“About—face! Eyes—front! Helm alee—hard aport! Forward—march!” and the drums let go again.
When the last Termination had disappeared, the commander said the instruction drill would now begin, and asked for suggestions. I said:
“They say I have, thou hast, he has, and so on, but they don’t say what. It will be better, and more definite, if they have something to have; just an object, you know, a something—anything will do; anything that will give the listener a sort of personal as well as grammatical interest in their joys and complaints, you see.”
“It is a good point. Would a dog do?”
I said I did not know, but we could try a dog and see. So he sent out an aide-de-camp to give the order to add the dog.
The six privates of the Present Tense now filed in, in charge of Sergeant AVERE (to have), and displaying their banner. They formed in line of battle, and recited, one at a time, thus:
“Io ho un cane, I have a dog.”
“Tu Hai un cane, thou hast a dog.”
“Egli ha un cane, he has a dog.”
“NOI ABBIAMO un cane, we have a dog.”
“VOI AVETE un cane, you have a dog.”
“EGLINO Hanno un cane, they have a dog.”
No comment followed. They returned to camp, and I reflected a while. The commander said:
“I fear you are disappointed.”
“Yes,” I said; “they are too monotonous, too singsong, to dead-and-alive; they have no expression, no elocution. It isn’t natural; it could never happen in real life. A person who had just acquired a dog is either blame’ glad or blame’ sorry. He is not on the fence. I never saw a case. What the nation do you suppose is the matter with these people?”
He thought maybe the trouble was with the dog. He said:
“These are CONTADINI, you know, and they have a prejudice against dogs —that is, against marimane. Marimana dogs stand guard over people’s vines and olives, you know, and are very savage, and thereby a grief and an inconvenience to persons who want other people’s things at night. In my judgment they have taken this dog for a marimana, and have soured on him.”
I saw that the dog was a mistake, and not functionable: we must try something else; something, if possible, that could evoke sentiment, interest, feeling.
“What is cat, in Italian?” I asked.
“Is it a gentleman cat, or a lady?”
“How are these people as regards that animal?”
“You hesitate: that is enough. How are they about chickens?”
He tilted his eyes toward heaven in mute ecstasy. I understood.