بخش 30

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بخش 30

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By this time Maranzano had dispatched emissaries suing for a peace. Vito Corleone refused to see them, put them off on one pretext or another. The Maranzano soldiers were deserting their leader, not wishing to die in a losing cause. Bookmakers and shylocks were paying the Corleone organization their protection money. The war was all but over.

And then finally on New year’s Eve of 1933. Tessio got inside the defenses of Maranzano himself. The Maranzano lieutenants were anxious for a deal and agreed to lead their chief to the slaughter. They told him that a meeting had been arranged in a Brooklyn restaurant with Corleone and they accompanied Maranzano as his bodyguards. They left him sitting at a checkered table, morosely munching a piece of bread, and fled the restaurant as Tessio and four of his men entered. The execution was swift and sure. Maranzano, his mouth full of half-chewed bread, was riddled with bullets. The war was over.

The Maranzano empire was incorporated into the Corleone operation. Don Corleone set up a system of tribute, allowing all incumbents to remain in their bookmaking and policy number spots. As a bonus he had a foothold in the unions of the garment center which in later years was to prove extremely important. And now that he had settled his business affairs the Don found trouble at home.

Santino Corleone, Sonny, was sixteen years old and grown to an astonishing six feet with broad shoulders and a heavy face that was sensual but by no means effeminate. But where Fredo was a quiet boy, and Michael, of course, a toddler, Santino was constantly in trouble. He got into fights, did badly in school and, finally, Clemenza, who was the boy’s godfather and had a duty to speak, came to Don Corleone one evening and informed him that his son had taken part in an armed robbery, a stupid affair which could have gone very badly. Sonny was obviously the ringleader, the two other boys in the robbery his followers.

It was one of the very few times that Vito Corleone lost his temper. Tom Hagen had been living in his home for three years and he asked Clemenza if the orphan boy had been involved. Clemenza shook his head. Don Corleone had a car sent to bring Santino to his offices in the Genco Pura Olive Oil Company.

For the first time, the Don met defeat. Alone with his son, he gave full vent to his rage, cursing the hulking Sonny in Sicilian dialect, a language so much more satisfying than any other for expressing rage. He ended up with a question. “What gave you the right to commit such an act? What made you wish to commit such an act?”

Sonny stood there, angry, refusing to answer. The Don said with contempt, “ And so stupid. What did you earn for that night’s work? Fifty dollars each? Twenty dollars? You risked your life for twenty dollars, eh?”

As if he had not heard these last words, Sonny said defiantly, “I saw you kill Fanucci.”

The Don said, “Ahhh” and sank back in his chair. He waited.

Sonny said, “When Fanucci left–the building, Mama said I could go up the house. I saw you go up the roof and I followed you. I saw everything you did. I stayed up there and I saw you throwaway the wallet and the gun.”

The Don sighed. “Well, then I can’t talk to you about how you should behave. Don’t you want to finish school, don’t you want to be a lawyer? Lawyers can steal more money with a briefcase than a thousand men with guns and masks.”

Sonny grinned at him and said slyly, “I want to enter the family business.” When he saw that the Don’s face remained impassive, that he did not laugh at the joke, he added hastily, “I can learn how to sell olive oil.”

Still the Don did not answer. Finally he shrugged. “Every man has one destiny,” he said. He did not add that the witnessing of Fanucci’s murder had decided that of his son. He merely turned away and added quietly, “Come in tomorrow morning at nine o’clock. Genco will show you what to do.”

But Genco Abbandando, with that shrewd insight that a Consigliere must have, realized the true wish of the Don and used Sonny mostly as a bodyguard for his father, a position in which he could also learn the subtleties of being a Don. And it brought out a professorial instinct in the Don himself, who often gave lectures on how to succeed for the benefit of his eldest son.

Besides his oft-repeated theory that a man has but one destiny, the Don constantly reproved Sonny for that young man’s outbursts of temper. The Don considered a use of threats the most foolish kind of exposure; the unleashing of anger without forethought as the most dangerous indulgence. No one had ever heard the Don utter a naked threat, no one had ever seen him in an uncontrollable rage. It was unthinkable. And so he tried to teach Sonny his own disciplines. He claimed that there was no greater natural advantage in life than having an enemy overestimate your faults, unless it was to have a friend underestimate your virtues.

The caporegime, Clemenza, took Sonny in hand and taught him how to shoot and to wield a garrot. Sonny had no taste for the Italian rope, he was too Americanized. He preferred the simple, direct, impersonal Anglo-Saxon gun, which saddened Clemenza. But Sonny became a constant and welcome companion to his father, driving his car, helping him in little details. For the next two years he seemed like the usual son entering his father’s business, not too bright, not too eager, content to hold down a soft job.

Meanwhile his boyhood chum and semiadopted brother Tom Hagen was going to college. Fredo was still in high school; Michael, the youngest brother, was in grammar school, and baby sister Connie was a toddling girl of four. The family had long since moved to an apartment house in the Bronx. Don Corleone was considering buying a house in Long Island, but he wanted to fit this in with other plans he was formulating.

Vito Corleone was a man with vision. All the great cities of America were being torn by underworld strife. Guerrilla wars by the dozen flared up, ambitious hoodlums trying to carve themselves a bit of empire; men like Corleone himself were trying to keep their borders and rackets secure. Don Corleone saw that the newspapers and government agencies were using these killings to get stricter and stricter laws, to use harsher police methods. He foresaw that public indignation might even lead to a suspension of democratic procedures which could be fatal to him and his people. His own empire, internally, was secure. He decided to bring peace to all the warring factions in New York City and then in the nation.

He had no illusions about the dangerousness of his mission. He spent the first year meeting with different chiefs of gangs in New York, laying the groundwork, sounding them out, proposing spheres of influence that would be honored by a loosely bound confederated council. But there were too many factions, too many special interests that conflicted. Agreement was impossible. Like other great rulers and lawgivers in history Don Corleone decided that order and peace were impossible until the number of reigning states had been reduced to a manageable number.

There were five or six “Families” too powerful to eliminate. But the rest, the neighborhood Black Hand terrorists, the free-lance shylocks, the strong-arm bookmakers operating without the proper, that is to say paid, protection of the legal authorities, would have to go. And so he mounted what was in effect a colonial war against these people and threw all the resources of the Corleone organization against them.

The pacification of the New York area took three years and had some unexpected rewards. At first it took the form of bad luck. A group of mad-dog Irish stickup artists the Don had marked for extermination almost carried the day with sheer Emerald Isle élan. By chance, and with suicidal bravery, one of these Irish gunmen pierced the Don’s protective cordon and put a shot into his chest. The assassin was immediately riddled with bullets but the damage was done.

However this gave Santino Corleone his chance. With his father out of action, Sonny took command of a troop, his own regime, with the rank of caporegime, and like a young, untrumpeted Napoleon, showed a genius for city warfare. He also showed a merciless ruthlessness, the lack of which had been Don Corleone’s only fault as a conqueror.

From 1935 to 1937 Sonny Corleone made a reputation as the most cunning and relentless executioner the underworld had yet known. Yet for sheer terror even he was eclipsed by the awesome man named Luca Brasi.

It was Brasi who went after the rest of the Irish gunmen and single-handedly wiped them out. It was Brasi, operating alone when one of the six powerful families tried to interfere and become the protector of the independents, who assassinated the head of the family as a warning. Shortly after, the Don recovered from his wound and made peace with that particular family.

By 1937 peace and harmony reigned in New York City except for minor incidents, minor misunderstandings which were, of course, sometimes fatal.

As the rulers of ancient cities always kept an anxious eye on the barbarian tribes roving around their walls, so Don Corleone kept an eye on the affairs of the world outside his world. He noted the coming of Hitler, the fall of Spain, Germany’s strong-arming of Britain at Munich. Unblinkered by that outside world, he saw clearly the coming global war and he understood the implications. His own world would be more impregnable than before. Not only that, fortunes could be made in time of war by alert, foresighted folk. But to do so peace must reign in his domain while war raged in the world outside.

Don Corleone carried his message through the United States. He conferred with compatriots in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Cleveland, Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, and Boston. He was the underworld apostle of peace and, by 1939, more successful than any Pope, he had achieved a working agreement amongst the most powerful underworld organizations in the country. Like the Constitution of the United States this agreement respected fully the internal authority of each member in his state or city. The agreement covered only spheres of. influence and an agreement to enforce peace in the underworld.

And so when World War II broke out in 1939, when the United States joined the conflict in 1941, the world of Don Vito Corleone was at peace, in order, fully prepared to reap the golden harvest on equal terms with all the other industries of a booming America. The Corleone Family had a hand in supplying black-market OPA food stamps, gasoline stamps, even travel priorities. It could help get war contracts and then help get black-market materials for those garment center clothing firms who were not given enough raw material because they did not have government contracts. He could even get all the young men in his organization, those eligible for Army draft, excused from fighting in the foreign war. He did this with the aid of doctors who advised what drugs had to be taken before physical examination, or by placing the men in draft-exempt positions in the war industries.

And so the Don could take pride in his rule. His world was safe for those who had sworn loyalty to him; other men who believed in law and order were dying by the millions. The only fly in the ointment was that his own son, Michael Corleone, refused to be helped, insisted on volunteering to serve his own country. And to the Don’s astonishment, so did a few of his other young men in the organization. One of the men, trying to explain this to his caporegime, said, “This country has been good to me.” Upon this story being relayed to the Don he said angrily to the caporegime, “I have been good to him.” It might have gone badly for these people but, as he had excused his son Michael, so must he excuse other young men who so misunderstood their duty to their Don and to themselves.

At the end of World War II Don Corleone knew that again his world would have to change its ways, that it would have to fit itself more snugly into the ways of the other, larger world. He believed he could do this with no loss of profit.,

There was reason for this belief in his own experience. What had put him on the right track were two personal affairs. Early in his career the then-young Nazorine, only a baker’s helper planning to get married, had come to him for assistance. He and his future bride, a good Italian girl, had saved their money and had paid the enormous sum of three hundred dollars to a wholesaler of furniture recommended to them. This wholesaler had let them pick out everything they wanted to furnish their tenement apartment. A fine sturdy bedroom set with two bureaus and lamps. Also the living room set of heavy stuffed sofa and stuffed armchairs, all covered with rich gold-threaded fabric. Nazorine and his fiancée had spent a happy day picking out what they wanted from the huge warehouse crowded with furniture. The wholesaler took their money, their three hundred dollars wrung from the sweat of their blood, and pocketed it and promised the furniture to be delivered within the week to the already rented flat.

The very next week however, the firm had gone into bankruptcy. The great warehouse stocked with furniture had been sealed shut and attached for payment of creditors. The wholesaler had disappeared to give other creditors time to unleash their anger on the empty air. Nazorine, one of these, went to his lawyer, who told him nothing could be done until the case was settled in court and all creditors satisfied. This might take three years and Nazorine would be lucky to get back ten cents on the dollar.

Vito Corleone listened to this story with amused disbelief. It was not possible that the law could allow such thievery. The wholesaler owned his own palatial home, an estate in Long Island, a luxurious automobile, and was sending his children to college. How could he keep the three hundred dollars of the poor baker Nazorine and not give him the furniture he had paid for? But, to make sure, Vito Corleone had Genco Abbandando check it out with the lawyers who represented the Genco Pura company.

They verified the story of Nazorine. The wholesaler had all his personal wealth in his wife’s name. His furniture business was incorporated and he was not personally liable. True, he had shown bad faith by taking the money of Nazorine when he knew he was going to file bankruptcy but this was a common practice. Under law there was nothing to be done.

Of course the matter was easily adjusted. Don Corleone sent his Consigliere, Genco Abbandando, to speak to the wholesaler, and as was to be expected, that wide-awake businessman caught the drift immediately and arranged for Nazorine to get his furniture. But it was an interesting lesson for the young Vito Corleone.

The second incident had more far-reaching repercussions. In 1939, Don Corleone had decided to move his family out of the city. Like any other parent he wanted his children to go to better schools and mix with better companions. For his own personal reasons he wanted the anonymity of suburban life where his reputation was not known. He bought the mall property in Long Beach, which at that time had only four newly built houses but with plenty of room for more. Sonny was formally engaged to Sandra and would soon marry, one of the houses would be for him. One of the houses was for the Don. Another was for Genco Abbandando and his family. The other was kept vacant at the time.

A week after the mall was occupied, a group of three workmen came in all innocence with their truck. They claimed to be furnace inspectors for the town of Long Beach. One of the Don’s young bodyguards let the men in and led them to the furnace in the basement. The Don, his wife and Sonny were in the garden taking their ease and enjoying the salty sea air.

Much to the Don’s annoyance he was summoned into the house by his bodyguard. The three workmen, all big burly fellows, were grouped around the furnace. They had taken it apart, it was strewn around the cement basement floor. Their leader, an authoritative man, said to the Don in a gruff voice, “Your furnace is in lousy shape. If you want us to fix it and put it together again, it’ll cost you one hundred fifty dollars for labor and parts and then we’ll pass you for county inspection.” He took out a red paper label. “We stamp this seal on it, see, then nobody from the county bothers you again.” The Don was amused. It had been a boring, quiet week in which he had had to neglect his business to take care of such family details moving to a new house entailed. In more broken English than his usual slight accent he asked, “If I don’t pay you, what happens to my furnace?”,

The leader of the three men shrugged. “We just leave the furnace the way it is now.” He gestured at the metal parts strewn over the floor.

The Don said meekly, “Wait, I’ll get you your money.” Then he went out into the garden and said to Sonny, “Listen, there’s some men working on the furnace, I don’t understand what they want. Go in and take care of the matter.” It was not simply a joke; he was considering making his son his underboss. This was one of the tests a business executive had to pass.

Sonny’s solution did not altogether please his father. It was too direct, too lacking in Sicilian subtleness. He was the Club, not the Rapier. For as soon as Sonny heard the leader’s demand he held the three men at gunpoint and had them thoroughly bastinadoed by the bodyguards. Then he made them put the furnace together again and tidy up the basement. He searched them and found that they actually were employed by a house-improvement firm with headquarters in Suffolk County. He learned the name of the man who owned the firm. Then he kicked the three men to their truck. “Don’t let me see you in Long Beach again,” he told them. “I’ll have your balls hanging from your ears.” It was typical of the young Santino, before he became older and crueler, that he extended his protection to the community he lived in. Sonny paid a personal call to the home-improvement firm owner and told him not to send any of his men into the Long Beach area ever again. As soon as the Corleone Family set up their usual business liaison with the local police force they were informed of all such complaints and all crimes by professional criminals. In less than a year Long Beach became the most crime-free town of its size in the United States. Professional stickup artists and strong-arms received one warning not to ply their trade in the town. They were allowed one offense. When they committed a second they simply disappeared. The flimflam home-improvement gyp artists, the door-to-door con men were politely warned that they were not welcome in Long Beach. Those confident con men who disregarded the warning were beaten within an inch of their lives. Resident young punks who had no respect for law and proper authority were advised in the most fatherly fashion to run away from home. Long Beach became a model city.

What impressed the Don was the legal validity of these sales swindles. Clearly there was a place for a man of his talents in that other world which had been closed to him as an honest youth. He took appropriate steps to enter that world.

And so he lived happily on the mall in Long Beach, consolidating and enlarging his empire, until after the war was over, the Turk Sollozzo broke the peace and plunged the Don’s world into its own war, and brought him to his hospital bed.

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