Outside he walked with his head up, in the centre of the road, like an important person ; he barely answered if anyone greeted him, but walked on, as if he disdained everybody ; swiftly too, as if he had no time to lose.
By the Via Cavour he came to a greengrocer’s, and looked at the baskets of fruit displayed without stopping, only just turning his neck a little, as though he had to readjust his collar.
The smell of the fruit reached his nostrils and set them quivering ; his knees bent under him ; but he continued his walk, without quite knowing where he went and at every step colliding with somebody ; finally he turned back, thinking of the fruit he had seen, which he imagined to be better and more delicious than any he had tasted in his whole life.
The tears almost came to his eyes because he had no money in his pocket, but he decided to beg his brother to buy some fruit for him.
In the shop, he found that Valentini had gone, and he said to Giulio :
– What did that rascal want ? The next time he comes into the shop I’ll kick him !
– What harm has he done to you ? – asked Giulio, laughing.
– Oh ! Must he have done me some harm ? Is it necessary ? I can’t stand the sight of him, I can’t bear him : that’s the harm he’s done me!
– You never can stand anybody ! You’re half crazy. Really, you don’t belong to our kind.
But Niccolo took Giulio’s arm and squeezed it, saying to him after grinding his teeth like a schoolboy who can contain himself no longer :
– Giulio, Giulio dear ! I’ve seen such apples and such pears that … I’d give ten years to taste them ! I’ve fallen in love with them !
Giulio, amusing himself at his brother’s greediness, queried :
– Were they really so beautiful ?
– Marvellous ! They must be like butter, the peel’s so soft. I won’t eat at all to-day if I can’t have some of that fruit too !
– We’ll send along Enrico when he comes back !
– Yes, yes ! Take all there is in the till this morning, and send him. Make his mouth water too !
– That won’t need much effort.
Enrico entered, banging the door to. Once, when they could afford an assistant in the shop, he had always had it opened for him and closed after him. He looked all round the shop, to see if anyone was there ; suspiciously, and ready for any ungraciousness.
– Where have you been ? – asked Giulio.
– Are you my father that I should tell you everything ? Do I ever ask you where you’ve been to?
– You’re quite right, – Niccolo agreed.
– You be quiet ! – answered Enrico in his drawling, nasal voice ; – you are always ready to squabble. I’ve just seen Valentini coming out of here : what on earth does he ever come in for if he never buys a book? Besides, he hardly knows how to read. Why doesn’t he stay at home? When our floor is worn out, we’ll have to have it repaired with our moneys not with his. If he stayed more at home his steward wouldn’t keep his wife company so much.
– Is that so? Who told you? This makes me feel quite happy.
– I know. Whenever I tell you something you always ask me where I learnt it. Still, if you don’t believe it, it’s all the same to me.
Giulio opened one of the drawers in the desk, and taking out a ten-lire note handed it to him.
– Go to Cicia, and buy two kilos of apples and pears.
– Have I got to go? Can’t one of you two go?
Niccolo wouldn’t speak to him, and wouldn’t even look at him, as though he had been irritated by him. Giulio said to Enrico :
– It is Niccolo who wants you to go.
– Well, if I go, I must also buy a piece of gorgonzola at the grocer’s.
– Do what you like.
Enrico went towards the door ; then Niccolo burst out :
– Can’t you hurry up, instead of standing here in our way!
And when Enrico had gone out, he continued :
– He never feels like doing anything at all.
( Federigo Tozzi, Three crosses – 1920 )