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A Village Commune, Vol. II. Ouida, 1839–1908.
page: 117


THE miller went to a lawyer in Pomodoro; and the lawyer told him he could do nothing; he could perhaps petition the Prefect.

So Pastorini bade him, in mercy’s name, draw up the petition, which was done, and cost forty francs.

The Prefect’s secretary read it, and referred it to the Consiglio Provinciale; the Consiglio Provinciale referred it to their engineer, who was the engineer of the commune, one Pierino Zaffi. He informed the Consiglio Provinciale that the mill was page: 118 necessary, not insalubrious, and very advantageous to the commune; the Consiglio Provinciale said so in turn to the Prefect, and he certified that he could not go against the decision of the provincial council.

In such a circle does the poor mill horse of the public turn.

Nothing was to be done.

Pastorini knew very well that Ruin would soon look over his white garden gate.

The steam‐mill would take all his custom away, and now that the trees were felled, the water would most likely be shallower, and sooner shallow, every summer. Besides the Pastorini felt themselves growing friendless: for the first time for many years the big butcher had been asked to direct the procession of Corpus Domini instead of the miller; people were cool where they had page: 119 been cordial. Without more selfishness than is common to human nature, Santa Rosalia felt that it was perilous to be good friends with a family so marked out for punishment by Providence and Messer Nellemane.

‘A tin‐kettle threshing the corn, and an iron pot grinding of it! Oh Lord what times!’ said old Pippo, as the mill smoke came in through his window and smothered him in his bed.

Messer Nellemane was in good and affable spirits; all things were going well with him. The new deputy, not unmindful of the tampering that had gone on with the election lists, and the plurality of voting achieved by the gendarmerie, and other signal services to the State, in which the secretary of Santa Rosalia had been of no small use, both in invention and execution, was more than cordial to his humble ally, and predicted all page: 120 manner of great things for the future of so intelligent a public servant.

‘In a free country like this,’ said Signore Luca Finti, ‘industry and talent can never long fail to obtain recognition. When these miscreants are out of office, and our turn of power comes, you will not be forgotten, my dear friend.’

And Messer Nellemane was so clever that the Prefect of the province, who had been put in his place by the miscreants, also commended him for his discretion and zeal in certain things that had been convenient to the Prefecture in those elections, and the sub‐Prefect said to him:

‘So long as we are in power, you, I promise, shall not be forgotten. Such servants of the State as yourself are quite invaluable in these times when we have so much to fear from the Reactionary and Clerical page: 121 element, and yet on the other hand must avoid being swamped by the deluge of Communism.’

Messer Nellemane said earnestly that he had no feeling except of horror either for Clericalism or Communism.

He thought the good of the State required the strictest moderation and impartiality, and, as he said it very truthfully, he felt quite safe whether the Ministry went out or in, and especially as the new deputy and the sub‐prefect would never compare notes because they abhorred each other as only Ministerialists and Dissidenti can.

Messer Nellemane’s Utopia was like that of most Liberals of the present era; it was a neat cut‐and‐dried despotism, which should call itself a democracy, and in which the people should have as little voice as the nobles, and the church be only permitted to page: 122 exist if it became a school‐house for the semination of State doctrines.

This Liberalism keeps one eye on Gambetta and the other on Bismarck, and is so absorbed in these two, and in trying to combine an imitation of both, that it never sees coming after it with seven‐leagued strides the avenger—Bakounine.