On the four lira he had earned by spading the hotel garden he got quite drunk. He saw the young gentleman coming down the path and spoke to him mysteriously. The young gentleman said he had not eaten yet but would be ready to go as soon as lunch was finished. Forty minutes or an hour.
At the cantina near the bridge they trusted him for three more grappas because he was so confident and mysterious about his job for the afternoon. It was a windy day with the sun coming out from behind clouds and then going under in sprinkles of rain. A wonderful day for trout fishing.
The young gentleman came out of the hotel and asked him about the rods. Should his wife come behind with the rods? Yes, said Peduzzi, let her follow us. The young gentleman went back into the hotel and spoke to his wife. He and Peduzzi started down the road. The young gentleman had a musette over his shoulder. Peduzzi saw the wife, who looked as young as the young gentleman and was wearing mountain boots and a blue beret, start out to follow them down the road carrying the fishing rods unjointed one in each hand. Peduzzi didn’t like her to be way back there. Signorina, he called, winking at the young gentleman, come up here and walk with us. Signora come up here. Let us all walk together. Peduzzi wanted them all three to walk down the street of Cortina together.
The wife stayed behind, following rather sullenly. Signorina, Peduzzi called tenderly, come up here with us. The young gentleman looked back and shouted something. The wife stopped lagging behind, and walked up.
Everyone they met walking through the main street of the town Peduzzi greeted elaborately. Buon’ di Arturo! Tipping his hat. The bank clerk stared at him from the door of the Fascist café. Groups of three and four people standing in front of the shops stared at the three. The workmen in their stone-powdered jackets working on the foundations of the new hotel looked up as they passed. Nobody spoke or gave any sign to them except the town beggar, lean and old with a spittle thickened beard, who lifted his hat as they passed.
Peduzzi stopped in front of a store with the window full of bottles and brought his empty grappa bottle from an inside pocket of his old military coat. A little to drink, some marsala for the Signora, something, something to drink. He gestured with the bottle. It was a wonderful day. Marsala, you like marsala, Signorina? A little marsala?
The wife stood sullenly. You’ll have to play up to this, she said. I can’t understand a word he says. He’s drunk isn’t he?
The young gentleman appeared not to hear Peduzzi. He was thinking what in hell makes him say Marsala. That’s what Max Beerbohm drinks.
Geld, Peduzzi said finally, taking hold of the young gentleman’s sleeve. Lire. He smiled reluctant to press the subject but needing to bring the young gentleman into action.
The young gentleman took out his pocket book and gave him a ten lire note. Peduzzi went up the steps to the door of the Speciality of Domestic and Foreign Wines shop. It was locked.
It is closed until two, someone passing in the street said scornfully. Peduzzi came down the steps. He felt hurt. Never mind, he said, we can get it at the Concordia.
They walked down the road to the Concordia three abreast. On the porch of the Concordia where the rusty bobsleds were stacked the young gentleman said, Was wollen sie? Peduzzi handed him the ten lira note folded over and over. Nothing, he said, Anything. He was embarrassed. Marsala maybe. I don’t know. Marsala?
The door of the Concordia shut on the young gentleman and the wife. Three marsalas, said the y. g. to the girl behind the pastry counter. Two you mean? she asked. No, he said, one for a vecchio. Oh, she said, a vecchio, and laughed getting down the bottle. She poured out the three muddy looking drinks into three glasses. The wife was sitting at a table under the line of newspapers on sticks. The y. g. put one of the marsalas in front of her. You might as well drink it, he said. Maybe it’ll make you feel better. She sat and looked at the glass. The y. g. went outside the door with a glass for Peduzzi but could not see him.
I don’t know where he is, he said coming back into the pastry room carrying the glass.
He wanted a quart of it, said the wife.
How much is a quarter litre, the y. g. asked the girl.
Of the bianco? One lira.
No, of the marsala. Put these two in too, he said giving her his own glass and the one poured for Peduzzi. She filled the quarter litre wine measure with a funnel. A bottle to carry it, said the y. g.
She went to hunt for a bottle. It all amused her.
I’m sorry you feel so rotten Tiny, he said, I’m sorry I talked the way I did at lunch. We were both getting at the same thing from different angles.
It doesn’t make any difference, she said. None of it makes any difference.
Are you too cold, he asked. I wish you’d worn another sweater.
I’ve got on three sweaters.
The girl came in with a very slim brown bottle and poured the marsala into it. The y. g. paid five lira more. They went out of the door. The girl was amused. Peduzzi was walking up and down at the other end out of the wind and holding the rods.
Come on, he said, I will carry the rods. What difference does it make if anybody sees them. No one will trouble us. No one will make any trouble for me in Cortina. I know them at the municipio. I have been a soldier. Everybody in this town likes me. I sell frogs. What if it is forbidden to fish? Not a thing. Nothing. No trouble. Big trout I tell you. Lots of them.
They were walking down the hill toward the river. The town was in back of them. The sun had gone under and it was sprinkling rain. There, said Peduzzi, pointing to a girl in the doorway of a house they passed. My daughter.
His doctor, the wife said, has he got to show us his doctor?
He said his daughter, said the y. g.
The girl went into the house as Peduzzi pointed.
They walked down the hill across the fields and then turned to follow the river bank. Peduzzi talked rapidly with much winking and knowingness. As they walked three abreast the wife caught his breath across the wind. Once he nudged her in the ribs. Part of the time he talked in D’Ampezzo dialect and sometimes in Tyroler German dialect. He could not make out which the young gentleman and his wife understood the best so he was being bi-lingual. But as the young gentleman said Ja Ja Peduzzi decided to talk altogether in Tyroler. The young gentleman and the wife understood nothing.
Everybody in the town saw us going through with these rods. We’re probably being followed by the game police now. I wish we weren’t in on this damn thing. This damned old fool is so drunk too.
Of course you haven’t got the guts to just go back, said the wife. Of course you have to go on.
Why don’t you go back? Go on back Tiny.
I’m going to stay with you. If you go to jail we might as well both go.
They turned sharp down the bank and Peduzzi stood his coat blowing in the wind gesturing at the river. It was brown and muddy. Off on the right there was a dump heap.
Say it to me in Italian, said the young gentleman
Un’ mezz’ ora. Piu d’ un’ mezz’ ora.
He says it’s at least a half an hour more. Go on back Tiny. You’re cold in this wind anyway. It’s a rotten day and we aren’t going to have any fun anyway.
All right, she said, and climbed up the grassy bank.
Peduzzi was down at the river and did not notice her till she was almost out of sight over the crest. Frau! he shouted. Frau! Fraulein! You’re not going? She went on over the crest of the hill.
She’s gone! said Peduzzi. It shocked him.
He took off the rubber bands that held the rod segments together and commenced to joint up one of the rods.
But you said it was half an hour further.
Oh yes. It is good half an hour down. It is good here too.
Of course. It is good here and good there too.
The y. g. sat down on the bank and jointed up a rod, put on the reel and threaded the line through the guides. He felt uncomfortable and afraid that any minute a gamekeeper or a posse of citizens would come over the bank from the town. He could see the houses of the town and the campanile over the edge of the hill. He opened his leader box. Peduzzi leaned over and dug his flat hard thumb and forefinger in and tangled the moistened leaders.
Have you some lead?
You must have some lead. Peduzzi was excited. You must have piombo. Piombo. A little piombo. Just here. Just above the hook or your bait will float on the water. You must have it. Just a little piombo.
Have you got some?
No. He looked through all his pockets desperately. Sifting through the cloth dirt in the linings of his inside military pockets. I haven’t any. We must have piombo.
We can’t fish then, said the y. g. and unjointed the rod, reeling the line back through the guides. We’ll get some piombo and fish tomorrow.
But listen caro, you must have piombo. The line will lie flat on the water. Peduzzi’s day was going to pieces before his eyes. You must have piombo. A little is enough. Your stuff is all clean and new but you have no lead. I would have brought some. You said you had everything.
The y. g. looked at the stream discoloured by the melting snow. I know, he said, we’ll get some piombo and fish tomorrow.
At what hour in the morning? Tell me that.
The sun came out. It was warm and pleasant. The young gentleman felt relieved. He was no longer breaking the law. Sitting on the bank he took the bottle of marsala out of his pocket and passed it to Peduzzi. Peduzzi passed it back. The y. g. took a drink of it and passed it to Peduzzi again. Peduzzi passed it back again. Drink, he said, drink. It’s your marsala. After another short drink the y. g. handed the bottle over. Peduzzi had been watching it closely. He took the bottle very hurriedly and tipped it up. The grey hairs in the folds of his neck oscillated as he drank his eyes fixed on the end of the narrow brown bottle. He drank it all. The sun shone while he drank. It was wonderful. This was a great day after all. A wonderful day.
Senta caro! In the morning at seven. He had called the young gentleman caro several times and nothing had happened. It was good marsala. His eyes glistened. Days like this stretched out ahead. It would begin again at seven in the morning.
They started to walk up the hill toward the town. The y. g. went on ahead. He was quite a way up the hill. Peduzzi called to him.
Listen caro can you let me take five lira for a favour?
For today? asked the young gentleman frowning.
No, not today. Give it to me today for tomorrow. I will provide everything for tomorrow. Pane, salami, formaggio, good stuff for all of us. You and I and the signora. Bait for fishing, minnows, not worms only. Perhaps I can get some marsala. All for five lira. Five lira for a favour.
The young gentleman looked through his pocket book and took out a two lira note and two ones.
Thank you caro. Thank you, said Peduzzi in the tone of one member of the Carleton Club accepting the Morning Post from another. This was living. He was through with the hotel garden, breaking up frozen manure with a dung fork. Life was opening out.
Until seven o’clock then caro, he said, slapping the y. g. on the back. Promptly at seven.
I may not be going, said the young gentleman putting his purse back in his pocket.
What, said Peduzzi. I will have minnows Signor. Salami, everything. You and I and the Signora. The three of us.
I may not be going, said the y. g., very probably not. I will leave word with the padrone at the hotel office.
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