Sgiff the man who knew infinity

The small town / Chapter II

[ 39 ]

At five, before it got hot, the lawyer Belotti, already in his black coat, which was pointed at the back, went for his morning walk. As usual he wanted to go down through the garden of the Palazzo Torroni to get to the street; But Saverio, the caretaker, valet and gardener, came out from behind a pillar in the hall and put his hand to his mouth.

"Mr. Advocate!"

"What is it, Saverio?"

Since the servant spoke in a whisper, so did the lawyer.

“The Baron was outside that night. He's still outside. "

"Ah! these hunters. Hunting, my friend, is a passion that takes a man completely. If I should speak to you about myself ... "

“But it's not about hunting, lawyer. He went to the inn "zum Mond" and has not yet come out. "

The lawyer opened his mouth and raised his index finger.

"Look, look," he said, - and he began to laugh, first a silent laugh and then like a hoarse rattling, which resulted in coughing and spitting. When he came to rest, eyes wide:

"Are we going to have a scandal, Saverio?"

And he offered the servant the cigarette-box.

“The Baroness is asleep. I threw everything around in the master's bedroom as if he had left early, and I spent the night at the front door. "

“If it weren't for you, Saverio! He doesn't want to drive too far and return home before everyone is on the road. [40] I'm going so that no one sees us together. A deep silence is required now, Saverio. "

The lawyer backed out of the house. He had forgotten the morning walk; the scene of the extraordinary demanded his presence. Behind him, in the corso, was a hasty step: Don Taddeo. The lawyer greeted them heartily.

"A nice morning, eh, Reverendo?"

The priest looked at him with very red eyes, pulled the cassock tighter around his lean body, as if he feared a touch, and - clap, clap - he was around the corner. The lawyer stared afterwards.

“Hardly ever touched the cap. Does he know -? And he's stuck with the baroness. We're going to have a scandal. "

Unusually busy, he waggled down the still quiet corso and, opposite the last cathedral window, suddenly pushed himself around the corner, where it went down to the inn. Now it was lying there, still half asleep, by the running of the fountain, in its little straw-strewn place, with the stables on the left, the vine arbor over there - and a window was open on the second floor. “Look there,” said the lawyer to himself, “they love the fresh air. But now it would be time to wake up. ”He bent down for a stone and threw it into the window, panting heavily. "You seem very tired and you will know what about it." As he picked up the second stone, Baron Torroni himself appeared under the gate next to the landlord Malandrini a large glass of wine threw himself down his throat.

"Ah!" Cried the lawyer at once. “Herr Baron, what a beautiful and healthy occupation yours is! If I weren't tied to my study -. And where is it going [41] on this brilliant morning? In the field, after larks? Maybe even into the mountains against the boar? "

"I came," explained the other, "to pick up the young man who lives here: this singer -"

"Mr. Gennari," added the landlord. “I'll see to it that he doesn't keep the Baron waiting. Don't bother! "

“He promised me that he would be ready immediately. In the meantime I'm going ahead. "

He squeezed the lawyer's soft hand and quickly disappeared.

The landlord carefully cleared his throat.

"Do you see the open window?"

The lawyer winked.

“He wasn't home at all,” said the landlord. "He didn't come home at all."

"Ah! so is it not this room? "

Malandrini winked.

“That is the other, next to it. The young lady is still sleeping now. "

“It seems she needs it. Ah! this baron. "

"A real nobleman," remarked the landlord.

They looked at each other, sparkling faintly.

"And the other one?" Began the lawyer again. “The comedian? Is he outside too? Maybe there is something even stronger? My friend, I begin to suspect that we will experience things in the city - "

The landlord sighed. But then, with hand rubbing:

“The good thing is that we get a little exercise ... Excuse me, I'd rather set the tables myself in the arbor. My wife won't come down until late. She is still asleep because something extraordinary has happened to her. When I open my eyes and look in vain for her by my side, she steps into the room, looks suspicious and explains to me that her father's soul has called her out. The soul has asked that I not be woken up. So much consideration! "

"That is the superstition of women," said the lawyer angrily. “How long will we leave their upbringing to the nuns! You don't believe in this silly story, do you, Malandrini? "

"How will I. There is a lot going on in women that we do not know. You have to have patience."

“But tell me, this girl! The first night! Would you have believed that, Malandrini? "

"Why not?" - and the landlord started up. “Is the Gasthaus“ zum Mond ”a monastery? And by the way, what do you know. Only what you tell, lawyer. "

"Oh!"

The lawyer put his hand on his heart.

“This priest seems to have known,” he said and turned away thoughtfully, “why he didn't want to let the comedians in with his sheep. One has to admit that his own kind understands people. "

"Do you want to go out into the street?" Malandrini called after him. "Then use the garden gate!"

“You are right” - and the lawyer turned back. “You have to stick to your calm habits. I haven't missed my morning walk six times in twenty-seven years, and I hope to do it for another twenty-seven years. "

Behind the house he went down the wine hill, reached the street below - the shadows of the plane trees were still latticed over them - and took off his hat to dry himself. “Ah, this is where you breathe. They don't have that kind of air in the big cities, our good artists ... The baron knows how to take these women, it seems. It is said that as an officer -. He's supposed to have a child in Rondone ... But finally, what's in it? All things considered, it could be that I too -. Andreina's boy, even if she never really took it seriously with her loyalty, the boy is becoming more like me every year ... as far as a farmer can look like me. Back then I just threw the Andreina into the grain. You have to do the same with the comedian. "

He stopped, looked around fearfully, as if for a suitable place, and dried himself again. Under the road the olive trees, pale silver, descended the steps and crossed the river, which wound shiny loops around its dark roots. The last ones behind and the white farmsteads between them seemed washed over by the sea: the hot plain was already so deeply blue. Above him, the lawyer watched the city, made of flashing panes, walls that gaped a little between two cypress trees, and completely black arches. “Where's that tenor! Because let's only tell the truth: he must have spent the night in a corner of the city. To think that he is with the wife of one of my friends - who must have a very good sleep. Shouldn't it be Polli with his snoring? Last fall, he even continued to snore during the earthquake! Maybe he can see it. One ought to see that in a man! Eh, eh, there is a good thing about living as a bachelor. In each of the houses up there the comedian can now do his things: only in mine he certainly does not do them ... And at the Camuzzi? How's the Camuzzi doing? ”The lawyer's blooming face occurred to him as he thought of his enemy, the parish secretary. [44]

“He deserves it like no other, this ignoramus, this insolent! Ah! put on your sneering smile again, friend - and meanwhile one sees it germinate from your forehead! "

The lawyer took a deep, happy breath.

"This is really a very nice morning."

“But unfortunately,” he then remarked, “this little woman Camuzzi seems satisfied. She replied to Severino Salvatori, who wanted to drive her around in his basket wagon: not even across the square to the cathedral door! And yet her mother should be there. But the Camuzzi is humble and proud, does not look at anyone, always only goes to church. Not much, and she belongs to Don Taddeo's guard ... No, "the lawyer had to realize," there is little hope of her. "

He straightened up again immediately.

"But others would not be to be despised either, and for my part I would not mind if the doctor's wife -. Ah! that one is vicious: you can feel it. First of all, it is too fat to be virtuous. And has it only been shown that she is doing the comedian favors: - for what is the comedian and are others less good? If I think about it correctly, I had long since made up my mind about them. I want your husband to see that the sugar he was trying to find in me doesn't prevent something like that. Sugar, if not much, with a man like me! And I should do something about it! The doctor will see what I do! Ah! Ah!"

He rubbed his hands, waved around, and laughed panting up at the city. Then he fell into thought: she looked very different. Yesterday some things would not have been thought possible. Of course there were in her the things [45] that are everywhere. Apart from the house in Via Tripoli: everyone also knew the laundresses on the Bäckerberg; and the lawyer was particularly well informed personally about the widow of a city customs official who was supposed to dress hats. There were also rumors about Mama Paradisi and old Mancafede; more recently, and in a low voice, the one about Frau Malandrini and Baron Torroni - which the lawyer had thought improbable since this morning. But now it was no longer one or the other. Hardly any of them remained, now the comedian walked around, still unreachable; and the most exciting thing would have been if, at the same moment as the Baron Torroni was betraying his wife with that girl, the Baroness had repaid him with the tenor! The lawyer became inventive, his mind wandered and turned the city into his free hunting ground. He followed the comedian closely into every bedroom. Before that of the baroness he had to overcome an old shyness; but then, with a flick of the wrist, he hopped over this threshold as well.

Rejuvenated by his imagination, he had hurried along without noticing the way his arms fluttered and how it was leaking out from under his wig. Suddenly, already behind the public wash-house and halfway to Villascura, he found himself facing the comedian: himself. The latter said hello and slowly wanted to pass; but the lawyer started, gasping for air.

"That's ... there you are: well, there you are."

"Here I am, at your disposal," confirmed the tenor.

“That is,” - and the lawyer's buff face split into a cynical smile, “who knows at whose disposal you are here.” [46]

"What do you want to say?" Asked the young man. Suddenly he looked threatening.

“Nothing, oh nothing. You go for a walk, I notice, Mr. Gennari. You're up early. I have, you must know, the little vanity of being the first outside every morning: but what does it do to a man your age to get out of bed once at five, where he has spent a brilliant night. "

“My night,” said the tenor with hostile reticence, “was very little brilliant. Last night I felt the need to go for a walk and in doing so I turned off the road. Then, as you know, the sky was covered, I couldn't find my way back and went to sleep somewhere down there in the vineyards. You can see the earth on my clothes. "

The lawyer turned him around and examined everything.

"That is amazing."

He looked indifferent at that.

“So you've rested. Then I suggest you come with me. I'll show you our area, sir. You will have passed Villascura, didn't you? "

“I don't know, sir, what you mean. I already told you I was down there. "

The lawyer looked at him reproachfully, silently pulled out a pocket mirror and raised it in front of the other's face.

"What is that supposed to mean?" Asked the tenor, but he looked inside - and he found his eyes in them even darker than he would have liked, for they were rimmed and his face was very pale. The warmth had drained from its granular, marble paleness, and the black wave of hair over the forehead, the bars of the browbones, the thick red mouth popped out violently from the glaring white. [47] “I am not saying,” declared the lawyer, “that it is bad for you to look sleepy. For the beauty of you youngsters, the exertions of your nights strike well. Woe to us mature men! But what I wanted to suggest: a peaceful sleep on the soft earth of the vineyard, in the mild night air, would hardly have done you so. "

Before the other could flash, he held out both palms of his hands.

“Sir, you seem to think of me as your enemy. I am not your enemy, sir. On the contrary, I absolutely approve of the fact that young people, especially if they are artists, should talk to one another. By the way, what does it matter to me who am a bachelor? Of course, my married friends will not go that far in their appreciation ”- and the lawyer dared to smile again.

"Well, I am your friend, sir, and if you would tell me - as a gentleman of course you will not do it - in which house in our city you spent that night: you could rely on the lawyer Belotti."

The tenor's expression suddenly disarmed, he looked peaceful, even indifferent.

"Oh," he said. “In the city you believe -. Why not?"

And he began to laugh, with a light, clear bell voice. The lawyer rubbed his hands.

“Do you see? We are beginning to understand each other. Incidentally, how should two men like us not understand each other when it comes to women. "

"You are right!" And the tenor laughed harder. The lawyer stuck his forefinger in the stomach.

"Ah! Joker! Do you like our city? She [48] is small, but that in no way prevents us from elegant and cheerful manners. Our women: well, we are among ourselves young people, aren't we? "

“Of course! Do you speak!"

"If I could! Only one thing: I am sure that I know the one you were with that night, too. "

"I'm sure of it!" Shouted the tenor and laughed almost desperately.

The lawyer was all on fire, he struck the air with the backs of both hands.

"You would be amazed if I wanted to tell you the full truth about myself and the younger children of our best families."

He had stopped and showed the young man his wide-open eyes, which did not twitch.

"You are admirable," said the tenor emphatically, and they moved on. When the lawyer took a breather:

"Don't forget to buy eggs in Villascura."

"What do you have with your Villascura?"

"O! They are already as gloomy as the name of the villa. You don't like it? From there, in order to save the city tax, I bring my sister two dozen eggs. It's a habit. "

“But this Villascura is nowhere to be seen. How long should we go? "

“Wait for the road to turn around the mountain! - and meanwhile look at these beautiful corn plantations, the oil groves far down into the valley: they belong to the villa that you don't like, sir. Mr Nardini is our largest oil producer: three hundred hectoliters a year. Although he is my political opponent, I will never [49] deny that he understands his business and thereby benefits the area. As for his attitudes, they are deplorable. This obdurate old man pretends to be the support of the local priestly party. He could have been a minister for five years! The only condition was that he should marry his granddaughter to the nephew of the honorable Macelli, a large animal from the Chamber of Deputies - and that is why the plan failed, for old Nardini is intent on locking the Alba in the monastery. Why are you scared? "

“I'm not scared. A stone hurt me; these shoes are not suitable for the country. "

“But our roads are good! They are district streets - and it was no more than seven years ago that the government spent almost a hundred thousand lire on their renewal. "

The lawyer let his mouth go off like a cannon with the large number.

"In addition, the Vizinalwege, at my request and against the advice of the parish secretary, are shared equally by the city parish and Princess Cipolla -"

“Is there a women's convent here?” Asked the tenor.

"Why? The princess, whose property in this area I have the honor of managing, lives in the big world, in Rome, sir, in Paris ... But of course, we also have a convent, although we'd better have something else for it; and i will show you. Are you thinking of trying your skills on those holy petticoats? Ah! he will stop at nothing. But at least you can reveal one thing: the lady of the previous night will have been fat, wasn't she? "

"Who knows." [50]

“Because I understand: You are quite the fat type - who, by the way, offer the least resistance, as is generally known. But here we are standing in front of the villa, which you seemed to be unable to find. And since you are in the company of the lawyer Belotti, you are allowed, sir, to push back the gate and breathe the scent of the roses between these long hedges. "

The lawyer caught a foot and breathed noisily.

“Doesn't it seem like a dream? At the end of this corridor of roses and cypresses, the quiet house, with its two wings reaching forward and the secret wing in their middle, deep behind in the greenish twilight, under the mountain wall! Do not object that such a northward position is unhealthy: I know too well; - but how poetic is this shadow, smelling damp, rushed through by the waterfall, above which you can see our new power station up there, and filled with flowers. Ah! Sir: Flowers, music and women! "

Suddenly he began to gasp through his hands:

“Hey, Niccolo! the eggs! "

As the fellow came closer, the lawyer unwound a long net from behind him.

“That you give me fresh ones, Niccolo! That you count correctly: two dozen! "

He called afterwards:

"Frau Artemisia is still thinking of the finished chicken that was put on the table in one of your eggs."

Then he took the tenor under his arm.

“Come on, my friend! Why so shy? You are at home here with my company. "

Nello Gennari tried to hold back his tremors. He was terrified of the colors of the roses, which had gone out the night [51] when he kneeled here. The house, in there between its two wings, had been as black as the air, and in that corner, rigid and soft, it had hesitated the almost stifled light to which he had prayed.

The lawyer led him up to the side of the house against the white balustrade. The bushes on the stairs spattered drops as Nello brushed them, and above the smell of ancient cypresses that had never been sunbathed made him shudder, as in front of the grave. The heavy trees climbed the mountain in pairs, a crowd of gloomy pilgrims, and held up by clefts, they dispersed, in order, more rarely and weaker, to reach the top. An almost windowless wall stared straight down at the villa from the edge of the rock, the gray bulge of which it lengthened: watchful and threatening.

"The monastery," explained the lawyer. “They can see it from their windows and say hello to each other in their holy petticoats. They do it too, they belong to the family - and every woman in this house eventually moves up to that. "

He led the young man a little further and whispered:

“The old man's wife died up there. Oh, these are stories that no one can vouch for anymore. She is said to have fled him with an officer; and when she came back sick and repentant, he billeted her up there ... His daughter also climbed up when her husband was dead and ended up there quickly. Why does everyone die here, are sad and keep up with the priests? It will be the shadow; for hardly any of the sun touches the edge of the garden at noon; - and you may say what you want, life in the eternal shadow spoils the blood and worsens the character. Do you want a [52] example? Go down to Spello: it's in the sun. All men have tenor voices there, all women are fat and beautiful. Opposite, on the north slope, is Lacise. Well, sir: the women of Lacise are yellow and dirty and the men are all robbers. "

“Yes, yes. But you said that from this house every woman up there - "

"Everyone comes to the monastery," - and the lawyer pushed away all hope with a spread hand.

"But nowadays -"

Nello had to swallow.

"- are you enlightened, aren't you?"

As the lawyer just let out a breath:

"Also, an old, lonely man will not part with his daughter any earlier than necessary."

"Necessary? So you do not know what such a fanatic needs more: the love of a daughter or the blessing of the priests? O! Sir, it is all too certain that great harm is about to happen in our region and that one of our richest heiresses will be criminally withdrawn from the world, from civil society, from family life and from the common good! "

The stranger's expression suddenly had something dark and derisive.

“Certainly some have already been waiting for them? And in town you will have a circle where Alba would have danced and recited poetry as a young woman? And would she have made soup for the poor? Would have had lovers too? Perhaps you yourself, lawyer? "

"Eh! do you ever know that? ”gasped Belotti, pulling back shoulders and arms. The young man turned around. But laughing: [53]

“The monasteries also want to live; and up there she will at least be alone and free! "

Ah! A thousand times more he would like her to disappear up there, to be buried, than to be alive among commoners, in common places, in common arms!

“She will be pure,” he thought, while the lawyer looked at him with disappointment, - and more wondrous and trembling: “I will never see her again. But no one else will see them either. "

Then he jumped back and grabbed the railing.

"What happened?" Asked the lawyer, startled. The tenor held his hand on his heart and did not answer. The lawyer followed his distraught look, which went into the open patio door.

"Hey! Niccolo! here we are, ”he called, and the guy came out with the filled net.

"Ah, you are scared, young man," - and Belotti patted Nello on the shoulder. “You have nerves: like all artists. You also know what. "

He winked and knocked. Nello snatched his shoulder from him. He leaned over the balustrade and closed his eyes. It could have been you! What should happen when he saw her again! Already that night, spent in her sphere, among things that were hers, had delighted and exhausted him.

He went down into the garden, unnoticed by the two who were arguing about the price of the eggs. Wasn't this the bench on which he had rested and where she too was sure to sit down? In the dark he had felt for a trace of her foot on the way, had cooled his hand in it and pressed his lips on it. Where was the track now?

“Did I fake it? Oh, I also flattered myself that the night wind brought me the scent of her room: [54] her scent; and it was only this bed that I smelled. I'm a fool, I'm ridiculous. Didn't I think I would die on these steps of the fountain - and be found by her when she sought out the freshness of the spring that morning? Now it's hot, I'm thirsty, and I feel so far from her and alone, still under her window. "

He saw in the bowl what he was drinking from, his eyes filled with pain, listened to the green blocks along the row of cypresses, to his dull steps and found the little gate again, which he had already hinged in the middle of the night so that it would not be creaked. He left quickly on the road; and as he walked he spread his arms, and now again, and shook his head.

When the lawyer Belotti caught up with him, Nello looked around, confused: where was he?

“My poor young friend, you must have become deaf; I scream and scream: You run faster and faster ... "

Since the tenor did not apologize, Belotti did. He kept waiting; but if you only knew how exactly his sister took it with the eggs; - and he weighed the net in his hand.

“I have to pay for the bad ones. Ah, the women! But watch out for the municipal wash house! It is I who applied for its establishment and, once again in defiance of the ignorant Camuzzi, got it through. It gave me satisfaction to be able to work for the good of the women, and they are grateful to me for it, they spread my reputation as a friend of the people. Good afternoon, Fania, good afternoon, Nanà! "

The barber Nonoggi came towards them. He walked bobbing and laying on his left side. On his right he carried his scraped leather bag and waved it with every step, [55] while his left arm remained stiff. He drew his hat down to the ground from afar, grimaced and crowed.

"Good morning gentlemen! What a brilliant day. You don't die on such a day! "

"We don't think about it, Nonoggi," replied the lawyer. “Are you going to the Nardini? Give him my regards: I already went to his shop today. "

"You look badly shaven," said the barber to Nello Gennari. “That displeases women, sir. If you want to be content with the seat on that stone - it's in the shade - I'll serve you at once ... you don't want to? You are wrong. So we'll see you another time. Your servants, you masters! "

The lawyer called him back. He waited for the barber to come close, looked around and said in a low voice:

“Nonoggi, have you seen the baron? ... Me too. Nonoggi, something has happened between him and that stranger in the "moon", the comedian ... "

"Ah! Ah!"

The little man opened and closed his unclean eyes. He twitched; the red rivulets in the skin of his face performed bloody dances.

“Nonoggi,” continued the lawyer, “we have to be very careful about this: it's such an old family. You will find out, so I ask for your silence. "

The barber's hand had long been on his heart; he jumped, served, rounded his mouth, and stretched out his arm with the bag.

“How unfortunate it is,” said he, “when even the gentlemen forget themselves. On the other hand, you like to see it. Enough, we will be silent. O! the lawyer knows me as I know him. "[56]

“Otherwise we have nothing more and nothing less than a scandal, Nonoggi, - although it is a forgivable aberration. But we have to reckon with people like that priest. "

“Do we count on it, lawyer! Otherwise what would become of us? Would one of us always resist the weakness of his flesh? Because as for the wig makers in particular, they all have ugly women. It's strange, it's puzzling, but it's a fact. "

He spread his hand.

“Don't laugh, Mr. Artist! Because I am telling the pure truth. When we marry our wives, they appear beautiful to us, and afterwards they are ugly. Look at the families of all the barbers in town: the wife of Bonometti, Druso, Macola, or my own. No! you'd better not look at them. I don't even look at it myself, for fear of wearing it out. "

He pulled his mouth up to his left ear, waved his hat and bag and ran on.

In the midst of the laughter, the lawyer saw the city gate, took hold of himself, and flapped one of the wings of his coat over the net with eggs. He wasn't in much hurry.

“It's better to keep your form, after all. But I am known and nobody would dare - "

The city customs official put two fingers to his feathered hat; the lawyer said graciously:

"Good afternoon, Cigogna."

And to his companion a little from above:

"Can you see it?"

Whistling softly, he pulled the eggs out again.

But in the street people turned to look at them, and between the leaning shutters the lawyer looked several times with white faces, eager eyes looking down on his companion, who did not lift his head. Then the lawyer took the beautiful young man's arm, spoke and laughed at him, bent over him and completely fraternized with him. As they paced the semicircular town hall arcades at the exit to the square, the young Frau Camuzzi stepped on the balcony of the second floor, singing softly, behind a large fur that she held out and shook. She let it sink immediately.

"O! excuse me, lawyer. I hadn't seen you. "

“Just do it! It's an honor, ”the lawyer called back, jumping around to avoid the flying dirt. Frau Camuzzi remained bent over the fur that was now lying on the railing, was flushed, and kept looking straight into the eyes of the attorney's companion. The tenor took off his hat. She thanked slowly and very seriously. The lawyer snorted at the dust through which he had come. Before they reached the café, he stopped again and whispered, beating the beat:

“Let us think a little: Wouldn't it be a real shame if an ignoramus like Camuzzi had such a woman without being cheated on by her in the long run? But that's the way women are now: she is the most loyal of all. "

At that moment, gaunt, in white as yesterday and with even thicker bags under his eyes than yesterday, the old tenor Giordano appeared in the gate of the town hall and slowly raised his hand to his hat so that the diamond had time to sparkle.

"Ah! Cavaliers. "

The lawyer pounced on him. He gasped at the old man's ear:

“You are lucky, Cavaliere, to live with one of our prettiest women. A man like you [58] is expected not to let such happiness slip by! All eyes are on you! "

The old man waved lightly, as if so many words were unnecessary - but the lawyer, retreating, put his head back.

"Is it possible! What is it, what does it mean! "

“Don't you know that?” Asked the Cavaliere Giordano. "An arc lamp."

'I see it too well,' said the lawyer dully, 'an arc lamp. But an arc lamp, sir, that is set up here without my knowledge. It must have happened overnight, and I recognize Camuzzi's hand in this trick. He used the moment when I devoted myself to art. A public man, sir, a statesman cannot be vigilant enough. "

From the alley of the hen lucia came, with steadfast stride and one hand in his pocket, the baritone Gaddi. He planted himself squat with the others and said in his brazen voice:

“We’re the first, aren't we? Nello, of course, as a result of an adventure, me because my family won't let me rest - and at the age of the Cavaliere you don't sleep long anymore. "

Old Giordano made a face. Gaddi raised his massive Caesar profile to the buildings around him and declared the city interesting. The lawyer Belotti implored the gentlemen to let him lead them around: they would not regret it that he was a specialist in the history of the city and that the material for a monstrous work had been in his desk for twenty years.

First he read to the three comedians the Latin inscriptions on old marble chunks in the facade of the town hall. In order to be able to read a high one, [59] they had to climb on the shoulders of a fellow whom the lawyer summoned. Belotti asked old Giordano to do the same, and paused in amazement when the old man refused. The city had older origins than Rome! A temple of Venus had taken its place for centuries.

“Your whole place! Because ours was one of the greatest shrines of the goddess, her admirers flocked from all over Italy. "

The three listened up. The baritone noted:

"That must have been a brilliant business."

"Ah!" Said the lawyer, delighted and plaintive, as if he had witnessed the fall of time. "That was different from now, when the city was taking a small income -"

With the hand on the mouth:

"- only from the house in Via Tripoli."

The three nodded silently.

“Oh, a wretched little thing! But then: imagine, gentlemen, in the gardens that covered all these slopes, the army of priestesses! "

It was evident from all three that they introduced themselves to the priestesses. Nello Gennari had enlarged eyes and a bitter mouth.

“Their apartments expanded as far as Villascura. Yes, we have evidence that it was in Villascura that the houses of the most distinguished of those ladies stood. "

He giggled hoarsely, Cavaliere Giordano grumbled a little, Gaddi laughed ironically. The young tenor bit his lip and looked at the floor.

"So now you have been informed," added the lawyer, "from which talented mothers our women are descended." [60]

He then led his excited audience into the courtyard of the town hall, to the Madonna des Valvassore.

“Our great cinquecentist gave it to his hometown. Note the delicacy of the coloring! "

But as many wax candles the lawyer lit, the strangers could only see something black and brittle behind the wire mesh. Before their spirits could sink, he insisted that they show them the wooden pail that the townspeople had stolen from Adorna's three hundred years ago. A mighty war had broken out between the two cities as a result. Both had put blood and wealth on this bucket. The gods, it was said, had been divided among the armies of the two cities and fought for him.

"And we, who were helped by Pallas Athene, kept it and it hangs in our bell tower," concluded the lawyer. "You will see, you will see!"

He hurried across the square ahead of them. He kicked himself violently on the pole of the arc lamp and looked up angrily.

“It's in the wrong place. I wouldn't have put them there! "

When they were over, he hesitated, half turned and whispered:

"In the corner next to the tower, the black house: don't look, I swear you, we are being watched."

He pulled them around the corner of the tower and said in each ear's ear:

"Back there is one of our greatest peculiarities, the city's secret, something inexplicable: a miracle, the fanatics would say."

And he reported on Evangelina Mancafede, who had not gone out for nine years, but saw and knew everything in the city. [61]

"Amazing," said the baritone.

"Bad enough," said Nello behind closed teeth.

"Even more than that," added the lawyer, "she knew beforehand, Cavaliere, that you would come!"

The old singer looked worried. Such things could bring bad luck.

“I have been prophesied that I will die in a city of less than a hundred thousand, surrounded by mystery. So I have to be careful. "

"You look like you couldn't die at all," said Gaddi, with a look at the old man's painted cheeks.

"Fame makes you immortal," shouted the lawyer and pushed back the tower door. They climbed a slippery staircase, one behind the other. The lawyer paused in front of a door with iron fittings, stretched an arm over the descendants, and impressed upon them the solemnity of the hour.

“In the story of the bucket, gentlemen, you find a great example, who serve you for glory. Many braves died around this bucket. What is a life The bucket lasts! Fame doesn't die! "

"Well! good! ”said all three. Old Giordano's eyes were wet.

"But we're still missing the key," remarked the lawyer, and he called up into the tower:

"Hey! Ermenegilda! "

It echoed empty. The lawyer climbed three more steps and yelled on each one. At last an old, sinister face leaned over.

"What do you want? The key is not there. There is no longer any permission for the bucket. "

"What? Have you gone mad, Ermenegilda? Do you not know me anymore? I am the lawyer Belotti. "[62]

"I know that. But Don Taddeo has the key. "

"What are you saying? Don Taddeo has -. But that is an obvious assault! This is declared robbery! Gentlemen, you have witnessed an act of violence. You will be there when I report what has happened to the municipality. Ah! I can hardly believe it. "

The lawyer had his hands over his head. He fell - and he almost threw the three comedians down the stairs - with flying laps out of the tower, between the motionless lions over the steps to the cathedral and inside. The others ran after him.

“Herr Advokat,” cried the baritone, “don't bother! We do not raise - "

The lawyer had already disappeared into the sacristy, he was coming out again.

“Do you think this priest will show himself? He is afraid and does well. We want to see who is the stronger! That's not how things will go. Inside there - "

He pointed to the sacristy.

"- is not only a hearth of lies and schemes, but also a true den of robbers."

"After all, you stole the bucket too," objected the baritone. The old tenor suspected:

"It will be a mistake."

"Is that so important?" Asked Nello Gennari.

And as the lawyer raised his arms:

“By the way, maybe the priest is right. The bucket is in his tower ... "

"O! has one ever heard such sophism. The bucket, the symbol of the city! Conquered by us! - and a priest [63] should be allowed to venture -. But I will know how to find him: he is at school. Friends, go to school! He should experience a defeat that he will never forget. "

They held him with difficulty. Boys gathered around them. The hammering and singing stopped in the square and in the entrances to the alleys, and people stepped on the thresholds. The pharmacist Acquistapace showed up. He said Don Taddeo wanted revenge because - and he pointed to the three singers - art was now flourishing in the city.

“It's to me who I called her here,” said the lawyer. Nevertheless he let himself be persuaded to take the vermouth from Godfather Achille before the start of the fight. Polli and Camuzzi also appeared. The barber Nonoggi, who accompanied her out of his shop, withdrew as soon as he saw the lawyer, and at the same time the lieutenant of the Carabinieri passed by. The lawyer asked the soldier to take possession of the key in the city immediately by force. The ward clerk found this to be illegal.

“So go over to the priests! I knew well, Camuzzi, that you do not love progress. You also had the arc lamp that everyone bumps into, to mock me, put it in the wrong place overnight. But I never thought you would sink so deep. "

The secretary declared that he was completely at ease. There is a question of competence here, because if the bucket belongs to the city, the tower in which it hangs is the property of the church.

"Didn't I say it?" Remarked Nello Gennari. The quarrel of these people, the importance they attached to their affairs, peculiarly embittered him. It seemed to him that around himself and his feelings he could demand a long, respectful silence. Would they like to kill each other!

“The priest is right!” He shouted in an angry, bright voice. "In general we have to have religion."

The lawyer ignored him. Suddenly he looked sure of victory.

“Do you want logic? You should have it. Ah! you should have them. "

With your finger on your nose:

“The bucket hangs in the tower: good, but it hangs. It doesn't touch the floor, and the rope that connects it to the ceiling is urban: I know it, because I bought it myself from the ropemaker Fierabelli because the old one no longer seemed safe enough to me. Well! Neither above, nor below, nor all around does the bucket encounter church territory, and who would claim that the air in which it hangs belongs to the church? "

"It's undecided," said Camuzzi, and Nello supported him.

“You will not confuse me. The air is free. From the air above your vineyard I can shoot as many birds as I want, provided that I don't trample your field. "

The lawyer brought his vermouth to his mouth and watched, blinking lustfully, the defeated expression of his opponent. His victory had reassured him.

"Put your feet on the ledges of your chairs, gentlemen!" He said jovially. “This is how you escape our fleas. Ah! One has a good head on such a fine morning and it is a real pleasure to talk about this and that among men. The women are not good for it. "

Meanwhile all bowed to Mama Paradisi, who completely filled one of her windows with her waves. The closest her two beautiful daughters met.

“You are already dressed,” said the pharmacist, “is it not for you, Herr Gennari? Without wanting to offend the other gentlemen: but I'm not referring to myself. "

The tenor looked away.

"You are spoiled, young man," and the old warrior laid his broad hand on him. Nello broke out:

“Shouldn't women be forbidden to open the shops during the day? There they lie around the square and would like to open their arms right away. A woman without restraint repels me: I am like that. "

"But Nello!" Said the baritone. “So far, things haven't been going fast enough for you. Yesterday, in the first half hour, you were looking for someone who went to the cathedral. "

“Who went to the cathedral? Keep silent! Maybe you're paid to offer me one? "

“I don't know you again, Nello! This madman, gentlemen, was usually a cherubim, the joy of women, of all women in the cities where we sang. He has never turned down anything. And now what happened to him? "

Old Giordano kissed hands on all sides.

“You don't have time to speak,” he said. "There are too many."

"Why do the shutters stay closed on those houses?" He asked in between. As one looked at him, the pharmacist confessed:

“This is mine. But the wife of the wig maker Nonoggi, as you can see, acts as a cavalier by closing her shops in the spirit of Don Taddeo, who wants to forbid art. O! not my wife alone: ​​a whole party supports him. You will see. "[66]

“We take up the fight!” Promised the lawyer. “He will hand over the key: and if I should lead trials for the city that will keep me on my feet for the rest of my life, he will hand over the key. I myself, the advocate Belotti, will lead all of your choristers into the tower, will show them the bucket, and not even St. Agapitus himself should hinder me! "

"Talk to your brother about it!" Advised Camuzzi. “He's got a sound head, and there he comes; it is ten o'clock."

The tenant rode up the Rathausgasse on his tripping donkey between two large baskets. At the town hall he first took off the blue Klemmer, then the bell-shaped straw hat, and waved both. He dismounted in front of the café.

“Good afternoon, society,” he said.

"The lawyer claims ..." began Camuzzi.

"I'm not claiming anything," said the lawyer quickly.

The tenant looked at him pityingly.

"Ah! the lawyer. What does he want again? Cardboard ... "

He mimicked his eminent brother's way of speaking in a spiteful tone. The lawyer leaned back elegantly.

"These are things that a man like you cannot judge."

"Well, you are silent," replied Galileo. "But who are they there?" - and he moved his finger from one of the three strangers to the other. At the introduction he scraped his feet awkwardly, groaned between the compliments, and when he sat back in the chair, he relieved himself by spat out loudly. He held his short fat thighs wide apart and let his little golden-brown fists hang down between them. Under his white eyebrows he blinked contemptuously at everyone, twisted his mouth in silence at what they were saying, and finally demanded, pounding out as if his patience had been exhausted, that his neighbor, since he was already an artist, should do some magic or a joke. The old tenor got up and paused. He has been an artist for fifty years, but such an imposition. His whole face, every wrinkle in it, trembled as if he were about to burst into tears, and when he moved his wrinkled hands he had clearly forgotten about the diamond.

“What does he want?” Asked Galileo. “What a fool! Pappappapp! "

He made the same goofy voice with which he had mimicked the lawyer. The Cavaliere Giordano was preparing to retreat. The lawyer turned him back again and again with tender respect.

“Don't do this to us, Cavaliers! In no city is your fame greater than ours. Do not misunderstand my brother, he also admires you. Galileo, our sister asked about you, a goat is sick. "

"Why didn't you say it right away? But the lawyers don't understand anything. "

He wiped his mouth with his hand, took the donkey that stood with its snout on his neck and led it into the alley. The lawyer went on with incantations.

“Cavaliere, a man like you is above such misery. A farmer did not treat you with the due respect: what next? Because my brother is only a farmer. At seven he goes to sleep, at one o'clock at night he rides into the field, and at ten, when the heat begins, he returns home. In the meantime, he plays Mora with his own kind. He went to mass under the Pope, but not now, of course. Nevertheless, his mind is poorly cultivated, and he lets the chicken lucia, a mad old woman, predict the failure of the harvest. But -"

He let go of the singer.

“- let's not mention these little things. The moment, Cavaliere, is serious. Gentlemen, I see the priest appear on the corso. "

He sat down, weak, it seemed, with excitement. Old Giordano also took up his chair again. What he had suffered suddenly overwhelmed him. He slumped and mumbled:

"Artist for fifty years ..."

"He has Baroness Torroni with him," said Polli.

"To cover it," added the pharmacist.

"What does that do," - and the lawyer jumped up."I'll just explain to the baroness that, with this priest -" "He says goodbye, she goes into her house."

The old tenor suddenly started:

"I, whom his Excellency Cavour made Knight of the Crown of Italy!"

You didn't hear him. The lawyer stood ready to jump. When he saw him, the priest, flinching, left his line. The lawyer shot off and cut him off.

"Trapped," remarked the pharmacist.

"And I have a house in Florence!"

The Cavaliere Giordano angrily put down his glass. "What do I care about all these misery? My house is full of memories of a glorious career, gifts from princes and ladies ... "

"Don Taddeo, your servant," one heard the lawyer say. [69] He raised his hat and even struck his foot. The priest greeted him just as politely and stared at him with his red eyes.

“One word, Don Taddeo, if you are not uncomfortable! An unpleasant mistake on your part ... "

"There is no mistake, sir ..." and it was noticed that the priest could hardly speak. "The key: because you certainly want to talk about him ..."

"Of course. To you with confidence in your loyalty - "

"Without a doubt. But the point is simply, sir, that the key was eaten away by rust and was hardly usable. I gave it to the locksmith Fantapiè and ordered a new one from him. "

"Ah!"

The lawyer made a sound that was not hoarse. How easy it must be for him! Polli, Acquistapace and the lieutenant repeated: "Ah!" - and the baritone Gaddi also said: "Ah!" Nello Gennari only paid attention to Cavaliere Giordano. The famous singer had collapsed after his outburst and looked old: at last blatantly old, with drooping jaws, eyes that stared like old people, and helpless hands. His young companion thought, and frowned at the poor figure:

"Yes, what is he doing here? A rich, dear old man - and lets himself be made fun of the bully in a filthy nest! But he no longer has a voice; in the big cities they no longer want him; and since, it seems, one never learns to do without clapping hands in our lives, the fists of the peasants now have to take care of it - just as one can perhaps blind the maids when the mistresses no longer look at one ... That's how it goes with us. We carry on, just as I drove for so long: always childishly on, poorly intoxicated, without anchors, without the courage to land; - and one day in front of the café in a country town, where fleas jump over your feet, you notice how far you have come ... But me: o! it will never get there with me. I am young and I want my whole life to belong to Alba. I will convince her of my adoration, I will do something, an act, a risk that she wins for me ... Found: from the monastery; I will free you from the monastery! How could she not love me! We flee. Then we throw ourselves at Grandfather's feet ... I am perhaps foolish and romantic? But nothing, if I am never supposed to have her, nothing prevents me from living at her feet: as a farmer, unknown to her, under the walls of her cell. Or is there a men's monastery here? On the festive days in the church we could see each other: her beautiful head in white cloths and I under the robe - could look each other in the eye and sing ... "

"Young man, you are dreaming," said someone, and the Cavaliere Giordano, who had recovered, looked at Nello with a superior smile.

The lawyer and Don Taddeo were about to say goodbye. A semicircle of spectators followed their movements.

"So I can count on your word" - and the lawyer took a step back to serve.

"But how. At your service, ”replied the priest, leaning forward and cap in hand.

"It is always good to communicate," said the lawyer at the next step. And Don Taddeo:

"We shouldn't hate anyone."

“I think so too, Reverendo. Your servant. "

The lawyer knocked out one last time. [71]

He returned with a damp forehead and eyes that still saw nothing. Among the spectators, the barber Bonometti said:

"He gave it to him, the lawyer."

The servant's wife, Pipistrelli, pushed the cane on the pavement.

"Don Taddeo gave it to him, him!"

The boys whistled after the priest on their fingers. When he turned around, they were innocently playing on the floor.

"There he goes, the coward," said the pharmacist, not very softly. "He's talking about the locksmith."

"If you want to tackle them -" said Polli. "You know that."

"Meanwhile, lawyer," said Camuzzi, "you have been polite to that gentleman, he cannot complain."

"Polite, me? I told him all about it. Of course, one negotiates in a civilized manner ... "

"You shouldn't have called him Reverendo," said the tobacconist, "if he didn't at least call you your Excellency."

“But what do you have? For his part, he felt my irony very well, I'm sure of that. He knows at this hour that I consider him a villain. Do you think he would have crawled in front of me like this if he hadn't had a bad conscience? He was scared of sweating! He would have loved to run away as soon as he saw me! "

"That's true," said the baritone, and the others admitted it.

"Victory is with the lawyer," said the lieutenant. The pharmacist Acquistapace hit the table.

“Bravo lawyer! On the day he hands over the key, I'll pay two bottles of A - "[72]

"Asti," he said at the end and had already quietly pulled his hand off the table. His wife had come out of the pharmacy with her black cloth over her head and shoulders; her gaze fell so heavily on the old warrior that he became smaller underneath; and she went up to Don Taddeo. The priest was still standing by the well with the wigmaker Nonoggi's wife, who raised her arms plaintively. And while Mrs. Acquistapace was squeezing both of his hands, Mrs. Camuzzi appeared in the square. She passed three paces from the gentlemen's table without lifting her eyelids, and joined the others.

"Ah, the women," sighed the lawyer, painfully struck by the disapproval of pretty Mrs. Camuzzi. Her husband said:

"The Baroness Torroni will also join the priest's party at once."

The lawyer and his friends looked around at the Palazzo Torroni with dejected expressions. Instead of the baroness, the comedian showed up there on the corner of the Italia Molesin inn.

"How they chatter and flap wings around him, the geese!" Said the tobacconist Polli, full of courage from the absence of his wife. "Why don't you lick the grease stains off his cassock!"

The ward clerk continued to dig in the wound.

“You don't have to believe, lawyer, that you can easily deal with Don Taddeo and his family. He evades you: so much the worse. He hides behind the locksmith Fantapiè, who does all the work for the church and the monastery and will not have finished the key a moment earlier than the priest would like ... "

A swarm of schoolchildren broke out of the Corso, wrapped Italia up, rushed over them and made such a noise that nothing could be understood. The pigeons fled from the pavement into the air, to the protrusions on the cathedral. Some returned and sat on the rim of the well bowl. Italia came closer; the handkerchief had slipped from her shoulders, she turned her hips and eyes from side to side, chewing as she did so. When she saw the pigeons, she approached them and, screeching tenderly, held out the palm of the bread to them. At the same time she raised her head in applause. Instead, Mrs. Acquistapace said:

"Is it permissible, Reverendo, for a lost woman to feed the church pigeons?"

While Don Taddeo sighed, the Nonoggi added:

“I'll get my broom. The first night when you think! And with a nobleman! "

Frau Camuzzi kept her eyelids lowered. Suddenly she pressed her lace scarf against her neck and spat out - what looked good on her. Past her black dress you could see it falling down in silver. Italia sat up questioningly. Nobody said a word in front of the café. At last the lawyer tried:

“These ladies seem to know something. Should Nonoggi - "

Without looking at him, the pharmacist replied:

"Even without Nonoggi, everything comes out in the end."

"That is hideous," shouted the lawyer. "I wash my hands in innocence - although, as I must add, I was the first to find out about the matter."

But when Jole Capitani, the doctor's wife, because she had meanwhile arrived, asked the priest in her languid voice whether the comedienne could not be locked up so that she would no longer seduce anyone, the lawyer was indignant. [74]

“Not them! Ah! they don't. A woman who is so fat shouldn't speak badly of others! "

Italia was there with tears in her eyes and asked:

"What do these ladies have?"

The silence of the others made the lawyer even more embarrassed.

"Nothing," he managed. “We're in a small town, what do you want; one does not like to see here that a woman sleeps late. "

"But the young lady deserved her sleep," said Polli honestly.

"I believe that! The trip by post, and played every evening in Sogliaco ... "

"And maybe love too?" Suggested the lieutenant and straightened out.

"The passion!" Cried the lawyer jealously. “Because the artists love with passion, and that rubs them off. I know it."

“How true!” - and Italia thanked him by tickling him with her eyes. The lawyer snorted.

"This one," explained the baritone Gaddi, "is not easy to grate, it eats too many macaroni."

"You should never make fun of women," said old Giordano sweetly. "You are too serious a business."

"Thank you, Cavaliere," - and she tickled him too. "I love the gallant man."

“You know, you know!” - with a blow between the glasses; and the tobacco dealer looked round for the pharmacist, red as a lobster. "The baron!" They whispered, choked and burst out at the same time.

"What do these gentlemen have?" Asked Italia. In order to win her over, she tickled both of them with their eyes and, to be on the safe side, the lieutenant too.

The lawyer threatened her with his finger; she laughed; and meanwhile Frau Camuzzi came by from the cathedral with lowered lids. Italia watched her go with tension and submission.

"Is that the lady who spat?" She whispered. "And why did it spit in front of me?"

"I'm offended too," said old Giordano dully and brooded, all wrinkled again, to himself.

Nello Gennari winced, as if waking up, and stared at someone.

“Here is someone who knows everything. Everything you understand Isn't that terrible? "

"I forgot," said old Giordano, eerily. "My memory! But now I can see where the misfortune comes from. There in the corner behind the tower - "

Forcing Italia into his wide-eyed eyes, he jerked his thumb backwards. The lawyer made a soft "Sst". Polli whispered:

"You don't look."

"It's terrible to always have such invisible eyes on you," repeated Nello Gennari, looking down. The baritone picked up his watch chain.

"I'm not saying it's a great convenience."

"What's up? Oh what have you got? ”- and Italia had the back of her hand on her mouth.

"You have Hornbreloques, Gaddi?" Asked the old tenor. "You should never take them off."

Quickly and without turning around, he spread two fingers against the Mancafede house.

"What's up, my God?" Pleaded Italia. "I want to go." [76]

"What then," said the lawyer. “We all live here and it doesn't hurt us. It is a girl who has not left the house for nine years without being sick and yet knows everything that has happened and sometimes also what has not happened yet ... "

"You have to admit," - and the community secretary smiled mockingly, "that it may be a little creepy if you are not used to it."

"I want to go."

Italia pushed her chair back. The lawyer grabbed her and pushed her onto the seat.

"You, an artist, wanted to flee from a simple appearance of human nature?"

"Well, just -" said the secretary. Italia, clutched by the lawyer, looked around for help.

"That's why I was insulted," began old Giordano again. "I, who for fifty years -"

"Is that why that lady spat in front of me?" Asked Italia, enlightened.

"But science -" began the lawyer.

"So who is still safe!" Shouted Nello Gennari, jumped up and, arms crossed, made a stormy round around the table. “She knows,” he thought, suddenly realizing, “where I was that night and that I love Alba! I wanted to be dead rather than see a human being in possession of my secret. But she has it: she already knew the name yesterday! - and can give me away. I live by her grace, how can it be endured! ”He sat down again and took his forehead in his hands.

"Science will -" said the lawyer. Old Giordano suddenly raised his arms and sucked the air into his open mouth. [77]

“And my prophecy! This city has fewer than a hundred thousand inhabitants and I am surrounded by mystery. I will die here. "

"Yes, you have to be careful," - and the baritone unshakened twisted his little horns. The old man shrank. The lawyer suddenly had a fit of sorts. He shrugged his shoulders wildly, the backs of his hands gave small spasmodic blows in the air, his veins swelled up, and his eyes were those of someone suffocating.

Suddenly the conductor Dorlenghi stood at the table and said, breathing quickly:

"If the gentlemen like it, try it!"

Nobody answered him. Italia tore her handkerchief through her teeth, old Giordano looked away indignantly. Then the lawyer took the floor.

"Good afternoon, Dorlenghi, have a seat!"

“Let's not waste any time, gentlemen! This wretched school kept me up long enough. Because I'm a little village musician and I have to teach the children to sing. Come!"

Since nothing moved, he asked, hesitating and pale:

“But what happened? I do not understand -"

The lawyer waved desperately. Suddenly he folded his arms and said lightly:

“You don't want to, Dorlenghi. These gentlemen have made the plan to leave. "

"Oh yes, leave!" - and Italia nodded flying and distorted, as if she were wrapped in snakes.

"I travel too," said old Giordano. "I don't want to die here."

The bandmaster picked up a chair and grabbed it. The lawyer caught him and sat him down. [78]

“Courage, Dorlenghi! I am embarrassed about this incident too; but what do you want? Artists are subject to whims, we knew that. Whoever wants genius must also want whims. "

"At least," said the baritone, who had carefully examined his appendages, "it might be better if we travel."

Nello Gennari took his forehead from his hands; he had a confused, struggling look; - slowly and strongly shook his head, pressing his eyelids, and let his forehead fall back.

"You're joking," the conductor managed, smiling like a doll. “A successful joke. But shouldn't we go? It's getting late and it's far to the theater.

"It's serious, my poor Dorlenghi," - and the lawyer knocked him. “Our artists are afraid of the invisible one back there.Don't look! And finally, who knows; There are reasons for everything; and even I, maestro, wonder -. Because, let's tell the truth! the strange things pile up a little. Why did Don Taddeo have to give me the trouble with the key just today? Moreover, I had forgotten that the wife of the landlord Malandrini, yes, Ersilia Malandrini, saw her father's ghost last night. "

Italia started laughing wildly. Everyone looked at her in horror.

"A ghost?" She asked.

"Certainly, a ghost, Fraulein," confirmed the lawyer gravely. “Because I am not one of those who deny the soul. I am not an enemy of religion, just an opponent of the priests. "

"But such a ghost, oh, such a ghost -" and Italia shuddered. [79]

“I don't love a woman without religion,” remarked the pharmacist Acquistapace in his honest voice. She was suddenly still and looked him steadfast and faithful in the eye.

“The lady laughs! Do you see that she is laughing? ”The conductor kept repeating. He was on his feet, in his delicate skin you could see the blush flowing under the blond hair on his chin, and he said in a voice that trembled from the bottom:

“I knew you would not fail me. Where is Miss Flora Garlinda? "

"Oh," said Gaddi, "you can count on them, Maestro, who sings: even on her own, without us, and no misfortune, evil eye or ghost can keep her, because she doesn't believe in anything."

“So let's go ahead! The piano is upstairs, ”- and he pointed to the stairway; “I had a lot of trouble with it until it was up… How? Gentlemen, I beg you, I beg you. "

"Perhaps it would be better not to believe in anything?" Suggested the lawyer.

"If you don't come: yes, what am I going to do," said the bandmaster and grabbed his forehead with a fly.

“It is difficult not to believe in certain things,” remarked the Cavaliere Giordano. "Especially with the theater."

"My future! You won't want everything to be in vain? "

"I've seen her," - and the baritone hit his strong chest. “In Pesaro, the make-up pots that you had just held in your hand disappeared and you found them in another cloakroom. I had to fetch mine several times from the prima donna. "

"Your wife should find out," said Italia. [80]

“Will I never get out of here?” - and the conductor hit his chair hard and looked at his bent hands, which were stuck in poor, too long sleeves, had swollen veins and were sweating.

They replied with indignation:

“You were happy enough to come here. It seems to us that a hundred and fifty - "

The Cavaliere Giordano moved the citizens to silence with a wave of his hand.

“In Parma, as many even among those who have performed there do not know, the theater - but the fact is that the theater has a spirit. I saw him. "

He nodded each one in the eye.

“That spirit was a lady of the court a hundred years ago and is said to have loved a tenor, although a religious vow forbade her to do so. Whenever a young, as yet unknown tenor sings, she comes through the corridor from the castle to the theater. The ghost that he had during his lifetime always sits in the same box and waits to see whether the stranger will endure that tone ... "

"That tone?" They repeated.

The conductor had already jumped up again. He took a few steps, angrily pushed apart a screaming bunch of boys, went to the well.

"And my overture!" He kept saying, now dull, now breaking out, now grating. He put his hands on the fountain bowl and groaned loudly.

“It should be performed in the theater! Garlinda should sing my aria, Sad Fate ‘! What is it for, what are they all for! Ah! Don't you want to help me find the light that I deserve? You want to stop me? "

He reached for his hair, he clenched his fist. [81]

“You may beware! I have their contracts, I will destroy them with them, destroy them without mercy! "

And he spat in the well. Then he returned, a little inward on his hunched legs; and since he felt that as he approached his face, whether he wanted it or not, had a modest expression, he forced it to threaten.

"In the impossibility of knowing exactly," said the Cavaliere Giordano, "you will understand, gentlemen, how difficult my situation was."

"Devil!"

"Think to yourself: you arrive in Parma without a clue, you start singing happily - only to find out by chance in the last pause from some good heart that a ghostly lady is sitting in the third box on the right, waiting to hear that tone endures where her lover died a hundred years ago. If you can endure it, you will die too, that's for sure. You choke on him. "

"Nice pleasure!"

“And you don't know which one it is! The traditions do not agree. It could also be the high d, gentlemen: the high d of my great aria, O pale stars ‘in the last act of, Galathea.‘ But should I forego my high d? With him I defeat every audience. Now maybe I'll die for it, suffocate miserably? It's a choice between life and fame ... Gentlemen, I was young, I took fame. "

"Bravo! Bravo!"

The lawyer laughed panting in between, without being aware of his impropriety, only out of excitement because he had stumbled on a foot under the table which, if not mistakenly, belonged to Italia Molesin. The Cavaliere Giordano [82] looked at him punishingly, and he raised his eyebrows, caught in the act.

“Of course I said to myself too; it will not have been the d that charlatan choked on; because no one can take it for two minutes except me. No matter how I stand in front of the prompter box, the whole house pushing back its breath and only I throw it out, long, long, long: - Oh, I'm telling the truth, I wasn't feeling well. Maybe I was a little damp, maybe it was a little blurry from my eyes. It may even be that my strength has weakened. But then God directs my gaze, and in the third box on the right I see a figure rise and clap soundlessly. The blood rushes to my heart, I break off with power, hear the house moving a thousand hands and feel that I am saved. I bow to the third box on the right just as the figure steps back and disappears. I can still see her now, it seems to me: she is very pale and dressed like an abbess. "

"As a -!"

Suddenly Nello Gennari stood erect for a long time, hand on heart and distraught and bloodless. Gradually he caught his breath.

“Like an abbess: yes, that was her. A nun! - and that tenor died for her. Your story is true, Cavaliers! I believe in you!"

He sat down. Everyone was still shaken.

"Cavaliers, I have to ask you," began the bandmaster, weak and breathless. The lawyer gave his chair a push and, hands outstretched, turned quickly across the square.

"What has he got?" Asked Italia, disappointed. For under the table her knee had meanwhile also met that of the lawyer. "Who is he with?"

"This is the merchant Mancafede, the father of that woman over there behind the tower: don't look, she sees us."

"He doesn't seem dangerous."

"Gentlemen," the bandmaster began again, "you probably didn't think about the consequences -"

The two approached. The lawyer spoke panting and breathing in the other's ear. Suddenly he pushed it forward and let go of it. The merchant served and passed around his dry, cool hand. His old hare profile with the arched eye turned in jerks.

"If the gentlemen allow it -"

Everyone must have nodded before Mancafede sat down. He was looked at gently as he made himself small and round in his thick brown jacket, which looked like his fur.

"You have a daughter?" Asked the Cavaliere condescendingly. Mancafede smiled modestly.

"My daughter spoke of you, Cavaliere."

"It would not have been necessary."

"As you wish. However, since she is much alone, she likes to occupy her mind, and it seems that she, more than the rest of us, knows about the world and about certain things which "- with her hand on her heart -" concern us are great. Your fame, Cavaliere, did not keep my Evangelina sleeping. She usually sleeps after lunch; but yesterday, after a few sighs, she got up again and said: 'Papa, he's on his way here now!' 'Who, little daughter?', He, the Cavaliere Giordano. then should one not agree with her, and is it not a true miracle that a man whom they fearfully await in Paris and London refuses everything to choose us? You can hardly believe that he is sitting here, in the midst of us, like one of us! "

"Indeed," said the citizens thoughtfully. The lawyer said:

"This would really be an opportunity to put a plaque on the town hall."

The secretary Camuzzi made a doubtful face, but he had the majority of the citizens against him. They declared:

“A good thought! A patriotic act! The city owes it to itself! "

The Cavaliere Giordano bowed, tall and happy, in all directions. Then he turned to the merchant in confidence:

“And, won't it, sir, it will be some coincidence that revealed my imminent arrival to your daughter? She does not have this knowledge from within and not in a mysterious way? Does all of this mean nothing? "

Mancafede listened to the Cavaliere's requests in silence. If he made the old tenor his enemy, a bale of red flannel, which the peasants had not bought and which he would now have wanted to get rid of to the comedians, threatened to stay there any longer. But his fatherly ambition won, and he shrugged.

“What a coincidence - since only the maestro knew about it. Tell me, maestro, whether you have given a living soul a hint! "

“So as not to be ashamed if the Cavaliere didn't come. But what use was it to me, ”- and the conductor's blue eyes were moist and angry -“ since he now wants to leave without having sung! ”[85]