The man was red with excitement, his eyes shining. He addressed the company at large. “I had a dog,” he said, “ah, a dog! And I would put a piece of bread on his nose, and say a verse. And he looked at me so!” The man put his face sideways. “And he looked at me so!” He gazed up under his brows. “And he talked to me so—o: Zieu! Zieu!—But he never moved. No, he never moved. If he sat with that bread on his nose for half an hour, and if tears ran down his face, he never moved—not till I said three! Then—ah!” The man tossed up his face, snapped the air with his mouth, and gulped an imaginary crust. “AH, that dog was trained….” The man of forty shook his head.
“Vieni qua! Come here! Tweet! Come here!”
He patted his fat knee, and the dog crept forward. The man held another piece of bread.
“Now,” he said to the dog, “listen! Listen. I am going to tell you something.
Il soldato va alla guerra—
No—no, Not yet. When I say three!
Il soldato va alla guerra
Mangia male, dorme in terra—
Listen. Be still. Quiet now. UNO—DUE—E—TRE!”
It came out in one simultaneous yell from the man, the dog in sheer bewilderment opened his jaws and let the bread go down his throat, and wagged his tail in agitated misery.
“Ah,” said the man, “you are learning. Come! Come here! Come! Now then! Now you know. So! So! Look at me so!”
The stout, good-looking man of forty bent forward. His face was flushed, the veins in his neck stood out. He talked to the dog, and imitated the dog. And very well indeed he reproduced something of the big, gentle, wistful subservience of the animal. The dog was his totem—the affectionate, self-mistrustful, warm-hearted hound.
So he started the rigmarole again. We put it into English.
“Listen now. Listen! Let me tell it you —
So the soldier goes to the war!
His food is rotten, he sleeps on the floor —
Now! Now! No, you are not keeping quiet. Now! Now!
Il soldate va alla guerra
Mangia male, dorme in terra”
The verses, known to every Italian, were sung out in a sing-song fashion. The audience listened as one man—or as one child—the rhyme chiming in every heart. They waited with excitement for the One—Two—and Three! The last two words were always ripped out with a tearing yell. I shall never forget the force of those syllables—E TRE! But the dog made a poor show—He only gobbled the bread and was uneasy.
This game lasted us a full hour: a full hour by the clock sat the whole room in intense silence, watching the man and the dog.
Our friends told us the man was the bus-inspector—their inspector. But they liked him. “Un brav’ uomo! Un bravo uomo! Eh si!” Perhaps they were a little uneasy, seeing him in his cups and hearing him yell so nakedly: AND THREE!Share It