While she seemed agitated and spoke in an excited manner, she was to all appearances telling the truth, and had no intention of deceiving the lawyer in her answers to his questions concerning the heirs and the amount of property. According to her statements there were only the t hree children, the sons now present, and the property consisted of about fifty acres of good farm land, part at Polegge and part in Rettorgole, another house, live-stock, farm implements, and numerous small articles.
What the old woman had said was confirmed by her sons, and also by the other witnesses. The lawyer suggested that the estate be divided in some general manner among the heirs, but this was objected to by all: wife, sons and witnesses as well. They insisted that it was the wish of the old man to assign everything specifically.
One of the witnesses, a man of rather better appearance and manners than the rest, came forward, and offering his snuff-box to the lawyer with an evident air of commiseration for the ignorance of his fellows, and of satisfaction at his own superior knowledge said:
“Matteo is near his end, and there is no time to settle the distribution in a strictly legal manner.”
X there upon concluded to let the matter go, and when I had made ready to write down from his dictation, he began his questioning, and by means of nods and shakes, of the head there passed to the ownership of Gigio, Tita and Ghecco, the three sons of the testator, the houses, the land, cattle, horses, pigs, etc., even to the broken-down cart.
“And your wife,” exclaimed X. “Do you not wish to leave nomething to your wife?”
The old man shook his head, and all, including the wife herself, agreed that this was his recognized wish.
“But,” said X, “the law particularly provides for cases such as this, and we must not disregard it.”
“Sior,” said the old woman, stoically, “law or no law, I will not touch anything. I will go hungry now and starve in the future sooner than do so.”
My principal thereupon allowed the woman to have her way, and began to read the items of the will in a loud voice. I had given him my seat and was standing beside him while he read.
Just then a cock flew through the opening of the loft and began to crow, and turning in the direction of the sound I saw a young peasant woman, flushed and out of breath, with a babe in her arms.
“What are they doing here?” she cried out, fixing upon me two flashing eyes, “are they robbing me and my child?”
At this remark confusion ensued, and the old woman and all three of her sons sprang up and rushed upon the newcomer.
X rose to his feet and commanded them all to be still.
“Who is this woman?” he asked, authoritatively. The mother hastily replied:
“I will tell you, Sior, who she is. She is our daughter, but she is good- for-nothing. I want you to understand that her father will not give her a single thing”
“What, you too, mother?” interrupted the girl bitterly. “I can stand my brothers treating me like a dog, but you, mother—I don’t care for them, but you—you are my own mother, and yet you would betray me. What can you say against me, and what against my husband?”
“Enough, enough,” cried X. “Shame on you all. The very first who opens his mouth I will have arrested for perjury.”