demon griefs.
However, it is morning. I gingerly wash a bit of
myself in the broken basin, and dry that bit on a mus-
lin veil which masquerades upon the chair as a towel.
The q-b contents herself with a dry wipe. And we
go downstairs in hopes of the last-night's milk.
There is no one to be seen. It is a cold, frost-strong,
clear morning. There is no one in the bar. We stum-
ble down the dark tunnel passage. The stanza is as if
no man had ever set foot in it: very dark, the mats
against the wall, the fire-place grey with a handful of
long dead ash. Just like a dungeon. The dining-
room has the same long table and eternal table-cloth
[ 206 ]
and our serviettes, still wet, lying where we shovelled
them aside. So back again to the bar.
And this time a man is drinking aqua vitae, and the
dirty-shirt is officiating. He has no hat on: and
extraordinary, he has no brow at all: just flat, straight
black hair slanting to his eyebrows, no forehead at all.
Is there coffee?
No, there is no coffee.
Because they can't get sugar.
Ho! laughs the peasant drinking aqua vitae. You
make coffee with sugar!
Here, say I, they make it with nothing. Is there
No milk at all?
Nobody brings it.
Yes, yes there is milk if they like to get it, puts in
the peasant. But they want you to drink aqua vitae.
I see myself drinking ague vitae. My yesterday's
rage towers up again suddenly, till it quite suffocates
me. There is something in this unsavoury, black, wine-
dabbled, thick, greasy young man that does for me.
"Why," say I, lapsing into the Italian rhetorical man-
[ 207 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
ner, "why do you keep an inn? Why do you write
the word Ristorante so large, when you have nothing
to offer people, and don't intend to have anything.
Why do you have the impudence to take in travellers?
What does it mean, that this is an inn? What, say,
what does it mean? Say then what does it mean?
What does it mean, your Ristorante Risveglio, written
Getting all this out in one breath, my indignation now
stifled me. Him of the shirt said nothing at all. The
peasant laughed. I demanded the bill. It was
twenty-five francs odd. I picked up every farthing of
"Won't you leave any tip at all?" asks the q-b.
"Tip!" say I, speechless.
So we march upstairs and make tea to fill the thermos
flask. Then, with sack over my shoulder, I make my
way out of the Risveglio.
It is Sunday morning. The frozen village street is
almost empty. We march down to the wider space
where the bus stands: I hope they haven't the impu-
dence to call it a Piazza.
"Is this the Nuoro bus?" I ask of a bunch of urchins.
And even they begin to jeer. But my sudden up-
starting flare quenches them at once. One answers yes,
[ 208 ]
and they edge away. I stow the sack and the kitchenino
in the first-class part. The first-class is in front: we
shall see better.
There are men standing about, with their hands in
their pockets, those who are not in costume. Some
wear the black-and-white. All wear the stocking caps.
And all have the wide shirt-breasts, white, their waist-
coats being just like evening dress waistcoats. Imagine
one of these soft white shirt fronts well slobbered, and
you have mine host of the Risveglio. But these loung-
ing, static, white-breasted men are snowily clean, this
being Sunday morning. They smoke their pipes on
the frosty air, and are none too friendly.
The bus starts at half-past nine. The campanile is
clanging nine. Two or three girls go down the road
in their Sunday costume of purplish brown. We go
up the road, into the clear, ringing frosty air, to find
And again, from above, how beautiful it is in the
sharp morning ! The whole village lies in bluish shadow,
the hills with their thin pale oak trees are in bluish
shadow still, only in the distance the frost-glowing sun
makes a wonderful, jewel-like radiance on the pleasant
hills, wild and thinly-wooded, of this interior region,
[ 209 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
Real fresh wonder-beauty all around. And such
Returning to the village we find a little shop and get
biscuits and cigarettes. And we find our friends the
bus-men. They are shy this morning. They are
ready for us when we are ready. So in we get, joy-
fully, to leave Sorgono.
One thing I say for it, it must be an honest place.
For people leave their sacks about without a qualm.
Up we go, up the road. Only to stop, alas, at the
Risveglio. The little conductor goes down the lane
towards the station. The driver goes and has a little
drink with a comrade. There is quite a crowd round
the dreary entrances of the inn. And quite a little
bunch of people to clamber up into the second class,
We wait and wait. Then in climbs an old peasant,
in full black-and-white costume, smiling in the pleased,
naive way of the old. After him climbs a fresh-faced
young man with a suit-case.
"Na!" said the young man. "Now you are in the
And the old man gazes round with the wondering,
, naive smile.
"One is all right here, eh?" the young citizen per-
But the old man is too excited to answer. He gazes
hither and thither. Then he suddenly remembers he
had a parcel, and looks for it in fear. The bright-
faced young man picks it from the floor and hands it
him. Ah, it is all right.
I see the little conductor in his dashing, sheep-lined,
short military overcoat striding briskly down the little
lane with the post-bag. The driver climbs to his seat
in front of me. He has a muffler round his neck and
his hat pulled down to his ears. He pips at the horn,
and our old peasant cranes forward to look how he
And so, with a jerk and a spurt, we start uphill.
"Eh rwhat's that?" said the peasant, frightened.
"We're starting," explained the bright-faced young
"Starting! Didn't we start before?"
The bright face laughs pleasedly.
"No," he said. "Did you think we had been going
ever since you got in?"
"Yes," says the old man, simply, "since the door was
The young citizen looks at us for our joyful ap-
THESE automobiles in Italy are splendid.
They take the steep, looping roads so easily,
they seem to run so naturally. And this
one was comfortable, too.
The roads of Italy always impress me. They run
undaunted over the most precipitous regions, and with
curious ease. In England almost any such road, among
the mountains at least, would be labelled three times
dangerous and would be famous throughout the land
as an impossible climb. Here it is nothing. Up and
down they go, swinging about with complete sang-
froid. There seems to have been no effort in their
construction. They are so good, naturally, that one
hardly notices what splendid gestures they represent.
Of course, the surface is now often intolerably bad.
And they are most of them roads which, with ten years'
neglect, will become ruins. For they are cut through
overhanging rock and scooped out of the sides of hills.
But I think it is marvellous how the Italians have pene-
[ 212 ]
trated all their inaccessible regions, of which they have
so many, with great high-roads: and how along these
high-roads the omnibuses now keep up a perfect com-
munication. The precipitous and craggily-involved
land is threaded through and through with roads.
There seems to be a passion for high-roads and for con-
stant communication. In this the Italians have a real
Roman instinct, now. For the roads are new.
The railways too go piercing through rock for miles
and miles, and nobody thinks anything of it. The
coast railway of Calabria, down to Reggio, would make
us stand on our heads if we had it in England. Here
it is a matter of course. In the same way I always have
a profound admiration for their driving whether of
a great omnibus or of a motor-car. It all seems so easy,
as if the man were part of the car. There is none
of that beastly grinding, uneasy feeling one has in the
north. A car behaves like a smooth, live thing, sensi-
All the peasants have a passion for a high-road.
They want their land opening out, opening out. They
seem to hate the ancient Italian remoteness. They all
want to be able to get out at a moment's notice, to get
away quick, quick. A village which is two miles off
the high-road, even if it is perched like a hawk's nest
on a peak, still chafes and chafes for the great road
[ 213 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
to come to it, chafes and chafes for the daily motor-bus
connection with the railway. There is no placidity, no
rest in the heart of the land. There is a fever of
restless irritation all the time.
And yet the permanent way of almost every railway
is falling into bad disrepair, the roads are shocking.
And nothing seems to be done. Is our marvellous,
mechanical era going to have so short a bloom? Is
the marvellous openness, the opened-out wonder of the
land going to collapse quite soon, and the remote places
lapse back into inaccessibility again? Who knows! I
rather hope so.
The automobile took us rushing and winding up the
hill, sometimes through cold, solid-seeming shadow,
sometimes across a patch of sun. There was thin,
bright ice in the ruts, and deep grey hoar-frost on the
grass. I cannot tell how the sight of the grass and
bushes heavy with frost, and wild in their own prim-
itive wildness charmed me. The slopes of the steep
wild hills came down shaggy and bushy, with a few ber-
ries lingering, and the long grass-stalks sere with the
frost. Again the dark valley sank below like a ravine,
but shaggy, bosky, unbroken. It came upon me how
I loved the sight of the blue-shadowed, tawny-tangled
winter with its frosty standstill. The young oaks keep
[ "4 ]
their brown leaves. And doing so, surely they are best
with a thin edge of rime.
One begins to realize how old the real Italy is, how
man-gripped, and how withered. England is far more
wild and savage and lonely, in her country parts. Here
since endless centuries man has tamed the impossible
mountain side into trerraces, he has quarried the rock,
he has fed his sheep among the thin woods, he has cut
his boughs and burnt his charcoal, he has been half
domesticated even among the wildest fastnesses. This
is what is so attractive about the remote places, the
Abruzzi, for example. Life is so primitive, so pagan,
so strangely heathen and half-savage. And yet it is
human life. And the wildest country is half human-
ized, half brought under. It is all conscious. Wher-
ever one is in Italy, either one is conscious of the pres-
ent, or of the mediaeval influences, or of the far, mys-
terious gods of the early Mediterranean. Wherever
one is, the place has its conscious genus. Man has lived
there and brought forth his consciousness there and in
some way brought that place to consciousness, given
it its expression, and, really, finished it. The expression
may be Proserpine, or Pan, or even the strange
"shrouded gods" of the Etruscans or the Sikels, none
the less it is an expression. The land has been human-
ised, through and through: and we in our own tissued
[ 315 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
consciousness bear the results of this humanisation. So
that for us to go to Italy and to penetrate into Italy is
like a most fascinating act of self -disco very back, back
down the old ways of time. Strange and wonderful
chords awake in us, and vibrate again after many hun-
dreds of years of complete forgetfulness.
And then and then there is a final feeling of
sterility. It is all worked out. It is all known: connu t
This Sunday morning, seeing the frost among the
tangled, still savage bushes of Sardinia, my soul thrilled
again. This was not all known. This was not all
worked out. Life was not only a process of rediscov-
ering backwards. It is that, also: and it is that in-
tensely. Italy has given me back I know not what of
myself, but a very, very great deal. She has found
for me so much that was lost: like a restored Osiris.
But this morning in the omnibus I realize that, apart
from the great rediscovery backwards, which one must
make before one can be whole at all, there is a move
forwards. There are unknown, unworked lands where
the salt has not lost its savour. But one must have per-
fected oneself in the great past first.
If one travels one eats. We immediately began to
munch biscuits, and the old peasant in his white, baggy
[ 216 ]
breeches and black cuirass, his old face smiling wonder-
ingly under his old stocking cap, although he was only
going to Tonara, some seven or eight miles, began to
peel himself a hard-boiled egg, which he got out of
his parcel. With calm wastefulness he peeled away
the biggest part of the white of the egg with the shell
because it came away so. The citizen of Nuoro, for
such the bright-faced young man was, said to him
"But see how you waste it." "Ha!" said the old
peasant, with a reckless indifferent wave of the hand.
What did he care how much he wasted, since he was
en voyage and riding for the first time in his life in an
The citizen of Nuoro told us he had some sort of
business in Sorgono, so he came back and forth con-
stantly. The peasant did some work or other for him
or brought him something down from Tonara. He
was a pleasant, bright-eyed young man, and he made
nothing of eight hours in a motor-bus.
He told us there was still game among these hills:
wild boars which were hunted in big hunts, and many
hares. It was a curious and beautiful sight, he said,
to see a hare at night fascinated by the flare of the
lamps of the automobile, racing ahead with its ears back,
always keeping in front, inside the beam, and flying
[ 217 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
like mad, on and on ahead, till at some hill it gathered
speed and melted into the dark.
We descended into a deep, narrow valley to the road-
junction and the canteen-house, then up again, up and
up sharp to Tonara, our village we had seen in the sun
yesterday. But we were approaching it from the back.
As we swerved into the sunlight, the road took a long
curve on to the open ridge between two valleys. And
there in front we saw a glitter of scarlet and white.
It was in slow motion. It was a far-off procession,
scarlet figures of women, and a tall image moving
away from us, slowly, in the Sunday morning. It was
passing along the level sunlit ridge above a deep, hol-
low valley. A close procession of women glittering
in scarlet, white and black, moving slowly in the dis-
tance beneath the grey-yellow buildings of the village
on the crest, towards an isolated old church: and all
along this narrow upland saddle as on a bridge of sun-
Were we not going to see any more? The bus
turned again and rushed along the now level road and
then veered. And there beyond, a little below, we
saw the procession coming. The bus faded to a stand-
still, and we climbed out. Above us, old and mel-
lowed among the smooth rocks and the bits of flat grass
[ 218 ]
was the church, tanging its bell. Just in front, above,
were old, half-broken houses of stone. The road came
gently winding up to us, from what was evidently two
villages ledged one above the other upon the steep
summit of the south slope. Far below was the south
valley, with a white puff of engine steam.
And slowly chanting in the near distance, curving slow-
ly up to us on the white road between the grass came
the procession. The high morning was still. We
stood all on this ridge above the world, with the deeps
of silence below on the right. And in a strange, brief,
staccato monody chanted the men, and in quick, light
rustle of women's voices came the responses. Again
the men's voices! The white was mostly men, not
women. The priest in his robes, his boys near him,
was leading the chanting. Immediately behind him
came a small cluster of bare-headed, tall, sunburnt
men, all in golden-velveteen corduroy, mountain-
peasants, bowing beneath a great life-size seated image
of Saint Anthony of Padua. After these a number of
men in the costume, but with the white linen breeches
hanging wide and loose almost to the ankles, instead
of being tucked into the black gaiters. So they seemed
very white beneath the black kilt frill. The black
frieze body-vest was cut low, like an evening suit, and
the stocking caps were variously perched. The men
[ 219 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
chanted in low, hollow, melodic tones. Then came the
rustling chime of the women. And the procession
crept slowly, aimlessly forward in time with the
chant. The great image rode rigid, and rather foolish.
After the men was a little gap and then the brilliant
wedge of the women. They were packed two by two,
close on each other's heels, chanting inadvertently when
their turn came, and all in brilliant, beautiful costume.
In front were the little girl-children, two by two, im-
mediately following the tall men in peasant black-and-
white. Children, demure and conventional, in ver-
milion, white and green little girl-children with long
skirts of scarlet cloth down to their feet, green-banded
near the bottom : with white aprons bordered with vivid
green and mingled colour: having little scarlet, purple-
bound, open boleros over the full white shirts: and
black head-cloths folded across their little chins, just
leaving the lips clear, the face framed in black. Won-
derful little girl-children, perfect and demure in the
stiffish, brilliant costume, with black head-dress! Stiff
as Velasquez princesses! The bigger girls followed,
and then the mature women, a close procession. The
long vermilion skirts with their green bands at the bot-
tom flashed a solid moving mass of colour, softly swing-
ing, and the white aprons with their band of brilliant
mingled green seemed to gleam. At the throat the
[ 220 ]
full-bosomed white shirts were fastened with big studs
of gold filigree, two linked filigree globes: and the
great white sleeves billowed from the scarlet, purplish-
and-green-edged boleros. The faces came nearer to
us, framed all round in the dark cloths. All the lips
still sang responses, but all the eyes watched us. So
the softly-swaying coloured body of the procession came
up to us. The poppy-scarlet smooth cloth rocked in
fusion, the bands and bars of emerald green seemed to
burn across the red and the showy white, the dark eyes
peered and stared at us from under the black snood,
gazed back at us with raging curiosity, while the lips
moved automatically in chant. The bus had run into
the inner side of the road, and the procession had to
press round it, towards the sky-line, the great valley
The priest stared, hideous St. Anthony cockled a bit
as he passed the butt end of the big grey automobile,
the peasant men in gold-coloured corduroy, old, washed
soft, were sweating under the load and still singing
with opened lips, the loose white breeches of the men
waggled as they walked on with their hands behind
their backs, turning again, to look at us. The big,
hard hands, folded behind black kilt-frill! The
women, too, shuffled slowly past, rocking the scarlet
and the bars of green, and all twisting as they sang, to
[ 221 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
look at us still more. And so the procession edged past
the bus, and was trailing upwards, curved solid against
the sky-line towards the old church. From behind,
the geranium scarlet was intense, one saw the careful,
curiously cut backs of the shapen boleros, poppy-red,
edged with mauve-purple and green, and the white of
the shirt just showing at the waist. The full sleeves
billowed out, the black head-cloths hung down to a
point. The pleated skirts swing slowly, the broad
band of green accentuating the motion. Indeed that
is what it must be for, this thick, rich band of jewel
green, to throw the wonderful horizontal motion back
and forth, back and forth, of the suave vermilion, and
give that static, Demeta splendor to a peasant motion,
so magnificent in colour, geranium and malachite.
All the costumes were not exactly alike. Some had
more green, some had less. In some the sleeveless
boleros were of a darker red, and some had poorer
aprons, without such gorgeous bands at the bottom.
And some were evidently old: probably thirty years
old: still perfect and in keeping, reserved for Sunday
and high holidays. A few were darker, ruddier than
the true vermilion. This varying of the tone intensi-
fied the beauty of the shuffling woman-host.
When they had filed into the grey, forlorn little
[ 222 ]
church on the ridge-top just above us, the bus started
silently to run on to the rest-point below, whilst we
climbed back up the little rock-track to the church.
When we came to the side-door we found the church
quite full. Level with us as we stood in the open
side doorway, we saw kneeling on the bare stoneflags
the little girl-children, and behind them all the women
clustered kneeling upon their aprons, with hands negli-
gently folded, filling the church to the further door-
way, where the sun shone: the bigger west-end door-
way. In the shadow of the whitewashed, bare church
all these kneeling women with their colour and their
black head-cloths looked like some thick bed of flowers,
geranium, black hooded above. They all knelt on the
naked, solid stone of the pavement.
There was a space in front of the geranium little
girl-children, then the men in corduroys, gold-soft,
with dark round heads, kneeling awkwardly in rever-
ence j and then the queer, black cuirasses and full white
sleeves of grey-headed peasant men, many bearded.
Then just in front of them the priest in his white vest-
ment, standing exposed, and just baldly beginning an
address. At the side of the altar was seated large and
important the modern, simpering, black-gowned An-
thony of Padua, nursing a boy-child. He looked a
sort of male Madonna.
[ 223 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
"Now," the priest was saying, "blessed Saint
Anthony shows you in what way you can be Christians.
It is not enough that you are not Turks. Some think
they are Christians because they are not Turks. It
is true you are none of you Turks. But you have still
to learn how to be good Christians. And this you
can learn from our blessed Saint Anthony. Saint
Anthony, etc., etc. . . ."
The contrast between Turks and Christians is still
forceful in the Mediterranean, where the Mohamme-
dans have left such a mark. But how the word
cristiani, cristiam y spoken with a peculiar priestly unc-
tion, gets on my nerves. The voice is barren in its
homily. And the women are all intensely watching
the q-b and me in the doorway, their folded hands are
very negligently held together.
"Come away!" say I. "Come away, and let them
We left the church crowded with its kneeling host,
and dropped down past the broken* houses towards the
omnibus, which stood on a sort of level out-look place,
a levelled terrace with a few trees, standing silent over
the valley. It should be picketed with soldiers hav-
ing arquebuses. And I should have welcomed a few
[ 224 ]
thorough-paced infidels, as a leaven to this dreary
Christianity of ours.
But it was a wonderful place. Usually, the life-
level is reckoned as sea-level. But here, in the heart
of Sardinia, the life-level is high as the golden-lit
plateau, and the sea-level is somewhere far away, be-
low, in the gloom, it does not signify. The life-level is
high up, high and sun-sweetened and among rocks.
We stood and looked below, at the puff of steam,
far down the wooded valley where we had come yes-
terday. There was an old, low house on this eagle-
perching piazza. I would like to live there. The
real village or rather two villages, like an ear-ring
and its pendant lay still beyond, in front, ledging
near the summit of the long, long, steep wooded slope,
that never ended till it ran flush to the depths away
below there in shadow.
And yesterday, up this slope the old peasant had
come with his two brilliant daughters and the pack-
And somewhere in those ledging, pearly villages in
front must be my girovago and his "wife". I wish
I could see their stall and drink aqua vitae with them.
"How beautiful the procession!" says the q-b to the
[ 225 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
"Ah yes one of the most beautiful costumes of
Sardinia, this of Tonara," he replied wistfully.
The bus sets off again minus the old peasant. We
retrace our road. A woman is leading a bay pony past
the church, striding with long strides, so that her maroon
skirt swings like a fan, and hauling the halter rope.
Apparently the geranium red costume is Sunday only,
the week-day is this maroon, or puce, or madder-
Quickly and easily the bus slips down the hill into
the valley. Wild, narrow valleys, with trees, and
brown-legged cork trees. Across the other side a black
and white peasant is working alone on a tiny terrace
of the hill-side, a small, solitary figure, for all the
world like a magpie in the distance. These people like
being alone solitary one sees a single creature so
often isolated among the wilds. This is different from
Sicily and Italy, where the people simply cannot be
alone. They must be in twos and threes.
But it is Sunday morning, and the worker is excep-
tional. Along the road we pass various pedestrians,
men in their black sheepskins, boys in their soldiers'
remains. They are trudging from one village to an-
other, across the wild valleys. And there is a sense of
Sunday morning freedom, of roving, as in an English
[ 226 ]
countryside. Only the one old peasant works alone:
and a goatherd watching his long-haired, white goats.
Beautiful the goats are: and so swift. They fly-
like white shadows along the road from us, then dart
downhill. I see one standing on a bough of an oak-
tree, right in the tree, an enormous white tree-creature
complacently munching up aloft, then rearing on her
hind legs, so lengthy, and putting her slim paws far
away on an upper, forward branch.
Whenever we come to a village we stop and get
down, and our little conductor disappears into the post-
office for the post-bag. This last is usually a limp
affair, containing about three letters. The people
crowd round and many of them in very ragged cos-
tume. They look poor, and not attractive: perhaps a
bit degenerate. It would seem as if the Italian instinct
to get into rapid touch with the world were the healthy
instinct after all. For in these isolated villages, which
have been since time began far from any life-centre,
there is an almost sordid look on the faces of the peo-
ple. We must remember that the motor-bus is a great
innovation. It has been running for five weeks only.
I wonder for how many months it will continue.
For I am sure it cannot pay. Our first-class tickets
cost, I believe, about twenty-seven francs each. The
[ 227 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
second class costs about three-quarters the first. Some
parts of the journey we were very few passengers.
The distance covered is so great, the population so thin,
that even granted the passion for getting out of their
own villages, which possesses all people now, still the
bus cannot earn much more than an average of two hun-
dred to three hundred francs a day. Which, with two
men's wages, and petrol at its enormous price, and the
cost of wear-and-tear, cannot possibly pay.
I asked the driver. He did not tell me what his
wages were: I did not ask him. But he said the com-
pany paid for the keep and lodging for himself and mate
at the stopping-places. This being Sunday, fewer peo-
ple were travelling: a statement hard to believe. Once
he had carried fifty people all the way from Tonara to
Nuoro. Once! But it was in vain he protested. Ah
well, he said, the bus carried the post, and the govern-
ment paid a subsidy of so many thousands of lire a year:
a goodly number. Apparently then the government
was the loser, as usual. And there are hundreds, if
not thousands of these omnibuses running the lonely
districts of Italy and Sicily Sardinia had a network of
systems. They are splendid and they are perhaps
an absolute necessity for a nervous restless population
which simply cannot keep still, and which finds some
[ 228 ]
relief in being whirled about even on the autovie, as
the bus-system is called.
The autovie are run by private companies, only sub-
sidised by the government.
On we rush, through the morning and at length
see a large village, high on the summit beyond, stony
on the high upland. But it has a magical look, as
these tiny summit-cities have from the distance. They
recall to me always my childish visions of Jerusalem,
high against the air, and seeming to sparkle, and built
in sharp cubes.
It is curious what a difference there is between the
high, fresh, proud villages and the valley villages.
Those that crown the world have a bright, flashing air,
as Tonara had. Those that lie down below, infolded
in the shadow, have a gloomy, sordid feeling and a
repellent population, like Sorgono and other places at
which we had halted. The judgment may be all
wrong: but this was the impression I got.
We were now at the highest point of the journey.
The men we saw on the road were in their sheepskins,
and some were even walking with their faces shawl-
muffled. Glancing back, we saw up the valley clefts
the snow of Gennargentu once more, a white mantle on
broad shoulders, the very core of Sardinia. The bus
[ 229 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
slid to a standstill in a high valley, beside a stream
where the road from Fonni joined ours. There was
waiting a youth with a bicycle. I would like to go to
Fonni. They say it is the highest village in Sardinia.
In front, on the broad summit, reared the towers of
Gavoi. This was the half-way halt, where the buses
had their coincidenza, and where we would stay for an
hour and eat. We wound up and up the looping road,
and at last entered the village. Women came to the
doors to look. They were wearing the dark madder-
brown costume. Men were hastening, smoking their
pipes, towards our stopping place.
We saw the other bus a little crowd of people
and we drew up at last. We were tired and hungry.
We were at the door of the inn, and we entered quickly.
And in an instant, what a difference! At the clean lit-
tle bar, men were drinking cheerfully. A side door
led into the common room. And how charming it was.
In a very wide chimney, white and stone-clean, with a
lovely shallow curve above, was burning a fire of long,
clean-split faggots, laid horizontally on the dogs. A
clean, clear bright fire, with odd little chairs in front,
very low, for us to sit on. The funny, low little chairs
seem a specialty of this region.
The floor of this room was paved with round dark
[ 230 ]
pebbles, beautifully clean. On the walls hung brilliant
copper fans, glittering against the whitewash. And
under the long, horizontal window that looked on the
street was a stone slab with sockets for little charcoal
fires. The curve of the chimney arch was wide and
shallow, the curve above the window was still wider,
and of a similar delicate shallowness, the white roof
rose delicately vaulted. With the glitter of copper,
the expanse of dark, rose-coloured, pebbled floor, the
space, the few low, clean-gleaming faggots, it was
really beautiful. We sat and warmed ourselves, wel-
comed by a plump hostess and a pleasant daughter, both
in madder-brown dress and full white shirt. People
strayed in and out, through the various doors. The
houses are built without any plan at all, the rooms
just happening, here or there. A bitch came from an
inner darkness and stood looking at the fire, then
looked up at me, smiling in her bitch-like, complacent
But we were dying with hunger. What was there
to eat? and was it nearly ready? There was
cinghiale, the pleasant, hard-cheeked girl told us, and
it was nearly ready. Cinghiale being wild boar, we
sniffed the air. The girl kept tramping rather feck-
lessly back and forth, with a plate or a serviette: and
[ 231 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
at last it was served. We went through the dark inner
place, which was apparently the windowless bit left
over, inside, when the hap-hazard rooms were made
round about, and from thence into a large, bare, darkish
pebbled room with a white table and inverted soup-
plates. It was deathly cold. The window looked
north over the wintry landscape of the highlands, fields,
stone walls, and rocks. Ah, the cold, motionless air
of the room.
But we were quite a party: the second bus-driver and
his mate, a bearded traveller on the second bus, with
his daughter, ourselves, the bright-faced citizen from
Nuoro, and our driver. Our little dark-eyed con-
ductor did not come. It dawned on me later he could
not afford to pay for this meal, which was not included
in his wage.
The Nuoro citizen conferred with our driver who
looked tired round the eyes and made the girl pro-
duce a tin of sardines. These were opened at table
with a large pocket-knife belonging to the second con-
ductor. He was a reckless, odd, hot-foot fellow whom
I liked very much. But I was terrified at the way he
carved the sardine-box with his jack-knife. However,
we could eat and drink.
Then came the brodo, the broth, in a great bowl.
This was boiling hot, and very, very strong. It was,
perfectly plain, strong meat-stock, without vegetables.
But how good and invigorating it was, and what an
abundance! We drank it down, and ate the good,
Then came the boar itself. Alas, it was a bowl of
hunks of dark, rather coarse boiled meat, from which
the broth had been made. It was quite dry, without
fat. I should have been very puzzled to know what
meat it was, if I had not been told. Sad that the wild
boar should have received so little culinary attention.
However, we ate the hunks of hot, dry meat with
bread, and were glad to get them. They were filling,
at least. And there was a bowl of rather bitter green
olives for a condiment.
The Nuoro citizen now produced a huge bottle of
wine, which he said was finissimo, and refused to let
us go on with the dark wine on the table, of which
every guest was served with a bottle. So we drank up,
and were replenished with the redder, lighter, finer
Sorgono wine. It was very good.
The second bus-conductor also did not eat the inn
meal. He produced a vast piece of bread, good, home-
made bread, and at least half of a roast lamb, and a
large paper of olives. This lamb he insisted on sending
round the table, waving his knife and fork with dra-
matic gestures at every guest, insisting that every
[ 233 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
guest should take a hunk. So one by one we all helped
ourselves to the extraordinarily good cold roast lamb,
and to the olives. Then the bus-conductor fell to as
well. There was a mass of meat still left to him.
It is extraordinary how generous and, from the in-
side, well-bred these men were. To be sure the sec-
ond conductor waved his knife and fork and made
bitter faces if one of us took only a little bit of the
lamb. He wanted us to take more. But the essential
courtesy in all of them was quite perfect, so manly and
utterly simple. Just the same with the q-b. They
treated her with a sensitive, manly simplicity, which
one could not but be thankful for. They made none
of the odious politenesses which are so detestable in
well-brought-up people. They made no advances and
did none of the hateful homage of the adulating male.
They were quiet, and kind, and sensitive to the natural
flow of life, and quite without airs. I liked them ex-
tremely. Men who can be quietly kind and simple to
a woman, without wanting to show off or to make an
impression, they are men still. They were neither
humble nor conceited. They did not show off. And
oh God, what a blessed relief, to be with people who
don't bother to show off. We sat at that table quietly
and naturally as if we were by ourselves, and talked
or listened to their talk, just as it happened. When
[ 234 ]
we did not want to talk, they took no notice of us.
And that I call good manners. Middle-class, showing
off people would have found them uncouth. I found
them almost the only really well-bred people I have
met. They did not show off in any way at all, not
even a show of simplicity. They knew that in the
beginning and in the end a man stands alone, his soul
is alone in itself, and all attributes are nothing and
this curious final knowledge preserved them in simplic-
When we had had coffee and were going out, I
found our own conductor in a little chair by the fire.
He was looking a bit pathetic. I had enough sense to
give him a coffee, which brightened him. But it was
not till afterwards, putting things together, that I
realized he had wanted to be with us all at table, but
that his conductor's wages probably did not allow him
to spend the money. My bill for the dinner was about
fifteen francs, for the two of us.
In the bus again, we were quite crowded. A peasant
girl in Nuoro costume sat facing me, and a dark-bearded,
middle-aged man in a brown velveteen suit was next
me and glowering at her. He was evidently her hus-
band. I did not like him: one of the jealous, carping
sort. She, in her way, was handsome: but a bit of a
[ 235 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
devil as well, in all probability. There were two
village women become fine, in town dress and black silk
scarves over their heads, fancying themselves. Then
there was a wild scuffle, and three bouncing village
lasses were pushed in, laughing and wild with excite-
ment. There were wild farewells, and the bus rolled
out of Gavoi between the desolate mountain fields and
the rocks, on a sort of table-land. We rolled on for
a mile or so: then stopped, and the excited lasses got
down. I gathered they had been given a little ride
for a Sunday treat. Delighted they were. And they
set off, with other bare-headed women in costume,
along a bare path between flat, out-cropping rocks and
The girl facing me was a study. She was not more
than twenty years old I should say: or was she? Did
the delicate and fine complication of lines against her
eyes mean thirty-five? But anyhow she was the wife
of the velveteen man. He was thick-set and had
white hairs in his coarse black beard, and little, irritable
brown eyes under his irritable brows. He watched her
all the time. Perhaps, she was after all a young, new
girl-wife. She sat with that expressionless look of
one who is watched and who appears not to know it.
She had her back to the engine.
[ 236 ]
She wore her black head-cloth from her brow and
her hair was taken tight back from her rather hard,
broad, well-shaped forehead. Her dark eyebrows
were very finely drawn above her large, dark-grey, pel-
lucid eyes, but they were drawn with a peculiar obsti-
nate and irritating lift. Her nose was straight and
small, her mouth well-shut. And her big, rather hos-
tile eyes had a withheld look in them, obstinate. Yet,
being newly wed and probably newly-awakened, her
eyes looked sometimes at me with a provoking look,
curious as to what I was in the husband line, challeng-
ing rather defiantly with her new secrets, obstinate in
opposition to the male authority, and yet intrigued by
the very fact that one was man. The velveteen hus-
band his velveteens too had gone soft and gold-
faded, yet somehow they made him look ugly, com-
mon he watched her with his irritable, yellow-brown
eyes, and seemed to fume in his stiff beard.
She wore the costume: the full-gathered shirt
fastened at the throat with the two gold filigree globes,
a little dark, braided, stiff bolero just fastened at the
waist, leaving a pretty pattern of white breast, and a
dark maroon skirt. As the bus rushed along she turned
somewhat pale, with the obstinate pinched look of a
woman who is in opposition to her man. At length
she flung him a few words which I did not catch and
[ 237 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
her forehead seemed to go harder, as she drooped her
lashes occasionally over her wide, alert, obstinate,
rather treacherous eyes. She must have been a diffi-
cult piece of goods to deal with. And she sat with her
knees touching mine, rocking against mine as the bus
We came to a village on the road: the landscape had
now become wider, much more open. At the inn door
the bus stopped, and the velveteen husband and the
girl got down. It was cold but in a minute I got
down too. The bus conductor came to me and asked
anxiously if the q-b were ill. The q-b said no, why?
Because there was a signora whom the motion of the
bus made ill. This was the girl.
There was a crowd and a great row at this inn. In
the second dark room, which was bare of furniture,
a man sat in a corner playing an accordion. Men in
the close breeches were dancing together. Then they
fell to wrestling wildly, crashing about among the
others, with shouts and yells. Men in the black-and-
white, but untidy, with the wide white drawers left
hanging out over the black gaiters, surged here and
there. All were rowdy with drink. This again was
rather a squalid inn but roaring with violent, crude
[ 238 ]
The Nuoro citizen said that here was very good wine,
and we must try it. I did not want it, but he insisted.
So we drank little glasses of merely moderate red
wine. The sky had gone all grey with the afternoon
curd-clouds. It was very cold and raw. Wine is no
joy, cold, dead wine, in such an atmosphere.
The Nuoro citizen insisted on paying. He would
let me pay, he said, when he came to England. In
him, and in our bus men, the famous Sardinian hospi-
tality and generosity still lingers.
When the bus ran on again the q-b told the peasant
girl who again had the pinched look, to change places
with me and sit with her face to the engine. This the
young woman did, with that rather hard assurance
common to these women. But at the next stop she
got down, and made the conductor come with us into
the compartment, whilst she sat in front between the
driver and the citizen of Nuoro. That was what she
wanted all the time. Now she was all right. She
had her back to the velveteen husband, she sat close
between two strange young men, who were condoling
with her. . And velveteens eyed her back, and his little
eyes went littler and more pin-pointed, and his nose
seemed to curl with irritation.
[ 239 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
The costumes had changed again. There was again
the scarlet, but no green. The green had given place
to mauve and rose. The women in one cold, stony,
rather humbled broken place were most brilliant.
They had the geranium skirts, but their sleeveless bo-
leros were made to curl out strangely from the waist,
and they were edged with a puckered rose-pink, a broad
edge, with lines of mauve and lavender. As they went
up between the houses that were dark and grisly under
the blank, cold sky, it is amazing how these women of
vermilion and rose-pink seemed to melt into an almost
impossible blare of colour. What a risky blend of
colours! Yet how superb it could look, that danger-
ous hard assurance of these women as they strode along
so blaring. I would not like to tackle one of them.
Wider and colder the landscape grew. As we topped
a hill at the end of a village, we saw a long string of
wagons, each with a pair of oxen, and laden with large
sacks, curving upwards in the cold, pallid Sunday after-
noon. Seeing us, the procession came to a standstill at
the curve of the road, and the pale oxen, the pale low
wagons, the pale full sacks, all in the blenched light,
each one headed by a tall man in shirt-sleeves, trailing a
static procession on the hill-side, seemed like a vision:
like a Dore drawing. The bus slid past, the man
[ 240 ]
holding the wagon-pole, while some oxen stood like
rock, some swayed their horns. The q-b asked the
velveteener what they were carrying. For a long
time he took no notice of the question. Then he vol-
unteered, in a snappy voice, that it was the govern-
ment grain being distributed to the communes for bread.
On Sunday afternoon too.
Oh this government corn! What a problem those
The country became wider as we dropped lower.
But it was bleak and treeless once more. Stones
cropped up in the wide, hollow dales. Men on ponies
passed forlorn across the distances. Men with bundles
waited at the cross-roads to pick up the bus. We were
drawing near to Nuoro. It was past three in the after-
noon, cold with a blenched light. The landscape
seemed bare and stony, wide, different from any before.
We came to the valley where the branch-line runs to
Nuoro. I saw little pink railway-cabins at once, lone-
ly along the valley bed. Turning sharp to the right,
we ran in silence over the moor-land-seeming slopes,
and saw the town beyond, clustered beyond, a little
below, at the end of the long declivity, with sudden
mountains rising around it. There it lay, as if at the
end of the world, mountains rising sombre behind,
SEA AND SARDINIA
So, we stop at the Dazio, the town's customs hut, and
velveteens has to pay for some meat and cheese he is
bringing in. After which we slip into the cold high-
street of Nuoro. I am thinking that this is the home
of Grazia Deledda, the novelist, and I see a barber's
shop. De Ledda. And thank heaven we are at the
end of the journey. It is past four o'clock.
The bus has stopped quite close to the door of the
inn: Star of Italy, was it? In we go at the open door.
Nobody about, free access to anywhere and every-
where, as usual: testifying again to Sardinian honesty.
We peer through a doorway to the left through a
rough little room: ah, there in a dark, biggish room
beyond is a whitehaired old woman with a long, ivory-
coloured face standing at a large table ironing. One
sees only the large whiteness of the table, and the long
pallid face and the querulous pale-blue eye of the
tall old woman as she looks up questioning from the
gloom of the inner place.
"Is there a room, Signora?"
She looks at me with a pale, cold blue eye, and
shouts into the dark for somebody. Then she ad-
vances into the passage and looks us up and down, the
q-b and me.
"Are you husband and wife?" she demands, chal-
[ 242 ]
"Yes, how shouldn't we be," say I.
A tiny maid, of about thirteen, but sturdy and brisk-
looking, has appeared in answer to the shout.
"Take them to number seven," says the old dame,
and she turns back to her gloom, and seizes the flat
We follow up two flights of cold stone stairs, dis-
heartening narrow staircase with a cold iron rail, and
corridors opening off gloomily and rather disorderly.
These houses give the effect, inside, of never having
been properly finished, as if, long, long ago, the in-
mates had crowded in, pig-sty fashion, without waiting
for anything to be brought into order, and there it
had been left, dreary and chaotic.
Thumbelina, the little maid, threw open the door
of number seven with eclat. And we both exclaimed:
"How fine!" It seemed to us palatial. Two good,
thick white beds, a table, a chest of drawers, two mats
on the tiled floor, and gorgeous oleographs on the wall
and two good wash-bowls side by side and all perfect-
ly clean and nice. What were we coming to! We
felt we ought to be impressed.
We pulled open the latticed window doors, and
looked down on the street: the only street. And it
was a river of noisy life. A band was playing, rather
SEA AND SARDINIA
terribly, round the corner at the end, and up and down
the street jigged endless numbers of maskers in their
Carnival costume, with girls and young women stroll-
ing arm-in-arm to participate. And how frisky they
all were, how bubbly and unself -conscious!
The maskers were nearly all women the street was
full of women: so we thought at first. Then we saw,
looking closer, that most of the women were young
men, dressed up. All the maskers were young men,
and most of these young men, of course, were mas-
querading as women. As a rule they did not wear
face-masks, only little dominoes of black cloth or green
cloth or white cloth coming down to the mouth.
Which is much better. For the old modelled half-
masks with the lace frill, the awful proboscis sticking
forward white and ghastly like the beaks of corpse-
birds such as the old Venice masks these I think
are simply horrifying. And the more modern "faces"
are usually only repulsive. While the simple little
pink half-masks with the end of black or green or
white cloth, these just form a human disguise.
It was quite a game, sorting out the real women
from the false. Some were easy. They had stuffed
their bosoms, and stuffed their bustles, and put on hats
and very various robes, and they minced along with
little jigging steps, like little dolls that dangle from
[ 244 ]
elastic, and they put their heads on one side and dripped
their hands, and danced up to flurry the actual young
ladies, and sometimes they received a good clout on
the head, when they broke into wild and violent ges-
tures, whereat the actual young ladies scuffled wildly.
They were very lively and naive. But some were
more difficult. Every conceivable sort of "woman"
was there, broad shouldered and with rather large feet.
The most usual was the semi-peasant, with a very full
bosom and very full skirt and a very downright bear-
ing. But one was a widow in weeds, drooping on the
arm of a robust daughter. And one was an ancient
crone in a crochet bed-cover. And one was in an old
skirt and blouse and apron, with a broom, wildly sweep-
ing the street from end to end. He was an animated
rascal. He swept with very sarcastic assiduity in front
of two town-misses in fur coats, who minced very im-
portantly along. He swept their way very humbly,
facing them and going backwards, sweeping and bow-
ing, whilst they advanced with their noses in the air.
He made his great bow, and they minced past, daugh-
ters of dog-fish, pesce-carne, no doubt. Then he
skipped with a bold, gambolling flurry behind them,
and with a perfectly mad frenzy began to sweep after
them, as if to sweep their tracks away. He swept so
madly and so blindly with his besom that he swept on
[ 245 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
to their heels and their ankles. They shrieked and
glowered round, but the blind sweeper saw them not.
He swept and swept and pricked their thin silk ankles.
And they, scarlet with indignation and rage, gave hot
skips like cats on hot bricks, and fled discomfited for-
wards. He bowed once more after them, and started
mildly and innocently to sweep the street. A pair of
lovers of fifty years ago, she in a half crinoline and
poke bonnet and veil, hanging on his arm came very
coyly past, oh so simpering, and it took me a long time
to be sure that the "girl" was a youth. An old woman
in a long nightdress prowled up and down, holding
out her candle and peering in the street as if for
burglars. She would approach the real young women
and put her candle in their faces and peer so hard, as
if she suspected them of something. And they blushed
and turned their faces away and protested confusedly.
This old woman searched so fearfully in the face of
one strapping lass in the pink and scarlet costume, who
looked for all the world like a bunch of red and rose-
pink geraniums, with a bit of white, a real peasant
lass that the latter in a panic began to beat him with
her fist, furiously, quite aroused. And he made off,
running comically in his long white nightdress.
There were some really beautiful dresses of rich old
brocade, and some gleaming old shawls, a shimmer of
[ 246 ]
lavender and silver, or of dark, rich shot colours with
deep borders of white silver and primrose gold, very
lovely. I believe two of them were actual women
but the q-b says no. There was a Victorian gown of
thick green silk, with a creamy blotched cross-over
shawl. About her we both were doubtful. There
were two wistful, drooping-lily sisters, all in white,
with big feet. And there was a very successful tall
miss in a narrow hobble-skirt of black satin and a
toque with ospreys. The way she minced and wagged
her posterior and went on her toes and peered over
her shoulder and kept her elbows in was an admirable
caricature. Especially the curious sagging heaving
movement of "bustle" region, a movement very char-
acteristic of modern feminism, was hit off with a bit
of male exaggeration which rejoiced me. At first she
even took me in.
We stood outside our window, and leaned on the
little balcony rail looking down at this flow of life,
Directly opposite was the chemist's house: facing our
window the best bedroom of the chemist, with a huge
white matrimonial bed and muslin curtains. In the
balcony sat the chemist's daughters, very elegant in
high-heeled shoes and black hair done in the fluffy
fashion with a big sweep sideways. Oh very elegant!
[ 247 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
They eyed us a little and we eyed them. But without
interest. The river of life was down below.
It was very cold and the day was declining. We
too were cold. We decided to go into the street and
look for the cafe. In a moment we were out of doors,
walking as inconspicuously as possible near the wall.
Of course there was no pavement. These maskers
were very gentle and whimsical, no touch of brutality
at all. Now we were level with them, how odd and
funny they were. One youth wore a thin white blouse
and a pair of his sister's wide, calico knickers with needle-
work frills near the ankle, and white stockings. He
walked artlessly, and looked almost pretty. Only the
q-b winced with pain: not because of the knickers, but
because of that awful length, coming well below the
knee. Another young man was wound into a sheet,
and heavens knows if he could ever get out of it. An-
other was involved in a complicated entanglement of
white crochet antimacassars, very troublesome to con-
template. I did not like him at all, like a fish in a
net. But he strode robustly about.
We came to the end of the street, where there is a
wide, desolate sort of gap. Here the little band stood
braying away, there was a thick crowd of people, and
on a. slanting place just above, a little circle where
[ 248 ]
youths and men, maskers and one or two girls were
dancing, so crowded together and such a small ring
that they looked like a jiggly set of upright rollers
all turning rickettily against one another. They were
doing a sort of intense jigging waltz. Why do they
look so intense? Perhaps because they were so tight
all together, like too many fish in a globe slipping
through one another.
There was a cafe in this sort of piazza not a
piazza at all, a formless gap. But young men were
drinking little drinks, and I knew it would be hope-
less to ask for anything but cold drinks or black coffee :
which we did not want. So we continued forwards,
up the slope of the village street. These towns soon
come to an end. Already we were wandering into
the open. On a ledge above, a peasant family was
making a huge bonfire, a tower of orange-coloured,
rippling flame. Little, impish boys were throwing
on more rubbish. Everybody else was in town. Why
were these folk at the town-end making this fire alone?
We came to the end of the houses and looked over
the road-wall at the hollow, deep, interesting valley
below. Away on the other side rose a blue mountain,
a steep but stumpy cone. High land reared up, dusky
and dark-blue, all around. Somewhere far off the sun
was setting with a bit of crimson. It was a wild, un-
[ 249 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
usual landscape, of unusual shape. The hills seemed
so untouched, dark-blue, virgin-wild, the hollow cradle
of the valley was cultivated like a tapestry away be-
low. And there seemed so little outlying life: noth-
ing. No castles even. In Italy and Sicily castles
perching everywhere. In Sardinia none the remote,
ungrappled hills rising darkly, standing outside of life.
As we went back it was growing dark, and the little
band was about to leave off its brass noise. But the
crowd still surged, the maskers still jigged and frisked
unweariedly. Oh the good old energy of the bygone
days, before men became so self-conscious. Here it
was still on the hop.
We found no cafe that looked any good. Coming
to the inn, we asked if there was a fire anywhere.
There wasn't. We went up to our room. The
chemist-daughters had lighted up opposite, one saw
their bedroom as if it were one's own. In the dusk
of the street the maskers were still jigging, all the
youths still joyfully being women, but a little more
roughly now. Away over the house-tops the purple-
red of a dying sunset. And it was very cold.
There was nothing for it but just to lie in bed.
The q-b made a little tea on the spirit-lamp, and we
sat in bed and sipped it. Then we covered ourselves
[ 250 ]
up and lay still, to get warm. Outside the noise of
the street came unabated. It grew quite dark, the
lights reflected into the room. There was the sound
of an accordion across the hoarseness of the many voices
and movements in the street: and then a solid, strong
singing of men's voices, singing a soldier song.
"Quando torniamo in casa nostra "
We got up to look. Under the small electric lights
the narrow, cobbled street was still running with a river
of people, but fewer maskers. Two maskers beating
loudly at a heavy closed door. They beat and beat.
At last the door opens a crack. They rush to try to
get in but in vain. It had shut the moment it saw
them, they are foiled, on they go down the street.
The town is full of men, many peasants come in from
the outlying parts, the black and white costume now
showing in the streets.
We retire to bed again out of the cold. Comes a
knock, and Thumbelina bursts in, in the darkness.
"Siamo qua!" says the q-b.
Thumbelina dashes at the window-doors and shuts
them and shuts the casement. Then she dashes to
my bedhead and turns on the light, looking down at
me as if I were a rabbit in the grass. Then she flings
a can of water against the wash-bowls cold water,
icy, alas. After which, small and explosive, she ex-
[ 251 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
plodes her way out of the room again, and leaves us
in the glaring light, having replied that it is now a
little after six o'clock, and dinner is half past seven.
So we lie in bed, warm and in peace, but hungry,
waiting for half past seven.
When the q-b can stand it no more she flounces up,
though the clock from the Campanile has struck seven
only a few minutes before. Dashing downstairs to
reconnoitre, she is back in a breath to say that people
are eating their heads off in the long dining room.
In the next breath we are downstairs too.
The room was brightly lighted, and at many white
tables sat diners, all men. It was quite city-like.
Everyone was in convivial mood. The q-b spied men
opposite having chicken and salad and she had hopes.
But they were brief. When the soup came, the girl
announced that there was only bistecca: which meant
a bit of fried cow. So it did: a quite, quite small bit
of fried beef, a few potatoes and a bit of cauliflower.
Really, it was not enough for a child of twelve. But
that was the end of it. A few mandarini tangerine
oranges rolled on a plate for dessert. And there's
the long and short of these infernal dinners. Was
there any cheese? No, there was no cheese. So we
merely masticated bread.
[ 252 ]
There came in three peasants in the black and white
costume, and sat at the middle table. They kept on
their stocking caps. And queer they looked, coming
in with slow, deliberate tread of these elderly men,
and sitting rather remote, with a gap of solitude
around them. The peculiar ancient loneliness of the
Sardinian hills clings to them, and something stiff,
All the men at our end of the room were citizens
employees of some sort and they were all acquaint-
ances. A large dog, very large indeed, with a great
muzzle, padded slowly from table to table, and looked
at us with big wistful topaz eyes. When the meal
was almost over our bus-driver and conductor came
in looking faint with hunger and cold and fatigue.
They were quartered at this house. They had eaten
nothing since the boar-broth at Gavoi.
In a very short time they were through their por-
tions: and was there nothing else? Nothing! But
they were half starved. They ordered two eggs each,
in padella. I ordered coffee and asked them to come
and take it with us, and a brandy. So they came when
their eggs were finished.
A diversion was now created at the other side of
the room. The red wine, which is good in Sardinia,
[ 253 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
had been drunk freely. Directly facing us sat a rather
stout man with pleasant blue eyes and a nicely shaped
head: dressed like any other town man on a Sunday.
The dog had waddled up to him and sat down statu-
esque in front of him. And the fat man, being mellow,
began to play with the big, gentle, brindled animal.
He took a piece of bread and held it before the dog's
nose and the dog tried to take it. But the man, like
a boy now he was ripe with wine, put the mastiff back
with a restraining finger, and told him not to snatch.
Then he proceeded with a little conversation with the
animal. The dog again tried to snatch, gently, and
again the man started, saved the bread, and startled
the dog, which backed and gave a sharp, sad yelp, as
if to say: "Why do you tease me!"
"Now," said the man, "you are not to snatch. Come
here. Come here. Vieni qua!" And he held up
the piece of bread. The animal came near. "Now,"
said the man, "I put this bread on your nose, and you
don't move, un Ha! !"
The dog had tried to snatch the bread, the man had
shouted and jerked it away, the animal had recoiled
and given another expostulating yelp.
The game continued. All the room was watching,
smiling. The dog did not understand at all. It came
forward again, troubled. The man held the bread
near its nose, and held up a warning finger. The beast
dropped its head mournfully, cocking up its eye at the
bread with varied feelings.
"Now !" said the man, "not until I say three
Uno due " the dog could bear it no longer, the
man in jerking let go the bread and yelled at the top
of his voice "e tre!" The dog gulped the piece of
bread with a resigned pleasure, and the man pretended
it had all happened properly on the word "three."
So he started again. "Vieni qua! Vieni qua!"
The dog, which had backed away with the bread, came
hesitating, cringing forward, dropping its hind-quarters
in doubt, as dogs do, advancing towards the new nugget
of bread. The man preached it a little sermon.
"You sit there and look at this bread. I sit here
and look at you, and I hold this bread. And you stop
still, and I stop still, while I count three. Now
then uno " the dog couldn't bear these numerals,
with their awful slowness. He snatched desperately.
The man yelled and lost the bread, the dog, gulping,
turned to creep away.
Then it began again.
"Come here! Come here! Didn't I tell thee I
would count three? Gi&! I said I would count three
Not one, but three. And to count three you need
three numbers. Ha! Steady! Three numbers.
SEA AND SARDINIA
Uno due E TRE!" The last syllables were yelled
so that the room rang again. The dog gave a mourn-
ful howl of excitement, missed the bread, groped for
it, and fled.
The man was red with excitement, his eyes shining.
He addressed the company at large. "I had a dog,"
he said, "ah, a dog! And I would put a piece of bread
on his nose, and say a verse. And he looked at me
so ! " The man put his face sideways. "And he looked
at me so!" He gazed up under his brows. "And he
talked to me so o: Zieu! Zieu! But he never moved.
No, he never moved. If he sat with that bread on
his nose for half an hour, and if tears ran down his
face, he never moved not till I said three! Then
ah!" The man tossed up his face, snapped the air
with his mouth, and gulped an imaginary crust. "AH,
that dog was trained . . ." The man of forty
shook his head.
"Vieni qua! Come here! Tweet! Come here!"
He patted his fat knee, and the dog crept forward.
The man held another piece of bread.
"Now," he said to the dog, "listen! Listen. I am
going to tell you something.
II soldato va alia guerra
No no, Not yet. When I say three!
II soldato va alia guerra
1 256 ]
Mangia male, dorme in terra
Listen. Be still. Quiet now. UNO DUE E
It came out in one simultaneous yell from the man,
the dog in sheer bewilderment opened his jaws and
let the bread go down his throat, and wagged his tail
in agitated misery.
"Ah," said the man, "you are learning. Come!
Come here! Come! Now then! Now you know.
So! So! Look at me so!"
The stout, good-looking man of forty bent forward.
His face was flushed, the veins in his neck stood out.
He talked to the dog, and imitated the dog. And
very well indeed he reproduced something of the big,
gentle, wistful subservience of the animal. The dog
was his totem the affectionate, self-mistrustful, warm-
So he started the rigmarole again. We put it into
"Listen now. Listen! Let me tell it you.
So the soldier goes to the war!
His food is rotten, he sleeps on the floor
Now! Now! No, you are not keeping quiet.
II soldate va alia guerra
male, dorme in terra--*' 7
SEA AND SARDINIA
The verses, known to every Italian, were sung out
in a sing-song fashion. The audience listened as one
man or as one child the rhyme chiming in every
heart. They waited with excitement for the One
Two and Three! The last two words were always
ripped out with a tearing yell. I shall never forget
the force of those syllables E TRE! But the dog
made a poor show He only gobbled the bread and
This game lasted us a full hour: a full hour by the
clock sat the whole room in intense silence, watching
the man and the dog.
Our friends told us the man was the bus-inspector
their inspector. But they liked him. "Un brav'
uomo! Un bravo uomo! Eh si!" Perhaps they
were a little uneasy, seeing him in his cups and hearing
him yell so nakedly: AND THREE!
We talked rather sadly, wistfully. Young people,
especially nice ones like the driver, are too sad and
serious these days. The little conductor made big
brown eyes at us, wistful too, and sad we were going.
For in the morning they were driving back again to
Sorgono, over the old road, and we were going on, to
Terranova 7 the port. But we promised to come.
in the summer, when it was warmer. Then we should
all meet again.
"Perhaps you will find us on the same course still.
Who knows!" said the driver sadly.
t 259 1
TO TERRANOVA AND THE STEAMER.
THE morning was very clear and blue. We
were up betimes. The old dame of the inn
very friendly this morning. We were going
already! Oh, but we hadn't stayed long in Nuoro.
Didn't we like it?
Yes, we like it. We would come back in the sum-
mer when it was warmer.
Ah yes, she said, artists came in the summer. Yes,
she agreed, Nuoro was a nice place simpatico, molto
sim'patico. And really it is. And really she was an
awfully nice, capable, human old woman: and I had
thought her a beldame when I saw her ironing.
She gave us good coffee and milk and bread, and
we went out into the town. There was the real Mon-
day morning atmosphere of an old, same-as-ever pro-
vincial town: the vacant feeling of work resumed after
Sunday, rather reluctantly ; nobody buying anything,
nobody quite at grips with anything. The doors of
the old-fashioned shops stood open: in Nuoro they
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TO TERRANOVA AND THE STEAMER
have hardly reached the stage of window-displays.
One must go inside, into the dark caves, to see what
the goods are. Near the doorways of the drapers'
shops stood rolls of that fine scarlet cloth, for the
women's costumes. In a large tailor's window four
women sat sewing, tailoring, and looking out of the
window with eyes still Sunday-emancipate and mis-
chievous. Detached men, some in the black and white,
stood at the street corners, as if obstinately avoiding
the current of work. Having had a day off, the salt
taste of liberty still lingering on their lips, they were
not going to be dragged so easily back into harness.
I always sympathise with these rather sulky, forlorn
males who insist on making another day of it. It
shows a spark of spirit, still holding out against our
There is nothing to see in Nuoro: which, to tell the
truth, is always a relief. Sights are an irritating bore.
Thank heaven there isn't a bit of Perugino or anything
Pisan in the place: that I know of. Happy is the
town that has nothing to show. What a lot of stunts
and affectations it saves! Life is then life, not museum-
stuffing. One could saunter along the rather inert,
narrow, Monday-morning street, and see the women
having a bit of a gossip, and see an old crone with a
basket of bread on her head, and see the unwilling
[ 261 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
ones hanging back from work, and the whole current
of industry disinclined to flow. Life is life and things
are things. I am sick of gaping things, even Peru-
ginos. I have had my thrills from Carpaccio and
Botticelli. But now I've had enough. But I can al-
ways look at an old, grey-bearded peasant in his earthy
white drawers and his black waist-frill, wearing no
coat or over-garment, but just crooking along beside
his little ox-wagon. I am sick of "things," even Peru-
The sight of the woman with the basket of bread
reminded us that we wanted some food. So we
searched for bread. None, if you please. It was
Monday morning, eaten out. There would be bread
at the forno, the oven. Where was the oven? Up
the road and down a passage. I thought we should
smell it. But no. We pandered back. Our friends
had told us to take tickets early, for perhaps the bus
would be crowded. So we bought yesterday's pastry
and little cakes, and slices of native sausage. And still
no bread. I went and asked our old hostess.
"There is no fresh bread. It hasn't come in yet,"
"Never mind, give me stale."
So she went and rummaged in a drawer.
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TO TERRANOVA AND THE STEAMER
"Oh dear. Oh dear, the women have eaten it all!
But perhaps over there " she pointed down the
street "they can give you some."
I paid the bill about twenty-eight francs, I think
and went out to look for the bus. There it was. In
a dark little hole they gave me the long ticket-strips,
first-class to Terranova. They cost some seventy francs
the two. The q-b was still vainly, aimlessly looking
along the street for bread.
"Ready when you are," said our new driver rather
snappily. He was a pale, cross-looking young man
with brown eyes and fair "ginger" hair. So in we
clambered, waved farewell to our old friends, whose
bus was ready to roll away in the opposite direction.
As we bumped past the "piazza" I saw Velveteens
standing there, isolate, and still, apparently, scowling
with unabated irritation.
I am sure he has money: why the first class, yester-
day, otherwise. And Pm sure she married him be-
cause he is a townsman with property.
Out we rolled, on our last Sardinian drive. The
morning was of a bell-like beauty, blue and very love-
ly. Below on the right stretched the concave valley,
tapestried with cultivation. Up into the morning light
SEA AND SARDINIA
rose the high, humanless hills, with wild, treeless moor-
But there was no glass in the left window of the
cou^e y and the wind came howling in, cold enough.
I stretched myself on the front seat, the q-b screwed
herself into a corner, and we watched the land flash
by. How well this new man drove! the long-nosed,
freckled one with his gloomy brown eyes. How clev-
erly he changed gear, so that the automobile mewed
and purred comfortably, like a live thing enjoying
itself. And how dead he was to the rest of the world,
wrapped in his gloom like a young bus-driving Ham-
let. His answers to his mate were monosyllabic or
just no answers at all. He was one of those respon-
sible, capable, morose souls, who do their work with
silent perfection and look as if they were driving along
the brink of doom, say a word to them and they'll go
over the edge. But gentle au fond, of course. Fiction
used to be fond of them: a sort of ginger-haired,
young, mechanic Mr. Rochester who has even lost
the Jane illusion.
Perhaps it was not fair to watch him so closely from
His mate was a bit of a bounder, with one of
those rakish military caps whose soft tops cock side-
ways or backwards. He was in Italian khaki, riding-
TO TERRANOVA AND THE STEAMER
breeches and puttees. He smoked his cigarette bound-
erishly: but at the same time, with peculiar gentleness,
he handed one to the ginger Hamlet. Hamlet ac-
cepted it, and his mate held him a light as the bus
swung on. They were like man and wife. The mate
was the alert and wide-eyed Jane Eyre whom the gin-
ger Mr. Rochester was not going to spoil in a hurry.
The landscape was different from yesterday's. As
we dropped down the shallow, winding road from
Nuoro, quite quickly the moors seemed to spread on
either side, treeless, bushy, rocky, desert. How hot
they must be in summer! One knows from Grazia
A pony with a low trap was prancing unhappily in
the roadside. We slowed down and slid harmlessly
past. Then again, on we whizzed down the looped
road, which turned back on itself as sharply as a snake
that has been wounded. Hamlet darted the bus at the
curves j then softly padded round like an angel: then
off again for the next parabola.
We came out into wide, rather desolate, moorland
valley spaces, with low rocks away to the left, and steep
slopes, rocky-bushy, on the right. Sometimes groups
of black-and-white men were working in the forlorn
distances. A woman in the madder costume lecj - pan-
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SEA AND SARDINIA
niered ass along the wastes. The sun shone magnifi-
cently, already it was hotter here. The landscape had
quite changed. These slopes looked east and south
to the sea, they were sun-wild and sea-wild.
The first stop was where a wild, rough lane came
down the hill to our road. At the corner stood a
lonely house and in the road-side the most battered,
life-weary old carriage I have ever seen. The jaunty
mate sorted out the post the boy with the tattered-
battered brown carriage and brown pony signed the
book as we all stood in the roadway. There was a lit-
tle wait for a man who was fetching up another parcel.
The post-bag and parcels from the tattered carriage
were received and stowed and signed for. We walked
up and down in the sun to get warm. The landscape
was wild and open round about.
Pip! goes Mr. Rochester, peremptorily, at the horn.
Amazing how obediently we scuffle in. Away goes
the bus, rushing towards the sea. Already one felt
that peculiar glare in the half-way heavens, that inten-
sification of the light in the lower sky, which is caused
by the sea to sunward.
Away in front three girls in brown costume are
walking along the side of the white high-road, going
with panniers towards a village up a slight incline.
They hear us, turn round, and instantly go off their
TO TERRANOVA AND THE STEAMER
heads, exactly like chickens in the road. They fly
towards us, crossing the road, and swifter than any rab-
bits they scuttle, one after another, into a deep side-
track, like a deep ditch at right angles to the road.
There, as we roll past, they are all crouched, peering
out at us fearfully, like creatures from their hole.
The bus mate salutes them with a shout, and we roll
on towards the village on the low summit.
It is a small, stony, hen-scratched place of poor
people. We roll on to a standstill. There is a group
of poor people. The women wear the dark-brown
costume, and again the bolero has changed shape. It
is a rather fantastic low corset, curiously shapen; and
originally, apparently, made of wonderful elaborate
brocade. But look at it now.
There is an altercation because a man wants to get
into the bus with two little black pigs, each of which
is wrapped in a little sack, with its face and ears ap-
pearing like a flower from a wrapped bouquet. He
is told that he must pay the fare for each pig as if it
were a Christian. Cristo del mondo! A pig, a little
pig, and paid for as if it were a Christian. He dangles
the pig-bouquets, one from each hand, and the little
pigs open their black mouths and squeal with self-
conscious appreciation of the excitement they are caus-
[ 267 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
ing. D'w benedetto! it is a chorus. But the bus mate
is inexorable. Every animal, even if it were a mouse,
must be paid for and have a ticket as if it were a Chris-
tian. The pig-master recoils stupified with indigna-
tion, a pig-bouquet under each arm. "How much do
you charge for the fleas you carry?" asks a sarcastic
A woman sitting sewing a soldier's tunic into a little
jacket for her urchin, and thus beating the sword into
a ploughshare, stitches unconcernedly in the sun.
Round-cheeked but rather slatternly damsels giggle.
The pig-master, speechless with fury, slings the pig-
bouquets, like two bottles one on either side the saddle
of the ass whose halter is held by a grinning but also
malevolent girl: malevolent against pig-prices, that is.
The pigs, looking abroad from their new situation,
squeal the eternal pig-protest against an insufferable
"Andiamo! Andiamo!" says ginger Mr. Rochester
in his quiet but intense voice. The bus-mate scrambles
up and we charge once more into the strong light to
In we roll, into Orosei, a dilapidated, sun-smitten,
god-forsaken little town not far from the sea. We
descend in piazza. There is a great, false baroque facade
to a church, up a wavering vast mass of steps: and at the
TO TERRANOVA AND THE STEAMER
side a wonderful jumble of roundnesses with a jumble
of round tiled roofs, peaked in the centre. It must
have been some sort of convent. But it is eminently
what they call a "painter's bit" that pallid, big
baroque face, at the top of the slow incline, and the
very curious dark building at the side of it, with its
several dark-tiled round roofs, like pointed hats, at
varying altitudes. The whole space has a strange
Spanish look, neglected, arid, yet with a bigness and
a dilapidated dignity and a stoniness which carry one
back to the Middle Ages, when life was violent and
Orosei was no doubt a port and a considerable place.
Probably it had bishops.
The sun came hot into the wide piazza ; with its
pallid heavy facade up on the stony incline on one side,
and arches and a dark great courtyard and outer stair-
ways of some unknown building away on the other,
the road entering downhill from the inland, and drop-
ping out below to the sea-marshes, and with the im-
pression that once some single power had had the
place in grip, had given this centre an architectural
unity and splendour, now lost and forgotten, Orosei
was truly fascinating.
But the inhabitants were churlish. We went into
a sort of bar-place, very primitive, and asked for
"Bread alone?" said the churl.
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SEA AND SARDINIA
"If you please."
"There isn't any," he answered.
"Oh where can we get some then?"
"You can't get any."
And we couldn't. People stood about glum, not
There was a second great automobile, ready to set
off for Tortoli, far to the south, on the east coast.
Mandas is the railway junction both for Sorgono and
Tortoli. The two buses stood near and communed.
We prowled about the dead, almost extinct town or
call it village. Then Mr. Rochester began to pip his
horn peremptorily, so we scuffled in.
The post was stowed away. A native in black
broad-cloth came running and sweating, carrying an
ox-blood suit-case, and said we must wait for his
brother-in-law, who was a dozen yards away. Ginger
Mr. Rochester sat on his driver's throne and glared
in the direction whence the brother-in-law must come.
His brow knitted irritably, his long, sharp nose did not
promise much patience. He made the horn roar like
a sea-cow. But no brother-in-law.
"I'm going to wait no longer," said he.
"Oh, a minute, a minute! That won't do us any
harm," expostulated his mate. No answer from the
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TO TERRANOVA AND THE STEAMER
long faced, long-nosed ginger Hamlet. He sat
statuesque, but with black eyes looking daggers down
the still void road.
"Eh va bene" y he murmured through closed lips, and
leaned forward grimly for the starting handle.
"Patience patience patience a moment why "
cried the mate.
"Per 1'amor' di Dio!" cried the black broad-cloth
man, simply sizzling and dancing in anguish on the
road, round the suit-case, which stood in the dust.
"Don't go! God's love, don't start. He's got to
catch the boat. He's got to be in Rome tomorrow.
He won't be a second. He's here, he's here, he's
This startled the fate-fixed, sharp-nosed driver. He
released the handle and looked round, with dark and
glowering eyes. No one in sight. The few glum
natives stood round unmoved. Thunder came into
the gloomy dark eyes of the Rochester. Absolutely
nobody in sight. Click! went his face into a look of al-
most seraphic peace, as he pulled off the brakes. We
were on an incline, and insidiously, oh most subtly the
great bus started to lean forwards and steal into
"Oh ma che! what a will you've got!" cried the
[ 2 7 ! ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
mate, clambering in to the side of the now seraphic-
"Love of God God!" yelled the broad-cloth, see-
ing the bus melt forwards and gather momentum. He
put his hands up as if to arrest it, and yelled in a wild
howl: "O Beppin'! Beppw O!"
But in vain. Already we had left the little groups
of onlookers behind. We were rolling downwards
out of the piazza. Broad-cloth had seized the bag and
was running beside us in agony. Out of the piazza
we rolled, Rochester had not put on the engines and
we were just simply rolling down the gentle incline
by the will of God. Into the dark outlet-street we
melted, towards the still invisible sea.
Suddenly a yell "OO ahh ! ! "
"E qua! E qua! fi qua! fi qua!" gasped
broad-cloth four times. "He's here!" And then:
"Beppin' she's going, she's going!"
Beppin' appeared, a middle-aged man also in black
broad-cloth, with a very scrubby chin and a bundle,
running towards us on fat legs. He was perspiring,
but his face was expressionless and innocent-looking.
With a sardonic flicker of a grin, half of spite, half
of relief, Rochester put on the brakes again, and we
stopped in the street. A woman tottered up panting
and holding her breast. Now for farewells.
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TO TERRANOVA AND THE STEAMER
"Andiamo!" said Rochester curtly, looking over his
shoulder and making his fine nose curl with malice.
And instantly he took off the brakes again. The fat
woman shoved Beppin' in, gasping farewells, the
brother-in-law handed in the ox-blood-red suit-case,
tottering behind, and the bus surged savagely out of
Almost in a moment we had left the town on its
slope, and there below us was a river winding through
marshy flats to the sea, to where small white surf
broke on a flat, isolated beach, a quarter of a mile
away. The river ran rapidly between stones and then
between belts of high sere reeds, high as a man. These
tall reeds advanced almost into the slow, horizontal
sea, from which stood up a white glare of light,
massive light over the low Mediterranean.
Quickly we came down to the river-level, and rolled
over a bridge. Before us, between us and the sea
rose another hill, almost like a wall with a flat top,
running horizontal, perfectly flat, parallel with the
sea-edge, a sort of narrow long plateau. For a mo-
ment we were in the wide scoop of the river-bed.
Orosei stood on the bluff behind us.
Away to the right the flat river-marshes with the
thick dead reeds met the flat and shining sea, river and
SEA AND SARDINIA
sea were one water, the waves rippled tiny and soft-foot
into the stream. To the left there was great loveli-
liness. The bed of the river curved upwards and in-
land, and there was cultivation: but particularly, there
were noble almond trees in full blossom. How beau-
tiful they were, their pure, silvery pink gleaming so
nobly, like a transfiguration, tall and perfect in that
strange cradled river-bed parallel with the sea.
Almond trees were in flower beneath grey Orosei,
almond trees came near the road, and we could
see the hot eyes of the individual blossoms, almond
trees stood on the upward slope before us. And
they had flowered in such noble beauty there, in
that trough where the sun fell magnificent and the
sea-glare whitened all the air as with a sort of God-
presence, they gleamed in their incandescent sky-rosi-
ness. One could hardly see their iron trunks, in this
But already we had crossed, and were charging up
the great road that was cut straight, slant-wise along
the side of the sea-hill, like a stairway outside the side
of the house. So the bus turned southward to run
up this stairway slant, to get to the top of the sea's
long table-land. So, we emerged: and there was the
Mediterranean rippling against the black rocks not
so very far away below on our right. For, once on the
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TO TERRANOVA AND THE STEAMER
long table-land the road turned due north, a long
white dead-straight road running between strips of
moorland, wild and bushy. The sea was in the near
distance, blue, blue, and beating with light. It seemed
more light than watery. And on the left was the
wide trough of the valley, where almond trees like
clouds in a wind seemed to poise sky-rosy upon the
pale, sun-pale land, and beyond which Orosei clustered
its lost grey houses on the bluff. Oh wonderful
Orosei with your almonds and your reedy river, throb-
bing, throbbing with light and the sea's nearness, and
all so lost, in a world long gone by, lingering as legends
linger on. It is hard to believe that it is real. It
seems so long since life left it and memory transfigured
it into pure glamour, lost away like a lost pearl on the
east Sardinian coast. Yet there it is, with a few
grumpy inhabitants who won't even give you a crust of
bread. And probably there is malaria almost sure.
And it would be hell to have to live there for a month.
Yet for a moment, that January morning, how wonder-
ful, oh, the timeless glamour of those Middle Ages
when men were lordly and violent and shadowed with
"Timor mortis conturbat me."
The road ran along by the sea, above the sea, swing-
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SEA AND SARDINIA
ing gently up and down, and running on to a sea-en-
croaching hilly promontory in the distance. There
were no high lands. The valley was left behind, and
moors surrounded us, wild, desolate, uninhabited and
uninhabitable moors sweeping up gently on the left,
and finishing where the land dropped low and clifflike
to the sea on the right. No life was now in sight: even
no ship upon the pale blue sea. The great globe of
the sky was unblemished and royal in its blueness and
its ringing cerulean light. Over the moors a great
hawk hovered. Rocks cropped out. It was a savage,
dark-bushed, sky-exposed land, forsaken to the sea
and the sun.
We were alone in the coupe. The bus-mate had
made one or two sets at us, but he rather confused us.
He was young about twenty-two or three. He was
quite good-looking, with his rakish military cap and his
well-knitted figure in military clothes. But he had
dark eyes that seemed to ask too much, and his man-
ner of approach was abrupt, persistent, and disconcert-
ing. Already he had asked us where we were going,
where we lived, whence we came, of what nationality
we were, and was I a painter. Already he knew so
much. Further we rather fought shy of him. We
ate those pale Nuoro pastries they were just flaky
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TO TERRANOVA AND THE STEAMER
pastry, good, but with nothing inside but a breath of air.
And we gnawed slices of very highly-flavoured Nuoro
sausage. And we drank the tea. And we were very
hungry, for it was past noon, and we had eaten as good
as nothing. The sun was magnificent in heaven, we
rushed at a great, purring speed along that moorland
road just above the sea.
And then the bus-mate climbed in to share the coupe
with us. He put his dark, beseeching and yet persist-
ent eyes on us, sat plumb in front of us, his knees
squared, and began to shout awkward questions in a
strong curious voice. Of course it was very difficult
to hear, for the great rushing bus made much noise.
We had to try to yell in our Italian and he was as
awkward as we were.
However, although it said "Smoking Forbidden" he
offered us both cigarettes, and insisted we should smoke
with him. Easiest to submit. He tried to point us
out features in the landscape: but there were none to
point, except that, where the hill ran to sea out of the
moor, and formed a cape, he said there was a house
away under the cliffs where coastguards lived. Noth-
Then, however, he launched. He asked once more
was I English and was the q-b German. We said it
was so. And then he started the old story. Nations
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SEA AND SARDINIA
popped up and down again like Punch and Judy.
Italy 1'Italia she had no quarrel with La Germania
never had had no no, good friends the two na-
tions. But once the war was started, Italy had to come
in. For why. Germany would beat France, occupy
her lands, march down and invade Italy. Best then
join the war whilst the enemy was only invading some-
body else's territory.
They are perfectly naive about it. That's what I
like. He went on to say that he was a soldier: he had
served eight years in the Italian cavalry. Yes, he was
a cavalryman, and had been all through the war. But
he had not therefore any quarrel with Germany. No
war was war, and it was over. So let it be over.
But France ma la Francia! Here he sat forward
on his seat, with his face near ours, and his pleading-
dog's eyes suddenly took a look of quite irrational blaz-
ing rage. France! There wasn't a man in Italy who
wasn't dying to get at the throat of France. France!
Let there be war, and every Italian would leap to arms,
even the old. Even the old anche i vecchi. Yes,
there must be war with France. It was coming: it
was bound to come. Every Italian was waiting for it.
Waiting to fly at the French throat. For why? Why?
He had served two years on the French front, and he
knew why. Ah, the French! For arrogance, for
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TO TERRANOVA AND THE STEAMER
insolence, Dio! they were not to be borne. The
French they thought themselves lords of the world
signori del mondo! Lords of the world, and masters
of the world. Yes. They thought themselves no
less and what are they? Monkeys! Monkeys! Not
better than monkeys. But let there be war, and Italy
would show them. Italy would give them signori del
mondo! Italy was pining for war all, all, pining
for war. With no one, with no one but France. Ah,
with no one Italy loved everybody else but France!
We let him shout it all out, till he was at the end of
it. The passion and energy of him was amazing. He
was like one possessed. I could only wonder. And
wonder again. For it is curious what fearful passions
these pleading, wistful souls fall into when they feel
they have been insulted. It was evident he felt he
had been insulted, and he went just beside himself.
But dear chap, he shouldn't speak so loudly for all
Italy even the old. The bulk of Italian men are
only too anxious to beat their bayonets into cigarette-
holders, and smoke the cigarette of eternal and ever-
lasting peace, to coincide at all with our friend. Yet
there he was raging at me in the bus as we dashed
along the coast.
And then, after a space of silence, he became sad
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SEA AND SARDINIA
again, wistful, and looked at us once more with those
pleading brown eyes, beseeching, beseeching he knew
not what: and Pm sure I didn't know. Perhaps what
he really wants is to be back on a horse in a cavalry
regiment: even at war.
But no, it comes out, what he thinks he wants.
When are we going to London? And are there
many motor-cars in England? many, many? In
America too? Do they want men in America? I say
no, they have unemployment out there: they are going
to stop immigration in April: or at least cut it down.
Why? he asks sharply. Because they have their own
unemployment problem. And the q-b quotes how
many millions of Europeans want to emigrate to the
United States. His eye becomes gloomy. Are all
nations of Europe going to be forbidden? he asks,
Yes and already the Italian Government will give
no more passports for America to emigrants. No
passports? then you can't go? You can't go, say I.
By this time his hot-souled eagerness and his hot,
beseeching eyes have touched the q-b. She asks him
what he wants. And from his gloomy face it comes out
in a rap. "Andare juori dell'Italia" To go out of
Italy. To go out r-away to go away to go away.
It has become a craving, a neurasthenia with them.
Where is his home? His home is at a village a few
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TO TERRANOVA AND THE STEAMER
miles ahead here on this coast. We are coming to
it soon. There is his home. And a few miles inland
from the village he also has a property: he also has
land. But he doesn't want to work it. He doesn't
want it. In fact he won't bother with it. He hates
the land, he detests looking after vines. He can't
even bring himself to try any more.
What does he want then?
He wants to leave Italy, to go abroad as a chauf-
feur. Again the long beseeching look, as of a dis-
traught, pleading animal. He would prefer to be the
chauffeur of a gentleman. But he would drive a bus,
he would do anything in England.
Now he has launched it. Yes, I say, but in England
also we have more men than jobs. Still he looks at
me with his beseeching eyes so desperate too and so
young and so full of energy and so longing to
devote himself to devote himself: or else to go off
in an unreasonable paroxysm against the French. To
my horror I feel he is believing in my goodness of
heart. And as for motor-cars, it is all I can do to own
a pair of boots, so how am I to set about employing a
We have all gone quiet again. So at last he climbs
back and takes his seat with the driver once more. The
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SEA AND SARDINIA
road is still straight, swinging on through the moor-
land strip by the sea. And he leans to the silent, nerve-
tense Mr. Rochester, pleading again. And at length
Mr. Rochester edges aside, and lets him take the driv-
ing wheel. And so now we are all in the hands of
our friend the bus-mate. He drives not very well.
It is evident he is learning. The bus can't quite keep
in the grooves of this wild bare road. And he shuts
off when we slip down a hill and there is a great
muddle on the upslope when he tries to change gear.
But Mr. Rochester sits squeezed and silently attentive
in his corner. He puts out his hand and swings the
levers. There is no fear that he will let anything go
wrong. I would trust him to drive me down the bot-
tomless pit and up the other side. But still the be-
seeching mate holds the steering wheel. And on we
rush, rather uncertainly and hesitatingly now. And
thus we come to the bottom of a hill where the road
gives a sudden curve. My heart rises an inch in my
breast. I know he can't do it. And he can't, oh Lord
but the quiet hand of the freckled Rochester takes the
wheel, we swerve on. And the bus-mate gives up, and
the nerve-silent driver resumes control.
But the bus-mate now feels at home with us. He
clambers back into the coupe, and when it is too pain-
TO TERRANOVA AND THE STEAMER
fully noisy to talk, he simply sits and looks at us with
brown, pleading eyes. Miles and miles and miles goes
this coast road, and never a village. Once or twice a
sort of lonely watch-house and soldiers lying about by
the road. But never a halt. Everywhere moorland
and desert, uninhabited.
And we are faint with fatigue and hunger and this
relentless travelling. When, oh when shall we come
to Siniscola, where we are due to eat our midday meal?
Oh yes, says the mate. There is an inn at Siniscola
where we can eat what we like. Siniscola Siniscola!
We feel we must get down, we must eat, it is past one
o'clock and the glaring light and the rushing loneliness
are still about us.
But it is behind the hill in front. We see the hill?
Yes. Behind it is Siniscola. And down there on the
beach are the Bagni di Siniscola, where many f orestieri,
strangers, come in the summer. Therefore we set high
hopes on Siniscola. From the town to the sea, two
miles, the bathers ride on asses. Sweet place. And
it is coming near really near. There are stone-fenced
fields even stretches of moor fenced off. There are
vegetables in a little field with a stone wall there is
a strange white track through the moor to a forsaken
sea-coast. We are near.
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SEA AND SARDINIA
Over the brow of the low hill and there it is, a
grey huddle of a village with two towers. There it
is, we are there. Over the cobbles we bump, and pull
up at the side of the street. This is Siniscola, and here
We drop out of the weary bus. The mate asks a
man to show us the inn the man says he won't, mut-
tering. So a boy is deputed and he consents. This
is the welcome.
And I can't say much for Siniscola. It is just a nar-
row, crude, stony place, hot in the sun, cold in the
shade. In a minute or two we were at the inn, where
a fat, young man was just dismounting from his brown
pony and fastening it to a ring beside the door.
The inn did not look promising the usual cold
room opening gloomily on the gloomy street. The
usual long table, with this time a foully blotched table-
cloth. And two young peasant madams in charge, in
the brown costume, rather sordid, and with folded
white cloths on their heads. The younger was in at-
tendance. She was a full-bosomed young hussy, and
would be very queenly and cocky. She held her nose
in the air, and seemed ready to jibe at any order. It
takes one some time to get used to this cocky, assertive
behaviour of the young damsels, the who'11-tread-on-
the-tail-of-my-skirt bearing of the hussies. But it
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TO TERRANOVA AND THE STEAMER
is partly a sort of crude def ensiveness and shyness, partly
it is barbaric mefiance or mistrust, and partly, without
doubt, it is a tradition with Sardinian women that they
must hold their own and be ready to hit first. This
young sludge-queen was all hit. She flounced her pos-
terior round the table, planking down the lumps of
bread on the foul cloth with an air of take-it-as-a-con-
descension-that-I-wait-on-you, a subdued grin lurking
somewhere on her face. It is not meant to be offensive:
yet it is so. Truly, it is just uncouthness. But when
one is tired and hungry . . .
We were not the only feeders. There was the man
off the pony, and a sort of workman or porter or dazio
official with him and a smart young man: and later
our Hamlet driver. Bit by bit the young damsel
planked down bread, plates, spoons, glasses, bottles of
black wine, whilst we sat at the dirty table in uncouth
constraint and looked at the hideous portrait of His
reigning Majesty of Italy. And at length came the
inevitable soup. And with it the sucking chorus. The
little maialino at Mandas had been a good one. But
the smart young man in the country beat him. As
water clutters and slavers down a choky gutter, so did
his soup travel upwards into his mouth with one long
sucking stream of noise, intensified as the bits of cab-
bage, etc., found their way through the orifice.
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SEA AND SARDINIA
They did all the talking the young men. They
addressed the sludge-queen curtly and disrespectfully,
as if to say: "What's she up to?" Her airs were finely
thrown away. Still she showed off. What else was
there to eat? There was the meat that had been boiled
for the soup. We knew what that meant. I had as
lief eat the foot of an old worsted stocking. Nothing
else, you sludge queen? No, what do you want any-
thing else for? Beefsteak what's the good of asking
for beefsteak or any other steak on a Monday. Go to
the butcher's and see for yourself.
The Hamlet, the pony rider, and the porter had
the faded and tired chunks of boiled meat. The smart
young man ordered eggs in padella two eggs fried
with a little butter. We asked for the same. The
smart young man got his first and of course they were
warm and liquid. So he fell upon them with a fork,
and once he had got hold of one end of the eggs he
just sucked them up in a prolonged and violent suck,
like a long, thin, ropy drink being sucked upwards from
the little pan. It was a genuine exhibition. Then he
fell upon the bread with loud chews.
What else was there? A miserable little common
orange. So much for the dinner. Was there cheese?
No. But the sludge-queen they are quite good-
natured really held a conversation in dialect with the
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TO TERRANOVA AND THE STEAMER
young men, which I did not try to follow. Our pensive
driver translated that there was cheese, but it wasn't
good, so they wouldn't offer it us. And the pony man
interpolated that they didn't like to offer us anything
that was not of the best. He said it in all sincerity
after such a meal. This roused my curiosity, so I
asked for the cheese whether or not. And it wasn't
so bad after all.
This meal cost fifteen francs, for the pair of us.
We made our way back to the bus, through the un-
couth men who stood about. To tell the truth,
strangers are not popular nowadays not anywhere.
Everybody has a grudge against them at first sight.
This grudge may or may not wear off on acquaintance.
The afternoon had become hot hot as an English
June. And we had various other passengers for one
a dark-eyed, long-nosed priest who showed his teeth
when he talked. There was not much room in the
coupe, so the goods were stowed upon the little rack.
With the strength of the sun, and the six or seven
people in it, the coupe became stifling. The q-b opened
her window. But the priest, one of the loudtalking
sort, said that a draught was harmful, very harmful,
so he put it up again. He was one of the gregarious
sort, a loud talker, nervy really, very familiar with
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SEA AND SARDINIA
all the passengers. And everything did one harm
fa male, fa male. A draught fa male, fa molto male.
Non e vero? this to all the men from Siniscola. And
they all said Yes yes.
The bus-mate clambered into the coupe, to take the
tickets of the second-class passengers in the rotondo,
through the little wicket. There was great squeezing
and shouting and reckoning change. And then we
stopped at a halt, and he dashed down with the post
and the priest got down for a drink with the other men.
The Hamlet driver sat stiff in his seat. He pipped
the horn. He pipped again, with decision. Men came
clambering in. But it looked as if the offensive priest
would be left behind. The bus started venomously,
the priest came running, his gown flapping, wiping his
He dropped into his seat with a cackling laugh,
showing his long teeth. And he said that it was as
well to take a drink, to fortify the stomach. To travel
with the stomach uneasy did one harm: fa male, fa
male non e vero? Chorus of "yes."
The bus-mate resumed his taking the tickets through
the little wicket, thrusting his rear amongst us. As he
stood like this, down fell his sheepskin-lined military
overcoat on the q-b's head. He was filled with grief.
He folded it and placed it on the seat, as a sort of
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TO TERRANOVA AND THE STEAMER
cushion for her, oh so gently! And how he would love
to devote himself to a master and mistress.
He sat beside me, facing the q-b, and offered us an
acid drop. We took the acid drop. He smiled with
zealous yearning at the q-b, and resumed his conver-
sations. Then he offered us cigarettes insisted on
our taking cigarettes.
The priest with the long teeth looked sideways at
the q-b, seeing her smoking. Then he fished out a
long cigar, bit it, and spat. He was offered a cig-
arette. But no, cigarettes were harmful: fanno male.
The paper was bad for the health: oh, very bad. A
pipe or a cigar. So he lit his long cigar and spat large
spits on the floor, continually.
Beside me sat a big, bright-eyed, rather good-looking
but foolish man. Hearing me speak to the q-b, he
said in confidence to the priest: "Here are two Ger-
mans eh? Look at them. The woman smoking.
These are a couple of those that were interned here.
Sardinia can do without them now."
Germans in Italy at the outbreak of the war were
interned in Sardinia, and as far as one hears, they were
left very free and happy, and treated very well, the
Sardinians having been generous as all proud people
are. But now our bright-eyed fool made a great titter
through the bus: quite unaware that we understood.
1 289 ]
SEA AND, SARDINIA
He said nothing offensive: but that sort of tittering
exultation of common people who think they have you
at a disadvantage annoyed me. However, I kept still
to hear what they would say. But it was only triviali-
ties about the Germans having nearly all gone now,
their being free to travel, their coming back to Sar-
dinia because they liked it better than Germany. Oh
yes they all wanted to come back. They all wanted
to come back to Sardinia. Oh yes, they knew where
they were well off. They knew their own advantage.
Sardinia was this, that, and the other of advantageous-
ness, and the Sardi were decent people. It is just as
well to put in a word on one's own behalf occasionally.
As for La Germania she was down, down: bassa.
What did one pay for bread in Germany? Five francs
a kilo, my boy.
The bus stopped again, and they trooped out into the
hot sun. The priest scuffled round the corner this time.
Not to go round the corner was no doubt harmful.
We waited. A frown came between the bus Hamlet's
brows. He looked nerve-worn and tired. It was about
three o'clock. We had to wait for a man from a vil-
lage, with the post. And he did not appear.
"I am going! I won't wait," said the driver.
"Wait wait a minute," said the mate, pouring oil.
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TO TERRANOVA AND THE STEAMER
And he went round to look. But suddenly the bus
started, with a vicious lurch. The mate came flying
and hung on to the footboard. He had really almost
been left. The driver glanced round sardonically to
see if he were there. The bus flew on. The mate
shook his head in deprecation.
"He's a bit nervoso, the driver," said the q-b. "A
bit out of temper!"
"Ah, poor chap ! " said the good-looking young mate,
leaning forward and making such beseeching eyes of
hot tolerance. "One has to be sorry for him. Per-
sons like him, they suffer so much from themselves,
how should one be angry with them! Poverino. We
must have sympathy."
Never was such a language of sympathy as the
Italian. Poverino! Povermo! They are never happy
unless they are sympathising pityingly with somebody.
And I rather felt that I was thrown in with the poverini
who had to be pitied for being nervosi. Which did
not improve my temper.
However, the bus-mate suddenly sat on the opposite
seat between the priest and the q-b. He turned over
his official note book, and began to write on the back
cover very carefully, in the flourishing Italian hand.
Then he tore off what he had written, and with a very
bright and zealous look he handed me the paper say-
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SEA AND SARDINIA
ing: "You will find me a post in England, when you go
in the summer? You will find me a place in London
as a chauffeur ! "
"If I can," said I. "But it is not easy."
He nodded his head at me with the most complete
bright confidence, quite sure now that he had settled
his case perfectly.
On the paper he had written his name and his ad-
dress, and if anyone would like him as chauffeur they
have only to say so. On the back of the scrap of
paper the inevitable goodwill: Auguri infinite e buon
Viaggio. Infinite good wishes and a good journey.
I folded the paper and put it in my waistcoat pocket,
feeling a trifle disconcerted by my new responsibility.
He was such a dear fellow and such bright trustful
This much achieved, there was a moment of silence.
And the bus-mate turned to take a ticket of a fat, com-
fortable man who had got in at the last stop. There
was a bit of flying conversation.
"Where are they from?" asked the good-looking
stupid man next to me, inclining his head in our
"Londra" said our friend, with stern satisfaction:
and they have said so often to one another that London
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TO TERRANOVA AND THE STEAMER
is the greatest city in the world, that now the very word
Londra conveys it all. You should have seen the
blank little-boy look come over the face of the big
handsome fellow on hearing that we were citizens of
the greatest city in the world.
"And they understand Italian?" he asked, rather
"Siccuro!" said our friend scornfully. "How
"Ah!" My large neighbour left his mouth open
for a few moments. And then another sort of smile
came on to his face. He began to peep at us sideways
from his brown eyes, brightly, and was henceforth
itching to get into conversation with the citizens of the
world's mistress-city. His look of semi-impudence was
quite gone, replaced by a look of ingratiating admira-
Now I ask you, is this to be borne? Here I sit, and
he talks half-impudently and patronisingly about me.
And here I sit, and he is glegging at me as if he saw
signs of an aureole under my grey hat. All in ten
minutes. And just because, instead of la Germanla
I turn out to be VInghtlterra. I might as well be a
place on a map, or a piece of goods with a trade-mark.
So little perception of the actual me! so much going
by labels! I now could have kicked him harder. I
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SEA AND SARDINIA
would have liked to say I was ten times German, to see
the fool change his smirk again.
The priest now chimed up, that he had been to
America. He had been to America and hence he
dreaded not the crossing from Terranuova di Sardegna
to Civita Vecchia. For he had crossed the great
Apparently, however, the natives had all heard this
song of the raven before, so he spat largely on the floor.
Whereupon the new fat neighbour asked him was it
true that the Catholic Church was now becoming the
one Church in the United States? And the priest said
there was no doubt about it.
The hot afternoon wore on. The coast was rather
more inhabited, but we saw practically no villages.
The view was rather desolate. From time to time
we stopped at a sordid-looking canteen house. From
time to time we passed natives riding on their ponies,
and sometimes there was an equestrian exhibition as
the rough, strong little beasts reared and travelled
rapidly backwards, away from the horrors of our great
automobile. But the male riders sat heavy and un-
shakeable, with Sardinian male force. Everybody in
the bus laughed, and we passed, looking back to see
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TO TERRANOVA AND THE STEAMER
the pony still corkscrewing, but in vain, in the middle
of the lonely, grass-bordered high-road.
The bus-mate climbed in and out, coming in to sit
near us. He was like a dove which has at last found
an olive bough to nest in. And we were the olive
bough in this world of waste waters. Alas, I felt a
broken reed. But he sat so serenely near us, now,
like a dog that has found a master.
The afternoon was declining, the bus pelted on at
a great rate. Ahead we saw the big lump of the
island of Tavolara, a magnificient mass of rock which
fascinated me by its splendid, weighty form. It looks
like a headland, for it apparently touches the land.
There it rests at the sea's edge, in this lost afternoon
world. Strange how this coast-country does not be-
long to our present-day world. As we rushed along
we saw steamers, two steamers, steering south, and
one sailing ship coming from Italy. And instantly,
the steamers seemed like our own familiar world.
But still this coast-country was forsaken, forgotten,
not included. It just is not included.
How tired one gets of these long, long rides! It
seemed we should never come up to Tavolara. But
we did. We came right near to it, and saw the beach
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SEA AND SARDINIA
with the waves rippling undisturbed, saw the narrow
waters between the rock-lump and the beach. For
now the road was down at sea-level. And we were
not very far from Terranova. Yet all seemed still
forsaken, outside of the world's life.
The sun was going down, very red and strong, away
inland. In the bus all were silent, subsiding into the
pale travel-sleep. We charged along the flat road,
down on a plain now. And dusk was gathering heav-
ily over the land.
We saw the high-road curve flat upon the plain. It
was the harbour head. We saw a magic, land-locked
harbour, with masts and dark land encircling a glow-
ing basin. We even saw a steamer lying at the end
of a long, thin bank of land, in the shallow, shining,
wide harbour, as if wrecked there. And this was our
steamer. But no, it looked in the powerful glow of
the sunset like some lonely steamer laid up in some
landlocked bay away at Spitzbergen, towards the North
Pole: a solemn, mysterious, blue-landed bay, lost, lost
Our bus-mate came and told us we were to sit in
the bus till the post-work was done, then we should
be driven to the hotel where we could eat, and then he
would accompany us on the town omnibus to the boat.
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TO TERRANOVA AND THE STEAMER
We need not be on board till eight o'clock: and now
it was something after five. So we sat still while
the bus rushed and the road curved and the view of
the weird, land-locked harbour changed, though the
bare masts of ships in a bunch still pricked the upper
glow, and the steamer lay away out, as if wrecked on
a sand-bank, and dark, mysterious land with bunchy
hills circled round, dark blue and wintry in a golden
after-light, while the great, shallow-seeming bay of
water shone like a mirror.
In we charged, past a railway, along the flat darken-
ing road into a flat God-lost town of dark houses, on
the marshy bay-head. It felt more like a settlement
than a town. But it was Terranova-Pausanias. And
after bumping and rattling down a sombre uncouth,
barren-seeming street, we came up with a jerk at a
doorway which was the post-office. Urchins, mud-
larks, were screaming for the luggage. Everybody
got out and set off towards the sea, the urchins carry-
ing luggage. We sat still.
Till I couldn't bear it. I did not want to stay in
the automobile another moment, and I did not, I did
not want to be accompanied by our new-found friend
to the steamer. So I burst out, and the q-b followed.
She too was relieved to escape the new attachment,
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SEA AND SARDINIA
though she had a great tendre for him. But in the
end one runs away from one's tendres much harder
and more precipitately than from one's durs.
The mudlarking urchins fell upon us. Had we
any more luggage were we going to the steamer? I
asked how one went to the steamer did one walk?
I thought perhaps it would be necessary to row out.
You go on foot, or in a carriage, or in an aeroplane,
said an impudent brat. How far? Ten minutes. Could
one go on board at once? Yes, certainly.
So, in spite of the q-b's protests, I handed the sack
to a wicked urchin, to be led. She wanted us to go
alone but I did not know the way, and am wary of
stumbling into entanglements in these parts.
I told the bus-Hamlet, who was abstract with nerve
fatigue, please to tell his comrade that I would not
forget the commission: and I tapped my waistcoat
pocket, where the paper lay over my heart. He
briefly promised and we escaped. We escaped any
I bade the mud-lark lead me to the telegraph office:
which of course was quite remote from the post-office.
Shouldering the sack, and clamouring for the kitchen-
ino which the q-b stuck to, he marched forward. By
his height he was ten years old: by his face with its
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TO TERRANOVA AND THE STEAMER
evil mud-lark pallor and good-looks, he was forty.
He wore a cut-down soldier's tunic which came nearly
to his knees, was barefoot, and sprightly with that
alert mudlarking quickness which has its advantages.
So we went down a passage and climbed a stair and
came to an office where one would expect to register
births and deaths. But the urchin said it was the tele-
graph-office. No sign of life. Peering through the
wicket I saw a fat individual seated writing in the dis-
tance. Feeble lights relieved the big, barren, official
spaces I wonder the fat official wasn't afraid to be
up here alone.
He made no move. I banged the shutter and de-
manded a telegraph blank. His shoulders went up
to his ears, and he plainly intimated his intention to
let us wait. But I said loudly to the urchin: "Is that
the telegraph official?" and the urchin said: "Si
signore" so the fat individual had to come.
After which considerable delay, we set off again.
The bus, thank heaven, had gone, the savage dark
street was empty of friends. We turned away to the
harbour front. It was dark now. I saw a railway
near at hand a bunch of dark masts the steamer
showing a few lights, far down at the tip of a long
spit of land, remote in mid-harbour. And so off we
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SEA AND SARDINIA
went, the barefoot urchin twinkling a few yards ahead,
on the road that followed the spit of land. The spit
was wide enough to carry this road, and a railway.
On the right was a silent house apparently built on
piles in the harbour. Away far down in front leaned
our glimmering steamer, and a little train was shunt-
ing trucks among the low sheds beside it. Night had
fallen, and the great stars flashed. Orion was in the
air, and his dog-star after him. We followed on down
the dark bar between the silent, lustrous water. The
harbour was smooth as glass, and gleaming like a mir-
ror. Hills came round encircling it entirely dark
land ridging up and lying away out, even to seaward.
One was not sure which was exactly seaward. The
dark encircling of the land seemed stealthy, the hills
had a remoteness, guarding the waters in the silence.
Perhaps the great mass away beyond was Tavolara
again. It seemed like some lumpish berg guarding
an arctic, locked-up bay where ships lay dead.
On and on we followed the urchin, till the town was
left behind, until it also twinkled a few meagre lights
out of its low, confused blackness at the bay-head,
across the waters. We had left the ship-masts and
the settlement. The urchin padded on, only turning
now and again and extending a thin, eager hand
towards the kitchenino. Especially when some men
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TO TERRANOVA AND THE STEAMER
were advancing down the railway he wanted it: the
q-b's carrying it was a slur on his prowess. So the
kitchenino was relinquished, and the lark strode on
Till at last we came to the low sheds that squatted
between the steamer and the railway-end. The lark
led me into one, where a red-cap was writing. The
cap let me wait some minutes before informing me
that this was the goods office the ticket office was
further on. The lark flew at him and said "Then
you've changed it, have you?" And he led me on to
another shed, which was just going to shut up. Here
they finally had the condescension to give me two
tickets a hundred and fifty francs the two. So we
followed the lark who strode like Scipio Africanus up
the gangway with the sack.
It was quite a small ship. The steward put me in
number one cabin the q-b in number seven. Each
cabin had four berths. Consequently man and woman
must separate rigorously on this ship. Here was a
blow for the q-b, who knows what Italian female fel-
low-passengers can be. However, there we were. All
the cabins were down below, and all, for some myster-
ious reason, inside no portholes outside. It was hot
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SEA AND SARDINIA
and close down below already. I pitched the sack on
my berth, and there stood the lark on the red carpet
at the door.
I gave him three francs. He looked at it as if it
were my death-warrant. He peered at the paper in
the light of the lamp. Then he extended his arm
with a gesture of superb insolence, flinging me back
my gold without a word.
"How!" said I. "Three francs are quite enough."
"Three francs two kilometers and three pieces
of luggage! No signore. No! Five francs. Cin-
que franchi!" And averting his pallid, old mud-
larking face, and flinging his hand out at me, he stood
the image of indignant repudiation. And truly, he
was no taller than my upper waistcoat pocket. The
brat! The brat! He was such an actor, and so im-
pudent, that I wavered between wonder and amuse-
ment and a great inclination to kick him up the steps.
I decided not to waste my energy being angry.
"What a beastly little boy! What a horrid little
boy! What a horrid little boy! Really a little
thief. A little swindler!" I mused aloud.
"Swindler!" he quavered after me. And he was
beaten. "Swindler" doubled him up: that and the
quiet mildness of my tone of invocation. Now he
[ 302 ]
TO TERRANOVA AND THE STEAMER
would have gone with his three francs. And now,
in final contempt, I gave him the other two.
He disappeared like a streak of lightning up the
gangway, terrified lest the steward should come and
catch him at his tricks. For later on I saw the steward
send other larks flying for demanding more than one-
fifty. The brat.
The question was now the cabin: for the q-b simply
refused to entertain the idea of sharing a cabin with
three Italian women, who would all be sick simply
for the fuss of it, though the sea was smooth as glass.
We hunted up the steward. He said all the first-class
cabins had four berths the second had three, but
much smaller. How that was possible I don't know.
However, if no one came, he would give us a cabin
The ship was clean and civilised, though very poky.
And there we were.
We went on deck. Would we eat on board, asked
another person. No, we wouldn't. We went out to
a fourth little shed, which was a refreshment stall, and
bought bread and sardines and chocolate and apples.
Then we went on the upper deck to make our meal.
In a sheltered place I lit the spirit lamp, and put on
[ 303 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
water to boil. The water we had taken from the cabin.
Then we sat down alone in the darkness, on a seat
which had its back against the deck cabins, now ap-
propriated by the staff. A thin, cold wind was travel-
ling. We wrapped the one plaid round us both and
snugged together, waiting for the tea to boil. I could
just see the point of the spirit-flame licking up, from
where we sat.
The stars were marvellous in the soundless sky, so
big, that one could see them hanging orb-like and
alone in their own space, yet all the myriads. Particu-
larly bright the evening-star. And he hung flashing
in the lower night with a power that made me hold
my breath. Grand and powerful he sent out his
flashes, so sparkling that he seemed more intense than
any sun or moon. And from the dark, uprising land
he sent his way of light to us across the water, a mar-
vellous star-road. So all above us the stars soared
and pulsed, over that silent, night-dark, land-locked
After a long time the water boiled, and we drank
our hot tea and ate our sardines and bread and bits of
remaining Nuoro sausage, sitting there alone in the
intense starry darkness of that upper deck. I said
[ 304 ]
TO TERRANOVA AND THE STEAMER
alone: but no, two ghoulish ship's cats came howling
at us for the bits. And even when everything was
eaten, and the sardine-tin thrown in the sea, still they
circled and prowled and howled.
We sat on, resting under the magnificient deep heav-
ens, wrapped together in the old shepherd's shawl for
which I have blessed so often a Scottish friend, half
sheltered from the cold night wind, and recovering
somewhat from the sixty miles bus-ride we had done
As yet there was nobody on the ship we were the
very first, at least in the first class. Above, all was
silent and deserted. Below, all was lit-up and de-
serted. But it was a little ship, with accommodation
for some thirty first-class and forty second-class pass-
In the low deck forward stood two rows of cattle
eighteen cattle. They stood tied up side by side, and
quite motionless, as if stupefied. Only two had lain
down. The rest stood motionless, with tails dropped
and heads dropped, as if drugged or gone insensible.
These cattle on the ship fascinated the q-b. She in-
sisted on going down to them, and examining them
minutely. But there they were stiff almost as Noah's
Ark cows. What she could not understand was that
they neither cried nor struggled. Motionless terri-
[ 305 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
bly motionless. In her idea cattle are wild and indom-
itable creatures. She will not realise the horrid
strength of passivity and inertia which is almost the
preponderant force in domesticated creatures, men and
beast alike. There are fowls too in various coops
flappy and agitated these.
At last, at about half past seven the train from the
island arrived, and the people surged out in a mass.
We stood hanging over the end of the upper deck,
looking down. On they poured, in a thick mass, up
the gangway, with all conceivable sorts of luggage:
bundles, embroidered carry-alls, bags, saddle-bags
the q-b lamenting she had not bought one a sudden
surging mass of people and goods. There are soldiers
too but these are lined upon the bit of a quay, to
Our interest is to see whether there will be any more
first-class passengers. Coming up the wide board
which serves as .gangway each individual hands a ticket
to the man at the top, and is shooed away to his own
region usually second class. There are three sorts
of tickets green first-class, white second, and pink
third. The second-class passengers go aft, the third
class go forward, along the passage past our cabins,
into the steerage. And so we watch and watch the
[ 306 ]
TO TERRANOVA AND THE STEAMER
excited people come on board and divide. Nearly
all are second-class and a great many are women.
We have seen a few first-class men. But as yet no
women. And every hat with ospreys gives the q-b
For a long time we are safe. The women flood to
the second-class. One who is third, begs and beseeches
to go with her friends in the second. I am glad to
say without success. And then, alas, an elderly man
with a daughter, first-class. They are very respectable
and pleasant looking. But the q-b wails: "I'm sure
she will be sick."
Towards the end come three convicts, chained to-
gether. They wear the brownish striped homespun,
and do not look evil. They seem to be laughing to-
gether, not at all in distress. The two young soldiers
who guard them, and who have guns, look nervous. So
the convicts go forward to the steerage, past our cabins.
At last the soldiers are straightened up, and turned
on board. There almost at once they start making
a tent: drawing a huge tarpaulin over a cross rope in
the mid-deck below us, between the first and second
class regions. The great tarpaulin is pulled down well
on either side and fastened down, and it makes a big
[ 307 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
dark tent. The soldiers creep in and place their
And now it is the soldiers who fascinate the q-b. She
hangs over the bar above, and peers in. The soldiers
arrange themselves in two rows. They will sleep
with their heads on their bundles on either side of the
tent, the two rows of feet coming together inwards.
But first they must eat, for it is eight o'clock and more.
Out come their suppers: a whole roast fowl, hunks
of kid, legs of lamb, huge breads. The fowl is dis-
membered with a jackknife in a twinkling, and shared.
Everything among the soldiers is shared. There they
sit in their pent-house with its open ends, crowded to-
gether and happy, chewing with all their might and
clapping one another on the shoulder lovingly, and
taking swigs at the wine bottles. We envy them their
At last all are on board the omnibus has driven
up from town and gone back. A last young lout dashes
up in a carriage and scuffles aboard. The crew begins
to run about. The quay-porters have trotted on board
with the last bales and packages all is stowed safely.
The steamer hoots and hoots. Two men and a girl
kiss their friends all round and get off the ship.
The night re-echoes the steamer's hoots. The sheds
[ 308 ]
TO TERRANOVA AND THE STEAMER
have gone all dark. Far off the town twinkles very
sparsely. All is night-deserted. And so the gang-
way is hauled up, and the rope hawsers quickly wound
in. We are drifting away from the quay side. The
few watchers wave their white handkerchiefs, stand-
ing diminutive and forlorn on the dark little quay, in
the heart of the dark, deserted harbour. One woman
cries and waves and weeps. A man makes exaggerated
flag-wagging signals with his white handky, and feels
important. We drift and the engines begin to beat.
We are moving in the land-locked harbour.
Everybody watches. The commander and the crew
shout orders. And so, very slowly, and without any
fuss at all, like a man wheeling a barrow out of a
yard gate, we throb very slowly out of the harbour,
past one point, then past another, away from the en-
circling hills, away from the great lump of Tavolara
which is to southward, away from the outreaching land
to the north, and over the edge of the open sea.
And now to try for a cabin to ourselves. I approach
the steward. Yes, he says, he has it in mind. But
there are eighty second-class passengers, in an accom-
modation space for forty. The transit-controller is
now considering it. Most probably he will transfer
[ 309 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
some second-class women to the vacant first-class cabins.
If he does not do so, then the steward will accom-
I know what this means this equivocation. We
decide not to bother any more. So we make a tour
of the ship to look at the soldiers, who have finished
eating, sitting yarning to one another, while some are
already stretched out in the shadow, for sleep. Then
to look at the cattle, which stand rooted to the deck
which is now all messy. To look at the unhappy
fowls in their coops. And a peep at the third-class
And so to bed. Already the other three berths in
my cabin are occupied, the lights are switched off . As
I enter I hear one young man tenderly enquiring of
the berth below: "Dost thou feel ill?" "Er not
much not much!" says the other faintly.
Yet the sea is like glass, so smooth.
I am quickly rolled in my lower berth, where I
feel the trembling of the machine-impelled ship, and
hear the creaking of the berth above me as its occupant
rolls over: I listen to the sighs of the others, the wash
of dark water. And so, uneasily, rather hot and very
airless, uneasy with the machine-throbbing and the
sighing of my companions, and with a cock that crows
shrilly from one of the coops, imagining the ship's
[ 310 ]
TO TERRANOVA AND THE STEAMER
lights to be dawn, the night goes by. One sleeps
but a bad sleep. If only there were cold air, not this
lower-berth, inside cabin airlessness.
THE sea being steady as a level road, nobody
succeeded in being violently sick. My young
men rose at dawn I was not long in
following. It was a gray morning on deck, a gray sea,
a gray sky, and a gray, spider-cloth, unimportant
coast of Italy not far away. The q-b joined me: and
quite delighted with her fellow-passenger: such a nice
girl, she said! who, when she let down her ordinary-
looking brown hair, it reached rippling right to her
feet! Voila! You never know your luck.
The cock that had crowed all night crowed again,
hoarsely, with a sore throat. The miserable cattle
looked more wearily miserable, but still were motion-
less, as sponges that grow at the bottom of the sea.
The convicts were out for air: grinning. Someone told
us they were war-deserters. Considering the light in
which these people look on war, desertion seemed to
me the only heroism. But the q-b, brought up in a
military air, gazed upon them as upon men mirac-
ulously alive within the shadow of death. According
to her code they had been shot when re-captured. The
soldiers had unslung the tarpaulin, their home for the
night had melted with the darkness, they were mere
fragments of gray transit smoking cigarettes and staring
We drew near to Civita Vecchia: the old, mediae-
val looking port, with its castle, and a round fortress-
barracks at the entrance. Soldiers aboard shouted and
waved to soldiers on the ramparts. We backed in-
significantly into the rather scrubby, insignificant har-
bour. And in five minutes we were out, and walking
along the wide, desolate boulevard to the station. The
cab-men looked hard at us: but no doubt owing to the
knapsack, took us for poor Germans.
Coffee and milk and then, only about three-quart-
ers of an hour late, the train from the north. It is
the night express from Turin. There was plenty of
room so in we got, followed by half a dozen Sardin-
ians. We found a large, heavy Torinese in the car-
riage, his eyes dead with fatigue. It seemed quite a
new world on the mainland: and at once one breathed
again the curious suspense that is in the air. Once
more I read the Corriere della Sera from end to end.
Once more we knew ourselves in the real active world,
SEA AND SARDINIA
where the air seems like a lively wine dissolving the
pearl of the old order. I hope, dear reader, you like
the metaphor. Yet I cannot forbear repeating how
strongly one is sensible of the solvent property of the
atmosphere, suddenly arriving on the mainland again.
And in an hour one changes one's psyche. The hu-
man being is a most curious creature. He thinks he
has got one soul, and he has got dozens. I felt my
sound Sardinian soul melting off me, I felt myself
evaporating into the real Italian uncertainty and mo-
mentaneity. So I perused the Corriere whilst the
metamorphosis took place. I like Italian newspapers
because they say what they mean, and not merely what
is most convenient to say. We call it naivete I call
it manliness. Italian newspapers read as if they were
written by men, and not by calculating eunuchs.
The train ran very heavily along the Maremma. It
began to rain. Then we stopped at a station where
we should not stop somewhere in the Maremma
country, the invisible sea not far off, the low country
cultivated and yet forlorn. Oh how the Turin man
sighed, and wearily shifted his feet as the train stood
meaningless. There it sat in the rain. Oh express!
At last on again, till we were winding through the
curious long troughs of the Roman Campagna. There
[ 3H 3
the shepherds minded the sheep: the slender-footed
merino sheep. In Sardinia the merinos were very
white and glistening, so that one thought of the Script-
ural "white as wool." And the black sheep among
the flock were very black. But these Campagna were
no longer white, but dingy. And though the wildness
of the Campagna is a real wildness still, it is a historic
wildness, familiar in its way as a fireside is familiar.
So we approach the hopeless sprawling of modern
Rome over the yellow Tiber, past the famous pyra-
mid tomb, skirting the walls of the city, till at last we
plunge in, into the well-known station, out of all the
We are late. It is a quarter to twelve. And I
have to go out and change money, and I hope to find
my two friends. The q-b and I dash down the plat-
form no friends at the barrier. The station moder-
ately empty. We bolt across to the departure plat-
forms. The Naples train stands ready. In we pitch
our bags, ask a naval man not to let anyone steal them,
then I fly out into town while the q-b buys food and
wine at the buffet.
It no longer rains, and Rome feels as ever rather
holiday-like and not inclined to care about anything.
I get a hundred and three lira for each pound note:
pocket my money at two minutes past twelve, and bolt
[ 315 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
back, out of the Piazza delle Terme. Aha, there are
the two missing ones, just descending vaguely from a
carriage, the one gazing inquiringly through his mono-
cle across the tram-lines, the other very tall and alert
and elegant, looking as if he expected us to appear out
of the air for his convenience.
Which is exactly what happens. We fly into each
other's arms. "Oh there you are! Where's the q-b?
Why are you here? We've been to the arrival plat-
form no sign of you. Of course I only got your wire
half an hour ago. We flew here. Well, how nice
to see you. Oh, let the man wait. What, going on
at once to Naples? But must you? Oh, but how
flighty you are! Birds of passage veramente! Then
let us find the q-b, quick! And they won't let us on
the platform. No, they're not issuing platform tick-
ets today. Oh, merely the guests returning from
that Savoy-Bavarian wedding in the north, a few royal
Duchesses about. Oh well, we must try and wangle
At the barrier a woman trying in vain to be let on
to the station. But what a Roman matron can't do, an
elegant young Englishman can. So our two heroes
wangle their way in, and fall into the arms of the q-b
by the Naples train. Well, now, tell us all about it!
So we rush into a four-branched candlestick of con-
[ 316 ]
versation. In my ear murmurs he of the monocle
about the Sahara he is back from the Sahara a week
ago: the winter sun in the Sahara! He with the
smears of paint on his elegant trousers is giving the
q-b a sketchy outline of his now grande passion. Click
goes the exchange, and him of the monocle is detailing
to the q-b his trip to Japan, on which he will start in
six weeks' time, while him of the paint-smears is ex-
patiating on the thrills of the etching needle, and con-
cocting a plan for a month in Sardinia in May, with
me doing the scribbles and he the pictures. What sort
of pictures? Out flies the name of Goya. And well
now, a general rush into oneness, and won't they come
down to Sicily to us for the almond blossom: in about
ten days' time. Yes they will wire when the almond
blossom is just stepping on the stage and making its
grand bow, and they will come next day. Somebody
has smitten the wheel of a coach two ringing smacks
with a hammer. This is a sign to get in. The q-b is
terrified the train will slip through her fingers. "I'm
frightened, I must get in." "Very well then!
You're sure you have everything you want? Every-
thing? A fiasco of vino? Oh two! All the better!
Well then ten days' time. All right quite sure
how nice to have seen you, if only a glimpse. Yes,
[ 317 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
yes, poor q-b! Yes, you're quite safe. Good-bye!
The door is shut we are seated the train moves
out of the station. And quickly on this route Rome
disappears. We are out on the wintry Campagna,
where crops are going. Away on the left we see the
Tivoli hills, and think of the summer that is gone, the
heat, the fountains of the Villa D'Este. The train
rolls heavily over the Campagna, towards the Alban
So we fall on our food, and devour the excellent
little beef-steaks and rolls and boiled eggs, apples and
oranges and dates, and drink the good red wine, and
wildly discuss plans and the latest news, and are alto-
gether thrilled about things. So thrilled that we are
well away among the romantic mountains of the south-
centre before we realise that there are other passengers
besides ourselves in the carriage. Half the journey is
over. Why, there is the monastery on its high hill!
In a wild moment I suggest we shall get down and
spend a night up there at Montecassino, and see the
other friend, the monk who knows so much about the
world, being out of it. But the q-b shudders, think-
ing of the awful winter coldness of that massive stone
monastery, which has no spark of heating apparatus.
[ 318 ]
And therefore the plan subsides, and at Cassino station
I only get down to procure coffee and sweet cakes.
They always have good things to eat at Cassino sta-
tion: in summer, big fresh ices and fruits and iced
water, in winter toothsome sweet cakes which make an
awfully good finish to a meal.
I count Cassino half way to Naples. After Cassino
the excitement of being in the north begins quite to
evaporate. The southern heaviness descends upon us.
Also the sky begins to darken: and the rain falls. I
think of the night before us, on the sea again. And
I am vaguely troubled lest we may not get a berth.
However, we may spend the night in Naples: or even
sit on in this train, which goes forward, all through the
long long night, to the Straits of Messina. We must
decide as we near Naples.
Half dozing, one becomes aware of the people about
one. We are travelling second class. Opposite is a
little, hold-your-own school-mistressy young person
in pince-nez. Next her a hollow-cheeked white sol-
dier with ribbons on his breast. Then a fat man in
a corner. Then a naval officer of low rank. The
naval officer is coming from Fiume, and is dead with
sleep and perhaps mortification. D'Annunzio has
just given up. Two compartments away we hear sol-
[ 319 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
diers singing, martial still though bruised with fatigue,
the D'Annunzio-bragging songs of Fiume. They are
soldiers of the D'Annunzio legion. And one of them,
I hear the sick soldier saying, is very hot and republican
still. Private soldiers are not allowed, with their re-
duced tickets, to travel on the express trains. But these
legionaries are not penniless: they have paid the excess
and come along. For the moment they are sent to
their homes. And with heads dropping with fatigue,
we hear them still definantly singing down the carriage
A regular officer went along a captain of the Ital-
ian, not the Fiume army. He heard the chants and
entered the carriage. The legionaries were quiet, but
they lounged and ignored the entry of the officer. "On
your feet!" he yelled, Italian fashion. The vehe-
mence did it. Reluctantly as may be, they stood up
in the compartment. "Salute!" And though it was
bitter, up went their hands in the salute, whilst he
stood and watched them. And then, very superb, he
sauntered away again. They sat down glowering.
Of course they were beaten. Didn't they know it.
The men in our carriage smiled curiously: in slow and
futile mockery of both parties.
The rain was falling outside, the windows were
steamed quite dense, so that we were shut in from the
[ 320 ]
world. Throughout the length of the train, which was
not very full, could be felt the exhausted weariness
and the dispirited dejection of the poor D'Annunzio
legionaries. In the afternoon silence of the mist-
enclosed, half-empty train the snatches of song broke
out again, and faded in sheer dispirited fatigue. We
ran on blindly and heavily. But one young fellow
was not to be abashed. He was well-built, and his
thick black hair was brushed up, like a great fluffy
crest upon his head. He came slowly and unabated
down the corridor, and on every big, mist-opaque pane
he scrawled with his finger W D'ANNUNZIO
GABRIELE W D'ANNUNZIO GABRIELE.
The sick soldier laughed thinly, saying to the school-
mistress: "Oh yes, they are fine chaps. But it was
folly. D'Annunzio is a world poet a world wonder
but Fiume was a mistake you know. And these
chaps have got to learn a lesson. They got beyond
themselves. Oh, they aren't short of money. D'An-
nunzio had wagon-loads of money there in Fiume, and
he wasn't altogether mean with it." The schoolmis-
tress, who was one of the sharp ones, gave a little
disquisition to show why it was a mistake, and wherein
she knew better than the world's poet and wonder.
It always makes me sick to hear people chewing over
SEA AND SARDINIA
The sick soldier was not a legionary. He had been
wounded through the lung. But it was healed, he
said. He lifted the flap of his breast pocket, and there
hung a little silver medal. It was his wound-medal.
He wore it concealed: and over the place of the wound.
He and the schoolmistress looked at one another
Then they talked pensions: and soon were on the
old topic. The schoolmistress had her figures pat, as a
schoolmistress should. Why, the ticket-collector, the
man who punches one's tickets on the train, now had
twelve thousand Lira a year: twelve thousand Lira.
Monstrous! Whilst a fully-qualified professore, a
schoolmaster who had been through all his training
and had all his degrees, was given five thousand. Five
thousand for a fully qualified professore, and twelve
thousand for a ticket puncher. The soldier agreed,
and quoted other figures. But the railway was the
outstanding grievance. Every boy who left school
now, said the school-mistress, wanted to go on the rail-
way. Oh but said the soldier the train-men !
The naval officer, who collapsed into the most un-
canny positions, blind with sleep, got down at Capua
to get into a little train that would carry him back to
his own station, where our train had not stopped. At
[ 322 ]
Caserta the sick soldier got out. Down the great
avenue of trees the rain was falling. A young man
entered. Remained also the schoolmistress and the
stout man. Knowing we had been listening, the
schoolmistress spoke to us about the soldier. Then
she had said she was catching the night boat for
Palermo I asked her if she thought the ship would
be very full. Oh yes, very full, she said. Why,
hers was one of the last cabin numbers, and she had
got her ticket early that morning. The fat man now
joined in. He too was crossing to Palermo. The
ship was sure to be quite full by now. Were we de-
pending on booking berths at the port of Naples? We
were. Whereupon he and the schoolmistress shook
their heads and said it was more than doubtful nay,
it was as good as impossible. For the boat was the
renowned Citta di Trieste, that floating palace, and
such was the fame of her gorgeousness that everybody
wanted to travel by her.
"First and second class alike?" I asked.
"Oh yes, also first class," replied the school-marm
rather spitefully. So I knew she had a white ticket
I cursed the Citta di Trieste and her gorgeousness,
and looked down my nose. We had now two alter-
natives: to spend the night in Naples, or to sit on all
[ 323 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
through the night and next morning, and arrive home,
with heaven's aid, in the early afternoon. Though
these long-distance trains think nothing of six hours
late. But we were tired already. What we should
be like after another twenty-four hours' sitting, heaven
knows. And yet to struggle for a bed in a Naples
hotel this night, in the rain, all the hotels being at
present crammed with foreigners, that was no rosy
prospect. Oh dear!
However, I was not going to take their discourage-
ment so easily. One has been had that way before.
They love to make the case look desperate.
Were we English? asked the schoolmistress. We
were. Ah, a fine thing to be English in Italy now.
Why? rather tart from me. Because of the cambio,
the exchange. You English, with your money ex-
change, you come here and buy everything for nothing,
you take the best of everything, and with your money
you pay nothing for it. Whereas we poor Italians we
pay heavily for everything at an exaggerated price, and
we can have nothing. Ah, it is all very nice to be
English in Italy now. You can travel, you go to the
hotels, you can see everything and buy everything, and
it costs you nothing. What is the exchange today?
She whipped it out. A hundred and four, twenty.
This she told me to my nose. And the fat man
[ 324 ]
murmured bitterly gid! gid! ay! ay! Her imperti-
nence and the fat man's quiet bitterness stirred my bile.
Has not this song been sung at me once too often, by
You are mistaken, said I to the schoolmistress. We
don't by any means live in Italy for nothing. Even
with the exchange at a hundred and three, we don't live
for nothing. We pay, and pay through the nose, for
whatever we have in Italy: and you Italians see that
we pay. What! You put all the tariff you do on
foreigners, and then say we live here for nothing. I
tell you I could live in England just as well, on the
same money perhaps better. Compare the cost of
things in England with the cost here in Italy, and even
considering the exchange, Italy costs nearly as much
as England. Some things are cheaper here the rail-
way comes a little cheaper, and is infinitely more mis-
erable. Travelling is usually a misery. But other
things, clothes of all sorts, and a good deal of food is
even more expensive here than in England, exchange
Oh yes, she said, England had had to bring her prices
down this last fortnight. In her own interests indeed.
"This last fortnight! This last six months," said
I. "Whereas prices rise every single day here."
[ 325 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
Here a word from the quiet young man who had
got in at Caserta.
"Yes," he said, "yes. I say, every nation pays in
its own money, no matter what the exchange. And it
works out about equal."
But I felt angry. Am I always to have the exchange
flung in my teeth, as if I were a personal thief? But
the woman persisted.
"Ah," she said, "we Italians, we are so nice, we are
so good. Noi, siamo cosi buoni. We are so good-
natured. But others, they are not buoni, they are
not good-natured to us." And she nodded her head.
And truly, I did not feel at all good-natured towards
her: which she knew. And as for the Italian good-
nature, it forms a sound and unshakeable basis nowa-
days for their extortion and self -justification and spite.
Darkness was falling over the rich flat plains that
lie around Naples, over the tall uncanny vines with
their brown thongs in the intensely cultivated black
earth. It was night by the time we were in that vast
and thievish station. About half -past five. We were
not very late. Should we sit on in our present carriage,
and go down in it to the port, along with the school-
mistress, and risk it? But first look at the coach which
was going on to Sicily. So we got down and ran along
[ 326 ]
the train to the Syracuse coach. Hubbub, confusion,
a wedge in the corridor, and for sure no room. Cer-
tainly no room to lie down a bit. We could not sit
tight for twenty-four hours more.
So we decided to go to the port and to walk.
Heaven knows when the railway carriage would be
shunted down. Back we went therefore for the sack,
told the schoolmistress our intention.
"You can but try," she said frostily.
So there we are, with the sack over my shoulder and
the kitchenino in the q-b's hand, bursting out of that
thrice-damned and annoying station, and running
through the black wet gulf of a Naples night, in a slow
rain. Cabmen look at us. But my sack saved me. I
am weary of that boa-constrictor, a Naples cabman after
dark. By day there is more-or-less a tariff.
It is about a mile from the station to the quay where
the ship lies. We make our way through the deep,
gulf -like streets, over the slippery black cobbles. The
black houses rise massive to a great height on either
side, but the streets are not in this part very narrow.
We plunge forwards in the unearthly half-darkness of
this great uncontrolled city. There are no lights at
all from the buildings only the small electric lamps
of the streets.
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SEA AND SARDINIA
So we emerge on the harbour front, and hurry past
the great storehouses in the rainy night, to where the
actual entrances begin. The tram bangs past us. We
scuffle along that pavement-ridge which lies like an
isthmus down the vast black quicksands of that harbour
road. One feels peril all round. But at length we
come to a gate by the harbour railway. No, not that,
On to the next iron gate of the railway crossing. And so
we run out past the great sheds and the buildings of the
port station, till we see a ship rearing in front, and the
sea all black. But now where is that little hole where
one gets the tickets? We are at the back of everywhere
in this desert jungle of the harbour darkness.
A man directs us round the corner and actually does
not demand money. It is the sack again. So there,
I see the knot of men, soldiers chiefly, fighting in
a bare room round a tiny wicket. I recognise the place
where I have fought before.
So while the q-b stands guard over sack and bag,
I plunge into the fray. It literally is a fight. Some
thirty men all at once want to get at a tiny wicket in a
blank wall. There are no queue-rails, there is no or-
der: just a hole in a blank wall, and thirty fellows,
mostly military, pressing at it in a mass. But I have
done this before. The way is to insert the thin end
[ 328 ]
of oneself, and without any violence, by deadly
pressure and pertinacity come at the goal. One hand
must be kept fast over the money pocket, and one
must be free to clutch the wicket-side when one gets
there. And thus one is ground small in those mills
of God, Demos struggling for tickets. It isn't very
nice so close, so incomparably crushed. And never
for a second must one be off one's guard for one's watch
and money and even hanky. When I first came to
Italy after the war I was robbed twice in three weeks,
floating round in the sweet old innocent confidence in
mankind. Since then I have never ceased to be on
my guard. Somehow or other, waking and sleeping
one's spirit must be on its guard nowadays. Which
is really what I prefer, now I have learnt it. Con-
fidence in the goodness of mankind is a very thin pro-
tection indeed. Integer vitae scelerisque furus will
do nothing for you when it comes to humanity, however
efficacious it may be with lions and wolves. There-
fore, tight on my guard, like a screw biting into a bit
of wood, I bite my way through that knot of fellows,
to the wicket, and shout for two first-class. The clerk
inside ignores me for some time, serving soldiers. But
if you stand like Doomsday you get your way. Two
firsts, says the clerk. Husband and wife, say I, in
case there is a two-berth cabin. Jokes behind. But
[ 329 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA^
I get my tickets. Impossible to put my hand to my
pocket. The tickets cost about a hundred and five
francs each. Clutching paper change and the green
slips, with a last gasp I get out of the knot. So we've
done it. As I sort my money and stow away, I hear
another ask for one first-class. Nothing left, says the
clerk. So you see how one must fight.
I must say for these dense and struggling crowds,
they are only intense, not violent, and not in the least
brutal. I always feel a certain sympathy with the
men in them.
Bolt through the pouring rain to the ship. And in
two minutes we are aboard. And behold, each of us
has a deck cabin, I one to myself, the q-b to herself
next door. Palatial not a cabin at all, but a proper
little bedroom with a curtained bed under the port-
hole windows, a comfortable sofa, chairs, table, carpets,
big wash-bowls with silver taps a whole de luxe. I
dropped the sack on the sofa with a gasp, drew back
the yellow curtains of the bed, looked out of the port-
hole at the lights of Naples, and sighed with relief.
One could wash thoroughly, refreshingly, and change
one's linen. Wonderful!
The state-room is like an hotel lounge, many little
[ 330 ]
tables with flowers and periodicals, arm-chairs, warm
carpet, bright but soft lights, and people sitting about
chatting. A loud group of English people in one
corner, very assured: two quiet English ladies: various
Italians seeming quite modest. Here one could sit
in peace and rest, pretending to look at an illustrated
magazine. So we rested. After about an hour there
entered a young Englishman and his wife, whom we
had seen on our train. So, at last the coach had been
shunted down to the port. Where should we have
been had we waited!
The waiters began to flap the white table-cloths and
spread the tables nearest the walls. Dinner would
begin at half-past seven, immediately the boat started.
We sat in silence, till eight or nine tables were spread.
Then we let the other people take their choice. After
which we chose a table by ourselves, neither of us want-
ing company. So we sat before the plates and the
wine-bottles and sighed in the hopes of a decent meal.
Food by the way is not included in the hundred-and-
Alas, we were not to be alone: two young Neapoli-
tans, pleasant, quiet, blond, or semi-blond. They were
well-bred, and evidently of northern extraction. Af-
terwards we found out they were jewellers. But I
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SEA AND SARDINIA
liked their quiet, gentle manners. The dinner began,
and we were through the soup, when up pranced an-
other young fellow, rather strapping and loud, a com-
mercial traveller, for sure. He had those cocky as-
sured manners of one who is not sure of his manners.
He had a rather high forehead, and black hair brushed
up in a showy wing, and a large ring on his finger.
Not that a ring signifies anything. Here most of the
men wear several, all massively jewelled. If one be-
lieved in all the jewels, why Italy would be more
fabulous than fabled India. But our friend the
bounder was smart, and smelled of cash. Not money,
I had an inkling of what to expect when he handed
the salt and said in English "Salt, thenk you." But
I ignored the advance. However, he did not wait
long. Through the windows across the room the q-b
saw the lights of the harbour slowly moving. "Oh,"
she cried, "are we going?" And also in Italian:
"Partiamo?" All watched the lights, the bounder
screwing round. He had one of the fine, bounderish
"Yes," he said. "We going"
"Oh," cried she. "Do you speak English? "
"Ye-es. Some English I speak."
As a matter of fact he spoke about forty disconnected
[ 332 ]
words. But his accent was so good for these forty.
He did not speak English, he imitated an English
voice making sounds. And the effect was startling.
He had served on the Italian front with the Scots
Guards so he told us in Italian. He was Milanese.
Oh, he had had a time with the Scots Guards.
Wheesky eh? Wheesky.
"Come along bhoys!" he shouted.
And it was such a Scotch voice shouting, so loud-
mouthed and actual, I nearly went under the table.
It struck us both like a blow.
Afterwards he rattled away without misgiving. He
was a traveller for a certain type of machine, and was
doing Sicily. Shortly he was going to England and
he asked largely about first-class hotels. Then he
asked was the q-b French? Was she Italian? No,
she was German. Ah German. And immediately
out he came with the German word: "Deutsch!
Deutsch, eh? From Deutschland. Oh yes!
Deutschland iiber alles! Ah, I know. No more
what? Deutschland unter alles now? Deutschland
unter alles." And he bounced on his seat with gratifi-
cation of the words. Of German as of English he
knew half a dozen phrases.
"No," said the q-b, "Not Deutschland unter alles.
Not for long, anyhow."
[ 333 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
"How? Not for long? You think so? I think
so too," said the bounder. Then in Italian: "La Ger-
mania won't stand under all for long. No, no. At
present it is England iiber alles. England uber dies.
But Germany will rise up again."
"Of course," said the q-b. "How shouldn't she?"
"Ah," said the bounder, "while England keeps the
money in her pocket, we shall none of us rise up. Italy
won the war, and Germany lost it. And Italy and
Germany they both are down, and England is up.
They both are down, and England is up. Eng-
land and France. Strange, isn't it? Ah, the al-
lies. What are the allies for? To keep England up,
and France half way, and Germany and Italy down."
"Ah, they won't stay down for ever," said the q-b.
"You think not? Ah! We will see. We will see
how England goes on now."
"England is not going on so marvellously, after all,"
"How not? You mean Ireland?"
"No, not only Ireland. Industry altogether. Eng-
land is as near to ruin as other countries."
"Ma! With all the money, and we others with no
money? How will she be ruined?"
"And what good would it be to you if she were?"
"Oh well who knows. If England were ruined "
[ 334 ] '
a slow smile of anticipation spread over his face. How
he would love it how they would all love it, if Eng-
land were ruined. That is, the business part of them,
perhaps, would not love it. But the human part
would. The human part fairly licks its lips at the
thought of England's ruin. The commercial part,
however, quite violently disclaims the anticipations of
the human part. And there it is. The newspapers
chiefly speak with the commercial voice. But indi-
vidually, when you are got at in a railway carriage or
as now on a ship, up speaks the human voice, and you
know how they love you. This is no doubt inevitable.
When the exchange stands at a hundred and six men
go humanly blind, I suppose, however much they may
keep the commercial eye open. And having gone
humanly blind they bump into one's human self nastily:
a nasty jar. You know then how they hate you.
Underneath, they hate us, and as human beings we are
objects of envy and malice. They hate us, with envy,
and despise us, with jealousy. Which perhaps doesn't
hurt commercially. Humanly it is to me unpleasant.
The dinner was over, and the bounder was lavishing
cigarettes Murattis, if you please. We had all drunk
two bottles of wine. Two other commercial travellers
had joined the bounder at our table two smart young
fellows, one a bounder and one gentle and nice. Our
[ 335 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
two jewellers remained quiet, talking their share, but
quietly and so sensitively. One could not help liking
them. So we were seven people, six men.
"Wheesky! Will you drink Wheesky, Mister?"
said our original bounder. "Yes, one small Scotch!
One Scotch Wheesky." All this in a perfect Scotty
voice of a man standing at a bar calling for a drink. It
was comical, one could not but laugh : and very imperti-
nent. He called for the waiter, took him by the but-
ton-hole, and with a breast-to-breast intimacy asked if
there was whisky. The waiter, with the same tone of
he didn't think there was whisky, but he would look.
Our bounder went round the table inviting us all to
whiskies, and pressing on us his expensive English
cigarettes with great aplomb.
The whisky came and five persons partook. It
was fiery, oily stuff from heaven knows where. The
bounder rattled away, spouting his bits of English and
his four words of German. He was in high feather,
wriggling his large haunches on his chair and waving
his hands. He had a peculiar manner of wriggling
from the bottom of his back, with fussy self-assertive-
ness. It was my turn to offer whisky.
I was able in a moment's lull to peer through the
windows and see the dim lights of Capri the glimmer
[ 336 ]
of Anacapri up on the black shadow the lighthouse.
We had passed the island. In the midst of the babel
I sent out a few thoughts to a few people on the island.
Then I had to come back.
The bounder had once more resumed his theme of
PInghilterra, PItalia, la Germania. He swanked
England as hard as he could. Of course England was
the top dog, and if he could speak some English, if he
were talking to English people, and if, as he said, he
was going to England in April, why he was so much
the more top-doggy than his companions, who could
not rise to all these heights. At the same time, my
nerves had too much to bear.
Where were we going and where had we been and
where did we live? And ah, yes, English people lived
in Italy. Thousands, thousands of English people
lived in Italy. Yes, it was very nice for them. There
used to be many Germans, but now the Germans were
down. But the English what could be better for
them than Italy now: they had sun, they had warmth,
they had abundance of everything, they had a charming
people to deal with, and they had the cambio! Ecco!
The other commercial travellers agreed. They ap-
pealed to the q-b if it was not so. And altogether I
had enough of it.
"Oh yes," said I, "it's very nice to be in Italy:
[ 337 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
especially if you are not living in an hotel, and you
have to attend to things for yourself. It is very nice
to be overcharged every time, and then insulted if you
say a word. It's very nice to have the cambw thrown
in your teeth, if you say two words to any Italian, even
a perfect stranger. It's very nice to have waiters and
shop-people and railway porters sneering in a bad
temper and being insulting in small, mean ways all the
time. It's very nice to feel what they all feel against
you. And if you understand enough Italian, it's very
nice to hear what they say when you've gone by. Oh
very nice. Very nice indeed! "
I suppose the whisky had kindled this outburst in
me. They sat dead silent. And then our bounder be-
gan, in his sugary deprecating voice.
"Why no! Why no! It is not true, signore. No,
it is not true. Why, England is the foremost nation
in the world "
"And you want to pay her out for it."
"But no, signore. But no. What makes you say so?
Why, we Italians are so goodnatured. Noi Italiani
siamo cosi buoni. Siamo cosi buoni."
It was the identical words of the schoolmistress.
"Buoni," said I. "Yes perhaps. Buoni when it's
not a question of the exchange and of money. But
[ 338 ]
since it is always a question of cambio and soldi, now,
one is always, in a small way, insulted."
I suppose it must have been the whisky. Anyhow
Italians can never bear hard bitterness. The jewellers
looked distressed, the bounders looked down their
noses, half exulting even now, and half sheepish, being
caught. The third of the commis voyageurs, the gen-
tle one, made large eyes and was terrified that he was
going to be sick. He represented a certain Italian
liqueur, and he modestly asked us to take a glass of it.
He went with the waiter to secure the proper brand.
So we drank and it was good. But he, the giver, sat
with large and haunted eyes. Then he said he would
go to bed. Our bounder gave him various advice re-
garding seasickness. There was a mild swell on the
sea. So he of the liqueur departed.
Our bounder thrummed on the table and hummed
something, and asked the q-b if she knew the Rosen-
cavalier. He always appealed to her. She said she
did. And ah, he was passionately fond of music, said
he. Then he warbled, in a head voice, a bit more.
He only knew classical music, said he. And he mewed
a bit of Moussorgsky. The q-b said Moussorgsky was
her favourite musician, for opera. Ah, cried the
bounder, if there were but a piano! There is a piano,
[ 339 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
said his mate. Yes, he replied, but it is locked up.
Then let us get the key, said his mate, with aplomb.
The waiters, being men with the same feelings as our
two, would give them anything. So the key was forth-
coming. We paid our bills mine about sixty francs.
Then we went along the faintly rolling ship, up the
curved staircase to the drawing room. Our bounder
unlocked the door of this drawing room, and switched
on the lights.
It was quite a pleasant room, with deep divans up-
holstered in pale colours, and palm-trees standing
behind little tables, and a black upright piano. Our
bounder sat on the piano-stool and gave us an exhibi-
tion. He splashed out noise on the piano in splashes,
like water splashing out of a pail. He lifted his head
and shook his black mop of hair, and yelled out some
fragments of opera. And he wriggled his large,
bounder's back upon the piano stool, wriggling upon his
well-filled haunches. Evidently he had a great deal
of feeling for music: but very little prowess. He
yelped it out, and wriggled, and splashed the piano.
His friend the other bounder, a quiet one in a pale suit,
with stout limbs, older than the wriggler, stood by the
piano whilst the young one exhibited. Across the
space of carpet sat the two brother jewellers, deep in
a divan, their lean, semi-blond faces quite inscrutable.
[ 340 ]
The q-b sat next to me, asking for this and that music,
none of which the wriggler could supply. He knew
four scraps, and a few splashes not more. The elder
bounder stood near him quietly comforting, encourag-
ing, and admiring him, as a lover encouraging and ad-
miring his ingenue betrothed. And the q-b sat bright-
eyed and excited, admiring that a man could perform
so unself -consciously self-conscious, and give himself
away with such generous wriggles. For my part, as
you may guess, I did not admire.
I had had enough. Rising, I bowed and marched
off. The q-b came after me. Goodnight, said I, at
the head of the corridor. She turned in, and I went
round the ship to look at the dark night of the sea.
Morning came sunny with pieces of cloud: and the
Sicilian coast towering pale blue in the distance. How
wonderful it must have been to Ulysses to venture into
this Mediterranean and open his eyes on all the love-
liness of the tall coasts. How marvellous to steal with
his ship into these magic harbours. There is something
eternally morning-glamourous about these lands as they
rise from the sea. And it is always the Odyssey which
comes back to one as one looks at them. All the lovely
morning- wonder of this world, in Homer's day!
[ 341 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
Our bounder was dashing about on deck, in one of
those rain-coats gathered in at the waist and ballooning
out into skirts below the waist. He greeted me with
a cry of "It's a long, long way to Tipperary." "Very
long," said I. "Goodbye Piccadilly " he continued.
"Ciau," said I, as he dashed jauntily down the steps.
Soon we saw the others as well. But it was morning,
and I simply did not want to speak to them except
just Good-day. For my life I couldn't say two more
words to any of them this morning: except to ask the
mild one if he had been sick. He had not.
So we waited for the great Citta di Trieste to float
her way into Palermo harbour. It looked so near
the town there, the great circle of the port, the mass
of the hills crowding round. Panormus, the All-har-
bour. I wished the bulky steamer would hurry up.
For I hated her now. I hated her swankiness, she
seemed made for commercial travellers with cash. I
hated the big picture that filled one end of the state-
room: an elegant and ideal peasant-girl, a sort of Italia,
strolling on a lovely and ideal cliff's ' edge, among
myriad blooms, and carrying over her arm, in a most
sophisticated fashion, a bough of almond blossom and
a sheaf of anemones. I hated the waiters, and the
cheap elegance, the common de luxe. I disliked the
people, who all turned their worst, cash-greasy sides
[ 342 ]
outwards on this ship. Vulgar, vulgar post-war com-
mercialism and dog-fish money-stink. I longed to get
off. And the bloated boat edged her way so slowly
into the port, and then more slowly still edged round
her fat stern. And even then we were kept for fifteen
minutes waiting for someone to put up the gangway
for the first class. The second class, of course, were
streaming off and melting like thawed snow into the
crowds of onlookers on the quay, long before we were
allowed to come off.
Glad, glad I was to get off that ship: I don't know
why, for she was clean and comfortable and the attend-
ants were perfectly civil. Glad, glad I was not to
share the deck with any more commercial travellers.
Glad I was to be on my own feet, independent. No,
I would not take a carriage. I carried my sack on my
back to the hotel, looking with a jaundiced eye on the
lethargic traffic of the harbour front. It was about
Later on, when I had slept, I thought as I have
thought before, the Italians are not to blame for their
spite against us. We, England, have taken upon our-
selves for so long the role of leading nation. And if
now, in the war or after the war, we have led them
[ 343 1
SEA AND SARDINIA
all into a real old swinery which we have, notwith-
standing all Entente cant then they have a legitimate
grudge against us. If you take upon yourself to lead,
you must expect the mud to be thrown at you if you
lead into a nasty morass. Especially if, once in the
bog, you think of nothing else but scrambling out over
other poor devils' backs. Pretty behaviour of great
And still, for all that, I must insist that I am a
single human being, an individual, not a mere national
unit, a mere chip of PInghilterra or la Germania. I
am not a chip of any nasty old block. I am myself.
In the evening the q-b insisted on going to the mar-
ionettes, for which she has a sentimental passion. So
the three of us we were with the American friend
once more chased through dark and tortuous side-
streets and markets of Palermo in the night, until at
last a friendly man led us to the place. The back
streets of Palermo felt friendly, not huge and rather
horrible, like Naples near the port.
The theatre was a little hole opening simply off the
street. There was no one in the little ticket box, so
we walked past the door-screen. A shabby old man
with a long fennel-stalk hurried up and made us places
on the back benches, and hushed us when we spoke of
[ 344 ]
tickets. The play was in progress. A serpent-dragon
was just having a tussle with a knight in brilliant brass
armour, and my heart came into my mouth. The au-
dience consisted mostly of boys, gazing with frantic
interest on the bright stage. There was a sprinkling
of soldiers and elderly men. The place was packed
about fifty souls crowded on narrow little ribbons of
benches, so close one behind the other that the end of
the man in front of me continually encroached and sat
on my knee. I saw on a notice that the price of entry
was forty centimes.
We had come in towards the end of the performance,
and so sat rather bewildered, unable to follow. The
story was the inevitable Paladins of France one heard
the names Rinaldo! Orlando! again and again. But
the story was told in dialect, hard to follow.
I was charmed by the figures. The scene was very
simple, showing the interior of a castle. But the fig-
ures, which were about two-thirds of human size, were
wonderful in their brilliant, glittering gold armour,
and their martial prancing motions. All were knights
even the daughter of the king of Babylon. She was
distinguished only by her long hair. All were in the
beautiful, glittering armour, with helmets and visors
that could be let down at will. I am told this armour
has been handed down for many generations. It cer-
[ 345 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
tainly is lovely. One actor alone was not in armour,
the wizard Magicce, or Malvigge, the Merlin of the
Paladins. He was in a long scarlet robe, edged with
fur, and wore a three-cornered scarlet hat.
So we watched the dragon leap and twist and get
the knight by the leg: and then perish. We watched
the knights burst into the castle. We watched the
wonderful armour-clashing embraces of the delivered
knights, Orlando and his bosom friend and the little
dwarf, clashing their armoured breasts to the breasts
of their brothers and deliverers. We watched the
would-be tears flow. And then the statue of the witch
suddenly go up in flames^ at which a roar of exultation
from the boys. Then it was over. The theatre was
empty in a moment, but the proprietors and the two
men who sat near us would not let us go. We must
wait for the next performance.
My neighbour, a fat, jolly man, told me all about
it. His neighbour, a handsome tipsy man, kept con-
tradicting and saying it wasn't so. But my fat neigh-
bour winked at me, not to take offence.
This story of the Paladins of France lasted three
nights. We had come on the middle night of course.
But no matter each night was a complete story. I am
sorry I have forgotten the names of the knights. But
the story was, that Orlando and his friend and the
[ 346 )
little dwarf, owing to the tricks of that same dwarf,
who belonged to the Paladins, had been captured and
immured in the enchanted castle of the ghastly old
witch who lived on the blood of Christians. It was
now the business of Rinaldo and the rest of the
Paladins, by the help of Magicce the good wizard, to
release their captured brethren from the ghoulish old
So much I made out of the fat man's story, while
the theatre was filling. He knew every detail of the
whole Paladin cycle. And it is evident the Paladin
cycle has lots of versions. For the handsome tipsy
neighbour kept saying he was wrong, he was wrong,
and giving different stories, and shouting for a jury to
come and say who was right, he or my fat friend. A
jury gathered, and a storm began to rise. But the
stout proprietor with a fennel-wand came and quenched
the noise, telling the handsome tipsy man he knew too
much and wasn't asked. Whereupon the tipsy one
Ah, said my friend, couldn't I come on Friday. Fri-
day was a great night. On Friday they were giving
I Beati Paoli: The Blessed Pauls. He pointed to the
walls where were the placards announcing The Blessed
Pauls. These Pauls were evidently some awful secret
with masking hoods and dagger? and awful
I 347 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
eyes looking through the holes. I said were they
assassins like the Black Hand. By no means, by no
means. The Blessed Pauls were a society for the pro-
tection of the poor. Their business was to track down
and murder the oppressive rich. Ah, they were a won-
derful, a splendid society. Were they, said I, a sort of
camorra? Ah, on the contrary here he lapsed into
a tense voice they hated the camorra. These, the
Blest Pauls, were the powerful and terrible enemy of
the grand camorra. For the Grand Camorra op-
presses the poor. And therefore the Pauls track down
in secret the leaders of the Grand Camorra, and assas-
sinate them, or bring them to the fearful hooded
tribunal which utters the dread verdict of the Beati
Paoli. And when once the Beati Paoli have decreed
a man's death all over. Ah bellissimo, bellissimo!
Why don't I come on Friday?
It seems to me a queer moral for the urchins thick-
packed and gazing at the drop scene. They are all
males : urchins or men. I ask my fat friend why there
are no women no girls. Ah, he says, the theatre is
so small. But, I say, if there is room for all the boys
and men, there is the same room for girls and women.
Oh no not in this small theatre. Besides this is
nothing for women. Not that there is anything im-
proper, he hastens to add. Not at all. . But what
[ 348 1
should women and girls be doing at the marionette
show? It was an affair for males.
I agreed with him really, and was thankful we hadn't
a lot of smirking twitching girls and lasses in the au-
dience. This male audience was so tense and pure in
But hist ! the play is going to begin. A lad is grind-
ing a broken street-piano under the stage. The
padrone yells Silenzio! with a roar, and reaching over,
pokes obstreperous boys with his long fennel-stalk, like
a beadle in church. When the curtain rises the piano
stops, and there is dead silence. On swings a knight,
glittering, marching with that curious hippety lilt, and
gazing round with fixed and martial eyes. He begins
the prologue, telling us where we are. And dramati-
cally he waves his sword and stamps his foot, and won-
derfully sounds his male, martial, rather husky voice.
Then the Paladins, his companions who are to accom-
pany him, swing one by one onto the stage, till they are
five in all, handsome knights, including the Babylonian
Princess and the Knight of Britain. They stand in a
handsome, glittering line. And then comes Merlin in
his red robe. Merlin has a bright, fair, rather chubby
face and blue eyes, and seems to typify the northern
intelligence. He now tells them, in many words, how
to proceed and what is to be done.
[ 349 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
So then, the glittering knights are ready. Are they
ready? Rinaldo flourishes his sword with the wonder-
ful cry "Andiamo!" let us go and the others respond:
"Andiamo". Splendid word.
The first enemy were the knights of Spain, in red
kirtles and half turbans. With these a terrible fight.
First of all rushes in the Knight of Britain. He is the
boaster, who always in words, does everything. But
in fact, poor knight of Britain, he falls lamed. The
four Paladins have stood shoulder to shoulder, glitter-
ing, watching the fray. Forth now steps another
knight, and the fight recommences. Terrible is the
smacking of swords, terrible the gasps from behind the
dropped visors. Till at last the knight of Spain falls
and the Paladin stands with his foot on the dead.
Then loud acclamations from the Paladins, and yells
of joy from the audience.
"Silenzio!" yells the padrone, flourishing the fennel-
Dead silence, and the story goes on. The Knight
of Britain of course claims to have slain the foe: and
the audience faintly, jeeringly hisses. "He's always
the boaster, and he never does anything, the Knight
of Britain," whispers my fat friend. He has forgotten
my nationality. I wonder if the Knight of Britain is
[ 350 ]
pure tradition, or if a political touch of today has
However, this fray is over Merlin conies to advise
for the next move. And are we ready? We are
ready. Andiamo! Again the word is yelled out, and
they set off. At first one is all engaged watching the
figures: their brilliance, their blank, martial stare, their
sudden, angular, gestures. There is something ex-
tremely suggestive in them. How much better they
fit the old legend-tales than living people would do.
Nay, if we are going to have human beings on the stage,
they should be masked and disguised. For in fact
drama is enacted by symbolic creatures formed out of
human consciousness: puppets if you like: but not
human individuals. Our stage is all wrong, so boring
in its personality.
Gradually, however, I found that my eyes were of
minor importance. Gradually it was the voice that
gained hold of the blood. It is a strong, rather husky,
male voice that acts direct on the blood, not on the
mind. Again the old male Adam began to stir at the
roots of my soul. Again the old, first-hand indiffer-
ence, the rich, untamed male blood rocked down my
veins. What does one care? What does one care
for precept and mental dictation? Is there not the
massive, brilliant, out-flinging recklessness in the male
[ 351 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
soul, summed up in the sudden word: Andiamo!
Andiamo! Let us go on. Andiamo! let us go hell
knows where, but let us go on. The splendid reck-
lessness and passion that knows no precept and no
school-teacher, whose very molten spontaneity is its
I loved the voices of the Paladins Rinaldo's voice,
and Orlando's voice: the voice of men once more, men
who are not to be tutored. To be sure there was Mer-
lin making his long speeches in rather a chuntering,
prosy tone. But who was he? Was he a Paladin and
a splendour? Not he. A long-gowned chunterer.
It is the reckless blood which achieves all, the piff-piff-
piffing of the mental and moral intelligence is but
a subsidiary help, a mere instrument.
The dragon was splendid: I have seen dragons in
Wagner, at Covent Garden and at the Prinz-Regenten
Theater in Munich, and they were ridiculous. But this
dragon simply frightened me, with his leaping and
twisting. And when he seized the knight by the leg,
my blood ran cold.
With smoke and sulphur leaps in Beelzebub. But
he is merely the servant of the great old witch. He is
black and grinning, and he flourishes his posterior and
his tail. But he is curiously inefficacious: a sort of
lackey of wicked powers.
[ 35* ]
The old witch with her grey hair and staring eyes
succeeds in being ghastly. With just a touch, she
would be a tall, benevolent old lady. But listen to her.
Hear her horrible female voice with its scraping yells
of evil lustfulness. Yes, she fills me with horror.
And I am staggered to find how I believe in her as the
evil principle. Beelzebub, poor devil, is only one of
It is her old, horrible, girning female soul which
locks up the heroes, and which sends forth the awful
and almost omnipotent malevolence. This old,
ghastly woman-spirit is the very core of mischief.
And I felt my heart getting as hot against her as the
hearts of the lads in the audience were. Red, deep
hate I felt of that symbolic old ghoul-female. Poor
male Beelzebub is her loutish slave. And it takes all
Merlin's bright-faced intelligence, and all the surging
hot urgency of the Paladins, to conquer her.
She will never be finally destroyed she will never
finally die, till her statue, which is immured in the
vaults of the castle, is burned. Oh, it was a very
psychoanalytic performance altogether, and one could
give a very good Freudian analysis of it. But behold
this image of the witch: this white, submerged id,ea
of woman which rules from the deeps of the uncon-
scious. Behold, the reckless, untamable male knights
[ 353 ]
SEA AND SARDINIA
will do for it. As the statue goes up in flame it is
only paper over wires the audience yells! And yells
again. And would God the symbolic act were really
achieved. It is only little boys who yell. Men merely
smile at the trick. They know well enough the white
So it is over. The knights look at us once more.
Orlando, hero of heroes, has a slight inward cast of the
eyes. This gives him that look of almost fierce good-
nature which these people adore: the look of a man
who does not think, but whose heart is all the time red
hot with burning, generous blood-passion. This is
what they adore.
So my knights go. They all have wonderful faces,
and are so splendidly glittering and male. I am sorry
they will be laid in a box now.
There is a great gasp of relief. The piano starts its
lame rattle. Somebody looking round laughs. And
we all look round. And seated on the top of the ticket
office is a fat, solemn urchin of two or three years,
hands folded over his stomach, his forehead big and
blank, like some queer little Buddha. The audience
laughs with that southern sympathy: physical sympa-
thy: that is what they love to feel and to arouse.
But there is a little after-scene: in front of the drop-
curtain jerks out a little fat flat caricature of a Neapoli-
[ 354 ]
tan, and from the opposite side jerks the tall caricature
of a Sicilian. They jerk towards one another and
bump into one another with a smack. And smack goes
the Neapolitan, down on his posterior. And the boys
howl with joy. It is the eternal collision between the
two peoples, Neapolitan and Sicilian. Now goes on
a lot of fooling between the two clowns, in the two
dialects. Alas, I can hardly understand anything at
all. But it sounds comic, and looks very funny. The
Neapolitan of course gets most of the knocks. And
there seems to be no indecency at all unless once.
The boys howl and rock with joy, and no one says
But it is over. All is over. The theatre empties in
a moment. And I shake hands with my fat neighbour,
affectionately, and in the right spirit. Truly I loved
them all in the theatre: the generous, hot southern
blood, so subtle and spontaneous, that asks for blood
contact, not for mental communion or spirit sympathy.
I was sorry to leave them.
[ 355 ]
THE OUTSTANDING TRAVEL BOOK OF THE YEAR.
SEA AND SARDINIA
By D. H. LAWRENCE:
Illustrated with reproductions in full color of striking paintings made
especially to illustrate this loolc by Jan Juta; and a map of Sardinia by
An account of a trip Lawrence took in Sardinia. Chatty, intimate,
full of keen and unusual observations. It is a book that should be in the
homes of all. The text by Lawrence and the beautiful pictures by Jan
Juta make a rare combination.
Mr. Lawrence himself chose the talented young Jan Juta to make the
illustrations for this book. The whimsical, really humorous map by the
author, displaying high draughtsman skill, further adds to the
The illustrations singularly fit in with Mr. Lawrence's style, as they
are of a modern school, yet do not altogether break with classic tradition
Mr Juta is the son of Sir Henry Juta, Judge President of the Union o
South Africa. He was a pupil of the Slade School in London,
war ended, he has been abroad a good deal, visiting various countries in
search of new fields. His best recommendation, he says, is the fact
Mr D H Lawrence, who was attracted to his work in Italy, has selected
him to illustrate his book from among all the brilliant young arti
the modern school.
John Peak Bishop, in Vanity Fair, soys: "It is a remarkable 'travel
book,' this account of the Mediterranean, and the tall coasts of Italy, o
the hard and primitive island of Sardinia, of the peasants, still c
implacably to a medieval individualism, the men proudly dressed in the
old magpie motley, black and white, the women in stiff spreading ,
of mauve and vermilion, like Velasquez princesses-remarkable because
the unflagging sensitiveness and the sly observations."
New York Times: "Among the best things that Lawrence has done,
full of vivid description and compact with careful analysi; ^ ^
FIVE WEST FIFTIETH STREET, NEW YORK