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The Virtual Library - Free online ebooks in pdf, epub, kindle and other formats. Free ebooks in English, French, Storia di una capinera. Italiano. Book ID: SCARICA IL PDF: STORIA DI UNA CAPINERA Libri. This book was originally published prior to and represents a reproduction of an important historical. SCARICA IL PDF: STORIA DI UNA CAPINERA Libri. Unlike some other reproductions of classic texts 1 We have not used OCROptical Character Recognition as.
And on those occasions when he was looking at his own fields, and his own vineyards, and his own flocks, and his own laborers, with his hands in his pockets and his little pipe in his mouth, if he ever did chance to recall the days when he washed up dishes for the Capucin monks and they out of charity put him a lay-brother's long frock on, he would make the sign of the cross with his left hand. Yet if they hadn't taught him to say mass and to read and write, all out of charity, he would never have succeeded in wedging himself in among the first families of the place, nor in nailing down in his account-books the names of all those half-profits peasants who labored and prayed [Pg 14] to God and good fortune for him, and then swore like Turks when it came to reckoning day. Who he was, everybody knew, for his mother still did his house-cleaning. His Reverence had no family pride, no; and when he went to the baroness' to play at piquet with her, he had his brother to wait in the anteroom for him, holding the lantern. His charity began at home, as God Himself enjoins; so he'd taken one of his nieces into his house, not bad-looking, but without a rag to her back, so that she'd never have found the ghost of a husband; and he kept her and maintained her, what's more he put her in the fine room with glass in the windows, and the bed with bed-curtains, and he wasn't going to have her work, to ruin her hands with rough jobs. So that everybody thought it a real God's penalty when the poor creature was seized with scruples, such as will happen to women who have nothing else to do and pass their days in church beating their breasts because they're in mortal sin—though not when her uncle was there, for he wasn't one of those priests who like to show themselves on the altar in pomp and splendour before their inamoratas. As [Pg 15] for other women, outside their homes it was enough for him to give them a little caress with two fingers on their cheek, paternally, or through the little window of the confession box to give them the benediction after they had rinsed out their consciences and emptied the sack of their own and other people's sins, by which means he always learned something useful, being a man who speculated in country produce.
And the most well-to-do among them denied themselves the bread out of their mouths to send their son to the Seminary. Even mass itself he wouldn't celebrate save on Sunday, when there was nothing else to do, for he wasn't one of your priest-johnnies who'd run round after the quarter-dollar for the mass. He wasn't in want. So that Monsignor the Bishop, in his pastoral visit, arriving in his house and finding his [Pg 22] breviary covered with dust, wrote on it with his finger: "Deo gratias!
If his breviary was covered with dust, his oxen were glossy, his sheep had deep fleeces, and his wheat stood as high as a man, so that his half-profits laborers enjoyed at least the sight of it, and could build fine castles in the air on it, before they came to reckon with the master. The poor devils opened their hearts like anything.
Wheat standing like magic! The Lord must have passed by it in the night! You can see it belongs to a servant of God; and that it's good to work for him who's got the mass and the benediction in his hands! In May, in the season when they looked up into the sky to conjure away any cloud that was passing, they knew that their master was saying mass for the harvest, which was worth more than the images of Saints, or the blessed seeds to drive away the evil eye or ill-fortune. So it was, his Reverence didn't want them to sow the blessed small-seed among the wheat, because it does no good except to attract sparrows and other mischievous birds.
Of images of the saints however he [Pg 23] had pocketfuls, since he took as many as he liked from the sacristy, good ones too, and gave them to his peasants. But at harvest time he came on horseback, along with his brother, who served him as estate-keeper, with his gun on his shoulder, and then he never stirred, but slept there, in the malaria, to look after his own interests, without bothering even about Christ.
Those poor devils, who had forgotten the hard days of winter in that fine weather, stood open-mouthed when they heard the litany of their debts being recited to them. So many measures of beans which your wife came for in the time of the snow—so many bundles of kindling given to your boy—so many measures of corn advanced for seed, with interest at so much a month.
A swindling account! In the year of scarcity, after Uncle Carmenio had left his sweat and his health in his Reverence's fields, he had to leave his ass as well, come harvest-time, to pay off the debt, and went away himself empty-handed, swearing with awful words that made heaven and earth shudder.
His Reverence, who wasn't there to confess him, let him say his say, and led the ass into the stable. Only he was annoyed at the money he had to pay for the release, and called the Government a thief for not letting the property of the benefices go gratis to those whom it belonged to.
On this score of the Government he had had to swallow a fair amount of bile, until , when they had made the revolution, and he'd had to hide in a hole like a rat, because the peasants, all those who had had trouble with him, wanted to do him in. After that, had come the litany of the taxes, which there was no end to paying, and the very thought of it turned his wine at table into poison. Now they were setting on the Holy Father, and wanting to take away from him the temporal power.
But when the Pope sent out the excommunication against all those who profited by the mortmains, his Reverence felt the fly settle on his own nose, and he grumbled: "What's the Pope got to do with my property? He's got nothing to do with the temporal power.
The peasants went to hear his mass, but without wishing it they thought of all the robberies of the celebrant, and were distracted. Their women, while they were confessing their sins to him, couldn't help letting out to his face: "Father, I accuse myself of having spoken ill of you who are a servant of God, because we've been without beans and without grain this winter, because of you.
Do I make good weather or bad luck? Or am I to own the land so that you lot can sow it and use it to your own advantage? Have you no conscience, and no fear of God? Why have you come here to confess yourself? This is the devil tempting you, to make you lose the sacrament of penitence.
When you go and get all those children of yours you never think that they're so many mouths to feed? And what fault is it of mine if then there isn't enough bread for you? Did I make you get all those children? I became a priest so as not to have any.
When they were before the judge, with a lawyer, he stopped everybody's mouth with his saying: "The law is like this and like that. In the good days gone by he laughed at his enemies and his enviers. They had raised the deuce, they had gone to the bishop, they had thrown his niece in his face, Farmer Carmenio and ill-gotten gains, they had had mass and confession taken away from him.
Very well! What then? He had no need either of bishop or anybody. He had his own possessions, and was respected like those who lead the band in the village; he was at home with the baroness, and the more row they made about him, the worse was the scandal.
The big people are never touched, not even by the bishop, and you take your hat off to them, out of prudence and love of peace. The peasants were learning to read and write, and could reckon up accounts better than you could yourself; the political parties were wrangling for the local government, and dividing the spoil without regard to the rest of the world; the first beggar that came along could find a gratuitous counsel, if he had a lawsuit with you, and he made you pay all the costs of the case yourself!
A priest didn't count any more, neither with the judge, nor with the force-captain; nowadays he couldn't even get a man put into prison on a mere hint, if they were wanting in respect to him, and he was no good any more except to say mass, and hear confession, like a public servant. The judge feared the newspapers, and public opinion, what Caius and Sempronius might say, and he dispensed justice like Solomon! And then even the property he'd got together with the sweat of his own brow, they envied it him, they'd thrown the evil eye on him and black magic; that bit of nourishment he ate at table gave him a great to-do in the night; while his brother, who led a hard life, and ate bread and onion, digested better than an ostrich, knowing that within a hundred years' [Pg 28] time, when he himself was dead, he'd be his heir, and would find himself rich without lifting a finger.
The mother, poor thing, was good for nothing any more, and only lived on to suffer and make others suffer, nailed down in bed with paralysis, so that she had to be waited on herself now; and his niece herself, fat, well-clad, provided with everything she could want, with nothing to do but go into church, tormented him when she took it into her head to be in mortal sin, as if he was one of those excommunicated scoundrels who had dispossessed the pope, and she had made the bishop take away mass from him.
Those that have got nothing want to take what you've got from you. They wanted to make a priest no better than a sexton, say mass and sweep the church. They don't want to do the will of God any more, that's where it is!
Just at that moment they came to tell him that [Pg 30] the King wanted to speak to him. Or rather it wasn't the King who wanted to speak to him, because the King never speaks to anybody, but one of those through whose mouth the King speaks, when he has something to say; and they told him that His Majesty wanted his litter, next day at dawn, to go to Catania, because he didn't want to be obliged neither to the bishop, nor to the lieutenant, but preferred to pay out of his own pocket, like anybody else.
Neighbour Cosimo ought to have been pleased, because it was his business to drive people in his litter, and at that very time he was waiting for somebody to come and hire his conveyance, and the King isn't one to stand and haggle for a dime more or less, like so many folks.
But he would rather have gone back to Grammichele with his litter empty, it bothered him so much to have to carry the King in his litter, that the holiday all turned to poison for him at the mere thought of it, and he couldn't enjoy the illuminations any more, nor the band that was playing in the marketplace, nor the triumphal-car that was going round the streets, with the picture of the King and Queen, nor the church of San Giacomo all lit up, so that it was spitting out flames, and the Host [Pg 31] was exposed inside, and the bells ringing for the King.
The grander the festival, the more frightened did he become of having to take the actual King in his litter, and all those squibs, that crowd, those illuminations and that clash of bells simply went to his stomach, so that he couldn't close his eyes all night, but he spent it in examining the shoes of the bay mare, curry-combing his mules, and stuffing them up to their throats with barley, to get their strength up, as if the King weighed twice as much as anybody else.
The stables were full of cavalry soldiers, with huge spurs on their heels, which they didn't take off even when they threw themselves down to sleep on the planks, and on all the nails of the stable-posts were hung sabres and pistols so that it seemed to poor Uncle Cosimo that they were there to cut off his head, if by bad luck one of the mules should go and slip on the wet stones of the narrow street while he was carrying the King; and really there had poured such quantities of water out of the sky just on those particular days that the people must have been crazy mad to see the King, to come all the way to Caltagirone in such weather.
For himself, sure as God's above, he'd rather have been in his own poor little [Pg 32] house, where the mules were pinched for room in the stable, but where you could hear them munching their barley not far from the bed-head, and he'd willingly have paid the five-dollar piece which the King was due to fork out, to find himself in his own bed, with the door shut, and lying with his nose under the blankets, his wife busying herself around with the lamp in her hand, to settle up the house for the night.
At dawn the bugle of the soldiers ringing like a cock that knows the time made him start from his doze, and put the stables into a turmoil. The wagoners raised their heads from the pole they had laid down for a pillow, the dogs barked, and the hostess put in an appearance from the hayloft, heavy with sleep, scratching her head.
It was still dark as midnight, but people were going up and down the street as if it was Christmas night, and the hucksters near the fire, with their little paper lanterns in front of them, banged their knives on their benches to sell their almond-rock.
Ah, how all the people who were downloading toffee must be enjoying themselves at their festival, trailing round the streets tired and sleepy, waiting for the King, and as they saw the litter go by with its collar-bells jingling and its woollen tassels, they [Pg 33] opened their eyes and envied Neighbour Cosimo who had seen the King face to face, while nobody else had had so much luck up till then, not in all the forty-eight hours that the crowd had been waiting day and night in the streets, with the rain coming down as God sent it.
The church of San Giacomo was still spitting fire and flame, at the top of the steps that there was no end to, waiting for the King to wish him Godspeed, and all its bells were ringing to tell him it was time for him to be going. Were they never going to put out those lights; and had the sexton an arm of iron, to keep on ringing day and night?
Meanwhile in the flat-lands of San Giacomo the ashen dawn had hardly come, and the valley was a sea of mist; and yet the crowd was thick as flies, with their noses in their cloaks, and the moment they saw the litter coming they wanted to suffocate Neighbour Cosimo and his mules, thinking the King was inside.
But the King kept them waiting a good bit still; perhaps at that moment he was pulling on his breeches, or drinking his little glass of brandy, to clear his throat, a thing that Neighbour Cosimo hadn't even thought of that morning, for all his throat felt so tight. An hour later arrived the [Pg 34] cavalry with unsheathed sabres, and made way.
Behind the cavalry rolled another wave of people, and then the band, and then again some gentlemen, and ladies in little hats, their noses red with cold; and even the hucksters came running up, with their little benches on their heads, to set up shop again; to try to sell a bit more almond toffee; so that in the big square you couldn't have got a pin in, and the mules wouldn't even have been able to shake the flies off, if the cavalry hadn't been there to make space; and so if you please the cavalry brought along with them a cloud of horseflies, those flies that send the mules in a litter right off their heads, so that Neighbour Cosimo commended himself to God and to the souls in purgatory every one he caught under the belly of his cattle.
At last the ringing was heard twice as loud, as if the bells had gone mad, and then the loud banging of crackers let off for the King, another flood of people came running up, and the carriage of the King appeared in sight, seeming to swim on the heads of the people in the midst of all that crowd.
Then resounded the trumpets and drums, and the crackers began to explode again, till the mules, God save us, threatened to break the harness [Pg 35] and everything, lashing out kicks; the soldiers drew their sabres, having sheathed them again, and the crowd shouted: "The Queen, the Queen!
That little body there, beside her husband, you'd never believe it! Now the King, before he mounted his horse, and while his wife was getting into the litter, was talking first to one then to another, as if it was no matter to him, and coming up to Neighbour Cosimo he clapped him on the shoulder, and told him just like this, in his Neapolitan way of talking, "Remember you are carrying your queen! The King spoke a word to one of those near him, and that was enough for them not to cut off the head of the girl's father.
And so she rose quite happy, and then they had to carry her away in a faint, she was so glad. Which was as good as saying that the King with one word could have anybody's head he liked cut off, even Neighbour Cosimo's, if a mule in the litter should chance to stumble and throw out his wife, bit of a thing as she was. Poor Neighbour Cosimo had all this before his eyes as he walked beside his bay mule with his hand on the shaft, and a bit of Madonna's dress between his lips, recommending himself to God as if he was at death's door, while all the caravan, with King, Queen and soldiers had started off on the journey amid the shouting and bell-ringing, and the banging of the cannon-crackers which you could still hear away down on the plain; and when they had come right down in the valley, on the top of the hill they could still see the black [Pg 37] crowd teeming in the sun as if it was the cattle-fair in the plain of San Giacomo.
But what good did Neighbour Cosimo get from the sun and the fine day? If his heart was blacker than a thunder-cloud, and he didn't dare raise his eyes from the cobble-stones on which the mules put down their feet as if they were walking on eggs; nor could he look round to see how the corn was coming on, nor enjoy seeing the clusters of olives hanging along the hedges, nor think of what a lot of good all the last week's rain had done, while his heart was beating like a hammer at the mere thought that the torrent might be swollen, and they had got to cross the ford!
He didn't dare to seat himself straddle-legs on the shafts, as he always did when he wasn't carrying his queen, and snatch forty winks under that fine sun and on that level road that the mules could have followed with their eyes shut; whilst the mules, who had no understanding, and didn't know what they were carrying, were enjoying the dry level road, the mild sun and the green country, wagging their hind-quarters and shaking the collar-bells cheerfully, and for two pins they would have started trotting, so that Neighbour Cosimo had his heart in his mouth with fright [Pg 38] merely seeing his creatures growing lively, without a thought in the world neither for the Queen nor anything.
The Queen, for her part, kept up a chatter with another lady, whom they'd put in the litter to while away the time with her, in a language of which nobody understood a single damn; she looked round at the country with her eyes blue as flax flowers, and she rested a little hand on the window-frame, so little that it seemed made on purpose to have nothing to do; and it certainly wasn't worth while having stuffed the mules with barley to carry that scrap of a thing, Queen though she was!
But she could have people's heads cut off with a single word, small though she might be, and the mules, who had no sense in them, what with that light load, and all that barley in their bellies, felt strongly tempted to start dancing and jumping along the road, and so get Neighbour Cosimo's head taken off for him. So that the poor devil did nothing all the way but recite paternosters and ave marias between his teeth, and beseech the souls of his own dead, those whom he knew and those whom he didn't know, until they got to Zia Lisa, where a great crowd had gathered to see the King, and in front of every hole of a tavern there was their own side of [Pg 39] pork skinned and hung up for the feast.
When he got home at last, after having delivered the Queen safe and sound, he couldn't believe it was true, and he kissed the edge of the manger as he tied up his mules, then he went to bed without eating or drinking, and didn't even want to see the queen's money, but would have left it in his jacket pocket for who knows how long, if it hadn't been for his wife who went and put it at the bottom of the stocking under the straw mattress.
His friends and acquaintances, curious to know how the King and Queen were made, came to ask him about the journey, pretending they had come to enquire if he had caught malaria. But he wouldn't tell them anything, feeling himself in a fever again at the very mention of it, and the doctor came morning and evening, and charged him about half of that money from the queen.
Only many years later, when they came to seize his mules in the name of the King, because he couldn't pay his debts, Neighbour Cosimo couldn't rest for thinking that those were the very mules which had brought his wife safe and sound—the King's wife, that is—poor beasts; and in those days there were no carriage-roads, so the Queen would have broken her neck if it hadn't been for his litter, and people said that the King and Queen [Pg 40] had come to Sicily on purpose to make the roads, and still there weren't any yet, which was a dirty shame.
But in those days litter-drivers could make a living, and Neighbour Cosimo would have been able to pay his debts, and they wouldn't have seized his mules, if the King and Queen hadn't come to make the high-roads. And later, when they took away his Orazio, whom they called Turk, because he was so swarthy and strong, to make him an artilleryman, and that poor old woman of a wife of his wept like a fountain, there came to his mind again that girl who had come to throw herself at the feet of the King crying, "Pardon!
Nor could you make him understand that there was another king now, and that they'd kicked out the old one. He said that if the King had been there, he'd have sent him away happy, him and his wife, because he had patted him on the shoulder, and he knew him and had seen him face to face, with his red trousers and his sabre hung at his stomach, and with a word he could have people's heads cut off, and send to seize mules into the bargain, if anyone didn't pay his debts, and take the sons for soldiers, just as he pleased.
Uncle Maso got a dime from the Town Council for every fowl, and half-a-dollar for every pig which he caught breaking the by-laws. He preferred the pigs. Therefore, seeing Goodwife Santa's little porker stretched out peacefully with its nose in the mire, he threw the running noose round its neck.
What are you doing, Uncle Maso? It's the Town Council's orders. They won't have pigs in the street any more. If I leave you this young sow I lose my own daily bread.
Leave me my little pig, Uncle Maso, by the soul of those that are dead and gone! Come the New Year, with God's help she'll be worth seven dollars! Then Aunt Santa, desperate, in order to save her pig fetched him a solemn kick in the rear, and sent him rolling. The goodwives no sooner saw the pig-snatcher sprawling in the mud than they were upon him with their distaffs and their wooden-soled slippers, [Pg 43] eager to pay him out for all the pigs and fowls he had on his conscience.
But at that moment up ran Don Licciu Papa with his sword-belt over his paunch, bawling from the background like one possessed, keeping out of reach of the distaffs.
Clear the way for the Law! Who was to know that about the cap? After that, every time the baron's man-servant emptied his dust-pan into the street, on the heads of the neighbours, not a woman murmured.
Only they lamented that the hens, shut up in the house [Pg 44] to escape the fine, didn't rear good chicks any more; and the pigs, tied by the leg to the bedpost, were like souls tortured in purgatory. Anyhow they used to sweep their streets themselves, before. He had come with the bailiff to seize the mule for debt, since Farmer Vito would never have let the bailiff by himself take the mule from the stable, no not if they'd killed him for it, he wouldn't, he'd rather have bitten off the fellow's nose and eaten it like bread.
Then before the judge, who sat at the table like Pontius Pilate, when Farmer Venerando prosecuted him to recover the loan advanced on the half-profits, he couldn't find a word to say.
The Grasshopper closes were fit for nothing but grasshoppers; the fool was himself, he had himself to blame if he'd come home from harvest empty-handed, and Farmer Venerando was quite right to want to be paid back, without all that talking and spinning things out, though that was what he'd paid a [Pg 45] lawyer to talk for him for. But when it was over, and Farmer Venerando was going off gleefully, rocking inside his great boots like a fattened duck, he couldn't help asking the clerk if it was true that they were going to sell his mule.
Don Licciu Papa woke up with a start on his bench, and cried, "Silence! In the piazza, in front of the Town Hall steps, the crier sold his mule for him. Forty dollars for a fine bay mule! Forty dollars! And she stood there as happy as a bride, in her new halter. But the moment they'd really led her away, he went off his head, thinking of that usurer of a Farmer Venerando who was getting forty dollars out of him just for one year's half-profits on the [Pg 46] Grasshopper closes, and the land wasn't worth as much to download it outright, and without his mule he'd never be able to work it, and next year he'd be in debt again.
And he began to shout like a maniac into Farmer Venerando's face: "What shall you want of me when I've got nothing left? Halt in the Law's name! It's the tale of the pitcher fighting with the stones. His Reverence with all his money will hire the best lawyer's tongue among them, and will bring you to poverty and craziness.
Now he'd widened the windows looking on to Shepherd Arcangelo's roof, and he said he needed the other man's house so as to build a kitchen above it and turn the window into a doorway. You must be reasonable! As a matter of fact, he only came there of a Saturday; but the stones knew him, and if he thought of the Village, when he was away on the wild pastures of Carramone, he never saw it as anything except that patched-up little doorway and that window without any glass.
We've got to knock the sense in. If Shepherd [Pg 48] Arcangelo shouted, his Reverence began to shout louder than he, from the roof above: Couldn't one keep a pot of basil on his window-sill nowadays? Wasn't a man free to water his own flowers? Shepherd Arcangelo had a head stubborner than his own wethers, and he went to law.
There came the judge, the clerk, and Don Licciu Papa, to see whether a man was free to water his own flowers or not, so of course on that day the flowers weren't there on the window-sill, and his Reverence had only to take the trouble to remove them every time the Law was coming, and put them out again as soon as they'd turned their backs. As for the judge he couldn't spend his days playing watchman on Shepherd Arcangelo's roof, or patrolling up and down the narrow street; every visit he made was expensive.
Remained only to decide whether his Reverence's window should or should not have an iron grating, and the judge, the clerk and all the lot looked up with their spectacles on their noses, and took measurements so that you'd have thought it was a baron's roof, that bit of a flat mouldy housetop. And his Reverence brought forth certain ancient rights for a window without a grating, and [Pg 49] for a few tiles which projected out over the roof, till you could make nothing of it any more, and poor Shepherd Arcangelo himself stared up in the air as if to find out whatever his roof could be guilty of.
He lost his sleep at nights and the smile from his mouth; he bled himself in expenses, and had to leave his flock in charge of the boy while he ran round after the judge and the bailiff.
So of course the sheep began to die like flies, with the first cold of winter, which showed that the Lord was punishing him for falling out with the Church, so they said. He wanted to sling his saddlebag over his neck and go off with his daughter to live with the sheep, for he didn't want to see that accursed house again, while the world stood.
But then his other neighbour the baron came forward, saying that he too had windows and leanover tiles above the roof of Shepherd Arcangelo, and seeing that his Reverence wanted to build a kitchen, he himself had to enlarge his store-pantry, that the poor goat-herd no longer knew [Pg 50] whom his house did belong to.
But his Reverence found the means to settle the quarrel with the baron, dividing the house of Shepherd Arcangelo between them like good friends, and seeing that the latter had this other obligation as well, the price of the house was reduced by a good quarter. Nina, the daughter of Shepherd Arcangelo, when they had to leave the house and depart from the Village, simply never stopped crying, as if her heart was fastened to those four walls and to the nails of the partitions.
Her father, poor fellow, tried to console her as best he could, telling her that away up there, in the Caves of Carramone, you lived like a prince, without neighbours and pig-snatchers. But the goodwives who knew the story winked among themselves, murmuring: "Up at Carramone the young Master won't be able to come to her, at evening, when Neighbour Arcangelo is with his sheep. That's why Nina is weeping like a fountain.
Now who'll you get to marry you? She only wanted to stop where the [Pg 51] young Master was, so that she could see him every day at the window, as soon as he got up, and make him a sign to ask him if he was coming to see her that evening. And in this way Nina had fallen, with seeing the young Master at the window every day, who had begun by laughing to her, and sending her kisses and the smoke from his pipe, and the neighbour women were bursting with jealousy.
Then bit by bit love had come, so that now the girl had quite lost her senses, and she said straight and flat to her father: "You go where you like. I shall stop where I am. Shepherd Arcangelo wasn't swallowing that, and he wanted to fetch Don Licciu Papa to take away his daughter by force.
But the judge told him that Nina had already reached years of discretion, and she was her own mistress to do as she pleased and chose. After they had tied him up fast, Don Licciu Papa came running up shouting: "Make way! Make way for the Law!
The lawyer succeeded in proving that four and four make eight, that Shepherd Arcangelo hadn't done it on purpose, wilfully seeking to murder the young Master with a cudgel of wild pear-wood, but that the cudgel belonged to his profession, and was used by him to knock the rams on the head when they wouldn't hear reason.
So he was only condemned to five years, Nina remained with the young Master, the baron enlarged his store-pantry, and his Reverence built a fine new house above that old place of Shepherd Arcangelo's, with a balcony and two green windows. They had set up the theatre in the little square in front of the church: myrtle, oak, and entire branches of olive with all the foliage, showing that nobody had refused to let them take what they wanted for the Mystery Play.
Uncle Memmu, seeing the sexton in his orchard hacking and breaking off whole branches, fairly felt the blows of the hatchet in his stomach and called to him from the distance: "Nay, aren't you a Christian, Neighbour Calogero, or has the priest never marked you with the holy oil, seeing that you lash at that olive tree without mercy?
The Lord will send you [Pg 54] a good year for it. Don't you see the young corn dying of thirst? The play was the Flight into Egypt, and the part of Holy Mary was to be played by Neighbour Nanni, who was a small-made man and had had himself clean shaved for the occasion.
The moment he appeared, carrying the Infant Jesus at his breast, the latter being Goodwife Menica's little lad, and said to the robbers: "Behold my blood! The curate had chosen those two well, for robbers. Real stony-hearted villains they were! Pity does not move me! The Virgin Mary had to go on begging and beseeching them, while folks were muttering in the crowd: "Neighbour Nanni only plays the softy because he's dressed-up as Holy Mary.
But for that he'd stick the pair of them with that sheath-knife he's got in his pocket. And this was the miracle. If the malefactors managed to lay hold of the Madonna and Saint Joseph, both together they'd make mincemeat of them, and of the Infant Jesus as well, God preserve us! Goodwife Filippa, whose husband was in the galleys for having slaughtered his neighbour in the vineyard with his hoe, because the fellow was stealing his prickly pears, wept like a fountain seeing Saint Joseph chased by the robbers worse than a rabbit, and thought of her husband, when he had come to the little hut in the vineyard absolutely spent, with the police at his heels, and had said to her: "Give me a drop of water.
I'm done for! And when [Pg 57] they had taken him away by sea, on which he had never been before, with his basket over his shoulder, linked up to his galley-companions like a string of onions, he had turned round to look at her for the last time, ah with such a face, for he would never see her again, for from the sea nobody ever comes back, and she had never heard any more of him.
She alone could know what anguish there must be in the heart of the Madonna, at that moment when the robbers were just on the point of seizing Saint Joseph by his cloak.
And Trippa the butcher beat on the big drum—Zum! The goodwives began to scream, and the men picked up stones to flatten the snouts of those two rascals of Janu and Neighbour [Pg 58] Cola, shouting, "Leave the patriarch Saint Joseph alone! Don Angelino then poked his head out of his den, with his chin unshaved for a week, and worked himself to death trying with hands and voice to calm them: "Let them be! Let them be!
That's how it's written in their part. Really, he would have put Christ on the cross with his own hands, to get the quarter for the mass. Or Neighbour Rocco, a father of five children, hadn't he had him buried without a scrap of a funeral, because he couldn't fleece anything from him—there, under the stone floor of the church, at night, in the dark, so that you couldn't even see to lower him into the vault, for eternity!
And hadn't he turned Uncle Menico out of his little house, and taken it from him, because it was built on the rock-slope belonging to the church, and had a tithe-rent of a quarter a year on it, which Uncle Menico had never managed to pay? When he had built the cabin for himself, pleased as could be, carrying the stones with his own hands, it [Pg 59] never entered his head that one day the curate would have it sold because of those five nickels tithe-rent.
The difficulty was to get them together all at once when the tithes were due, and Don Angelino answered him, shrugging his shoulders: "What am I to do?
You see, brother, it's not my property, it's church property. Just a year later, day for day, on the eve of Good Friday, Nanni and Master Cola met in the same place, at night, under the Easter moon, so that it was light as day in the small square.
Nanni was squatting behind the church-tower, to catch anyone who was going to visit Gossip Venera, whom he had once or twice caught all in a fluster with her dress undone, and had heard someone making off through the garden gate.
You'd better tell me. If you like somebody else, I'll leave you to [Pg 60] it, and goodnight to the music. But you know, I don't like to have such a thing on my mind. Be careful what you say to me! He's got something into his head, by the way he looks at me, and the way he hunts round the house every time he comes. Nanni was waiting in the shadow, alone in the square that was all white under the moon, and in a silence such that you could hear the clock of Viagrande chime every quarter of an hour, and the light trotting of the dogs which went sniffing in every corner and rummaging their noses in the street-sweepings.
At last a footstep was heard, someone keeping close to the wall, and stopping at the widow's door, to knock softly, once, twice, then more quickly and in a hurry, like someone whose heart beat with desire and fear, and Nanni felt the stranger's knocking strike in his own chest too. Then the door opened gradually, carefully, with a gap darker than the shadow, and a gun went off.
Master Cola fell, crying, "Mother, oh mother! However, it is Tench's contention that Italian realist authors diminish the distance between reader and text by emphasizing "the subjective power of things" 17 , such as the sea in I Malavoglia. This chapter also explores the importance of sound in Verga's story and its contribution to his "poetics of immediacy" Lastly, Tench argues that Verga and his fellow veristi demonstrate an early, almost avant la lettre sensibility to "reader response," as evidenced by their attempts at establishing a mediating relationship between reader and story.
In chapter 2, Tench studies the narrative technique of Verga's early works. Tench proposes a backward reading of the story to illuminate the true sequence of events, and the ways in which Lanti and the narrator take over each other's narrative role. Moreover, she shows how the reader is implicated in the tale. The narrator begins to retreat in "Tigre reale.
The narrator in "Eros" represents a return to order, omniscience, and judgment, yet he is not a physical presence since his narrative voice emerges through free indirect discourse. Chapter 3, the core of Tench's book, focuses on I Malavoglia and its mediators, who hold "discursive, political and economic ascendancy" Overall, Tench's analysis is cogent, but an examination of the female mediators of Aci Trezza would have enhanced her reading.
Tench initially focuses on Don Silvestro, town clerk and "intriguer par excellence of Aci Trezza" , who controls others primarily through his discourse.
She also proposes Silvestro as an author figure since he is distrusted, in part, because of his attachment to the written word. Piedipapera, commercial middleman and "Aci Trezza's preeminent gossip" , is the ultimate insider.