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Title:      Shoot! (Si Gira) (1926)
Author:     Luigi Pirandello
            Translated from the Italian by C. K. Scott Moncrieff
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Edition:    2
Language:   English
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Date first posted:          March 2003
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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      Shoot! (Si Gira) (1926)
Author:     Luigi Pirandello
            Translated from the Italian by C. K. Scott Moncrieff




Shoot!
The Notebooks of Serafino Gubbio,
Cinematograph Operator





Translator's Dedication

To

O. H. H. and V. B. H.

Who have seen and survived

the Nestaroff






BOOK I

OF THE NOTES OF SERAFINO GUBBIO
CINEMATOGRAPH OPERATOR




1


I study people in their most ordinary occupations, to see if I can
succeed in discovering in others what I feel that I myself lack in
everything that I do: the certainty that they understand what they are
doing.

At first sight it does indeed seem as though many of them had this
certainty, from the way in which they look at and greet one another,
hurrying to and fro in pursuit of their business or their pleasure.
But afterwards, if I stop and gaze for a moment in their eyes with my
own intent and silent eyes, at once they begin to take offence. Some
of them, in fact, are so disturbed and perplexed that I have only to
keep on gazing at them for a little longer, for them to insult or
assault me.

No, go your ways in peace. This is enough for me: to know, gentlemen,
that there is nothing clear or certain to you either, not even the
little that is determined for you from time to time by the absolutely
familiar conditions in which you are living. There is a _something
more_ in everything. You do not wish or do not know how to see it. But
the moment this something more gleams in the eyes of an idle person
like myself, who has set himself to observe you, why, you become
puzzled, disturbed or irritated.

I too am acquainted with the external, that is to say the mechanical
framework of the life which keeps us clamorously and dizzily occupied
and gives us no rest. To-day, such-and-such; this and that to be done
hurrying to one place, watch in hand, so as to be in time at another.
"No, my dear fellow, thank you: I can't!" "No, really?  Lucky fellow!
I must be off...." At eleven, luncheon. The paper, the house, the
office, school. ... "A fine day, worse luck! But business...."
"What's this? Ah, a funeral." We lift our hats as we pass to the man
who has made his escape. The shop, the works, the law courts....

No one has the time or the capacity to stop for a moment to consider
whether what he sees other people do, what he does himself, is really
the right thing, the thing that can give him that absolute certainty,
in which alone a man can find rest. The rest that is given us after
all the clamour and dizziness is burdened with such a load of
weariness, so stunned and deafened, that it is no longer possible for
us to snatch a moment for thought. With one hand we hold our heads,
the other we wave in a drunken sweep.

"Let us have a little amusement!"

Yes. More wearying and complicated than our work do we find the
amusements that are offered us; since from our rest we derive nothing
but an increase of weariness.

I look at the women in the street, note how they are dressed, how they
walk, the hats they wear on their heads; at the men, and the airs they
have or give themselves; I listen to their talk, their plans; and at
times it seems to me so impossible to believe in the reality of all
that I see and hear, that being incapable, on the other hand, of
believing that they are all doing it as a joke, I ask myself whether
really all this clamorous and dizzy machinery of life, which from day
to day seems to become more complicated and to move with greater
speed, has not reduced the human race to such a condition of insanity
that presently we must break out in fury and overthrow and destroy
everything. It would, perhaps, all things considered, be so much to
the good. In one respect only, though: to make a clean sweep and start
afresh.

Here in this country we have not yet reached the point of witnessing
the spectacle, said to be quite common in America, of men who, while
engaged in carrying on their business, amid the tumult of life, fall
to the ground, paralysed. But perhaps, with the help of God, we shall
soon reach it. I know that all sorts of things are in preparation.
Ah, yes, the work goes on! And I, in my humble way, am one of those
employed on this work _to provide amusement_.

I am an operator. But, as a matter of fact, being an operator, in the
world in which I live and upon which I live, does not in the least
mean operating. I operate nothing.

This is what I do. I set up my machine on its knock-kneed tripod. One
or more stage hands, following my directions, mark out on the carpet
or on the stage with a long wand and a blue pencil the limits within
which the actors have to move to keep the picture in focus.

This is called _marking out the ground_.

The others mark it out, not I: I do nothing more than apply my eyes to
the machine so that I can indicate how far it will manage to _take_.

When the stage is set, the producer arranges the actors on it, and
outlines to them the action to be gone through.

I say to the producer:

"How many feet?"

The producer, according to the length of the scene, tells me
approximately the number of feet of film that I shall need, then calls
to the actors:

"Are you ready? Shoot!"

And I start turning the handle.

I might indulge myself in the illusion that, by turning the handle, I
set these actors in motion, just as an organ-grinder creates the music
by turning his handle. But I allow myself neither this nor any other
illusion, and keep on turning until the scene is finished; then I look
at the machine and inform the producer:

"Sixty feet," or "a hundred and twenty."

And that is all.

A gentleman, who had come out of curiosity, asked me once:

"Excuse me, but haven't they yet discovered a way of making the camera
go by itself?"

I can still see that gentleman's face; delicate, pale, with thin, fair
hair; keen, blue eyes; a pointed, yellowish beard, behind which there
lurked a faint smile, that tried to appear timid and polite, but was
really malicious. For by his question he meant to say to me:

"Is there any real necessity for you? What are you? _A hand that turns
the handle_. Couldn't they do without this hand? Couldn't you be
eliminated, replaced by some piece of machinery?"

I smiled as I answered:

"In time, Sir, perhaps. To tell you the truth, the chief quality that
is required in a man of my profession is _impassivity_ in face of the
action that is going on in front of the camera. A piece of machinery,
in that respect, would doubtless be better suited, and preferable to a
man. But the most serious difficulty, at present, is this: where to
find a machine that can regulate its movements according to the action
that is going on in front of the camera. Because I, my dear Sir, do
not always turn the handle at the same speed, but faster or slower as
may be required. I have no doubt, however, that in time, Sir, they
will succeed in eliminating me. The machine--this machine too, like
all the other machines--will go by itself. But what mankind will do
then, after all the machines have been taught to go by themselves,
that, my dear Sir, still remains to be seen."




2


I satisfy, by writing, a need to let off steam which is overpowering.
I get rid of my professional impassivity, and avenge myself as well;
and with myself avenge ever so many others, condemned like myself to
be nothing more than _a hand that turns a handle_.

This was bound to happen, and it has happened at last!

Man who first of all, as a poet, deified his own feelings and
worshipped them, now having flung aside every feeling, as an
encumbrance not only useless but positively harmful, and having become
clever and industrious, has set to work to fashion out of iron and
steel his new deities, and has become a servant and a slave to them.

Long live the Machine that mechanises life!

Do you still retain, gentlemen, a little soul, a little heart and a
little mind? Give them, give them over to the greedy machines, which
are waiting for them! You shall see and hear the sort of product, the
exquisite stupidities they will manage to extract from them.

To pacify their hunger, in the urgent haste to satiate them, what food
can you extract from yourselves every day, every hour, every minute?

It is, perforce, the triumph of stupidity, after all the ingenuity and
research that have been expended on the creation of these monsters,
which ought to have remained instruments, and have instead become,
perforce, our masters.

The machine is made to act, to move, it requires to swallow up our
soul, to devour our life. And how do you expect them to be given back
to us, our life and soul, in a centuplicated and continuous output, by
the machines? Let me tell you: in bits and morsels, all of one
pattern, stupid and precise, which would make, if placed one on top of
another, a pyramid that might reach to the stars. Stars, gentlemen,
no! Don't you believe it. Not even to the height of a telegraph pole.
A breath stirs it and down it tumbles, and leaves such a litter, only
not inside this time but outside us, that--Lord, look at all the
boxes, big, little, round, square--we no longer know where to set our
feet, how to move a step. These are the products of our soul, the
pasteboard boxes of our life.

What is to be done? I am here. I serve my machine, in so far as I turn
the handle so that it may eat. But my soul does not serve me. My hand
serves me, that is to say serves the machine. The human soul for food,
life for food, you must supply, gentlemen, to the machine whose handle
I turn. I shall be amused to see, with your permission, the product
that will come out at the other end. A fine product and a rare
entertainment, I can promise you.

Already my eyes and my ears too, from force of habit, are beginning to
see and hear everything in the guise of this rapid, quivering, ticking
mechanical reproduction.

I don't deny it; the outward appearance is light and vivid. We move,
we fly. And the breeze stirred by our flight produces an alert,
joyous, keen agitation, and sweeps away every thought. On! On, that we
may not have time nor power to heed the burden of sorrow, the
degradation of shame which remain within us, in our hearts. Outside,
there is a continuous glare, an incessant giddiness: everything
flickers and disappears.

"What was that?" Nothing, it has passed!  Perhaps it was something
sad; but no matter, it has passed now.

There is one nuisance, however, that does not pass away. Do you hear
it? A hornet that is always buzzing, forbidding, grim, surly,
diffused, and never stops. What is it? The hum of the telegraph poles?
The endless scream of the trolley along the overhead wire of the
electric trams? The urgent throb of all those countless machines, near
and far? That of the engine of the motor-car? Of the cinematograph?

The beating of the heart is not felt, nor do we feel the pulsing of
our arteries. The worse for us if we did! But this buzzing, this
perpetual ticking we do notice, and I say that all this furious haste
is not natural, all this flickering and vanishing of images; but that
there lies beneath it a machine which seems to pursue it, frantically
screaming.

Will it break down?

Ah, we must not fix our attention upon it too closely. That would
arouse in us an ever-increasing fury, an exasperation which finally we
could endure no longer; would drive us mad.

On nothing, on nothing at all now, in this dizzy bustle which sweeps
down upon us and overwhelms us, ought we to fix our attention. Take
in, rather, moment by moment, this rapid passage of aspects and
events, and so on, until we reach the point when for each of us the
buzz shall cease.




3


I cannot get out of my mind the man I met a year ago, on the night of
my arrival in Rome.

It was in November, a bitterly cold night. I was wandering in search
of a modest lodging, not so much for myself, accustomed to spend my
nights in the open, on friendly terms with the bats and the stars, as
for my portmanteau, which was my sole worldly possession, left behind
in the railway cloakroom, when I happened to run into one of my
friends from Sassari, of whom I had long lost sight: Simone Pau, a man
of singular originality and freedom from prejudice. Hearing of my
hapless plight, he proposed that I should come and sleep that night in
his hotel. I accepted the invitation, and we set off on foot through
the almost deserted streets. On our way, I told him of my many
misadventures and of the frail hopes that had brought me to Rome.
Every now and then Simone Pau raised his hat-less head, on which the
long, sleek, grey hair was parted down the middle in flowing locks,
but zigzag, the parting being made with his fingers, for want of a
comb. These locks, drawn back behind his ears on either side, gave him
a curious, scanty, irregular mane. He expelled a large mouthful of
smoke, and stood for a while listening to me, with his huge swollen
lips held apart, like those of an ancient comic mask. His crafty,
mouselike eyes, sharp as needles, seemed to dart to and fro, as though
trapped in his big, rugged, massive face, the face of a savage and
unsophisticated peasant. I supposed him to have adopted this attitude,
with his mouth open, to laugh at me, at my misfortunes and hopes. But,
at a certain point in my recital, I saw him stop in the middle of the
street lugubriously lighted by its gas lamps, and heard him say aloud
in the silence of the night:

"Excuse me, but what do I know about the mountain, the tree, the sea?
The mountain is a mountain because I say: 'That is a mountain.' In
other words: '_I am the mountain_.' What are we? We are whatever, at
any given moment, occupies our attention. I am the mountain, I am the
tree, I am the sea. I am also the star, which knows not its own
existence!"

I remained speechless. But not for long. I too have, inextricably
rooted in the very depths of my being, the same malady as my friend.

A malady which, to my mind, proves in the clearest manner that
everything that happens happens probably because the earth was made
not so much for mankind as for the animals. Because animals have in
themselves by nature only so much as suffices them and is necessary
for them to live in the conditions to which they were, each after its
own kind, ordained; whereas men have in them a superfluity which
constantly and vainly torments them, never making them satisfied with
any conditions, and always leaving them uncertain of their destiny. An
inexplicable superfluity, which, to afford itself an outlet, creates
in nature an artificial world, a world that has a meaning and value
for them alone, and yet one with which they themselves cannot ever be
content, so that without pause they keep on frantically arranging and
rearranging it, like a thing which, having been fashioned by
themselves from a need to extend and relieve an activity of which they
can see neither the end nor the reason, increases and complicates ever
more and more their torments, carrying them farther from the simple
conditions laid down by nature for life on this earth, conditions to
which only dumb animals know how to remain faithful and obedient.

My friend Simone Pau is convinced in good faith that he is worth a
great deal more than a dumb animal, because the animal does not know
and is content always to repeat the same action.

I too am convinced that he is of far greater value than an animal, but
not for those reasons. Of what benefit is it to a man not to be
content with always repeating the same action? Why, those actions that
are fundamental and indispensable to life, he too is obliged to
perform and to repeat, day after day, like the animals, if he does not
wish to die. All the rest, arranged and rearranged continually and
frantically, can hardly fail to reveal themselves sooner or later as
illusions or vanities, being as they are the fruit of that
superfluity, of which we do not see on this earth either the end or
the reason. And where did my friend Simone Pau learn that the animal
does not know? It knows what is necessary to itself, and does not
bother about the rest, because the animal has not in its nature any
superfluity. Man, who has a superfluity, and simply because he has it,
torments himself with certain problems, destined on earth to remain
insoluble. And this is where his superiority lies! Perhaps this
torment is a sign and proof (riot, let us hope, an earnest also) of
another life beyond this earth; but, things being as they are upon
earth, I feel that I am in the right when I say that it was made more
for the animals than for men.

I do not wish to be misunderstood. What I mean is, that on this earth
man is destined to fare ill, because he has in him more than is
sufficient for him to fare well, that is to say in peace and
contentment. And that it is indeed an excess, _for life on earth_,
this element which man has within him (and which makes him a man and
not a beast), is proved by the fact that it--this excess--never
succeeds in finding rest in anything, nor in deriving contentment from
anything here below, so that it seeks and demands elsewhere, beyond
the life on earth, the reason and recompense for its torment. So much
the worse, then, does man fare, the more he seeks to employ, upon the
earth itself, in frantic constructions and complications, his own
superfluity.

This I know, I who turn a handle.

As for my friend Simone Pau, the beauty of it is this: that he
believes that he has set himself free from all superfluity, reducing
all his wants to a minimum, depriving himself of every comfort and
living the naked life of a snail. And he does not see that, on the
contrary, he, by reducing himself thus, has immersed himself
altogether in the superfluity and lives now by nothing else.

That evening, having just come to Rome, I was not yet aware of this. I
knew him, I repeat, to be a man of singular originality and freedom
from prejudice, but I could never have imagined that his originality
and his freedom from prejudice would reach the point that I am about
to relate.




4


Coming to the end of the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, we crossed the
bridge. I remember that I gazed almost with a religious awe at the
dark rounded mass of Castel Sant' Angelo, high and solemn under the
twinkling of the stars. The great works of human architecture, by
night, and the heavenly constellations seem to have a mutual
understanding. In the humid chill of that immense nocturnal
background, I felt this awe start up, flicker as in a succession of
spasms, which were caused in me perhaps by the serpentine reflexions
of the lights on the other bridges and on the banks, in the black
mysterious water of the river. But Simone Pau tore me from this
attitude of admiration, turning first in the direction of Saint
Peter's, then dodging aside along the Vicolo del Villano. Uncertain of
the way, uncertain of everything, in the empty horror of the deserted
streets, full of strange phantoms quivering from the rusty reflectors
of the infrequent lamps, at every breath of air, on the walls of the
old houses, I thought with terror and disgust of the people that were
lying comfortably asleep in those houses and had no idea how their
homes appeared from outside to such as wandered homeless through the
night, without there being a single house anywhere which they might
enter. Now and again, Simone Pau shook his head and tapped his chest
with two fingers. Oh, yes! The mountain was he, and the tree, and the
sea; but the hotel, where was it? There, in Borgo Pio? Yes, close at
hand, in the Vicolo del Falco. I raised my eyes; I saw on the right
hand side of that alley a grim building, with a lantern hung out above
the door: a big lantern, in which the flame of the gas-jet yawned
through the dirty glass. I stopped in front of this door which was
standing ajar, and read over the arch:

CASUAL SHELTER

"Do you sleep here?"

"Yes, and feed too. Lovely bowls of soup. In the best of company.
Come in: this is my home."

Indeed the old porter and two other men of the night staff of the
Shelter, huddled and crouching together round a copper brazier,
welcomed him as a regular guest, greeting him with gestures and in
words from their glass cage in the echoing corridor:

"Good evening, Signor Professore."

Simone Pau warned me, darkly, with great solemnity, that I must not be
disappointed, for I should not be able to sleep in this hotel for more
than six nights in succession. He explained to me that after every
sixth night I should have to spend at least one outside, in the open,
in order to start a fresh series.

I, sleep there?

In the presence of those three watchmen, I listened to his explanation
with a melancholy smile, which, however, hovered gently over my lips,
as though to preserve the buoyancy of my spirits and to keep them from
sinking into the shame of this abyss.

Albeit in a wretched plight, with but a few lire in my pocket, I was
well dressed, with gloves on my hands, spats on my ankles. I wanted to
take the adventure, with this smile, as a whimsical caprice on the
part of my strange friend. But Simone Pau was annoyed:

"You don't take me seriously?"

"No, my dear fellow, indeed I don't take you seriously."

"You are right," said Simone Pau, "serious, do you know who is really
serious? The quack doctor with a black coat and no collar, with a big
black beard and spectacles, who sends the medium to sleep in the
market-place. I am not quite as serious as that yet. You may laugh,
friend Serafino."

And he went on to explain to me that it was all free of charge there.
In winter, on the hammocks, a pair of clean sheets, solid and fresh as
the sails of a ship, and two thick woollen blankets; in summer, the
sheets alone, and a counterpane for anyone who wanted it; also a
wrapper and a pair of canvas slippers, washable.

"Remember that, washable!"

"And why?"

"Let me explain. With these slippers and wrapper they give you a
ticket; you go into that dressing-room there--through that door on the
right--undress, and hand in your clothes, including your shoes, to be
disinfected, which is done in the ovens over there. Then, come over
here, look.... Do you see this lovely pond?"

I lowered my eyes and looked.

A pond? It was a chasm, mouldy, narrow and deep, a sort of den to herd
swine in, carved out of the living rock, to which one went down by
five or six steps, and over which there hung a pungent odour of suds.
A tin pipe, pierced with holes that were all yellow with rust, ran
above it along the middle from end to end.

"Well?"

"You undress over there; hand in your clothes...."

"... shoes included...."

"... shoes included, to be disinfected, and step down here naked."

"Naked?"

"Naked, in company with six or seven other nudes. One of our dear
friends in the cage there turns on the tap, and you, standing under
the pipe, _zifff_..., you get, free for nothing, a most beautiful
shower. Then you dry yourself sumptuously with your wrapper, put on
your canvas slippers, and steal quietly out in procession with the
other draped figures up the stairs; there they are; up there is the
dormitory, and so goodnight."

"Is it compulsory?"

"What? The shower? Ah, because you are wearing gloves and spats,
friend Serafino? But you can take them off without shame. Everyone
here strips himself of his shame, and offers himself naked to the
baptism of this pond!  Haven't you the courage to descend to these
nudities?"

There was no need. The shower is obligatory only for unclean
mendicants. Simone Pau had never taken it.

In this place he is, really, a schoolmaster. Attached to the shelter
there are a soup kitchen and a refuge for homeless children of either
sex, beggars' children, prisoners' children, children of every form of
sin and shame. They are under the care of certain Sisters of Charity,
who have managed to set up a little school for them as well. Simone
Pau, albeit by profession a bitter enemy of humanity and of every form
of teaching, gives lessons with the greatest pleasure to these
children, for two hours daily, in the early morning, and the children
are extremely grateful to him. He is given, in return, his board and
lodging: that is to say a little room, all to himself, clean and neat,
and a special service of meals, shared with four other teachers, who
are a poor old pensioner of the Papal Government and three spinster
schoolmistresses, friends of the Sisters and taken in here by them.
But Simone Pau dispenses with the special meals, since at midday he is
never in the Shelter, and it is only in the evenings, when it suits
his convenience, that he takes a bowlful or two of soup from the
common kitchen; he keeps the little room, but he never uses it,
because he goes and sleeps in the dormitory of the Night Shelter, for
the sake of the company to be found there, which he has grown to
relish, of queer, vagrant types. Apart from these two hours devoted to
teaching, he spends all his time in the libraries and the _caffŤ_;
every now and then, he publishes in some philosophic review an essay
which amazes everyone by the bizarre novelty of the views expressed in
it, the strangeness of the arguments and the abundance of learning
displayed; and he flourishes again for a while.

At the time, I repeat, I was not aware of all this. I supposed, and
perhaps it was partly true, that he had brought me there for the
pleasure of bewildering me; and since there is no better way of
disconcerting a person who is seeking to bewilder one with extravagant
paradoxes or with the strangest, most fantastic suggestions than to
pretend to accept those paradoxes as though they were the most obvious
truisms, and his suggestions as entirely natural and opportune; so I
behaved that evening, to disconcert my friend Simone Pau. He,
realising my intention, looked me in the eyes and, seeing them to be
completely impassive, exclaimed with a smile: "What an idiot you are!"

He offered me his room; I thought at first that he was joking; but
when he assured me that he really had a room there to himself, I would
not accept it and went with him to the dormitory of the Shelter. I am
not sorry, since, for the discomfort and repulsion that I felt in that
odious place, I had two compensations:

First; that of finding the post which I now hold, or rather the
opportunity of going as an operator to the great cinematograph
company, the Kosmograph;

Secondly; that of meeting the man who has remained for me ever since
the symbol of the wretched fate to which continuous progress condemns
the human race.

First of all, the man.




5


Simone Pau pointed him out to me, the following morning, when we rose
from our hammocks.

I shall not describe that barrack of a dormitory, foul with the breath
of so many men, in the grey light of dawn, nor the exodus of the
inmates, as they went downstairs, dishevelled and stupid with sleep,
in their long white nightshirts, with their canvas slippers on their
feet, and their tickets in their hands, to the dressing-room to
recover their clothes.

There was one man among them who, amid the folds of his white wrapper,
gripped tightly under his arm a violin, wrapped in a worn, dirty,
faded cover of green baize, and went on his way frowning darkly, as
though lost in contemplation of the hairs that overhung from his
bushy, knitted eyebrows.

"Friend, friend!" Simone Pau called to him. The man came towards us,
keeping his head lowered, as though bowed down by the enormous weight
of his red, fleshy nose; and seemed to be saying as he advanced:

"Make way! Make way! You see what life can make of a man's nose?"

Simone Pau went up to him; lovingly with one hand he lifted up the
man's chin; with the other he clapped him on the shoulder, to give him
confidence, and repeated:

"My friend!"

Then, turning again to myself:

"Serafino," he said, "let me introduce to you a great artist. They
have labelled him with a shocking nickname; but no matter; he is a
great artist. Gaze upon him: there he is, with his God under his arm!
It looks like a broom: it is a violin."

I turned to observe the effect of Simone Pau's words on the face of
the stranger. Emotionless. And Simone Pau went on:

"A violin, nothing else. And he never parts from it. The attendants
here even allow him to take it to bed with him, on the understanding
that he does not play it at night and disturb the other inmates. But
there is no danger of that. Out with it, my friend, and shew it to
this gentleman, who can feel for you."

The man eyed me at first with misgivings; then, on a further request
from Simone Pau, took from its case the old violin, a really priceless
instrument, and shewed it to us, as a modest cripple might expose his
stump.

Simone Pau went on, turning to me:

"You see? He lets you see it. A great concession, for which you ought
to thank him! His father, many years ago, left him in possession of a
printing press at Perugia, with all sorts of machines and type and a
good connexion. Tell us, my friend, what you did with it, to
consecrate yourself to the service of your God."

The man stood looking at Simone Pau, as though he had not understood
the request.

Simone Pau made it clearer:

"What did you do with it, with your press?"

Thereupon the man waved his hand with a gesture of contemptuous
indifference.

"He neglected it," Simone Pau explained this gesture. "He neglected it
until he had brought himself to the verge of starvation. And then,
with his violin under his arm, he came to Rome. He has not played for
some time now, because he thinks that he cannot play any longer, after
all that has happened to him. But until recently, he used to play in
the wine-shops. In the wineshops one drinks; and he would play first,
and drink afterwards. He played divinely; the more divinely he played,
the more he drank; so that often he was obliged to place his God, his
violin, in pawn. And then he would call at some printing press to find
work; gradually he would put together what he needed to redeem his
violin, and back he would go to play in the wine-shops. But listen to
what happened to him once, and has led, you understand, to a slight
alteration of his ... don't, for heaven's sake, let us say his reason,
let us say his conception of life. Put it away, my friend, put your
instrument away: I know it hurts you if I tell the story while you
have your violin uncovered."

The man nodded several times in the affirmative, gravely, with his
towsled head, and wrapped up his violin.

"This is what happened to him," Simone Pau went on. "He called at a
big printing office where there is a foreman who, as a lad, used to
work in his press at Perugia. 'There's no vacancy; I'm sorry,' he was
told. And my friend was going away, crushed, when he heard himself
called back. 'Wait,' said the foreman, 'if you can adapt yourself to
it, we might have something for you.... It isn't the job for you;
still, if you are hard up....' My friend shrugged his shoulders and
went with the foreman. He was taken into a special room, all silent;
and the foreman shewed him a new machine: a pachyderm, flat, black,
squat; a monstrous beast which eats lead and voids books. It is a
perfected monotype, with none of the complications of rods and wheels
and bands, without the noisy jigging of the fount. I tell you, a
regular beast, a pachyderm, quietly chewing away at its long ribbon of
perforated paper. 'It does everything by itself,' the foreman said to
my friend. 'You have nothing to do but feed it now and then with its
cakes of lead, and keep an eye on it.' My friend felt his breath fail
and his arms sink. To be brought down to such an office as that, a
man, an artist! Worse than being a stable-boy. ... To keep an eye on
that black beast, which did everything by itself, and required no
other service of him than to have put in its mouth, from time to time,
its food, those leaden cakes!  But this is nothing, Serafino!
Crushed, mortified, bowed down with shame and poisoned with spleen, my
friend endured a week of this degrading slavery, and, as he handed the
monster its leaden cakes, dreamed of his deliverance, his violin, his
art; vowed and swore that he would never go back to playing in the
wine-shops, where he is so strongly, so irresistibly tempted to drink,
and determined to find other places more befitting the exercise of his
art, the worship of his deity. Yes, my friends! No sooner had he
redeemed the violin than he read in the advertisement columns of a
newspaper, among the offers of employment, one from a cinematograph,
addressed: such and such a street and number, which required a violin
and clarinet for its orchestra. At once my friend hastened to the
place; presented himself, joyful, exultant, with his violin under his
arm. Well; he found himself face to face with another machine, an
automatic pianoforte, what is called a piano player. They said to
him: 'You with your violin have to accompany this instrument!' Do you
understand?  A violin, in the hands of a man, accompany a roll of
perforated paper running through the belly of this other machine! The
soul, which moves and guides the hands of the man, which now passes
into the touch of the bow, now trembles in the fingers that press the
strings, obliged to follow the register of this automatic instrument!
My friend flew into such a towering passion that the police had to be
called, and he was arrested and sentenced to a fortnight's
imprisonment for assaulting the forces of law and order.

"He came out again, as you see him.

"He drinks now, and does not play any more."




6


All the reflexions that I made at the beginning with regard to my
wretched plight, and that of all the others who are condemned like
myself to be nothing more than a hand that turns a handle, have as
their starting point this man, whom I met on the morning after my
arrival in Rome. Certainly I have been in a position to make them,
because I too have been reduced to this office of being the servant of
a machine; but that came afterwards.

I say this, because this man presented to the reader at this point,
after the aforesaid reflexions, might appear to him to be a grotesque
invention of my fancy. But let him remember that I should perhaps
never have thought of those reflexions, had they not been, partly at
least, suggested to me by Simone Pau's introducing the unfortunate
creature to me; while, for that matter, the whole of this first
adventure of mine is grotesque, and is so because Simone Pau himself
is, and means to be, almost by profession, grotesque, as he shewed on
that first evening when he chose to take me to a Casual Shelter.

I did not make any reflexion whatsoever at the time; in the first
place, because I could never, even in my wildest dreams, have thought
that I should be reduced to this occupation; also, because I should
have been interrupted by a great hubbub on the stair leading to the
dormitory, and by the tumultuous and joyful inrush of all the inmates
who had already gone down to the dressing-room to recover their
clothes.

What had happened?

They came upstairs again, still swathed in the white wrappers, and
with the slippers on their feet.

Among them, together with the attendants and the Sisters of Charity
attached to the Shelter and to the soup kitchen, were a number of
gentlemen and some ladies, all well dressed and smiling, with an air
of curiosity and novelty. Two of these gentlemen were carrying, one a
machine, which now I know well, wrapped in a black cover, while the
other had under his arm its knock-kneed tripod. They were actors and
operators from a cinematograph company, and had come about a film to
take a scene from real life in a Casual Shelter.

The cinematograph company which had sent these actors was the
Kosmograph, in which I for the last eight months have held the post of
operator; and the stage manager who was in charge of them was Nicola
Polacco, or, as they all call him, CocÚ Polacco, my playmate and
schoolfellow at Naples in my early boyhood. I am indebted to him for
my post, and to the fortunate coincidence of my happening to have
spent the night with Simone Pau in that Casual Shelter.

But neither, I repeat, did it enter my mind, that morning, that I
should ever come down to setting up a photographic camera on its
tripod, as I saw these two gentlemen doing, nor did it occur to CocÚ
Polacco to suggest such an occupation to me. He, like the good fellow
that he is, made no bones about recognising me, whereas I, having at
once recognised him, was trying my hardest not to catch his eye in
that wretched place, seeing him radiant with Parisian smartness and
with the air and in the setting of an invincible leader of men, among
all those actors and actresses and all those recruits of poverty, who
were beside themselves with joy in their white gowns at this
unlooked-for source of profit. He shewed surprise at finding me
there, but only because of the early hour, and asked me how I had
known that he and his company would be coming that morning to the
Shelter for a real life interior. I left him under the illusion that I
had turned up there by chance, out of curiosity; I introduced Simone
Pau (the man with the violin, in the confusion, had slipped away); and
I remained to look on disgusted at the indecent contamination of this
grim reality, the full horror of which I had tasted overnight, by the
stupid fiction which Polacco had come there to stage.

My disgust, however, I perhaps feel only now. That morning, I must
have felt more than anything else curiosity at being present for the
first time at the production of a film. This curiosity, though, was
distracted at a certain point in the proceedings by one of the
actresses, who, the moment I caught sight of her, aroused in me
another curiosity far more keen.

Nestoroff? Was it possible? It seemed to be she and yet it seemed not
to be. That hair of a strange tawny colour, almost coppery, that style
of dress, sober, almost stiff, were not hers.  But the motion of her
slender, exquisite body, with a touch of the feline in the sway of her
hips; the head raised high, inclined a little to one side, and that
sweet smile on a pair of lips as fresh as a pair of rose-leaves,
whenever anyone addressed her; those eyes, unnaturally wide, open,
greenish, fixed and at the same time vacant, and cold in the shadow of
their long lashes were hers, entirely hers, with that certainty all
her own that everyone, whatever she might say or ask, would answer
yes.

Varia Nestoroff? Was it possible? Acting for a cinematograph company?

There flashed through my mind Capri, the Russian colony, Naples, all
those noisy gatherings of young artists, painters, sculptors, in
strange eccentric haunts, full of sunshine and colour, and a house, a
dear house in the country, near Sorrento, into which this woman had
brought confusion and death.

When, after a second rehearsal of the scene for which the company had
come to the Shelter, CocÚ Polacco invited me to come and see him at
the Kosmograph, I, still in doubt, asked him if this actress was
really the Nestoroff.

"Yes, my dear fellow," he answered with a sigh.  "You know her
history, perhaps."

I nodded my head.

"Ah, but you can't know the rest of it!" Polacco went on. "Come, come
and see me at the Kosmograph; I'll tell you the whole story.  Gubbio,
I don't know what I wouldn't pay to get that woman off my hands. But,
I can tell you, it is easier..."

"Polacco! Polacco!" she called to him at that moment.

And from the haste with which CocÚ Polacco obeyed her summons, I fully
realised the power that she had with the firm, from which she held a
contract as principal with one of the most lavish salaries.

A day or two later I went to the Kosmograph, for no reason except to
learn the rest of this woman's story, of which I knew the beginning
all too well.




BOOK II

OF THE NOTES OF SERAFINO GUBBIO
CINEMATOGRAPH OPERATOR




1


Dear house in the country, the _Grandparents'_, full of the
indescribable fragrance of the oldest family memories, where all the
old-fashioned chairs and tables, vitalised by these memories, were no
longer inanimate objects but, so to speak, intimate parts of the
people who lived in the house, since in them they came in contact
with, became aware of the precious, tranquil, safe reality of their
existence.

There really did linger in those rooms a peculiar aroma, which I seem
to smell now as I write: an aroma of the life of long ago which seemed
to have given a fragrance to all the things that were preserved there.

I see again the drawing-room, a trifle gloomy, it must be admitted,
with its walls stuccoed in rectangular panels which strove to imitate
ancient marbles: red and green alternately; and each panel was set in
a handsome border of its own, of stucco likewise, in a pattern of
foliage; except that in the course of time these imitation marbles had
grown weary of their innocent make-believe, had bulged out a little
here and there, and one saw a few tiny cracks on the surface. All of
which said to me kindly:

"You are poor; the seams of your jacket are rent; but you see that
even in a gentleman's house..."

Ah, yes! I had only to turn and look at those curious brackets which
seemed to shrink from touching the floor with their gilded spidery
legs.  The marble top of each was a trifle yellow, and in the sloping
mirror above were reflected exactly in their immobility the pair of
baskets that stood upon the marble: baskets of fruit, also of marble,
coloured: figs, peaches, limes, corresponding exactly, on either side,
with their reflexions, as though there were four baskets instead of
two.

In that motionless, clear reflexion was embodied all the limpid calm
which reigned in that house.  It seemed as though nothing could ever
happen there. This was the message, also, of the little bronze
timepiece between the baskets, only the back of which was to be seen
in the mirror. It represented a fountain, and had a spiral rod of
rock-crystal, which spun round and round with the movement of the
clockwork. How much water had that fountain poured forth? And yet the
little basin beneath it was never full.

Next I see the room from which one goes down to the garden. (From one
room to the other one passes between a pair of low doors, which seem
full of their own importance, and perfectly aware of the treasures
committed to their charge.) This room, leading down to the garden, is
the favourite sitting-room at all times of the year. It has a floor of
large, square tiles of terra-cotta, a trifle worn with use. The
wallpaper, patterned with damask roses, is a trifle faded, as are the
gauze curtains, also patterned with damask roses, screening the
windows and the glass door beyond which one sees the landing of the
little wooden outside stair, and the green railing and the pergola of
the garden bathed in an enchantment of sunshine and stillness.

The light filters green and fervid between the slats of the little
sun-blind outside the window, and does not pour into the room, which
remains in a cool delicious shadow, embalmed with the scents from the
garden.

What bliss, what a bath of purity for the soul, to sit at rest for a
little upon that old sofa with its high back, its cylindrical cushions
of green rep, likewise a trifle discoloured.

"Giorgio! Giorgio!"

Who is calling from the garden? It is Granny Rosa, who cannot succeed
in reaching, even with the end of her cane, the flowers of the
jasmine, now that the plant has grown so big and has climbed right up
high upon the wall.

Granny Rosa does so love those jasmines! She has upstairs, in the
cupboard in the wall of her room, a box full of umbrella-shaped heads
of cummin, dried; she takes one out every morning, before she goes
down to the garden; and, when she has gathered the blossoms with her
cane, she sits down in the shade of the pergola, puts on her
spectacles, and slips the jasmines one by one into the spidery stems
of that umbrella-shaped head, until she has turned it into a lovely
round white rose, with an intense, delicious perfume, which she goes
and places religiously in a little vase on the top of the chest of
drawers in her room, in front of the portrait of her only son, who
died long ago.

It is so intimate and sheltered, this little house, so contented with
the life that it encloses within its walls, without any desire for the
other life that goes noisily on outside, far away. It remains there,
as though perched in a niche behind the green hill, and has not wished
for so much as a glimpse of the sea and the marvellous Bay. It has
chosen to remain apart, unknown to all the world, almost hidden away
in that green, deserted corner, outside and far away from all the
vicissitudes of life.

There was at one time on the gatepost a marble tablet, which bore the
name of the owner: _Carlo Mirelli_. Grandfather Carlo decided to
remove it, when Death found his way, for the first time, into that
modest little house buried in the country, and carried off with him
the son of the house, barely thirty years old, already the father
himself of two little children.

Did Grandfather Carlo think, perhaps, that when the tablet was removed
from the gatepost, Death would not find his way back to the house
again?

Grandfather Carlo was one of those old men who wore a velvet cap with
a silken tassel, but could read Horace. He knew, therefore, that
death, _aequo pede_, knocks at all doors alike, whether or not they
have a name engraved on a tablet.

Were it not that each of us, blinded by what he considers the
injustice of his own lot, feels an unreasoning need to vent the fury
of his own grief upon somebody or something. Grandfather Carlo's fury,
on that occasion, fell upon the innocent tablet on the gatepost.

If Death allowed us to catch hold of him, I would catch him by the arm
and lead him in front of that mirror where with such limpid precision
are reflected in their immobility the two baskets of fruit and the
back of the bronze timepiece, and would say to him:

"You see? Now be off with you! Everything here must be allowed to
remain as it is!"

But Death does not allow us to catch hold of him.

By taking down that tablet, perhaps Grandfather Carlo meant to imply
that--once his son was dead--there was nobody left alive in the house.

A little later, Death came again.

There was one person left alive who called upon him desperately every
night: the widowed daughter-in-law who, after her husband's death,
felt as though she were divided from the family, a stranger in the
house.

And so, the two little orphans: Lidia, the elder, who was nearly five,
and Giorgetto who was three, remained in the sole charge of their
grandparents, who were still not so very old.

To start life afresh when one is already beginning to grow feeble, and
to rediscover in oneself all the first amazements of childhood; to
create once again round a pair of rosy children the most innocent
affection, the most pleasant dreams, and to drive away, as being
importunate and tiresome, Experience, who from time to time thrusts in
her head, the face of a withered old woman, to say, blinking behind
her spectacles: "This will happen, that will happen," when as yet
nothing has ever happened, and it is so delightful that nothing should
have happened; and to act and think and speak as though really one
knew nothing more than is already known to two little children who
know nothing at all: to act as though things were seen not in
retrospect but through the eyes of a person going forwards for the
first time, and for the first time seeing and hearing: this miracle
was performed by Grandfather Carlo and Granny Rosa; they did, that is
to say, for the two little ones, far more than would have been done by
the father and mother, who, if they had lived, young as they both
were, might have wished to enjoy life a little longer themselves. Nor
did their not having anything left to enjoy render the task more easy
for the two old people, for we know that to the old everything is a
heavy burden, when it no longer has any meaning or value for them.

The two grandparents accepted the meaning and value which their two
grandchildren gradually, as they grew older, began to give to things,
and all the world took on the bright colours of youth for them, and
life recaptured the candour and freshness of innocence. But what could
they know of a world so wide, of a life so different from their own,
which was going on outside, far away, those two young creatures born
and brought up in the house in the country? The old people had
forgotten that life and that world, everything had become new again
for them, the sky, the scenery, the song of the birds, the taste of
food. Outside the gate, life existed no longer.  Life began there, at
the gate, and gilded afresh everything round about; nor did the old
people imagine that anything could come to them from outside; and even
Death, even Death they had almost forgotten, albeit he had already
come there twice.

Have patience a little while, Death, to whom no house, however remote
and hidden, can remain unknown! But how in the world, starting from
thousands and thousands of miles away, thrust aside, or dragged,
tossed hither and thither by the turmoil of ever so many mysterious
changes of fortune, could there have found her way to that modest
little house, perched in its niche there behind the green hill, a
woman, to whom the peace and the affection that reigned there not only
must have been incomprehensible, must have been not even conceivable?

I have no record, nor perhaps has anyone, of the path followed by this
woman to bring her to the dear house in the country, near Sorrento.

There, at that very spot, before the gatepost, from which Grandfather
Carlo, long ago, had had the tablet removed, she did not arrive of her
own accord; that is certain; she did not raise her hand, uninvited, to
ring the bell, to make them open the gate to her. But not far from
there she stopped to wait for a young man, guarded until then with the
life and soul of two old grandparents, handsome, innocent, ardent, his
soul borne on the wings of dreams, to come out of that gate and
advance confidently towards life.

Oh, Granny Rosa, do you still call to him from the garden, for him to
pull down with your cane your jasmine blossoms?

"Giorgio! Giorgio!"

There still rings in my ears, Granny Rosa, the sound of your voice.
And I feel a bitter delight, which I cannot express in words, in
imagining you as still there, in your little house, which I see again
as though I were there at this moment, and were at this moment
breathing the atmosphere that lingers there of an old-fashioned
existence; in imagining you as knowing nothing of all that has
happened, as you were at first, when I, in the summer holidays, came
out from Sorrento every morning to prepare for the October
examinations your grandson Giorgio, who refused to learn a word of
Latin or Greek, and instead covered every scrap of paper that came
into his hands, the margins of his books, the top of the schoolroom
table, with sketches in pen and pencil, with caricatures.  There must
even be one of me, still, on the top of that table, covered all over
with scribblings.

"Ah, Signor Serafino," you sigh, Granny Rosa, as you hand me in an old
cup the familiar coffee with essence of cinnamon, like the coffee that
our aunts in religion offer us in their convents, "ah, Signor
Serafino, Giorgio has bought a box of paints; he wants to leave us; he
wants to become a painter..."

And over your shoulder opens her sweet, clear, sky-blue eyes and
blushes a deep red Lidiuccia, your granddaughter; Duccella, as you
call her.  Why?

Ah, because.... There has come now three times from Naples a young
gentleman, a fine young gentleman all covered with scent, in a velvet
coat, with yellow chamois-leather gloves, an eyeglass in his right eye
and a baron's coronet on his handkerchief and portfolio. He was sent
by his grandfather, Barone Nuti, a friend of Grandfather Carlo, who
was like a brother to him before Grandfather Carlo, growing weary of
the world, retired from Naples, here, to the Sorrentine villa. You
know this, Granny Rosa. But you do not know that the young gentleman
from Naples is fervently encouraging Giorgio to devote himself to art
and to go off to Naples with him. Duccella knows, because young Aldo
Nuti (how very strange!), when speaking with such fervour of art,
never looks at Giorgio, but looks at her, into her eyes, as though it
were her that he had to encourage, and not Giorgio; yes, yes, her, to
come to Naples to stay there for ever with himself.

So that is why Duccella blushes a deep red, over your shoulder, Granny
Rosa, whenever she hears you say that Giorgio wishes to become a
painter.

He too, the young gentleman from Naples, if his grandfather would
allow him... Not a painter, no... He would like to go upon the stage,
to become an actor. How he would love that! But his grandfather does
not wish it....  Dare we wager, Granny Rosa, that Duccella does not
wish it either?




2


Of the sequel to this simple, innocent, idyllic life, about four years
later, I have a cursory knowledge.

I acted as tutor to Giorgio Mirelli, but I was myself a student also,
a penniless student who had grown old while waiting to complete his
studies, and whom the sacrifices borne by his parents to keep him at
school had automatically inspired with the utmost zeal, the utmost
diligence, a shy, painful humility, a constraint which never
diminished, albeit this period of waiting had now extended over many,
many years.

Yet my time had perhaps not been wasted. I studied by myself and
meditated, in those years of waiting, far more and with infinitely
greater profit than I had done in my years at school; and I taught
myself Latin and Greek, in an attempt to pass from the technical side,
in which I had started, to the classical, in the hope that it might be
easier for me to enter the University by that road.

Certainly this kind of study was far better suited to my intelligence.
I buried myself in it with a passion so intense and vital that when,
at six-and-twenty, through an unexpected, tiny legacy from an uncle in
holy orders (who had died in Apulia, and whose existence had long been
almost forgotten by my family), I was finally able to enter the
University, I remained for long in doubt whether it would not be
better for me to leave behind in the drawer, where it had slumbered
undisturbed for all those years, my qualifying diploma from the
technical institute, and to procure another from the liceo, so as to
matriculate in the faculty of philosophy and literature.

Family counsels prevailed, and I set off for Liege, where, with this
worm of philosophy gnawing my brain, I acquired an intimate and
painful knowledge of all the machines invented by man for his own
happiness.

I have derived one great benefit from it, as you can see. I have
learned to draw back with an instinctive shudder from reality, as
others see and handle it, without however managing to arrest a reality
of my own, since my distracted, wandering sentiments never succeed in
giving any value or meaning to this uncertain, loveless life of mine.
I look now at everything, myself included, as from a distance; and
from nothing does there ever come to me a loving signal, beckoning me
to approach it with confidence or with the hope of deriving some
comfort from it.  Pitying signals, yes, I seem to catch in the eyes of
many people, in the aspect of many places which impel me not to
receive comfort nor to give it, since he that cannot receive it cannot
give it; but pity. Pity, ah yes... But I know that pity is such a
difficult thing either to give or to receive.

For some years after my return to Naples I found nothing to do; I led
a dissolute life with a group of young artists, until the last remains
of that modest legacy had gone. I owe to chance, as I have said, and
to the friendship of one of my old school friends the post that I now
occupy.  I fill it-yes, we may say so-honourably, and I am well
rewarded for my labour. Oh, they all respect me, here, as a first rate
operator: alert, accurate, and _perfectly impassive_. If I ought to be
grateful to Polacco, Polacco ought in turn to be grateful to me for
the credit that he has acquired with Commendator Borgalli, the
Chairman and General Manager of the Kosmograph, for the acquisition
that the firm has made of an operator like myself. Signor Gubbio is
not, properly speaking, attached to any of the four companies among
which the production is distributed, but is summoned here and there,
from one to another, to take the longest and most difficult films.
Signor Gubbio does far more work than the firm's other five operators;
but for every film that proves a success he receives a handsome
commission and frequent bonuses.  I ought to be happy and contented.
Instead of which I think with longing of my lean years of youthful
folly at Naples among the young artists.

Immediately after my return from Liťge, I met Giorgio Mirelli, who had
been at Naples for two years. He had recently shown at an exhibition
two strange pictures, which had given rise among the critics and the
general public to long and violent discussions. He still retained the
innocence and fervour of sixteen; he had no eyes to see the neglected
state of his clothes, his towsled locks, the first few hairs that were
sprouting in long curls on his chin and hollow cheeks, like the cheeks
of a sick man: and sick he was of a divine malady; a prey to a
continual anxiety, which made him neither observe nor feel what was
for others the reality of life; always on the point of dashing off in
response to some mysterious, distant summons, which he alone could
hear.

I asked after his people. He told me that Grandfather Carlo had died a
short time since.  I gazed at him surprised at the way in which he
gave me this news; he seemed not to have felt any sorrow at his
grandfather's death. But, called back by the look in my eyes to his
own grief, he said: "Poor grandfather..." so sadly and with such a
smile that at once I changed my mind and realised that he, in the
tumult of all the life that seethed round about him, had neither the
power nor the time to think of his grief.

And Granny Rosa? Granny Rosa was keeping well...  yes, quite well,...
as well as she could, poor old soul, after such a bereavement.  Two
heads of cummin, now, to be filled with jasmine, every morning, one
for the recently dead, the other for him who had died long ago.

And Duccella, Duccella?

Ah, how her brother's eyes smiled at my question!

"Rosy! Rosy!"

And he told me that for the last year she had been engaged to the
young Barone Aldo Nuti.  The wedding would soon be celebrated; it had
been postponed owing to the death of Grandfather Carlo.

But he shewed no sign of joy at this wedding; indeed he told me that
he did not regard Aldo Nuti as a suitable match for Duccella; and,
waving both his hands in the air with outstretched fingers, he broke
out in that exclamation of disgust which he was in the habit of using
when I endeavoured to make him understand the rules and terminations
of the second declension in Greek:

"He's so complicated! He's so complicated!"

It was never possible to keep him still after that exclamation.
And as he used to escape then from the schoolroom table, so now he
escaped from me again. I lost sight of him for more than a year. I
learned from his fellow-artists that he had gone to Capri, to paint.

There he met Varia Nestoroff.




3


I know this woman well now, as well, that is to say, as it is possible
to know her, and I can now explain many things that long remained
incomprehensible to me. Though there is still the risk that the
explanation I now offer myself of them may perhaps appear
incomprehensible to others. But I offer it to myself and not to
others; and I have not the slightest intention of offering it as an
excuse for the Nestoroff.

To whom should I excuse her?

I keep away from people who are respectable by profession, as from the
plague.

It seems impossible that a person should not enjoy his own wickedness
when he practises it with a cold-blooded calculation. But if such
unhappiness (and it must be tremendous) exists, I mean that of not
being able to enjoy one's own wickedness, our contempt for such wicked
persons, as for all sorts of other unhappiness, may perhaps be
conquered, or at least modified, by a certain pity. I speak, so as not
to give offence, as a moderately respectable person.  But we must,
surely to goodness, admit this fact: that we are all, more or less,
wicked; but that we do not enjoy our wickedness, and are unhappy.

Is it possible?

We all of us readily admit our own unhappiness; no one admits his own
wickedness; and the former we insist upon regarding as due to no
reason or fault of our own; whereas we labour to find a hundred
reasons, a hundred excuses and justifications for every trifling act
of wickedness that we have committed, whether against other people or
against our own conscience.

Would you like me to shew you how we at once rebel, and indignantly
deny a wicked action, even when it is undeniable, and when we have
undeniably enjoyed it?

The following two incidents have occurred.  (This is not a digression,
for the Nestoroff has been compared by someone to the beautiful tiger
purchased, a few days ago, by the Kosmograph.) The following two
incidents, I say, have occurred.

A flock of birds of passage--woodcock and snipe--have alighted to rest
for a little after their long flight and to recuperate their strength
in the Roman Campagna. They have chosen a bad spot. A snipe, more
daring than the rest, says to his comrades:

"You remain here, hidden in this brake. I shall go and explore the
country round, and, if I find a better place, I shall call you."

An engineer friend of yours, of an adventurous spirit, a Fellow of the
Geographical Society, has undertaken the mission of going to Africa, I
do not exactly know (because you yourself do not know exactly) upon
what scientific exploration.  He is still a long way from his goal;
you have had some news of him; his last letter has left you somewhat
alarmed, because in it your friend explained to you the dangers which
he was going to face, when he prepared to cross certain distant
tracts, savage and deserted.

To-day is Sunday. You rise betimes to go out shooting. You have made
all your preparations overnight, promising yourself a great enjoyment.
You alight from the train, blithe and happy; off you go over the
fresh, green Campagna, a trifle misty still, in search of a good place
for the birds of passage. You wait there for half an hour, for an
hour; you begin to feel bored and take from your pocket the newspaper
you bought when you started, at the station. After a time, you hear
what sounds like a flutter of wings in the dense foliage of the wood;
you lay down the paper; you go creeping quietly up; you take aim; you
fire.  Oh, joy! A snipe!

Yes, indeed, a snipe. The very snipe, the explorer, that had left its
comrades in the brake.

I know that you do not eat the birds you have shot; you make presents
of them to your friends: for you everything consists in this, in the
pleasure of killing what you call game.

The day does not promise well. But you, like all sportsmen, are
inclined to be superstitious: you believe that reading the newspaper
has brought you luck, and you go back to read the newspaper in the
place where you left it. On the second page you find the news that
your friend the engineer, who went to Africa on behalf of the
Geographical Society, while crossing those savage and deserted tracts,
has met a tragic end: attacked, torn in pieces and devoured by a wild
beast.

As you read with a shudder the account in the newspaper, it never
enters your head even remotely to draw any comparison between the wild
beast that has killed your friend and yourself, who have killed the
snipe, an explorer like him.

And yet such a comparison would be perfectly logical, and, I fear,
would give a certain advantage to the beast, since you have killed for
pleasure, and without any risk of your being killed yourself; whereas
the beast has killed from hunger, that is to say from necessity, and
with the risk of being killed by your friend, who must certainly have
been armed.

Rhetoric, you say? Ah, yes, my friend; do not be too contemptuous; I
admit as much, myself; rhetoric, because we, by the grace of God, are
men and not snipe.

The snipe, for his part, without any fear of being rhetorical, might
draw the comparison and demand that at least men, who go out shooting
for pleasure, should not call the beasts savage.

We, no. We cannot allow the comparison, because on one side we have a
man who has killed a beast, and on the other a beast that has killed a
man.

At the very utmost, my dear snipe, to make some concession to you, we
can say that you were a poor innocent little creature. There!  Does
that satisfy you? But you are not to infer from this, that our
wickedness is therefore the greater; and, above all, you are not to
say that, by calling you an innocent little creature and killing you,
we have forfeited the right to call the beast savage which, from
hunger and not for pleasure, has killed a man.

But when a man, you say, makes himself lower than a beast?

Ah, yes; we must be prepared, certainly, for the consequences of our
logic. Often we make a slip, and then heaven only knows where we shall
land.




4


The experience of seeing men sink lower than the beasts must
frequently have occurred to Varia Nestoroff.

And yet she has not killed them. A huntress, as you are a hunter. The
snipe, you have killed.  She has never killed anyone. One only, for
her sake, has killed himself, by his own hand: Giorgio Mirelli; but
not for her sake alone.

The beast, moreover, which does harm from a necessity of its nature,
is not, so far as we know, unhappy.

The Nestoroff, as we have abundant grounds for supposing, is most
unhappy. She does not enjoy her own wickedness, for all that it is
carried out with such cold-blooded calculation.

If I were to say openly what I think of her to my fellow-operators, to
the actors and actresses of the firm, all of them would at once
suspect that I too had fallen in love with the Nestoroff.

I ignore this suspicion.

The Nestoroff feels for me, like all her fellow-artists, an almost
instinctive aversion. I do not reciprocate it in any way because I do
not spend my time with her, except when I am in the service of my
machine, and then, as I turn the handle, I am what I am supposed to
be, that is to say perfectly _impassive_. I am unable either to hate
or to love the Nestoroff, as I am unable either to hate or to love
anyone. I am _a hand that turns the handle_. When, finally, I am
restored to myself, that is to say when for me the torture of being
only a hand is ended, and I can regain possession of the rest of my
body, and marvel that I have still a head on my shoulders, and abandon
myself once more to that wretched _superfluity_ which exists in me
nevertheless and of which for almost the whole day my profession
condemns me to be deprived; then... ah, then the affections, the
memories that come to life in me are certainly not such as can
persuade me to love this woman. I was the friend of Giorgio Mirelli,
and among the most cherished memories of my life is that of the dear
house in the country by Sorrento, where Granny Rosa and poor Duccella
still live and mourn.

I study. I go on studying, because that is perhaps my ruling passion:
it nourished in times of poverty and sustained my dreams, and it is
the sole comfort that I have left, now that they have ended so
miserably.

I study this woman, then, without passion but intently, who, albeit
she may seem to understand what she is doing and why she does it, yet
has not in herself any of that quiet "systematisation" of concepts,
affections, rights and duties, opinions and habits, which I abominate
in other people.

She knows nothing for certain, except the harm that she can do to
others, and she does it, I repeat, with cold-blooded calculation.

This, in the opinion of other people, of all the "systematised,"
debars her from any excuse.  But I believe that she cannot offer any
excuse, herself, for the harm which nevertheless she knows herself to
have done.

She has something in her, this woman, which the others do not succeed
in understanding, because even she herself does not clearly understand
it.  One guesses it, however, from the violent expressions which she
assumes, involuntarily, unconsciously, in the parts that are assigned
to her.

She alone takes them seriously, and all the more so the more illogical
and extravagant they are, grotesquely heroic and contradictory. And
there is no way of keeping her in check, of making her moderate the
violence of those expressions. She alone ruins more films than all the
other actors in the four companies put together. For one thing, she
always moves out of the picture; when by any chance she does not move
out, her action is so disordered, her face so strangely altered and
disguised, that in the rehearsal theatre almost all the scenes in
which she has taken part turn out useless and have to be done again.

Any other actress, who had not enjoyed and did not enjoy, as she does,
the favour of the warm-hearted Commendator Borgalli, would long since
have been given notice to leave.

Instead of which, "Dear, dear, dear..." exclaims the warm-hearted
Commendatore, without the least annoyance, when he sees projected on
the screen in the rehearsal theatre those demoniacal pictures, "dear,
dear, dear... oh, come ... no... is it possible? Oh, Lord, how
horrible ... cut it out, cut it out...."

And he finds fault with Polacco, and with all the producers in
general, who keep the _scenarios_ to themselves, confining themselves
to suggesting bit by bit to the actors the action to be performed in
each separate scene, often disjointedly, because not all the scenes
can be taken in order, one after another, in a studio. It often
happens that the actors do not even know what part they are supposed
to be taking in the play as a whole, and one hears some actor ask in
the middle:

"I say, Polacco, am I the husband or the lover?"

In vain does Polacco protest that he has carefully explained the whole
part to the Nestoroff.  Commendator Borgalli knows that the fault does
not lie with Polacco; so much so, that he has given him another
leading lady, the Sgrelli, in order not to waste all the films that
are allotted to his company. But the Nestoroff protests on her own
account, if Polacco makes use of the Sgrelli alone, or of the Sgrelli
more than of herself, the true leading lady of the company. Her
ill-wishers say that she does this to ruin Polacco, and Polacco
himself believes it and goes about saying so. It is untrue: the only
thing ruined, here, is film; and the Nestoroff is genuinely in despair
at what she has done; I repeat, involuntarily and unconsciously. She
herself remains speechless and almost terror-stricken at her own image
on the screen, so altered and disordered.  She sees there some one who
is herself but whom she does not know. She would like not to recognise
herself in this person, but at least to know her.

Possibly for years and years, through all the mysterious adventures of
her life, she has gone in quest of this demon which exists in her and
always escapes her, to arrest it, to ask it what it wants, why it is
suffering, what she ought to do to soothe it, to placate it, to give
it peace.

No one, whose eyes are not clouded by a passionate antipathy, and who
has seen her come out of the rehearsal theatre after the presentation
of those pictures of herself, can retain any doubt as to that. She is
really tragic: terrified and enthralled, with that sombre stupor in
her eyes which we observe in the eyes of the dying, and can barely
restrain the convulsive tremor of her entire person.

I know the answer I should receive, were I to point this out to
anyone:

"But it is rage! She is quivering with rage!"

It is rage, yes; but not the sort of rage that they all suppose,
namely at a film that has gone wrong. A cold rage, colder than a blade
of steel, is indeed this woman's weapon against all her enemies. Now
CocÚ Polacco is not an enemy in her eyes. If he were, she would not
tremble like that: with the utmost coldness she would avenge herself
on him.

Enemies, to her, all the men become to whom she attaches herself, in
order that they may help her to arrest the secret thing in her that
escapes her: she herself, yes, but a thing that lives and suffers, so
to speak, _outside herself_.

Well, no one has ever taken any notice of this thing, which to her is
more pressing than anything else; everyone, rather, remains dazzled by
her exquisite form, and does not wish to possess or to know anything
else of her. And then she punishes them with a cold rage, just where
their desires prick them; and first of all she exasperates those
desires with the most perfidious art, that her revenge may be all the
greater. She avenges herself by flinging her body, suddenly and
coldly, at those whom they least expected to see thus favoured: like
that, so as to shew them in what contempt she holds the thing that
they prize most of all in her.

I do not believe that there can be any other explanation of certain
sudden changes in her amorous relations, which appear to everyone, at
first sight, inexplicable, because no one can deny that she has done
harm to herself by them.

Except that the others, thinking it over and considering, on the one
hand the nature of the men with whom she had consorted previously, and
on the other that of the men at whom she has suddenly flung herself,
say that this is due to the fact that with the former sort she could
not remain, _could not breathe_; whereas to the latter she felt
herself attracted by a "gutter" affinity; and this sudden and
unexpected flinging of herself they explain as the sudden spring of a
person who, after a long suffocation, seeks to obtain at last,
_wherever he can_, a mouthful of air.

And if it should be just the opposite? If _in order to breathe_,
to secure that help of which I have already spoken, she had
attached herself to the former sort, and instead of having the
_breathing-space_, the help for which she hoped, had found no
breathing-space and no help from them, but rather an anger and disgust
all the stronger because increased and embittered by disappointment,
and also by a certain contempt which a person feels for the needs of
another's soul who sees and cares for nothing but his own SOUL, like
that, in capital letters? No one knows; but of these "gutter"
refinements those may well be capable who mostly highly esteem
themselves, and are deemed _superior_ by their fellows. And then...
then, better the gutter which offers itself as such, which, if it
makes you sad, does not delude you; and which may have, as often it
does have, a good side to it, and, now and then, certain traces of
innocence, which cheer and refresh you all the more, the less you
expected to find them there.

The fact remains that, for more than a year, the Nestoroff has been
living with the Sicilian actor Carlo Ferro, who also is engaged by the
Kosmograph: she is dominated by him and passionately in love with him.
She knows what she may expect from such a man, and asks for nothing
more. But it seems that she obtains far more from him than the others
are capable of imagining.

This explains why, for some time back, I have set myself to study,
with keen interest, Carlo Ferro also.




5


A problem which I find it far more difficult to solve is this: how in
the world Giorgio Mirelli, who would fly with such impatience from
every complication, can have lost himself to this woman, to the point
of laying down his life on her account.

Almost all the details are lacking that would enable me to solve this
problem, and I have said already that I have no more than a summary
report of the drama.

I know from various sources that the Nestoroff, at Capri, when Giorgio
Mirelli saw her for the first time, was in distinctly bad odour, and
was treated with great diffidence by the little Russian colony, which
for some years past has been settled upon that island.

Some even suspected her of being a spy, perhaps because she, not very
prudently, had introduced herself as the widow of an old conspirator,
who had died some years before her coming to Capri, a refugee in
Berlin. It appears that some one wrote for information, both to Berlin
and to Petersburg, with regard to her and to this unknown conspirator,
and that it came to light that a certain Nikolai Nestoroff had indeed
been for some years in exile in Berlin, and had died there, but
without ever having given anyone to understand that he was exiled for
political reasons. It appears to have become known also that this
Nikolai Nestoroff had taken her, as a little girl, from the streets,
in one of the poorest and most disreputable quarters of Petersburg,
and, after having her educated, had married her; and then, reduced by
his vices to the verge of starvation had lived upon her, sending her
out to sing in music-halls of the lowest order, until, with the police
on his track, he had made his escape, alone, into Germany. But the
Nestoroff, to my knowledge, indignantly denies all these stories.
That she may have complained privately to some one of the
ill-treatment, not to say the cruelty she received from her girlhood
at the hands of this old man is quite possible; but she does not say
that he lived upon her; she says rather that, of her own accord,
obeying the call of her passion, and also, perhaps, to supply the
necessities of life, having overcome his opposition, she took to
acting in the provinces, a-c-t-i-n-g, mind, on the legitimate stage;
and that then, her husband having fled from Russia for political
reasons and settled in Berlin, she, knowing him to be in frail health
and in need of attention, taking pity on him, had joined him there and
remained with him till his death. What she did then, in Berlin, as a
widow, and afterwards in Paris and Vienna, cities to which she often
refers, shewing a thorough knowledge of their life and customs, she
neither says herself nor certainly does anyone ever venture to ask
her.

For certain people, for innumerable people, I should say, who are
incapable of seeing anything but themselves, love of humanity often,
if not always, means nothing more than being pleased with themselves.

Thoroughly pleased with himself, with his art, with his studies of
landscape, must Giorgio Mirelli, unquestionably, have been in those
days at Capri.

Indeed--and I seem to have said this before--his habitual state of
mind was one of rapture and amazement. Given such a state of mind, it
is easy to imagine that this woman did not appear to him as she really
was, with the needs that she felt, wounded, scourged, poisoned by the
distrust and evil gossip that surrounded her; but in the fantastic
transfiguration that he at once made of her, and illuminated by the
light in which he beheld her. For him feelings must take the form of
colours, and, perhaps, entirely engrossed in his art, he had no other
feeling left save for colour.  All the impressions that he formed of
her were derived exclusively, perhaps, from the light which he shed
upon her; impressions, therefore, that were felt by him alone. She
need not, perhaps could not participate in them.  Now, nothing
irritates us more than to be shut out from an enjoyment, vividly
present before our eyes, round about us, the reason of which we can
neither discover nor guess. But even if Giorgio Mirelli had told her
of his enjoyment, he could not have conveyed it to her mind. It was a
joy felt by him alone, and proved that he too, in his heart, prayed
and wished for nothing else of her than her body; not, it is true,
like other men, with base intent; but even this, in the long run--if
you think it over carefully--could not but increase the woman's
irritation.  Because, if the failure to derive any assistance, in the
maddening uncertainties of her spirit, from the many who saw and
desired nothing in her save her body, to satisfy on it the brutal
appetite of the senses, filled her with anger and disgust; her anger
with the one man, who also desired her body and nothing more; her
body, but only to extract from it an ideal and absolutely
self-sufficient pleasure, must have been all the stronger, in so far
as every provocative of disgust was entirely lacking, and must have
rendered more difficult, if not absolutely futile, the vengeance which
she was in the habit of wreaking upon other people. An angel, to a
woman, is always more irritating than a beast.

I know from all Giorgio Mirelli's artist friends in Naples that he was
spotlessly chaste, not because he did not know how to make an
impression upon women, but because he instinctively avoided every
vulgar distraction.

To account for his suicide, which beyond question was largely due to
the Nestoroff, we ought to assume that she, not cared for, not helped,
and irritated to madness, in order to be avenged, must with the finest
and subtlest art have contrived that her body should gradually come to
life before his eyes, not for the delight of his eyes alone; and that,
when she saw him, like all the rest, conquered and enslaved, she
forbade him, the better to taste her revenge, to take any other
pleasure from her than that with which, until then, he had been
content, as the only one desired, because the only one worthy of him.

_We ought_, I say, to assume this, but only if we wish to be
ill-natured. The Nestoroff might say, and perhaps does say, that she
did nothing to alter that relation of pure friendship which had grown
up between herself and Mirelli; so much so that when he, no longer
contented with that pure friendship, more impetuous than ever owing to
the severe repulse with which she met his advances, yet, to obtain his
purpose, offered to marry her, she struggled for a long time--and this
is true; I learned it on good authority--to dissuade him, and proposed
to leave Capri, to disappear; and in the end remained there only
because of his acute despair.

But it is true that, if we wish to be ill-natured, we may also be of
opinion that both the early repulse and the later struggle and threat
and attempt to leave the island, to disappear, were perhaps so many
artifices carefully planned and put into practice to reduce this young
man to despair after having seduced him, and to obtain from him all
sorts of things which otherwise he would never, perhaps, have conceded
to her.  Foremost among them, that she should be introduced as his
future bride at the Villa by Sorrento to that dear Granny, to that
sweet little sister, of whom he had spoken to her, and to the sister's
betrothed.

It seems that he, Aldo Nuti, more than, the two women, resolutely
opposed this claim. Authority and power to oppose and to prevent this
marriage he did not possess, for Giorgio was now his own master, free
to act as he chose, and considered that he need no longer give an
account of himself to anyone; but that he should bring this woman to
the house and place her in contact with his sister, and expect the
latter to welcome her and to treat her as a sister, this, by Jove, he
could and must oppose, and oppose it he did with all his strength. But
were they, Granny Rosa and Duccella, aware what sort of woman this was
that Giorgio proposed to bring to the house and to marry? A Russian
adventuress, an actress, if not something worse! How could he allow
such a thing, how not oppose it with all his strength?

Again "with all his strength"... Ah, yes, who knows how hard Granny
Rosa and Duccella had to fight in order to overcome, little by little,
by their sweet and gentle persuasion, all the strength of Aldo Nuti.
How could they have imagined what was to become of that strength at
the sight of Varia Nestoroff, as soon as she set foot, timid, ethereal
and smiling, in the dear villa by Sorrento!

Perhaps Giorgio, to account for the delay which Granny Rosa and
Duccella shewed in answering, may have said to the Nestoroff that this
delay was due to the opposition "with all his strength" of his
sister's future husband; so that the Nestoroff felt the temptation to
measure her own strength against this other, at once, as soon as she
set foot in the villa. I know nothing! I know that Aldo Nuti was drawn
in as though into a whirlpool and at once carried away like a wisp of
straw by passion for this woman.

I do not know him. I saw him as a boy, once only, when I was acting as
Giorgio's tutor, and he struck me as a fool. This impression of mine
does not agree with what Mirelli said to me about him, on my return
from Liege, namely that he was _complicated_. Nor does what I have
heard from other people, with regard to him correspond in the least
with this first impression, which however has irresistibly led me to
speak of him according to the idea that I had formed of him from it. I
must, really, have been mistaken.  Duccella found it possible to love
him!  And this, to my mind, does more than anything else to prove me
in the wrong. But we cannot control our impressions. He may be, as
people tell me, a serious young man, albeit of a most ardent
temperament; for me, until I see him again, he will remain that fool
of a boy, with the baron's coronet on his handkerchiefs and
portfolios, the young gentleman who _would so love to become an
actor_.

He became one, and not by way of make-believe, with the Nestoroff, at
Giorgio Mirelli's expense.  The drama was unfolded at Naples, shortly
after the Nestoroff's introduction and brief visit to the house at
Sorrento. It seems that Nuti returned to Naples with the engaged
couple, after that brief visit, to help the inexperienced Giorgio and
her who was not yet familiar with the town, to set their house in
order before the wedding.

Perhaps the drama would not have happened, or would have had a
different ending, had it not been for the complication of Duccella's
engagement to, or rather her love for Nuti. For this reason Giorgio
Mirelli was obliged to concentrate on himself the violence of the
unendurable horror that overcame him at the sudden discovery of his
betrayal.

Aldo Nuti rushed from Naples like a madman before there arrived from
Sorrento at the news of Giorgio's suicide Granny Rosa and Duccella.

Poor Duccella, poor Granny Rosa! The woman who from thousands and
thousands of miles away came to bring confusion and death into your
little house where with the jasmines bloomed the most innocent of
idylls, I have her here, now, in front of my machine, every day; and,
if the news I have heard from Polacco be true, I shall presently have
him here as well, Aldo Nuti, who appears to have heard that the
Nestoroff is leading lady with the Kosmograph.

I do not know why, my heart tells me that, as I turn the handle of
this photographic machine, I am destined to carry out both your
revenge and your poor Giorgio's, dear Duccella, dear Granny Rosa!




BOOK III

OF THE NOTES OF SERAFINO GUBBIO
CINEMATOGRAPH OPERATOR




1


A slight swerve. There is a one-horse carriage in front. "_Peu,
pepeeeu, peeeu_."

What? The horn of the motor-car is pulling it back? Why, yes! It does
really seem to be making it run backwards, with the most comic effect.

The three ladies in the motor-car laugh, turn round, wave their arms
in greeting with great vivacity, amid a gay, confused flutter of
many-coloured veils; and the poor little carriage, hidden in an arid,
sickening cloud of smoke and dust, however hard the cadaverous little
horse may try to pull it along with his weary trot, continues to fall
behind, far behind, with the houses, the trees, the occasional
pedestrians, until it vanishes down the long straight vista of the
suburban avenue. Vanishes? Not at all! The motor-car has vanished. The
carriage, meanwhile, is still here, still slowly advancing, at the
weary, level trot of its cadaverous horse. And the whole of the avenue
seems to come forward again, slowly, with it.

You have invented machines, have you? And now you enjoy these and
similar sensations of stylish pace.

The three ladies in the motor-car are three actresses from the
Kosmograph, and have greeted with such vivacity the carriage flung
into the background by their mechanical progress not because there is
anyone in the carriage particularly dear to them; but because the
motor-car, the machinery intoxicates them and excites this
uncontrollable vivacity in them. They have it at their disposal; free
of charge; the Kosmograph pays. In the carriage there is myself.

They have seen me disappear in an instant, dropping ludicrously
behind, down the receding vista of the avenue; they have laughed at
me; by this time they have already arrived. But here am I creeping
forward again, my dear ladies. Ever so slowly, yes; but what have you
seen? A carriage drop behind, as though pulled by a string, and the
whole avenue rush past you in a long, confused, violent, dizzy streak.
I, on the other hand, am still here; I can console myself for my slow
progress by admiring one by one, at my leisure, these great green
plane trees by the roadside, not uprooted by the hurricane of your
passage, but firmly planted in the ground, which turn towards me at
every breath of wind in the gold of the sunlight between their dark
boughs a cool patch of violet shadow: giants of the road, halted in
file, ever so many of them, they open and uplift on muscular arms
their huge palpitating wreaths of foliage to the sky.

Drive on, yes, but not too fast, my coachman!  He is so tired, your
old cadaverous horse. Everything passes him by: motor-cars, bicycles,
electric trams; and the frenzy of all that motion along the road urges
him on as well, unconsciously and involuntarily, gives an irresistible
impetus to his poor stiff legs, weary with conveying, from end to end
of the great city, so many people afflicted, oppressed, excited, by
necessities, hardships, engagements, aspirations which he is incapable
of understanding! And perhaps none of them makes him so tired as the
few who get into the carriage with the object of amusing themselves,
and do not know where or how. Poor little horse, his head droops
gradually lower, and he never raises it again, not even if you flay
him with your whip, coachman!

"Here, on the right... turn to the right!"

The Kosmograph is here, on this remote side road, outside the city
gate.




2


Freshly dug, dusty, barely traced in outline, it has the air and the
ungraciousness of a person who, expecting to be left in peace, finds
that, on the contrary, he is continually being disturbed.

But if the right to a few fresh tufts of grass, to all those fine,
wandering threads of sound, with which the silence weaves a cloak of
peace in solitary places, to the croak of an occasional frog when it
rains and the pools of rain-water mirror back the stars when the sky
is clear again; in short, to all the delights of nature in the open
and unpeopled country: if this right be not enjoyed by a country road
some miles outside the gate of the city, then indeed I do not know who
does enjoy it.

Instead of this: motor-cars, carriages, carts, bicycles, and all day
long an uninterrupted coming and going of actors, operators,
mechanics, labourers, messengers, and a din of hammers, saws, planes,
and clouds of dust and the stench of petrol.

The buildings, high and low, of the great cinematograph company rise
at the far end of the road, on either side; a few more stand up
farther off, scattered in confusion, within the vast enclosure, which
extends far over the Campagna: one of them, higher than all the rest,
is capped with a sort of glazed tower, with opaque windows, which
glitter in the sunlight; and on the wall that is visible from both
avenue and side road, on the dazzling whitewashed surface, in black
letters a foot high, is painted:

THE KOSMOGRAPH

The entrance is to the left, through a little door by the side of the
gate, which is rarely opened.  Opposite is a wayside tavern, pompously
surnamed _Trattoria della Kosmograph_, with a fine trellised pergola
which encloses the whole of the so-called garden and creates a patch
of green within. Five or six rustic tables, inside, none too steady on
their legs, and chairs and benches.  A number of actors, made up and
dressed in strange costumes, are seated there and engaged in an
animated discussion; one of them shouts louder than the rest, bringing
his hand down furiously upon his thigh:

"I tell you, you've got to hit her here, here, here!"

And the bang of his hand on his leather breeches sounds like so many
rifle shots.

They are speaking, of course, of the tigress, bought a short time ago
by the Kosmograph; of the way in which she is to be killed; of the
exact spot in which the bullet must hit her. It has become an
obsession with them. To hear them talk, you would think that they were
all professional hunters of wild beasts.

Crowding round the entrance, stand listening to them with grinning
faces the chauffeurs of the dusty, dilapidated motor-cars; the drivers
of the carriages that stand waiting, there in the background, where
the side road is barred by a fence of stakes and iron spikes; and ever
so many other people, the most wretched that I know, albeit they are
dressed with a certain gentility.  They are (I apologise, but
everything here has a French or an English name) the casual _cachets_,
that is to say the people who come to offer their services, should the
need arise, as _supers_.  Their petulance is insufferable, worse than
that of beggars, because they come here to display a penury which asks
not for the charity of a copper, but for five lire, in reward for
dressing themselves up, often grotesquely. You ought to see the rush,
on some days, to the dressing-room to snatch and put on at once a heap
of gaudy rags, and the airs with which they strut up and down on the
stage and in the open, knowing full well that, if they succeed in
_dressing_, even if they do not _come on_, they draw half-salary.

Two or three actors come out of the tavern, making their way through
the crowd. They are dressed in saffron-coloured vests, their faces and
arms plastered a dirty yellow, and with a sort of crest of coloured
feathers on their heads.  Indians.  They greet me:

"Hallo, Gubbio."

"Hallo, _Shoot_!..."

_Shoot_, you understand, is my nickname.

The difficulties of life!

You have lost an eye in it, and your case has been serious. But we are
all of us more or less marked, and we never notice it. Life marks us;
and fastens a beauty-spot on one, a grimace on another.

No? But excuse me, you, yes, you who said no just now... there now,
_absolutely_... do you not continually load all your conversation with
that adverb in _-ly_?

"I went absolutely to the place they told me: I saw him, and said to
him absolutely: What, you, absolutely..."

Have patience! Nobody yet calls you _Mr.  Absolutely_... Serafino
Gubbio (_Shoot_!) has been less fortunate. Without my noticing it, I
may have happened once or twice, or several times in succession, to
repeat, after the producer, the sacramental word: "_Shoot_!" I must
have repeated it with my face composed in that expression which is
proper to me, of professional impassivity, and this was enough to make
everyone here, at FantappiŤ's suggestion, address me now as _Shoot_.

Every town in Italy knows FantappiŤ, the comedian of the Kosmograph,
who has specialised in travesties of military life: _FantappiŤ, C.
B_.  and _FantappiŤ on the range; FantappiŤ on manoeuvres_ and
_FantappiŤ steers the airship_; _FantappiŤ on guard_ and _FantappiŤ in
the Colonies_.

[Footnote: FantappiŤ, or fante a piede, is equivalent to the English
footslogger. C. K. S.  M.]

He stuck it on himself, this nickname; a nickname that goes well with
his special form of art. In private life he is called Roberto
ChismicÚ.

"You aren't angry with me, laddie, for calling you _Shoot_?" he asked
me, some time ago.

"No, my dear fellow," I answered him with a smile.  "You have stamped
me."

"I've stamped myself too, if it comes to that!"

All of us stamped, yes. And most, of all, those of us who are least
aware of it, my dear FantappiŤ.




3


I go in through the entrance hall on the left, and come out upon the
gravelled path from the gate, shut in by the buildings of the second
department, the _Photographic_ or _Positive_.

In my capacity as operator I have the privilege of keeping one foot in
this, and the other in the _Art_, or _Negative Department_. And all
the marvels of the industrial and so-called artistic maze are familiar
to me.

Here the work of the machines is mysteriously completed.

All the life that the machines have devoured with the voracity of
animals gnawed by a tapeworm, is turned out here, in the large
underground rooms, their darkness barely broken by dim red lamps,
which strike a sinister blood-red gleam from the enormous dishes
prepared for the developing bath.

The life swallowed by the machines is there, in those tapeworms, I
mean in the films, now coiled on their reels.

We have to fix this life, which has ceased to be life, so that another
machine may restore to it the movement here suspended in a series of
instantaneous sections.

We are as it were in a womb, in which is developing and taking shape a
monstrous mechanical birth.

And how many hands are at work there in the dark!  There is a whole
army of men and women employed here: operators, technicians, watchmen,
men employed on the dynamos and on the other machinery, drying,
soaking, winding, colouring, perforating the films and joining up the
pieces.

I have only to enter here, in this darkness foul with the breath of
the machines, with the exhalations of chemical substances, for all my
_superfluity_ to evaporate.

Hands, I see nothing but hands, in these dark rooms; hands busily
hovering over the dishes; hands to which the murky light of the red
lamps gives a spectral appearance. I reflect that these hands belong
to men who are men no longer; who are condemned here to be hands only:
these hands, instruments. Have they a heart? Of what use is it?  It is
of no use here. Only as an instrument, it too, of a machine, to serve,
to move these hands.  And so with the head: only to think of what
these hands may need. And gradually I am filled with all the horror of
the necessity that impels me to become a hand myself also, and nothing
more.

I go to the store-keeper to provide myself with a stock of fresh film,
and I prepare my machine for its meal.

I at once assume, with it in my hand, my mask of impassivity. Or
rather I cease to exist. It walks, now, upon my legs. From head to
foot, I belong to it: I form part of its equipment. My head is here,
inside the machine, and I carry it in my hand.

Outside, in the daylight, throughout the vast enclosure, is the gay
animation of an undertaking that prospers and pays punctually and
handsomely for every service rendered, that easy run of work in the
confidence that there will be no complications, and that every
difficulty, with the abundance of means at our disposal, will be
neatly overcome; indeed a feverish desire to introduce, as though by
way of challenge, the strangest and most unusual difficulties, without
a thought of the cost, with the certainty that the money, spent now
without reckoning, will before long return multiplied an hundredfold.

Scenario writers, stage hands, scene painters, carpenters, builders
and plasterers, electricians, tailors and dressmakers, milliners,
florists, countless other workers employed as shoemakers, hatters,
armourers, in the store-rooms of antique and modern furniture, in the
wardrobe, are all kept busy, but are not seriously busy, nor are they
playing a game.

Only children have the divine gift of taking their play seriously. The
wonder is in themselves; they impart it to the things with which they
are playing, and let themselves be deceived by them.  It is no longer
a game; it is a wonderful reality.

Here it is just the opposite.

We do not play at our work, for no one has any desire to play. But how
are we to take seriously a work that has no other object than to
deceive, not ourselves, but other people? And to deceive them by
putting together the most idiotic fictions, to which the machine is
responsible for giving a wonderful reality!

There results from this, of necessity, and with no possibility of
deception, a hybrid game.  Hybrid, because in it the stupidity of the
fiction is all the more revealed and obvious inasmuch as one sees it
to be placed on record by the method that least lends itself to
deception: namely, Photography. It ought to be understood that the
fantastic cannot acquire reality except by means of art, and that the
reality which a machine is capable of giving it kills it, for the very
reason that it is given it by a machine, that is to say by a method
which discovers and exposes the fiction, simply by giving it and
presenting it as real. If it is mechanical, how can it be life, how
can it be art?  It is almost like entering one of those galleries of
living statuary, waxworks, clothed and tinted.  We feel nothing but
surprise (which may even amount to disgust) at their movements, in
which there is no possible illusion of a material reality.

And no one seriously believes that he can create this illusion. At the
most, he tries to provide _something to take_ for the machine, here in
the workshops, there in the four studios or on the stage. The public,
like the machine, takes it all.  They make stacks of money, and can
cheerfully spend thousands and thousands of lire on the construction
of a scene which on the screen will not last for more than a couple of
minutes.

Scene painters, stage hands, actors all give themselves the air of
deceiving the machine, which will give an appearance of reality to all
their fictions.

"What am I to them, I who with the utmost seriousness stand by
impassive, turning the handle, at that stupid game of theirs!"




4


Excuse me for a moment. I am going to pay a visit to the tiger. I
shall talk, I shall go on talking, I shall pick up the thread of my
discourse later on, never fear. At present, I must go and see the
tiger.

Ever since they bought her, I have gone every day to pay her a visit,
before starting my work.  On two days only have I not been able to go,
because they did not give me time.

We have had other animals here that were wild, although greatly
subdued by melancholy: a couple of polar bears which used to spend the
whole day standing on their hind legs beating their breasts, like
Trinitarians doing penance: three shivering lion cubs, always huddled
in a corner of the cage, one on top of another; other animals as well,
that were not exactly wild: a poor ostrich, terrified at every sound,
like a chicken, and always uncertain where to set its feet: a number
of mischievous monkeys. The Kosmograph is provided with everything,
including a menagerie, albeit its inmates remain there but a short
time.

No animal has ever _talked to me_, like this tiger.

When we first secured her, she had but recently arrived, a gift from
some illustrious foreign personage, at the Zoological Gardens in Rome.
At the Zoological Gardens they were unable to keep her, because she
was absolutely incapable of learning, I do not say to blow her nose
with a handkerchief, but even to respect the most elementary rules of
social intercourse. Three or four times she threatened to jump the
ditch, or rather attempted to jump it, to hurl herself upon the
visitors to the gardens who stood quietly gazing at her from a
distance.

But what other thought could arise more spontaneously in the mind of a
tiger (if you object to the word _mind_, let us say the paws) than
that the ditch in question was put there on purpose so that she might
try to jump it, and that those ladies and gentlemen stopped there in
front of her in order that she might devour them if she succeeded in
jumping it?

It is certainly an advantage to be able to stand a joke; but we know
that not everyone possesses this advantage. Many people cannot even
endure the thought that some one else thinks he is at liberty to joke
at their expense. I speak of men, who, nevertheless, in the abstract,
are all capable of realising that at times a joke is permissible.

The tiger, you say, is not placed on show in a zoological garden for a
joke. I agree. But does it not seem a joke to you to think that she
can suppose that you keep her there on show to give the public a
"living idea" of natural history!

Here we are back at our starting-point. This, inasmuch as we are not
tigers, but men, is rhetoric.

We may feel compassion for a man who is unable to stand a joke; we
ought not to feel any for a beast; especially if the joke for which we
have placed it on show, I mean the "living idea," may have fatal
consequences: that is to say, for the visitors to the Zoological
Gardens, a too practical illustration of its ferocity.

This tiger was, therefore, wisely condemned to death. The Kosmograph
Company managed to hear of it in time, and bought her. Now she is
here, in a cage in our menagerie. Since she has been here, her
behaviour has been exemplary.  How are we to explain this? Our
treatment, no doubt, seems to her far more logical. Here she is not at
liberty to attempt to jump any ditch, has no illusion of _local
colour_, as in the Zoological Gardens. Here she has in front of her
the bars of her cage, which say to her continually: "You cannot
escape; you are a prisoner"; and she lies on the ground there almost
all day long, resigned to her fate, gazing out through the bars,
quietly, wonderingly waiting.

Alas, poor beast, she does not know that here there is something far
more serious in store for her, than that joke of the "living idea"!

The scenario is already completed, an Indian subject, in which she is
destined to represent one of the principal parts. A spectacular
scenario, upon which several hundred thousand lire will be spent; but
the stupidest and most vulgar that could be imagined. I need only give
the title: _The Lady and the Tiger_. The usual lady, more tigerish
than the tiger. I seem to have heard that she is to be an English
_Miss_ travelling in the Indies with a train of admirers.

India will be a sham, the jungle will be a sham, the travels will be a
sham, with a sham _Miss_ and sham admirers: only the death of this
poor beast will not be a sham. Do you follow me? And does it not make
you writhe in anger?

To kill her in self-defence, or to save the life of another person,
well and good. Albeit not of her own accord, for her own pleasure, has
the beast come here to place herself on show among a lot of men, but
men themselves, for their pleasure, have gone out to hunt her, to drag
her from her savage lair. But to kill her like this, in a sham forest,
in a sham hunt, for a stupid make-believe, is a real iniquity and is
going too far. One of the admirers, at a certain stage, will fire
point-blank at a rival. You will see this rival fall to the ground,
dead. Yes, my friends.  But when the scene is finished, there he is
getting up again, brushing the dust of the stage off his clothes. But
this poor beast will never get up again, after they have shot her. The
scene shifters will carry off the sham forest, and at the same time
clear the stage of her carcase. In the midst of a universal sham, her
death alone will be genuine.

And if it were only a sham that could by its beauty and nobility
compensate in a measure for the sacrifice of this beast. But no. It is
utterly stupid. The actor who is to kill her will not even know,
perhaps, why he has killed her. The scene will last for a minute or
two at most, when projected upon the screen, and will pass without
leaving any permanent impression in the minds of the spectators, who
will come away from the theatre yawning:

"Oh Lord, what rubbish!"

This, you beautiful wild creature, is what awaits you. You do not know
it, and gaze through the bars of your cage with those terror-stricken
eyes in which the slit pupils contract and dilate by turns. I see your
wild nature as it were steaming from your whole body, like the vapour
of a blazing coal; I see marked on the black stripes of your coat the
elastic force of your irrepressible spring. Whoever studies you
closely is glad of the cage that imprisons you and checks in him also
the savage instinct which the sight of you stirs irresistibly in his
blood.

You cannot remain here on any other terms.  Either you must be
imprisoned like this, or you must be killed; because your ferocity--we
quite understand--is innocent; nature has implanted it in you, and
you, in employing it, are obeying nature and cannot feel any remorse.
We cannot endure that you, after a gory feast, should be able to sleep
calmly. Your very innocence makes us innocent of your death, when we
inflict it in self-defence. We can kill you, and then, like you, sleep
calmly. But out there, in the savage lands, where you do not allow any
stranger to pass; not here, not here, where you have not come of your
own accord, for your own pleasure. The beautiful, ingenuous innocence
of your ferocity makes the iniquity of ours seem disgusting here.  We
seek to defend ourselves against you, after bringing you here, for our
pleasure, and we keep you in prison: this is no longer your kind of
ferocity; it is a treacherous ferocity! But we know, you may be sure,
we know how to go even farther, to do better still: we shall kill you
for amusement, stupidly.  A sham hunter, in a sham forest, among sham
trees.... We shall be worthy in every respect, truly, of the concocted
plot. Tigers, more tigerish than a tiger. And to think that the
sentiment which this film, now in preparation, is intended to arouse
in the spectators is contempt for human ferocity! It will be part of
o'ur day's work, this ferocity practised for amusement, and we count
moreover upon making a handsome profit out of it, should the film
prove successful.

You stare. At what do you stare, you beautiful, innocent creature!
That is just how things stand.  You are here for no other purpose. And
I who love and admire you, when they kill you, shall be _impassively_
turning the handle of this pretty machine here, do you see? They have
invented it.  It has to act; it has to eat. It eats everything,
whatever stupidity they may set before it. It will eat you too; it
eats everything, I tell you! And I am its servant. I shall come and
plant it closer to you, when you, mortally wounded, are writhing in
your last agony. Ah, do not fear, it will extract the utmost penny of
profit from your death! It does not have the luck to taste such a
dinner every day. You can have that consolation.  And, if you like,
another as well.

There comes every day, like myself, in front of your cage here, a lady
intent on studying how you move, how you turn your head, how you look
out of your eyes. The Nestoroff. Is that nothing to you?  She has
chosen you to be her teacher. Luck such as this does not come the way
of every tiger.

As usual, she is taking her part seriously. But I have heard it said
that the part of the _Miss_, "more tigerish than the tiger," will not
be assigned to her. Perhaps she does not yet know this; she thinks
that the part is hers; and she comes here to study.

People have told me this, and laughed at it.  But I myself, the other
day, took her by surprise, on one of her visits here, and remained
talking to her for some time.




5


It is no mere waste of time, you will understand, to spend half an
hour in watching and considering a tiger, seeing in it a manifestation
of Earth, guileless, beyond good and evil, incomparably beautiful and
innocent in its savage power. Before we can come down from this
"aboriginality" and reach the stage of being able to see before us a
man or woman of our own time, and to recognise and consider him or her
as an inhabitant of the same earth, we require--I do, at least; I
cannot answer for you--a wide stretch of imagination.

And so I remained for a while looking at Signora Nestoroff before I
was able to understand what she was saying to me.

But the fault, as a matter of fact, was not only mine and the tiger's.
The fact of her addressing me at all was unusual; and it is quite
natural, when anyone addresses us suddenly with whom we have not been
on speaking terms, that we should find it hard at first to take in the
meaning, sometimes even the sound of the most ordinary words, and
should ask:

"Excuse me, what was it you said?"

In a little more than eight months, since I came here, between her and
myself, apart from formal greetings, barely a score of words have
passed.

Then she--yes, this happened too--coming up to me, began to speak to
me with great volubility, as we do when we wish to distract the
attention of some one who has caught us in some action or thought
which we are anxious to keep secret.  (The Nestoroff speaks our
language with marvellous ease and with a perfect accent, as though she
had lived for many years in Italy: but she at once breaks into French
whenever, if only for a moment, she changes her tone or grows
excited.) She wished to find out from me whether I believed that the
actor's profession was such that any animal whatsoever (not
necessarily in a metaphorical sense) could regard itself as qualified,
without preliminary training, to practise it.

"Where?" I asked her.

She did not understand my question.

"Well," I explained to her; "if you mean, practise it here, where
there is no need of speech, perhaps even an animal--why not!--may be
capable of succeeding."

I saw her face cloud over.

"That will be it," she said mysteriously.

I seemed at first to divine that she (like all the professional actors
who are employed here) speaking out of contempt for certain others
who, without actually needing, but at the same time not despising an
easy source of revenue, either from vanity or from predilection, or
for some other reason, had managed to have their services accepted by
the firm and to take their place among the actors, with no great
difficulty, that supreme difficulty being eliminated which it would
have been most arduous for them and perhaps impossible to overcome
without a long training and a genuine aptitude, I mean the difficulty
of speaking in public. We have a number of them at the Kosmograph who
are real gentlemen, young fellows between twenty and thirty, either
friends of some big shareholder on the Board, or shareholders
themselves, who make a hobby of playing some part or other that has
taken their fancy in a film, solely for their own amusement; and play
their parts in the most gentlemanly fashion, some of them even with a
grace that a real actor might envy.

But, reflecting afterwards on the mysterious tone in which she, her
face suddenly clouding over, had uttered the words: "That will be it,"
the suspicion occurred to me that perhaps she had heard the news that
Aldo Nuti, I do not yet know from what part of the horizon, was trying
to find an opening here.

This suspicion disturbed me not a little.

Why did she come to ask me, of all people, with Aldo Nuti in her mind,
whether I believed that the actor's profession was such that any
animal might consider itself qualified, without preliminary training,
to practise it? Did she then know of my friendship with Giorgio
Mirelli?

I had not then, nor have I now any reason to think so. At least the
questions with which I have adroitly plied her in the hope of
enlightenment have brought me no certainty.

I do not know why, but I should dislike intensely her knowing that I
was a friend of Giorgio Mirelli, in his boyhood, and a familiar inmate
of the villa by Sorrento into which she brought confusion and death.

"I do not know why," I have said: but it is not true; I do know why,
and I have already given a hint of the reason. I feel no love, I
repeat again, nor could I feel any, for this woman; hatred, if
anything. Everyone hates her here; and that by itself would be an
overwhelming reason for me not to hate her. Always, in judging other
people, I have endeavoured to break the circle of my own affections,
to gather from the clamour of life, composed more of tears than of
laughter, as many notes as I could outside the chord of my own
feelings. I knew Giorgio Mirelli; but how, in what capacity? Such as
he was in his relations with me. He was the sort of person that I
liked. But who, and what was he in his relations with this woman? The
sort that she could like? I do not know. Certainly he was not, he
could not be one and the same person to her and to myself. And how
then am I to judge this woman by him? We have all of us a false
conception of an individual whole.  Every whole consists in the mutual
relations of its constituent elements; which means that, by altering
those relations however slightly, we are bound to alter the whole.
This explains how some one who is reasonably loved by me can
reasonably be hated by a third person. I who love and the other who
hates are two: not only that, but the one whom I love, and the one
whom the third person hates, are by no means identical; they are one
and one: therefore they are two also. And we ourselves can never know
what reality is accorded to us by other people; who we are to this
person and to that.

Now, if the Nesteroff came to hear that I had been a great friend of
Giorgio Mirelli, she would perhaps suspect me of a hatred for herself
which I do not feel: and this suspicion would be enough to make her at
once become another person to me, I myself remaining meanwhile in the
same attitude towards her; she would assume in my eyes an aspect that
would hide all the rest; and I should no longer be able to study her,
as I am now studying her, as a whole.

I spoke to her of the tiger, of the feelings which its presence in
this place and the fate in store for it aroused in me; but I at once
became aware that she was not in a position to understand me, not
perhaps because she was incapable of doing so, but because the
relations that have grown up between her and the animal do not allow
her to feel either pity for it or anger at the deed that is to be
done.

Her answer was shrewd:

"A sham, yes; stupid too, if you like; but when the door of the cage
is opened and the animal is driven into the other, bigger cage
representing a glade in a forest, with the bars hidden by branches,
the hunter, even if he is a sham like the forest, will still be
entitled to defend himself against it, simply because it, as you say,
is not a sham animal but a real one."

"But that is just where the harm lies," I exclaimed: "in using a real
animal where everything else is a sham."

"Where do you get that?" she promptly rejoined.  "The part of the
hunter will be a sham; but when he is face to face with this _real_
animal he will be a _real_ man! And I can assure you that if he does
not kill it with his first shot, or does not wound it so as to bring
it down, it will not stop to think that the hunter is a sham and the
hunt a sham, but will spring upon him and _really_ tear a _real_ man
to pieces."

I smiled at the acuteness of her logic and said:

"But who will have wished such a thing. Look at her as she lies there.
She knows nothing, the beautiful creature, she is not to blame for her
ferocity."

There was a strange look in her eyes, as though she suspected that I
was trying to make fun of her; then she smiled as well, shrugged her
shoulders slightly and went on:

"Do you feel is to deeply! Tame her! Make her a stage tiger, trained
to sham death at a sham bullet from a sham hunter, and then all will
be right."

We should never have come to an under-standing; because if my
sympathies were with the tiger, hers were with the hunter.

In fact, the hunter appointed to kill the animal is Carlo Ferro. The
Nestoroff must be greatly upset by this; and perhaps she comes here
not, as her enemies assert, to study her part, but to estimate the
risk which her lover will be running.

He too, for all that he shews a scornful indifference, must, in his
heart of hearts, feel apprehensive.  I know that, in conversation with
the General Manager, Commendator Borgalli, and also upstairs in the
office, he has put forward a number of claims: the insurance of his
life for at least one hundred thousand lire, to be paid to his parents
in Sicily, in the event of his death, which heaven forbid; another
insurance, for a more modest sum, in the event of his being
incapacitated for work by any serious injury, which heaven forbid
also; a handsome bonus, if everything, as is to be hoped, turns out
well, and lastly--a curious claim, and one that was certainly not
suggested, like the rest, by a lawyer--the skin of the dead tiger.

The tigerskin is presumably for the Nestoroff; for her little feet; a
costly rug. Oh, she must certainly have warned her lover, with prayers
and entreaties, against undertaking so dangerous a part; but then,
seeing him determined and bound by contract, she must, she and no one
else, have suggested to Ferro that he should claim _at least_ the skin
of the tiger. "At least?" you say. Why, yes! That she used the words
"at least" seems to me beyond question. _At least_, that is to say in
compensation for the tense anxiety that she must feel for the risk to
which he will be exposing himself. It is not possible that the idea
can have originated with him, Carlo Ferro, of having the skin of the
dead animal to spread under the little feet of his mistress.  Carlo
Ferro is incapable of such an idea. You have only to look at him to be
convinced of it; look at that great black hairy arrogant goat's head
on his shoulders.

He appeared, the other day, and interrupted my conversation with the
Nestoroff in front of the cage. He did not even trouble to inquire
what we were discussing, as though a conversation with myself could
not be of the slightest importance to him. He barely glanced at me,
barely raised Ms bamboo cane to the brim of Ms hat in sign of
greeting, looked with Ms usual contemptuous indifference at the tiger
in the cage, saying to his mistress:

"Come along: Polacco is ready; he is waiting for us."

And he turned his back, confident of being followed by the Nestoroff,
as a tyrant by Ms slave.

No one feels or shews so much as he that instinctive antipathy, which
as I have said is shared by almost all the actors for myself, and
which is to be explained, or so at least I explain it, as an effect,
which they themselves do not see clearly, of my profession.

Carlo Ferro feels it more strongly than any of them, because, among
all his other advantages, he has that of seriously believing himself
to be a great actor.




6


It is not so much for me, Gubbio, this antipathy, as for my machine.
It recoils upon me, because I am the man who turns the handle.

They do not realise it clearly, but I, with the handle in my hand, am
to them in reality a sort of executioner.

Each of them--I refer, of course, to the real actors, to those, that
is to say, who really love their art, whatever their merits may be--is
here against his will, is here because he is better paid, and for work
which, even if it requires some exertion, does not call for any
intellectual effort.  Often, as I have said before, they do not even
know what part they are playing.

The machine, with the enormous profits that it produces, if it engages
them, can reward them far better than any manager or proprietor of a
dramatic company. Not only that; but it, with its mechanical
reproduction, being able to offer at a low price to the general public
a spectacle that is always new, fills the cinematograph halls and
empties the theatres, so that all, or nearly all the dramatic
companies are now doing wretched business; and the actors, if they are
not to starve, see themselves compelled to knock at the doors of the
cinematograph companies.  But they do not hate the machine merely for
the degradation of the stupid and silent work to which it condemns
them; they hate it, first and foremost, because they see themselves
withdrawn, feel themselves torn from that direct communion with the
public from which in the past they derived their richest reward, their
greatest satisfaction: that of seeing, of hearing from the stage, in a
theatre, an eager, anxious multitude follow their _live_ action,
stirred with emotion, tremble, laugh, become excited, break out in
applause.

Here they feel as though they were in exile.  In exile, not only from
the stage, but also in a sense from themselves. Because their action,
the _live_ action of their _live_ bodies, there, on the screen of the
cinematograph, no longer exists: it is _their image_ alone, caught in
a moment, in a gesture, an expression, that flickers and disappears.
They are confusedly aware, with a maddening, indefinable sense of
emptiness, that their bodies are so to speak subtracted, suppressed,
deprived of their reality, of breath, of voice, of the sound that they
make in moving about, to become only a dumb image which quivers for a
moment on the screen and disappears, in silence, in an instant, like
an unsubstantial phantom, the play of illusion upon a dingy sheet of
cloth.

They feel that they too are slaves to this strident machine, which
suggests on its knock-kneed tripod a huge spider watching for its
prey, a spider that sucks in and absorbs their live reality to render
it up an evanescent, momentary appearance, the play of a mechanical
illusion in the eyes of the public. And the man who strips them of
their reality and offers it as food to the machine; who reduces their
bodies to phantoms, who is he? It is I, Gubbio.

They remain here, as on a daylight stage, when they rehearse. The
first night, for them, never arrives. The public they never see again.
The machine is responsible for the performance before the public, with
their phantoms; and they have to be content with performing only
before it.  When they have performed their parts, their performance is
film.

Can they feel any affection for me?

A certain comfort they have for their degradation in seeing not
themselves only subjugated to the service of this machine, which
moves, stirs, attracts ever so many people round it. Eminent authors,
dramatists, poets, novelists, come here, all of them regularly and
solemnly proposing the "artistic regeneration" of the industry. And to
all of them Commendator Borgalli speaks in one tone, and CocÚ Polacco
in another: the former, with the gloved hands of a General Manager;
the other, openly, as a stage manager. He listens patiently, does CocÚ
Polacco, to all their suggestions of plots; but at a certain stage in
the discussion he raises his hand, saying:

"Oh no, that is a trifle crude. We must always keep an eye on the
English, my dear Sir!"

A most brilliant discovery, this of the English.  Indeed the majority
of the films produced by the Kosmograph go to England. We must
therefore, in selecting our plots, adapt ourselves to English taste.
And is there any limit to the things that the English will not have in
a film, according to CocÚ Polacco?

"English prudery, you understand! They have only to say'shocking,' and
there's an end of the matter!"

If the films went straight before the judgment of the public, then,
perhaps, many things might pass; but no: for the importation of films
into England there are the agents, there is the reef, the pitfall of
the agents. They decide, the agents, and there is no appeal. And for
every film that will not _go_, there are hundreds of thousands of lire
wasted or not forthcoming.

Or else CocÚ Polacco exclaims:

"Excellent! But that, my dear fellow, is a play, a perfect play! A
certain success! Do you want to make a film of it? I won't hear of it!
As a film it won't go: I tell you, my dear fellow, it's too subtle,
too subtle. That is not the sort of thing we want here! You are too
clever, and you know it."

In short, CocÚ Polacco, if he refuses their plots, pays them a
compliment: he tells them that they are not stupid enough to write for
the cinematograph. From one point of view, therefore, they would like
to understand, would resign themselves to understanding; but, from
another, they would like also to have their plots accepted.  A
hundred, two hundred and fifty, three hundred lire, at certain
moments.... The suspicion that this praise of their intelligence and
depreciation of the cinematograph as a form of art have been advanced
as a polite way of refusing their plots flashes across the minds of
some of them; but their dignity is saved and they can go away with
their heads erect. As they pass, the actors salute them as companions
in misfortune.

"Everyone has to pass through here!" they think to themselves with
malicious joy. "Even crowned heads! All of them in here, printed for a
moment on a sheet!"

A few days ago, I was with Fantappie in the courtyard on which the
rehearsal theatre and the office of the Art Department open, when we
noticed an old man with long hair, in a tall hat, with a huge nose and
eyes that peered through his gold-rimmed spectacles, and a straggling
beard, who seemed to be shrinking into himself with fear at the big
coloured posters pasted on the wall, red, yellow, blue, glaring,
terrible, of the films that have brought most honour to the firm.

"Illustrious Senator," Fantappie exclaimed with a bound, springing
towards him and then bringing himself to attention, his hand comically
raised in the military salute. "Have you come for the rehearsal?"

"Why... yes... they told me ten o'clock," replied the illustrious
Senator, endeavouring to make out whom he was addressing.

"Ten o'clock? Who told you that! The Pole?"

"I don't understand..."

"The Pole, the producer!"

"No, an Italian... one they call the engineer.  ..."

"Ah! Now I know: Bertini! He told you ten o'clock?  That's all right.
It is half past ten now. He's sure to be here by eleven."

It was the venerable Professor Zeme, the eminent astronomer, head of
the Observatory and a Member of the Senate, an Academician of the
Lincei, covered with ever so many Italian and foreign decorations,
invited to all the Court banquets.

"Excuse me, though, Senator," went on that buffoon FantappiŤ. "May I
ask one favour: couldn't you make me go to the Moon?"

"I? To the Moon?"

"Yes, I mean cinematographically, you know ...  _FantappiŤ in the
Moon_: it would be lovely!  Scouting, with a patrol of eight men.
Think it over, Senator. I would arrange the business.  ...  No? You
say no?"

Senator Zeme said no, with a wave of the hand, if not contemptuously,
certainly with great austerity.  A scientist of his standing could not
allow himself to place his science at the service of a clown. He has
allowed himself, it is true, to be taken in every conceivable attitude
in his Observatory; he has even asked to have projected on the screen
a page containing the signatures of the most illustrious visitors to
the Observatory, so that the public may read there the signatures of
T.M. the King and Queen and of T. E. H. the Crown Prince and the
Princesses and of H. M. the King of Spain and of other Kings and
Cabinet Ministers and Ambassadors; but all this to the greater glory
of his science and to give the public some sort of idea of the
_Marvels of the Heavens_ (the title of the film) and of the formidable
greatness in the midst of which he, Senator Zeme, insignificant little
creature as he is, lives and labours.

"_Martuf_!" muttered FantappiŤ, like a good Piedmontese, with one of
his characteristic grimaces, as he strolled away with me.

But we turned back, a moment later, at the sound of a great clamour of
voices which had arisen in the courtyard.

Actors, actresses, operators, producers, stage hands had come pouring
out from the dressing-rooms and rehearsal theatre and were gathered
round Senator Zeme at loggerheads with Simone Pau, who is in the habit
of coming to see me now and again at the Kosmograph.

"Educating the people, indeed!" shouted Simone Pau. "Do me a favour!
Send FantappiŤ to the Moon!  Make him play skittles with the stars! Or
perhaps you think that they belong to you, the stars? Hand them over
here to the divine Folly of man, which has every right to appropriate
them and to play skittles with them! Besides... excuse me, but what do
you do? What do you suppose you are? You see nothing but the object!
You have no consciousness of anything but the object! And so, a
religion.  And your God is your telescope! You imagine that it is your
instrument? Not a bit of it! It is your God, and you worship it! You
are like Gubbio here, with his machine! The servant.  ... I don't wish
to hurt your feelings, let me say the priest, the supreme pontiff
(does that satisfy you?) of this God of yours, and you swear by the
dogma of its infallibility. Where is Gubbio? Three cheers for Gubbio!
Wait, don't go away, Senator! I came here this morning, to comfort an
unhappy man. I made an appointment with him here: he ought to be here
by now. An unhappy man, my fellow-lodger in the Falcon Hostelry....
There is no better way of comforting an unhappy man, than by proving
to him by actual contact that he is not alone. So I--have invited him
here, among these good artist friends.  He is an artist too! Here he
comes!"

And the man with the violin, long and lanky, bowed and sombre, whom I
first saw more than a year ago in the Casual Shelter, came forward,
apparently absorbed as before in gazing at the hairs that drooped from
his bushy, frowning brows.

The crowd made way for him. In the silence that had fallen, a titter
of merriment sounded here and there. But stupefaction and a certain
sense of revulsion held most of us spellbound as we watched this man
come towards us with bent head, his eyes fastened like that on the
hairs of his eyebrows, as though he refused to look at his red, fleshy
nose, the enormous burden and punishment of his intemperance. More
than ever, now, as he advanced, he seemed to be saying:

"Silence! Make way! You see what life can bring a man's nose to?"

Simone Pau introduced him to Senator Zeme, who made off, indignant;
everyone laughed, but Simone Pau, quite serious, went on introducing
him to the actresses, the actors, the producers, relating to one and
another of them in snatches the story of his friend's life, and how
and why, after that last famous rebuff, he had never played again.
Finally, thoroughly aroused, he shouted:

"But he will play to-day, ladies and gentlemen!  He will play! He will
break the evil spell! He has promised me that he will play!  But not
to you, ladies and gentlemen! You will keep in the background. He has
promised me that he will play to the tiger. Yes, yes, to the tiger! To
the tiger! We must respect his wishes. He is certain to have excellent
reasons for them! Come along, come along now all of you.... We must
keep in the background....  He shall go in, by himself, in front of
the cage, and play!"

Amid shouts, laughter, applause, impelled, all of us, by the keenest
curiosity as to this strange adventure, we followed Simone Pau, who
had taken his man by the arm and was urging him on, following the
instructions shouted at him from behind, telling him the way to the
menagerie.  On coming in sight of the cages he stopped us all, bidding
us be silent, and sent on ahead, by himself, the man with the violin.

At the sound of our coming, from shops and stores, workmen, stage
hands, scene painters came running out in full force to watch the
scene over our shoulders: there was quite a crowd.

The animal had withdrawn with a bound to the back of its cage; and
crouched there with arched back, lowered head, snarling teeth, bared
claws, ready to spring: terrible!

The man stood gazing at it, speechless; then turned in bewilderment
and let his eyes range over us in search of Simone Pau.

"Play!" Simone shouted at him. "Don't be afraid!  Play! She will
understand you!"

Whereupon the man, as though freeing himself by a tremendous effort
from an obsession, at length raised his head, shook it, flung his
shapeless hat on the ground, passed a hand over his long, unkempt
locks, took the violin from its old green baize cover, and threw the
cover'down also, on top of his hat.

A catcall or two came from the workmen who had crowded in behind us,
followed by laughter and comments, while he tuned his violin; but a
great silence fell as soon as he began to play, at first a little
uncertainly, hesitating, as though he felt hurt by the sound of his
instrument which he had not heard for so long; then, all of a sudden,
overcoming his uncertainty, and perhaps his painful tremors with a few
vigorous strokes.  These strokes were followed by a sort of groan of
anguish, that grew steadily louder, more insistent, strange notes,
harsh and toneless, a tight coil, from which every now and then a
single note emerged to prolong itself, like a person trying to breathe
a sigh amid sobs. Finally this note spread, developed, let itself go,
freed from its suffocation, in a phrase melodious, limpid,
honey-sweet, intense, throbbing with infinite pain: and then a
profound emotion swept over us all, which in Simone Pau took the form
of tears.  Raising his arms he signalled to us to keep quiet, not to
betray our admiration in any way, so that in the silence this queer,
marvellous wastrel might listen to the voice of his soul.

It did not last long. He let his hands fall, as though exhausted, with
the violin and bow, and turned to us with a face transfigured, bathed
in tears, saying:

"There..."

The applause was deafening. He was seized, carried off in triumph.
Then, taken to the neighbouring tavern, notwithstanding the prayers
and threats of Simone Pau, he drank and lost his senses.

Polacco was kicking himself with rage, at not having thought of
sending me off at once to fetch my machine to place on record this
scene of serenading the tiger.

How perfectly he understands everything, always, CocÚ Polacco! I was
not able to answer him because I was thinking of the eyes of Signora
Nestoroff, who had looked on at the scene, as though in an ecstasy
instinct with terror.




BOOK IV

OF THE NOTES OF SERAFINO GUBBIO
CINEMATOGRAPH OPERATOR



1


I have no longer the slightest doubt about it: she is aware of my
friendship with Giorgio Mirelli, and knows that Aldo Nuti is coming
here shortly.

Both these pieces of information have come to her, obviously, through
Carlo Ferro.

But how is it that nobody here takes the trouble to remember what has
happened between the two, and why have they not at once cancelled
their arrangement with Nuti? To help on this arrangement a great deal
of work has been done, behind the scenes, by CocÚ Polacco, a friend of
Nuti, on whom Nuti has been relying from the first. It appears that
Polacco has obtained from one of the young men who parade here as
"amateurs," one Fleccia, the sale at a high premium of the ten shares
which this young man held in the company. For some days, indeed,
Fleccia has gone about saying that he is bored with life in Rome and
is going to Paris.

We know that the majority of these young men hang about here, more
than for any other reason, because of the friendly relations they have
formed, or hope to form, with some young actress; and that many of
them leave when they have not succeeded in forming such relations, or
have grown tired of them. Friendly relations, we say: fortunately,
words cannot blush.

This is what happens: a young actress, dressed as a _divette_ or a
_ballerina_, goes running about stripped to the waist, on the stage or
lawn; she stops here and there to talk, with her bosom offered to
every eye; very well, the young man who is her friend follows after
her with a powder-box and puff in his hand, and every now and then
powders her shoulders, her arms, her neck, her throat, proud that such
a duty should fall to his lot. How many times, since I joined the
Kosmograph, have I seen Gigetto Fleccia run like this after the little
Sgrelli? But now he, for about a month, has been out of favour with
her.  He has served his apprenticeship: he is going to Paris.

It cannot, therefore, come as a surprise to anyone that Nuti, a rich
gentleman also, and an amateur actor, should be coming to take his
place. It is perhaps not sufficiently known, or else people have
already forgotten the drama of his former adventure with the
Nestoroff.

But I am often such an innocent creature!  Who remembers anything a
year after it has happened?  Have we time now to consider, in a town,
among all the turmoil of life, that anything--a man, a work, an
event--deserves to be remembered for a year?  You, in the solitude of
the country, Duccella and Granny Bosa, you can remember! Here, even if
anyone does remember, well, was there a drama?  There are ever so
many, and for none of them does this turmoil of life pause for a
moment. It does not appear to be a matter in which other people, from
outside, ought to interfere, to prevent the consequences of a renewal.
What consequences? A meeting with Carlo Ferro? But he is so hated by
everyone, that fellow, not only for his ill manners, but precisely
because he is the Nestoroff's lover! Should this meeting come about,
and give rise to any disturbance, it will be for the outsiders one
spectacle the more to enjoy: and as for those whose duty it is to see
that no disorder does arise, they hope perhaps to find in it an excuse
for getting rid of both Carlo Ferro and the Nestoroff, who, if she is
loyally protected by Commendator Borgalli, is a perfect nuisance to
everyone else. Or, is it perhaps hoped that the Nestoroff herself, to
escape from Nuti, will resign of her own accord?

Certainly Polacco has toiled with such energy to make Nuti come here
for this reason alone; and from the very first, secretly, has intended
that Nuti should be strengthened, against any influence that
Commendator Borgalli might bring to bear, by the acquisition, at a
high price, of the shares held by Gigetto Fleccia, with the right to
take his place, as well, in the parts assigned to him.

What reason, then, have all these people to be so alarmed about the
spirit in which Nuti will arrive? They anticipate, if anything, only
the shock of meeting with Carlo Ferro, because Carlo Ferro is here,
before their eyes; they see him, they can touch him; and they do not
imagine that there can be any other connecting link between the
Nestoroff and Nuti.

"You?" they would ask me, were I to begin to speak to them of such
matters.

I, my friends? Ah, you will have your joke.  One whom you do not see;
one whom you cannot touch; a spectre, as in the story-books.

As soon as one of them tries to approach the other, this spectre is
bound to rise up between them. Immediately after the suicide, it rose;
and made them fly from one another with horror.  A splendid
cinematographic effect, to you! But not to Aldo Nuti. How in the world
can he, now, propose and attempt to approach this woman again?  It is
not possible that he, of all people, can have forgotten the spectre.
But he must have heard that the Nestoroff is here with another man.
And this other man gives him of course, now, the courage to approach
her again.  Perhaps he hopes that this man, with the solidity of his
body, will hide that spectre, will prevent him from seeing it,
engaging him in a _tangible_ struggle, in a struggle, that is, not
with a spectre, but of man with man. And perhaps also he will pretend
to think that he is coming to engage in this struggle for _his_ sake,
to avenge _him_. For obviously the Nestoroff, in calling this other
man to her side, has shewn that she has forgotten the "poor victim."

It is not so. The Nestoroff has not forgotten him.  This I have seen
clearly written in her eyes, in the way in which she has looked at me
for the last two days, that is since Carlo Ferro, acting upon
information received, must have let her know that I was a friend of
Giorgio Mirelli.

Irritation, or rather contempt, an unmistakable aversion: that is what
I have observed for the last two days in the eyes of the Nestoroff,
whenever, for a moment or two, they have rested upon myself. And I am
glad of it. Because I am now certain that everything that I have
imagined and assumed with regard to her, in studying her, is correct,
and corresponds to the reality, as though she herself, in a sincere
effusion of all her most secret feelings, had opened to me her wounded
and tortured soul.

For the last two days she has displayed in my presence a devoted and
submissive affection for Ferro; she clings to him, hangs on him,
albeit she lets it be seen by anyone who observes her closely that
she, like everyone else, more than anyone else, knows and sees the
mental limitations, the coarse manners, in short the bestial nature of
the man. She knows and sees it. But do not the rest of us--intelligent
and well-mannered--despise and avoid him? Well, she values him and
attaches herself to him for that very reason; precisely because he is
neither intelligent nor well-mannered.

A better proof of this I could not have. And yet, apart from this
arrogant disdain, something else must be stirring at this moment in
her heart!  Certainly, she is planning something.  Certainly, Carlo
Ferro is nothing more to her than a strong, bitter medicine to which,
setting her teeth, making an enormous effort to control herself, she
has submitted in order to cure a desperate malady in herself. And now,
more than ever, she is holding fast to this medicine, seeing in a
flash the peril, with Nuti's coming, of a relapse into her malady.
Not, I think, because Aldo Nuti has any great power over her.
Impulsively, like a doll, that other time, she took him up, broke him,
flung him from her. But his coming, now, has no other object, surely,
than to take her, to tear her from her medicine, setting before her
once again the spectre of Giorgio Mirelli, in which she perhaps sees
her malady embodied: the maddening torment of her strange spirit,
which none of the men to whom she has attached herself has understood,
or has cared to take any interest in it.

She does not wish to suffer any more from her malady; she wishes to be
cured of it at all costs.  She knows that, if Carlo Ferro clasps her
in his arms, there is a risk of her being crushed. And this fear
pleases her.

"But what good will it do you"--I would like to shout at her--"what
good will it do you if Aldo Nuti does not come to bring it back before
you, your malady, when you have it still inside you, stifled by an
effort but not conquered! You do not wish to see your own soul? Is
that possible!  It follows you, it follows you always, it pursues you
like a mad thing! To escape from it, you cling for refuge, take
shelter in the arms of a man whom you know to be without a soul and
capable of killing you, if your own soul, by any chance, to-day or
to-morrow, takes command of you afresh, to renew the old torment
within you! Ah, is it better to be killed? Is it better to be killed
than to fall back into that torment, to feel a soul within you, a soul
that suffers and does not know why?"

Well, this morning, as I turned the handle of my machine, I suddenly
conceived the terrible suspicion that she--playing her part, as usual,
like a mad creature--wished to kill herself: yes, really to kill
herself, before my eyes. I do not know how I managed to preserve my
impassivity; to say to myself:

"You are a hand; go on turning! She is looking at you, looking at you
fixedly, looking only at you, to make you understand something; but
you know nothing, you are not to understand anything; keep on
turning!"

They have begun to stage the film of the tiger, which is to be
immensely long, and in which all four companies will take part. I
shall not make the slightest effort to find the clue to that tangled
skein of vulgar, idiotic scenes. I know that the Nestoroff will not be
taking part in it, having failed to secure the principal part for
herself.  Only this morning, as a special concession to Bertini, she
posed for a brief scene of local colour, in a subordinate but by no
means easy part, as a young Indian woman, savage and fanatical, who
kills herself in the course of the "dagger dance."

The ground having been marked out on the lawn, Bertini arranged a
score of supers in a semicircle, disguised as Indian savages. The
Nestoroff came forward almost completely naked, with nothing but a
striped loincloth, yellow, green, red and blue. But the marvellous
nudity of her firm, slender, shapely body was so to speak draped in
the contemptuous indifference to its charms with which she presented
herself in the midst of all those men, her head held high, her arms
lowered with a pair of razor-keen daggers, one in each hand.

Bertini explained the action briefly:

"She dances. It is a sort of rite. All the rest stand round watching
reverently. Suddenly, at a shout from me, in the middle of the dance,
she plunges both daggers into her breast and falls to the ground. The
crowd run up and stand over her, registering terror and dismay. Pay
attention, there, all of you! You there, do you follow me?  First of
all you stand and look serious, watching her; as soon as the lady
falls, you all run up.  Pay attention now, keep in the picture!"

The Nestoroff, advancing to the chord of the semicircle brandishing
the pair of daggers, began to gaze at me with so keen and hard a stare
that I, behind my big black spider crouching on its tripod, felt my
eyes waver and my sight grow dim.  For a wonder I managed to obey
Bertini's order:

"Shoot!"

And I set to work, like an automaton, to turn my handle.

Through the painful contortions of that strange, morbid dance, behind
the sinister gleam of the daggers, she did not take her eyes for a
minute from mine, which followed her movements, fascinated.  I saw the
sweat on her heaving bosom make furrows in the ochreous paint with
which she was "daubed all over. Without giving a thought to her
nudity, she dashed about the ground as in a frenzy, panted for breath,
and softly, in a gasping whisper, still with her eyes fixed on mine,
asked now and again:

"_Bien comme Áa? Bien comme Áa_?"

As though she wished to be told by me; and her eyes were the eyes of a
madwoman. Certainly, they could read in mine, apart from wonder, a
dismay that hovered on the verge of terror in the tension of waiting
for Bertini to shout. When the shout came, and she pointed both
daggers at her bosom and fell to the ground, I really had for a moment
the impression that she had stabbed herself, and was for running to
the rescue myself, leaving my handle, when Bertini in a fury called up
the supers:

"You there, good God! Get round her! Take your cue! Like that... that
will do...  Stop!"

I was utterly exhausted; my hand had become a lump of lead, which went
on, of its own accord, mechanically, turning the handle.

I saw Carlo Ferro run forward scowling, full of rage and tenderness,
with a long purple cloak, help the woman to rise, wrap her in the
cloak and lead her off, almost carrying her, to her dressing-room.

I looked at the machine, and found in my throat a curious somnolent
voice in which to announce to Bertini:

"Seventy-two feet."




2


We were waiting to-day, beneath the pergola of the tavern, for the
arrival of a certain "young lady of good family," recommended by
Bertini, who was to take a small part in a film which has been left
for some months unfinished and which they now wish to complete.

More than an hour had passed since a boy had been sent on a bicycle to
this young lady's house, and still there was no sign of anyone, not
even of the boy returning.

Polacco was sitting with me at one table, the Nestoroff and Carlo
Ferro were at another. All four of us, with the young lady we were
expecting, were to go in a motor-car for a "nature scene" in the Bosco
Sacro.

The sultry afternoon heat, the nuisance of the myriad flies of the
tavern, the enforced silence among us four, obliged to remain together
notwithstanding the openly declared and for that matter obvious
aversion felt by the other two for Polacco and also for myself,
increased the strain of waiting until it became quite intolerable.

The Nestoroff was obstinately restraining herself from turning her
eyes in our direction. But she was certainly aware that I was looking
at her, covertly, while apparently paying her no attention; and more
than once she had shewn signs of annoyance. Carlo Ferro had noticed
this and had knitted his brows, keeping a close watch on her; and then
she had pretended for his benefit to be annoyed, not indeed by myself
who was looking at her, but by the sun which, through the vine leaves
of the pergola, was beating upon her face. It was true; and a
wonderful sight was the play, on that face, of the purple shadows,
straying and shot with threads of golden sunlight, which lighted up
now one of her nostrils, and part of her upper lip, now the lobe of
her ear and a patch of her throat.

I find myself assailed, at times, with such violence by the external
aspects of things that the clear, outstanding sharpness of my
perceptions almost terrifies me. It becomes so much a part of myself,
what I see with so sharp a perception, that I am powerless to conceive
how in the world a given object--thing or person--can be other than
what I would have it be. The Nestoroff's aversion, in that moment of
such intensely lucid perception, was intolerable to me.  How in the
world did she not understand that I was not her enemy?

Suddenly, after peering out for a little through the trellis, she
rose, and we saw her stroll out, towards a hired carriage, which also
had been standing there for an hour outside the entrance to the
Kosmograph, waiting under the blazing sun. I too had noticed the
carriage; but the foliage of the vine prevented me from seeing who was
waiting in it. It had been waiting there for so long that I could not
believe that there was anybody in it.  Polacco rose; I rose also, and
we looked out.

A young girl, dressed in a sky-blue frock, of Swiss material, very
light, with a straw hat, trimmed with black velvet ribbons, sat
waiting in the carriage. Holding in her lap an aged dog with a shaggy
coat, black and white, she was timidly and anxiously watching the
taximeter of the carriage, which every now and then gave a click, and
must already be indicating a considerable sum.  The Nestoroff went up
to her with great civility and invited her to come inside, to escape
from the rays of the sun. Would it not be better to wait beneath the
pergola of the tavern?

"Plenty of flies, of course. But at any rate one can sit in the
shade."

The shaggy dog had begun to growl at the Nestoroff, baring its teeth
in defence of its young mistress. She, turning suddenly crimson,
perhaps at the unexpected pleasure of seeing this beautiful lady shew
an interest in her with such courtesy; perhaps also from the annoyance
that her stupid old pet was causing her, which received the other's
cordial invitation in so unfriendly a spirit, thanked her, accepted
the invitation with some confusion, and stepped down from the carriage
with the dog under her arm.  I had the impression that she left the
carriage chiefly to make amends for the old dog's hostile reception of
the lady.  And indeed she slapped it hard on the muzzle with her hand,
calling out:

"Be quiet, Piccini!"

And then, turning to the Nestoroff:

"I apologise for her, she doesn't understand.  ..."

And they came in together beneath the pergola.  I studied the old dog
which was angrily looking its young mistress up and down, with the
eyes of a human being. It seemed to be saying to her: "And what do
_you_ understand?"

Polacco, in the mean time, had advanced towards her and was asking
politely:

"Signorina Luisetta?"

She turned a deep crimson, as though lost in a painful surprise, at
being recognised by some one whom she did not know; smiled; nodded her
head in the affirmative, and all the black ribbons on her straw hat
nodded with her.

Polacco went on to ask her:

"Is Papa here?"

Yes, once more, with her head, as though amid her blushes and
confusion she could not find words with which to answer. At length,
with an effort, she found a timid utterance:

"He went inside some time ago: he said that he would have finished his
business at once, and now..."

She raised her eyes to look at the Nestoroff and smiled at her, as
though she were sorry that this gentleman with his questions had
distracted her attention from the lady, who had been so kind to her
without even knowing who she was.  Polacco thereupon introduced them:

"Signorina Luisetta Cavalena; Signora Nestoroff."

He then turned and beckoned to Carlo Ferro, who at once sprang to his
feet and bowed awkwardly.

"Carlo Ferro, the actor."

Last of all, he introduced me:

"Gubbio."

It seemed to me that, among the lot of us, I was the one who
frightened her least.

I knew by repute Cavalena, her father, notorious at the Kosmograph by
the nickname of _Suicide_. It seems that the poor man is terribly
oppressed by a jealous wife. Owing to his wife's jealousy he has been
obliged to renounce first of all a commission in the Militia, as
Surgeon Lieutenant, and one good practice after another; then, his
independent work, as well, and journalism, in which he had found an
opening, and finally teaching also, to which he had turned in
desperation, in the technical schools, as a lecturer on physics and
natural history.  Now, not being able (still on account of his wife)
to devote himself to the drama, for which he has for some time past
believed himself to have a distinct talent, he has turned to the
composition of scenarios for the cinematograph, with great loathing,
_obtorto collo_, in order to supply the wants of his family, since
they are unable to live exclusively upon his wife's fortune, and what
little they make by letting a pair of furnished rooms.  Unfortunately,
in the hell of his home life, having now grown accustomed to viewing
the world as a prison, it seems that, however hard he may try, he can
never succeed in composing a plot for a film without dragging in,
somewhere or other, a suicide. Which accounts for Polacco's having
steadily, up to the present, rejected all his scenarios, in view of
the fact that the English decline, absolutely, to hear of a suicide in
their films.

"Has he come to see me?" Polacco asked Signorina Luisetta.

Signorina Luisetta stammered in confusion:

"No," she said... "I don't think so; Bertini, I think it was."

"Ah, the rascal! He has gone to Bertini, has he?  But tell me,
Signorina, did he go in alone?"

Fresh, and still more vivid blushes on the part of Signorina Luisetta.

"With Mamma."

Polacco threw up his hands and waved them in the air, pulling a long
face and winking.

"Let us hope that nothing dreadful is going to happen!"

Signorina Luisetta made an effort to smile; and echoed:

"Let us hope so..."

And it hurt me so to see her smile like that, with her little face
aflame! I would have liked to shout at Polacco:

"Stop tormenting her with these questions!  Can't you see that you are
making her utterly miserable?"

But Polacco, all of a sudden, had an idea; he clapped his hands:

"Why shouldn't we take Signorina Luisetta?  By Jove, yes; we have been
waiting here for the last hour! Why yes, of course. My dear young
lady, you will be helping us out of a difficulty, and you will see
that we shall give you plenty of fun. It will all be over in half an
hour. I shall tell the porter, as soon as your father and mother come
out, to let them know that you have gone for half an hour with me and
this lady and gentleman.  I am such a friend of your father that I can
venture to take the liberty. I shall give you a little part to play,
you will like that?"

Signorina Luisetta had evidently a great fear of appearing timid,
embarrassed, foolish; and, as for coming with us, said: "Why not?"
But, when it came to acting, she could not, she did not know how...
and in those clothes, too--really?  ... she had never tried... she
felt ashamed... besides...

Polacco explained to her that nothing serious was required: she would
not have to open her mouth, nor to mount a stage, nor to appear before
the public. Nothing at all. It would be in the country. Among the
trees. "Without a word spoken.

"You will be sitting on a bench, beside this gentleman," he pointed to
Ferro. "This gentleman will pretend to be making love to you. You,
naturally, do not believe him, and laugh at him.  ... Like that....
Splendid! You laugh and shake your head, plucking the petals off a
flower.  All of a sudden, a motor-car dashes up. This gentleman starts
to his feet, frowns, looks round him, scenting danger in the air. You
stop plucking at the flower and adopt an attitude of doubt, dismay.
Suddenly this lady," here he pointed to the Nestoroff, "jumps down
from the car, takes a revolver from her muff and fires at you..."

Signorina Luisetta opened her eyes wide and stared at the Nestoroff,
in terror.

"In make-believe! Don't be frightened!" Polacco went on with a smile.
"The gentleman runs forward, disarms the lady; meanwhile you have sunk
down, first of all, on the bench, mortally wounded; from the bench you
fall to the ground--without hurting yourself, please! and it is all
over.... Come, come, don't let us waste any more time! We can rehearse
the scene on the spot; you will see, it will go off splendidly ... and
what a fine present you will get afterwards from the Kosmograph!"

"But if Papa..."

"We shall leave a message for him!"

"And Piccini?"

"We can take her with us; I shall carry her myself.... You will see,
the Kosmograph will give Piccini a fine present too.... Come along,
let us be off!"

As we got into the motor-car (again, I am certain, so as not to appear
timid and foolish), she, who had not given me a second thought, looked
at me doubtfully.

Why was I coming too! What part was I to play?

No one had uttered a word to me; I had been barely introduced, named
as a dog might be; I had not opened my mouth; I remained silent....

I noticed that my silent presence, the necessity for which she failed
to see, but which impressed her, nevertheless, as being mysteriously
necessary, was beginning to disturb her. No one thought of offering
her any explanation; I could not offer her one myself. I had seemed to
her _a person like the rest_; or rather, at first sight, a person
_more akin to herself_ than the rest. Now she was beginning to be
aware that for these other people and also for herself (in a vague
way) I was not, properly speaking, a person.  She began to feel that
my person was not necessary; but that my presence there had the
necessity of a _thing_, which she as yet did not understand; and that
I remained silent for that reason.  They might speak, yes, they, all
four of them--because they were people, each of them represented a
person, his or her own; but I, no: I was a thing: why, perhaps the
thing that was resting on my knees, wrapped in a black cloth.

And yet I too had a mouth to speak with, eyes to see with, and the
said eyes, look, were shining as they rested on her; and certainly
within myself I felt...

Oh, Signorina Luisetta, if you only knew the joy that his own feelings
were affording the person--_not necessary_ as such, but as a
thing--who sat opposite to you! Did it occur to you that I--albeit
seated in front of you like that, like a thing--was capable of feeling
within myself?  Perhaps. But what I was feeling, behind my mask of
impassivity, that you certainly could not imagine.

Feelings that were _not necessary_, Signorina Luisetta! You do not
know what they are, nor do you know the intoxicating joy that they can
give!  This machine here, for instance: does it seem to you that there
can be any necessity for it to feel? There cannot be! If it could
feel, what feelings would it have? Not necessary feelings, surely.
Something that was a luxury for it.  Fantastic things....

Well, among the four of you, to-day, I--a pair of legs, a lap, and on
it a machine--I felt _fantastically_.

You, Signorina Luisetta, were, with everything round about you,
contained in my feelings, which rejoiced in your innocence, in the
pleasure that you derived from the breeze in your face, the view of
the open country, the proximity of the beautiful lady. Does it seem
strange to you that you entered like that, with everything round about
you, into my feelings? But may not a beggar by the roadside perhaps
see the road and all the people who go past, comprised in that feeling
of pity which he seeks to arouse?  You, being more sensitive than the
rest, as you pass, notice that you enter into his feeling, and stop
and give him the charity of a copper. Many others do not enter in, and
it does not occur to the beggar that they are outside his feeling,
inside another of their own, in which he too is included as a shadowy
nuisance; the beggar thinks that they are hard-hearted. What was I to
you in your feelings, Signorina Luisetta Ó A mysterious man? Yes, you
are quite right. Mysterious.  If you knew how I feel, at certain
moments, my _inanimate silence_!  And I revel in the mystery that is
exhaled by this silence for such as are capable of remarking it. I
should like never to speak at all; to receive everyone and everything
in this silence of mine, every tear, every smile; not to provide,
myself, an echo to the smile; I could not; not to wipe away, myself,
the tear; I should not know how; but so that all might find in me, not
only for their griefs, but also and even more for their joys, a tender
pity that would make us brothers if only for a moment.

I am so grateful for the good that you have done with the freshness of
your timid, smiling innocence, to the lady who was sitting by your
side! So at times, when the rain does not come, parched plants find
refreshment in a breath of air. And this breath of air you yourself
were, for a moment, in the burning desert of the feelings of that
woman who sat beside you; a burning desert that does not know the
refreshing coolness of tears.

At one point she, looking at you almost with a frightened admiration,
took your hand in her own and stroked it. Who knows what bitter envy
of you was torturing her heart at that moment?

Did you see how, immediately afterwards, her face darkened?

A cloud had passed.... What cloud?




3


A parenthesis. Yes, another. The things that I am obliged to do all
day long, I do not speak of them; the beastlinesses that I have to
serve up all day long as food for this black spider on its tripod,
which eats and is never filled, I do not speak of them; beastlinesses
incarnate in these actors and actresses, in all the people who are
driven by necessity to feed this machine upon their own modesty, their
own dignity, I do not speak of them; I must, all the same, have a
little breathing-space, now and again, absolutely, draw a mouthful of
air for my superfluity; or die. I am interested in the history of this
woman, the Nestoroff I mean; I have filled with it many pages of these
notes; but I do not, for all that, intend to be carried away by her
history; I intend her, the lady, to remain in front of my machine, or
rather I intend myself to remain in front of her what I am to her, an
operator, and nothing more.

When my friend Simone Pau has failed for some days in succession to
pay me a visit at the Kosmograph, I go myself in the evening to visit
him in Borgo Pio, at his Falcon Hostelry.

The reason why, for some days, he has not come to see me, is the
saddest imaginable. The man with the violin is dying.

I found keeping watch in the room set apart for Pau in the Shelter,
Pa'u himself, his aged colleague, the pensioner of the Papal
Government, and the three old spinster schoolmistresses, friends of
the Sisters of Charity. On Simone Pau's bed, with an ice-pack on his
head, lay the man with the violin, struck down three evenings ago by
an apoplectic stroke.

"He is freeing himself," Simone Pau said to me, with a wave of his
hand, by way of comfort.  "Sit down here, Serafino. Science has placed
on his head that cap of ice, which is completely useless.  We are
helping him to pass away amid serene philosophic discussions, in
return for the precious gift which he leaves as an heirloom to us: his
violin. Sit down, man, sit here. They have washed him thoroughly, all
over; they have put him in order with the sacraments; they have
anointed him. Now we are waiting for the end, which cannot be far
distant. You remember when he played before the tiger? It made him
ill. But perhaps it is better so: he is gaining his freedom!"

How genially the old man smiled at these words, sitting there so clean
and neat, with his cap on his head and the bone snuff-box in his hand
with the portrait of the Holy Father on the lid!

"Continue," Simone Pau went on, turning to the old man, "continue,
Signor Cesarino, your panegyric of the three-wicked oil-lamps,
please."

"Panegyric indeed!" exclaimed Signor Cesarino.  "You insist that I am
making a panegyric of them!  I tell you that they belong to that
generation, that is all."

"And is not that a panegyric!"

"Why, no; I say that it all comes to the same thing in the end: it is
an idea of mine: so many things I used to see in the dark with those
lamps, which, you are perhaps unable to see by electric light; but
then, on the other hand, you see other things with these lights here
which I fail to see; because four generations of lights, four, my dear
Professor, oil, paraffin, gas and electricity, in the course of sixty
years, eh... eh... eh...  it's too much, you know? and it's bad for
our eyesight, and for our heads too; yes, it's bad for the head too,
it is."

The three old maids, who were sitting, all three of them, with their
hands, in thread mittens, quietly folded in their laps, shewed their
approval by nodding silently with their heads: yes, yes, yes.

"Light, a fine light, I don't say it isn't! Eh, but I know it is,"
sighed the old man, "I can remember when you went about with a lantern
in your hand, so as not to break your neck. But light for outside,
that's what it is.... Does it help us to see better indoors? No."

The three quiet old maids, still keeping their hands, in their thread
mittens, folded in their laps, agreed in silence, with their heads:
no, no, no.

The old man rose and offered those pure and peaceful hands the reward
of a pinch of snuff.  Simone Pau held out two fingers.

"You too?" the old man asked him.

"I too, I too," answered Simone Pau, slightly irritated by the
question. "And you too, Serafino.  Take it, I tell you! Don't you see
that it is a rite?"

The little old man, with the pinch between his fingers, shut one eye
wickedly:

"Contraband tobacco," he said softly. "It comes from over there...."

And with the thumb of his other hand he made a furtive sign, as though
to say: "Saint Peter's, Vatican."

"You understand?" Simone Pau turned to me, thrusting his pinch out
before my eyes. "It sets you free from Italy! Does that seem to you
nothing? You snuff it, and you no longer smell the stench of the
Kingdom!"

"Come, come, do not say that..." the little old man pleaded in
distress, for he wished to enjoy in peace the benefits of toleration,
by tolerating others.

"It is I who say it, not you," replied Simone Pau.  "I say it, who
have a right to say it. If you said it, I should ask you not to say it
in my presence, is that all right? But you are a wise man, Signor
Cesarino! Go on, go on, please, describing to us, with your courtly,
old-fashioned grace, the good old oil-lamps, with three wicks, of days
gone by... I saw one, do you know, in Beethoven's house, at Bonn on
the Rhine, when I was travelling in Germany. There, this evening we
must recall the memory of all the good old things, round this poor
violin, shattered by an automatic piano. I confess that I am not over
pleased to see my friend in the room here, at such a moment. Yes, you,
Serafino.  My friend, ladies and gentlemen--let me introduce him to
you: Serafino Gubbio--is an operator: poor fellow, he turns the handle
of a cinematograph machine."

"Ah," said the little old man, with a note of pleasure.

And the three old maids gazed at me in admiration.

"You see?" Simone Pau said to me. "You spoil everything with your
presence here. I wager that you now, Signor Cesarino, and you too,
ladies, have a burning desire to learn from my friend how the machine
works, and how a film is made. But for pity's sake!"

And he pointed to the dying man, who was breathing heavily in a
profound coma under the ice-pack.

"You know that I..." I attempted to put in, quietly.

"I know!" he interrupted me. "You do not enter into your profession,
but that does not mean, my dear fellow, that your profession does not
enter into you! Try to disabuse these colleagues of mine of the idea
that I am a professor.  I am the Professor, for them: a trifle
eccentric, but still a professor! We may easily fail to recognise
ourselves in what we do, but what we do, my dear fellow, remains done:
an action which circumscribes you, my dear fellow, gives you a form of
sorts, and imprisons you in it. Do you seek to rebel? You cannot. In
the first place, we are not free to do as we wish: the age we live in,
the habits of other people, our means, the conditions of our
existence, ever so many other reasons, outside and inside us, compel
us often to do what we do not wish; and then, the spirit is not
detached from the flesh; and the flesh, however closely you guard it,
has a will of its own. And what is our intelligence worth, if it does
not feel compassion for the beast that is within us? I do not say
excuse it.  The intelligence that excuses the beast, bestialises
itself as well. But to feel pity for it is another matter! Christ
preached it; am I not right, Signor Cesarino? So you are the prisoner
of what you have done, of the form that your actions have given you.
Duties, responsibilities, a chain of consequences, coils, tentacles
which are wound about you, and do not leave you room to breathe.  You
must do nothing more, or as little as possible, like me, so as to
remain as free as possible?  Ah, yes! Life itself is an action! When
your father brought you into the world, my dear fellow, the deed was
done. You can never free yourself again until you end by dying. And
not even after your death, Signor Cesarino here will tell you, eh? He
never frees himself again, eh?  Not even after death. Keep calm, my
dear fellow.  You will go on turning the handle of your machine even
beyond the grave! But yes, yes, because it is not for your being, for
which you are not to blame, but for your actions and the consequences
of your actions that you have to answer, am I not right, Signor
Cesarino?"

"Quite right, yes; but it is not a sin, Professor, to turn the handle
of a cinematograph machine," Signor Cesarino observed.

"Not a sin? You ask him!" said Pau.

The little old man and the three old maids gazed at me stupefied and
dismayed to see me assent with a nod of my head, smiling, to Simone
Pau's verdict.

I smiled because I was picturing myself in the presence of the
Creator, in the presence of the Angels and of the blessed souls in
Paradise standing behind my great black spider on its knock-kneed
tripod, condemned to turn the handle, in the next world also, after my
death.

"Why, of course," sighed the little old man, "when the cinematograph
represents certain indecencies, certain stupid scenes...."

The three old maids, with lowered eyes, made a sign of outraged
modesty with their hands.

"But this gentleman would not be responsible for it," Signor Cesarino
hastened to add, courteous and still friendly.

There came from the staircase a sound of sweeping garments and of the
heavy beads of a rosary with a dangling crucifix. There appeared,
under the broad white wings of her coif, a Sister of Charity. Who had
sent for her?  The fact remains that, as soon as she appeared on the
threshold, the dying man ceased to breathe. And she was quite ready to
perform the last duties. She lifted the ice-pack from his head; turned
to look at us, in silence, with a simple, rapid movement of her eyes
towards the ceiling; then stooped to arrange the deathbed and fell on
her knees. The three old maids and Signor Cesarino followed her
example. Simone Pau summoned me from the room.

"Count," he bade me, as we began to go downstairs, pointing to the
steps. "One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine. The
steps of a stair; of this stair, which ends in this dark passage....
The hands that hewed them, and placed them here, one upon another....
Dead. The hands that erected this building.... Dead. Like other hands,
which erected all the other houses in this quarter.... Rome; what do
you think of it? A great city.... Think of this little earth in the
firmament.... Do you see? What is it?... A man has died.... Myself,
yourself ... no matter: a man....  And five people, in there, have
gone on their knees round him to pray to some one, to something, which
they believe to be outside and over everything and everyone, and not
in themselves, a sentiment of theirs which rises independent of their
judgment and invokes that same pity which they hope to receive
themselves, and it brings them comfort and peace. Well, people must
act like that. You and I, who cannot act thus, are a pair of fools.
Because, in saying these stupid things that I am now saying, we are
doing the same thing, on our feet, uncomfortably, with only this
result for our trouble, that we derive from it neither comfort nor
peace. And fools like us are all those who seek God within themselves
and despise Him without, who fail, that is to say, to see the value of
the actions, of all the actions, even the most worthless, which man
has performed since the world began, always the same, however
different they may appear. Different, forsooth? Different because we
credit them with another value, which, in any event, is arbitrary. We
know nothing for certain. And there is nothing to be known beyond that
which, in one way or another, is represented outwardly, in actions.
Within is torment and weariness. Go, go and turn your handle,
Serafino!  Be assured that yours is a profession to be envied! And do
not regard as more stupid than any others the actions that are
arranged before your eyes, to be taken by your machine. They are all
stupid in the same way, always: life is all a mass of stupidity,
always, because it never comes to an end and can never come to an end.
Go, my dear fellow, go and turn your handle, and leave me to go and
sleep with the wisdom which, by always sleeping, dogs shew us. Good
night."

I came away from the Shelter, comforted.  Philosophy is like religion:
it is always comforting, even when it is a philosophy of despair,
because it is born of the need to overcome a torment, and even when
it does not overcome it, the action of setting that torment before our
eyes is already a relief, inasmuch as, for a while at least, we no
longer feel it within us. The comfort I derived from Simone Pau's
words had come to me, however, principally from what he had said with
regard to my profession.

Enviable, yes, perhaps; but if it were applied to the recording,
without any stupid invention or imaginary construction of scenes and
actions, of life, life as it comes, without selection and without any
plan; the actions of life as they are performed without a thought,
when people are alive and do not know that a machine is lurking in
concealment to surprise them. Who knows how ridiculous they would
appear to us! Most of all, ourselves. We should not recognise
ourselves, at first; we should exclaim, shocked, mortified, indignant:
"What? I, like that? I, that person?  Do I walk like that? Do I laugh
like that? Is that my action? My face?" Ah, no, my friend, not you:
your haste, your wish to do this or that, your impatience, your
frenzy, your anger, your joy, your grief.... How can you know, you who
have them within you, in what manner all these things are represented
outwardly? A man who is alive, when he is alive, does not see himself:
he lives.... To see how one lived would indeed be a ridiculous
spectacle!

Ah, if my profession were destined to this end only! If it had the
sole object of presenting to men the ridiculous spectacle of their
heedless actions, an immediate view of their passions, of their life
as it is. Of this life without rest, which never comes to an end.




4


"Signor Gubbio, please: I have something to say to you."

Night had fallen: I was hurrying along beneath the big planes of the
avenue. I knew that he--Carlo Ferro--was following me, in breathless
haste, so as to pass me and then perhaps to turn round, pretending to
have remembered all of a sudden that he had something to say to me.  I
wished to deprive him of this pleasure, and kept increasing my pace,
expecting at every moment that he--growing tired at length--would
admit himself beaten and call out to me. As indeed he did.... I
turned, as though in surprise.  He overtook me and with ill-concealed
annoyance asked:

"Do you mind!"

"Go on."

"Are you going home?"

"Yes."

"Do you live far off?"

"Some way."

"I have something to say to you," he repeated, and stood still,
looking at me with an evil glint in his eye. "You probably know that,
thank God, I can spit on the contract I have with the Kosmograph. I
can secure another, just as good and better, at any moment, whenever I
choose, anywhere, for myself and my lady friend.  Do you know that or
don't you?"

I smiled, shrugging my shoulders:

"I can believe it, if it gives you any pleasure."

"You can believe it, because it is the truth!" he shouted back at me,
in a provocative, challenging tone.

I continued to smile; and said:

"It may be; but I do not see why you come and tell me about it, and in
that tone."

"This is why," he went on. "I intend to remain, my dear Sir, with the
Kosmograph."

"Remain? Why; I never even knew that you had any idea of leaving."

"Some one else had the idea," Carlo Ferro retorted, laying stress on
the words _some one else_. "But I tell you that I intend to remain: do
you understand?"

"I understand."

"And I remain, not because I care about the contract, which doesn't
matter a damn to me; but because I have never yet run away from
anyone!"

So saying, he took the lapel of my coat between his fingers, and gave
it a tug.

"Do you mind?" it was now my turn to ask, calmly, as I removed his
hand; and I felt in my pocket for a box of matches; I struck one of
them to light the cigarette which I had already taken from my case and
held between my lips; I drew in a mouthful or two of smoke; stood for
a while with the burning match in my fingers to let him see that his
words, his threatening tone, his aggressive manner, were not causing
me the slightest uneasiness; then I went on, quietly: "I may possibly
understand to what you wish to allude; but, I repeat, I do not
understand why you come and say these things to me,"

"It is not true," Carlo Ferro shouted. "You are pretending not to
understand."

Placidly, but in a firm voice, I replied:

"I do not see why. If you, my dear Sir, wish to provoke me, you are
making a mistake; not only because you have no reason, but also
because, precisely like yourself, I am not in the habit of running
away from anyone."

Whereupon, "What do you mean?" he sneered.  "I have had to run pretty
fast to catch you!"

I gave a hearty laugh:

"Oh, so that's it! You really thought that I was running away from
you? You are mistaken, my dear Sir, and I can prove it to you straight
away. You suspect, perhaps, that I have something to do with the
arrival here, shortly, of a certain person who annoys you?"

"He doesn't annoy me in the least!"

"All the better. On the strength of this suspicion, you were capable
of believing that I was running away from you?"

"I know that you were a friend of a certain painter, who committed
suicide at Naples."

"Yes. Well?"

"Well, you who have mixed yourself up in this business...."

"I? Nothing of the sort! Who told you so?  I know as much about it as
you; perhaps not so much as you."

"But you must know this Signor Nuti!"

"Nothing of the sort! I saw him, some years ago, as a young man on one
or two occasions, not more.  I have never spoken to him."

"Which means..."

"Which means, my dear Sir, that not knowing this Signor Nuti, and
feeling annoyed at seeing myself looked at askance for the last few
days by you, from the suspicion that I had mixed myself up, or wished
to mix myself up in this business, I did not wish you, just now, to
overtake me, and so increased my pace. That is the explanation of my
_running away_. Are you satisfied?"

With a sudden change of expression Carlo Ferro held out his hand,
saying with emotion:

"May I have the honour and pleasure of becoming your friend?"

I took his hand and answered:

"You know very well that I am so unimportant a person compared with
yourself, that the honour will be mine."

Carlo Ferro shook himself like a bear.

"Don't say that! You are a man who knows his own business, more than
any of the others; you know, you see, and you don't speak....  What a
world, Signor Grubbio, what a wicked world we live in!  How revolting!
Everyone seems... what shall I say?  But why must it be like this?
Disguised, disguised, always disguised!  Can you tell me?  Why, as
soon as we come together, face to face, do we become like a lot of
puppets? Yes, I too; I include myself; all of us! Disguised! One
putting on this air, another that.... And inside we are different!  We
have a heart, inside us, like...  like a child hiding in a corner,
whose feelings are hurt, crying and ashamed! Yes, I assure you: the
heart is ashamed! I am longing, Signor Gubbio, I am longing for a
little sincerity... to be with other people as I so often am with
myself, inside myself; a child, I swear to you, a new-born infant that
whimpers because its precious mother, scolding it, has told it that
she does not love it any more! I myself, always, when I feel the blood
rush to my eyes, think of that old mother of mine, away in Sicily,
don't you know? But look out for trouble if I begin to cry! The tears
in my eyes, if anyone doesn't understand me and thinks that I am
crying from fear, may at any moment turn to blood on my hands; I know
it, and that is why I am always afraid when I feel the tears start to
my eyes! My fingers, look, become like this!"

In the darkness of the wide, empty avenue, I saw him thrust out
beneath my eyes a pair of muscular fists, savagely clenched and
clawed.

Concealing with a great effort the disturbance which this unexpected
outburst of sincerity aroused in me, so as not to exacerbate the
secret grief that was doubtless preying upon him and had found in this
outburst, unintentionally I was certain on his part, a relief which he
already regretted; I modulated my voice until I felt that I could
speak in such a way that he, while appreciating my sympathy for his
sincerity, might be led to think rather than to feel; and said:

"You are right; that is just how it is, Signor Ferro! But inevitably,
don't you see, we put constructions upon ourselves, living as we do in
a social environment.... Why, society by its very nature is no longer
the natural world. It is a constructed world, even in the material
sense!  Nature knows no home but the den or the cave."

"Are you alluding to me?"

"To you? No."

"Am I of the den or of the cave?"

"Why, of course not! I was trying to explain to you why, as I look at
it, people invariably lie.  And I say that while nature knows no other
house than the den or cave, society _constructs_ houses; and man, when
he comes from a _constructed_ house, where as it is he no longer leads
a natural life, entering into relations with his fellows, _constructs_
himself also, that is all; presents himself, not as he is, but as he
thinks he ought to be or is capable of being, that is to say in a
construction adapted to the relations which each of us thinks that he
can form with his neighbour.  And so in the heart of things, that is
to say inside these constructions of ours set face to face in this
way, there remain carefully hidden, behind the blinds and shutters,
our most intimate thoughts, our most secret feelings.  But every now
and then we feel that we are stifling; we are overcome by an
irresistible need to tear down blinds and shutters, and shout out into
the street, in everyone's face, our thoughts, our feelings that we
have so long kept hidden and secret."

"Quite so... quite so..." Carlo Ferro repeated his endorsement several
times, his face again darkening. "But there is a person who takes up
his post behind those constructions of which you speak, like a dirty
cutthroat at a street corner, to spring on you behind your back, in a
treacherous assault! I know such a man, here with the Kosmograph, and
you know him too."

He was alluding of course to Polacco. I at once realised that he at
that moment could not be made to think. He was feeling too keenly.

"Signor Gubbio," he went on resolutely, "I see that you are a man, and
I feel that to you I can speak openly. You might give this
_constructed_ gentleman, whom we both know, a hint of what we have
been saying. I cannot talk to him; I know my own violent nature; if I
once start talking to him, I may know how I shall begin, I cannot tell
where I may end. Because covert thoughts, and people who act covertly,
who construct themselves, to use your expression, I simply cannot
stand. To me they are like serpents, and I want to crush their heads,
like that ... look, like that...."

He stamped twice on the ground with his heel, furiously. Then he went
on:

"What harm have I done him? What harm has my lady friend done him,
that he should plot against us so desperately in secret? Don't refuse,
please...  please don't... you must be straight with me, for God's
sake! You won't do it?"

"Why, yes..."

"You can see that I am speaking to you frankly? So please! Listen; it
was he, knowing that I as a matter of honour would never try to back
out, it was he that suggested my name to Commendator Borgalli for
killing the tiger....  He went as far as that, do you understand! To
the length of catching me on a point of honour and getting rid of me!
You don't agree? But that is the idea; the intention is that and
nothing else: I tell you it is, and you've got to believe me! Because
it doesn't require any courage, as you know, to shoot a tiger in a
cage: it requires calm, coolness is what it requires, a firm hand, a
keen eye. Very well, he nominates me! He puts me down for the part,
because he knows that I can, at a pinch, be a wild beast when I'm face
to face with a man, but that as a man face to face with a wild beast I
am worth nothing! I have dash, calm is just what I lack! When I see a
wild beast in front of me, my instinct tells me to rush at it; I have
not the coolness to stand still where I am and take aim at it
carefully so as to hit it in the right place. I have never shot; I
don't know how to hold a gun; I am capable of flinging it away, of
feeling it a burden on my hands, do you understand? And he knows
this!  He knows it perfectly! And so he has deliberately wished to
expose me to the risk of being torn in pieces by that animal. And with
what object? But just look, just look to what a pitch that man's
perfidy has reached! He makes Nuti come here; he acts as his agent; he
clears the way for him, by getting rid of me! 'Yes, my dear fellow,
come,' will be what he has written to him, 'I shall look after you, I
shall get him out of your way! Don't worry, but come!' You don't
agree?"

So aggressive and peremptory was this question, that to have met it
with a blunt plain-spoken dissent would have been to inflame his anger
even farther. I merely shrugged my shoulders; and answered:

"What would you have me say? You yourself must admit that at this
moment you are extremely excited."

"But how can I be calm?"

"No, there is that..."

"I am quite right, it seems to me!"

"Yes, yes, of course! But when one is in that state, my dear Ferro, it
is also very easy to exaggerate things."

"Oh, so I am exaggerating, am I? Why, yes, ...  because people who are
cool, people who reason, when they set to work quietly to commit a
crime, _construct_ it in such a way that inevitably, if discovered, it
must appear exaggerated.  Of course they do! They have constructed it
in silence with such cunning, ever so quietly, with gloves on, oh yes,
so as not to dirty their hands!  In secret, yes, keeping it secret
from themselves even! Oh, he has not the slightest idea that he is
committing a crime! What! He would be horrified, if anyone were to
call his attention to it. 'I, a crime? Go on! How you exaggerate!'
But where is the exaggeration, by God? Reason it out for yourself as I
do! You take a man and make him enter a cage, into which a tiger is to
be driven, and you say to him: 'Keep calm, now.  Take a careful aim,
and fire. Oh, and remember to bring it down with your first shot, see
that you hit it in the right spot; otherwise, even if you wound it, it
will spring upon you and tear you in pieces!' All this, I know, if
they choose a calm, cool man, a skilled marksman, is nothing, it is
not a crime. But if they deliberately choose a man like myself? Think
of it, a man like myself!  Go and tell him: he will be amazed: 'What!
Ferro?  Why, I chose him on purpose because I know how brave he is!'
There is the treachery! There is where the crime lurks: in that
_knowing how brave I am_! In taking advantage of my courage, of my
sense of honour, you follow me? He knows quite well that courage is
not what is required! He pretends to think that it is! There is the
crime!  And go and ask him why, at the same time, he is secretly at
work trying to pave the way for a friend of his who would like to get
back the woman, the woman who is at present living with the very man
nominated by him to enter the cage. He will be even more amazed! 'Why,
what connexion is there between the two things'? Oh, but really, he
suspects this as well, does he? What an ex-ag-ge-ra-tion!' Why, you
yourself said that I exaggerated.... But think it over carefully;
penetrate to the root of the matter; you will discover what he himself
refuses to see, hiding beneath that artificial show of reason; tear
off is gloves, and you will find that the gentleman's hands are red
with blood!"

I myself too had often thought, that each of us--however honest and
upright he may esteem himself, considering his own actions in the
abstract, that is to say apart from the incidents and coincidences
that give them their weight and value--may commit a crime _in secret
even from himself_, that I was stupefied to hear my own thought
expressed to me with such clearness, such debating force, and,
moreover, by a man whom until then I had regarded as narrow-minded and
of a vulgar spirit.

I was, nevertheless, perfectly convinced that Polacco was not acting
_really_ with any consciousness of committing a crime, nor was he
favouring Nuti for the purpose that Carlo Ferro suspected.  But it
might also, this purpose, be included _without his knowledge_, as well
in the selection of Ferro to kill the tiger as in the facilitation of
Nuti's coming: actions that only in appearance and in his eyes were
unconnected.  Certainly, since he could not _in any other way_ rid
himself of the Nestoroff, the idea that she might once more become the
mistress of Nuti, his friend, might be one of his secret aspirations,
a desire that was not however apparent. As the mistress of one of his
friends, the Nestoroff would no longer be such an enemy; not only
that, but perhaps also Nuti, having secured what he wanted, and being
as rich as he was, would refuse to allow the Nestoroff to remain an
actress, and would take her away with him.

"But you," I said, "have still time, my'dear Ferro, if you think..."

"No, Sir!" he interrupted me sharply. "This Signor Nuti, by Polacco's
handiwork, has already bought the right to join the Kosmograph."

"No, excuse me; what I mean is, you have still time to refuse the part
that has been given you.  No one who knows you can think that you are
doing so from fear."

"They would all think it!" cried Carlo Ferro.  "And I should be the
first! Yes, Sir... because courage I can and do have, in front of a
man, but in front of a wild beast, if I have not calm I cannot have
courage; the man who does not feel calm must feel afraid. And I should
feel afraid, yes Sir! Afraid not for myself, you understand!  Afraid
for the people who care for me. I have insisted that my mother should
receive an insurance policy; but if to-morrow they give her a wad of
paper money stained with blood, my mother will die! What do you expect
her to do with the money? You see the shame that conjurer has brought
on me! The shame of saying these things, which appear to be dictated
by a tremendous, preposterously exaggerated fear! Yes, because
everything that I do, and feel, and say is bound to strike everyone as
exaggerated. Good God, they have shot ever so many wild beasts in
every cinematograph company, and no actor has ever been killed, no
actor has ever taken the thing so seriously. But I take it seriously,
because here, at this moment, I see myself played with, I see myself
trapped, deliberately selected with the sole object of making me lose
my calm! I am certain that nothing is going to happen; that it will
all be over in a moment and that I shall kill the tiger without the
slightest danger to myself.  But I am furious at the trap that has
been set for me, in the hope that some accident will happen to me, for
which Signor Nuti, there you have it, will be waiting ready to step
in, with the way clear before him.  That... that... is what I... I..."

He broke off abruptly; clenched his fists together and wrung his
hands, grinding his teeth.  In a flash of inspiration, I realised that
the man was torn by all the furies of jealousy. So that was why he had
shouted after me! That was why he had spoken at such length! That was
why he was in such a state!

And so Carlo Ferro is not sure of the Nestoroff.  I scanned him by the
light of one of the infrequent street-lamps: his face was distorted,
his eyes glared savagely.

"My dear Ferro," I assured him cordially, "if you think that I can be
of use to you in any way, to the best of my ability..."

"Thanks!" he replied coldly. "No... it's not possible... _you_
can't..."

Perhaps he meant to say at first: "You are of no use to me!" He
managed to restrain himself, and went on:

"You can help me only in one way: by telling this Signor Polacco that
I am not a man to be played with, because whether it is my life or the
lady, I am not the sort of man to let myself be robbed of either of
them as easily as he seems to think!  That you can tell him! And that
if anything should happen here--as it certainly will--it will be the
worse for him: take the word of Carlo Ferro! Tell him this, and I am
your grateful servant."

Barely indicating a contemptuous farewell with a wave of his hand, he
lengthened his pace and left me.

And his offer of friendship?

How glad I was of this unexpected relapse into contempt! Carlo Ferro
may think for a moment that he is my friend; he cannot feel any
friendship for me. And certainly, to-morrow, he will hate me all the
more, for having treated me this evening as a friend.




5


I think that it would be a good thing for me if I had a different mind
and a different heart.

Who will exchange with me?

Given my intention, which grows steadily more determined, to remain an
impassive spectator, this mind, this heart are of little use to me. I
have reason to believe (and more than once, before now, I have been
glad of it) that the reality in which I invest other people
corresponds exactly to the reality in which those people invest
themselves, because I endeavour to feel them in myself as they feel
themselves, to wish for them as they wish for themselves: a reality,
therefore, that is entirely disinterested. But I see at the same time
that, without meaning it, I am letting myself be caught by that
reality which, being what it is, ought to remain outside me: matter,
to which I give a form, not for my sake, but for its own; something to
contemplate.

No doubt, there is an underlying deception, a mocking deception in all
this. I see myself caught. So much so, that I am no longer able even
to smile, if, beside or beneath a complication of circumstances or
passions which grows steadily stronger and more unpleasant, I see
escape some other circumstance or some other passion that might be
expected to raise my spirits. The case of Signorina Luisetta Cavalena,
for instance.

The other day Polacco had the inspiration to make that young lady come
to the Bosco Sacro and there take a small part in a film. I know that,
to engage her to take part in the remaining scenes of the film, he has
sent her father a five hundred lire note and, as he promised, a pretty
sunshade for herself and a collar with lots of little silver bells for
the old dog, Piccini.  He ought never to have done such a thing I It
appears that Cavalena had given his wife to understand that, when he
went with his scenarios to the Kosmograph, each with its inevitable
gallant suicide, and all of them, therefore, invariably rejected, he
never saw anyone there, except CocÚ Polacco: CocÚ Polacco and then
home again. And who knows how he had described to her the interior of
the Kosmograph: perhaps as an austere hermitage, from which all women
were resolutely banished, like demons.  Only, alas, the other day, the
fierce wife, becoming suspicious, decided to accompany her husband.  I
do not know what she saw, but I can easily imagine it. The fact
remains that this morning, just as I was going into the Kosmograph, I
saw all four Cavalena arrive in a carriage: husband, wife, daughter
and little dog: Signorina Luisetta, pale and trembling; Piccini, more
surly than ever; Cavalena, looking as usual like a mouldy lemon, among
the curls of his wig that protruded from under his broad-brimmed hat;
his wife, like a cyclone barely held in check, her hat knocked askew
as she dismounted from the carriage.

Under his arm Cavalena had the long parcel containing the sunshade
presented by Polacco to his daughter and in his hand the box
containing Piccini's collar. He had come to return them.

Signorina Luisetta recognised me at once. I hastened up to her to
greet her; she wished to introduce me to her mother and father, but
could not remember my name. I helped her out of her difficulty, by
introducing myself.

"The operator, the man who turns the handle, you understand, Nene?"
Cavalena at once explained, with timid haste, to his wife, smiling, as
though to implore a little condescension.

Heavens, what a face Signora Nene has! The face of an old, colourless
doll. A compact helmet of almost quite grey hair presses upon her low,
hard forehead, on which her eyebrows, joined together, short, bushy,
and straight, are like a line boldly ruled to give a character of
stupid tenacity to the pale eyes that gleam with a glassy stiffness.
She seems apathetic; but, if you study her closely, you observe on the
surface of her skin certain strange nervous prickings, certain sudden
changes of colour, in patches, which at once disappear. She also,
every now and then, makes rapid unexpected gestures, of the most
curious nature. I caught her, for instance, at one moment, in reply to
a beseeching glance from her daughter, shaping her mouth in a round O
across which she laid her finger. Evidently, this gesture was intended
to mean:

"Silly girl! Why do you look at me like that?"

But they are always looking at her, surreptitiously at least, her
husband and daughter, perplexed and anxious in their fear lest at any
moment she may indulge in some flaming outburst of rage. And
certainly, by looking at her like that, they irritate her all the
more. But imagine the life they lead, poor creatures!

Polacco has already given me some account of it.  Perhaps she never
thought of becoming a mother, this woman! She found this poor man,
who, in her clutches, after all these years, has been reduced to the
most pitiable condition imaginable; no matter: she will fight for him;
she continues to fight for him savagely. Polacco tells me that, when
assailed by the furies of jealousy, she loses all self-restraint; and
in front of everyone, without a thought even of her daughter who
stands listening, looking on, she strips bare (bare, as they flash
before her eyes in those moments of fury) and lashes her husband's
alleged misdeeds: misdeeds that are highly improbable.  Certainly, in
that hideous humiliation, Signorina Luisetta cannot fail to see her
father in a ridiculous light, albeit, as can be seen from the way in
which she looks at him, he must arouse so much pity in her!
Ridiculous, from the way in which, stripped bare, lashed, the poor man
still seeks to gather up from all sides, to cover himself in them
hastily and as best he may, the shreds and tatters of his dignity.
CocÚ Polacco has repeated to me some of the phrases in which, stunned
by her savage, unexpected onslaughts, he replies to his wife at such
moments: sillier, more ingenuous, more puerile things one could not
imagine! And for that reason alone I am convinced that CocÚ Polacco
did not invent them himself.

"Nene, for pity's sake, I am a man of five and forty...

"Nene, I have held His Majesty's commission ...

"Nene, good God, when a man has held a commission and gives you his
word of honour..."

And yet, every now and then--oh, in the long run even a worm will
turn--wounded with a refinement of cruelty in his most sacred
feelings, barbarously chastised where the lash hurts most--every now
and then, he says, it appears that Cavalena escapes from the house,
bolts from his prison. Like a madman, at any moment he may be found
wandering in the street, without a penny in his pocket, determined to
"take up the threads of his life again" somewhere or other.  He goes
here and there in search of friends; and his friends, at first,
welcome him joyously in the _caffŤ_, in the newspaper offices, because
they like to see him enjoying himself; but the warmth of their welcome
begins at once to cool as soon as he expresses his urgent need of
finding employment once more among them, without a moment's delay, in
order that he may be able to provide for himself as quickly as
possible. Yes indeed! Because he has not even the price of a cup of
coffee, a mouthful of supper, a bed in an inn for the night. Who will
oblige him, for the time being, with twenty lire or so? He makes an
appeal, among the journalists, to the spirit of old comradeship. He
will come round next day with an article to his old paper.  What?
Yes, something literary or light and scientific.  He has ever so much
material stored up in his head... new stuff, you know.... Such as?
Oh, Lord, such as, well, this..."

He has not finished speaking, before all these good friends burst out
laughing in his face. New stuff? Why, Noah used to tell that to his
sons, in the ark, to beguile the tedium of their voyage over the
waters of the Deluge....

Ah, I too know them well, those old friends of the _caffŤ_! They all
talk like that, in a forced burlesque manner, and each of them becomes
excited by the verbal exaggerations of the rest and takes courage to
utter an even grosser exaggeration, which does not however exceed the
limit, does not depart from the tone, so as not to be received with a
general outcry; they laugh at one another in turn, making a sacrifice
of all their most cherished vanities, fling them in one another's face
with gay savagery, and apparently no one takes offence; but the
resentment within grows, the bile ferments; the effort to keep the
conversation in that burlesque tone which provokes laughter, because
amid general laughter insults are tempered and lose their gall,
becomes gradually more laboured and difficult; then, the prolonged,
sustained effort leaves in each of them a weariness of anger and
disgust; each of them is conscious with bitter regret of having done
violence to his own thoughts, to his own feelings; more than remorse,
an outraged sincerity; an inward uneasiness, as though the swelling,
infuriated spirit no longer adhered to its own intimate substance; and
they all heave deep sighs to rid themselves of the hot air of their
own disgust; but, the very next day, they all fall back into that
furnace, and scorch themselves, afresh, miserable grasshoppers, doomed
to saw frantically away at their own shell of boredom.

Woe to him who arrives a newcomer, or returns after a certain interval
to their midst!  But Cavalena perhaps does not take offence, does not
complain of the sacrifice that his good friends make of him, tortured
as he is in his heart by the discovery that he has failed, in his
seclusion, to "keep in touch with life." Since his last escape from
the prison-house there have passed, shall we say, eighteen months?
Well; it is as though there had passed eighteen centuries!  All of
them, as they hear issuing from his lips certain slang expressions,
then the very latest thing, which he has preserved like precious
jewels in the strong-box of his memory, screw up their faces and gaze
at him, as one gazes in a chop-house at a warmed-up dish, which smells
of rancid fat a mile off! Oh, poor Cavalena, just listen to him!
Listen to him! He still admires the man who, eighteen months ago, was
the greatest man of the twentieth century. But who was that? Ah,
listen.... So and so of Such and such.... That idiot! That bore!  That
dummy! What, is he still alive? No, not really alive? Yes, Cavalena
swears he saw him, actually alive, only a week ago; in fact, believing
that... (no, as far as being alive goes, he is alive) still, if he
is no longer a great man...  why, he proposed to write an article
about him ... he won't write it now!

Utterly abased, his face livid with bile, but with patches of red here
and there, as though his friends in their mortification of him had
amused themselves by pinching him on the brow, the cheeks, the nose,
Cavalena meanwhile is inwardly devouring his wife, like a cannibal
after a three-days' fast: his wife, who has made him a public
laughing-stock. He swears to himself that he will never again let
himself fall into her clutches; but gradually, alas, his anxiety to
resume "life" begins to transform itself into a mania which at first
he is unable to define, but which becomes steadily more and more
exasperating within him. For years past he has exercised all his
mental faculties in defending his own dignity against the unjust
suspicions of his wife. And now his faculties, suddenly diverted from
this assiduous, desperate defence, are no longer adaptable, must make
an effort to convert themselves and to devote themselves to other
uses.  But his dignity, so long and so strenuously defended, has now
settled upon him, like the mould of a statue, immovable. Cavalena
feels himself empty inside, but outwardly incrusted all over. He has
become the walking mould of this statue. He cannot any longer scrape
it off himself.  Forever, henceforward, inexorably, he is the most
dignified man in the world. And this dignity of his has so exquisite a
sensibility that it takes umbrage, grows disturbed at the slightest
indication that is vouchsafed to it of the most trifling transgression
of his duties as a citizen, a husband, the father of a family. He has
so often sworn to his wife that he has never proved false, even in
thought, to these duties, that really now he cannot even think of
transgressing them, and suffers, and turns all the colours of the
rainbow when he sees other people so light-heartedly transgressing
them. His friends laugh at him and call him a hypocrite. There, in
their midst, incrusted all over, amid the noise and impetuous
volubility of a life that knows no restraint either of faith or of
affection, Cavalena feels himself outraged, begins to imagine that he
is in serious peril; he has the impression that he is standing on feet
of glass in the midst of a tumult of madmen who trample on him with
iron shoes. The life imagined in his seclusion as full of attractions
and indispensable to him reveals itself as being vacuous, stupid,
insipid. How can he have suffered so keenly from being deprived of the
company of these friends; of the spectacle of all their fatuity, all
the wretched disorder of their life?

Poor Cavalena! The truth perhaps lies elsewhere!  The truth is that
in his harsh seclusion, without meaning it, he has become too much
accustomed to converse with himself, that is to say with the worst
enemy that any of us can have; and thus has acquired a clear
perception of the futility of everything, and has seen himself thus
lost, alone, surrounded by shadows and crushed by the mystery of
himself and of everything.  ... Illusions?  Hopes? Of what use are
they?  Vanity.... And his own personality, prostrated, annulled in
itself, has gradually re-arisen as a pitiful consciousness of other
people, who are ignorant and deceive themselves, who are ignorant and
labour and love and suffer. What fault is it of his wife, his poor
Nene, if she is so jealous?  He is a doctor and knows that this fierce
jealousy is really and truly a mental disease, a form of reasoning
madness. Typical, a typical form of paranoia, with persecution mania
too. He goes about telling everybody. Typical! Typical! She has
finally come to suspect, his poor Nene, that he is seeking to kill
her, in order to take possession, with the daughter, of her money! Ah,
what an ideal life they would lead then, without her.... Liberty,
liberty: one foot here, the other there! She says this, poor Nene,
because she herself perceives that life, as she makes it for herself
and for the others, is not possible, it is the destruction of life;
she destroys herself, poor Nene, with her ravings, and naturally
supposes that the others wish to destroy her: with a knife, no,
because it would be discovered! By concentrated spite! And she does
not observe that the spite originates with herself; originates in all
the phantoms of her madness to which she gives substance. But is not
he a doctor? And if he, as a doctor, understands all this, does it not
follow that he ought to treat his poor Nene as a sick patient, not
responsible for the harm she has done him and continues to do him? Why
rebel? Against whom? He ought to feel for her and to shew pity, to
stand by her lovingly, to endure with patience and resignation her
inevitable cruelty. And then there is poor Luisetta, left alone in
that hell, at the mercy of that mother who does not stop to think....
Ah, off with him, he must return home at once! At once.  Perhaps,
underlying his decision, masked by this pity for his wife and
daughter, there is the need to escape from that precarious and
uncertain life, which is no longer the life for him.  Is he not,
moreover, entitled to feel some pity for himself also? Who has brought
him down to this state? Can he at his age take up life again, after
having severed all the ties, after having closed all the doors, to
please his wife?  And, in the end, he goes back to shut himself up in
his prison!

The poor man bears so clearly displayed in his whole appearance the
great disaster that weighs upon him, he makes it so plainly visible in
the embarrassment of his every step, his every glance, when he has his
wife with him, by his constant terror lest she, in that step, in that
glance, may find a pretext for a scene, that one cannot help laughing
at him, sympathise with him as one may.

And perhaps I should have laughed at him too, this morning, had not
Signorina Luisetta been there.  Who knows what she is made to suffer
by the inevitable absurdity of her father, poor girl.

A man of five and forty, reduced to that condition, whose wife is
still so fiercely jealous of him, cannot fail to be grotesquely
absurd! All the more so since, owing to another hidden tragedy, an
indecent precocious baldness, the effect of typhoid fever, which he
managed by a miracle to survive, the poor man is obliged to wear that
artistic wig under a hat large enough to cover it. The effrontery of
this hat and of all those curled locks that protrude from it is in
such marked contrast to the frightened, shocked, cautious expression
of his face, that it is nothing short of ruination to his seriousness,
and must also, certainly, be a constant grief to his daughter.

"No, one moment, my dear Sir... excuse me, what did you say your name
was!"

"Gubbio."

"Gubbio, thanks. Mine is Cavalena, at your service."

"Cavalena, thanks, I know."

"Fabrizio Cavalena: in Rome I am better known as..."

"I should say so, a buffoon!"

Cavalena turned round, pale as death, his mouth agape, to gaze at his
wife.

"Buffoon, buffoon, buffoon," she reiterated, three times in
succession.

"Nene, for heaven's sake, shew some respect.  ..." Cavalena began
threateningly; but all of a sudden he broke off: shut his eyes,
screwed up his face, clenched his fists, as though seized by a sudden,
sharp internal spasm.... Not at all! It was the tremendous effort
which he has to make every time to contain himself, to wring from his
infuriated animal nature the consciousness that he is a doctor and
ought therefore to treat and to pity his wife as a poor sick person.

"May I?"

And he took my arm in his, to draw me a little way apart.

"Typical, you know? Poor thing.... Ah, it requires true heroism,
believe me, the greatest heroism on my part to put up with her. I
should not be able, perhaps, if it were not for my poor child here.
But there! I was saying just now ... this Polacco, God in heaven...
this Polacco! But I ask you, is it a trick to play upon a friend,
knowing my misfortune? He carries my daughter off to _pose_... with a
light woman... with an actor who, notoriously...  Can you imagine the
scene that occurred at home! And then he sends me these presents...  a
collar too for the animal... and five hundred lire!"

I tried to make it clear to him that, so far at any rate as the
presents and the five hundred lire went, it did not appear to me that
there was any such harm in them as he chose to make out.  He?  But he
saw no harm in them whatsoever!  What harm should there bel He was
delighted, overjoyed at what had happened! Most grateful in his heart
of hearts to Polacco for having given that little part to his
daughter! He had to pretend to be so indignant to appease his wife. I
noticed this at once, as soon as I had begun to speak. He was
enraptured with the argument that I set before him, proving that after
all no harm had been done.  He gripped me by the arm, led me
impetuously back to his wife.

"Do you hear? Do you hear?... I know nothing about it.... This
gentleman says...  Tell her, will you please, tell her what you said
to me. I don't wish to open my mouth.... I came here with the presents
and the five hundred lire, you understand? To hand everything back.
But if that would be, as this gentleman says...  I know nothing about
it... a gratuitous insult ... replying with rudeness to a person who
never had the slightest intention to offend us, to do us any harm,
because he thinks that... I know nothing, I know nothing... that there
is no occasion... I beg of you, in heaven's name, my dear Sir, do you
speak... repeat to my wife what you have been so kind as to say to
me!"

But his wife did not give me time to speak: she sprang upon me with
the glassy, phosphorescent eyes of a maddened cat.

"Don't listen to this buffoon, hypocrite, clown!  It is not his
daughter he's thinking about, it is not the figure he would cut! He
wants to hang about here all day, because here it would be like being
in his own garden, with all the pretty ladies he's so fond of, artists
like himself, mincing round him! And he's not ashamed, the scoundrel,
to put his daughter forward as an excuse, to shelter behind his
daughter, at the cost of compromising her and ruining her, the wretch!
He would have the excuse of bringing his daughter here, you
understand? He would come here for his daughter!"

"But you would come too," Fabrizio Cavalena shouted, losing all
patience. "Aren't you here too? With me?"

"I?" roared his wife. "I, here?"

"Why not?" Cavalena went on unperturbed; and, turning again to myself:
"Tell her, you tell her, does not Zeme come here as well?"

"Zeme?" inquired the wife in perplexity, knitting her brows. "Who is
Zeme?"

"Zeme, the Senator!" exclaimed Cavalena. "A Senator of the Realm, a
scientist of world-wide fame!"

"He must be as big a clown as yourself!"

"Zeme, who goes to the Quirinal? Invited to all the State Banquets?
The venerable Senator Zeme, the pride of Italy! The Keeper of the
Astronomical Observatory! Good Lord, you ought to be ashamed of
yourself! Shew some respect, if not for me, for one of the glories of
the country! He has been here, hasn't he? But speak, my dear Sir, tell
her, for pity's sake, I beg of you! Zeme has been here, he has helped
to arrange a film, hasn't he? He, Senator Zeme!  And if Zeme comes
here, if Zeme offers his services, a world-famous scientist, then, I
mean to say... surely I can come here too, can offer my services
too.... But it doesn't matter to me in the least! I shall not come
again!  I am speaking now to make it clear to this woman that this is
not a place of ill-fame, to which I, for immoral purposes, am seeking
to lead my daughter to her ruin! You will understand, my dear Sir, and
forgive me: this is why I am speaking.  It burns my ears to hear it
said in front of my daughter that I wish to compromise her, to ruin
her, by taking her to a place of ill-fame.  ...  Come, come, do me a
favour: take me in at once to Polacco, so that I may give him back
these presents and the money, and thank him for them.  When a man has
the misfortune to possess a wife like mine, he ought to dig a grave
for himself, and finish things off once and for all! Take me in to
Polacco!"

What happened was not my fault on this occasion either, but, flinging
open carelessly, without knocking, the door of the Art Director's
office, in which Polacco was to be found, I saw inside a spectacle
which at once altered my state of mind completely, so that I was no
longer able to give a thought to Cavalena, nor indeed to see anything
clearly.

Huddled in the chair by Polacco's desk a man was sobbing, his face
buried in his hands, desperately.

Immediately Polacco, seeing the door open, raised his head abruptly
and made an angry sign to me to shut it.

I obeyed. The man who was sobbing inside the room was unquestionably
Aldo Nuti. Cavalena, his wife, his daughter, looked at me in
bewilderment.

"What is it?" Cavalena asked.

I could barely find the breath to answer:

"There's... there's some one there...."

Shortly afterwards, there issued from the Art Director's office CocÚ
Polacco, in evident confusion.  He saw Cavalena and made a sign to him
to wait:

"You here? Excellent. I want to speak to you."

And without so much as a thought of greeting the ladies, he took me by
the arm and drew me aside.

"He has come! He simply must not be left alone for a minute! I have
mentioned you to him. He remembers you perfectly. Where are your
lodgings?  Wait a minute! Do you mind...."

He turned and called to Cavalena.

"You let a couple of rooms, don't you? Are they vacant just now?"

"I should think so!" sighed Cavalena. "For the last three months and
more...."

"Gubbio," Polacco said to me, "I want you to give up your lodgings at
once; pay whatever you have to pay, a month's rent, two months', three
months'; take one of these two rooms at Cavalena's.  The other will be
for him."

"Delighted!" Cavalena exclaimed radiant, holding out both his hands to
me.

"Hurry up," Polacco went on. "Off with you! You, go and get the rooms
ready; you, pack up your traps and transport everything at once to
Cavalena's. Then come back here! Is that all quite clear?"

I threw open my arms, resigned.

Polacco retired to his room. And I drove off with the Cavalena family,
bewildered, and most anxious to have from me an explanation of all
this mystery.




BOOK V

OF THE NOTES OF SERAFINO GUBBIO
CINEMATOGRAPH OPERATOR



1


I have just come from Aldo Nuti's room. It is nearly one o'clock. The
house--in which I am spending my first night--is asleep. It has for me
a strange atmosphere, which I cannot as yet breathe with comfort; the
appearance of things, the savour of life, special arrangements, traces
of unfamiliar habits.

In the passage, as soon as I shut the door of Nuti's room, holding a
lighted match in my fingers, I saw close beside me, enormous on the
opposite wall, my own shadow. Lost in the silence of the house, I felt
my soul so small that my shadow there on the wall, grown so big,
seemed to me the image of fear.

At the end of the passage, a door; outside this door, on the mat, a
pair of shoes: Signorina Luisetta's. I stopped for a moment to look at
my monstrous shadow, which stretched out in the direction of this
door, and the fancy came to me that the shoes were there to keep my
shadow away.  Suddenly, from inside the door, the old dog Piccini, who
had already perhaps pricked her ears, on the alert from the first
sound of a door being opened, uttered a couple of wheezy barks. It was
not at the sound that she barked; but she had heard me stop in the
passage for a moment; had felt my thoughts make their way into the
bedroom of her young mistress, and so she barked.

Here I am in my new room. But it should not be this room. When I came
here with my luggage, Cavalena, who was genuinely delighted to have me
in the house, not only because of the warm affection and strong
confidence which I at once inspired in him, but perhaps also because
he hopes that it may be easier for him, by my influence, to find an
opening in the Kosmograph, had allotted to me the other room, larger,
more comfortable, better furnished.

Certainly neither he nor Signora Nene desired or ordered the change.
It must be the work of Signorina Luisetta, who listened this morning
in the carriage so attentively and with such dismay, as we drove away
from the Kosmograph, to my summary account of Nuti's misadventures.
Yes, it must have been she, beyond question. My suspicion was
confirmed a moment ago by the sight of her shoes outside the door, on
the mat.

I am annoyed at the change for this reason only, that I myself, if
this morning they had let me see both rooms, would have left the other
to Nuti and have chosen this one for myself. Signorina Luisetta read
my thoughts so clearly that without saying a word to me she has
removed my things from the other room and arranged them in this.
Certainly, if she had not done so, I should have been embarrassed at
seeing Nuti lodged in this smaller and less comfortable of the rooms.
But am I to suppose that she wished to spare me this embarrassment? I
cannot. Her having done, without saying a word to me, what I would
have done myself, offends me, albeit I realise that it is what had to
be done, or rather precisely because I realise that it is what had to
be done.

Ah, what a prodigious effect the sight of tears in a man's eyes has on
women, especially if they be tears of love. But I must be fair: they
hare had a similar effect on myself.

He has kept me in there for about four hours.  He wanted to go on
talking and weeping: I stopped him, out of compassion chiefly for his
eyes. I have never seen a pair of eyes brought to such a state by
excessive weeping.

I express myself badly. Not by excessive weeping.  Perhaps quite a few
tears (he has shed an endless quantity), perhaps only a few tears
would have been enough to bring his eyes to such a state.

And yet, it is strange! It appears that it is not he who is weeping.
To judge by what he says, by what he proposes to do, he has no reason,
nor, certainly, any desire to weep. The tears scald Ms eyes and
cheeks, and therefore he knows that he is weeping; but he does not
feel his own tears. His eyes are weeping almost for a grief that is
not his, for a grief that is almost that of his tears themselves. His
own grief is fierce, and refuses and scorns these tears.

But stranger still to my mind was this: that when at any point in his
conversation his sentiments, so to speak, became lachrymose, his tears
all at once began to slacken. While his voice grew tender and
throbbed, his eyes, on the contrary, those eyes that a moment before
were bloodshot and swollen with weeping, became dry and hard: fierce.

So that what he says and what his eyes say cannot correspond.

But it is there, in his eyes, and not in what he says that his heart
lies. And therefore it was for his eyes chiefly that I felt
compassion. Let him not talk and weep; let him weep and listen to his
own weeping: it is the best thing that he can do.

There comes to me, through the wall, the sound of his step. I have
advised him to go to bed, to try to sleep. He says that he cannot;
that he has lost the power to sleep, for some time past.  What has
made him lose it? Not remorse, certainly, to judge by what he says.

Among all the phenomena of human nature one of the commonest, and at
the same time one of the strangest when we study it closely, is this
of the desperate, frenzied struggle which every man, however ruined by
his own misdeeds, conquered and crushed in his affliction, persists in
keeping up with his own conscience, in order not to acknowledge those
misdeeds and not to make them a matter for remorse. That others
acknowledge them and punish him for them, imprison him, inflict the
cruellest tortures upon him and kill him, matters not to him; so long
as he himself does not acknowledge them, but withstands his own
conscience which cries them aloud at him.

Who is he? Ah, if each one of us could for an instant tear himself
away from that metaphorical ideal which our countless fictions,
conscious and unconscious, our fictitious interpretations of our
actions and feelings lead us inevitably to form of ourselves; he would
at once perceive that this _he_ is _another_, another who has nothing
or but very little in common with himself; and that the true _he_ is the
one that is crying his misdeeds aloud within him; the intimate being,
often doomed for the whole of our lives to remain unknown to us! We
seek at all costs to preserve, to maintain in position that metaphor
of ourselves, our pride and our love. And for this metaphor we undergo
martyrdom and ruin ourselves, when it would be so pleasant to let
ourselves succumb vanquished, to give ourselves up to our own inmost
being, which is a dread deity, if we oppose ourselves to it; but
becomes at once compassionate towards our every fault, as soon as we
confess it, and prodigal of unexpected tendernesses.  But this seems a
negation of self, something unworthy of a man; and will ever be so, so
long as we believe that our humanity consists in this metaphor of
ourselves.

The version given by Aldo Nuti of the mishaps that have brought him
low--it seems impossible!--aims above all at preserving this metaphor,
his masculine vanity, which, albeit reduced before my eyes to this
miserable plight, refuses nevertheless to humble itself to the
confession that it has been a silly toy in the hands of a woman: a
toy, a doll filled with sawdust, which the Nestoroff, after amusing
herself for a while by making it open its arms and close them in an
attitude of prayer, pressing with her finger the too obvious spring
in its chest, flings away into a corner, breaking it in its fall.

It has risen to its feet again, this broken doll; its porcelain face
and hands in a pitiful state: the hands without fingers, the face
without a nose, all cracked and chipped; the spring in its chest has
made a rent in the red woollen jacket and dangles out, broken; and
yet, no, what is this: the doll cries out no, that it is not true that
that woman made it open its arms and close them in an attitude of
prayer to laugh at it, nor that, after laughing at it, she has broken
it like this. It is not true!

By agreement with Duccella, by agreement with Granny Rosa he followed
the affianced lovers from the villa by Sorrento to Naples, to save
poor Giorgio, too innocent, and blinded by the fascination of that
woman. It did not require much to save him! Enough to prove to him, to
let him assure himself by experiment that the woman whom he wished to
make his by marrying her, could be his, as she had been other men's,
as she would be any man's, without any necessity of marrying her.  And
thereupon, challenged by poor Giorgio, he set to work to make the
experiment at once. Poor Giorgio believed it to be impossible because,
as might be expected, with the tactics common among women of her sort,
the Nestoroff had always refused to grant him even the slightest
favour, and at Capri he had seen her so contemptuous of everyone, so
withdrawn and aloof! It was a horrible act of treachery. Not his
action, though, but Giorgio Mirelli's! He had promised that on
receiving the proof he would at once leave the woman: instead, he
killed himself.

This is the version that Aldo Nuti chooses to give of the drama.

But how, then? Was it he, the doll, that was playing the trick? And
how comes he to be broken like this? If it was so easy a trick?  Away
with these questions, and away with all surprise. Here one must make a
show of believing.  Our pity must not diminish but rather increase at
the overpowering necessity to lie in this poor doll, which is Aldo
Nuti's vanity: the face without a nose, the hands without fingers, the
spring in the chest broken, dangling out through the rent jacket, we
must allow him to lie! Only, his lies give him an excuse for weeping
all the more.

They are not good tears, because he does not wish to feel his own
grief in them. He does not wish them, and he despises them. He wishes
to do something other than weep, and we shall have to keep him under
observation. Why has he come here?  He has no need to be avenged on
anyone, if the treachery lay in Giorgio Mirelli's action in killing
himself and flinging his dead body between his sister and her lover.
So much I said to him.

"I know," was his answer. "But there is still she, that woman, the
cause of it all! If she had not come to disturb Giorgio's youth, to
bait her hook, to spread her net for him with arts which really can be
treacherous only to a novice, not because they are not treacherous in
themselves, but because a man like myself, like you, recognises them
at once for what they are: vipers, which we render harmless by
extracting the teeth which we know to be venomous; now I should not be
caught like that: I should not be caught like that! She at once saw in
me an enemy, do you understand? And she tried to sting me by, stealth.
From the very beginning I, on purpose, allowed her to think that it
would be the easiest thing in the world for her to sting me. I wished
her to shew her teeth, just so that I might draw them. And I was
successful.  But Giorgio, Giorgio, Giorgio had been poisoned for ever!
He should have let me know that it was useless my attempting to draw
the teeth of that viper...."

"Not a viper, surely!" I could not help observing.  "Too much
innocence for a viper, surely! To offer you her teeth so quickly, so
easily.... Unless she did it to cause the death of Giorgio Mirelli."

"Perhaps."

"And why? If she had already succeeded in her plan of making him marry
her? And did she not yield at once to your trick? Did she not let you
draw her teeth before she had attained her object?"

"But she had no suspicion!"

"In that case, how in the world is she a viper?  Would you have a
viper not suspect? A viper would have stung after, not before! If she
stung first, it means that... either she is not a viper, or for
Giorgio's sake she was willing to lose her teeth.  Excuse me... no,
wait a minute...  please stop and listen to me... I tell you this
because... I am quite of your opinion, you know... she did wish to be
avenged, but at first, only at the beginning, upon Giorgio. This is my
belief; I have always thought so."

"Be avenged for what?"

"Perhaps for an insult which no woman will readily allow."

"Woman, you say! She!"

"Yes, indeed, a woman, Signor Nuti! You who know her well, know that
they are all the same, especially on this point."

"What insult? I don't follow you."

"Listen: Giorgio was entirely taken up with his art, wasn't he?"

"Yes."

"He found at Capri this woman, who offered herself as an object of
contemplation to him, to his art."

"Precisely, yes."

"And he did not see, he did not wish to see in her anything but her
body, but only to caress it upon a canvas with his brushes, with the
play of lights and colours. And then she, offended and piqued, to
avenge herself, seduced him (there I agree with you!); and, having
seduced him, to avenge herself further, to avenge herself still
better, resisted him (am I right?) until Giorgio, blinded, in order to
secure her, proposed marriage, took her to Sorrento to meet his
grandmother, his sister."

"No! It was her wish! She insisted upon it!"

"Very well, then; it was she; and I might say, insult for insult; but
no, I propose now to abide by what you have said, Signor Nuti! And
what you have said makes me think, that she may have insisted upon
Giorgio's taking her there, and introducing her to his grandmother and
sister, expecting that Giorgio would revolt against this imposition,
so that she might find an excuse for releasing herself from the
obligation to marry him."

"Release herself? Why?"

"Why, because she had already attained her object!  Her vengeance was
complete: Giorgio, crushed, blinded, captivated by her, by her body,
to the extent of wishing to marry her! This was enough for her, and
she asked for nothing more!  All the rest, their wedding, life with
him who would be certain to repent immediately of their marriage,
would have meant unhappiness for her and for him, a chain. And perhaps
she was not thinking only of herself; she may have felt some pity also
for him!"

"Then you believe?"

"But you make me believe it, you make me think it, by maintaining that
the woman is treacherous! To go by what you say, Signor Nuti, in a
treacherous woman what she did is not consistent. A treacherous woman
who desires marriage, and before her marriage gives herself to you so
easily..."

"Gives herself to me?" came with a shout of rage from Aldo Nuti,
driven by my arguments with his back to the wall. "Who told you that
she gave herself to me? I never had her, I never had her.... Do you
imagine that I can ever have thought of having her? All I required was
the proof which she would not have failed to provide... a proof to
shew to Giorgio!"

I was left speechless for a moment, gazing at him.

"And that viper let you have it at once? And you were able to secure
it without difficulty, this proof! But then, but then, surely..."

I supposed that at last my logic had the victory so firmly in its
grasp that it would no longer be possible to wrest it from me. I had
yet to learn, that at the very moment when logic, striving against
passion, thinks that it has secured the victory, passion with a sudden
lunge snatches it back, and then with buffetings and kicks sends logic
flying with all its escort of linked conclusions.

If this unfortunate man, quite obviously the dupe of this woman, for a
purpose which I believe myself to have guessed, could not make her
his, and has been left accordingly with this rage still in his body,
after all that he has had to suffer, because that silly doll of his
vanity believed honestly perhaps at first that it could easily play
with a woman like the Nestoroff; what more can one say? Is it possible
to induce him to go away? To force him to see that he can have no
object in provoking another man, in approaching a woman who does not
wish to have anything more to do with him?

Well, I have tried to induce him to go away, and have asked him what,
in short, he wanted, and what he hoped from this woman.

"I don't know, I don't know," he cried. "She ought to stay with me, to
suffer with me. I can't do without her any longer, I can't be left
alone any more like this. I have tried up to now, I have done
everything to win Duccella over; I have made ever so many of my
friends intercede for me; but I realise that it is not possible. They
do not believe in my agony, in my desperation.  And now I feel a need,
I must cling on to some one, not be alone like this any more. You
understand: I am going mad, I am going mad! I know that the woman
herself is utterly worthless; but she acquires a value now from
everything that I have suffered and am suffering through her. It is
not love, it is hatred, it is the blood that has been shed for her!
And since she has chosen to submerge my life for ever in that blood,
it is necessary now that we plunge into it both together, clinging to
one another, she and I, not I alone, not I alone! I cannot be left
alone like this any more!"

I came away from his room without even the satisfaction of having
offered him an outlet which might have relieved his heart a little.
And now I can open the window and lean out to gaze at the sky, while
he in the other room wrings his hands and weeps, devoured by rage and
grief.  If I went back now, into his room, and said to him joyfully;
"I say, Signor Nuti, there are still the stars!  You of course have
forgotten them, but they are still there!" what would happen?  To how
many men, caught in the throes of a passion, or bowed down, crushed by
sorrow, by hardship, would it do good to think that there, above the
roof, is the sky, and that in the sky there are the stars. Even if the
fact of the stars' being there did not inspire in them any religious
consolation. As we gaze at them, our own feeble pettiness is engulfed,
vanishes in the emptiness of space, and every reason for our torment
must seem to us meagre and vain. But we must have in ourselves, in the
moment of passion, the capacity to think of the stars.  This may be
found in a man like myself, who for some time past has looked at
everything, himself included, from a distance. If I were to go in
there and tell Signor Nuti that the stars were shining in the sky, he
would perhaps shout back at me to give them his kind regards, and
would turn me out of the room like a dog.

But can I now, as Polacco would like, constitute myself his guardian?
I can imagine how Carlo Ferro will glare at me presently, on seeing me
come to the Kosmograph with him by my side. And God knows that I have
no more reason to be a friend of one than of the other.

All I ask is to continue, with my usual impassivity, my work as an
operator. I shall not look out of the window. Alas, since that cursed
Senator Zeme has been to the Kosmograph, I see even in the sky a
_marvel_ of cinematography.




2


"Then it is a serious matter?" Cavalena came to my room, mysteriously,
this morning to ask me.

The poor man had three handkerchiefs in his hand.  At a certain point
in the conversation, after many expressions of pity for that "dear
Baron" (to wit, Nuti), and many observations touching the innumerable
misfortunes of the human race, as though they were a proof of these
misfortunes he spread out before me the three handkerchiefs, one after
another, exclaiming:

"Look!"

They were all three in holes, as though they had been gnawed by mice.
I gazed at them with pity and wonder; after which I gazed at him,
shewing plainly that I did not understand.  Cavalena sneezed, or
rather, I thought that he had sneezed.  Not at all. He had said:

"Piccini."

Seeing that I still gazed at him with that air of bewilderment, he
shewed me the handkerchiefs once more and repeated:

"Piccini."

"The little dog?"

He shut his eyes and nodded his head with a tragic solemnity.

"A hard worker, it seems," said I.

"And I must not say a word!" exclaimed Cavalena.  "Because she is the
one creature here, in my house, by whom my wife feels herself loved,
and is not afraid of her playing her false. Ah, Signor Gubbio, nature
is really wicked, believe me. No misfortune can be greater or worse
than mine. To have a wife who feels that no one loves her but a dog!
And it is not true, you know. That animal does not love anyone. My
wife loves her, and do you know why? Because it is only with that
animal that she can play at having a heart in her bosom that is
overflowing with charity. And you should see how she consoles herself!
A tyrant with all the rest of us, the woman becomes a slave to an old,
ugly animal; ugly isn't the word--you've seen it?--with claws like
bill-hooks and bleared eyes.  ... And she loves it all the more now
that she sees that an antipathy has been growing up for some time
between the dog and me, an antipathy, Signor Gubbio, that is
insuperable! Insuperable!  That nasty beast, being quite certain that
I, who know how she is protected by her mistress, will never give her
the kick that would turn her inside out, reduce her--I swear to you,
Signor Gubbio--to a jelly, shews me with the most irritating calmness
every possible and imaginable sign of contempt, she positively insults
me: she is always dirtying the carpet in my study; she lies on the
armchairs, on the sofa in my study; she refuses her food and gnaws all
my dirty linen: look at these, three handkerchiefs, yesterday, not to
mention shirts, table-napkins, towels, pillow-slips; and I have to
admire her and thank her, because do you know what this gnawing means
to my wife? Affection! I assure you. It means that the dog smells her
masters' scent.  'But how? When she eats it?' 'She doesn't know what
she is doing,' would be my wife's answer. She has destroyed more than
half our linen-cupboard. I have to keep quiet, put a stopper in,
otherwise my wife would at once find an excuse for reminding me once
again, in so many words, of my own brutality.  That's just how it is!
A fortunate thing, Signor Gubbio, a fortunate thing, as I always say,
that I am a Doctor! I am bound, as a Doctor, to realise that this
passionate adoration for an animal is merely another symptom of the
disease! Typical, don't you know?"

He stood gazing at me for a while, undecided, perplexed: then,
pointing to a chair, asked:

"May I?"

"Why, of course!" I told him.

He sat down; studied one of the handkerchiefs, shaking his head, then,
with a wan, almost imploring smile:

"I am not in your way, am I? I am not disturbing you?"

I assured him warmly that he was not disturbing me in the least.

"I know, I can see that you are a warmhearted man... let me say it, a
quiet man, but a man who can understand and feel for other people. And
I..."

He broke off, with a worried expression, listened intently, then
sprang to his feet:

"I think that was Luisetta calling me...."

I too listened for a moment, then said:

"No, I don't think so."

Sorrowfully he raised his hands to his wig and straightened it on his
head.

"Do you know what Luisetta said to me yesterday?  'Daddy, don't start
again.' You see before you, Signor Grubbio, an exasperated man.
Inevitably.  Shut up here in the house from morning to night, without
ever setting eyes on anyone, shut out from life, I can never find any
outlet for my rage at the injustice of my fate! And Luisetta tells me
that I drive all the lodgers away!"

"Oh, but I..." I began to protest.

"No, it is true, you know, it is true!" Cavalena interrupted me.
"And, you, since you are so kind, must promise me that as soon as I
begin to bore you, as soon as I am in your way, you will take me by
the scruff of my neck and fling me out of the room! Promise me that,
please.  Eight away; you must give me your hand and promise."

I gave him my hand, smiling:

"There... just as you please... to satisfy you."

"Thank you! Now I feel more at my ease.  I am conscious, Signor
Gubbio, you wouldn't believe!  Conscious, do you know of what? Of
being no longer myself! When a man reaches this depth, that is when he
loses all sense of shame at his own disgrace, he is finished! But I
should never have lost that sense of shame! I was too jealous of my
dignity! It was that woman made me lose it, crying her madness aloud.
My disgrace is known to everyone from now onwards? And it is obscene,
obscene, obscene."

"But no... why?"

"Obscene!" shouted Cavalena. "Would you care to see it? Look! Here it
is!"

And so speaking, he seized his wig between his fingers and plucked it
from his head. I was left thunderstruck, gazing at that bare, pallid
scalp, the scalp of a flayed goat, while Cavalena, the tears starting
to his eyes, went on:

"Tell me, can it help being obscene, the disgrace of a man reduced to
this state, whose wife is still jealous?"

"But you are a Doctor! You know that it is a disease!" I made haste to
remind him, greatly distressed, raising my hands as though to help him
to replace the wig on his head.

He settled it in its place, and said:

"But it is precisely because I am a Doctor and know that it is a
disease, Signor Gubbio! That is the disgrace! That I am a Doctor! If I
could only not know that she did it from madness, I should turn her
out of the house, don't you see?  Procure a separation from her,
defend my own dignity at all costs. But I am a Doctor! I know that she
is mad! And I know therefore that it is my duty to have sense for two,
for myself and for her who has lost hers! But to have sense, for a
madwoman, when her madness is so supremely ridiculous, Signor Gubbio,
what does it mean? It means covering myself with ridicule, of course!
It means resigning myself to endure the holocaust that madwoman makes
of my dignity, before our daughter, before the servants, before
everyone, in public; and so I lose all shame at my own disgrace!"

"Papa!"

Ah, this time, yes; it really was Signorina Luisetta calling.

Cavalena at once controlled himself, straightened his wig carefully,
cleared his throat by way of changing his voice, and struck a sweet
little playful, caressing note in which to answer:

"Here I am, SesŤ."

And he hurried out, making a sign to me, with his finger, to be
silent.

I too, shortly afterwards, left my room, to pay Nuti a visit. I
listened for a moment outside the door of his room. Silence. Perhaps
he was asleep.  I stood there for a while in perplexity, then looked
at my watch: it was already time for me to be going to the Kosmograph;
only I did not wish to leave him, particularly as Polacco had
expressly enjoined me to bring him with me.  All of a sudden, I
thought I heard what sounded like a deep sigh, a sigh of anguish. I
knocked at the door.  Nuti, from his bed, answered:

"Come in."

I went in. The room was in darkness. I went up to the bed. Nuti said:

"I think... I think I have a temperature.  ..."

I leaned over him; I felt one of his hands. It was trembling.

"Why, yes!" I exclaimed. "You have a temperature, and a high one. Wait
a minute. I am going to call Signor Cavalena. Our landlord is a
Doctor,"

"No, don't bother... it will pass off!" he said. "I have been working
too hard."

"Quite so," I replied. "But why won't you let me call in Cavalena? It
will pass away all the sooner. Do you mind if I open the shutters a
little?"

I looked at him by daylight; his appearance terrified me. His face was
a brick red, hard, grim, rigid; the whites of his eyes, bloodshot
overnight, were now almost black between their horribly swollen lids;
his straggling moustache was glued to his parched, tumid, gaping lips.

"You must be feeling really bad."

"Yes, I do feel bad..." he said. "My head."

And he drew a hand from beneath the blankets to lay it with his fist
clenched on his forehead.

I went to call Cavalena who was still talking to his daughter at the
end of the passage. Signorina Luisetta, seeing me approach, stared at
me with an icy frown.

She evidently supposed that her father had already found an outlet in
me. Alas, I find myself unjustly condemned to atone thus for the
excessive confidence which her father places in me.

Signorina Luisetta is my enemy already. But not only because of her
father's excessive confidence in me, because also of the presence of
another lodger in the house. The feeling aroused in her by this other
lodger from the first moment rules out any friendliness towards me. I
noticed this immediately. It is useless to argue about it.  It is one
of those secret, instinctive impulses by which our mental attitudes
are determined and which at any moment, without any apparent reason,
alter the relations between one person and another. Now, certainly,
her ill-feeling will be increased by the tone of voice and the manner
in which I--having noticed this--almost unconsciously, announced that
Aldo Nuti was lying in bed, in his room, with a high temperature. She
turned deathly pale, first of all; then blushed a deep crimson.
Perhaps at that very moment she became aware of her still undefined
feeling of aversion towards myself.

Cavalena at once hurried to Nuti's room; she stopped outside the door,
as though she did not wish me to enter; so that I was obliged to say
to her:

"May I pass, please?"

But a moment later, that is to say when her father told her to go and
fetch the thermometer to take Nuti's temperature, she came into the
room also. I did not take my eyes from her face for a moment, and saw
that she, feeling that I was looking at her, was making a violent
effort to conceal the mingled pity and dismay which the sight of Nuti
inspired in her.

The examination was prolonged. But, apart from a high fever and
headache, Cavalena was unable to diagnose anything. When we had left
the room, however, after fastening the shutters again, so that the
patient should not be dazzled by the light, Cavalena shewed signs of
the utmost consternation. He is afraid that it may be an inflammation
of the brain.

"We must send for another Doctor at once, Signor Gubbio! I, especially
as I am the owner of the house, you understand, cannot assume
responsibility for an illness which I consider serious."

He gave me a note for this other Doctor, his friend, who receives
calls at the neighbouring chemist's, and I went off to leave the note
and then, being already behind my time, hastened to the Kosmograph.

I found Polacco on tenterhooks, bitterly repenting his having let Nuti
in for this mad enterprise.  He says that he could never, never have
imagined that he would see him in the state in which he suddenly
appeared, unexpectedly, because from his letters written first from
Russia, then from Germany, afterwards from Switzerland, there was
nothing to be made. He wished to shew me these letters, in
self-defence; but then, all at once, seemed to have forgotten them.
The news of the illness has almost made him cheerful, it has at any
rate taken a great weight off his mind for the moment.

"Inflammation of the brain? I say, Gubbio, if he should die.... By
Jove, when a man has worked himself into that state, when he has
become a danger to himself and to other people, death...  you might
almost say... But let us hope not; let us hope it is a good sign. It
often is, one never knows. I am sorry for you, poor Gubbio, and also
for that poor Cavalena....  What a business.... I shall come and see
you this evening. But it's providential, you know.  So far, he has
seen nobody here except yourself; nobody knows that he is here. Mum's
the word, eh! You said to me that it would be advisable to relieve
Ferro of his part in the tiger film!

"But without letting him suppose..."

"Simpleton! You are talking to me. I have thought of everything.
Listen: yesterday afternoon, shortly after you people left, I had a
visit from the Nestoroff."

"Indeed? Here?"

"She must have felt in the air that Nuti had come.  My dear fellow,
she's in a great fright!  Frightened of Ferro, not of Nuti. She came
to ask me... like that, just as if it was nothing at all, whether it
was really necessary that she should continue to come to the
Kosmograph, or for that matter remain in Rome, as soon as, in a few
days from now, all four companies are employed on the tiger film, in
which she is not to take part. Do you follow? I caught the ball on the
rebound. I answered that Commendator Borgalli's orders were that,
before all four companies were amalgamated, we should finish the three
or four films that have been hung up for various nature scenes, which
will have to be taken out of Rome. There's that one of the Otranto
sailors, the story Bertini gave us.  'But I have no part in it,' said
the Nestoroff. 'I know that,' I told her, 'but Ferro has a part in it,
the chief part, and it might be better perhaps, more convenient for
us, if we were to release him from the part he is taking in the tiger
film and send him down South with Bertini.  But perhaps he won't
agree. Now, if you were to persuade him, Signora Nestoroff.' She
looked me in the face for a time... you know how she does...  then
said: 'I might be able to....' And finally, after thinking it over,
'In that case, he would go down there by himself; I should remain
here, in his place, to take some part, even a minor part, in the tiger
film....'"

"Ah, no, in that case, no!" I could not help interrupting Polacco.
"Carlo Ferro will not go down there by himself, you may be certain of
that!"

Polacco began to laugh.

"Simpleton! If she really wishes it, you may I be quite sure he will
go! He would go to hell I for her!"

"I don't understand. Why does she wish to remain here?"

"But it's not true. She says she does....  Don't you understand that
she's pretending, so as not to let me see that she's afraid of Nuti?
She will go too, you'll see. Or perhaps... or perhaps... who knows?
She may really wish to remain, to meet Nuti here by herself, without
interference, and make him give up the whole idea. She is capable of
that and of more; she is capable of anything. Oh, what a business!
Come along; let us get to work. Tell me, though: Signorina Luisetta?
She simply must come here for the rest of that film."

I told him of Signora Nene's rage, and that Cavalena, the day before,
had come to return (albeit unwillingly, so far as he was concerned)
the money and the presents. Polacco said once more that he would come,
this evening, to Cavalena's, to persuade him and Signora Nene to send
Signorina Luisetta back to the Kosmograph.  We were by this time at
the entrance to the Positive Department: I ceased to be Gubbio and
became a hand.




3


I have laid these notes aside for some days.

They have been days of sorrow and trepidation.  They are still not
quite over; but now the storm, which broke with terrific force in the
soul of this unhappy man whom all of us here have vied with one
another in helping compassionately and with all the more devotion in
that he was virtually a stranger to us all and what little we knew of
him combined with his appearance and the suggestion of fatality that
he conveyed to inspire in us pity and a keen interest in his most
wretched plight; this storm, I say, seems to be shewing signs of
gradually abating. Unless it is only a brief lull. I fear it. Often,
at the height of a gale, a formidable peal of thunder succeeds in
clearing the sky for a little, but presently the mass of clouds, rent
asunder for a moment, return to accumulate slowly and ever more
menacingly, and the gale having increased its strength breaks out
afresh, more furious than before. The calm, in fact, in which Nuti's
spirit seems gradually to be gathering strength after his delirious
ravings and the horrible frenzy of all these days, is tremendously
dark, just like the calm of a sky in which a storm is gathering.

No one takes any notice, or seems to take any notice of this, perhaps
from the need which we all feel to heave a momentary sigh of relief,
saying that in any case the worst is over. We ought, we intend to
adjust first, to the best of our ability, ourselves, and also
everything round us, swept by the whirlwind of his madness; because
there remains not only in all of us but even in the room, in the very
furniture of the room, a sort of blind stupefaction, a strange
uncertainty in the appearance of everything, as it were an air of
hostility, suspended and diffused.

In vain do we detach ourselves from the outburst of a soul which from
its profoundest depths hurls forth, broken and disordered, the most
recondite thoughts, never yet confessed to itself even, its most
serious and awful feelings, the strangest sensations which strip
things of every familiar meaning, to give them at once another,
unexpected meaning, with a truth that springs forth and imposes
itself, disconcerting and terrifying.  The terror is due to our
recognition, with an appalling clarity, that madness dwells and lurks
within each of us and that a mere trifle may let it loose: release it
for a moment from the elastic web of present consciousness, and lo,
all the imaginings accumulated in years past and now wandering
unconnected; the fragments of a life that has remained hidden, because
we could not or would not let it be reflected in ourselves by the
light of reason; dubious actions, shameful falsehoods, dark hatreds,
crimes meditated in the shadow of our inward selves and planned to the
last detail, and forgotten memories and unconfessed desires burst in
tumultuous, with diabolical fury, roaring like wild beasts. On more
than one occasion, we all looked at one another with madness in our
eyes, the terror of the spectacle of that madman being sufficient to
release in us too for a moment the elastic net of consciousness.  And
even now we eye askance, and go up and touch with a sense of misgiving
some object in the room which was for a moment illumined with the
sinister light of a new and terrible meaning by the sick man's
hallucinations; and, going to our own rooms, observe with stupefaction
and repugnance that... yes, positively, we too have been overborne by
that madness, even at a distance, even when alone: we find here and
there clear signs of it, pieces of furniture, all sorts of things,
strangely out of place.

We ought, we intend to adjust ourselves, we need to believe that the
patient is now in this state, in this brooding calm, because he is
still stunned by the violence of his final outbursts and is now
exhausted, worn out.

There suffices to support this deception a slight smile of gratitude
which he just perceptibly offers with his lips or eyes to Signorina
Luisetta: a breath, an imperceptible glimmer which does not, in my
opinion, emanate from the sick man, but is rather suffused over his
face by his gentle nurse, whenever she draws near and bends over the
bed.

Alas, how she too is worn out, his gentle nurse!  But no one gives her
a thought; least of all herself.  And yet the same storm has torn up
and swept away this innocent creature!

It has been an agony of which as yet perhaps not even she can form any
idea, because she still perhaps has not with her, within her, her own
soul. She has given it to him, as a thing not her own, as a thing
which he in his delirium might appropriate to derive from it
refreshment and comfort.

I have been present at this agony. I have done nothing, nor could I
perhaps have done anything to prevent it. But I see and confess that I
am revolted by it. Which means that my feelings are compromised.
Indeed, I fear that presently I may have to make another painful
confession to myself.

This is what has happened: Nuti, in his delirium, mistook Signorina
Luisetta for Duccella and, at first, inveighed furiously against her,
shouting in her face that her obduracy, her cruelty to him were
unjust, since he was in no way to blame for the death of her brother,
who, of his own accord, like an idiot, like a madman, had killed
himself for that woman; then, as soon as she, overcoming her first
terror, grasping at once the nature of his hallucination, went
compassionately to his side, lie refused to let her leave him for a
moment, clasped her tightly to him, sobbing broken-heartedly or
murmuring the most burning, the tenderest words of love to her, and
caressing her or kissing her hands, her hair, her brow.

And she allowed him to do it. And all the rest of us allowed it.
Because those words, those caresses, those embraces, those kisses were
not intended for her: they were for a hallucination, in which his
delirium found peace. And so we had to allow him. She, Signorina
Luisetta, made her heart pitiful and loving for another girl's sake;
and this heart, thus made pitiful and loving, she gave to him, as a
thing not her own, but belonging to that other girl, to Duccella. And
while he appropriated that heart, she could not, must not appropriate
those words, those caresses, those kisses.... But she trembled at them
in every fibre of her body, poor child, ready from the first moment to
feel such pity for this man who was suffering so on account of the
other woman. And not on her own behalf, who did really pity him, did
it come to her to feel pitiful, but for that other, whom she naturally
supposes to be harsh and cruel. Well, she has given her pity to the
other, that the other might pass it on to him, and by him--through the
medium of Luisetta's body--be loved and caressed in return.  But love,
love, who has given that? It was she that had to give it, to give
love, together with her pity. And the poor child has given it. She
knows, she feels that she has given it, with all her soul, with all
her heart; and at the same time she must suppose that she has given it
for the other.

The result has been as follows: that while he, now, is gradually
returning to himself and collecting himself, and shutting himself up
again darkly in his trouble; she remains empty and lost, held in
suspense, without a gleam in her eye, as though she had lost her wits,
a ghost, the ghost that entered into his hallucination. For him, the
ghost has vanished, and with the ghost, love. But this poor child who
has emptied herself to fill that ghost with herself, her love, her
pity, is now herself left a ghost; and he notices nothing.  He barely
smiles at her in gratitude. The remedy has proved effective: the
hallucination has vanished: nothing more at present, is that it?

I should not be so distressed, had I not, for all these days, seen
myself obliged to bestow my pity, also, to spend myself, to run in all
directions, to sit up for several nights in succession, not from a
feeling that was genuinely my own, that is to say one inspired in me
by Nuti, as I could have wished; but from a different feeling, one of
pity indeed, but of interested pity, so interested that it made and
still makes appear false and odious to me the pity which I she-wed and
am still shewing for Nuti.

I feel that, as a witness of the sacrifice (without doubt involuntary)
which he has made of Signorina Luisetta's heart, I, who seek to obey
my true feelings, ought to have withdrawn my pity from him. I did
indeed withdraw it inwardly, to pour it all upon that poor, tormented
little heart, but I continued to shew pity for him, seeing that I
could do no less, compelled by her sacrifice, which was even greater.
If she actually subjected herself to that torture _out of pity_ for
him, could I, could the rest of us shrink from devotion, fatigue,
proofs of Christian charity that were far less? For me to draw back
meant my admitting and letting it be seen that she was undergoing this
torture not _out of pity only_, but also _for love_ of him, indeed
principally _for love_.  And that could not, must not be. I have had
to pretend, because she has had to believe that she was bestowing her
love upon him for that other woman. And I have pretended, albeit with
self-contempt, marvellously. Only in this way have I been able to
modify her attitude towards myself; to make her my friend again. And
yet, by shewing myself for her sake so compassionate towards Nuti, I
have perhaps lost the one way that remained to me of calling her back
to herself; that, namely, of proving to her that Duccella, on whose
behalf she imagines that she loves him, has no reason whatever to feel
any pity for him.  Were I to give Duccella her true shape, her ghost,
that loving and pitiful ghost, into which she, Signorina Luisetta, has
transformed herself, would have to vanish, and leave her, Signorina
Luisetta, with her love _unjustified_ and in no way sought by him:
because he has sought it from the other, not from her, and she has
given it to him for the other, and not for herself, thus publicly,
before us all.

Very good, but if I know that she has really given it to him, beneath
this pious fiction of pity, upon which I am now weaving sophistries?

As Aldo Nuti thinks Duccella hard and cruel, so she would think me
hard and cruel, were I to tear from her the veil of this pious
fiction.  She is a sham Duccella, simply because she is in love; and
she knows that the true Duccella has not the slightest reason to be in
love; she knows it from the very fact that Aldo Nuti, now that his
hallucination has passed, no longer sees any sign of love in her, and
sadly just thanks her for her pity.

Perhaps, at the cost of suffering a little more, she might cover
herself, but only on condition that Duccella became really pitiful,
upon learning the wretched plight to which her former sweetheart had
been brought, and appeared in person here, by the bed upon which he
lies, to give him her love again and so to save him.  But Duccella
will not come. And Signorina Luisetta will continue to pretend to all
of us and also to herself, in good faith, that it is for her sake that
she is in love with Aldo Nuti.




4


What fools all the people are who declare that life is a mystery,
wretches who seek to explain by the use of reason what reason is
powerless to explain!

To set life before one as an object of study is absurd, because life,
when set before one like that, inevitably loses all its real
consistency and becomes an abstraction, void of meaning and value. And
how after that is it possible to explain it to oneself? You have
killed it. The most you can do now is to dissect it.

Life is not explained; it is lived.

Reason exists in life; it cannot exist apart from it. And life is not
to be set before one, but felt within one and lived. How many of us,
emerging from a passion as we emerge from a dream, ask ourselves:

"I? How can I have been like that? How could I do such a thing?"

We are no longer able to account for it; just as we are powerless to
explain how other people can give a meaning and a value to certain
things which for us have ceased or have not yet begun to have either.
The reason, which lies in these things, we seek outside them. Can we
find it?  Outside life there is nullity. To observe this nullity, with
the reason which abstracts itself from life, is still to live, is
still a _nullity_ in our life: a sense of mystery: religion. It may be
desperate, if it has no illusions; ft may appease itself by plunging
back into life, no longer as of old but there, into that _nullity_,
which at once becomes _all_.

How clearly I have learned all this in a few days, since I began
really to feel! I mean, since I began to feel _myself also_, for other
people I have always felt within me, and have found it easy therefore
to explain them to myself and to sympathise with them.

But the feeling that I have of myself, at this moment, is most bitter.

On your account, Signorina Luisetta, for all that you are so
compassionate! Indeed, just because you are so compassionate. I cannot
say it to you, I cannot make you understand. I would rather not say it
to myself, I would rather not understand it myself either. But no, I
am no longer _a thing_, and this silence of mine is no longer an
_inanimate_ silence. I wished to draw other people's attention to this
silence, but now I _suffer_ from it myself, so keenly.

I go on, nevertheless, welcoming everyone into it.  I feel, however,
that everyone hurts me now who comes into it, as into a place of
certain hospitality. My silence would like to draw ever more closely
round about me.

Here, in the meantime, is Cavalena, who has settled himself in it,
poor man, as in his own home. He comes, whenever he can, to talk over
with me, always with fresh arguments, or on the most futile pretexts,
his own misfortunes.  He tells me that it is impossible, on account of
his wife, to keep Nuti in the house any longer, and that I shall have
to find him a lodging elsewhere, as soon as he has recovered. Two
dramas, side by side, cannot be kept going. Especially since Nuti's
drama is one of passion, of women.  ...  Cavalena requires lodgers
with judgment and self-control. He would gladly pay out of his own
pocket to have all men serious, dignified, pure and enjoying a
spotless reputation for chastity, with which to crush his wife's
furious hatred for the whole of the male sex. It falls to him every
evening to pay the penalty--the fine, he calls it--for all the
misdeeds of men, recorded in the columns of the newspapers, as though
he were the author or the necessary accomplice of every seduction, of
every adultery.

"You see?" his wife screams at him, her finger pointing to the
paragraph in the paper: "You see what _you men_ are capable of?"

And in vain does the poor wretch try to make her see that in each case
of adultery, for every erring man who betrays his wife, there must be
also an erring woman, his accomplice in the betrayal.  Cavalena thinks
that he has found a triumphant argument, instead of which he sees
Signora Nene's mouth form that round O with her finger across it, the
familiar expression which means:

"Fool!"

Excellent logic!  That we know!  And does not Signora Nene hate the
whole of the female sex as well?

Drawn on by the unreal, pressing arguments of that terrible reasoning
insanity which never comes to a halt at any conclusion, he always
finds himself, in the end, lost or bewildered, in a false situation,
from which he has no idea how to escape.  Why, inevitably!  If he is
compelled to alter, to complicate the most obvious and natural things,
to conceal the simplest and commonest actions; an acquaintance, an
introduction, a chance meeting, a look, a smile, a word, in which his
wife might suspect who knows what secret understandings and plots;
then inevitably, even when he is engaged upon an abstract discussion
with her, there must emerge incidents, contradictions which all of a
sudden, unexpectedly, reveal him and represent him, with every
appearance of truth, a liar and impostor.  Revealed, caught out in his
own innocent deception, which however he himself now sees cannot any
longer appear innocent in his wife's eyes; exasperated, with his back
to the wall, in the face of the evidence, he still persists in denying
it, and so, over and over again, for no reason, they come to quarrels,
scenes, and Cavalena escapes from the house and stays away for a
fortnight or three weeks, until he is once more conscious of being a
doctor and the thought recurs to him of his abandoned daughter, "poor,
dear, sweet little soul," as he calls her.

It is a great pleasure to me when he begins to talk to me of her; but
for that very reason I never do anything to incite him to speak of
her: I should feel that I was taking a base advantage of her father's
weakness to penetrate, by way of his confidences, into the private
life of that poor, dear, sweet little soul. No, no! Often I have even
been on the point of forbidding him to continue.

Ages ago, it seems to Cavalena, his SesŤ ought to have married, to
have had a life of her own away from the hell of this house! Her
mother, on the other hand, does nothing but shout at her, day after
day:

"Never marry, mind! Don't marry, you fool!  Don't do anything so mad!"

"And SesŤ? SesŤ?" I feel tempted to ask him; but, as usual, I remain
silent.

Poor SesŤ, perhaps, does not know herself what she would like to do.
Perhaps, on some days, like her father, she would wish it to be
to-morrow; on other days she will feel the bitterest disgust when she
sees some hint of it pass between her parents.  For undoubtedly they,
with their degrading scenes, must have rent asunder all her illusions,
all of them, one after another, shewing her through the rents the most
sickening crudities of married life.

They have prevented her, meanwhile, from securing her freedom in any
other way, the means of providing henceforward for herself, of being
able to leave this house and live on her own.  They will have told her
that, thank heaven, there is no need for her to do so: an only child,
she will some day have the whole of her mother's fortune for herself.
Why degrade herself by becoming a teacher or looking out for some
other employment?  She can read, study what she pleases, play the
piano, do embroidery, a free woman in her own home.

A fine freedom!

The other evening, fairly late, when we had all left the room in which
Nuti had already fallen asleep, I saw her sitting on the balcony. We
live in the last house in Via Veneto, and have in front of us the open
space of the Villa Borghese. Four little balconies on the top floor,
on the cornice of the building. Cavalena was sitting on another
balcony, and appeared to be lost in contemplation of the stars.

Suddenly, in a voice that seemed to come from a distance, almost from
the sky, suffused with infinite pain, I heard him say:

"SesŤ, do you see the Pleiads?"

She pretended to look: perhaps her eyes were filled with tears.

And her father:

"There they are... above your head...  that little cluster of stars...
do you see them?"

She nodded her head; yes, she saw them.

"Fine, aren't they, SesŤ? And do you see how bright Capella is?"

The stars... Poor Papa! A fine distraction.  ...  And with one hand he
straightened, stroked on his temples the curling locks of his artistic
wig, while with the other... what? Why, yes ... he was holding on his
knee Piccini, his enemy, and was stroking her head.... Poor Papa! This
must be one of his most tragic and pathetic moments!

There came from the Villa a long, slow slight rustle of leaves; from
the deserted street an occasional sound of footsteps and the rapid
clattering sound of a carriage driven in haste.  The clang of the bell
and the long-drawn whine of the trolley running along the electric
wire of the tramway seemed to tear the street apart and fling it
violently in its wake, with the houses and trees.  Then all was
silent, and in the weary calm returned the distant sound of a piano
from one of the houses. It was a gentle, almost veiled, melancholy
sound, which drew the spirit, fixed it at a definite point, as though
to enable it to perceive how heavy was the cloak of sadness suspended
over everything.

Ah, yes--Signorina Luisetta was perhaps thinking--marriage.... She was
imagining, perhaps, that it was she who was playing, in a strange
house, far away, that piano, to lull to sleep the pain of the sad,
early memories which have poisoned her life for all time.

Will it be possible for her to illude herself?  Will she be able to
prevent from falling, withered, like the petals of flowers, on the
silent air, chill with a want of confidence that is now perhaps
insuperable, all the innocent graces that from time to time spring up
in her soul?

I observe that she is spoiling herself, deliberately; she makes
herself, every now and then, hard, bristling, so as not to appear
tender and credulous. Perhaps she would like to be gay, frolicsome, as
in more than one light moment of oblivion, when she has just risen
from her bed, her eyes have suggested to her, from her mirror: those
eyes of hers, which would so gladly laugh, keen and brilliant, and
which she instead condemns to appear absent, or shy and sullen. Poor,
lovely eyes! How often under her knitted brows does she not fix them
on the empty air, while through her nostrils she breathes a long sigh
in silence, as though she did not wish it to reach even her own ears!
And how they cloud over and change colour, whenever she breathes one
of those silent sighs.

Certainly she must have learned long ago to distrust her own
impressions, perhaps in the fear lest she be gradually seized by the
same malady as her mother. This is clearly shewn by her abrupt changes
of expression, a sudden pallor following a sudden crimson flushing of
her whole face, a smiling return to serenity after a fleeting cloud.
Who knows how often, as she walks the streets with her father and
mother, she must feel herself stabbed by every sound of laughter, and
how often she must have the strange feeling that even that little blue
frock, of Swiss silk, light as a feather, is weighing upon her like
the habit of a cloistered nun and that the straw hat is crushing her
head; and be tempted to tear off the blue silk, to wrench the straw
from her head and tear it in pieces furiously with both hands and
fling it... in her mother's face? No... in her father's, then?  No...
on the ground, on the ground, trampling it underfoot. Because it must
seem to her a masquerade, an idiotic farce, to go about dressed like
that, like a respectable person, like a young lady who is under the
illusion that she is cutting a figure, or rather who lets it be seen
that she has some beautiful dream in her mind, when presently at home,
and even now in the street, everything that is most ugly, most brutal,
most savage in life must be disclosed, must spring to light in those
almost daily scenes between her parents, to smother her in misery and
shame and disgrace.

And this reflexion more than any other seems to me to have profoundly
penetrated her soul: that in the world, as her parents create it for
themselves and round about her with their comic appearance, with the
grotesque absurdity of that furious jealousy, with the disorder of
their existence, there can be no room, air nor light for her charm.
How can charm shew itself, breathe, refresh itself in a delicate,
light and airy hue, in the midst of that ridicule which holds it down
and stifles and obscures it?

She is like a butterfly cruelly fastened down with a pin, while still
alive. She dares not beat her wings, not only because she has no hope
of freeing herself, but also and even more because she might attract
attention.




5


I have landed in a regular volcanic region.  Eruptions and earthquakes
without end. A big volcano, apparently snow-clad but inwardly in
perpetual ebullition, Signora Nene. That one knew.  But now there has
come to light, unexpectedly, and has given its first eruption a little
volcano, in whose bowels the fire has been lurking, hidden and
threatening, albeit kindled but a few days ago.

The cataclysm was brought about by a visit from Polacco, this morning.
Having come to persist in his task of persuading Nuti that he ought to
leave Rome and return to Naples, to complete his convalescence, and
after that should resume his travels, to distract his mind and be
cured altogether, he had the painful surprise of finding Nuti up, as
pale as death, with his moustache shaved clean to shew his firm
intention of beginning at once, this very day, his career as an actor
with the Kosmograph.

He shaved his moustache himself, as soon as he left his bed. It came
as a surprise to all of us as well, because only last night the Doctor
ordered him to keep absolutely quiet, to rest and not to leave his
bed, except for an hour or so before noon; and last night he promised
to obey these instructions.

We stood open-mouthed when we saw him appear shaved like that,
completely altered, with that face of death, still not very steady on
his legs, exquisitely attired.

He had cut himself slightly in shaving, at the left corner of his
mouth; and the dried blood, blackening the cut, stood out against the
chalky pallor of his face. His eyes, which now seemed enormous, with
their lower lids stretched, as it were, by his loss of flesh, so as to
shew the white of the eyeball beneath the line of the cornea, wore in
confronting our pained stupefaction a terrible, almost a wicked
expression of dark contempt and hatred.

"What in the world..." exclaimed Polacco.

He screwed up his face, almost baring his teeth, and raised his hands,
with a nervous tremor in all his fingers; then, in the lowest of
tones, indeed almost without speaking, he said:

"Leave me, leave me alone!"

"But you aren't fit to stand!" Polacco shouted at him.

He turned and looked at him suspiciously:

"I can stand. Don't worry me. I have... I have to go out... for a
breath of air."

"Perhaps it is a little soon, you know," Cavalena tried to intervene,
"if you will allow me...."

"But I tell you, I want to go out!" Nuti cut him short, barely
tempering with a wry smile the irritation that was apparent in his
voice.

This irritation springs from his desire to tear himself away from the
attentions which we have been paying him recently, and which may have
given us (though not me, I assure you) the illusion that he in a sense
belongs to us from now onwards, is one of ourselves. He feels that
this desire is held in check by his respect for the debt of gratitude
which he owes to us, and sees no other way of breaking that bond of
respect than by shewing indifference and contempt for his own health
and welfare, so that we may begin to feel a resentment for the
attentions we have paid him, and this resentment, at once creating a
breach between him and ourselves, may absolve him from that debt of
gratitude. A man in that state of mind dares not look people in the
face And for that matter he, this morning, was not able to look any of
us straight in the face.

Polacco, confronted by so definite a resolution, could see no other
way out of the difficulty than to post round about him to watch, and,
if need be, to defend him, as many of us as possible, and principally
one who more than any of us has shewn pity for him and to whom he
therefore owes a greater consideration; and, before going off with
him, begged Cavalena emphatically to follow them at once to the
Kosmograph, with Signorina Luisetta and myself. He said that Signorina
Luisetta could not leave the film half-finished in which by accident
she had been called upon to play a part, and that such a desertion
would moreover be a real pity, because everyone was agreed that, in
that short but by no means easy part, she had shewn a marvellous
aptitude, which might lead, by his intervention, to a contract with
the Kosmograph, an easy, safe and thoroughly respectable source of
income, under her father's protection.

Seeing Cavalena agree enthusiastically to this proposal, I was more
than once on the point of going up to him to pluck him gently by the
sleeve.

What I feared did, as a matter of fact, occur.

Signora Nene assumed that it was all a plot j engineered by her
husband--Polacco's morning call, Nuti's sudden decision, the offer of
a contract to her daughter--to enable him to go and flirt with the
young actresses at the Kosmograph.  And no sooner had Polacco left the
house with Nuti than the volcano broke out in a tremendous eruption.

Cavalena at first tried to stand up to her, putting forward the
anxiety for Nuti which obviously--as how in the world could anyone
fail to see--had suggested this idea of a contract to Polacco. What?
She didn't care two pins about Nuti? Well, neither did he! Let Nuti go
and hang himself a hundred times over, if once wasn't enough! It was a
question of seizing this golden opportunity of a contract for
Luisetta!  It would compromise her? How in the world could she be
compromised, under the eyes of her father?

But presently, on Signora Nene's part, argument ended, giving way to
insults, vituperation, with such violence that finally Cavalena,
indignant, exasperated, furious, rushed out of the house.

I ran after him down the stairs, along the street, doing everything in
my power to stop him, repeating I don't know how many times:

"But you are a Doctor! You are a Doctor!"

A Doctor, indeed! For the moment he was a wild beast in furious
flight. And I had to let him escape, so that he should not go on
shouting in the street.

He will come back when he is tired of running about, when once again
the phantom of his tragicomic destiny, or rather of his conscience,
appears before him, unrolling the dusty parchment certificate of his
medical degree.

In the meantime, he will find a little breathing-space outside.

Returning to the house, I found, to my great and painful surprise, an
eruption of the little volcano; an eruption so violent that the big
volcano was almost overwhelmed by it.

She no longer seemed herself, Signorina Luisetta!  All the disgust
accumulated in all these years, from a childhood that had passed
without ever a smile amid quarrels and scandal; all the disgraceful
scenes which they had made her witness, she hurled in her mother's
face and at the back of her retreating father. Ah, so her mother was
thinking now of her being compromised?  When for all these years, with
her idiotic, shameful insanity, she had destroyed her daughter's
existence, irreparably! Submerged in the sickening shame of a family
which no one could approach without a feeling of revulsion!  It was
not compromising her, then, to keep her tied to that shame? Did her
mother not hear how everyone laughed at her and at such a father? She
had had enough, enough, enough!  She had no wish to be tormented any
longer by that laughter; she wished to free herself from the disgrace,
and to make her escape by the way that was opening now before her,
unsought, along which nothing worse could conceivably befall her!
Away! Away! Away!

She turned to me, heated and trembling.

"You come with me, Signor Gubbio! I am going to my room to put on my
hat, and then let us start at once!"

She ran off to her room. I turned to look at her mother.

Left speechless before her daughter who had at last risen to crush her
with a condemnation which she at once felt to be all the more deserved
inasmuch as she knew that the thought of her daughter's being
compromised was nothing more, really, than an excuse brought forward
to prevent her husband from accompanying the girl to the Kosmograph;
now, left face to face with me, with drooping head, her hands pressed
to her bosom, she was endeavouring in a hoarse groan to liberate the
cry of grief from her wrung, contracted bowels.

It pained me to see her.

All of a sudden, before her daughter returned, she raised her hands
from her bosom and joined them in supplication, still powerless to
speak, her whole face contracted in expectation of the tears which she
had not yet succeeded in drawing up from their fount. In this
attitude, she said to me with her hands what certainly she would never
have said to me with her lips. Then she buried her face in them and
turned away, as her daughter entered the room.

I drew the latter's attention, pityingly, to her mother as she went
off sobbing to her own room.

"Would you like me to go by myself?" Signorina Luisetta said
menacingly.

"I should like you," I answered sadly, "at least to calm yourself a
little first."

"I shall calm myself on the way," she said, "Come along, let us be
off."

And a little later, when we had got into a carriage at the end of Via
Veneto, she added:

"Anyhow, you'll see, we are certain to find Papa at the Kosmograph."

What made her add this reflexion? Was it to free me from the thought
of the responsibility she was making me assume, in obliging me to
accompany her?  Then she is not really sure of her freedom to act as
she chooses. In fact, she at once went on:

"Does it seem to you a possible life?"

"But if it is madness!" I reminded her. "If, as your father says, it
is a typical form of paranoia?"

"Quite so, but for that very reason! Is it possible to go on living
like that? When people have trouble of that sort, they can't have a
home any more; nor a family; nor anything. It is an endless struggle,
and a desperate one, believe me!  It can't go on! What is to be done?
What is to stop it? One flies off one way, another another.  Everyone
sees us, everyone knows.  Our house stands open to the world. There is
nothing left to keep secret! We might be living in the street. It is a
disgrace! A disgrace!!  Besides, you never know, perhaps this meeting
violence with violence will make her shake off this madness which is
driving us all mad! At least, I shall be doing something... I shall
see things, I shall move about... I shall shake off this degradation,
this desperation!"

"But if for all these years you have put up with this desperation, how
in the world can you now, all of a sudden," I found myself asking her,
"rebel so fiercely?"

If, immediately after that little part which she had played in the
Bosco Sacro, Polacco had suggested engaging her at the Kosmograph,
would she not have recoiled from the suggestion, almost with horror?
Why, of course! And yet the conditions at home were just the same
then.

Whereas now here she is racing off with me to the Kosmograph! In
desperation? Yes, but not on account of that mother of hers who gives
her no peace.

How pale she turned, how ready she seemed to faint, as soon as her
father, poor Cavalena, appeared with a face of terror in the doorway
of the Kosmograph to inform us that "he," Aldo Nuti, was not there,
and that Polacco had telephoned to the management to say that he would
not be coming there that day, so that there was nothing for it but to
turn back.

"I can't myself," I said to Cavalena. "I have to remain here. I am
very late as it is. You must take the Signorina home."

"No, no, no, no!" shouted Cavalena. "I shall keep her with me all day;
but afterwards I shall bring her back here, and you will oblige me,
Signor Gubbio, by seeing her home, or she shall go alone.  I, no; I
decline to set foot in the house again!  That will do, now! That will
do!"

And off he went, accompanying his protests with an expressive gesture
of his head and hands.  Signorina Luisetta followed her father,
shewing clearly in her eyes that she no longer saw any reason for what
she had done. How cold the little hand was that she held out to me,
and how absent her glance and hollow her voice, when she turned to
take leave of me and to say to me:

"Till this evening."




BOOK VI

OF THE NOTEBOOKS OF SERAFINO GUBBIO
CINEMATOGRAPH OPERATOR




1


Sweet and cool is the pulp of winter pears, but often, here and there,
it hardens in a bitter knot. Your teeth, in the act of biting, come
upon the hard piece and are set on edge. So is it with our position,
which might be sweet and cool, for two of us at any rate, were we not
conscious of the intrusion of something bitter and hard.

We have been going together, for the last three days, every morning,
Signorina Luisetta, Aldo Nuti and I, to the Kosmograph.

Of the two of us, Signora Nene trusts me, certainly not Nuti, with her
daughter. But the said daughter, of the two of us, certainly seems
rather to be going with Nuti than to be coming with me.

Meanwhile:

I see Signorina Luisetta, and do not see Nuti;

Signorina Luisetta sees Nuti and does not see me;

Nuti sees neither me nor Signorina Luisetta.

So we proceed, all three of us, side by side, but without seeing
ourselves in one another's company.

Signorina Nene's confidence ought to irritate me, ought to... what
else? Nothing. It ought to irritate me, it ought to degrade me:
instead of which, it does not irritate me, it does not degrade me. It
moves me, if anything. So as to make me feel more contemptuous than
ever.

And so I consider the nature of this confidence, in an attempt to
overcome my contemptuous emotion.

It is certainly an extraordinary tribute to my incapacity, on one
hand; to my capacity, on the other. The latter--I mean the tribute to
my capacity--might in one respect flatter me; but it is quite certain
that this tribute has not been paid me by Signora Nene without a
slight trace of derisive pity.

A man who is incapable of doing evil cannot, in her eyes, be a man at
all. So that this other capacity of mine cannot be a manly quality.

It appears that we cannot help doing evil, if we are to be regarded as
men. For my own part, I know quite well, perfectly well, that I am a
man: evil I have done, and in abundance! But it appears that other
people do not choose to notice it. And that makes me furious. It makes
me furious because, obliged to assume that certificate of
incapacity--which both is and is not mine--I often find my shoulders
bowed, by the arrogance of other people, under a fine cloak of
hypocrisy. And how often have I groaned beneath the weight of that
cloak! At no time, I am certain, so often as during the last few days.
I feel almost inclined to go and look Signora Nene in the face in a
certain fashion, so that.  ... But, no, no, what an idea, poor woman!
She has grown so meek, all of a sudden, so helpless rather, after that
furious outbreak by her daughter and this sudden determination to
become a cinematograph actress!  You ought to see her when, shortly
before we leave the house, every morning, she comes up to me and,
behind her daughter's back, raises her hands ever so slightly, with a
furtive movement, and with a piteous look in her eyes:

"Take care of her," she stammers.

The situation, as soon as we arrive at the Kosmograph, changes and
becomes highly serious, notwithstanding the fact that at the entrance,
every morning, we find--punctual to a second and trembling all over
with anxiety--Cavalena. I have already told him, the day before
yesterday and again yesterday, of the change in his wife; but Cavalena
shews no sign as yet of becoming a Doctor again. Far from it! The day
before yesterday and again yesterday, he seemed to be carried away
before my eyes in a fit of distraction, as though trying not to let
himself be affected by what I was saying to him:

"Oh, indeed? Good, good..." was his answer.  "But I, for the
present.... What is that you say? No, excuse me, I thought.... I am
glad, don't you know? But if I go back, it will all come to an end.
Heaven help us! What I have to do at present is to stay here and
consolidate Luisetta's position and my own."

Ah yes, consolidate: father and daughter might be treading on air. I
reflect that their life might be easy and comfortable, their story
unfold in a sweet, serene peace. There is the mother's fortune;
Cavalena, honest man, could attend quietly to his profession; there
would be no need to take strangers into their home, and Signorina
Luisetta, on the window sill of a peaceful little house in the sun,
might gracefully cultivate, like flowers, the fairest dreams of
girlhood.  But no!  This fiction which ought to be the reality, as
everyone sees, for everyone admits that Signora Nene has absolutely no
reason to torment her husband, this thing which ought to be the
reality, I say, is a dream. The reality, on the other hand, must be
something different, utterly remote from this dream. The reality is
Signora Nene's madness.  And in the reality of this madness--which is
of necessity an agonised, exasperated disorder--here they are flung
out of doors, straying, helpless, this poor man and this poor girl.
They wish to consolidate their position, both of them, in this reality
of madness, and so they have been wandering about here for the last
two days, side by side, sad and speechless, through the studios and
grounds.

CocÚ Polacco, to whom with Nuti they report on their arrival, tells
them that there is nothing for them to do at present. But the
engagement is in force; the salary is mounting up. It is unnecessary,
therefore, for Signorina Luisetta to take the trouble to come; if she
is not to pose, she does not lose anything.

But this morning, at last, they have made her pose. Polacco lent her
to his fellow producer Bongarzoni for a small part in a coloured film,
in eighteenth century costume.

I have been working for the last few days with Bongarzoni. On reaching
the Kosmograph I hand over Signorina Luisetta to her father, go to the
Positive Department to fetch my camera, and often it happens that for
hours on end I see nothing more of Signorina Luisetta, nor of Nuti,
nor of Polacco, nor of Cavalena. So that I was not aware that Polacco
had given Bongarzoni Signorina Luisetta for this small part. I was
thunderstruck when I saw her appear before me as if she had stepped
out of a picture by Watteau.

She was with the Sgrelli, who had just completed a careful and loving
supervision of her toilet in the "costume" wardrobe, and with one
finger was pressing to her cheek a silken patch that refused to stick.
Bongarzoni was lavish with his compliments, and the poor child made an
effort to smile without moving her head, for fear of overbalancing the
enormous pile of hair above it.  She did not know how to move her
limbs in that billowing silken skirt.

And now the little scene is arranged. An outside staircase, leading
down to a stretch of park.  The little lady appears from a glazed
balcony; trips down a couple of steps; leans over the pillared
balustrade to gaze out across the park, timid, perplexed, in a state
of anxious alarm: then runs quickly down the remaining steps and hides
a note, which is in her hand, under the laurel that is growing in a
bowl on the pillar at the foot of the balustrade.

"Are you ready? Shoot!"

Never before have I turned the handle of my machine with such
delicacy. This great black spider on its tripod has had her twice,
now, for its dinner. But the first time, out in the Bosco Sacro, my
hand, in turning the handle to give her to the machine to eat, did not
yet _feel_.  Whereas, on this occasion...

Ah, I am ruined, if ever my hand begins to feel!  No, Signorina
Luisetta, no: it is evident that you must not continue in this vile
trade.  Quite so, I know why you are doing it! They all tell you,
Bongarzoni himself told you this morning that you have a quite
exceptional natural gift for the scenic art; and I tell you so too;
not because of this morning's rehearsal, though.  Oh, you went through
your part as well as anyone could wish; but I know very well, I know
very well how you were able to give such a marvellous rendering of
anxious alarm, when, after coming down the first two steps, you leaned
over the balustrade to gaze into the distance. I know so well that
almost, now and then, I turned my head too to gaze where you were
gazing, to see whether at that moment the Nestoroff might not have
arrived.

For the last three days, here, you have been living in this state of
anxiety and alarm. Not you only; although more, perhaps, than anyone
else. At any moment, indeed, the Nestoroff may arrive. She has not
been seen for more than a week. But she is in Rome; she has not left.
Only Carlo Ferro has left, with five or six other actors and Bertini,
for Tarante.

On the day of Carlo Ferro's departure (about a fortnight ago), Polacco
came to me radiant, as though a stone had been lifted from his chest.

"What did I tell you, simpleton? He would go to hell if she told him
to!"

"I only hope," I answered, "that we shan't see him burst in here
suddenly like a bomb."

But it is already a great thing, certainly, and one that to me remains
inexplicable, that he should have gone. His words still echo in my
ears:

"I may be a wild beast when I'm face to face with a man, but as a man
face to face with a wild beast I'm worth nothing!"

And yet, with the consciousness of being worth nothing, on a point of
honour, he did not draw back, he did not refuse to face the beast;
now, having a man to face, he has fled. Because it is indisputable
that his departure, the day after Nuti's arrival, has every appearance
of flight.

I do not deny that the Nestoroff has such power over him that she can
compel him to do what she wishes. But I have heard roaring in him,
simply because of Nuti's coming, all the fury of jealousy. His rage at
Polacco's having put him down to kill the tiger was not due only to
the suspicion that Polacco was hoping in this way to get rid of him,
but also and even more to the suspicion that he has made Nuti come
here at the same time in order that Nuti may be free to recapture the
Nestoroff. And it seems obvious to me that he is not sure of her. Why
then has he gone?

No, no: there is most certainly something behind this, a secret
agreement; this departure must be concealing a trap. The Nestoroff
could never have induced him to go by shewing him that she was afraid
of losing him, in any event, by allowing him to remain here to await
the coming of a man who was certainly coming with the deliberate
intention of provoking him. A fear of that sort would never have made
him go. Or, at least, she would have gone with him. If she has
remained here and he has gone, leaving the field clear for Nuti, it
means that an agreement must have been reached between them, a net
woven so strongly and securely that he himself has been able to pack
tip his jealousy in it and so keep it in check. No sign of fear can
she have shewn him; rather, the agreement having been reached, she
must have demanded this proof of his faith in her, that he should
leave her here alone to face Nuti. In fact, for several days after
Carlo Ferro's departure, she continued to come to the Kosmograph,
evidently prepared for an encounter with Nuti. She cannot have come
for any other reason, free as she now is from any professional
engagement. She ceased to come, when she learned that Nuti was
seriously ill.

But now, at any moment, she may return.

What is going to happen?

Polacco is once again on tenterhooks. He never lets Nuti out of his
sight; if he is obliged to leave him for a moment, he first of all
makes a covert signal to Cavalena. But Nuti, for all that, now and
again, some slight obstacle makes him break out in a way that points
to an exasperation forcibly held in check, is relatively calm; he
seems also to have shaken off the sombre mood of the early days of his
convalescence; he allows himself to be led about everywhere by Polacco
and Cavalena; he shews a certain curiosity to make a closer
acquaintance with this world of the cinematograph and has carefully
visited, with the air of a stern inspector, both the departments.

Polacco, hoping to distract him, has twice suggested that he should
try some part or other.  He has declined, saying that he wishes to
gain a little experience first by watching the others act.

"It is a labour," he observed yesterday in my hearing, after he had
watched the production of a scene, "and it must also be an effort that
destroys, alters and exaggerates people's expressions, this acting
without words. In speaking, the action comes automatically; but
without speaking...."

"You speak to yourself," came with a marvellous seriousness from the
little Sgrelli (La Sgrellina, as they all call her here). "You speak
to yourself, so as not to force the action...."

"Exactly," Nuti went on, as though she had taken the words out of his
mouth.

The Sgrellina then laid her forefinger on her brow and looked all
round her with an assumption of silliness which asked, with the most
delicate irony:

"Who said I wasn't intelligent?"

We all laughed, including Nuti. Polacco could hardly refrain from
kissing her. Perhaps he hopes that she, Nuti having taken the place
here of Gigetto Fleccia, may decide that he ought also to take
Fleccia's place in her affections, and may succeed in performing the
miracle of detaching him from the Nestoroff. To enhance and give ample
food to this hope, he has introduced him also to all the young
actresses of the four companies; but it seems that Nuti, although
exquisitely polite to all of them, does not shew the slightest sign of
wishing to be detached. Besides, all the rest, even if they were not
already, more or less, bespoke, would take great care not to stand in
the Sgrellina's way. And as for the Sgrellina, I am prepared to bet
that she has already observed that she would be doing an injury,
herself, to a certain young lady, who has been coming for the last
three days to the Kosmograph with Nuti and with _Shoot_.

Who has not observed it? Only Nuti himself!  And yet I have a
suspicion that he too has observed it. And the strange thing is this,
and 1 should like to find a way of pointing it out to Signorina
Luisetta: that his perception of her feeling for him creates an effect
in him the opposite of that for which she longs: it turns him away
from her and makes him strain all the more ardently after the
Nestoroff. Because it is obvious now that Nuti remembers having
identified her, in his delirium, with Duccella; and since he knows
that she cannot and does not wish to love him any longer, the love
that he perceives in Signorina Luisetta must of necessity appear to
him a sham, no longer pitiful, now that his delirium has passed; but
rather pitiless: a burning memory, which makes the old wound ache
again.

It is impossible to make Signorina Luisetta understand this.

Glued by the clinging blood of a victim to his love for two different
women, each of whom rejects him, Nuti can have no eyes for her; he may
see in her the deception, that false Duccella, who for a moment
appeared to him in his delirium; but now the delirium has passed, what
was a pitiful deception has become for him a cruel memory, all the
more so the more he sees the phantom of that deception persist in it.

And so, instead of retaining him, Signorina Luisetta with this phantom
of Duccella drives him away, thrusts him more blindly than ever into
the arms of the Nestoroff.

For her, first of all; then for him, and lastly--why not?--for myself,
I see no other remedy than an extreme, almost a desperate attempt:
that I should go to Sorrento, reappear after all these years in the
old home of the grandparents, to revive in Duccella the earliest
memory of her love and, if possible, take her away and make her come
here to give substance to this phantom, ēwhich another girl, here, for
her sake, is desperately sustaining with her pity and love.




2


A note from the Nestoroff, this morning at eight o'clock (a sudden and
mysterious invitation to call upon her with Signorina Luisetta on our
way to the Kosmograph), has made me postpone my departure.

I remained standing for a while with the note in my hand, not knowing
what to make of it.  Signorina Luisetta, already dressed to go out,
came down the corridor past the door of my room; I called to her.

"Look at this. Read it."

Her eyes ran down to the signature; as usual, she turned a deep red,
then deadly pale; when she had finished reading it, she fixed her eyes
on me with a hostile expression, her brow contracted in doubt and
alarm, and asked in a faint voice:

"What does she want?"

I waved my hands in the air, not so much because I did not know what
answer to make as in order to find out first what she thought about
it.

"I am not going," she said, with some confusion.  "What can she want
with me?"

"She must have heard," I explained, "that he ...  that Signor Nuti is
staying here, and..."

"And?"

"She may perhaps have some message to give, I don't know... for him."

"To me?"

"Why, I imagine, to you too, since she asks you to come with me...."

She controlled the trembling of her body; she did not succeed in
controlling that of her voice:

"And where do I come in?"

"I don't know; I don't come in either," I pointed out to her. "She
wants us both...."

"And what message can she have to give me ... for Signor Nuti?"

I shrugged my shoulders and looked at her with a cold firmness to call
her back to herself and to indicate to her that she, in so far as her
own person was concerned--she, as Signorina Luisetta, could have no
reason to feel this aversion, this disgust for a lady for whose
kindness she had originally been so grateful.

She understood, and grew even more disturbed.

"I suppose," I went on, "that if she wishes to speak to you also, it
will be for some good purpose; in fact, it is certain to be. You take
offence...."

"Because... because I cannot... possibly ...  imagine..." she broke
out, hesitating at first, then with headlong speed, her face catching
fire as she spoke, "what in the world she can have to say to me, even
if, as you suppose, it is for a good purpose. I..."

"Stand apart, like myself, from the whole affair, you mean?" I at once
took her up, with increasing coldness. "Well, possibly she thinks that
you may be able to help in some way...."

"No, no, I stand apart; you are quite right," she hastened to reply,
stung by my words. "I intend to remain apart, and not to have anything
to do, so far as Signor Nuti is concerned, with this lady."

"Do as you please," I said. "I shall go alone.  I need not remind you
that it would be as well not to say anything to Nuti about this
invitation."

"Why, of course not!"

And she withdrew.

I remained for a long time considering, with the note in my hand, the
attitude which, quite unintentionally, I had taken up in this short
conversation with Signorina Luisetta.

The kindly intentions with which I had credited the Nestoroff had no
other foundation than Signorina Luisetta's curt refusal to accompany
me in a secret manoeuvre which she instinctively felt to be directed
against Nuti. I stood up for the Nestoroff simply because she, in
inviting Signorina Luisetta to her house in my company, seems to me to
have been intending to detach her from Nuti and to make her my
companion, supposing her to be my friend.

Now, however, instead of letting herself be detached from Nuti,
Signorina Luisetta has detached herself from me and has made me go
alone to the Nestoroff. Not for a moment did she stop to consider the
fact that she had been invited to come with me; the idea of keeping me
company had never even occurred to her; she had eyes for none but
Nuti, could think only of him; and my words had certainly produced no
other effect on her than that of ranging me on the side of the
Nestoroff against Nuti, and consequently against herself as well.

Except that, having now failed in the purpose for which I had credited
the other with kindly intentions, I fell back into my original
perplexity and in addition became a prey to a dull irritation and
began to feel in myself also the most intense distrust of the
Nestoroff. My irritation was with Signorina Luisetta, because, having
failed in my purpose, I found myself obliged to admit that she had
after all every reason to be distrustful.  In fact, it suddenly became
evident to me that I only needed Signorina Luisetta's company to
overcome all my distrust. In her absence, a feeling of distrust was
beginning to take possession of me also, the distrust of a man who
knows that at any moment he may be caught in a snare which has been
spread for him with the subtlest cunning.

In this state of mind I went to call upon the Nestoroff,
unaccompanied. At the same time I was urged by an anxious curiosity as
to what she would have to say to me, and by the desire to see her at
close quarters, in her own house, albeit I did not expect either from
her or from the house any intimate revelation.

I have been inside many houses, since I lost my own, and in almost all
of them, while waiting for the master or mistress of the house to
appear, I have felt a strange sense of mingled annoyance and distress,
at the sight of the more or less handsome furniture, arranged with
taste, as though in readiness for a stage performance.  This distress,
this annoyance I feel more strongly than other people, perhaps,
because in my heart of hearts there lingers inconsolable the regret
for my own old-fashioned little house, where everything breathed an
air of intimacy, where the old sticks of furniture, lovingly cared
for, invited us to a frank, familiar confidence and seemed glad to
retain the marks of the use we had made of them, because in those
marks, even if the furniture was slightly damaged by them, lingered
our memories of the life we had lived with it, in which it had had a
share. But really I can never understand how certain pieces of
furniture can fail to cause if not actually distress at least
annoyance, furniture with which we dare not venture upon any
confidence, because it seems to have been placed there to warn us with
its rigid, elegant grace, that our anger, our grief, our joy must not
break bounds, nor rage and struggle, nor exult, but must be controlled
by the rules of good breeding. Houses made for the rest of the world,
with a view to the part that we intend to play in society; houses of
outward appearance, where even the furniture round us can make us
blush if we happen for a moment to find ourselves behaving in some
fashion that is not in keeping with that appearance nor consistent
with the part that we have to play.

I knew that the Nestoroff lived in an expensive furnished flat in Via
Mecenate. I was shewn by the maid (who had evidently been warned of my
coming) into the drawing-room; but the maid was a trifle disconcerted
owing to this previous warning, since she expected to see me arrive
with a young lady.  You, to the people who do not know you, and they
are so many, have no other reality than that of your light trousers or
your brown greatcoat or your "English" moustache.  I to this maid was
a person who was to come with a young lady. Without the young lady, I
might be some one else. Which explains why, at first, I was left
standing outside the door.

"Alone? And your little friend?" the Nestoroff was asking me a moment
later in the drawing-room.  But the question, when half uttered,
between the words "your" and "little," sank, or rather died away in a
sudden change of feeling.  The word "friend" was barely audible.

This sudden change of feeling was caused by the pallor of my
bewildered face, by the look in my eyes, opened wide in an almost
savage stupefaction.

Looking at me, she at once guessed the reason of my pallor and
bewilderment, and at once she too turned pale as death; her eyes
became strangely clouded, her voice failed, and her whole body
trembled before me as though I were a ghost.

The assumption of that body of hers into a prodigious life, in a light
by which she could never, even in her dreams, have imagined herself as
being bathed and warmed, in a transparent, triumphant harmony with a
nature round about her, of which her eyes had certainly never beheld
the jubilance of colours, was repeated six times over, by a miracle of
art and love, in that drawing-room, upon six canvases by Giorgio
Mirelli.

Fixed there for all time, in that divine reality which he had
conferred on her, in that divine light, in that divine fusion of
colours, the woman who stood before me was now what? Into what hideous
bleakness, into what wretchedness of reality had she now fallen? And
how could she have had the audacity to dye with that strange coppery
colour the hair which there, on those six canvases, gave with its
natural colour such frankness of expression to her earnest face, with
its ambiguous smile, with its gaze plunged in the melancholy of a sad
and distant dream!

She humbled herself, shrank back as though ashamed into herself,
beneath my gaze which must certainly have expressed a pained contempt.
From the way in which she looked at me, from the sorrowful contraction
of her eyebrows and lips, from her whole attitude I gathered that not
only did she feel that she deserved my contempt, but she accepted it
and was grateful to me for it, since in that contempt, which she
shared, she tasted the punishment of her crime and of her fall. She
had spoiled herself, she had dyed her hair, she had brought herself to
this wretched reality, she was living with a coarse and violent man,
to make a sacrifice of herself: so much was evident; and she was
determined that henceforward no one should approach her to deliver her
from that self-contempt to which she had condemned herself, in which
she reposed her pride, because only in that firm and fierce
determination to despise herself did she still feel herself worthy of
the luminous dream, in which for a moment she had drawn breath and to
which a living and perennial testimony remained to her in the prodigy
of those six canvases.

Not the rest of the world, not Nuti, but she, she alone, of her own
accord, doing inhuman violence to herself, had torn herself from that
dream, had dashed headlong from it. Why? Ah, the reason, perhaps, was
to be sought elsewhere, far away. Who knows the secret ways of the
soul? The torments, the darkenings, the sudden, fatal determinations?
The reason, perhaps, must be sought in the harm that men had done to
her from her childhood, in the vices by which she had been ruined in
her early, vagrant life, and which in her own conception of them had
so outraged her heart that she no longer felt it to deserve that a
young man should with his love rescue and ennoble it.

As I stood face to face with this woman so fallen, evidently most
unhappy and by her unhappiness made the enemy of all mankind and most
of all of herself, what a sense of degradation, of disgust assailed me
suddenly at the thought of the vulgar pettiness of the relations in
which I found myself involved, of the people with whom I had
undertaken to deal, of the importance which I had bestowed and was
bestowing upon them, their actions, their feelings! How idiotic that
fellow Nuti appeared to me, and how grotesque in his tragic fatuity as
a fashionable dandy, all crumpled and soiled in his starched finery
clotted with blood! Idiotic and grotesque the Cavalena couple, husband
and wife!  Idiotic Polacco, with his air of an invincible leader of
men! And idiotic above all my own part, the part which I had allotted
to myself of a comforter on the one hand, on the other of the
guardian, and, in my heart of hearts, the saviour of a poor little
girl, whom the sad, absurd confusion of her family life had led also
to assume a part almost identical with my own; namely that of the
phantom saviour of a young man who did not wish to be saved!

I felt myself, all of a sudden, alienated by this disgust from
everyone and everything, including myself, liberated and so to speak
emptied of all interest in anything or anyone, restored to my function
as the impassive manipulator of a photographic machine, recaptured
only by my original feeling, namely that all this clamorous and dizzy
mechanism of life can produce nothing now but stupidities. Breathless
and grotesque stupidities!  What men, what intrigues, what life, at a
time like this? Madness, crime or stupidity.  A cinematographic life?
Here, for instance: this woman who stood before me, with her coppery
hair.  There, on the six canvases, the art, the luminous dream of a
young man who was unable to live at a time like this. And here, the
woman, fallen from that dream, fallen from art to the cinematograph.
Up, then, with a camera and turn the handle! Is there a drama here?
Behold the principal character.

"Are you ready? Shoot!"




3


The woman, as from the expression on my face she had at once realised
my contempt for her, realised also the sense of degradation, the
disgust that filled me, and the impulse that followed them.

The first, my contempt, had pleased her, possibly because she intended
to make use of it for her own secret ends, submitting to it before my
eyes with an air of pained humility. My sense of degradation, my
disgust had not displeased her, perhaps because she herself felt them
also and even more than I. What she resented was my sudden coldness,
was seeing me all at once resume the cloak of my professional
impassivity. And she too stiffened; looked at me coldly, and said:

"I expected to see you with Signorina Cavalena."

"I gave her your note to read," I replied.  "She was just starting for
the Kosmograph. I asked her to come."

"She would not?"

"She did not like to. Perhaps in her capacity as a hostess..."

"Ah!" she threw back her head, "Why," she went on, "that was precisely
why I asked her to come, because she was acting as a hostess."

"I pointed that out to her," I said.

"And she did not think that she ought to come?"

I raised my hands.

She remained for a moment in thought; then, almost with a sigh, said:

"I have made a mistake. That day (do you remember?) when we all went
together to the Bosco Sacro, she struck me as so charming, and
pleased, too, at having my company, I realise that she was not a
hostess then. But, surely, you are her guest also?"

She smiled, hoping to hurt me, as she aimed this question at me like a
treacherous blow. And indeed, notwithstanding my determination to
remain aloof from everything and everyone, I did feel hurt. So much so
that I replied:

"But with two guests, as you must know, one may seem more important
than the other."

"I thought it was just the opposite," she replied.  "You don't like
her?"

"I neither like her nor dislike her, Signora."

"Is that really so? Forgive me, I have no right to expect you to be
frank with me. But I decided that I would be frank with you to-day."

"And I have come..."

"Because Signorina Cavalena, as you tell me, wished to let it be seen
that she attaches more importance to her other guest?"

"No, Signora. Signorina Cavalena said that she wished to remain
apart."

"And you too?"

"I have come."

"And I thank you, most cordially. But you have come alone! And
that--perhaps I am again mistaken--does not encourage me, not that I
suppose for a moment, mind, that you, like Signorina Cavalena, attach
more importance to the other guest; on the contrary...."

"You mean?"

"That this other guest is of no importance to you whatever; not only
that, but that you would actually be glad if he were to meet with some
accident, if only because Signorina Cavalena, by refusing to come with
you, has shewn that she placed his interests above yours. Do I make
myself clear?"

"Ah, no, Signora, you are mistaken!" I exclaimed sharply.

"It does not annoy you?"

"Not in the least. That is to say... well, to be honest,... it does
annoy me, but it no longer affects me personally. I do really feel
that I stand apart."

"There, you see?" she interrupted me. "I feared as much, when I saw
you come in by yourself.  Confess that you would not feel yourself so
much apart at this moment if the Signorina had come with you...."

"But if I have come myself!"

"To remain apart."

"No, Signora. Listen, I have done more than you think. I have
discussed the whole matter fully with that poor fellow and have tried
in every possible way to make it clear to him that he has no right to
expect anything after all that has happened, according to his own
account at least."

"What has he told you?" asked the Nestoreff, in a tone of
determination, her face darkening.

"All sorts of silly things, Signora," I replied.  "He is raving. And
his state is all the more alarming, believe me, since he is incapable,
to my mind, of any really serious and deep feeling.  As is already
shewn by the fact of his coming here with a certain plan...."

"Of revenge?"

"Not exactly of revenge. He doesn't know himself, even, what he feels.
It is partly remorse ... a remorse which he does not wish to feel; the
irritating sting of which he feels only upon the surface, because, I
repeat, he is equally incapable of a true, a sincere repentance which
might mature him, make him recover his senses.  And so it is partly
the irritation of this remorse, which is maddening; partly rage, or
rather (rage is too strong a word to apply to him) let us say
vexation, a bitter vexation, which he does not admit, at having been
tricked."

"By me?"

"No. He will not admit it!"

"But you think so?"

"I think, Signora, that you never took him seriously, that you made
use of him to break away from...."

I refused to utter the name: I pointed towards the six canvases. The
Nestoroff knitted her brows, lowered her head. I stood gazing at her
for a moment and, deciding to go on to the bitter end, pressed the
point:

"He speaks of a betrayal. Of his betrayal by Mirelli, who killed
himself because of the proof that he wished to give him that it was
easy to obtain from you (if you will pardon my saying so) what Mirelli
himself had failed to obtain."

"Ah, he says that, does he?" broke from the Nestoroff.

"He says it, but he admits that he never obtained anything from you.
He is raving. He wishes to attach himself to you, because if he goes
on like this (he says) he will go mad."

The Nestoroff looked at me almost with terror.

"You despise him?" she asked me.

I replied:

"I certainly do not admire him. Sometimes he makes me feel contempt
for him, at other times pity."

She sprang to her feet as though urged by an irrepressible impulse:

"I despise," she said, "people who feel pity."

I replied calmly:

"I can quite understand your feeling like that."

"And you despise me!"

"No, Signora, far from it!"

She gazed at me for a while; smiled with a bitter disdain:

"You admire me, then?"

"I admire in you," was my answer, "what may perhaps arouse contempt in
other people; the contempt, for that matter, which you yourself wish
to arouse in other people, so as not to provoke their pity."

She gazed at me more fixedly; came forward until we stood face to
face, and asked me:

"And don't you mean by that, in a sense, that you also feel pity for
me?"

"No, Signora. Admiration. Because you know how to punish yourself."

"Indeed? so you understand that?" she said, with a change of colour,
and a shudder, as though she had felt a sudden chill.

"For some time past, Signora."

"In spite of everyone's despising me?"

"Perhaps it was Just because everyone despised you."

"I too have been aware of it for some time," she said, holding out her
hand and clasping mine tightly. "Thank you! But I can punish other
people too, you know!" she at once added, in a threatening tone,
withdrawing her hand and raising it in the air with outstretched
forefinger. "I can punish other people too, without pity, because I
have never sought any pity for myself and seek none now!"

She began to pace up and down the room, repeating:

"Without pity... without pity...."

Then, coming to a halt:

"You see?" she said, with an evil gleam in her eyes. "I do not admire
you, for instance, who can overcome contempt with pity."

"In that case, you ought not to admire yourself either," I said with a
smile. "Think for a moment, and then tell me why you invited me to
call upon you this morning."

"You think it was out of pity for that...  poor fellow, as you call
him?"

"For him, or for some one else, or for yourself."

"Nothing of the sort!" her denial was emphatic.  "No! No! You are
mistaken! Not a scrap of pity for anyone! I wish to be what I am; I
intend to remain myself. I asked you to come in order that you might
make him understand that I do not feel any pity for him and never
shall!"

"Still, you do not wish to do him any injury."

"I do indeed wish to do him an injury, by leaving him where he is and
as he is."

"But since you are so pitiless, would you not be doing him a greater
injury if you were to call him back to you! Instead of driving him
away...."

"That is because I wish, I myself, to remain as I am! I should be
doing a greater injury to him, yes; but I should be conferring a
benefit on myself, since I should take my revenge upon him instead of
taking it upon myself. And what harm do you suppose could come to me
from a man like him?  I do not wish him any, you understand.  Not
because I feel any pity for him, but because I prefer not to feel any
for myself. I am not interested in his sufferings, nor would it
interest me to make him suffer more. He has had enough trouble. Let
him go and weep somewhere else! I have no intention of weeping."

"I am afraid," I said, "that he has no longer any intention of weeping
either."

"Then what does he intend to do?"

"Well! Being, as I have already told you, incapable of doing anything,
in the state of mind in which he is at present, he might unfortunately
become capable of anything."

"I am not afraid of him! The point is this, you see. I asked you to
come and see me in order to tell you this, to make you understand
this, so that you in turn may make him understand.  I am not afraid
that any harm can come to me from him, not even if he were to kill me,
not even if, on his account, I had to go and end my days in prison! I
am running that risk as well, you know!  Deliberately, I have exposed
myself to that risk as well. Because I know the man I have to deal
with. And I am not afraid.  I have let myself imagine that I was
feeling a little afraid; imagining that, I have made an effort to send
away from here a man who was threatening me, and everyone, with
violence. It is not true. I have acted in cold blood, not out of fear!
Any evil, even that, would count for less with me. Another crime,
imprisonment, death itself, would be lesser evils to me than what I am
now suffering and wish to keep on suffering. So take care not to try
and arouse any pity in me for myself or for him.  I have none! If you
have any for him, you who have so much pity for everyone, make him,
make him go away! That is what I want from you, simply because I am
not afraid of anything!"

As she made this speech, she shewed in her whole person a desperate
rage at not really feeling what she would have liked to feel.

I remained for some time in a state of perplexity in which dismay,
anguish and also admiration were mingled; then I threw up my hands,
and, so as not to make a vain promise, told her of my plan of going
down to the villa by Sorrento.

She stood and listened to me, recoiling upon herself, perhaps to
deaden the smart that the memory of that villa and of the two
disconsolate women caused her; shut her eyes sorrowfully; shook her
head; said:

"You will gain nothing."

"Who knows?" I sighed. "One can at least try."

She pressed my hand:

"Perhaps," she said, "I too shall do something for you."

I gazed at her face, with more consternation than curiosity:

"For me? What can that be?"

She shrugged her shoulders; made an effort to smile:

"I said, _perhaps_.... Something. You will see."

"I thank you," I added. "But really I do not see what you can possibly
do for me. I have always asked so little of life, and I mean now to
ask less than ever. Indeed, I ask it for nothing more, Signora."

I said good-bye to her and left the house, my thoughts filled with
this mysterious promise.

What does she propose to do? In cold blood, as I supposed at the time,
she has sent away Carlo Ferro, with the knowledge, which does not
cause her the slightest alarm, either for herself or for him or for
the rest of us, that at any moment he may come rushing upon the scene
here and commit a crime on his own account. How can she, knowing this,
think of doing anything for me? What can she do? Where do I come in,
in all this wretched entanglement? Does she intend to involve me in it
in some way? With what object? She failed to get anything out of me,
beyond an admission of my friendship long ago with Giorgio Mirelli and
of a vague sentiment now for Signorina Luisetta. She cannot seize hold
of me either by that friendship with a man who is now dead or by this
sentiment which is already dying in me.

And yet, one never knows. I cannot set my mind at rest.




4


The villa.

Was this it? Is it possible that this was it?

And yet, there was nothing altered about it, or very little. Only that
gate, a little higher, that pair of pillars, a little higher,
replacing the little pillars of the old days, from one of which
Grandfather Carlo had had the marble tablet with his name on it torn
down.

But could this new gate have changed so completely the whole
appearance of the old villa.

I saw that it was the same house, and it seemed to me impossible that
it could be; I saw that it had remained much the same; why then did it
appear a different house?

What a tragedy! The memory that seeks to live again, and cannot find
its way among places that seem changed, that seem different, because
our sentiments have changed, our sentiments are different. And yet I
imagined that I had come hurrying to the villa with the sentiments of
those days, the heart of long ago!

There it is. Knowing quite well that places have no other life, no
other reality than that which we bestow on them, I saw myself obliged
to admit with dismay, with infinite regret: "How I have changed!" The
reality now is this.  Something different.

I rang the bell. A different sound. But now I no longer knew whether
this were due to some change in myself or to there being a different
bell. How depressing!

There appeared an old gardener, without a coat, his shirt sleeves
rolled up to the elbows, with a watering-can in his hand and a
brimless hat perched on the crown of his head like a priest's biretta.

"Donna Rosa Mirelli?"

"Who?"

"Is she dead?"

"Who do you mean?"

"Donna Rosa...."

"Ah, you want to know if she's dead? How should I know?"

"She doesn't live here any longer?"

"I don't know what Donna Rosa you're talking about. She doesn't live
here. It's PŤrsico lives here, Don Filippo, the Cavaliere."

"Has he a wife? Donna Duccella?"

"No, Sir. He's a widower. He lives in town."

"Then there's no one living here?"

"There's myself here, Nicola Tavuso, the gardener."

The flowers in the borders on either side of the path from the gate to
the house, red, yellow, white, hung motionless like discs of enamel in
the limpid, silent air, dripping still from their recent bath. Flowers
born yesterday, but upon those old borders. I looked at them: they
disconcerted me; they said that it really was Tavuso who was living
there now, as far as they were concerned, that he watered them well
every morning, and that they were grateful to him for it: fresh,
scentless, smiling with all those drops of water.

Fortunately, there appeared on the scene an old peasant woman, all
breast and belly and hips, enormous under a big basket of greenstuff,
with one eye shut, imprisoned beneath its swollen red lid, and the
other keenly alert, clear, sky-blue, glazed with tears.

"Donna Rosa? Eh, the old mistress....  Many's the long year since she
left here....  Alive, yes, Sir, why not, poor soul? An old woman
now... with the grandchild, yes, Sir, ... Donna Duccella, yes, Sir....
Good folk!  All for God.... No use for this world, or anything.  ...
The house here they sold, yes, Sir, years ago, to Don Filippo the
_'surer_...."

"PŤrsico, the Cavaliere."

"Go on, Don Nico, everyone knows Don Filippo! Now, Sir, you come along
with me, and I'll take you to Donna Rosa's, next door to the New
Church."

Before leaving it, I took a final look at the villa. There was nothing
left of it now; all of a sudden, nothing left; as though in a moment a
cloud had passed from before my eyes. There it was: poverty-stricken,
old, empty... nothing left!  And in that case, perhaps,... Granny
Rosa, Duccella.... Nothing left, of them either?  Phantoms of a dream,
my sweet phantoms, my dear phantoms, and nothing more!

I felt chilled. A bare, dull, icy hardness. That stout peasant's
words: "Good folk! All for God....  No use for this world...." I could
feel the Church in them: hard, bare, icy. Across those green fields
that smiled no longer.... But then?

I allowed myself to be led away. I cannot say what long account
followed of that Don Filippo, who was aptly named _'surer_, because...
a never-ending because... the old Government ... not him, no, his
father... a man of God too, he was, but... his father, or so the story
went, at least. And with my weariness, in my weariness, as I went, all
those impressions of a sordid reality, hard, bare, icy,... a donkey
covered in flies, that refused to move, the squalid road, a crumbling
wall, the fetid odour of the stout woman.... Oh, what a temptation to
dash to the station and take the train home again!  Twice, three
times, I was on the point of doing it; I checked myself; said to
myself: "Let us see!"

A narrow stair, filthy, damp, almost in pitch darkness; and the old
woman shouting to me from below:

"Straight on, keep straight on.... The second floor.... The bell is
broken, Sir.... Knock loud; she doesn't hear; knock loud."

As though I were deaf too.... "Here?" I said to myself as I climbed
the stair. "How have they come down to this? Lost all their money?
Perhaps, two women by themselves.... That Don Filippo...."

On the landing of the second floor, two old doors, low in the lintel,
freshly painted. By one hung the broken cord of its bell. The other
had none.  This one or that? I knocked first at this one, loud, with
my fist, once, twice, thrice. I tried to pull the bell of the other:
it did not ring.  Was it this one, then? I knocked at it, loud, three
times, four times.... No answer! But how in the world? Was Duccella
deaf too? Or was she not living with her grandmother? I knocked again,
more loudly. I was turning to go, when I heard on the stair the heavy
step and breathing of somebody coming up. A short, thickset woman, in
one of those garments that signify devotion, with the penitential cord
round her waist: a coffee-coloured garment, of devotion to Our Lady of
Mount Carmel. Over her head and shoulders a _spagnoletta_, of black
lace; in her hand, a fat prayer-book and the key of the house.

She stopped on the landing and looked at me with pale, lifeless eyes
from a fat white face ending in a flaccid chin: on her upper lip, here
and there, at the corners of her mouth, a few hairs sprouted.
Duecella.

I had had enough; I wished only to make my escape!  Ah, if only she
had remained with that apathetic, stupid air with which she stopped
short in front of me, still a little breathless, on the landing!  But
no: she wanted to entertain me, she wanted to be polite--she, now,
like that--with those eyes that were no longer hers, with that fat,
colourless nun's face, with that short, stout body, and a voice, a
voice and a kind of smile which I did not recognise: entertainment,
compliments, ceremonies, as though I were shewing her a great
condescension; and she was absolutely determined that I should come in
and see her grandmother, who would be so delighted at the honour...
why, yes, why, yes....  "Step inside, please, step inside...."

To remove her from my path I would have given her a shove, even at the
risk of sending her flying downstairs! What a flabby horror! What an
object!  That deaf old woman, doddering with age, without a tooth in
her head, with her pointed chin that protruded horribly towards the
tip of her nose, chewing and mumbling, and her pallid tongue shewing
between her flaccid, wrinkled lips, and those huge spectacles,
monstrously enlarging her sightless eyes, scarred by an operation for
cataract, between their sparse lashes, long as the feelers of an
insect!

"You have made a position for yourself." (With the soft Neapolitan
z--_posi-szi-o-ne_.)

She could think of nothing else to say to me.

I made my escape without its ever having occurred to me for a moment
to suggest the plan for which I had come. What was I to say?  What was
there to do? Why ask them to tell me their story? If they had really
fallen into poverty, as might be supposed from the appearance of the
house?  Perfectly content with everything, stolid and happy with God!
Oh, what a horrible thing faith is! Duccella, the blushing flower...
Granny Rosa, the garden of the villa with its jasmines....

In the train, I felt as though I were rushing towards madness, through
the night. In what world was I? My travelling companion, a man of
middle age, dark, with oval eyes, like discs of enamel, and hair that
gleamed with oil, he belonged certainly to this world; firm and well
established in the consciousness of his own calm and well cared for
beastliness, he understood it all to perfection, without worrying
about anything; he knew quite well all that it concerned him to know,
where he was going, why he was travelling, the house at which he would
arrive, the supper that was being prepared for him.  But I? Was I of
the same world? His journey and mine... his night and mine.... No, I
had no time, no world, no anything.  The train was his; he was
travelling in it. How on earth did I come to be travelling in it also?
What was I doing in the world in which he lived? How, in what respect
was this night mine, when I had no means of living it, nothing to do
with it? He had his night and all the time he wanted, that middle-aged
man who was now twisting his neck about with signs of discomfort in
his immaculate starched collar. No, no world, no time, nothing: I
stood apart from everything, absent from myself and from life; and no
longer knew where I was nor why I was there. Images I carried in me,
not my own, of things and people; images, aspects, faces, memories of
people and things which had never existed in reality, outside me, in
the world which that gentleman saw round him and could touch. I had
thought that I saw them, and could touch them also, but no, they were
all imagination! I had never found them again, because they had never
existed: phantoms, a dream.... But how could they have entered my
mind? From where? Why? Was I there too, perhaps, then? Was there an I
there then that now no longer existed? No; the middle-aged gentleman
opposite to me told me, no: that other people existed, each in his own
way and with his own space and time: I, no, I was not there; albeit,
not being there, I should have found it hard to say where I really was
and what I was, being thus without time or space.

I no longer understood anything. And I understood nothing when,
arriving in Rome and coming to the house, about ten o'clock at night,
I found in the dining-room, as gay as though nothing had happened, as
though a new life had begun during my absence, Fabrizio Cavalena, a
Doctor once more and restored to the bosom of his family, Aldo Nuti,
Signorina Luisetta and Signora Nene, sitting round the table.

How? Why? What had happened?

I could not get rid of the impression that they were sitting there,
gay and reconciled to one another, to make a fool of me, to reward me
with the sight of their gaiety for the trouble that I had taken on
their behalf; not only this, but that, knowing the state of mind in
which I should return from the expedition, they had clubbed together
to confound me utterly, making me find here also a reality such as I
should never have expected.

More than any of the rest she, Signorina Luisetta, filled me with
scorn, Signorina Luisetta who was impersonating Duccella in love, that
Duccella, the blushing flower, of whom I had so often spoken to her! I
would have liked to shout in her face how I had found her that
afternoon, down at Sorrento, that Duccella, and to bid her give up
this play-acting, which was an unworthy and grotesque contamination!
And he too, the young man, who seemed by a miracle to be the same
young man of years ago, I would have liked to shout in his face how
and where I had found Duccella and Granny Rosa.

But good souls all of you! Down there, those two poor women, happy in
God, and you happy here in the devil! Dear Cavalena, why yes, changed
back not merely into a Doctor, but into a boy, a bridegroom, sitting
by his bride! No, thank you: there is no place for me among you: don't
get up; don't disturb yourselves: I am neither hungry nor thirsty! I
can do without everything, I can. I have wasted upon you a little of
what is of no use to me; you know it; a little of that heart which is
of no use to me; because to me only my hand is of use: there is no
need, therefore, to thank me!  Indeed, you must excuse me if I have
disturbed you. The fault is mine, for trying to interfere.  Keep your
seats, don't get up, good night.




BOOK VII

OF THE NOTES OF SERAFINO GUBBIO
CINEMATOGRAPH OPERATOR




1


I understand, at last.

Upset? No, why should I be? So much water has passed under the
bridges; the past is dead and distant. Life is here now, this life: a
different life. Lawns, round about, and stages, the buildings miles
away, almost in the country, between green grass and blue sky, of a
cinematograph company. And she is here, an actress now.... He an actor
too? Just fancy! Why, then, they must be colleagues? Splendid; I am so
glad....

Everything perfect, everything smooth as oil.  Life. That rustle of
her blue silk skirt, now, with that curious white lace jacket, and
that little winged hat like the helmet of the god of commerce, on her
copper-coloured hair... yes.  Life. A little heap of gravel turned up
by the point of her sunshade; and an interval of silence, With her
eyes wandering, fixed on the point of her sunshade that is turning up
that little heap of gravel.

"What? Yes, of course, dear: a great bore."

This is undoubtedly what must have happened yesterday, during my
absence. The Nestoroff, with those wandering eyes of hers, strangely
wide open, must have gone to the Kosmograph on purpose, in the hope of
meeting him; she must have strolled up to him with an indifferent air,
as one goes up to a friend, an acquaintance whom one happens to meet
again after many years, and the butterfly, without the least suspicion
of the spider, must have begun to flap his wings, quite exultant.

But how in the world did not Signorina Luisetta notice anything?

Well, that is a satisfaction which Signora Nestoroff must have had to
forego. Yesterday, Signorina Luisetta, to celebrate her father's
return home, did not go with Signor Nuti to the Kosmograph. And so
Signora Nestoroff cannot have had the pleasure of shewing this proud
young lady who, the day before, had declined her invitation, how she,
at any moment, whenever the fancy took her, could tear from the side
of any proud young lady and recapture for herself all the mad young
gentlemen who threatened tragedies, _pst_!, like that, by holding up a
finger, and at once tame them, intoxicate them with the rustle of a
silk skirt and a little heap of gravel turned up with the point of a
sunshade. A bore, yes, a great bore unquestionably, because to this
pleasure which she has had to forego Signora Nestoroff attached great
importance.

That evening, knowing nothing of what had happened, Signorina Luisetta
saw the young gentleman return home completely transformed, radiant
with happiness. How was she to suppose that this transformation, this
radiance could be due to a meeting with the Nestoroff, if, whenever
she thinks with terror of that meeting, she sees red, black,
confusion, madness, tragedy?  And so this change, this radiance, was
the effect of Papa's return home on him also? Well, that it is of any
great importance to him, her father's return home, Signorina Luisetta
cannot suppose, no; but that he should take pleasure in it, and seek
to attune himself to other people's rejoicing, why in the world not?
How else is his jubilation to be explained? And it is something to be
thankful for; it is a thing to rejoice in, because this jubilation
shews that his heart has become lighter, more open, so that he can
readily assimilate the joy of other people.

These must certainly have been the thoughts of Signorina Luisetta.
Yesterday; not to-day.

To-day she came to the Kosmograph with me, her face clouded. She had
found, greatly to her surprise, that Signor Nuti had already left the
house at an early hour, while it was still dark.  She did not wish to
display, as we went along, resentment and alarm, after the spectacle
offered me last night of her gaiety; and so asked me where I had been
yesterday and what I had done.  "I? Oh, only a little pleasure
jaunt...." And had I enjoyed myself? "Oh, immensely, to begin with at
least. Afterwards...." The way things happen. We make all the
arrangements for a pleasure party; we imagine that we have thought of
everything, have taken every precaution so that the excursion may be a
success, with no unfortunate incident to mar it; and yet there is
always something, one of the many things, of which we have not
thought; one thing escapes us... well, for instance, suppose there is
a family with a number of children, who propose to go and spend a fine
summer day picnicking in the country, there are the second child's
shoes, in one of which there is a nail, a mere nothing, a tiny nail,
inside, sticking up in the heel, which needs hammering down. The
mother remembered it, as soon as she got out of bed; but afterwards,
you know what happens--with everything to get ready for the excursion,
she forgot all about it. And that pair of shoes, with their little
tongues sticking up like the pricked ears of a wily rabbit, standing
in the row among all the other pairs, cleaned and polished and all
ready for the children to put on, wait there and seem to be gloating
in silence over the trick they are going to play on the mother who has
forgotten all about them and who now, at the last moment, is in a
greater bustle than ever, in wild confusion, because the father is
down below at the foot of the stair shouting to her to make haste and
all the children round her shout to her to make haste, they are so
impatient. That pair of shoes, as the mother takes them to thrust them
hurriedly on the child's feet, say to her with a mocking laugh:

"Ah yes, mother dear; but us, you know?  You have forgotten about us;
and you'll see that we shall spoil the whole day for you: when you are
half way there that little nail will begin to hurt your child's foot
and make it cry and limp."

Well, something of that sort happened to me too.  No, not a nail to be
hammered down in my boot.  Another little detail had escaped my
memory....  "What?" Nothing: another little detail. I did not wish to
tell her. Another thing, Signorina Luisetta, which perhaps had long
ago broken down in me.

To say that Signorina Luisetta paid me any close attention would
not be true. And, as we went on our way, while I allowed my lips to go
On speaking, I was thinking:

"Ah, you are not interested, my dear child, in what I am telling you?
My misadventure leaves you indifferent, does it? Well, you shall see
with what an air of indifference I, in my turn, to pay you back in
your own coin, am going to receive the unpleasant surprise that is in
store for you, as soon as you enter the Kosmograph me: you shall see!"

In fact, before we had advanced five yards across the tree-shaded lawn
in front of the first building of the Kosmograph, there we saw,
strolling side by side, like the dearest of friends, Signor Nuti and
Signora Nestoroff: she, with her sunshade open, resting upon her
shoulder, and twirling the handle.

What a look Signorina Luisetta gave me!  And I:

"You see! They are taking a quiet stroll.  She is twirling her
sunshade."

So pale, however, so pale had the poor child turned, that I was afraid
of her falling to the ground, in a faint: instinctively I put out my
hand to support her arm; she withdrew her arm angrily, and looked me
straight in the face.  Evidently the suspicion flashed across her mind
that it was my doing, a plot on my part (by arrangement, very
possibly, with Polacco), that quiet and friendly reconciliation of
Nuti and Signora Nestoroff, the first-fruits of the visit paid by me
to that lady two days ago, and perhaps also of my mysterious absence
yesterday. It must have seemed to her a vile mockery, all this secret
machination, as it entered her mind in a flash.  To make her dread the
imminence, day after day, of a tragedy, should those two meet; to make
her conceive such a terror of their meeting; to make her suffer such
agony in order to pacify his ravings with a piteous deception, which
had cost her so dear, and to what purpose! To offer her as a final
reward the delicious picture of those two taking their quiet morning
stroll under the trees on the lawn? Oh, villainy! Was it for this? For
the amusement of laughing at a poor child who had taken it all
seriously, plunged into the midst of this sordid, vulgar intrigue? She
looked for nothing pleasant, in the absurd, miserable conditions of
her life; but why this as well? Why mockery also? It was vile!

All this I read in the poor child's eyes. Could I prove to her, there
and then, that her suspicion was unjust, that life is like
that--to-day more than ever it was before--made to offer such
spectacles; and that I myself was in no way to blame?

I had hardened my heart; I was glad that she should pay for the
injustice of her suspicion by her suffering at that spectacle, at the
sight of those people, to whom I as well as she, unasked, had given
something of ourselves, something that was now smarting, bruised and
wounded, inside us.  But we deserved it! And now, it pleased me to
have her at this moment as my companion, while those two strolled up
and down there without so much as seeing us. Indifference,
indifference, Signorina Luisetta, there you are!

"If you will excuse me," it occurred to me to say to her, "I shall go
and get my camera, and take my place here, as is my duty, impassive."
And I felt a strange smile on my lips, which was almost the grin of a
dog when he bares his teeth at some secret thought. I was looking
meanwhile towards the door of the building beyond, from which emerged,
coming towards us, Polacco, Bertini and FantappiŤ. Suddenly there
occurred a thing which I ought really to have expected, which
justified Signorina Luisetta in trembling so violently and rebuked me
for having chosen to remain indifferent. My mask of indifference I was
obliged to throw aside in a moment, at the threat of a danger which
did really seem to all of us imminent and terrible.  I caught the
first glimpse of it in the appearance of Polacco, who had come close
up to us with Bertini and FantappiŤ. They were talking among
themselves, evidently of that couple who were still strolling beneath
the trees, and all three were laughing at some witticism that had
fallen from FantappiŤ, when all of a sudden they stopped short in
front of us with faces of chalk, staring eyes, all three of them. But
most of all in the face of Polacco I read terror. I turned to look
over my shoulder: Carlo Ferro!

He was coming up behind us, still with his travelling cap on his head,
as he had left the train a few minutes earlier. And those two,
meanwhile, continued to stroll up and down, together, without the
least suspicion, under the trees. Did he see them! I cannot say.
FantappiŤ had the presence of mind to shout:

"Hallo, Carlo Ferro!"

The Nestoroff turned round, left her companion standing, and then one
saw--free of charge--the moving spectacle of a lion-tamer who amid the
terror of the spectators advances to meet an infuriated animal. Calmly
she advanced, without haste, still balancing her open sunshade on her
shoulder. And she had a smile on her lips, which said to us, without
her deigning to look at us: "What are you afraid of, you idiots! I am
here, a'nt I?" And a look in her eyes which I shall never forget, the
look of one who knows that everyone must see that no fear can find a
place in a person who looks straight ahead and advances so.  The
effect of that look on the savage face, the disordered person, the
excited gait of Carlo Ferro was remarkable. We did not see his face,
we saw his body grow limp and his pace slacken steadily as the
fascination drew nearer to him. And the one sign that she too must be
feeling somewhat agitated was this: she began to address him in
French.

None of us cast a glance beyond her, where Aldo Nuti remained by
himself, planted among the trees, but suddenly I became aware that one
of us, she, Signorina Luisetta, was looking in that direction, was
looking at him, and had perhaps looked at nothing else, as though for
her the terror lay there and not in the two at whom the rest of us
were gazing, in dismayed suspense.

But nothing occurred for the moment. To break the storm, making a
great din, there dashed upon the lawn, in the nick of time,
Commendator Borgalli accompanied by various members of the firm and
employees from the manager's office. Bertini and Polacco, who were
with us, were swept away; but the managing director's fierce
reproaches were aimed also at the other two producers who were absent.
The work was going to pieces! No control of production; the wildest
confusion; a perfect Tower of Babel! Fifteen, twenty subjects left in
the air; the companies scattered here, there and everywhere, when it
had been announced, weeks ago, that they must be assembled and ready
to get to work on the tiger film, on which thousands and thousands of
lire had been spent! Some were off to the hills, some to the sea;
eating their heads off! What was the use of keeping the tiger there!
There was still the whole part of the actor who was to kill it
wanting? And where was the actor?  Oh, he had just arrived, had he?
How was that?  Where had he been?

Actors, supers, scene-painters had come pouring in a crowd from every
direction at the shouts of Commendator Borgalli, who had the
satisfaction of measuring thus the extent of his own authority, and
the fear and respect in which he was held, by the silence in which all
these people stood round and then dispersed, when he concluded his
harangue with the words:

"To your work! Get along back to work!"

There vanished from the lawn, as though it had been first of all
submerged by this tide of people, then carried away by their ebb,
every trace of the--shall we say--dramatic situation of a moment
earlier; there, in the foreground, the Nestoroff and Carlo Ferro;
beyond them, Nuti, solitary, apart, under the trees. The ground lay
empty before us. I heard Signorina Luisetta sobbing by my side:

"Oh, heavens, oh, heavens," and she wrung her hands. "Oh, heavens,
what next? What will happen next?"

I looked at her with irritation, but tried, nevertheless, to comfort
her:

"Why, what do you want to happen? Keep calm!  Didn't you see? All
arranged beforehand.  ... At least, that is my impression. Yes, of
course, keep calm! This surprise visit from Ferro.... I bet she knew
all about it; I shouldn't be surprised if she telegraphed to him
yesterday to come; why yes, of course, to let him find her here
engaged in a friendly conversation with Signor Nuti. You may be sure
that is what it is." "But he? He?"

"Who is _he_? Nuti?"

"If it is all a trick played by those two...."

"You are afraid he may notice it?"

"Yes! Yes!"

And the poor child began again to wring her hands.

"Well? And what if he does notice it?" said I.  "You needn't worry
yourself; he won't do anything.  Depend upon it, this was arranged
beforehand too."

"By whom? By her? By that woman?"

"By that woman. She must first have made quite certain, before talking
to him, that the other man would be able to turn up in time, without
any danger to anyone; keep calm! Otherwise, Ferro would not have come
upon the scene."

We were quits. My statement embodied a profound contempt for Nuti; if
Signorina Luisetta desired peace of mind, she was bound to accept it.
She did so long to secure peace of mind, Signorina Luisetta; but on
these terms, no; she would not.  She shook her head violently: no, no.

There was nothing then to be done! But as a matter of fact,
notwithstanding my faith in the Nestoroff's cold perspicacity, in her
power, when I reminded myself of Nuti's desperate ravings, I did not
feel any too certain myself that it was with him that we should
concern ourselves.  But this thought increased my irritation, already
moved by the spectacle of that poor, terrified child. Despite my
resolution to place and keep all these people in front of my machine
as food for its hunger while I stood impassively turning the handle, I
saw myself too obliged to continue to take an interest in them, to
occupy myself with their affairs. There came back to me also the
threats, the fierce protestations of the Nestoroff, that she feared
nothing from any man, Because any other evil--a fresh crime,
imprisonment, death itself--she would reckon as less than the evil
which she was suffering in secret and preferred to endure. Had she
perhaps suddenly grown tired of enduring it? Could this be the reason
of her deciding yesterday, during my absence, to take the first step
towards Nuti, in contradiction of what she had said to me the day
before?

"No pity," she had said to me, "neither for myself nor for him!"

Had she suddenly felt pity for herself? Not for him, certainly! But
pity for herself means to her extricating herself by any means in her
power, even at the cost of a crime, from the punishment she has
inflicted on herself by living with Carlo Ferro. Suddenly making up
her mind, she has gone to meet Nuti and has made Carlo Ferro return.

What does she want? What is going to happen next?

This is what happened, in the meantime, at midday beneath the pergola
of the tavern, where--dressed some of them as Indians and others as
English tourists--a crowd of actors and actresses from the four
companies had assembled.  All of them were or pretended to be
infuriated and upset by Commendator Borgalli's outburst that morning,
and had for some time been taunting Carlo Ferro, letting him clearly
understand that they were indebted to him for that outburst, he having
first of all advanced all those silly claims and then tried to back
out of the part allotted to him in the tiger film, and having left
Rome, as though there were really a great risk attached to the killing
of an animal cowed by all those months of captivity: an insurance for
one hundred thousand lire, agreements, conditions, etc. Carlo Ferro
was seated at a table, a little way off, with the Nestoroff.  His face
was yellow; it was quite evident that he was making an enormous effort
to control himself; we all expected him at any moment to break out, to
turn upon us. We were, therefore, left speechless at first when,
instead of him, another man, to whom no one had given a thought, broke
out all of a sudden and turned upon him, going up to the table at
which Ferro and the Nestoroff were sitting. It was he, Nuti, as pale
as death. In a silence that throbbed with a violent tension, a faint
cry of terror was heard, to which Varia Nestoroff promptly replied by
laying her hand, imperiously, upon Carlo Ferro's arm.

Nuti said, looking Ferro straight in the face:

"Are you prepared to give up your place and your part to me? I promise
before everyone here to take it on unconditionally."

Carlo Ferro did not spring to his feet nor did he fly at the tempter.
To the general amazement he sank down, sprawled awkwardly in his
chair; leaned his head to one side, as though to look up at the
speaker, and before replying raised the arm upon which the Nestoroff's
hand was resting, saying to her:

"Please...."

Then, turning to Nuti:

"You? My part? Why, I shall be delighted, my dear Sir. Because I am a
fearful coward ... you wouldn't believe how frightened I am.
Delighted, my dear Sir, delighted!"

And he laughed, as I never saw a man laugh before!

His laughter made us all shudder, and, what with this general shudder
and the whiplash of his laughter, Nuti was left quite helpless, his
mind certainly vacillating from the impulse which had driven him to
face his rival and had now collapsed, in the face of this awkward and
teasingly submissive reception. He looked round him, and then, all of
a sudden, at the sight of that pale, puzzled face, everyone began to
laugh at him, broke into peals of loud, irrepressible laughter.  The
painful tension was broken in this way, in this enormous laugh of
relief, at the challenger's expense. Exclamations of derision sounded
here and there, like jets of water amid the clamour of the laughter:
"He's cut a pretty figure!" "Caught in the trap!" "Like a mouse!"

Nuti would have done better to join in the laughter as well; but, most
unfortunately, he chose to persist in the ridiculous part he had
adopted, looking round for some one to whom he might cling, to keep
himself afloat in this cyclone of hilarity, and stammered:

"Then... then, you agree?... I am to play the part... you agree!"

But even I myself, however reluctantly, at once took my eyes from him
to look at the Nestoroff, whose dilated pupils gleamed with an evil
light.




2


Trapped. That is all. This and this only is what Nestoroff
wished--that it should be he who entered the cage.

With what object? That seems to me easily understood, after the way in
which she has arranged things: that is to say that everyone, first of
all, heaping contempt upon Carlo Ferro whom she had persuaded or
forced to go away, should insist that there was no danger involved in
entering the cage, so that afterwards the challenge of Nuti's offer to
enter it should seem all the more ridiculous, and, by the laughter
with which that challenge was greeted, the other's self-esteem might
emerge if not unscathed still with the least possible damage; with no
damage at all, indeed, since, with the malign satisfaction which
people feel on seeing a poor bird caught in a snare, that the snare in
question was not a pleasant thing everyone is now prepared to admit;
all the more credit, therefore, to Ferro who has managed to free
himself from it at this sparrow's expense. In short, this to my mind
is clearly what she wished: to take in Nuti, by shewing him her
heartfelt determination to spare Ferro even a trifling inconvenience
and the mere shadow of a remote danger, such as that of entering a
cage and firing at an animal which everyone says is cowed by all these
months of captivity. There: she has taken him neatly by the nose and
amid universal laughter has led him into the cage.

Even the most moral of moralists, unintentionally, between the lines
of their fables, allow us to observe their keen delight in the cunning
of the fox, at the expense of the wolf or the rabbit or the hen: and
heaven only knows what the fox represents in those fables! The moral
to be drawn from them is always this: that the loss and the ridicule
are borne by the foolish, the timid, the simple, and that the thing to
be valued above all is therefore cunning, even when the fox fails to
reach the grapes and says that they are sour. A fine moral! But this
is a trick that the fox is always playing on the moralists, who, do
what they may, can never succeed in making him cut a sorry figure.
Have you laughed at the fable of the fox and the grapes? I never did.
Because no wisdom has ever seemed to me wiser than this, which teaches
us to cure ourselves of every desire by despising its object.

This, you understand, I am now saying of myself, who would like to be
a fox and am not. I cannot find it in me to say sour grapes to
Signorina Luisetta. And that poor child, whose heart I have not been
able to reach, here she is doing everything in her power to make me,
in her company, lose my reason, my calm impassivity, abandon the fine
wise course which I have repeatedly declared my intention of
following, in short all my boasted _inanimate silence_. I should like
to despise her, Signorina Luisetta, when I see her throwing herself
away like this upon that fool; I cannot. The poor child can no longer
sleep, and comes to tell me so every morning in my room, with eyes
that change in colour, now a deep blue, now a pale green, with pupils
that now dilate with terror, now contract to a pair of pin-points
which seem stabbed by the most acute anguish.

I say to her: "You don't sleep? Why not?" prompted by a malicious
desire, which I would like to repress but cannot, to annoy her. Her
youth, the calm weather ought surely to coax her to sleep.  No? Why
not? I feel a strong inclination to force her to tell me that she lies
awake because she is afraid that he... Indeed?  And then: "No, no,
sleep sound, everything is going well, going perfectly. You should see
the energy with which he has set to work to interpret his part in the
tiger film! And he does it really well, because as a boy he used to
say that if his grandfather had allowed it, he would have gone upon
the stage; and he would not have been wrong! A marvellous natural
aptitude; a true thoroughbred distinction; the perfect composure of an
English gentleman following the perfidious _Miss_ on her travels in
the East! And you ought to see the courteous submission with which he
accepts advice from the professional actors, from the producers
Bertini and Polacco, and how delighted he is with their praise! So
there is nothing to be afraid of, Signorina. He is perfectly calm...."
"How do you account for that?" "Why, in this way, perhaps, that having
never done anything, lucky fellow, in his life, now that, by force of
circumstances, he has set himself to do something, and the very thing
that at one time he would have liked to do, he has taken a fancy to
it, finds distraction in it, flatters his vanity with it."

No! Signorina Luisetta says no, persists in repeating no, no, no; that
it does not seem to her possible; that she cannot believe it; that he
must be brooding over some act of violence, which he is keeping dark.

Nothing could be easier, when a suspicion of this sort has taken root,
than to find a corroborating significance in every trifling action.
And Signorina Luisetta finds so many! And she comes and tells me about
them every morning in my room: "He is writing," "He is frowning," "He
never looked up," "He forgot to say good morning...."

"Yes, Signorina, and what about this; he blew his nose with his left
hand this morning, instead of using his right!"

Signorina Luisetta does not laugh: she looks at me, frowning, to see
whether I am serious: then goes away in a dudgeon and sends to my room
Cavalena, her father, who (I can see) is doing everything in his
power, poor man, to overcome in my presence the consternation which
his daughter has succeeded in conveying to him in its strongest form,
trying to rise to abstract considerations.

"Women!" he begins, throwing out his hands.  "You, fortunately for
yourself (and may it always remain so, I wish with, all my heart,
Signor Gubbio!) have never encountered the Enemy upon your path.  But
look at me! What fools the men are who, when they hear woman
called'the enemy,' at once retort: 'But what about your mother? Your
sisters? Your daughters?' as though to a man, who in that case is a
son, a brother, a father, those were women!  Women, indeed! One's
mother? You have to consider your mother in relation to your father,
and your sisters or daughters in relation to their husbands; then the
true woman, the enemy will emerge! Is there anything dearer to me than
my poor darling child? Yet I have not the slightest hesitation in
admitting, Signor Gubbio, that even she, undoubtedly, even my SesŤ
is capable of becoming, like all other women when face to face with
man, the enemy. And there is no goodness of heart, there is no
submissiveness that can restrain them, believe me! When, at a turn in
the road, you meet her, the particular woman, to whom I refer, the
enemy: then one of two things must happen: either you kill her, or you
have to submit, as I have done. But how many men are capable of
submitting as I have done? Grant me at least the meagre satisfaction
of saying very few, Signor Gubbio, very few!"

I reply that I entirely agree with him.

Whereupon: "You agree?" asks Cavalena, with a surprise which he makes
haste to conceal, fearing lest from his surprise I may divine his
purpose. "You agree?"

And he looks me timidly in the face, as though seeking the right
moment to descend, without marring our agreement, from the abstract
consideration to the concrete instance. But here I quickly stop him.

"Good Lord, but why," I ask him, "must you believe in such a desperate
resolution on Signora Nestoroff's part to be Signor Nuti's enemy!"

"What's that? But surely? Don't you think so? But she is! She is the
enemy!" exclaims Cavalena.  "That seems to me to be unquestionable!"

"And why?" I persisted. "What seems to me unquestionable is that she
has no desire to be his friend or his enemy or anything at all."

"But that is just the point!" Cavalena interrupts me. "Surely; or do
you mean that we ought to consider woman in and by herself?  Always in
relation to a man, Signor Gubbio!  The greater enemy, in certain
cases, the more indifferent she is! And in this case, indifference,
really, at this stage? After all the harm that she has done him? And
she doesn't stop at that; she must make a mock of him, too. Really!"

I gaze at him for a while in silence, then with a sigh return to my
original question:

"Very good. But why must you now believe that the indifference and
mockery of Signora Nestoroff have provoked Signor Nuti to (what shall
I say?) anger, scorn, violent plans of revenge?  On what do you base
your argument?  He certainly shews no sign of it! He keeps perfectly
calm, he is looking forward with evident pleasure to his part as an
English gentleman...."

"It is not natural! It is not natural!" Cavalena protests, shrugging
his shoulders. "Believe me, Signor Gubbio, it is not natural! My
daughter is right. If I saw him cry with rage or grief, rave, writhe,
waste away, I should say _amen_.  You see, he is tending towards one
or other alternative."

"You mean?"

"The alternatives between which a man can choose when he is face to
face with the enemy.  Do you follow me? But this calm, no, it is not
natural!  We have seen him go mad here, for this woman, raving mad;
and now.... Why, it is not natural! It is not natural!"

At this point I make a sign with my finger, which poor Cavalena does
not at first understand.

"What do you mean?" he asks me.

I repeat the sign; then, in the most placid of tones:

"Go up higher, my friend, go up higher...." "Higher... what do you
mean?"

"A step higher, Signor Fabrizio; rise a step above these abstract
considerations, of which you began by giving me a specimen. Believe
me, if you are in search of comfort, it is the only way.  And it is
the fashionable way, too, to-day."

"And what is that?" asks Cavalena, bewildered.

To which I:

"Escape, Signor Fabrizio, escape; fly from the drama! It is a fine
thing, and it is the fashion, too, I tell you. Let yourself
e-va-po-rate in (shall we say?) lyrical expansion, above the brutal
necessities of life, so ill-timed and out of place and illogical; up,
a step above every reality that threatens to plant itself, in its
petty crudity, before our eyes. Imitate, in short, the songbirds in
cages, Signor Fabrizio, which do indeed, as they hop from perch to
perch, cast their droppings here and there, but afterwards spread
their wings and fly: there, you see, prose and poetry; it is the
fashion. Whenever things go amiss, whenever two people, let us say,
come to blows or draw their knives, up, look above you, study the
weather, watch the swallows dart by, or the bats if you like, count
the passing clouds; note in what phase the moon is, and if the stars
are of gold or silver. You will be considered original, and will
appear to enjoy a vaster understanding of life."

Cavalena stares at me open-eyed: perhaps he thinks me mad.

Then: "Ah," he says, "to be able to do that!"

"The easiest thing in the world, Signor Fabrizio!  What does it
require? As soon as a drama begins to take shape before you, as soon
as things promise to assume a little consistency and are about to
spring up before you solid, concrete, menacing, just liberate from
within you the madman, the frenzied poet, armed with a suction pump;
begin to pump out of the prose of that mean and sordid reality a
little bitter poetry, and there you are!"

"But the heart?" asks Cavalena.

"What heart?"

"Good God, the heart! One would need to be without one!"

"The heart, Signor Fabrizio! Nothing of the sort.  Foolishness. What
do you suppose it matters to my heart if Tizio weeps or Cajo weds, if
Sempronio slays Filano, and so on? I escape, I avoid the drama, I
expand, look, I expand!"

What do expand more and more are the eyes of poor Cavalena. I rise to
my feet and say to him in conclusion:

"In a word, to your consternation and that of your daughter, Signor
Fabrizio, my answer is this: that I do not wish to hear any more; I am
weary of the whole business, and should like to send you all to
blazes. Signor Fabrizio, tell your daughter this: my job is to be an
operator, there!"

And off I go to the Kosmograph.




3


And now, God willing, we have reached the end.  Nothing remains now
save the final picture of the killing of the tiger.

The tiger: yes, I prefer, if I must be distressed, to be distressed
over her; and I go to pay her a visit, standing for the last time in
front of her cage.

She has grown used to seeing me, the beautiful creature, and does not
stir. Only she wrinkles her brows a little, annoyed; but she endures
the sight of me as she endures the burden of this sunlit silence,
lying heavy round about her, which here in the cage is impregnated
with a strong bestial odour. The sunlight enters the cage and she
shuts her eyes, perhaps to dream, perhaps so as not to see descending
'upon her the stripes of shadow cast by the iron bars. Ah, she must be
tremendously bored with life also; bored, too, with my pity for her;
and I believe that to make it cease, with a fit reward, she would
gladly devour me. This desire, which she realises that the bars
prevent her from satisfying, makes her heave a deep sigh; and since
she is lying outstretched, her languid head drooping on one paw, I
see, when she sighs, a cloud of dust rise from the floor of the cage.
Her sigh, really distresses me, albeit I understand why she has
emitted it; it is her sorrowful recognition of the deprivation to
which she has been condemned of her natural right to devour man, whom
she has every reason to regard as her enemy.

"To-morrow," I tell her. "To-morrow, my dear, this torment will be at
an end. It is true that this torment still means something to you, and
that, when it is over, nothing will matter to you any more. But if you
have to choose between this torment and nothing, perhaps nothing is
preferable! A captive like this, far from your savage haunts,
powerless to tear anyone to pieces, or even to frighten him, what sort
of tiger are you? Hark! They are making ready the big cage out
there.... You are accustomed already to hearing these hammer-blows,
and pay no attention to them.  In this respect, you see, you are more
fortunate than man: man may think, when he hears the hammer-blows:
'There, those are for me; that is the undertaker, getting my coffin
ready.' You are already there, in your coffin, and do not know it: it
will be a far larger cage than this; and you will have the comfort of
a touch of local colour there too: it will represent a glade in a
forest.  The cage in which you now are will be carried out there and
placed so that it opens into the other.  A stage hand will climb on
the roof of this cage, and pull up the door, while another man opens
the door of the other cage; and you will then steal in between the
tree trunks, cautious and wondering.  But immediately you will notice
a curious ticking noise. Nothing! It will be I, winding my machine on
its tripod; yes, I shall be in the cage too, beside you; but don't pay
any attention to me! Do you see? Standing a little way in front of me
is another man, another man who takes aim at you and fires, ah! there
you are on the ground, a dead weight, brought down in your spring....
I shall come up to you; with no risk to the machine, I shall register
your last convulsions, and so good-bye!"

If it ends like that...

This evening, on coming out of the Positive Department, where, in view
of Borgalli's urgency, I have been lending a hand myself in the
developing and joining of the sections of this monstrous film, I saw
Aldo Nuti advancing upon me with the unusual intention of accompanying
me home. I at once observed that he was trying, or rather forcing
himself not to let me see that he had something to say to me.

"Are you going home?"

"Yes."

"So am I."

When we had gone some distance he asked:

"Have you been in the rehearsal theatre to-day?"

"No. I've been working downstairs, in the dark room."

Silence for a while. Then he made a painful effort to smile, with what
he intended for a smile of satisfaction.

"They were trying my scenes. Everyone was pleased with them. I should
never have imagined that they would come out so well. One especially.
I wish you could have seen it."

"Which one?"

"The one that shews me by myself for a minute, close up, with a finger
on my lips, like this, engaged in thinking. It lasts a little too
long, perhaps... my face is a little too prominent ...  and my
eyes.... You can count my eyelashes. I thought I should never
disappear from the screen."

I turned to look at him; but he at once took refuge in an obvious
reflexion:

"Yes!" he said. "Curious the effect our own appearance has on us in a
photograph, even on a plain card, when we look at it for the first
time.  Why is it?"

"Perhaps," I answered, "because we feel that we are fixed there in a
moment of time which no longer exists in ourselves; which will remain,
and become steadily more remote."

"Perhaps!" he sighed. "Always more remote for us...."

"No," I went on, "for the picture as well.  The picture ages too, just
as we gradually age.  It ages, although it is fixed there for ever in
that moment; it ages young, if we are young, because that young man in
the picture becomes older year by year with us, in us."

"I don't follow you."

"It is quite easy to understand, if you will think a little. Just
listen: the time, there, of the picture, does not advance, does not
keep moving on, hour by hour, with us, into the future; you expect it
to remain fixed at that point, but it is moving too, in the opposite
direction; it recedes farther and farther into the past, that time.
Consequently the picture itself is a dead thing which as time goes on
recedes gradually farther into the past: and the younger it is the
older and more remote it becomes."

"Ah, yes, I see what you mean.... Yes, yes," he said. "But there is
something sadder still. A picture that has grown old young and empty."

"How do you mean, empty?"

"The picture of somebody who has died young."

I again turned to look at him; but he at once added:

"I have a portrait of my father, who died quite young, at about my
age; so long ago that I don't remember him. I have kept it reverently,
this picture of him, although it means nothing to me.  It has grown
old too, yes, receding, as you say, into the past. But time, in ageing
the picture, has not aged my father; my father has not lived through
this period of time. And he presents himself before me empty, devoid
of all the life that for him has not existed; he presents himself
before me with his old picture of himself as a young man, which says
nothing to me, which cannot say anything to me, because he does not
even know that I exist. It is, in fact, a portrait he had made of
himself before he married; a portrait, therefore, of a time when he
was not my father. I do not exist in him, there, just as all my life
has been lived without him."

"It is sad...."

"Sad, yes. But in every family, in the old photograph albums, on the
little table by the sofa in every provincial drawing-room, think of
all the faded portraits of people who no longer mean anything to us,
of whom we no longer know who they were, what they did, how they
died...."

All of a sudden he changed the subject to ask me, with a frown:

"How long can a film be made to last?"

He no longer turned to me as to a person with whom he took pleasure in
conversing; but in my capacity as an operator. And the tone of his
voice was so different, the expression of his face had so changed that
I suddenly felt rise up in me once again that contempt which for some
time past I have been cherishing for everything and everybody.  Why
did he wish to know how long a film could last? Had he attached
himself to me to find out this? Or from a desire to make my flesh
creep, leaving me to guess that he intended to do something rash that
very day, so that our walk together should leave me with a tragic
memory or a sense of remorse?

I felt tempted to stop short in front of him and to shout in his face:

"I say, my dear fellow, you can drop all that with me, because I don't
take the slightest interest in you! You can do all the mad things you
please, this evening, to-morrow: I shan't stir! You may perhaps have
asked me how long a film can last to make me think that you are
leaving behind you that picture of yourself with your finger on your
lips?  And you think perhaps that you are going to fill the whole
world with pity and terror with that enlarged picture, in which _they
can count your eyelashes_? How long do you expect a film to last?"

I shrugged my shoulders and answered:

"It all depends upon how often it is used."

He too from the change in my tone must have realised that my attitude
towards him had changed also, and he began to look at me in a way that
troubled me.

The position was this: he was still here on earth a petty creature.
Useless, almost a nonentity; but he existed, and was walking beside
me, and was suffering. It was true that he was suffering, like all the
rest of us, from life which is the true malady of us all. He was
suffering for no worthy reason; but whose fault was it if he had been
born so petty? Petty as he was, he was suffering, and his suffering
was great for him, however unworthy.... It was from life that he
suffered, from one of the innumerable accidents of life, which had
fallen upon him to take from him the little that he had in him and
rend end destroy him! At the moment he was here, Etili walking by my
side, on a June evening, the sweetness of which he could not taste;
to-morrow perhaps, since life had so turned against him, he would no
longer exist: those legs of his would never be set in motion again to
walk; he would never see again this avenue along which we were going;
and he would never again clothe his feet in those fine patent leather
shoes and those silk socks, would never again take pleasure, even in
the height of his desperation, as he stood before the glass of his
wardrobe every morning, in the elegance of the faultless coat upon his
handsome slim body which I could put out my hand now and touch, still
living, conscious, by ray side.

"Brother...."

No, I did not utter that word. There are certain words that we hear,
in a fleeting moment; we do not say them. Christ could say them, who
was not dressed like me and was not, like me, an operator.  Amid a
human society which delights in a cinematographic show and tolerates a
profession like mine, certain words, certain emotions become
ridiculous.

"If I were to call this Signor Nuti _brother_," I thought, "he would
take offence; because...  I may have taught him a little philosophy as
to pictures that grow old, but what am I to him? An operator: a hand
that turns a handle."

He is a "gentleman," with madness already latent perhaps in the ivory
box of his skull, with despair in his heart, but a rich "titled
gentleman" who can well remember having known me as a poor student, a
humble tutor to Giorgio Mirelli in the villa by Sorrento. He intends
to keep the distance between me and himself, and obliges me to keep it
too, now, between him and myself: the distance that time and my
profession have created. Between him and me, the machine.

"Excuse me," he asked, just as we were reaching the house, "how will
you manage to-morrow about taking the scene of the shooting of the
tiger?"

"It is quite easy," I answered. "I shall be standing behind you."

"But won't there be the bars of the cage, all the plants in between?"

"They won't be in my way. I shall be inside the cage with you."

He stood and stared at me in surprise:

"You will be inside the cage too?"

"Certainly," I answered calmly.

"And if... if I were to miss?"

"I know that you are a crack shot. Not that it will make any
difference. To-morrow all the actors will be standing round the cage,
looking on.  Several of them will be armed and ready to fire if you
miss."

He stood for a while lost in thought, as though this information had
annoyed him.

Then: "They won't fire before I do?" he said.

"No, of course not. They will fire if it is necessary."

"But in that case," he asked, "why did that fellow... that Signor
Ferro insist upon all those conditions, if there is really no danger?"

"Because in Ferro's case there might perhaps not have been all those
others, outside the cage, armed."

"Ah! Then they are for me? They have taken these precautions for me?
How ridiculous!  Whose doing is it? Yours, perhaps?"

"Mine, no. What have I got to do with it?"

"How do you know about it, then?"

"Polacco said so."

"Said so to you? Then it was Polacco? Ah, I shall have something to
say to him to-morrow morning! I won't have it, do you understand? I
won't have it!"

"Are you addressing me?"

"You too!"

"Dear Sir, let me assure you that what you say leaves me perfectly
indifferent: hit or miss your tiger; do all the mad things you like
inside the cage: I shall not stir a finger, you may be sure of that.
Whatever happens, I shall remain quite impassive and go on turning my
handle.  Bear that in mind, if you please!"




4


Turn the handle; I have turned it. I have kept my word: to the end.
But the vengeance that I sought to accomplish upon the obligation
imposed on me, as the slave of a machine, to serve up life to my
machine as food, life has chosen to turn back upon me. Very good. No
one henceforward can deny that I have now arrived at perfection.

As an operator I am now, truly, perfect.

About a month after the appalling disaster which is still being
discussed everywhere, I bring these notes to an end.

A pen and a sheet of paper: there is no other way left to me now in
which I can communicate with my fellow-men. I have lost my voice; I am
dumb now for ever. Elsewhere in these notes I have written: "I suffer
from this silence of mine, into which everyone comes, as into a place
of certain hospitality. _I should like now my silence to close round
me altogether_." Well, it has closed round me. I could not be better
qualified to act as the servant of a machine.

But I must tell you the whole story, as it happened.

The wretched fellow went, next morning, to Borgalli to complain
forcibly of the ridiculous figure which, as he was informed, Polacco
intended to make him cut with these precautions.

He insisted at all costs that the orders should be cancelled, offering
to give them all a specimen, if they needed it, of his well-known
skill as a marksman. Polacco excused himself to Borgalli, saying that
he had taken these measures not from any want of confidence in Nuti's
courage or sureness of eye, but from prudence, knowing Nuti to be
extremely nervous, as for that matter he was shewing himself to be at
that moment by uttering this excited protest, instead of the grateful,
friendly thanks which Polacco had a right to expect from him.

"Besides," he unfortunately added, pointing to me, "you see,
Commendatore, there's Gubbio here too, who has to go into the
cage...."

The poor wretch looked at me with such contempt that I immediately
turned upon Polacco, exclaiming:

"No, no, my dear fellow! Don't bother about me, please! You know very
well that I shall go on quietly turning my handle, even if I see this
gentleman in the jaws and claws of the beast!"

There was a laugh from the actors who had gathered round to listen;
whereupon Polacco shrugged his shoulders and gave way, or pretended to
give way.  Fortunately for me, as I learned afterwards, he gave secret
instructions to FantappiŤ and one of the others to conceal their
weapons and to stand ready for any emergency. Nuti went off to his
dressing-room to put on his sporting clothes; I went to the Negative
Department to prepare my machine for its meal. Fortunately for the
company, I drew a much larger supply of film than would be required,
to judge approximately by the length of the scene. When I returned to
the crowded lawn, by the side of the enormous cage, set with a forest
scene, the other cage, with the tiger inside it, had already been
carried out and placed so that the two cages opened into one another.
It only remained to pull up the door of the smaller cage.

Any number of actors from the four companies had assembled on either
side, close to the cage, so that they could see between the tree
trunks and branches that concealed its bars. I hoped for a moment that
the Nestoroff, having secured her object, would at least have had the
prudence not to come. But there she was, alas!

She stood apart from the crowd, a little way off, with Carlo Ferro,
dressed in bright green, and was smiling as she repeatedly nodded her
head in agreement with what Ferro was saying to her, albeit from the
grim attitude in which he stood by her side it seemed evident that
such a smile was not the appropriate answer to his words. But it was
meant for the others, that smile, for all of us who stood watching
her, and was also for me, a brighter smile, when I fixed my gaze on
her; and it said to me once again that she was not afraid of anything,
because the greatest possible evil for her I already knew: she had it
by her side--there it was--Ferro; he was her punishment, and to the
very end she I was determined, with that smile, to taste its, full
flavour in the coarse words which he was probably addressing to her at
that moment.

Taking my eyes from her, I sought those of Nuti.  They were clouded.
Evidently he too had caught sight of the Nestoroff there in the
distance; but he chose to pretend that he had not.  His face had grown
stiff. He made an effort to smile, but smiled with his lips alone, a
faint, nervous smile, at what some one was saying to him. With his
black velvet cap on his head, with its long peak, his red coat, a
huntsman's brass horn slung over his shoulder, his white buckskin
breeches fitting close to his thighs; booted and spurred, rifle in
hand: he was ready.

The door of the big cage, through which ha and I were to enter, was
opened from outside; to help us to climb in, two stage hands placed a
pair of steps beneath it. He entered the cage first, then I. While I
was setting up my machine on its tripod, which had been handed to me
through the door of the cage, I noticed that Nuti first of all knelt
down on the spot marked out for him, then rose and went across to
thrust apart the boughs at one side of the cage, as though he were
making a loophole there. I alone was in a position to ask him:

"Why?"

But the state of feeling that had grown up between us did not allow of
our exchanging a single word at this stage. His action might therefore
have been interpreted by me in several ways, which would have left me
uncertain at a moment when the most absolute and precise certainty was
essential.  And then it was just as though Nuti had not moved at all;
not only did I not think any more about his action, it was exactly as
though I had not even noticed it.

He took his stand on the spot marked out for him, raising his rifle; I
gave the signal:

"Ready."

We heard from the other cage the sound of the door being pulled up.
Polacco, perhaps seeing the animal begin to move towards the open
door, shouted amid the silence:

"Are you ready? Shoot!"

And I began to turn the handle, with my eyes on the tree trunks in the
background, through which the animal's head was now protruding,
lowered, as though peering out to explore the country; I saw that head
slowly drawn back, the two forepaws remain firm, close together, and
the hindlegs gradually, silently gather strength and the back rise in
an arch in readiness for the spring. My hand was impassively keeping
the time that I had set for its movement, faster, slower, dead slow,
as though my will had flowed down--firm, lucid, inflexible--into my
wrist, and from there had assumed entire control, leaving my brain
free to think, my heart to feel; so that my hand continued to obey
even when with a pang of terror I saw Nuti take his aim from the beast
and slowly turn the muzzle of his rifle towards the spot where a
moment earlier he had opened a loophole among the boughs, and fire,
and the tiger immediately spring upon him and become merged with him,
before my eyes, in a horrible writhing mass. Drowning the most
deafening shouts that came from all the actors outside the cage as
they ran instinctively towards the Nestoroff who had fallen at the
shot, drowning the cries of Carlo Ferro, I heard there in the cage the
deep growl of the beast and the horrible gasp of the man as he lay
helpless in its fangs, in its claws, which were tearing his throat and
chest; I heard, I heard, I kept on hearing above that growl, above
that gasp, the continuous ticking of the machine, the handle of which
my hand, alone, of its own accord, still kept on turning; and I waited
for the beast to spring next upon me, having brought him down; and the
moments of waiting seemed to me an eternity, and it seemed to me that
throughout eternity I had been counting them, as I turned, still
turned the handle, powerless to stop, when finally an arm was thrust
in between the bars, carrying a revolver, and fired a shot point blank
into the tiger's ear over the mangled corpse of Nuti; and I was pulled
back and dragged from the cage with the handle of the machine so
tightly clasped in my fist that it was impossible at first to wrest it
from me. I uttered no groan, no cry: my voice, from terror, had
perished in my throat for ever.

Well, I have rendered the firm a service from which they will reap a
fortune. As soon as I was able, I explained to the people who gathered
round me terror-struck, first of all by signs, then in writing, that
they were to take good care of the machine, which had been wrenched
from my hand: that machine had in its maw the life of a man; I had
given it that life to eat to the very last, until the moment when that
arm had been thrust in to kill the tiger. There was a fortune to be
extracted from this film, what with the enormous publicity and the
morbid curiosity which the sordid atrocity of the drama of that
slaughtered couple would everywhere arouse.

Ah, that it would fall to my lot to feed literally on the life of
a man one of the many machines invented by man for his pastime, I
could never have guessed. The life which this machine has devoured was
naturally no more than it could be in a time like the present, in an
age of machines; a production stupid in one aspect, mad in another,
inevitably, and in the former more, in the latter rather less stamped
with a brand of vulgarity.

I have found salvation, I alone, in my silence, with my silence, which
has made me thus--according to the standard of the times--perfect.  My
friend Simone Pau will not understand this, more and more determined
to drown himself in _superfluity_, the perpetual inmate of a Casual
Shelter. I have already secured a life of ease with the compensation
which the firm has given me for the service I have rendered it, and I
shall soon be rich with the royalties which have been assigned to me
from the hire of the monstrous film. It is true that I shall not know
what to do with these riches; but I shall not reveal my embarrassment
to anyone; least of all to Simone Pau, who comes every day to shake
me, to abuse me, in the hope of forcing me out of this inanimate
silence, which makes him furious. He would like to see me weep, would
like me at least with my eyes to shew distress or anger; to make him
understand by signs that I agree with him, that I too believe that
life is there, in that _superfluity_ of his.  I do not move an eyelid;
I sit gazing at him, rigid, motionless, until he flies from the house
in a rage. Poor Cavalena, from another angle, is studying on my behalf
textbooks of nervous pathology, suggests injections and electric
batteries, hovers round me to persuade me to agree to a surgical
operation on my vocal chords; and Signorina Luisetta, penitent,
heartbroken at my calamity, in which she chooses to detect an element
of heroism, timidly lets me see now that she would like to hear issue,
if not from my lips, at any rate from my heart a "yes" for herself.

No, thank you. Thanks to everybody. I have had enough. I prefer to
remain like this. The times are what they are; life is what it is; and
in the sense that I give to my profession, I intend to go on as I
am--alone, mute and impassive--being the operator.

Is the stage set?

"Are you ready? Shoot...."

THE END





A BIBLIOGRAPHY OF THE PUBLISHED WORKS OF LUIGI PIRANDELLO (1889-1926)

This bibliography, which makes no pretence of completeness, is based
principally upon the volumes by Professor Pirandello (about sixty in
number) in my possession, and upon the information contained in some
of them. A list of the eight volumes published before 1902 is prefixed
to the first series of _Beffe della Morte e della Vita_; this I have
called _List A_. _List B_ appeared two years later, prefixed to
_Bianche e Nere_, and is of greater value as it includes the names
of the ten publishers responsible for the eleven volumes then in
existence.  _List C_ dates from 1914, and accounts for most of the
author's non-dramatic writings, but supplies no dates. The _Treves
Lists_ are those prefixed to the volumes published by Fratelli Treves
of Milan; they differ from one another, but help to determine the
approximate dates of some of the later volumes. _List D_ is one
printed by the firm of Bemporad on the last pages of their first
impression of the play _Tutto per bene_ (1920), and is a prospectus of
that firm's complete edition of Pirandello's works, still in course of
publication. It opens with a list of two novels and five plays then
unpublished; groups the _Novelle per un anno_ provisionally in twelve
volumes, bearing the titles of twelve of the series already published;
and then enumerates the other works: novels, plays and the two
critical studies, omitting the six volumes of poetry. My chief object
in making this bibliography has been to shew how the novelle published
in some fifteen volumes between 1901 and 1919 have been re-arranged
in the volumes already issued of the complete series _Novelle per un
anno_, and also how certain of the plays are derived from earlier
_novelle_.

Where possible, I have given the names of publisher and printer;
in the case of Fratelli TrÍves, all the volumes published are also
printed by them in Milan.  Roman followed by Arabic numerals within
brackets refer to the order of the stories in the volumes of _Novelle
per un anno_.

After this bibliography had gone to press, Professor Pirandello
returned to Italy from a theatrical tour of America and Europe; he
has kindly given me certain information from memory as to the volumes
which are not in my possession.

C. K. S. M.

Pisa, April, 1926.



A. POETRY

1. MAL GIOCONDO

Luigi Pirandello / Mal Giocondo / (Emblem: C C
in monogram) / Palermo / Libreria Internazionale
L. Pedone Lauriel / di Carlo Clausen / 1889.
Tipografia Michele Amenta / Via. V. E., 330---

Palermo.

Pp. 220. Price L. 2.
Dedication: a l'Eletta.

Contents: Dedicatory poem and sixty-two others,
classified as Romanzi (15) Allegre (13) Intermezzo
Lieto (8) Momentanee (16) Triste (9) and Solitŗria
(1).

A reprint of this volume was announced by the firm of
Bemporad in some of their publications in 1925 (e.g.,
_Maschere nude_ X and XI) but the announcement
has since been withdrawn.

2. PASQUA DI GEA

Luigi Pirandello / Pasqua di Gea / (Emblem: Usque
dum vivam / et ultra) / Milano, 1801 / Libreria
Editrice Galli / di / C. Chiesa e P. Guindani /
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, 17-80.

Pp. 128. Price L. 2.

Dedication: a Jenny Schulz-Lander.

Contents: Dedication, in German prose, beginning
"Meine liebe, sŁsse Freundin," and dated "Bonn
am Rhein, 1890." Motto; seven lines from Jauffre
Rudel, in ProvenÁal. Twenty-two short poems, the
longest being of 92 lines; the last is dated "Bonn
am Rhein, nella primavera del 1890."

3. ELEGIE RENANE

I have been unable to secure a copy of this volume.
List A gives "Roma" with no date; List B specifies:

Roma, Unione Tip. Editrice, 1895.

4. ELEGIE ROMANE

W. v. Goethe / Elegie Romane / tradotte da / Luigi
Pirandello / illustrate da Ugo Fleres / (Emblem:
R G in monogram) / Livorno / Tipografia di Raff.
Giusti / Editore-Libraio / 1896.

Pp. 96. Price L. 3.
Contents: A dedicatory sonnet to Ugo Fleres and
twenty elegies.

Twenty illustrations by Ugo Fleres: viz., a portrait
of Goethe facing the title-page, and decorations,
mostly heads of women, prefixed to Elegies I to
XIX. There is also a coloured design on the wrapper.
This book exists in two forms, printed respectively
upon glazed paper and on a thin paper of
poor quality.

5. ZAMPOGNA

I have been unable to secure a copy of this volume.
List A gives: "Roma, 1901." List B specifies:
Roma, Societŗ editr. Dante Alighieri, 1901.

6. FUORI DI CHIAVE

Poeti Italiani / del XX Secolo / III. / Luigi Pirandello
/ Fuori di chiave / (Emblem AF/F on an
escutcheon, surrounded by the words AMOR ET
LABOR VITAST, all within a wreath) / A. F.
Formžggini / editore in Genova.

In boards, covered in yellow parchment: the front
wrapper also includes a sepia drawing of the
Winged Victory, signed A. Artioli.
The title page bears the date 1912.

Pp. 116 + 18 of advertisements. Price L. 2,50.
Contents: Thirty-one lyrical poems arranged in
eleven groups.

The previous volumes in this series were:
I. M. Bontempelli, ODI.
II. F. Chiesa, I VIALI D'ORO.


B. NOVELS (ROMANZI)

1. L'ESCLUSA

In a dedication of the TrÍves edition to Luigi Capuana,
dated "Roma, dťcembre 1907," the author
speaks of this novel as his first essay, about fourteen
years earlier, in the narrative form. It first
appeared and was the first Italian novel to appear
in the supplement to _La Tribuna_, and was published
(List B) in Rome, by _La Tribuna_, in 1901.

Biblioteca Amena TrÍves: vol. 820--L'Esclusa.
Price L. 1.

Luigi Pirandello / L'Esclusa / romanzo / (Treves
emblem) / Milano / Fratelli TrÍves, Editori.

(Reprinted in the ordinary TrÍves format. My copy is
marked "seventh thousand," bears the printer's
date 1919, and is priced L. 5.)

Pp. viii + 310.

Dedicatory letter to Luigi Capuana pp. v-vii.

Part I, Chaps. I to XIV, pp. 1-156.

Part II, Chaps. I to XV, pp. 157-310.

2. IL TURNO

Of the first edition of this novel, List A says "Catania,
1901." List B: Catania, Giannetta, ed., 1902.

Luigi Pirandello / II Turno / (floral emblem) / 1915
/ Casa Editrice Madella / Sesto S. Giovanni.
Pp. 192. Price L. 2.

Dedication: Buona siesta, Nietta mia!
(My copy is perhaps a cheap reprint of this edition,
as the type is excellent but the paper vile.)

Il Turno / Lontano /novelle / di / Luigi Pirandello
/ (emblem) / Milano / Fratelli TrÍves, Editori /
1915.

Pp. viii + 296. Price L. 2.

Second thousand, 1919. Price L. 3. (raised to L. 7
in later lists).

This volume contains a Preface dated "Roma, 2 settembre
1915," in which the author speaks of II
Turno and Lontano as written in his earliest youth;
the text of Il Turno, Chaps. I to XXX (pp. 1-196);
and that of Lontano (reprinted from Bianche e
Nere: of. G. 5) Chaps. I to XI (pp. 197-296).

Biblioteca Amena Quattrini / L. Pirandello / II Turno
/ B.A.Q. 157 / Lire 1,00 / Editore Quattrini--Casa
Editrice Italiana / Firenze (Corso de' Tintori
N. 8).

Firenze 1920--Stabilimenti Grafici A. Vallecchi.

Pp. 92. Price L. 1.

(A pocket edition in small type.)

(Although on the title-page of the TrÍves edition II
Turno is classed as a novella or short story, in Lists
C and D it heads the list of romanzi, or novels,
taking precedence of L'Esclusa.)

3. IL FU MATTIA PASCAL

There is no reference to this novel in List B (1904),
but it must have been published shortly afterwards,
as in the Bemporad edition (1921) the author quotes
the _Corriere detta Sera_ of March 27, 1920 as being
"about twenty years after the first publication of
this novel."

Biblioteca Amena TrÍves voll. 776-777--Il fu Mattia
Pascal.

Price L 2. (Afterwards L. 3, 50 each volume.)

Luigi Pirandello / II fu Mattia Pascal / romanzo /
nuova edizione riveduta / (emblem) / Milano /
Fratelli TrÍves, Editori.

(My copy is marked "sixth thousand," dated 1919,
and priced L. 5.) Pp. iv + 312.

Luigi Pirandello / II fu Mattia / Pascal / romanzo /
nuova ristampa con un ritratto / per prefazione e
in fine un'avvertenza / su gli scrupoli della fantasia
/ Firenze / R. Bemporad & Figlio, Editori /
MCMXXI.

223-921 Firenze Stab. Tip. E. Ariani. Via San
Gallo, 33.

Pp. iv + 294 + xiv. Price L. 9,00.

Reprinted 1925. Price L. 12,00.

This edition contains as frontispiece a photograph
(taken many years ago) of the author, and ends
with a dissertation upon the relative strangeness of
truth and fiction.

4. SUO MARITO

Luigi Pirandello / Suo marito / romanzo / (Emblem:
A Q in monogram) / La Rinascita del Libro / Casa
Editrice Italiana di A. Quattrini / Firenze /
Firenze, 19ll.--Stab. Tipografico di A. Quattrini.

Pp. iv + 344.

Dedication: A Ugo Ojetti fraternamente.

(This volume, which has long been out of print, is
not in my possession. A copy exists in the Gabinetto
Scientifico Letterario G. P. Vieusseux at
Florence. It is of especial interest as it contains
the germs of two of the author's plays, here represented
as the work of its heroine, Silvia Roncelli:
Se non cosž, produced in 1915 at Milan, and afterwards
rewritten as La ragione degli altri, and La
nuova colonia, recently announced (1925) as in
preparation.)

5. I VECCHI E I GIOVANI

I vecchi / e i giovani / romanzo / di / Luigi Pirandello
/ (in due volumi) / {volume primo/volume secondo} /
(emblem) / Milano / Fratelli TrÍves, Editori.
(First published in 1913.) Price L. 5.
Third thousand 1918.
Fourth thousand 1918.

Volume I: (Pp. viii + 300) contains the dedication:
Ai miei figli / giovani oggi, / vecchi domani.
and Part I, Chaps. One to Eight. Volume II: (Pp.
viii + 280) contains Part II, Chaps. One to Eight.
Each Chapter is divided into three, four or five
titled sections.

(Pages 14 and 15 of Volume I are transposed.)

6. SI GIRA... (QUADERNI DI SERAFINO GUBBIO OPERATORE)

Si gira... / romanzo / di / Luigi Pirandello /
(emblem) / Milano / Fratelli TrÍves, Editori.
(Published about 1916. A TrÍves list of 1915 announces
it as in preparation, whereas a similar list
of 1917 includes it between II Turno: Lontano and
E domani, lunedž...)

Pp. iv + 300. Price L. 4.

Seventh thousand 1919.

The novel is divided into seven parts, entitled: Fascicolo
primo (etc.) de le Note di Serafino Gubbio
operatore.

Luigi Pirandello / Quaderni di / Serafino Gubbio /
operatore / romanzo / R. Bemporad & Figlio--Editori--Firenze
/ Rappresentanti per il Piemonte:
S. Lattes & C.--Torino 1925

Prato, Tip. Giachetti, Figlio e C.

Pp. iv + 270. Price: in Florence L. 12,50. Elsewhere
L. 13,25.

The novel is divided as before into seven parts, entitled:
Quaderno primo (etc.) delle Note di Serafino
Gubbio operatore.

7. PENA DI VIVERE COSŐ

In List D this is announced as a forthcoming novel
(romanzo) under the heading Novitŗ. The catalogues
of the firm of Mondadori include this title in
the series: Raccolta / dei / migliori romanzi /
italiani e stranieri / No. (?) / Luigi Pirandello /
Pena di vivere cosž / A. Mondadori / Milano--Roma.

Price L. 3.

This short novel was reprinted in 1923 in Novelle per
un Anno Vol. VI. In Silenzio pp. 259-326.

8. UNO, NESSUNO E CENTOMILA

Announced in TrÍves lists of 1917-1918 as in preparation,
but not in later lists. Announced in List D
(1920) under the heading Novitŗ.

The serial publication of this novel was begun in the
first number of La Fiera / Letteraria / Giornale settimanale
di lettere scienze ed arti / Dirczione,
amministrazione e pubblicite / Viale Piave, 20--Milano--Telefono
(number misprinted and deleted:
in later issues) 23-927 / Un numero centesimi 50 /
Anno I--N. 1--Domenica, 13 Dicembre 1925.

Page 3: Uno, nessuno e centomila / Considerazioni di
Vitangelo Moscardi generali sulla vita degli
uomini / e particolari sulla propria / in otto libri /
Libro Primo.

The whole of the third page is devoted to the first
instalment of the serial, with a photograph of the
author and a Preface by his son, Stefano Landi.

Continued weekly at the foot of page 2 of each subsequent
number, and concluded in Anno II--N. 24
Domenica, 13 Giugno 1926.


C. SHORT STORIES (NOVELLE)

1. AMORI SENZA AMORE

I can find no trace of this book in Rome, Florence,
Bologna, Milan, not to mention smaller towns.

List A gives:
Amori senza amore, novelle--Roma, 1894.

List B: Amori senza amore--Roma, Bontempelli, ed.,
1901.

Professor Pirandello informs me that the volume contained
three stories, which I have numbered provisionally:

201. L'onda.

202. La signorina.

203. L'amica delle mogli. (See Plays, E. 21.)

2. BEFFE DELLA MORTE E DELLA VITA

Luigi Pirandello / Beffe della Morte / e della Vita /
(Emblem: nihil difficile volenti) / Firenze / Francesco
Lumachi / Libraio-Editore / Successore F.lli
Bocca / 1902.

Firenze--Tip. Elzeviriana, Via S. Zanobi, 48.

Pp. xiv + 186. Price L. 2.

Contains List A and the following stories:

1. Notizie del mondo (IV. 14).

2. Se (I. 12).

3. Sole e Ombra (III. 3).

4. Il giardinetto lassý (reprinted in II Carnevale dei
Morti) (VI. 7).

5. Le tre carissime (X. II).

6. La paura del sonno.

4. QUAND'ERO MATTO...

Luigi Pirandello / Quand'ero matto... / novelle /
(vignette) / Torino / Renzo Streglio e C.--Editori
/ 1902.

CiriŤ--Tipografia Renzo Streglio e C.

Pp. 352 + viii of advertisements. Price L. 2,50.
Contains fourteen stories arranged in three groups:

7. Quand'ero matto...
  Il Soldino (X. 5).
  194. Fondamento della morale (X. 6).
  195. Mirina (X. 7).
  196. Scuola di Saggezza (X. 8).
8. La levata del Sole (X. 14).
9. Prudenza.
10. Al valor civile (X. 3).
11. Concorso per referendario al Consiglio di Stato (X. 9).

(II)
12. Lumže di Sicilia (See Plays, F. 2.)
(X. 15)
13. Salvazione.
14. Il vecchio Dio (X. 1).

(IlI)
15. Un'altra allodola.
16. La Berretta di Padova (V. 6).
17. Un invito a tavola (X. 13).
18. Le dodici lettere.
19. In corpore vili (X. 10).
20.  Pallottoline!

The remainder of this edition was transferred to
Fratelli Treves, and figures in their catalogues
from about 1915.  Price L.  2,50.


3a.  LE SPIGHE / 17.


Luigi Pirandello / Quand 'ero matto .  .  .  / novelle /
nuova edizione riveduta.  / (emblem) / Milano /
Fratelli TrÍves, Editori / Published 1918 or 1919.
Second Thousand 1919.
Pp. iv + 192. Price L. 3.
This reprint contains eight of the above stories, in
the following order: 7, 8, 10, 14, 11, 12, 17, 19;
ending with:

33. Tanino e Tanotto (from Bianche e Nere) (X. 2).
21. La disdetta di Pitagora (from Beffe II) (X. 4).

4. BEFFE DELLA MORTE E DELLA VITA
seconda serie

This volume is uniform with the earlier series, the
only difference on the title-page being the addition
of the words seconda serie and the date 1903.

Pp. iv + 228. Price L. 3.

Contents:

21. La disdetta di Pitagora (reprinted by TrÍves in
Quand'ero matto... See above) (X. 4).

22. Visitare gl'infermi (reprinted by TrÍves in Un
cavallo nella luna) (IX. 14).

23. Il vitalizio (reprinted in II Carnevale dei Morti)
(X. 12).

24. La Signora Speranza. (See Plays, E. 8.)

25. Il marito di mia moglie (reprinted in II Carnevale
dei Morti) (VII. 5).

5. BIANCHE E NERE

Luigi Pirandello / Bianche e Nere / novelle /
(emblem) / Torino / Renzo Streglio & C.--Editori /
1904

Venaria Reale, Tip. R. Streglio & C.

(On the wrapper is a sketch of the author in black
and white.)

Pp. 416. Price L. (?2 altered to) 3.

This volume contains List B, a dedication: Alla mia
cara mamma, / con la speranza che questo / libro
le dia qualche conforto / alle molte amarezze--
and the following stories:

26. Lontano (reprinted by TrÍves in 1915 with II
Turno: see above: B. 2) (V. 8).
27. Il ventaglino (I. 9).
28. Scialle nero (I. 1).
29. Come gemelle (reprinted in II Carnevale dei
Morti) (VII. 8).
30. Il Tabernacolo (I. 4).
31. Formalitŗ (I. 8).
32. Amicissimi (I. 11).
33. Tarano e Tanotto (reprinted by TrÍves in
uand'ero matto... See above) (X. 2).
34. Prima notte (I. 2).
35. Il fumo (1.3).

The stock of Bianche e Nere was afterwards transferred
to Fratelli TrÍves, in whose catalogues this
title still appears, though the book itself has long
been out of print.

6. ERMA BIFRONTE

Erma Bifronte / novelle / di / Luigi Pirandello /
(emblem) Milano / Fratelli TrÍves, Editori.

Published 1906. Fourth thousand printed in 1918.

Pp. viii + 340. Price L. 3,50.

Contains a dedicatory letter to Camillo Innocenti
dated "Roma, 26 agosto 1906," and the following
stories, dedicated to fourteen other friends:

36. Va bene: (1) Stato di servizio (VI. 4).
197.         (2) La pigna (VI. 5).
198.         (3) II vento (VI. 6).
37. Con altri occhi (V. 10).
38. Le medaglie (V. 4).
39. L'eresia catara (V. 2).
40. La mosca (V. 1).
41. Una voce (VI. 14).
42. In silenzio (VI. 1).
43. L'altro figlio. (See Flays F. 5). (VI. 2).
44. La Veglia (VI. 11).
45. Alla zappa! (VI. 13).
46. Lo scaldino (V. 7).
47. La bŗlia (VI. 9).
48. Le sorprese della scienza (V. 3).
49. Il sonno del vecchio (V. 14).

7. LA VITA NUDA

La vita nuda / novelle / di / Luigi Pirandello /
(emblem) / Milano / Fratelli TrÍves, Editori /
Published before 1911. Fifth and sixth thousands
printed in 1919.

Pp. iv + 362. Price L. 3,50.

Contains the following stories, fifteen of which are
reprinted in Novelle per un anno--Vol. II--La vita
nuda:

50. La vita nuda (II. 1).
51. L'uscita del vedovo (II. 14).
52. Pallino e Mimž (II. 4).
53. Senza malizia (II. 11).
54. Fuoco alla paglia! (II. 7).
55. La toccatina (II. 2).
56. Acqua amara (II. 3).
57. Di guardia (IV. 8).
58. Nel segno (II. 5).
59. La buon'anima (II. 10).
60. Tutto per bene (See Plays E. 10). (II. 9).
61. La fedeltŗ del cane (II. 8).
62. Il dovere del medico (See Plays F. 9) (II. 12).
63. La cassa riposta (IV. 2).
64. La casa del Granella (II. 6).
65. Distrazione (II. 15).
66. Pari (11.13).

8. TERZETTI

Terzetti / di / Luigi Pirandello / (emblem) /
Milano / Fratelli TrÍves, Editori /
Published in or about 1912. Fifth and sixth thousands
printed in 1920.

Pp. iv + 324. Price L. 3,50.

Contains eighteen stories arranged in six numbered
groups:

67. (I) II lume dell'altra casa.
68.     Il viaggio.
69.     Ignare.
70. (II) La giara (See Plays F. 6).
71.     La morta e la viva.
72.     La lega disciolta.
73. (IlI) II libretto rosso.
74.     Leonora, addio!...
75.     L'uccello impagliato.
76. (IV) Non Ť una cosa seria (See Plays E. 8).
77.     Pensaci, Giacomino! (See Plays E. 3).
78.     Eichiamo all'obbligo (See Plays E. 14).
79. (V) Felicitŗ.
80.     L'ombrello.
81.     Zafferanetta.
82. (VI) L'illustre estinto.
83.     Due letti a due.
84.     Leviamoci questo pensiero.

9. LE DUE MASCHERE (TU RIDI)

Luigi Pirandello / Le due Maschere / (emblem) /
Firenze / Casa ťditrice italiana di A. Quattrini /
1914.

Firenze--Tip. di A. Vallecchi e C.--Via Nazionale,
25.

Pp. 320. Price L. 3.

Contains List C and eighteen stories arranged in
two groups:

85. (I) II gorgo (VIII. 14 as Nel gorgo).
86.     Nel dubbio (VIII. 11).
87.     La corona (VIII. 12).
88.     Superior stabat lupus (VIII. 10).
89.     Musica vecchia (VIII. 15).
90.     L'abito nuovo (reprinted in Un cavallo nella
        luna) (IX.  4).
91.     La benedizione (VIII. 6 as Benedizione).
92.     Ciŗula scopre la luna (VIII.  4).
93.     I due compari (VII.  15).
94.  (II) Certi obblighi (VIII.  3).
95.     Maestro amore.
96.     Le vedove (reprinted as Tutt'e tre in II
        Carnevale dei Morti, and in VII. 1).
97.     Tu ridi (VIII. 12).
98.     Lo storno e l'Angelo Centuno (VIII. 9).
99.     Chi la paga (VIII. 5).
100.    La liberazione del re (VII. 14).
101.    Quintadecima (VIII. 7 as Male di Luna).
102.    Il bottone della palandrana (VII. 3).


9a.  Luigi Pirandello / Tu ridi / novelle / Nuova
edizione riveduta.  / (emblem) / Milano / Fratelli
TrÍves, Editori.  Published in 1919 or 1920.
Third, fourth and fifth thousands printed in 1920.
Pp. iv + 280. Price L. 5.

Contains sixteen of the stories from Le due Maschere
(the other two having been reprinted in Un cavallo
nella luna and II Carnevale dei Morti respectively),
rearranged in five numbered groups, followed
by Tu ridi:

   92, 100,  98. I.
   94,  91, 102. II.
   89,  95,  86. III.
   87,  88,  85. IV.
  101,  99,  93. V.
             97. Tu ridi.

10. LA TRAPPOLA

Luigi Pirandello / La Trappola / novelle / (em-Nem)
/ Milano / Fratelli TrÍves, Editori.

Published in 1913 or 1914 (i.e., between Le due
Maschere and II Turno: Lontano). Third thousand
printed in 1918.

Pp. iv + 336. Price L. 3,50.

This volume has long been out of print and is extremely
rare. It contains the following twenty
stories:

103. La tragedia d'un personaggio (a modo di
     prefazione) (IV. 15).
104. L'avemaria di Bobbio (III. 4).
105. I nostri ricordi (IV. 7).
106. I tre pensieri della sbiobbina (III. 7).
107. L'uomo solo (IV. 1).
108. Requiem úternam dona eis, domine! (III. 15).
109. La patente (See Plays F. 3) (III. 10).
110. Notte (III. 11).
111. Canta l'Epistola (III. 2).
112. NenŤ e Nini (III. 14).
113. Il coppo (IV. 12).
114. Sopra esotto (III. 8).
115. L'imbecille (See Plays F. 7) (III. 5).
116. O di uno o di nessuno (See Plays E. 23) (III. 12).
117. La veritŗ (IV. 10).
118. La veste lunga (IV. 6).
119. Il treno ha fischiato (IV. 3).
120. La rallegrata (III. 1).
121. Il professor Terremoto (IV. 5).
122. La trappola (IV. 13).

11. ERBA DEL NOSTRO ORTO

Luigi Pirandello / Erba / del nostro orto / Milano /
Studio editoriale lombardo / Via Ciro Menotti, 2 /
1915.

Pp. 208 + 8 of advertisements. Price L. 3.
Dedication: A Lucio D'Ambra, / mio vicino, / di
cuore e di casa.

Contents:

123. Il commesso pensatore.
124. Sua Maestŗ (III. 6).
125. Tonache di Montelusa:
       (1) Difesa del MŤola (I. 5).
126.   (2) I fortunati (I. 6).
127.   (3) Visto che non piove... (1.7).
128. Berecche e la guerra:
       (1) Un' altra vita.
129.   (2) La piccola e la grande storia.
130.   (3) Nel buio.

My copy of this volume is bound in a grey wrapper
on which is:

Luigi Pirandello / Erba / del nostro orto / romanzo
(sic) / (emblem) / Studio editoriale lombardo /
18, Via Durini, 18 / 1918.

This firm shortly afterwards became known as
Facchi, and in Berecche e la guerra, (1919) advertises:
Presso lo stesso editore: / L. Pirandello /
Erba / del nostro orto / 2a edizione / Facchi,
editore--Milano / Via Durini, 18 / 1919 / L. 3,50.

I learn, however, from Professor Pirandello that this
second edition was never published.

12. E DOMANI, LUNEDŐ...

Luigi Pirandello / E domani, lunedž... / novelle
/ (emblem) / Milano / Fratelli TrÍves, Editori /

Published in or about 1916. Third thousand printed
in 1918. Fifth and sixth thousands printed in
1919. Pp. iv + 366. Price L. 4.

Contains seventeen stories and a short play:

131. Nell' albergo Ť morto un tale.
132. Komolo.
133. La mano del malato povero.
134. La Signora Frola e il Signor Ponza, suo genero
       (See Plays, E. 5).
135. La camera in attesa.
136. Mentre il cuore soffriva.
137. Un ritratto.
138. La rosa.
139. Candelora.
140. Servitý.
141. Da sť.
142. Ho tante cose da dirvi...
143. Piuma.
144. La realtŗ del sogno.
145. Zuccarello, distinto melodista.
146. Il Signore della nave (See Plays F. 4).
147. La carriola
and Ali'uscita (mistero profano) (See Plays F. 1).

13. UN CAVALLO NELLA LUNA

LE SPIGHE / 5 Luigi Pirandello / Un cavallo nella
luna / novelle (emblem) / Fratelli TrÍves, Editori
/ 1918.

Fifth thousand printed in 1918. Pp. iv + 208.
Price L. 2,40.

This is the fifth volume in the series "Le Spighe,"
consisting of short stories by various eminent
writers. The seventeenth volume is a reprint of
Quand'ero matto... (of. C. 3a, above). The
contents are eleven stories, divided into two groups
of five by the placing between these of the longer
story Donna Mimma. The last two stories are
reprinted from earlier series. The whole of this
volume is comprised in Novelle per un anno--Vol.
IX--Donna Mimma.

148. Un cavallo nella luna (IX. 11).
149. Il capretto nero (IX. 5).
150. I pensionati della memoria (IX. 15).
151. Rondone e Rondinella (IX. 9).
152. Un gatto, un cardellino e le stelle (IX. 7 as II
gatto, etc.).
153. Donna Mimma:
       (1) Donna Mimma parte (IX. 1).
199.   (2) Donna Mimma studia (IX. 2).
200.   (3) Donna Mimma ritorna (IX. 3).
154. La vendetta del cane (IX. 8).
155. Il saltamartino (IX. 13 as Paura d'esser felice).
156. Quando si comprende (IX. 10).
 22. Visitare gl'infermi (IX. 14. From Beffe della
Morte, II).
90. L'abito nuovo (IX. 4. From Le due Maschere).

14. BERECCHE E LA GUERRA

L. Pirandello / Berecche e la guerra / (emblem) /
Facchi, editore--Milano / Via Durini, 18 / 1919.

Pp. 216. Price L. 3,50.

Facing the title-page is an advertisement of the second
edition of Erba del nostro orto at L. 3,50. On
the back of the wrapper is a list of recent publications,
including Erlba del nostro orto at L. 3. Almost
half of the volume consists of a reprint of the
tripartite story Berecche e la guerra (pp. 19-104)
from Erba del nostro orto.

157. Colloqui coi personaggi.
128-130. Berecche e la guerra (see above).
158. Marco Leccio e della sua guerra sulla carta
nel tempo della grande guerra europea
(Chaps. I to XI).

15. IL CARNEVALE DEI MORTI

Luigi Pirandello / II Carnevale dei Morti / novelle /
(emblem) / Firenze / Luigi Battistelli / 1919.
Firenze, Stabilimento Tipografico Pisa e Lampronti.
Pp. 288. Price L. 5.

Contains fifteen stories, five of which are reprinted
from earlier series:

159. Come CirinciÚ per un momento si dimenticÚ
d'esser lui (VI. 8 as La, maschera dimenticata).
160. CaffŤ notturno (VI. 3 as La morte addosso.
See also Plays, F. 11. L'uomo dal fiore in
bocca).
161. Dal naso al cielo. (VIII. 1).
96. Tutt' e tre (VII. 1. Formerly Le vedove, in
Le due Maschere).
23. Il vitalizio (X. 12. Reprinted from Beffe, II).
162. Ieri e oggi (VIII. 13).
29. Come gemelle (VII. 8. Reprinted from Bianche
e Nere).
163. Filo d'aria (VII. 9).
164. Un matrimonio ideale (VII. 10).
25. Il marito di mia moglie (VII. 5. Reprinted
from Beffe, II).
165. L'ombra del rimorso (VII. 2).
166. Il corvo di Mizzaro (VI. 10).
167. Marsina stretta (VII. 4).
4. Il giardinetto lassý (VI. 7. Reprinted from
Beffe, I).
168. La cattura.

16. MISCELLANEOUS

In addition to the stories enumerated above, the
majority of which have been reprinted in Novelle
per un anno, the first ten volumes of that series
include twenty-five stories more, as follows:

169. E due! (I. 10).
170. Rimedio: La Geografža (I. 13).
171. Risposta (I. 14).
172. Il Pipistrello (I. 15).
173. Un goj (III. 9).
174. Nenia (III. 13).
175. Zia Michelina (IV. 4).
176. Dono della Vergine Maria (IV. 9).
177. Volare (IV. 11).
178. La Madonnina (V. 5).
179. La fede (V. 9).
180. Tra due ombre (V. 11).
181. Niente (V. 12).
182. Mondo di carta (V. 13).
183. La distruzione dell'uomo (V. 15).
184. Lo spirito maligno (VI. 12).
185. Pena di vivere cosž (VI. 15. See Novels, B 7).
186. La maestrina BoccarmŤ (VII. 6).
187. Acqua e lž (VII. 7).
188. Ritorno (VII. 10).
189. Un po' di vino (VII. 10).
190. Fuga (VIII. 2).
191. I figlio cambiato (VIII. 8).
192. Sedile sotto un vecchio cipresso (IX. 6).
193. Resti mortali (IX. 12).

NOVELLE PER UN ANNO

In List D, annexed to the first edition of Tutto per
bene (1920) is announced the forthcoming publication
by the firm of Bemporad of all the prose
works of Pirandello, including:

Novelle per un anno:

I. Quand'ero matto...
II. Beffe della Morte e della Vita.
III. Bianche e Nere.
IV. Erba (sic) bifronte.
V. La vita nuda.
VI. Terzetti.
VII. La trappola.
VIII. E domani, lunedž...
IX. Erba del nostro orto.
X. Il carnevale dei morti.
XI. Tu ridi.
XII. Un cavallo nella luna.

Finally, the series was arranged in twenty-four volumes,
each to contain fifteen novelle and to take
its title from the first of its fifteen. To each
volume a Note (Avvertenza) is prefixed, in which
the author announces his original intention of collecting
all his stories in one encyclopaedic volume,
and adds: "Each volume will contain not a few
new stories, and of those already published some
have been reconstructed from top to bottom,
others recast and retouched here and there, all of
them in short re-elaborated with long and loving
care." It will be noticed, however, that Volume
II of the series (La vita nuda) is entirely taken
from the volume published with a similar title by
F.lli TrÍves, and Volume X from Quand'ero
matto...

Luigi Pirandello / Novelle / per un anno / Volume
I. / Scialle nero / R. Bemporad & Figlio--Editori
/ Firenze, Via Cavour 20.
192(?) Prato, Tip. Giachetti, Figlio e C.
First edition 1921 or 1922. Second edition 1922.
Pp. iv + 288. Price L. 7,50.

Contains: 28, 34, 35, 30, 125, 126, 127, 31, 27, 169,
32, 2, 170, 171, 172.

Volume II. La vita nuda.

First edition 1921 or 1922. Second edition 1922.
Pp. iv + 296. Price L. 7,50.

Contains: 50, 55, 56, 52, 58, 64, 54, 61, 60, 59, 53,
62, 51, 65.

Volume III. La rallegrata

Published 1922. Pp. iv + 220. Price L. 7,50.
Contains: 120, 111, 3, 104, 115, 124, 106, 114, 173,
109, 110, 116, 174, 112, 108.

Volume IV. L'uomo solo.

Published 1922. Pp. iv + 248. Price L. 7,50.
Contains: 107, 63, 119, 175, 121, 118, 105, 57, 176,
117, 177, 113, 122, 1, 103.

Volume V. La mosca.

Published 1923. Pp. iv + 288 (including one page
of advertisements). Price L. 7,50.
Contains: 40, 39, 48, 38, 178, 16, 46, 26, 179, 37,
180, 181, 182, 49, 183.

Volume VI. In silenzio.

Published 1923. Pp. vi + 330. Price L. 11 (in
Florence L. 10).
Contains: 42, 43, 160, 36, 197, 198, 4, 159, 47, 166,
44, 184, 45, 41, 185.

Volume VII. Tutt'e tre.

Printed 1924 (on sale early in 1925). Pp. vi + 210.
Price L. 11; (in Florence L. 10).
Contains: 96, 165, 102, 167, 25, 186, 187, 29, 163,
164, 188, 97, 189, 100, 93.

Volume VIII. Dal naso al ciclo / E. Bemporad & F.
--Editori--Firenze / Rappresentanti per il Piemonte:
S. Lattes & C.--Torino.

Published 1925. Pp. vi + 230 (including two pages
of advertisements). Price L. 11 (in Florence
L. 10).

Contains: 161, 190, 94, 92, 99, 91, 101, 191, 98, 88,
86, 87, 162, 85, 89.

Volume IX. Donna Minima (title-page as Volume
VIII).

Published 1925. Pp. vi + 196. Price shewn in the
list of volumes as L. 10. Elsewhere shewn as
L. 11 (in Florence L. 10). Over this is pasted a
label shewing price as L. 13 (in Florence L. 12).

Contains: 153, 199, 200, 90, 149, 192, 152, 154, 151,
156, 148, 193, 155, 22, 150.

Volume X. Il vecchio Dio. R. Bemporad & F.--Editori--Firenze
/ Rappresentanti per il Piemonte:
S. Lattes & C.--Torino.

1926--Prato, Tip. Giachetti, Figlio e C.
Published June, 1926. pp. vi + 238 (including one
page of advertisements).
Price (in Florence) L. 12.

Contains: 14, 33, 10, 21, 1, 194, 195, 196, 11, 19, 5,
23, 17, 8, 12.

D. CRITICISM*

1. L'UMORISMO

First edition: Professor Pirandello informs me that
this volume was published by Carabba at Lanciano,
shortly before the declaration of war in 1915. It
is not included in list C (1914).

Scrittori italiani e stranieri / storia, letteratura,
critica e filosofia / Luigi Pirandello / L'umorismo /
saggio / seconda edizione aumentata / (emblem) /
Firenze / Luigi Battistelli--Editore / 1920.

Pp. 228. Price L. 6. A list of the firm's most recent
publications includes II Carnevale dei Morti.

2. ARTE E SCIENZA

Under the heading Ristampe and subheading Critica:
List D places "L'umorismo, saggio" and "Arte e
scienza, studii" but I have not been able to trace
this volume. Professor Pirandello informs me that
it was published in Rome by Modes & Mendel, in
what year he does not remember.

* This section should include the essay, in German, upon the
dialect of Girgenti presented by Pirandello as a thesis for his
doctorate at Bonn. After I had corrected the proofs of this
bibliography, Professor Foligno, of Oxford, told me that he had
recently acquired a copy of this rare pamphlet, which he has
promised to let me see.--C. K. S. M.

E. DRAMA (EXCLUDING PLAYS IN ONE ACT)

1. SE NON COSŐ (LA EAGIONE DEGLI ALTRI)

Produced by the Compagnia Stabile at the Teatro
Manzoni, Milan, on April 19, 1915. Published by
F.lli TrÍves in 1917.

Second thousand 1917.

Luigi Pirandello / Se non cosž / Commedia in tre
atti / con una lettera alla protagonista. / (em-llem)
/ Milano / Fratelli TrÍves, Editori / 1917.

Pp. xii + 180. Price L. 3.

Prefaced to the play is a letter from the author to
the heroine. A revised version of this comedy,
entitled La ragione degli altri, was published in
1921 by F.lli TrÍves in Maschere nude IV. (See
below.) A reprint of this version is advertised by
Bemporad as Vol. XVIII of the new series of
Maschere nude. The germ of the play will be
found in the novel Suo marito, where a comedy
entitled Se non cosi is written by the heroine,
Silvia Roncella, a young Italian novelist who has
come to Rome from the provinces, and has made
a dramatic success with another comedy, La nuova
colonia.

2. LIOLA'

Produced by the Compagnia comica siciliana at the
Teatro Argentina, Rome on November 4, 1916.
This pastoral comedy is written in the dialect of
Girgenti, an Italian version being printed on alternate
pages.

Teatro FormÔggini / Liolŗ / Commedia Campestre
in tre atti / di / Luigi Pirandello / Personaggi /
(list of characters in double column) / Campagna
agrigentina. Oggi. / Testa siciliano / e traduzione
italiana a fronte / (emblem) / A. F. Formžggini
editore in Roma / (Via del Campidoglio N. 5).

Roma, 1917--Tipografia dell' Unione Editrice, via
Federico Cesi, 45.

Pp. x + 146. Price L. 2,50.

To the text of the play is prefaced a Note (Avvertenza)
on the Agrigentine dialect. In their latest
publications (1925) the firm of Bemporad announce
a new and revised edition of Liolŗ.

(Professor Pirandello informs me that this play was
written after Nos. 3 and 4).

3. PENSACI, GIACOMINO! commedia in tre atti
Derived from a story (77) in Terzetti. Published
(1918) by F.lli TrÍves in Maschere nude I (pages
1-96), and reprinted in 1925 by Bemporad as
Maschere nude Vol. X.

Luigi Pirandello / Maschere nude / Pensaci, Gia-comino!
/ Cosž Ť (se vi pare) / II piacere dell'
onestŗ / (emblem) / Milano / Fratelli TrÍves,
Editori /

Copyright, 1918. Fifth thousand printed in 1922.

Pp. viii + 292. Price L. 6.

Dedication: All' amico Ruggero Ruggeri, / maestro
d' ogni composto ardire / sulla scena.

(Vol. X.)

Maschere nude / teatro di Luigi Pirandello / Pensaci,
/ Giacomini! / commedia in tre atti / nuova
edizione / riveduta e corretta / (mask) / R. Bemporad
& Figlio--Editori--Firenze / Via Cavour,
20 / Rappresentanti per il Piemonte: S. Lattes
& C.--Torino.

1925.--Prato, Tip. Giachetti, Figlio e C.

Pp. 134. Price L. 8,50 (in Florence L. 8).

The dedication is not reprinted.

4. IL BERRETTO A SONAGLI, commedia in due atti

Published (1920) by F.lli TrÍves in Maschere nude
III (pages 49-164), and reprinted in 1925 by
Bemporad as Maschere nude Vol. XIV.

Luigi Pirandello / Maschere nude / Lumže di Sicilia
/ commedia in un atto / II berretto a sonagli / commedia
in due atti / La patente / commedia in
un atto / (emblem) / Milano / etc.

Copyright, 1920. First, second and third thousands,
1920.

Pp. iv + 200. Price L. 6.

(Vol. XIV.)

Maschere nude / teatro di Luigi Pirandello / II
berretto / a sonagli / commedia in due atti /
nuova edizione riveduta e corretta / (mask) / R.
Bemporad & Figlio, etc., etc.

1925.--Prato, Tip. Giachetti, Figlio e C.

Pp. 116. Price L. 11 (in Florence L. 10).

5. COSŐ E' (SE VI PARE) Parabola in tre atti

Derived from a story (134) in E domani, lunedž
...: La Signora Frola e il Signor Ponza, suo
genero. Published (1918) by F.lli TrÍves in
Maschere nude I (pages 97-200), and reprinted
in 1925 by Bemporad as Maschere nude Vol. XI.

Cosž Ť / (se vi pare) / parabola in tre atti / nuova
edizione / riveduta e corretta / etc., etc.
Pp. 160. Price L. 8,50 (in Florence L. 8).

6. IL PIACERE DELL' ONESTA' commedia in tre atti.

Produced at the Teatro Carignano, Turin, by Ruggero
Ruggeri, on November 27, 1917.

Published (1918) by F.lli TrÍves in Maschere nude
I (pages 201-292), and reprinted in 1925 by Bemporad
as Maschere nude Vol. XIII. Il piacere /
dell 'onestŗ / commedia in tre atti / nuova edizione
riveduta e corretta / etc., etc.

Pp. 136 (including two pages of advertisements)

Price L. 11 (in Florence L. 10).

7. IL GIUCCO DELLE PARTI in tre atti

Produced at the Teatro Quirino, Rome, by Ruggero
Ruggeri, on December 6, 1918. The reception
given to this play is reflected in the opening scene
of Sci personaggi in cerca d'autore. Published
(1919) by F.lli TrÍves in Maschere nude II (pages
1-116), and reprinted in 1925 by Bemporad as
Maschere nude Vol. XV.

Luigi Pirandello / Maschere nude / II / II giucco
delle parti / in tre atti / Ma non Ť una cosa seria
/ commedia in tre atti / (emblem) / Milano /
Fratelli TrÍves, Editori.

Copyright, 1919. Fourth and fifth thousands
printed in 1923 /

Pp. iv + 258. Price L. 5.

(Vol. XV.)

Il giuoco / delle parti / in tre atti / nuova edizione
riveduta e corretta / (mask) / E. Bemporad &
Figlio etc., etc.

Pp. 156 (including two pages of advertisements).
Price L. 11 (in Florence L. 10).

8. MA NON E' UNA COSA SEEIA commedia in tre atti.

Derived from a story (24) in Beffe della Morte II:
Signora Speranza, as well as from Non Ť una cosa
seria (76) in Terzetti. Produced at the Teatro
Rossini, Leghorn, on November 22,1918, by Emma
Grammatica. Published (1919) by F.lli TrÍves in
Maschere nude II (pages 117-256), and reissued in
1926 by Bemporad as Maschere nude, Vol. XVI.

9. L'INNESTO commedia in tre atti

Published (1921) by F.lli TrÍves in Maschere nude
IV (pages 1-110) and reissued in 1926 by Bemporad
as Maschere nude Vol. XVII.

Luigi Pirandello / Maschere nude / L'innesto /
commedia in tre atti / La ragione degli altri /
(ex Se non cosž) / commedia in tre atti / Con
una lettera alla protagonista / (emblem) / Milano
/ Fratelli TrÍves, Editori / 1921.

First, second and third thousands printed in 1921.
Pp. iv + 252. Price L. 7.

10. TUTTO PER BENE

Maschere Nude / Luigi Pirandello / Tutto per bene
/ commedia in tre atti / (emblem) / E. Bemporad
& F.--Editori--Firenze / Librerie a Firenze, Milano,
Roma, Pisa, Napoli, Palermo, Trieste /
Torino e Genova: S. Lattes & C.

1920--Tipografia Luigi Parma--Bologna--Via Tre
Novembre, 7.
Pp. 144 (including List D on pages 141-2). Price
L. 6.

The first issue of this volume is in a wrapper bearing
a classical design in blue and orange: a
female figure in blue, armed with a short sword,
holding at arm's length in her left hand a tragic
mask. Behind her a Bacchanal figure in orange,
holding on a thyrsus a comic mask. Signed E zio
Anichini.

Later copies are issued in the uniform wrapper of
the Bemporad series, with "Maschere Nude"--I
Vol. in the top right-hand corner and the date
MCMXXIII below the publisher's name.

Second edition published 1925.

1924.--Tip. Giuntina, diretta da L. Franceschini--Firenze,
Via del Sole, 4.

Price L. 7,70 (in Florence L. 7).

This play is derived from a story (60) in La vita
nuda (II. 9).

11. COME PRIMA MEGLIO DI PRIMA commedia in
tre atti

Maschere Nude / Luigi Pirandello / Come Prima /
Meglio di Prima / commedia in tre atti / (em-Uem)
/ 1921 / R. Bemporad & F. etc., Uniform
with the first issue of Tutto per bene.

Pp. 184. Price L. 6. Later copies are issued in the
uniform wrapper, with "Maschere nude" II Vol.
in the top right-hand corner and the date
MCMXXIII below the publisher's name.

Second edition 1924.

61-1924.--Tip. Scolasticŗ, condotta da F. Ciuffi,--Via
Tripoli 28. Firenze.

Price L. 7,70 (in Florence L. 7).

12. (Vol. III.)
SEI PERSONAGGI IN CERCA D'AUTORE
commedia da fare

Maschere nude / Teatro di Luigi Pirandello / Sei
personaggi in cerca d'autore / commedia da fare /
(mask) /Firenze / R. Bemporad & Figlio--editori
/ Via Cavour, 20.

Prato--Tip. Giachetti, Figlio e C.

Pp. iv + 132. Price L. 6.

Copyright 1921: Second edition 1923: Third edition
1924: Fourth edition:--

Maschere nude / Teatro di Luigi Pirandello / Sei
personaggi / in cerca d'autore / commedia da
fare / quarta edizione riveduta e corretta / con
l'aggiunta d'una prefazione / (mask) / R. Bemporad
& Figlio--Editori--Firenze / Rappresentanti
per il Piemonte: S. Lattes & C.--Torino.

Societŗ Anonima Poligrafica Italiana--Roma 1925.

Pp. 160. Price L. 11 (in Florence L. 10).

In the Preface (pages 7-28) the author explains how
he came to write this much discussed play.

The reader will find a similar theme treated in two
of the novelle: La tragedia d'un personaggio
(103) in La trappola (IV. 15); and Colloqui coi
personaggi (157) in Berecche e la guerra.

13. (Vol. IV.)

ENRICO IV tragedia in tre atti

Uniform with No. 12. Published in 1922. Second
edition (described in list of publications but not
on title page as "revised and corrected") 1923.
Third edition 1925.
Pp. iv + 140 (including two pages of advertisements).
Price L. 6.

14. (Vol. V.)

L'UOMO, LA BESTIA E LA VIRTŔ apologo in
tre atti

Produced at the Teatro Olimpia, Milan, by Gandusio,
on May 2, 1919.

Maschere nude / teatro di Luigi Pirandello /
L'uomo, la bestia / e la virtý / apologo in tre
atti / (mask) / Firenze / R. Bemporad & Figlio---
Editori / MCMXXII.

1520-1922--Firenze--Stabilimento Tip. E. Ariani,

Via S. Gallo, 33.
Pp. iv + 152. Price L. 6.

This uproarious comedy is derived and enlarged from
a story in Terzetti: Richiamo all'obbligo (78).

15. (Vol. VI.)

LA SIGNORA MORLI UNA E DUE commedia in
tre atti (DUE IN UNA)

Uniform with the first editions of Nos. 12 and 13.
Published in 1922. Pp. iv + 172. Price L. 6.

The original version of this play was produced in
Rome by Emma Grammatica. The revised version
(as printed) was produced at the Politeama
Nazionale, Florence, by Luigi Pirandello, as DUE
IN UNA, with Uberto Palmarini and Marta Abba
in the principal parts, on March 13, 1926.

16. (Vol. VII.)

VESTIRE GLI IGNUDI commedia in tre atti

Produced at the Teatro Quirino, Rome, by Melato, on
November 14,1922.
Uniform with the last. Published in 1923. Second

Edition 1925.

Pp. iv + 152. Price L. 6.

17. (Vol. VIII.)

LA VITA CHE TI DIEDI tragedia in tre atti
Uniform with the last. Published in 1924 (the play
had been produced in 1923). Pp. 112. Price in
Florence L. 7 (elsewhere L. 7,70).

18. (Vol. IX.)

CIASCUNO A SUO MODO commedia in duo o in
tre atti con intermezzi corali.

Produced at the Teatro dei Filodrammatici, Milan,
by Niccodemi, on May 23, 1924.

Printed as No. 14. Published in 1924. Pp. iv + 172.

Price in Florence L. 8 (elsewhere L. 8,50).

19. LA NUOVA COLONIA commedia in tre atti

In an interview published in the Messaggero on
June 5, 1925, Professor Pirandello spoke of this
and the following play as in preparation for production
in the autumn. A play thus entitled was
the first successful work of Silvia Roncella, the
heroine of Suo marito (1911; cf. B. 4).

20. LA MOGLIE DI PRIMA commedia in tre atti
See above.

21. L'AMICA DELLE MOGLI commedia in tre atti
From a story (203) in Amori senza amore,

22. DIANA E LA TUDA commedia in tre atti

23. O DI UNO O DI NESSUNO commedia in tre atti
From a story (116) in La Trappola (III. 12).

F. PLAYS IN ONE ACT

1. ALL'USCITA (Mistero profano)

Published in E domani, lunedž... (pages 338-364).
[To be reprinted in Vol. XX of the Bemporad series:
All'uscita, Mistero profano--II dovere del medico,
Un atto--La morsa, Epilogo in un atto--L'uomo
dal fiore in bocca, Dialogo.]

2. LUMŐE DI SICILIA commedia in un atto

Derived from a story (12) in Quand'ero matto...
(X. 15).

Published by F.lli TrÍves in Maschere nude III
(1920) pages 1-48. (See E. 4.)

To be reprinted in Vol. XIX of the Bemporad series.

3. LA PATENTE commedia in un atto

Derived from a story (109) in La trappola.
Published by F.lli TrÍves in Maschere nude III
(1920) pages 165-196. (See E. 4.)

To be reprinted in Vol. XIX of the Bemporad series.
(Vol. XII.)

4. SAGRA DEL SIGNOEE DELLA NAVE

5. L'ALTRO FIGLIO

6. LA GIARA--commedie in un atto

Maschere nude / Teatro di Luigi Pirandello / Sagra
del Signore / della nave / L'altro figlio / La giara /
commedie in un atto / (mask) R. Bemporad &
Figlio--Editori--Firenze / Rappresentanti per il
Piemonte: S. Lattes & C.--Torino.

1925.--Prato, Tip. Giachetti, Figlio e C.

Pp. 144. Price L. 8,50 (in Florence L. 8).

Sagra del Signore della nave; pages 5-50. This is
derived from a story (146) in E domani,
lunedž... It was produced at the opening of the
Teatro d'Arte, Rome, in April, 1925, following a
version of Lord Dunsany's Gods of the Mountain.

L'altro figlio: pages 51--88. Derived from a story
(43) in Erma bifronte. (VI. 2.)

La giara: pages 89-142. Derived from a story (70)
in Terzetti. Announced in List D (1920) among
forthcoming reprints.

7. L'IMBECILLE commedia in un atto

[In preparation: Vol. XIX. L'imbecille--Lumže di
Sicilia--CecŤ--La patente, Commedie in un atto
... L. 9.]

Derived from a story (115) in La trappola. (III. 5.)

8. CECE' commedia in un atto

See above. Announced in List D (1920) among
forthcoming reprints.

9. IL DOVERE DEL MEDICO, un atto

See No. 1. Derived from a story (62) in La vita
nuda (II. 12).

Announced with Nos. 6 and 8 in List D.

10. LA MORSA, Epilogo in un atto

See No. 1. (Professor Pirandello thinks that this is
the earliest of the plays in one act.)

11. L'UOMO DAL FIORE IN BOCCA, Dialogo

Produced at the Teatro degli Independenti Rome,
February 21, 1923.

See No. 1. Derived from a story, CaffŤ notturno
(160) in II Carnevale dei Morti, reprinted in
Novelle per un anno (VI. 3.), as La morte addosso.



THE END





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