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Authors: Natalia Ginzburg

All Our Yesterdays (6 page)

BOOK: All Our Yesterdays
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When Danilo's sister had gone away, with the tassel dancing up and down on her back, Concettina told Anna that she must give up going to school and must run and fetch Emanuele and Ippolito, both of them.

Anna went out into the street and called Emanuele to the window, and he came and looked out. He did not know where Ippolito was, he had only just got up. The best thing would be to go and look for him at the library, where he always went in the mornings. Anna told him to go at once to Concettina who wanted to speak to him. Then she ran off through the town, her heart beating fast with terror and with joy, because Danilo had been arrested, and because she had to find Ippolito and for the first time she found herself mixed up in an important, secret, dangerous affair, she had been really needed and Concettina had not allowed her to go to school. She found Ippolito on the stairs at the library. In a whisper she told him about Danilo, and for a moment he stood quite still with his hand on the banisters, fluttering his eyelids very quickly and pressing his lips together. He started off homewards, so rapidly that Anna had difficulty in keeping up with him.

Emanuele said they must hold a council of war. He limped up and down the sitting-room and told Concettina and Anna that there was no further need now to make a mystery about it, since they already knew so much, and briefly the matter was like this : Danilo had been arrested, and in a short time the police would come and arrest them too, and there was stuff that had to be burnt and they must act quickly. Ippolito had opened the stove and was throwing newspapers into it, as his father had done with the book of memoirs. But the newspapers were so many that they seemed to go on for ever. And when it seemed that the newspapers were finished, Ippolito pushed the piano aside and pulled out from behind it a whole heap of little pink and green books. Outside it had begun to snow and the stove smoked when it snowed. Concettina and Anna were helping to put the papers into the stove, and making sure that they got burnt. Emanuele limped up and down the room, wiping his red, sweating face and explaining what Concettina and Anna were to say when the police arrived : they were to say that Danilo came to the house because he was so much in love with Concettina, poor chap, and that was all they knew, they must try to seem as silly as possible, they must seem to be silly girls who were interested in nothing but dancing and fripperies. As he said “dancing and fripperies ” he twirled his fingers in the air, as if he were imitating the fluttering of butterflies. Ippolito paid no attention to him, but, in his shirtsleeves and with his eyes full of tears from the smoke stood dumbly looking at the flames leaping up from the stove ; and upon his face you could not detect any thought or any surprise, but only the calm, weary expression he had worn on the day the book of memoirs had been burned.

When Signora Maria came back from her shopping, there was nothing left to be burned and she noticed nothing. Concettina told her she had not allowed Anna to go to school because she thought she had a slight cold : and Anna made an effort to sniffle and cough, and anyhow she had no difficulty in this, with all the smoke she had swallowed. Giustino came back from school and Anna ran to tell him about Danilo, but Giustino already knew he had been arrested, because people were by now talking of it in the town : in any case it was never possible to tell Giustino anything new, because he was always informed about everything, nobody knew how.

They waited for the police. They waited all that day and again the next day, sitting in the sitting-room. Ippolito told Emanuele it would have been better for him to stay in his own house instead of being always with them, for when the police came it was not a very good thing that they should be found together. But Emanuele answered that, in the nervous state he was in, he did not feel like staying in his own house, and he begged Ippolito to let him remain with him : when the police came he could always tell them that he too was desperately in love with Concettina, or even, as far as that went, with Anna, because the police like love stories. Anna stayed at the window watching the snow, it seemed to go on snowing for ever and the street was silent in the snow and empty, and no policeman appeared. In the ante-room lay Danilo's gloves ; the last time he had been to see them he had left them there. As she passed through the room Anna glanced at them and had a strange feeling, and Danilo seemed very far off, it seemed like a dream that it had once been possible to look at him and touch him. He seemed very far off like the dead, and as with the dead it seemed that never again would it be possible to hear from him about the new things he was seeing and thinking.

Anna asked whether it would not be a good thing to burn the gloves as well. But Emanuele burst into loud laughter; after all Danilo's gloves were not marked with his name. Giustino liked these gloves very much ; they were fine gloves made of sham pigskin and he wanted to take them for himself. But Emanuele forbade him to touch them. They must be given back to Danilo's mother, the bush of hair at the cash-desk. Emanuele went and waited for her one evening outside the cake-shop. He gave her the gloves and also some money to send to Danilo, because in prison one needs money, otherwise they give you nothing but tasteless soup, a little bread and nothing else. Danilo was in the New Prison at Turin, he was well and quite calm. His mother also was quite calm and Emanuele was astonished ; the day they arrested
him
Mammina would certainly have a fit, with screams reaching to heaven.

They waited for the police. But no policeman was to be seen and they were somewhat dumbfounded. Emanuele said that obviously the police were letting himself and Ippolito go free in order to spy upon them. They would have to be very careful. They decided that Ippolito should go to Le Visciole for a month and that Emanuele should go and see Amalia, to see whether she had learned to be a nurse and whether she had forgotten Franz.

5

Ippolito came back from Le Visciole with the dog. He made a kennel for it in the garden, out of old boxes. He spent a day sawing and nailing the wood, and when the kennel was ready he painted it green. But the dog quite refused to go into it. Perhaps it was the smell of the paint that it did not like. It sniffed round about it for a little and went away. It still ate the armchairs and was always dirty, even though Ippolito gave it a bath every Friday.

The dog at the house opposite, on the other hand, was no longer there ; they had given it away, because it barked at night and kept Mammina awake. No one now played ping-pong at the house opposite, and the table stood forgotten with the net torn, and the only person to be seen in the garden was the old gentleman in a deck-chair basking in the sun, his stomach well stuffed out with newspapers, so that when he got up he made a great rustling noise. One day Franz reappeared. He was dressed in white because the hot weather had now started, with a dark blue jersey of the kind then in fashion, and he was carrying a large suitcase and some tennis racquets. Surprised exclamations were heard from the old gentleman, and Franz's voice shouting into his ear that he had come from a tennis tournament.

So Emanuele, on his return, found himself face to face with Franz, in fact he was the first person he saw coming towards him, and afterwards he told Concettina that he had felt like getting back into the train and going away again, because he really could not bear the face of this man Franz and he had an idea he was a spy, paid by the Fascists to spy upon him and Ippolito, and in any case it was hard to understand where he got his money from, because he did nothing and was always so well dressed. Emanuele had been to Florence to see Amalia and had then gone to Rome and Naples with her, because he had found her very thin and wasted and had suggested that she should give up the nursing college and go on a journey with him. He scratched his head violently when he recalled this journey, it had not been at all a cheerful affair, he had dragged Amalia through the Vatican Museum, had shown her the Raphael frescoes and she had wept, then they had gone to have something to eat and she had ordered a boiled egg and had wept into it. She was weeping for this man Franz. Emanuele made great efforts to explain to her that she meant nothing at all to Franz. But Amalia said that, on the other hand, she did mean something to him, she had understood that she did mean something to him, but there was a thing she could not say, a horrible thing, and she covered her face with her hands and started to sob. Emanuele said he was not in the least curious to know what this thing was, this thing that Amalia had discovered one evening at Mentone, and Franz had left next day : Emanuele shrugged his shoulders and snorted and went red. And then it had come out that Amalia did not in the least want to be a nurse, she wanted to give that up, and she herself did not know what to do. She wanted to study the history of art. And yet she had been all over the Vatican Museum without looking at anything, Emanuele said, there were the Raphael frescoes and she had wept. He had left her in a boarding-house in Rome, she did not want to come home, and in any case, now that Franz was there again, it was better that she should not come. Emanuele was very depressed, what with Danilo in prison, his sister not knowing what she wanted and his father with a gastric ulcer, and so many exams to pass and no politics, no politics at all, no hope of ever being able to do anything serious again, with that man Franz paid to spy upon him. But Ippolito shook his head and said that probably Franz was not a spy, he was just a poor fool and nothing more, no use for anything except winning tennis tournaments.

Emanuele went to his own home merely for eating and sleeping, and passed the days with Ippolito on the terrace, with the books that he ought to have been studying, but he had no inclination for work and Ippolito got on his nerves because he, on the other hand, worked hard, stopping only in order to prepare the dog's food. He said Ippolito was like an old lady when he took the dog out for a walk and gave it its food, he said that all of a sudden his soul had turned into that of an old lady.

From time to time Danilo's sister came to give them news. She no longer had a tassel but a hat with a crown, with bunches of cloth flowers on it, standing straight up on her head. She no longer had a tassel and perhaps she missed having something to swing, for she swung her head and her shoulders, this way and that. Danilo was well and was quite calm, they had not found anything against him. He had been arrested only because of the people he had visited in Turin during those few days, a small group of three or four who were now all in prison, and would be tried by the Special Tribunal. Danilo, on the other hand, would almost certainly not be brought to trial; they would give him his release earlier. The only trouble was that he would find himself behindhand with his studies, after an interruption of so many months. Danilo was studying book-keeping and accountancy, but he always said he did not like these things and that he would like to do something else, goodness knows what he wanted to do. In prison he had taken to studying German, and he wrote to his mother that he hoped they would not release him before he had learned to write and speak German well ; he wrote dull letters and his mother was angry. When Danilo's sister came Ippolito stayed working on the terrace, as though he were not in the least interested in hearing news of Danilo, and left Danilo's sister to be received by Emanuele and Concettina. And then, when Emanuele and Concettina came back to the terrace and gave him the news, he scarcely seemed to listen. And then Emanuele would exclaim that he had gone as cold as a fish, a thing that makes you cold even to look at it. Ippolito would just give a little crooked smile and go on walking up and down with his book in his hand. Emanuele said that Ippolito got seriously on his nerves, but Concettina did not get on his nerves, Concettina was so charming, and he took her hand and kissed it on the palm. And he told her she had grown thinner and also more beautiful, with those eyes with dark circles round them because she too had been sitting up at night working for her exams. Concettina had discarded all her
fiancés,
and was thinking only of her studies, and perhaps she was thinking of something else too, Emanuele said, perhaps she had taken to thinking of Danilo who was in prison, and had fallen in love with him a little. Then Concettina was angry and snatched away her hand from Emanuele's hands and ran away from the terrace. Emanuele laughed and said there was no doubt about it, Concettina was sorry now for her rude behaviour towards Danilo and for the long hours she had left him in the cold outside the gate. “We have to go to prison to make women love us,” Emanuele said, “otherwise we get nothing.”

It was very hot and Mammina went with Franz to bathe in a lake near the town, for she had now recovered from her nervous exhaustion, she was very well and had a great number of flowered dresses and a very large straw hat. She and Franz would get up early in the morning, take the car and go swimming in the lake, and not come home until three in the afternoon. Emanuele was always much worried until they came back, because Franz drove the car like a madman, he always said that unless he drove fast he had no enjoyment in driving. In the meantime the whole town was whispering about Mammina and Franz, but Emanuele did not know this, or did not show that he knew. On the other hand Signora Maria knew of it, and when Emanuele was not there she would start talking about those two who were always together and had no shame, and would look out of the window at the old gentleman sitting in the garden and be sorry for him for being made to wear horns like that, poor old gentleman. But the old gentleman sat in his deck-chair nursing his stomach which was all stuffed up with newspapers even in full summer, because he was always afraid of a possible draught, and he would wave good-bye to Mammina and Franz as they went off together ; it did not look as if his horns worried him very much, perhaps because he had gradually become accustomed to them and was resigned to wearing them, poor old gentleman. But his ulcer
did
worry him and people in the town said perhaps he was dying, and he did die, and Emanuele rushed off to call Mammina who was swimming in the lake with Franz.

BOOK: All Our Yesterdays
6.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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