Around five in the afternoon Beppe Cianella entered the club, and ordered a drink on ice, lay down indolently on a leather sofa near the table where Gigi Saletta, nicknamed Saponetta, and some others were playing poker.
Beppe Cianella was hot and wiped his sweaty forehead with a brightly colored silk handkerchief. He unbuttoned his slip, lit a cigar and closed his eyes blissfully as if to doze off. But he was too hot to sleep. In a sleepy voice, however, Beppe Cianella called the servant, begging him to turn the fan towards him.
When the fresh air hit him, he stretched out more comfortably on the sofa, and with a sense of true bliss he tried to close his mischievous eyes.
“Rafa Giuliani has an affair,” he said with a slight yawn.
– So much the better for him! Answered one of the players.
Sacco Berni had attempted a reckless “bluff”, but Gigi Saponetta, a very skilled player, had forced him to declare the point, and the others, laughing madly, mocked the crewed crew.
Count Berrini passed in the back, in his shirt sleeves, shouting at the servants because he could not find a newspaper; Lello Fornara, the fainting one, wrote his daily love letter in a corner; through the open door, which gave into the billiard room, the marbles could be heard colliding between the noisy altercations of the old Baron Gioacchini and his young pupil Leonardo Sergi.
– Rafa Giuliani has an adventure! He repeated in one yawn and the other Beppe Cianella, who could not fall asleep.
Giorgino Prémoli won a good shot, which put him in a good mood.
– So you were saying? He asked Cianella.
“She has an adventure,” he repeated for the third time, finally glad that someone was listening to him.
– Who? Asked Berni.
– Rafa Giuliani! Cried Cianella loudly.
– Ah okay.
– And with whom? – Massimo Ravizzòli said, distributing the cards.
“I can’t tell you,” replied Cianella, stretching himself as long as he was and turning his face against the back of the sofa.
– So why bother us? – interrupted Gigi Saponetta, who was very nervous about the game.
Cianella rose on one elbow and said:
– You, Saponetta, who are stingy, would pay me at least a hundred lire to find out with whom.
The other shrugged; Beppe recalled himself whistling. Lello Fornara, who had finished his letter, approached the table hearing these speeches.
“I know with whom,” he said.
– Say it, – proposed Cianella with an incredulous tone.
– With Colonel Speglia’s mistress, the one they call the Virtuosa.
Everyone turned to Cianella to see if it was her; but the latter, with one hand, made a sign of no. And he said:
– Far better than a colonel!
– Oh, then … with the Spinardi! Said Berni.
– Who is Spinardi? Giannetto Pigna asked.
– Spinardi is the owner of the «Institut de Beauté». How? don’t you know her? Rafa courted her. And she?
– Better than this! Repeated Cianella, enigmatic.
– A lady then?
– But? …
And they named a few. They even named Raiberti, that after the failure of her husband, to keep the family going, she spent her afternoons in the meeting houses.
– Better! … better! – repeated Cianella at each name. Then he finally said:
– A young lady!
– Huh ?! – some did. And the game stopped.
They began to search among all those that were susceptible to any doubt: they made some irreverent hypotheses, and Lello Fornara, who was a respectable person, was scandalized.
– Well, you want to know? Asked Cianella.
– Come on, say it!
There was a great silence; Cianella got up on the sofa and took on a triumphal air:
– With Arrigo del Ferrante’s sister! She proclaimed emphatically. – It’s been a while that ran after her and I finally saw them today in the car together.
– That? the blondie?
– She she. But for God’s sake shut up!
There was a row of it.
A few days later, at the tailor who dressed all the Mammagnúccoli of the city, three gentlemen who were known for their elegance met: Don Antonino Vernazza, who had the specialty of petticoats, ties and stockings, the Marquis Minardi who, like Camillo Torretta, at the beginning of each season he crossed the Channel to see what he really wore in terms of sports clothes, and Max della Chiesa, who spent three half days at the tailor’s before resolving to choose a fabric or sometimes daring innovations were allowed, on the cut of the pockets, for example, on the number of eyelets or on the width of the backs.
They were in harmony in front of five or six pieces of cloth, from which hung the authentic sign of the English firm, and consulting a bundle of fashion sketches they talked animatedly with Mr. Gian Giorgio, owner of the tailor’s shop and fashion adviser to his favorite clients.
The three gentlemen were in grave distress before commanding each other the last dresses for the summer season, those dresses that would have made them admire in the climatic resorts and in the thermal water resorts. They used to consult with each other respectfully, because each held in high regard the opinion of the emulus, and also so as not to fall into the risk of wearing the same style in two.
Don Antonino used to take part in tennis tournaments; now he was in doubt between a “khaki” colored trousers and another one in pearl gray, with a diagonal weave. The Marquis Minardi, who had been an assistant officer, had four Irish jumpers who won many prizes in horse racing, when, however, they were not ridden by him; he was now looking at the last figure of the «riding breeches» and absentmindedly chose the material for a «morning-coat».
Max della Chiesa, as he was about to go to the baths, wanted to choose a ‘tout-de-même’ for the beach, but was hesitant between a straw-colored ‘shantung’ silk to a white-havana striped canvas, perhaps a little stiff.
Each discussed the other’s doubts with the utmost courtesy and indeed with that respect that an equal architect owes his competitor. Besides, all three had something to prove; but the cutters were busy at that moment, and, having to wait, they lingered for a chat.
«The Marchesa Gordiani was going to San Pellegrino that year, and Lieutenant Frangi, of course, would have asked for her leave in those days; Signora Platania had already left for the Lido, alone, but her husband was waiting there; A few days ago Donna Isabella had been in a villa on the lake, and had invited him, Don Antonino, to lunch for next Saturday. He did not know whether to leave already dressed in an evening gown, with an overcoat, or to take the necessary items in a suitcase and change at the hotel.
The whole gang of Gigliuzzi, Mazzoleni and San Bassano went to Zermatt; although Major Gigliuzzi’s engagement was not yet official, Count Piaggi, nephew of Baron Silvestro, also went there. Three or four dancers had rented together a villa on the lake, a stone’s throw from the castle of Venaria … It would have been merry over there! And the beautiful Rossana, who did not know who to choose among her three lovers, first took a trip by car with that mad Marietta, then went to Aix-les-Bains with her banker, finally the Duke had taken her a vacation in the hills, so that he would go there to harvest … ”
Rafa Giuliani came out of a test cabinet, in a hurry, saying to the tailor who accompanied him:
– I recommend: for the day after tomorrow!
– It will be served, Mr. Conte.
He saw the three gentlemen, greeted them with a nod, and headed for the exit.
– Oh, Rafa, listen to me … – Vernazza shouted after him.
“I can’t, I’m in a hurry,” he replied.
– What’s new? You can’t be seen anymore!
“I’m in a hurry,” repeated Giuliani, and disappeared.
– What the hell has that Rafa got for his boss? – Max began to say of the Church. For some time he has become intractable.
“True,” the other two gentlemen admitted.
Mr. Gian Giorgio, who was listening, resting his elbow on two pieces of cloth, let his mouth pucker by a discreet and mysterious smile.
– Why are you laughing, Mr. Giorgio? Said Don Antonino.
– Oh, nothing, nothing … – he said, as if he wanted to shield himself from telling something delicate.
– You know something, go! – the three instigated him, intrigued.
– And they don’t? don’t they know anything? – malignant the architect of elegance, rolling up the measuring tape that hung from his neck.
– We? But not at all! – The three answered her. – Come on, tell us.
– No, no, it bothers me … Because it may not even be true, and in any case these things are better not to divulge them.
– Gian Giorgio! Gian Giorgio! let’s not be mysterious! With us … go!
– It seems, – said the other in a low voice, – it seems … But they know, I repeat it because I meant it … someone was telling it today in the rehearsal room … it will be, it will not be …
– So what does it look like?
– That Count Giuliani has a new lover … an incredible lover …
– And that would be who?
– Ah, good God, I can’t say … I just can’t say …
Mr.Gian Giorgio lowered his voice extremely, bending down, shrinking among the three:
– It would be none other than Signor del Ferrante’s sister …
Three loud exclamations interrupted him; then one said:
– In short, it is what is told; I thought they already knew. They found them having lunch together; everyone talks about it as a certain thing and there are even those who have seen them enter a certain house of theirs …
A week later, in the city, in the mountains, on holidays, on the beaches, everyone told the four winds that Count Raffaele Giuliani had become the mistress of Arrigo del Ferrante’s sister.