Then, as if Corsali were not there at all, he began to talk to his brother.
– Have you sent those invoices ?
– I have only to put them in the envelopes.
– What are you waiting for, then ?
– I’ll do it before this evening.
– Have you got them quite right ?
– I copied them exactly from the book.
– With the dates?
– With the dates.
– I’d like to know why they haven’t been paid.
– Rich people always like to do things calmly.
Niccolo tapped the wooden chest with the ring on his little finger ; then he remarked, with a yawn :
– My head aches ; that stew was too spicy, and it hasn’t agreed with me.
– It’s you who always want it like that.
– Will there be chicken this evening ?
– I think so.
– Because, if not, I shall go and dine in some restaurant.
– You can go; nobody forbids you to. It wouldn’t be the first time either.
– And you, Vittorio, what are you having for dinner?
– Me ? I shall eat whatever is put before me ; probably soup, for all the world like dish-water, a little bit of boiled meat, and then, if there happens to be any, a tiny morsel of cheese enough to set a mouse-trap with.
Niccolo laughed and said : – I’d like to find a nice turkey for to-morrow. Do you know, I wouldn’t taste a piece of boiled meat for anything ; I couldn’t put it into my mouth, not even to chew it.
He was gay and lively, and he began telling one of his stories. He was always hearing new ones ; and on telling them he would laugh with his whole body, shaking all over with the enjoyment of it.
– This really is a good one. Try and find another person who will always manage to get the best as I do.
Giulio was laughing too, but not happily, and with a queer, choky laugh. Niccolo continued :
– Dio ! how I laugh! My eyes are brimming with tears. It even hurts me to laugh so much. Last night my wife woke up and said to me : Whatever are you laughing at ? That was because I remembered the little tale I was telling the other day. Tell it to Vittorio, Giulio. My little jokes ought really to be printed.
But suddenly he became very serious, because Enrico was entering the shop. The latter was still sleepy and stupefied ; he was walking in a loose, disjointed manner, and knocked against the book-shelf.
– Oh dear, I can’t see. I have slept badly. There was that marble-worker under my windows hammering away and making such a terrific noise. Oh ! such blows. When they know that there’s someone trying to sleep they really should be more careful. It seemed as if he were doing it purposely. I’d just like to know why he had to make such a noise.
– Perhaps he’s just had some marble delivered to him.
– Eh? But it’s a question of good breeding. He’s not the only one that lives in that house. What do I care for his slabs of marble? Might as well say that I am concerned because his wife carries on with other men. She does so every day. Everybody says so.
– And what does he care if you wished to sleep ?
– Oh, how you do talk ! Of the two and you can ask anyone you like whether it isn’t so of course, I am right. I’ll wager whatever you like on it. Any gentleman would agree with me. Because, if I sleep, he can go on working just the same, whereas I had to get up because he was working. When I came down I was going to speak to him about it, and then I didn’t. But another time I won’t be quiet. I’m too good, and that’s the truth. And why ever did you drink all the rum from that bottle?
Niccolo answered : – Buy one for yourself.
– Certainly ; from now onwards I will do so. Fancy having to do that among brothers. I did think I’d find at least a small glassful.
– And did you drink water instead ?
– Water ? May my eyes fail me if I ever even so much as put a drop of it in my mouth ! Water, indeed !
( Federigo Tozzi, Three crosses – 1920 )