The House by the Medlar-Tree, by Giovanni Verga

vii.

THAT was a black Christmas for the Malavoglia. Just then Luca had to draw his number for the conscription a low number, too, like a poor devil as he was and he went off without many tears; they were used to it by this time. This time, also, ‘Ntoni accompanied his brother, with his cap over his ear, so that it seemed as if it were he who was going away, and he kept on saying that it was nothing, that he had been for a soldier himself. That day it rained, and the street was all one puddle.

“I don’t want you to come with me,” repeated Luca to his mother; “the station is a long way off.” And he stood at the door watching the rain come down on the medlar-tree, with his little bun-dle under his arm. Then he kissed the hands of his mother and his grandfather, and embraced Mena and the children.

So La Longa saw him go away, under the um-brella, accompanied by all his relations, jumping from stone to stone, in the little alley that was all one puddle; and the boy, who was as wise as his grandfather himself, turned up his trousers on the landing, although he wouldn’t have to wear them any more when he got his soldier-clothes. “This one won’t write home fof money when he is clown there,” thought the old man; “ and if God grants him life he will bring up once more the house by the medlar-tree.” But God did not grant him life, just because he was that sort of a fellow; and when there came, later on, the news of his death, a thorn remained in his mother’s heart because she had let him go away in the rain, and had not accompanied him to the station.

“Mamma,” said Luca, turning back, because his heart bled to leave her so silent, on the landing, looking like Our Lady of Sorrows, “when I come back I’ll let you know first, and then you can come and meet me at the station.”

And these words Maruzza never forgot while she lived; and till her death she bore also that other thorn in her heart, that her boy had not been present at the festa that was made when the Provvi-denza was launched anew, while all the place was there, and Barbara Zuppidda came out with the broom to sweep away the shavings. “ I do it for your sake,” she said to Padron ‘Ntoni’s ‘Ntoni; “because it is your Providence.”

“With the broom in your hand, you look like a queen,” replied ‘Ntoni. “ In all Trezza there is not so good a housewife as you.”

“Now you have taken away the Provvidenza, we shall not see you here any more, Cousin ‘Ntoni.”

“Yes, you will. Besides, this is the shortest way to the beach.”

“You come to see the Mangiacarubbe, who always goes to the window when you pass.”

“I leave the Mangiacarubbe for Rocco Spatu. I have other things in my mind.”

“Who knows what you have in your mind those pretty girls in foreign parts, perhaps?”

“There are pretty girls here, too, Cousin Bar-bara, and I know one very well.”

“Really?”

“By my soul!”

“What do you care?”

“I care! Yes, that I do; but she doesn’t care for me, because there are certain dandies who walk under her window with varnished boots.”

“I don’t even look at those varnished boots, by the Madonna of Ognino! Mamma says that var-nished boots are only fit to devour the dowry and everything else; and some fine day I shall go out with my distaff, and make him a scene, that Don Silvestro, who won’t leave me in peace.”

“Do you mean that seriously, Cousin Barbara?”

“Yes, indeed I do!”

“That pleases me right well,” said ‘Ntoni.

“Listen; let’s go down to the beach on Monday, when mamma goes to the fair.”

“On Mondays I never shall have a chance to breathe, now that the Provvidenza has been launched.”

Scarcely had Master Turi said that the boat was in order, than Padron ‘Ntoni went off to start her with his boys and all the neighbors; and the Prov-videnza, when she was going down to the sea, rocked about on the stones as if she were sea-sick among the crowd.

“This way, here!” called out Cousin Zuppiddu, louder than anybody; but the others shouted and struggled to push her back on the ways as she rocked over on the stones. “ Let me do it, or else I’ll just take the boat up in my arms like a baby, and put her in the water myself.”

“Master Turi is capable of doing it, with those arms of his,” said some one; or else, “Now the Malavoglia will be all right again.”

“That devil of a Cousin Zuppiddu has lucky fingers,” they exclaimed. “ Look how he has put her straight again, when she was like an old shoe.”

And in truth the Provvidenza did seem quite another boat — shining with new pitch, and with a bright red line along her side, and on the prow San Francesco, with his beard that seemed to have been made of tow, so much so that even La Longa had made peace with the Provvidenza, whom she had never forgiven, for coming back to her without her husband; but she made peace for fright, now that the bailiff had been in the house.

“Viva San Francesco!” called out every one as the Provvidenza passed; and La Locca’s son called out louder than anybody, in the hope that now Padron ‘Ntoni would hire him by the day, instead of his brother Menico. Mena stood on the landing, and once more she cried for joy; and, at last, even La Locca got up like the rest, and followed the Malavoglia.

“O Cousin Mena, this is a fine day for all of you,” said Alfio Mosca to her from his window opposite. “It will be like this when I can buy my mule.”

“And will you sell your donkey?”

“How can I? I’m not rich, like Vanni Pizzuti; if I were, I swear I wouldn’t sell him, poor beast! If I had enough to keep another person, I’d take a wife, and not live here alone like a dog.”

Mena didn’t know what to say, and Alfio added:

“Now that the Provvidenza has put to sea again, you’ll be married to Brasi Cipolla.”

“Grandpapa has said nothing about it.”

“He will. There’s still time. Between now and your marriage who knows how many things may happen, or by what different roads I shall drive my cart? I have been told that in the plain, at the other side of the town, there is work for everybody on the railroad. Now that Santuzza has arranged with Master Philip for the new wine, there is nothing to be done here.”

Meanwhile the Provvidenza had slipped into the sea like a duck, with her beak in the air, and danced on the green water, enjoying its coolness, while the sun glanced on her shining side. Padron ‘Ntoni enjoyed it, too, with his hands behind his back, and his legs apart, drawing his brows together, as sail-ors do when they want to see clearly in the sun-shine; for it was a fine winter’s day, and the fields were green and the sea shining and the deep blue sky had no end. So return the sunshine and the sweet winter mornings for the eyes that have wept, to whom the sky has seemed black as pitch; and:so all things renew themselves like the Provvidenza, for which a few pounds of tar and a handful of boards sufficed to make her new once more; and the eyes that see not these things are those that are done with weeping and are closed in death.

“Bastianazzo is not here to see this holiday!” thought Maruzza, as she went to and fro, arranging things in the house and about the loom where almost everything had been her husband’s work on Sundays or rainy clays and those hooks and shelves he had fixed in the wall with his own hands. Everything in the house was full of him, from his water-proof cape in the corner to his boots under the bed, that were almost new. Mena, setting up the warp, had a sad heart, too, for she was thinking of Alfio, who was going away, and would have sold his donkey, poor beast! for the young have short memories, and have only eyes for the rising sun; and no one looks westward save the old, who have seen the sun rise and set so many times.

“Now that the Provvidenza has put to sea again,” said Maruzza at last, noticing that her daughter was still pensive, “your grandfather has begun to go with Master Cipolla again; I saw them this morning, from the landing, before Peppi Naso’s shed.”

“Padron Fortunato is rich, and has nothing to do, and stays all day in the piazza,” answered Mena.

“Yes, and his son Brasi has plenty of the gifts of God. Now that we have our boat, and our men no longer need to go out by the day to work for others, we shall get out of this tangle; and if the souls in Purgatory will help us to get rid of the debt for the lupins, we shall be able to think of other things. Your grandfather is wide-awake, don’t you fear, and he won’t let you feel that you have lost your father. He will be another father to you.”

Shortly after arrived Padron ‘Ntoni, loaded with nets, so that he looked like a mountain, and you couldn’t see his face. “ IVe been to get them out of the bark,” he said, “ and I must look over the meshes, for tomorrow we must rig the Provvidenza”

“Why did you not get ‘Ntoni to help you?” an-swered Maruzza, pulling at one end of the net, while the old man turned round in the middle of the court, like a winder, to unwind the nets, which seemed to have no end, and looked like a great serpent trailing along.

“I left him there at the barber’s shop; poor boy, he has to work all the week, and it is hot even in January with all this stuff on one’s shoulders.”

Alessio laughed to see his grandfather so red, and bent round like a fish-hook, and the grandsire said to him, “ Look outside there; there is that poor Locca; her son is in the piazza, with nothing to do, and they have nothing to eat.” Maruzza sent Alessio to La Locca with some beans, and the old man, drying his forehead with the sleeve of his shirt, added:

“Now that we have our boat, if we live till sum-mer, with the help of God, we’ll pay the debt.”

He had no more to say, but sat under the medlar-tree looking at his nets, as if he saw them filled with fish.

“Now we must lay in the salt,” he said after a while, “ before they raise the tax, if it is true it is to be raised. Cousin Zuppiddu must be paid with the first money we get, and he has promised that he will then furnish the barrels on credit.”

“In the chest of drawers there is Mena’s linen, which is worth five scudi,” added Maruzza.

“Bravo! With old Crucifix I won’t make any more debts, because I have had a warning in the affair of the lupins; but he will give us thirty francs for the first time we go out with the Provvidenza”

“Let him alone!” cried La Longa. “ Uncle Crucifix’s money brings ill luck. Just this last night I heard the black hen crowing.”

“Poor thing!” cried the old man, smiling as he watched the black hen crossing the court, with her tail in the air and her crest on one side, as if the whole affair were no business of hers. “ She lays an egg every day, all the same.”

Then Mena spoke up, and coming to the door, said, “ There is a basketful of eggs, and on Mon-day, if Cousin Alfio goes to Catania, you can send them to market.”

“Yes, they will help to pay the debt,” said Pa-dron ‘Ntoni; “but you can eat an egg yourselves now and then if you feel to want it”

“No, we don’t need them,” said Maruzza, and Mena added, “ If we eat them they won’t be sold in the market by Cousin Alfio; and now we will put duck’s eggs under the setting hen. The duck-lings can be sold for forty centimes each.” Her grandfather looked her in the face, and said:

“You’re a real Malavoglia, my girl!”

The hens scratched in the sand of the court, in the sun, and the setting hen, looking perfectly silly, with the feather over her beak, shook herself in a corner.; under the green boughs in the garden, along the wall, there was more linen bleaching, with a stone lying on it to keep it from blowing away. “All this is good to make money,” said Pa-dron ‘Ntoni, “ and, with the help of God, we shall stay in our house. ‘ My house is my mother.’ ”

“Now the Malavoglia must pray to God and Saint Francis for a plentiful fishing,” said Goose-foot meanwhile.

“Yes, with the times we’re having,” exclaimed Padron Cipolla, “ they must have sown the cholera for the fish in the sea, I should think.”

Mangiacarubbe nodded, and Uncle Cola began to talk of the tax that they wanted to put on salt, and how, if they did that, the anchovies might be quiet, and fear no longer the wheels of the steam-ers, for no one would find it worth his while to fish for them any more.

“And they have invented something else,” added Master Turi, the calker: “to put a duty on pitch.” Those to whom pitch was of no importance had nothing to say, but Zuppiddu went on shouting that he should shut up shop, and whoever wanted a boat mended might stuff the hole with his wife’s dress. Then they began to scold and to swear.

At this moment was heard the scream of the engine, and the big wagons of the railway came rushing out all of a sudden from the hole they had made in the hill, smoking and fuming as if the devil was in them. “There!” cried Padron Fortu-nate, “the railroad one side and the steamers the other, upon my word it’s impossible to live in peace at Trezza nowadays.”

In the village there was the devil to pay when they wanted to put the tax upon pitch.5 La Zuppidda, foaming at the mouth, mounted upon her balcony, and went on preaching that this was some new villany of Don Silvestro, who wanted to bring the whole place to ruin, because they (the Zup-piddus) wouldn’t have him for a husband for their daughter; they wouldn’t have him even for a companion in the procession, neither she nor her girl! When Madam Venera spoke of her daughter’s hus-band it always seemed as if she herself were the bride.

5 Ddzio (French, octroi], tax on substances entering a town, levied by the town-council.

Master Tun Zuppiddu tramped about the landing, mallet in hand, brandishing his chisel as if he wanted to shed somebody’s blood, and wasn’t to be held even by chains. The bile ran high from door to door, like the waves of the sea in a storm. Don Franco rubbed his hands, with his great ugly hat on his head, saying that the people was raising its head; and seeing Don Michele pass with pistols hanging at his belt, laughed in his face. The men, too, one by one, allowed themselves to be worked up by their womankind, and began hunting each other up, to try and rouse each other to fury, losing the whole day standing about in the piazza, with arms akimbo and open mouths, listening to the apothecary, who went on speechifying, but under his breath, for fear of his wife up-stairs, how they ought to make a revolution if they weren’t fools, and not to mind the tax on salt or the tax on pitch, but to clear off the whole thing, for the king ought to be the people. Instead, some turned their backs, muttering, “ He wants to be king himself; the druggist belongs to those of the rev-olution who want to starve the poor people.” And they went off to the inn to Santuzza, where there was good wine to heat one’s head, and Master Cinghialenta and Rocco Spatu made noise enough for ten.

The good wine made them shout, and shouting made them thirsty (for the tax had not yet been raised on the wine), and such as had much shook their fists in the air, with shirt — sleeves rolled up, raging even at the flies.

Vanni Pizzuti had closed his shop door because no one came to be shaved, and went about with his razor in his pocket, calling out bad names from a distance, and spitting at those who went about their own business with oars on their backs, shrug-ging their shoulders at the noise.

Uncle Crucifix (who was one of those who at-tended to their own affairs, and when they drew his blood with taxes, held his tongue for fear of worse, and kept his bile inside of him) was never seen in the piazza now, leaning against the wall of the bell-tower, but kept inside his house, reciting Pater-nosters and Ave Marias to keep down his rage against those who were making all the row a lot of fellows who wanted to put the place to sack, and to rob everybody who had twenty centimes in his pocket.

Whoever, like Padron Cipolla, or Master Filippo, the ortolano, had anything to lose stayed shut up at home with doors bolted, and didn’t put out even their noses; so that Brasi Cipolla got a rousing cuff from his father, who found him at the door of the: court, staring into the piazza like a great stupid codfish. The big fish stayed under water while the waves ran high, and did not make their appearance, not even those who were, as Venera said, fish-heads, but left the syndic with his nose in the air, counting his papers. f

“Don’t you see that they treat you like a pup-pet?” screamed his daughter Betta, with her hands on her hips. “ Now that they have got you into a scrape, they turn their backs on you, and leave you alone wallowing in the mud; that’s what it means to let one’s self be led by the nose by that meddling Don Silvestro.”

“I’m not led by the nose by anybody,” shouted the Silk-worm. “ It is I who am syndic, not Don Silvestro.”

Don Silvestro, on the contrary, said the real syn-die was his daughter Betta, and that Master Croce Calta wore the breeches by mistake. He still went about and about, with that red face of his, and Rocco Spatu and Cinghialenta, when they saw him, went into the tavern for fear of a mess, and Vanni Pizzuti swore loudly, tapping his razor in his breeches-pocket all the time. Don Silvestro, without noticing them, went to say a word or two to Uncle Santoro, and put two centimes into his hand.

“The Lord be praised!” cried the blind man. “This is Don Silvestro, the secretary; none of these others that come here roaring and thumping their stomachs ever give a centime in alms for the souls in Purgatory, and they go saying they mean to kill your syndic and the secretary; Vanni Piz-zuti said it, and Rocco Spatu and Master Cinghia-lenta. Vanni Pizzuti has taken to going without shoes, not to be known; but I know his step all the same, for he drags his feet along the ground, and raises the dust like a flock of sheep passing by.”

“What is it to you?” cried his daughter, when Don Silvestro was gone. “These affairs are no business of ours. The inn is like a seaport men come and go, and one must be friendly with all and faithful to none, for that each one has his own soul for himself, and each must look out for his own interests, and not make rash speeches about other people. Cousin Cinghialenta and Rocco Spatu spend money in our house. T don’t speak of Piz-zuti, who sells absinthe, and tries to get away our customers.”

Cousin Mosca was among those who minded their own business, and passed tranquilly through the piazza with his cart, amid the crowd, who were shaking their fists in the air.

“‘Don’t you care whether they put on the hide tax?” asked Mena when she saw him come back with his poor donkey panting and with drooped ears.

“Yes, of course I care; but to pay the tax the cart must go, or they’ll take away the ass, and the cart as well.”

“They say they’re going to kill them all. Grand-papa told us to keep the door shut, and not to open it unless they come back. Will you go out tomorrow too?”

“I must go and take a load of lime for Master Croce Calta.”

“Oh, what are you going to do? Don’t you know he’s the syndic, and they’ll kill you too?”

“He doesn’t care for them, he says. He’s a mason, and he has to strengthen the wall of Don Filippo’s vineyard; and if they won’t have the tax on pitch Don Silvestro must think of something else.”

“Didn’t I tell you it was all Don Silvestro’s fault?” cried Mammy Venera, who was always about blowing up the fires of discord, with her distaff in her hand. “ It’s all the affair of that lot, who have nothing to lose, and who don’t pay a tax on pitch because they never had so much as an old broken board at sea. It is all the fault of Don Silvestro,” she went on screeching to everybody all over the place, “ and of that meddling scamp Goose-foot, who have no boat, either of them, and live on their neighbors, and hold out the hat to first one and then another. Would you like to know one of his tricks? It isn’t a bit true that he has bought the debt of Uncle Crucifix. It’s all a lie, got up between him and old Dumb-bell to rob those poor creatures. Goosefoot never even saw five hundred francs.”

Don Silvestro, to hear what they said of him, went often to the tavern to buy a cigar, and then Rocco Spatu and Vanni Pizzuti would come out of it blaspheming; or he would stop on the way home from his vineyard to talk with Uncle Santoro, and heard in this way all the tale of the fictitious purchase by Goosefoot; but he was a “ Christian ” with a stomach as deep as a well, and all things he left to sink into it. He knew his own business, and when Betta met him with his mouth open worse than a mad dog, and Master Croce Calta let slip his usual expression, that it didn’t matter to him, he replied, “ What’ll you bet I don’t just go off and leave you?” And went no more to the syn-dic’s house; but on the Sunday appointed for the meeting of the council Don Silvestro, after the mass, went and planted himself in the town-hall, where there had formerly been the post of the Na-tional Guard, and began tranquilly mending his pens in front of the rough pine table to pass away the time, while La Zuppidda and the other gossips vociferated in the street, while spinning in the sun, swearing that they would tear out the eyes of the whole lot of them.

Silk-worm, as they had come all the way to Master Filippo’s vineyard to call him, couldn’t do less than move. So he put on his new overcoat, washed his hands, and brushed the lime off his clothes, but wouldn’t go to the meeting without first calling for Don Stefano to come to him. It was in vain that his daughter Betta took him by the shoulders, and pushed him out of the door, saying to him that they who had cooked the broth ought to eat it, and that he ought to let the others do as they liked, that he might remain syndic. This time Mas-ter Calta had seen the crowd before the town-hall, distaffs in hand, and he planted his feet on the ground worse than a mule. “ I won’t go unless Don Silvestro comes,” he repeated, with eyes starting out of his head. “ Don Silvestro will find some way out of it all.”.

At last Don Silvestro came, with a face like a wall, humming an air, with his hands behind his back. “ Eh, Master Croce, don’t lose your head; the world isn’t going to come to an end this time!” Master Croce let himself be led away by Don Sil-vestro, and placed before the pine council — table, with the glass inkstand in front of him; but there was no council, except Peppi Naso, the butcher, all greasy and red — faced, who feared nobody in the world, and Messer Tino Piedipassera (Goosefoot).

“They have nothing to. lose,” screamed La Zup-pidda from the door, “ and they come here to suck the blood of the poor, worse than so many leeches, because they live upon their neighbors, and hold the sack for this one and that one to commit all sorts of villanies. A lot of thieves and assassins.”

“See if I don’t slit your tongue for you!” shouted Goosefoot, beginning to rise from behind the pine-wood table.

“Now we shall come to grief!” muttered Master Croce Giufa.

“I say! I say! what sort of manners are these? You’re not in the piazza,” called out Don Silvestro. “What will you bet I don’t kick out the whole of you? Now I shall put this to rights.”

La Zuppidda screamed that she wouldn’t have it put to rights, and struggled with Don Silvestro, who pulled her by the hair, and at last ended by thrusting her inside her own gate. When they were at last alone he began:

“What is it you want? What is it to you if we put a tax on pitch? It isn’t you or your husband that will have to pay it, but those who come to have their boats mended. Listen to me: your husband is an ass to make all this row and to quarrel with the town-council, now when there is another coun-cillor to be chosen in the room of Padron Cipolla or Master Mariano, who are of no use, and your husband might come in.”

“I know nothing about it,” answered La Zuppid-da, becoming quite calm in an instant. “ I never mix myself up in my husband’s affairs. I know he’s biting his hands with rage. I can do nothing but go and tell him, if the thing is certain.”

“Certain? of course it is certain as the heavens above, I tell you! Are we honest men or not? By the holy big devil !”

La Zuppidda went straight off to her husband, who was crouching in the corner of the court carding tow, pale as a corpse, swearing that they’d end by driving him to do something mad. To open the sanhedrim and try if the fish would bite, there were still wanting Padron Fortunato Cipolla and Master Filippo, the market-gardener, who stayed away so long that the crowd began to get bored so much so that the gossips began to spin, sitting on the low wall of the town-hall yard. At last they sent word that they couldn’t come; they had too much to do; the tax might be levied just as well without them.

“Word for word what my daughter Betta said,” growled Master Croce Giufa.

“Then get your daughter Betta to help you,” exclaimed Don Silvestro. Silk-worm said not an-other word audibly, but continued to mutter between his teeth.

“Now,” said Don Silvestro, “you’ll see that the

Zuppiddi will come and ask me to take their daughter Barbara, but they’ll have to go on asking.”

The meeting was closed without deciding upon anything. The clerk wanted time to get up his subject. In the mean while the clock struck twelve, and the gossips quickly disappeared. The few that stayed long enough to see Master Cirino shut the door and put the key in his pocket went away to their own work, some this way, some that, talking as they went of the dreadful things that Goosefoot and La Zuppidda had been saying. In the evening Padron ‘Ntoni’s ‘Ntoni heard of this bad lan-guage, and, “ Sacrament!” if he wouldn’t show Goosefoot that he had been for a soldier! He met him, just as he was coming from the beach, near the house of the Zuppiddi, with that devil’s club-foot of his, and began to speak his mind to him that he was a foul-mouthed old carrion, and that he had better take care what he said of the Zuppiddi; that their doings was no affair of his. Goosefoot didn’t keep his tongue to himself either.

“Holloa! do you think you’ve come from foreign parts to play the master here?”

“I’ve come to slit your weasand for you if you don’t hold your tongue!”

Hearing the noise, a crowd of people came to the doors, and a great crowd gathered; so that at last they took hold of each other, and Goosefoot, who was sharp as the devil he resembled, flung himself on the ground all in a heap with ‘Ntoni Mala-voglia, who thus lost all the advantage which his good legs might have given him, and they rolled over and over in the mud, beating and biting each other as if they had been Peppi Naso’s dogs, so that ‘Ntoni had to be pulled into the Zuppiddi’s court with his shirt torn off his back, and Goose-foot was led home bleeding like Lazarus.

“You’ll see!” screamed out again Gossip Vene-ra, after she had slammed the door in the faces of her neighbors “you’ll see whether I mean to be mistress in my own house. I’ll give my girl to whomsoever I please!”

The girl ran off into the house, red as a turkey, with her heart beating as fast as a spring chicken’s.

“He’s almost pulled off your ear!” said Master Bastiano, as he poured water slowly over ‘Ntoni’s head; “ bites worse than a dog, does Uncle Tino.” ‘Ntoni’s eyes were still full of blood, and he was set upon vengeance.

“Listen, Madam Venera!” he said, in the hearing of all the world. “ If your daughter doesn’t take me, I’ll never marry anybody.” And the girl heard him in her chamber.

“This is no time to speak of such things, Cousin ‘Ntoni; but if your grandfather has no objection, I wouldn’t change you, for my part, for Victor Em-manuel himself.”

Master Zuppiddu, meanwhile, said not a word, but handed ‘Ntoni a towel to dry himself with; so that ‘Ntoni went home that night in a high state of contentment.

But the poor Malavoglia, when they heard of the fight with Goosefoot, trembled to think how they might at any moment expect the officer to turn them out-of-doors; for Goosefoot lived close by, and of the money for the debt they had only, after end-less trouble, succeeded in putting together about half.

“Look what it means to be always hanging about where there’s a marriageable girl!” said La Longa to ‘Ntoni. “ I’m sorry for Barbara!”

“And I mean to marry her,” said ‘Ntoni.

“To marry her!” cried the grandfather. “And who am I? And does your mother count for nothing? When your father married her that sits there, he made them come and tell me first. Your grand-mother was then alive, and they came and spoke to us in the garden under the fig-tree. Now these things are no longer the custom, and the old people are of no use. At one time it was said, ‘Listen to the old, and you’ll make no blunders.’ First your sister Mena must be married do you know that?”

“Cursed is my fate!” cried ‘Ntoni, stamping and tearing his hair. “ Working all day! Never going to the tavern! Never a soldo in one’s pocket! Now that I’ve found a girl to suit me, I can’t have her! Why did I come back from the army?”

“Listen!” cried old ‘Ntoni, rising slowly and painfully in consequence of the racking pain in his back. “Go to bed and to sleep that’s the best thing for you to do. You should never speak in that way in your mother’s presence.”

“My brother Luca, that’s gone for a soldier, is better off than I am,” growled ‘Ntoni as he went off to bed.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:24