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ITA 154n - Nedda

ITA 154n - Nedda - 3?36‘“" fi'wswai-H-sq-I:u...

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Unformatted text preview: 3-?36‘“ ". fi'wswai-H-sq-I:u ‘ ' . ,-~:.v a may m:- . -. w a . ' ' ‘ .. ' . . . 25“”? .. . ~., ...:.,m..._. “writs ..~ .;.., _ ‘ V‘I ' I Ix? H. “can. _' . 7.. “‘2': .Vv...‘ ,-.,’._ THJIW-Tq _-,:vlu(__...-'l “27.11". I: _ ' I A -_ I. M_,.-.fl-‘,:)'-.§_H‘H.fi’. .- n “h I“ 'I I _. x l I ‘ u. \ _ I” I. . ' I _ l a I ’I’.‘{" J l I '1 I I I .I I I ‘- u I. I . v I 5 o I a H hair-dc. . ' ' ‘ ' ' - I ‘- - ‘ ~ . ' . ' ' ' . . ' n . ' ' ' .' - u . . . ‘ ' . -‘ ~ I . . , H - .. ‘ ” _’, , . _. .‘. . u ..| - \H .' .. .‘ '. , - N . I ' ' . . . . . . -. - - ‘ . - » -I '51. <_.-.- ./ . I, g“ 1, Hr. - .; . .. . .I . . I I ' ~."' I.-. ' i. '- - ‘21-" '.."-‘.""" 'a‘rf \ ‘ ‘1‘; i , . . : -',{._ Nedda SICILIAN SKETCH The family fireside was for me a figure of speech, useful as a frame for the mildest and calmest of emotions, on a par with moonbeams kissing blonde tresses; but I used to smile whenever I heard people telling me that the fire in the hearth is a sort of friend. There were times when in truth it seemed to me to be too demanding a friend, annoying and despotic, that would have liked to take you gradually by the hands, or by the feet, and drag you into its smoky cavern and kiss you after the ~manner of Judas. I was unaware of the pastime of poking the logs, or the joy of feeling yourself engulfed inthe warmth of the flames; I had nounderstanding of the teasing language of the log that crackles and grumbles as it burns; my eye never grew accustomed to the bizarre . designs of the sparks rushing like fireflies over the blackened firebrands, to the fantastic shapes that the wood assumes as it blazes away, to the thousand and one Chiaroscuro effects of the blue and red tongues of . flame that timidly lick and gracefully caress before bursting petulantly ‘ and arrogantly into life. But once I Was initiated'into the mysteries of the tongs and the bellows, I fell hopelessly in levewith the hearth’s potential for blissful idleness, I fling my body on to the armchair beside the fire as though I were casting off a suit of clothes, allowing the flames to make the blood flow more warmly through my veins and cause my heart to quicken its beat, and entrusting the sparks, darting and fluttering like enamoured moths, with the task of keeping me awake and making my thoughts wander off in the same capricious fashion. There is ‘ something charming and indefinable in the spectacle of your thoughts taking leave of you and flying off at random into the distance, whence they shower your heart with unsuspected tokens of bittersweet melan~ Cavqllen'a rusticana and Other Stories choly. Your cigar half—spent, your eyes half—closed, your fingers holding loosely on to the tongs, you see your other self careering dizzily off into the far distance; you sense the currents. of strange worlds passing through your sinews; you smile as you experience a thousand and one sensations that would turn your hair grey and line your forehead with wrinkles, without moving a finger or taking a solitary step. It was during one of these nomad excursions of the soul that the flame flickered a littletoo closely perhaps, and brought back the vision of another gigantic flame I had once seen burning in the enormous fireplace . at Piano, on the slopes of Etna. It was raining, the wind was howling angrily, and the twenty or thirty women employed to gather the olives on the farm were drying out their clothes, sodden by the rain, in front of the fire. The contented ones, those who had money in their pockets, or those who were in love, were singing, whilst the others sat talking about the olive harvest,which had been poor, about the weddings in ' the parish, or about the rain that was stealing the bread from their mouths. The steward’s elderly wife was busy at her spinning—wheel so as not to waste the light from the lantern that hung from the fire’s canopy, and the big, wolf—coloured dog lay with its muzzle stretched out across its paws towards the fire, pricking up its ears at every new wailing of the wind. Then, while the minestra was cooking, the shepherd began to play a mountain song that made your legs itch to be moVing, and the girls started dancing on the uneven tiled floor of the vast, smoke—blackened kitchen, while the dog growled for fear of their stepping on his tail. The ragged skirts fluttered merrily, and the beans too danced away in the pot, mumbling amid the froth boiled up by the heat of the flames. Once they were tired from dancing, it was time for the singing to begin, and several of the girls called out r'Neddal N edda Varannisa!1 Where’s Varannisa hidden herself?’ - ‘I’m Over here,’ a voice replied from the darkest corner of the room, where a girl was squatting on a bundle of firewood. ‘What are you doing there?’ ‘Nothing.’ ' ‘Why weren’t you dancing?’ ‘I’m too tired.’ making merry over rich picking towards her and said, ‘Why have you left your mother on her own, ’ Nedda ‘Sing us one of those lovely songs of yours. ‘No, I don’t want to sing.’ ‘What’s the matter?’ ‘Nothing.’ . . ‘ ‘She’s got her mother dying,’ said one of her companions, as though 'she were saying she’d got toothache. Crouching there with her chin over her knees, the girl raised her big, black eyes, shining but tearless and seemingly impassive, towards A the young woman who had spoken, then lowered them again'to stare -. down towards her bare feet, Without uttering a word. Most of the girls turned away, all chattering at once, like magpies s, but two or three of them turned then?’ ~ ‘To find myself a job.’ ‘Where do you come from?’ _ ‘From Viagrande, but I’m staying at Ravanusa.’ The steward’s goddaughter, who was due to marry the third son of Massaro Jacopo at Easter, who wore a fine gold cross round her neck, - and who thought she was very clever, said as she turned her back .on her, ‘That’s not far! If the news is bad, they can send it by pigeon.’ N edda shor her retreating figurea glance similar to the one that the dog curled up by the fire had been shooting at the clogs threatening ‘ its tail. I ‘No!’ she exclaimed, as though replying toherself. ‘Zio Giovanni would come and tell me!’ ‘Zio Giovanni? Who’s he?’ ‘Zio Giovanni of Ravanusa. Everyone calls him that.’ ‘You should have got Zio Giovanni to lend you something instead of leaving your mOther alone,’ said another girl. I ‘Zio Giovanni isn’t rich, and we already owe him ten Inc! What about the doctor’s bill? And the medicines? And the bread we have to eat every day? Oh, it’s eaSy for you to talk,’ Nedda added, shaking her head and allowing for the first time a more sorrowful tone to ' ' ‘ tand in the creep into her coarse, almost savage vorce, but as you s doorway and watch the sun go down, knowing there’s no bread in the _ —-.' _._ .m- - . ._.-..,—.. __. . Cavallen'a mstz'cana and Other Stories cupboard, no oilin the lamp and no job to go, to next day, it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth when you have a poor old Woman lying ill in bed!’ She fell silent, but continued to shake her head withoutlooking at anyone, her eyes dry and expressionless except for-a hint of benumbed ' sorrow such as eyes more accustomed to tears would be incapable of betraying. ' . y . ' ' ‘Your soup plates, girls!" shouted the steward’s wife, raising the lid from the pot with an air of triumph. - ' They all crowded round the fire, where the steward’s wife was ladling out the beans with the parsimony of long experience. Nedda, her soup bow1 under her arm, was last to come forward, and When she finally found a. place, the flames lit up her wholepersOn. I _ She was dark—skinned and poorly dressed, with that air of coarseness and timidity brought on by poverty and loneliness. She might have been beautiful, if toil and hardship had not profoundly altered not only whatever delicate womanly features she had possessed but also the very shape of her body. Her hair was black, thick, unkempt, and tied up with string, her teeth were white as ivory, and there was something attractive about her coarse features that became more evident whenever she smiled. She had big black eyes, moistened with tints of blue, that would have aroused the envy of a queen for that wretched girl curled up on the lowest rung of the human ladder, had they not been overlain by the shadow of timidity that comes With poverty, or rendered so lacklustre through her unchanging air of sorrowfiil resignation. Her limbs, whether because they had suffered so much beneath enormous burdens, or because they had been forcibly wrenched into Shape through painfiil exertions, had lost their natural form, but without becoming sturdy. She worked as a builder’s labourer whenever she was not clearing rocks from ground being broken up for plOughing, or carrying other people’s. heavy goods into town, orattending to one of the 'many demanding tasks that in those parts are considered too demeaning for any man to perform. As for the jobs women normally undertake in farming areas,harvesting the grapes and the corn and gathering the olives, they were like holidays to her, a time for merrymaking, a genuine pastime rather than hard work, though on the other hand they brought Cavallm‘a msticana and Other Stories a ‘Come on, then, take some of mine.’ ' ‘I don’t the] hungry any more,’ Varannisa retorted briskly, thanking. her for the offer. ‘You there, who curse the rain of the good Lord, don’t you ever eat ' '- bread like the rest of us?" said the stewards wife to the girl who had sworn at the foul weather. ‘Don’t you know that autumn rain means a good harVest?’ ‘ _ Her words were greeted with a general murmur of approval. _ "Yes, but it also means that your husband will be docking three half-days from our week’s wages!’ ' This brought another murmur of approval. "What work have you done in those three half~days that needs to be paid for?’ replied the old woman triumphantly. ‘That’s true? That’s true!’ the other girls responded, with the instinct that ordinary people have for justice, even if it causes someone to suffer. The steward’s wife recited the rosary, and the monotonous mumbling of the Ave Matias ensued, accompanied by one or two yawns. After the litany came prayers for the living and the dead, at which point the eyes of poor Nedda filled with tears, and she forgot to sayher Amen. ‘What are things coming to when you don’t say your Amen?’ said . the steward’s wife in a severe tone of voice. ‘I was thinking about my poor mother so far away; Nedda replied, putting on a serious air. The steward’s wife bade them goodnight, took up the lantern, and ' went away. A picturesque array ofpallets was made up in different parts of the kitchen or around the fire,- the dying flames of which cast their flickering light over the various groups and the postures of the. sleepers. It was a good farm, whose owner, unlike many others, spared no eifon to provide a sufficiency of beans for the. minestra, wood for the fire, and straw for the pallets. The women slept in the kitchen, and the men in the barn. But when you have a miserly owner or a small farm, men and women bed down wherever they can find a space, in the stable or anywhere else, on straw or a few rags, children alongside their parents, and if the father is well off and has a blanket of his own, he spreads it over his family. Anyone feeling cold will huddle up against his neighbour, or. . settle down with his feet in the warm ashes, or cover himselfwith straw A best he C an. Afte 311 over again . i’ and the own er turns a blind eye to 6V6 Nedda r toiling away for a whole day, and before beginning on the next, sleep comes easily, like a benevolent despot, ' rything except for denying work. . ther, and unable to complete n the air as they fell to the muddy . “hes, then fluttering fOr a while 1 . . ban es where the pigs rolled about in earth, and rivulets spread into puddl . ecstasy. The cows pressed their muzzles against the g fixing their sorrowful eyes on the. the tiles of the gutter, sparr ‘There’s another day wastedl’ her teeth into a loaf of black bread. ‘Look, the clouds are separating from raising her arm in that direction. .‘Perh the sea over there,’ said Nedda, aps the weather will change eat?’ ' ' i i ‘What about the losses the 0 going bad, and the ones he’s losing in ‘That’s true!’ said another of the girls. wner has to bear on account of the olives the mud out there?’ Cavallen'a rusticana and Other. Stories ‘But just you go and pick up a single one of those olives that in h an hour’s time will be no good to anyone, to go with your dry bread. and see what. the steward has to say about it." ' ‘He’ll be quite right, because the olives don’tbelong to us.’ ,i... ‘Nor do they belong to the ground that’s making a meal of them!’ ‘The ground belongs to the owner, doesn’t it?’ Nedda replied, her f eyes aglow with pride in the force of her logic. I ‘That’s.very true,‘ said another girl, who could think of no better? way to reply. _ , ‘If you ask me, I’d rather let it rain all day than spend half a day crawling through the mud in this weather for three or four miserable soldi.’ ‘Three or four soldi mean nothing to you, I' suppose!’ Nedda retorted sadly. I On the Saturday evening, when it was time to settle the week’s accounts, and the steward’s table was littered with papers and little. "My mother’s 111. 1n,bedl heaps ofsoldi, the men with the loudest voices were the first to be paid, ‘Afen’t You afiald? . - little money in my pocket Brit my then the most quarrelsome of the -women. The last of all, and those I ._ ‘Yes, I’m afraid about havmgfoh e to work tomorrow, I wouldn’t who - were paid the least, were the timid and the weak among the *-'..Imother’s ill, and now thatl don t av. ht ’ women. When the steward had made up her account, Nedda discovered b€ able to Sleep in Stayed here overmion'l any? the: young shepherd that after her wages had been docked for the two and a half days of ‘Shall I come along and keep You P ’ forced inactivity, she was left with only fortysoldi. . h ‘gaSkeda in 31.65ng tone OfV01.Ceé d, ndthe Virgin: she replied Simply, The poor girl dared not open her mouth, but simply stood there, ' ' : ‘The only Company I need 18 0 a the fields her eyes fining With tanS- b0ng her head as She set Ofi. zicros‘he’fore and the mountain—top was ‘You can shed as many tears as you like, you crybaby!’ yelled the . . The sun had set some httle time , dda quickened steward, who was always shouting to show how dutifully he was safeguarding the owner’s money. ‘I pay you the same as the others, even though you’re weaker and smaller than they are! The wage you get from me for a day’s work is higher than any other landowner pays in the whale of Pedara, Nicolosi and Trecastagni put together!.Three carlim', as well as the minestral’ ‘I’m not complaining,‘ said Nedda, timidly pocketing the few soldi the steward had counted out for her coin by coin to make it look a bigger. ‘It’s the bad weather that’s to blame, for taking away from me nearly half of what I could have earned.’ never gm b h med Ave Mama, t to mate a u .‘Complain to the Lord God then!’ bawled‘ the steward. ‘ gate of a farm, she stopped for 21 1110111611 8 9 ‘ 3" J ' x ' ~ r - ’ ,-..'->s ' _ - ' ifs. .- «:3- ' ’ $ y é I - . ‘ . ,1“?- . I . i O '- .... A ' Cat/alleria rusticana and Other Stories on the alert in case the guard-dog that was haying furiously leapt her over the boundary wall, before hurrying on and looking over shouldertwo or three times at the tiny lamp burning in homage to Virgin that lit the Way for the farmer whenever he came back late the evening. Its light strengthened her courage, and prompted her pray for her poor mother. From time to time a sharp pain would her heart as she recalled how ill her mother was, whereupon she begin to run, singing at the top of her voice "to drown her sorrows. she would try and remember the carefree days of the wine harvest, or I those wondrous moonlit summer evenings when they all flocked back. from La Piana2 to the joyful sound. of the bagpipes, but in her mind’s eye all she could see was the wretched pallet on which her sick mother Was lying. She tripped on a jagged chip oflava and gashed her foot, the darkness was so complete that at almost every turning of the path She stumbled against the wall or the hedge, and she began to lose her nerve and think she had lost her way. But suddenly she heard the church clock at Punta booming out nine strokes, so close at hand that they seemed to be falling on her head, and she smiled as if a friend had called to her by name in the midst of a crowd ofstrangers. She turned happily down the village street, singing her enchanting sOng at the top of her voice, and holding on. tightly to the forty soldi in her overall pocket. As she passed by the Chemist’s shop she looked inside and saw the chemist and the notary, wrapped up in their cloaks, playing at cards. A little further on she came across the poor village idiot of Punta, who was going up and down the street with his hands in his pockets singing the same old song he had been singing night and day, in the Cold midwinter and hot midsummer, for twenty years. On reaching the first trees of the avenue leading in a straight line to Ravanusa she met a pair of oxen, lowing peacefully as they ambled slowly towards her. ‘Hey! Nedda!’ shouted a familiar voice. ‘Is that you, janu?’ ‘Yes, it’s me, with the master’s oxen.’ - ‘Where are you coming from?" Nedda asked, without stopping. ‘From La Piana. I called at your house. Your mother’s expecting you. 1 I I o ' Caualleria rust-Rana and Other Stories Late that evening Zio Giovanni saw Neddahurrying down the road .~ towards Punta. ‘ ‘Hey. there! Where are you going at this "hour? ‘I’m going for the medicine the doctor ordered.’ Zio Giovanni was a thrifty man, who liked to grumble. ‘More medicines? he muttered. ‘Wasn’t it enough for them to order the medicine of the holy oil? They’re all in league with the chemist to drain the blood from the poor! Take myadvice, Nedda, save your money and go back and stay with. your poor mother.’ ‘You never know, it could do her some good!’ the girl replied, lowering her eyes so'rrowfiilly and quickening her step. Zio Giovanni moaned, then called after her, ‘Hey, Varannisa!’ ’What is it?’ ‘I’ll go to the Chemist’s. Don’t Worry, I’ll be back sooner than you would have been. And you won’t have to leave your poor mother alone.’ - ' The girl’s eyes filled with tears. ‘God bless you!’ she said, as she tried to hand him the money. ‘You can pay me back later,’ growled Zio Giovanni, and he sprinted off as though he were a. twenty—year—old. The girl returned to her mother, saying, ‘Zio Giovanni’s gone for us,’ in an unusually tender sort of voice. The dying woman, hearing Nedda replacing the handful of coins on the table, gave her a questioning look. - ‘He told me we could pay him back later,’ said her daughter. ‘God bless him for his charity!’ murmured the sick woman. "So you’ll still have something to spend.’ ' “Oh, Mother!’ ‘How much do we owe Zio Giovanni?’ ‘Ten lire. But don’t worry, Mother! I shall carry on working!’ The old woman gazed at her at length through half—Closed eyes, then embraced her without a word. Next day the undertakers called, along with the sexton and several of the women living nearby. When Nedda had arranged the body of her mother on. the bier in her best clothes, she placed inher hands a I2 at the sk . Then she tidied bushes and the brambles that hu - by throwing stones at them, so t up the bed and the house, put away the last bottle of mediane on a high shelf, and went and sat in the doorway gazing up b' , the bird of cold November mornings, . I A [O m ng above the wall opposue, and from ed among the thorns and the brushWood, it have to listen to their funereal creaking. aid to herself, ‘That’ll be so—and—so, ’ When the Angelus rang, and the first stars -. -., .t'; ------ .. . hoo ting of an owl. Nedda thought perhaps. it was the one that had k...
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