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
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
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
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