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VERGA, Giovanni

Cavalleria Rusticana and Other Stories

"You wicked slut!" she cried. "You wicked slut of a mother!"

"Shut up!"

"You thief! Thief!"

"Shut up!"

"'I'll tell the police sergeant, that's what I'll do!"

"Go ahead and tell him!"

She did go ahead, with her children clinging round her neck, totally unafraid, and without shedding a tear. She was like a mad woman, because now she too loved the husband they had forced upon her, all greasy and covered in sweat from the fermenting olives.The sergeant had Nanni called in, and threatened him with prison and the gallows. Nanni stood there sobbing and tearing his hair. He denied nothing, and didn't even try to make excuses."I was tempted!" he cried. "I was tempted by the Devil!"

He threw himself at the sergeant's feet, pleading with him to send him to prison.

"For pity's sake, sergeant, take me out of this hell on earth! Have me killed, send me to prison, never let me set eyes on her again, ever!"

But when the sergeant spoke to the She-Wolf, she replied, "No! I kept a corner of the kitchen to sleep in, when I gave him my house as a dowry. The house is mine. I don't intend to leave it."Shortly after that, Nanni was kicked in the chest by a mule, and was at death's door. But the parish priest refused to bring him the bread of Christ until the She-Wolf left the house. The She-Wolf went away, and her son-in-law could then prepare to take his leave of the world as a good Christian. He confessed and made communion with such an obvious show of repentance and contrition that all the neighbours and onlookers were in tears at the bed of the dying man. And it would have been better if he had died then and there, before the Devil returned to tempt him and to take him over body and soul as soon as he recovered.

"Leave me alone!" he said to the She-Wolf. "For God's sake, leave me in peace! I stared death in the face! The poor Maricchia is in despair! The whole village knows all about it! It's better for both of us if I don't see you. . . ."

(Translation: G. H. McWilliam)