The clay, manipulated with such accuracy, had given earthenware infinitely superior to the rough dishes of the quartarai, but from those to the very light terracotta of the ancient pots there was still a lot.
Cardello was commissioned to crush a good quantity of the clay already reduced to a fine, well-broken powder in a large marble mortar; perhaps it was necessary to make it impalpable to obtain greater density of dough and at the same time greater lightness.
The two cups already cooked were as thin as the porcelain cups; but the Piedmontese had broken one to ascertain the quality of the dough and had thrown away the pieces with irritation. Cardello, at that moment, had felt his heart tighten. They could not therefore! And it seemed to him that his beautiful dream of the factory suddenly vanish.
The Piemontese, however, was stubborn as a mule. When he put something in his head, he did not think of anything else, until he was persuaded that it was useless to try again.
The clay, reduced to impalpable dust- Cardello had the arms indolite from pounding and to compare two whole days! -It was kneaded by adding a little ‘lard to make it fat. And while the jars and cups were exposed to the sun on the terrace, the Piemontese extracted the medicaments from the boxes and dissolved them with water, in two catinelles, after weighing carefully the doses and measuring the water with the graduated glass. ; many grams of that, many grams of this, with the book in front to avoid mistakes,
Cardello would have liked to know what those medications were and what they were called: but the Piedmontese, quietly, did everything on their own. Cardello had to content himself with looking at him, and his eyes widened in accordance with that mysterious operation that was then to give the tin to the jars and cups.
In fact, when the mixtures were ready, he took one of the jars, dipped it in one of the catinelles, shaking it, turning it from all sides and, pulling it out, made the liquid pour so that it could form an equal layer; then, with a brush, he sprayed some of the liquid on the other bowl and put the jar on a table so that the mixture would still flow, and be even better. He repeated the same operation with two other jars and with the cup remained intact, and together with Cardello he gently brought the table to the sun, on the terrace.
“Will they become lucid now?” Asked Cardello.
– You will have to put them back in the oven. We’ll light it tomorrow. ”
What a surprise to Cardello when, two days later, he saw out of shiny jars and cup, with a beautiful dark green speckled here and there with black!
Ah! That Piemontese was a wizard straight!
This time the master was gloating. He watched the jars smiling, turning and turning them over, passing them from one hand to the other, presenting them to Cardello’s admiration, saying, “Eh? Eh? Eh? -What Cardello replied clapping his hands.
Only he felt a little ‘sadness, thinking that the Piedmontese would keep that secret for himself, and that he would never know how to do anything like it. And he looked with a sense of envy at the book that the master consulted at every turn. It had to be a magic book!
Once, in the absence of it, Cardello had tried to read it, but he had not understood anything! … But the frontispiece had been transcribed, for each case; read and reread, he had to finish understanding it! Good will would not have missed him.
* * *
There were several days of rest. Cardello had to go back to watch the workers. The Piemontese, short of money, spent entire days at the Town Hall to wrestle a deposit from the Mayor, who swore not to give a penny if the work over there was not pushed forward with solicitude.
In addition to stubbornness, the Piemontese also had, when necessary, a nice chat. He prayed, he threatened quarrels, he recommended himself, he showed things four and four years ago, protested that the work would be done before the end of the year. He wanted to earn the prize stipulated in the contract, if the pipeline was set up before the deadline set; he was not so foolish as to let that fine sum of several thousand lire out of his hands. And returning home, without having pulled a spider from a hole, he vented with Cardello, while he was preparing the dinner, he repeated the scene had with that bit of Mayor, almost the money, instead of that he should have given them Cardello! …
Meanwhile they could not do other experiments; this was the big trouble!
He lacked several ingredients for the pond, and they had to get them to come from Turin.
-They cost too much?
– One hundred lire. I can not spend the wages of the workers for them. ”
-Cardello, shut up. And the next morning, while the master was preparing in a hurry and in a fury to go to the Town Hall to assail again the ass of Mayor and induce him to agree to the deposit, and signing the mandate, Cardello, all confused, presented himself to the master, stammering;
– Here’s a hundred lire … if you accept them.
-Who gave them to you?
– They’re mine … Savings I kept at the post office.
– You’re a good son! Thank you…. No no! Go and put them back where they were.
“Why do you give me this mortification?” Said Cardello, his voice full of tears
-I accept you, for a few days-resumed the Piedmontese moved. -You are a good son! … The Mayor will have to give me the deposit, now that the first shipment of the cast iron pipes arrives; I received the warning last night.-
Precisely for those pipes there had been difficulties with customs.
The Piedmontese had to be absent, and as in the week they expected the visit of an engineer of the Province to observe the state of the excavation, and the work had been suspended until the contractor returned and the engineer’s arrival, Cardello remained alone at home , with all that clay, with the rota, with the oven and with the medicaments at his disposal taken immediately to mold jars, as he knew best, and cups, undoing and remaking those that seemed bad, and putting them in the sun to dry up soon. He wanted to show the Piedmontese that he, Cardello, was not a fool and that if, one day or another, he was put in charge of the tin-crockery factory, that place would have deserved it.
And while the jars and cups dried up in the sun-not even to do it in the mail, in those days the sun appeared at intervals from the clouds that cluttered the sky, nor did it breathe a wind that would have dried the clay almost as much as a ‘glimpse of sun! -Cardello prepared wood to heat the oven, and wandered the rooms clenching his fists, raising his eyes briefly to the ceiling just reflected that he would not know how to adjust for the dose of medicaments. And then the bottles were several; and when the Piedmontese had made the mixture he had had to go there, he no longer remembered for what, perhaps removed from the post by that for fear that he might seize the secret …. The book was there, on the desk, but he did not understand anything, as much as he read and reread …. That’s enough!
In the meantime it was first necessary to cook the jars and the cups.
Around the success of this operation he had no doubts whatsoever. In a small jar only a crack had occurred in the neck, perhaps because it was not dry …. But this was nothing.
The hard came now.
His hands were shaking and the bottle was shaking, pouring some of the contents into the basin with water, making a mixture at random, stirring it, adding a little bit of medicine to the other little bottle when it seemed to him that the liquid was not thick at sufficiency.
-Who knows what concoction I did! … –
And only now that he could not remedy it came to mind the reflection that perhaps had spoiled the expensive thing, and that the Piedmontese, on his return, would not have forgiven his imprudence.
“Now, it’s done!” He exclaimed: “You will pay, if ever, with a hundred lire.
He began to place the well-dried jars in the upper part of the oven, as he had seen the master do, and set fire to the wood, continuously feeding the flame, his heart pounding with anxiety, praying with folded hands:
-Madonna Santa, help me! –
Eighteen hours of fire, of continuous emotion; and even fasting!
In the evening he threw himself on the bed, exhausted, having eaten only two bites of bread with some cheese, and drank a glass of water.
He had slept so deeply that, waking up, he did not remember well what he had done the day before; then, in his shirt and underpants, barefoot, he had rushed into the room of the already cold oven, and, almost not breathing, with convulsive hands, had pulled out one of the jars.
He was! He did not believe his eyes! Instead of dark green, speckled with black, the vase was iridescent, with reflections of very pale green, with veins that, according to the light, appeared dark red, iridescent gold. The neck crack had disappeared beneath the tin layer!
The other jar and the two cups, who knows why ?, had succeeded less beautiful; a few irises, a few veins of iridescent red gold, and large patches of chocolate, and of dirty gray. Cardello spent long hours almost in adoration before the marvelous vase. It seemed that the clever Piemontese in the first experiment had not wanted to use the more expensive drugs, contenting himself with obtaining that dark green speckled with black, so as to persuade himself if he would succeed.
“What do you mean?” Asked Cardello.
But the sight of the jar consoled him in advance of all the scoldings, and also of the possible fury of the Piedmontese, which was usually cold, serious, but, if it mounted in a beast, it became intractable.
Cardello hastened to make all traces of the operations done disappear; he threw away the mixture of medicines, put the bottles back in the box so that he could not immediately see that they had been used; he hid the jars and the two cups in a trunk, and waiting for the Piemontese’s return, he shrugged, repeating:
Now-! … –
And he could not help himself from adding a smile of satisfaction:
-In the meantime my jar is much nicer than his!