After a couple of hours, they took sight of it, a rocky stretch, interrupted at almost regular intervals by small bays with half-moon beaches swept at regular intervals by sea waves. No villages were in sight, and the men stopped for a few moments to take in the view. It had an unquestionable, rugged beauty with the brown cliffs plunging into the blue sea. A bright October sky suffused with light from a pale sun rapidly descending toward the water, enveloped all of it. They scanned the shore with great attention, first to make sure there was no village within reach and then to determine the best place to start looking for food.
The night was falling, and they decided to spend it in one of the small protected beaches they had seen from higher up. Early in the morning, they started searching the rocks on each side of the bay for mussels, clams, and any other living creature that might have assuaged their growing hunger. They were bitterly disappointed. The beauty of the landscape was not mirrored by an equivalent generosity of the sea
If there was life, it was not evident to the mountain men crawling from rock to rock, slipping on the smooth surfaces covered by deep-green algae on which it was impossible to get a firm footing. Frustration pushed the most daring ones to dangle themselves from the ridges to look under the waterline for mollusks, as the waves retreated into the sea. Most were drenched by the next swell battering the rocks with a foamy fury that threatened to drag them away.
They kept going, drifting away from the trail they had descended from the mountains. Suddenly a soldier pointed to a house, standing on the slopes a few hundred yards higher up. It looked abandoned, but a darker patch on the side indicated the presence of a garden that seemed to be green and alive. A few soldiers filled their mess-tins with salt water, to cook any edible vegetables they might scrounge, and started hurrying up the slope to explore their discovery. The bean plants were still green and healthy but appeared without any fruit. Unwilling to surrender to a further disappointment without a fight, the men jumped over the low stone wall and dove in between the stalks to search for some bean pods forgotten by the gardener.
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