But they did think of him all the time at the house by the medlarnow it would be a plate too many which La Longa found in her hand when she was getting supper ready; now some knot or other that nobody could tie like 'Ntoni in the riggingand when some rope had to be pulled taut, or turn some screw, the grandfather groaning, "O-hi! O-o-o-o-hi!" ejaculated: "Here we want 'Ntoni!" or "Do you think I have a wrist like that boy's?" The mother, passing the shuttle through the loom that went one, two, three! thought of the boum, boum of the engine that had dragged away her son, which had sounded ever since in her heart, one!two!three!
The grandpapa, too, had certain singular methods of consolation. "What will you have? A little soldiering will do that boy good; he always liked better to carry his two arms out a-walking of a Sunday than to work with them for his bread." Or, "When he has learned how salt the bread is that one eats elsewhere he won't growl any longer about the minestra at home."
Finally, there arrived the first letter from 'Ntoni, which convulsed the village. He said that the women oft there swept the streets with their silk petticoats, and that on the mole there was Punch's theatre, and that they sold those little round cheeses, that rich people eat, for two centimes, and that one could not get along without soldi; that did well enough at Trezza, where, unless one went to Santuzza's, at the tavern, one didn't know how to spend one's money.
"Set him up with his cheeses, the glutton," said his grandfather. "He can't help it, though; he always was like that. If I hadn't held him at the font in these arms, I should have said Don Giammaria had put sugar in his mouth instead of salt."