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The Peasant`s Will part 4

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The Peasant’s Will – Antonio Fogazzaro (1842-1911)

Born at Vicenza in northern Italy, Fogazzaro led a very active life, both as senator and writer. Though he studied at first for the law, he was soon able to devote himself largely to writing. His novels (and in particular The Saint) brought him international fame. During his most prolific period he wrote a few volumes of exquisite short stories, among which one of the best is The Peasant’s Will. It is wholly representative of this writer’s art, serene, sympathetic, natural.

The present version is translated by Walter Brooks, and is reprinted from his volume, Retold in English. Copyright, 1905, by Brentano s, by whose permission it is here included.

The Peasant’s Will

In my earlier days I was the assistant of Lawyer X, of Vincenza, when one day in August, about ten o’clock in the morning, a young peasant of Rettorgole came into the office and begged the lawyer to go with him to his home for the purpose of drawing up the will of his father who was, as he expressed it, “mal da morte.”

The Peasant’s Will – My principal assented, and, wishing me to accompany him, we all three started off, squeezed into a rickety country cart without springs and drawn by a sorry nag of uneven gait. The seat which we occupied was cushionless and hardly added to the comfort of two not over-stout

individuals, each accustomed to his own easy-chair. X’s face wore an expression of agony, and he cried oui at every jolt. I suffered in silence, and the peasant imperturbably described the illness of his father, a certain Matteo Cucco, nicknamed “L’orbo da Rettorgole,” because he had only one eye. “But he can see more with that one than most people could with three,” remarked the afflicted and respectful son.

We were hardly outside the city when we left the main road and turned into a narrow and muddy lane running through a succession of low-lying meadows, where the cart jolted even more than ever, but fortunately we were not long in arriving at our destination. We found there a miserable tumble-down house planted in the midst of mud and mire. A stable, open below and with a hay-loft above, was built against one end of it, and combined to provide shelter under the same roof for man and beast.

The Peasant`s Will part 4

The Peasant`s Will part 4

The sons were white with rage, the witnesses shrunk away in terror, and mother and daughter glared at one another with a look of hatred and menace, but no one dared utter a word as X furiously tore the will into fragments.

All of a sudden the daughter started forward, and without hindrance from any one went straight to where the dying man lay, and put the babe down by his side.

“Pare!” she cried. “Pare! do you want me to die of hunger? At least leave me a bowl of`polenta` for my child!” A scowl passed over the face of the old man, and unable to show any other sign of hostility he closed his one remaining eye.

I shall never forget the picture of the two heads on the pillow: the beginning and the end of life. One with the laughing eyes and dimpled rosy cheeks of the “bambino,” and the other a dying man`s contracted features, with hollow face darkened by the shadow of death. The idea that the evil spirit was hovering above both, ready to

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The Peasant`s Will part 3

The Peasant`s Will part 3

While she seemed agitated and spoke in an excited manner, she was to all appearances telling the truth, and had no intention of deceiving the lawyer in her answers to his questions concerning the heirs and the amount of property. According to her statements there were only the t hree children, the sons now present, and the property consisted of about fifty acres of good farm land, part at Polegge and part in Rettorgole, another house, live-stock, farm implements, and numerous small articles.

What the old woman had said was confirmed by her sons, and also by the other witnesses. The lawyer suggested that the estate be divided in some general manner among the heirs, but this was objected to by all: wife, sons and witnesses as well. They insisted that it was the wish of the old man to assign everything specifically.

One of the witnesses, a man of rather better appearance and manners than the rest, came forward, and offering his snuff-box to the lawyer with an eviden

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The Peasant`s Will part 2

The Peasant`s Will part 2

X immediately flew in a passion at the idea of such indignity, and declared it preposterous to expect him to mount a ladder of that sort; he said he would rather return to town. The young peasant who was holding the ladder below kept assuring him that it was entirely safe, and another peasant who, attracted by the talk, had come to the opening into the loft, also took hold of the ladder, and shouted— “Come up, Signore, don`t be afraid! It`s strong.”

Being younger, and accustomed to feats of mountain climbing, besides being urged on by curiosity, I determined upon the ascent, and moving cautiously, succeeded in reaching the loft without mishap. X, emboldened by my success, finally changed his mind and followed.

In the loft was a miserable and filthy straw bed, and lying upon it was an old man in rags, with features like wrinkled parchment, one eye entirely closed, and the other almost devoid of life. Though he breathed with difficulty, he did not appear

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The Peasant`s Will part 1

The Peasant`s Will part 1

Antonio Fogazzaro (1842-1911)

Born at Vicenza in northern Italy, Fogazzaro led a very active life, both as senator and writer. Though he studied at first for the law, he was soon able to devote himself largely to writing. His novels (and in particular The Saint) brought him international fame. During his most prolific period he wrote a few volumes of exquisite short stories, among which one of the best is The Peasant`s Will. It is wholly representative of this writer`s art, serene, sympathetic, natural.

The present version is translated by Walter Brooks, and is reprinted from his volume, Retold in English. Copyright, 1905, by Brentano s, by whose permission it is here included.

The Peasant`s Will

In my earlier days I was the assistant of Lawyer X, of Vincenza, when one day in August, about ten o`clock in the morning, a young peasant of Rettorgole came into the office and begged the lawyer to go with him to his home for the purpose

Continue Reading