بخش 44

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بخش 44

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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متن انگلیسی فصل

They were dressed in cheap gaily printed frocks that clung to their bodies. They were still in their teens but with the full womanliness sun-drenched flesh ripened into so quickly. Three or four of them started chasing one girl, chasing her toward the grove. The girl being chased held a bunch of huge purple grapes in her left hand and with her right hand was picking grapes off the cluster and throwing them at her pursuers. She had a crown of ringleted hair as purple-black as the grapes and her body seemed to be bursting out of its skin.

Just short of the grove she poised, startled, her eyes having caught the alien color of the men’s shirts. She stood there up on her toes poised like a deer to run. She was very close now, close enough for the men to see every feature of her face.

She was all ovals–oval-shaped eyes, the bones of her face, the contour of her brow. Her skin was an exquisite dark creaminess and her eyes, enormous, dark violet or brown but dark with long heavy lashes shadowed her lovely face. Her mouth was rich without being gross, sweet without being weak and dyed dark red with the juice of the grapes. She was so incredibly lovely that Fabrizzio murmured, “Jesus Christ, take my soul, I’m dying,” as a joke, but the words came out a little too hoarsely. As if she had heard him, the girl came down off her toes and whirled away from them and fled back to her pursuers. Her haunches moved like an animal’s beneath the tight print of her dress; as pagan and as innocently lustful. When she reached her friends she whirled around again and her face was like a dark hollow against the field of bright flowers. She extended an arm, the hand full of grapes pointed toward the grove. The girls fled laughing, with the black-clad, stout matrons scolding them on.

As for Michael Corleone, he found himself standing, his heart pounding in his chest; he felt a little dizzy. The blood was surging through his body, through all its extremities and pounding against the tips of his fingers, the tips of his toes. All the perfumes of the island came rushing in on the wind, orange, lemon blossoms, grapes, flowers. It seemed as if his body had sprung away from him out of himself. And then he heard the two shepherds laughing.

“You got hit by the thunderbolt, eh?” Fabrizzio said, clapping him on the shoulder. Even Calo became friendly, patting him on the arm and saying, “Easy, man, easy,” but with affection. As if Michael had been hit by a car. Fabrizzio handed him a wine bottle and Michael took a long slug. It cleared his head.

“What the hell are you damn sheep lovers talking about?” he said.

Both men laughed. Calo, his honest face filled with the utmost seriousness, said, “You can’t hide the thunderbolt. When it hits you, everybody can see it. Christ, man, don’t be ashamed of it, some men pray for the thunderbolt. You’re a lucky fellow.”

Michael wasn’t too pleased about his emotions being so easily read. But this was the first time in his life such a thing had happened to him. It was nothing like his adolescent crushes, it was nothing like the love he’d had for Kay, a love based as much on her sweetness, her intelligence and the polarity of the fair and dark. This was an overwhelming desire for possession, this was an unerasable printing of the girl’s face on his brain and he knew she would haunt his memory every day of his life if he did not possess her. His life had become simplified, focused on one point, everything else was unworthy of even a moment’s attention. During his exile he’ had always thought of Kay, though he felt they could never again be lovers or even friends. He was, after all was said, a murderer, a Mafioso who had “made his bones.” But now Kay was wiped completely out of his consciousness.

Fabrizzio said briskly, “I’ll go to the village, we’ll find out about her. Who knows, she may be more available than we think. There’s only one cure for the thunderbolt, eh, Calo?”

The other shepherd nodded his head gravely. Michael didn’t say anything. He followed the two shepherds as they started down the road to the nearby village into which the flock of girls had disappeared.

The village was grouped around the usual central square with its fountain. But it was on a main route so there were some stores, wine shops and one little café with three tables out on a small terrace. The shepherds sat at one of the tables and Michael joined them. There was no sign of the girls, not a trace. The village seemed deserted except for small boys and a meandering donkey.

The proprietor of the café came to serve them. He was a short, burly man, almost dwarfish but he greeted them cheerfully and set a dish of chickpeas at their table. “You’re strangers here,” he said, “so let me advise you. Try my wine. The grapes come from my own farm and it’s made by my sons themselves. They mix it with oranges and lemons. It’s the best wine in Italy.” They let him bring the wine in a jug and it was even better than he claimed, dark purple and as powerful as a brandy. Fabrizzio said to the café proprietor, “You know all the girls here, I’ll bet. We saw some beauties coming down the road, one in particular got our friend here hit with the thunderbolt.” He motioned to Michael.

The café owner looked at Michael with new interest. The cracked face had seemed quite ordinary to him before, not worth a second glance. But a man hit with the thunderbolt was another matter. “You had better bring a few bottles home with you, my friend,” he said. “You’ll need help in getting to sleep tonight.”

Michael asked the man, “Do you know a girl with her hair all curly? Very creamy skin, very big eyes, very dark eyes. Do you know a girl like that in the village?”

The café owner said curtly, “No. I don’t know any girl like that.” He vanished from the terrace into his cafe.

The three men drank their wine slowly, finished off the jug and called for more. The owner did not reappear. Fabrizzio went into the café after him. When Fabrizzio came out he grimaced and said to Michael, “Just as I thought, it’s his daughter we were talking about and now he’s in the back boiling up his blood to do us a mischief. I think we’d better start walking toward Corleone.” Despite his months on the island Michael still could not get used to the Sicilian touchiness on matters of s@x, and this was extreme even for a Sicilian. But the two shepherds seemed to take it as a matter of course. They were waiting for him to leave. Fabrizzio said, “The old bastard mentioned he has two sons, big tough lads that he has only to whistle up. Let’s get going.” Michael gave him a cold stare. Up to now he had been a quiet, gentle young man, a typical American, except that since he was hiding in Sicily he must have done something manly. This was the first time the shepherds had seen the Corleone stare. Don Tommasino, knowing Michael’s true identity and deed, had always been wary of him, treating him as a fellow “man of respect.” But these unsophisticated sheep herders had come to their own opinion of Michael, and not a wise one. The cold look, Michael’s rigid white face, his anger that came off him like cold smoke off ice, sobered their laughter and snuffed out their familiar friendliness.

When he saw he had their proper, respectful attention Michael said to them, “Get that man out here to me.”

They didn’t hesitate. They shouldered their luparas and went into the dark coolness of the cafe. A few seconds later they reappeared with the café owner between them. The stubby man looked in no way frightened but his anger had a certain wariness about it.

Michael leaned back in his chair and studied the man for a moment. Then he said very quietly, “I understand I’ve offended you by talking about your daughter. I offer you my apologies, I’m a stranger in this country, I don’t know the customs that well. Let me say this. I meant no disrespect to you or her.”

The shepherd bodyguards were impressed. Michael’s voice had never sounded like this before when speaking to them. There was command and authority in it though he was making an apology. The café owner shrugged, more wary still, knowing he was not dealing with some farmboy. “Who are you and what do you want from my daughter?”

Without even hesitating Michael said, “I am an American hiding in Sicily, from the police of my country. My name is Michael. You can inform the police and make your fortune but then your daughter would lose a father rather than gain a husband. In any case I want to meet your daughter. With your permission and under the supervision of your family. With all decorum. With all respect. I’m an honorable man and I don’t think of dishonoring your daughter. I want to meet her, talk to her and then if it hits us both right we’ll marry. If not, you’ll never see me again. She may find me unsympathetic after all, and no man can remedy that. But when the proper time comes I’ll tell you everything about me that a wife’s father should know.” All three men were looking at him with amazement. Fabrizzio whispered in awe, “It’s the real thunderbolt.” The café owner, for the first time, didn’t look so confident, or contemptuous; his anger was not so sure. Finally he asked, “ Are you a friend of the friends?”

Since the word Mafia could never be uttered aloud by the ordinary Sicilian, this was as close as the café owner could come to asking if Michael was a member of the Mafia. It was the usual way of asking if someone belonged but it was ordinarily not addressed to the person directly concerned.

“No,” Michael said. “I’m a stranger in this country.”

The café owner gave him another look, the smashed left side of his face, the long legs rare in Sicily. He took a look at the two shepherds carrying their luparas quite openly without fear and remembered how they had come into his café and told him their padrone wanted to talk to him. The café owner had snarled that he wanted the son of a bit@h out of his terrace and one of the shepherds had said, “Take my word, it’s best you go out and speak to him yourself.” And something had made him come out. Now something made him realize that it would be best to show this stranger some courtesy. He said grudgingly, “Come Sunday afternoon. My name is Vitelli and my house is up there on the hill, above the village. But come here to the café and I’ll take you up.” Fabrizzio started to say something but Michael gave him one look and the shepherd’s tongue froze in his mouth. This was not lost on Vitelli. So when Michael stood up and stretched out his hand, the café owner took it and smiled. He would make some inquiries and if the answers were wrong he could always greet Michael with his two sons bearing their own shotguns. The café owner was not without his contacts among the “friends of the friends.” But something told him this was one of those wild strokes of good fortune that Sicilians always believed in, something told him that his daughter’s beauty would make her fortune and her family secure. And it was just as well. Some of the local youths were already beginning to buzz around and this stranger with his broken face could do the necessary job of scaring them off. Vitelli, to show his goodwill, sent the strangers off with a bottle of his best and coldest wine. He noticed that one of the shepherds paid the bill. This impressed him even more, made it clear that Michael was the superior of the two men who accompanied him.

Michael was no longer interested in his hike. They found a garage and hired a car and driver to take them back to Corleone, and some time before supper, Dr. Taza must have been informed by the shepherds of what had happened. That evening, sitting in the garden, Dr. Taza said to Don Tommasino, “Our friend got hit by the thunderbolt today.” Don Tommasino did not seem surprised. He grunted. “I wish some of those young fellows in Palermo would get a thunderbolt, maybe I could get some peace.” He was talking about the new-style Mafia chiefs rising in the big cities of Palermo and challenging the power of old-regime stalwarts like himself.

Michael said to Tommasino, “I want you to tell those two sheep herders to leave me alone Sunday. I’m going to go to this girl’s family for dinner and I don’t want them hanging around.”

Don Tommasino shook his head. “I’m responsible to your father for you, don’t ask me that. Another thing, I hear you’ve even talked marriage. I can’t allow that until I’ve sent somebody to speak to your father.”

Michael Corleone was very careful, this was after all a man of respect. “Don Tommasino, you know my father. He’s a man who goes deaf when somebody says the word no to him. And he doesn’t get his hearing back until they answer him with a yes. Well, he has heard my no many times. I understand about the two guards, I don’t want to cause you trouble, they can come with me Sunday, but if I want to marry I’ll marry. Surely if I don’t permit my own father to interfere with my personal life it would be an insult to him to allow you to do so.” The capo-mafioso sighed. “Well, then, marriage it will have to be. I know your thunderbolt. She’s a good girl from a respectable family. You can’t dishonor them without the father trying to kill you, and then you’ll have to shed blood. Besides, I know the family well, I can’t allow it to happen.”

Michael said, “She may not be able to stand the sight of me, and she’s a very young girl, she’ll think me old.” He saw the two men smiling at him. “I’ll need some money for presents and I think I’ll need a car.”

The Don nodded. “Fabrizzio will take care of everything, he’s a clever boy, they taught him mechanics in the navy. I’ll give you some money in the morning and I’ll let your father know what’s happening. That I must do.”

Michael said to Dr. Taza, “Have you got anything that can dry up this damn snot always coming out of my nose? I can’t have that girl seeing me wiping it all the time.”

Dr. Taza said, “I’ll coat it with a drug before you have to see her. It makes your flesh a little numb but, don’t worry, you won’t be kissing her for a while yet.” Both doctor and Don smiled at this witticism.

By Sunday, Michael had an Alfa Romeo, battered but serviceable. He had also made a bus trip to Palermo to buy presents for the girl and her family. He had learned that the girl’s name was Apollonia and every night he thought of her lovely face and her lovely name. He had to drink a good deal of wine to get some sleep and orders were given to the old women servants in the house to leave a chilled bottle at his bedside. He drank it empty every night.

On Sunday, to the tolling of church bells that covered all of Sicily, he drove the Alfa Romeo to the village and parked it just outside the cafe. Calo and Fabrizzio were in the back seat with their luparas and Michael told them they were to wait in the cafe, they were not to come to the house. The café was closed but Vitelli was there waiting for them, leaning against the railing of his empty terrace.

They shook hands all around and Michael took the three packages, the presents, and trudged up the hill with Vitelli to his home. This proved to be larger than the usual village hut, the Vitellis were not poverty-stricken.

Inside the house was familiar with statues of the Madonna entombed in glass, votive lights flickering redly at their feet. The two sons were waiting, also dressed in their Sunday black. They were two sturdy young men, just out of their teens but looking older because of their hard work on the farm. The mother was a vigorous woman, as stout as her husband. There was no sign of the girl.

After the introductions, which Michael did not even hear, they sat in the room that might possibly have been a living room or just as easily the formal dining room. It was cluttered with all kinds of furniture and not very large but for Sicily it was middle-class splendor.

Michael gave Signor Vitelli and Signora Vitelli their presents. For the father it was a gold cigar-cutter, for the mother a bolt of the finest cloth purchasable in Palermo. He still had one package for the girl. His presents were received with reserved thanks. The gifts were a little too premature, he should not have given anything until his second visit.

The father said to him, in man-to-man country fashion, “Don’t think we’re so of no account to welcome strangers into our house so easily. But Don Tommasino vouched for you personally and nobody in this province would ever doubt the word of that good man. And so we make you welcome. But I must tell you that if your intentions are serious about my daughter, we will have to know a little more about you and your family. You can understand, your family is from this country.” Michael nodded and said politely, “I will tell you anything you wish to know anytime.”

Signor Vitelli held up a hand. “I’m not a nosy man. Let’s see if it’s necessary first. Right now you’re welcome in my house as a friend of Don Tommasino.”

Despite the drug painted inside his nose, Michael actually smelled the girl’s presence in the room. He turned and she was standing in the arched doorway that led to the back of the house. The smell was of fresh flowers and lemon blossoms but she wore nothing in her hair of jet black curls, nothing on her plain severe black dress, obviously her Sunday best. She gave him a quick glance and a tiny smile before she cast her eyes down demurely and sat down next to her mother.

Again Michael felt that shortness of breath, that flooding through his body of something that was not so much desire as an insane possessiveness. He understood for the first time the classical jealousy of the Italian male. He was at that moment ready to kill anyone who touched this girl, who tried to claim her, take her away from him. He wanted to own her as wildly as a miser wants to own gold coins, as hungrily as a sharecropper wants to own his own land. Nothing was going to stop him from owning this girl, possessing her, locking her in a house and keeping her prisoner only for himself. He didn’t want anyone even to see her. When she turned to smile at one of her brothers Michael gave that young man a murderous look without even realizing it. The family could see it was a classical case of the “thunderbolt” and they were reassured. This young man would be putty in their daughter’s hands until they were married. After that of course things would change but it wouldn’t matter.

Michael had bought himself some new clothes in Palermo and was no longer the roughly dressed peasant, and it was obvious to the family that he was a Don of some kind. His smashed face did not make him as evil-looking as he believed; because his other profile was so handsome it made the disfigurement interesting even. And in any case this was a land where to be called disfigured you had to compete with a host of men who had suffered extreme physical misfortune.

Michael looked directly at the girl, the lovely ovals of her face. Her lips now he could see were almost blue so dark was the blood pulsating in them. He said, not daring to speak her name, “I saw you by the orange groves the other day. When you ran away. I hope I didn’t frighten you?”

The girl raised her eyes to him for just a fraction. She shook her head. But the loveliness of those eyes had made Michael look away. The mother said tartly, “Apollonia, speak to the poor fellow, he’s come miles to see you,” but the girl’s long jet lashes remained closed like wings over her eyes. Michael handed her the present wrapped in gold paper and the girl put it in her lap. The father said, “Open it, girl,” but her hands did not move. Her hands were small and brown, an urchin’s hands. The mother reached over and opened the package impatiently, yet careful not to tear the precious paper. The red velvet jeweler’s box gave her pause, she had never held such a thing in her hands and didn’t know how to spring its catch. But she got it open on pure instinct and then took out the present.

It was a heavy gold chain to be worn as a necklace, and it awed them not only because of its obvious value but because a gift of gold in this society was also a statement of the most serious intentions. It was no less than a proposal of matrimony, or rather the signal that there was the intention to propose matrimony. They could no longer doubt the seriousness of this stranger. And they could not doubt his substance.

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