THE $30,000 BEQUEST and Other Stories by Mark Twain

“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?”

“Gentleman cat.”

“How are these people as regards that animal?”

“We-ll, they–they–”

“You hesitate: that is enough. How are they about chickens?”

He tilted his eyes toward heaven in mute ecstasy. I understood.

“What is chicken, in Italian?” I asked.

“Pollo, PODERE.” (Podere is Italian for master. It is a title

of courtesy, and conveys reverence and admiration.) “Pollo is one

chicken by itself; when there are enough present to constitute

a plural, it is POLLI.”

“Very well, polli will do. Which squad is detailed for duty next?”

“The Past Definite.”

“Send out and order it to the front–with chickens. And let them

understand that we don’t want any more of this cold indifference.”

He gave the order to an aide, adding, with a haunting tenderness

in his tone and a watering mouth in his aspect:

“Convey to them the conception that these are unprotected chickens.”

He turned to me, saluting with his hand to his temple, and explained,

“It will inflame their interest in the poultry, sire.”

A few minutes elapsed. Then the squad marched in and formed up,

their faces glowing with enthusiasm, and the file-leader shouted:

“EBBI POLLI, I had chickens!”

“Good!” I said. “Go on, the next.”

“AVEST POLLI, thou hadst chickens!”

“Fine! Next!”

“EBBE POLLI, he had chickens!”

“Moltimoltissimo! Go on, the next!”

“AVEMMO POLLI, we had chickens!”

“Basta-basta aspettatto avanti–last man–CHARGE!”

“EBBERO POLLI, they had chickens!”

Then they formed in echelon, by columns of fours, refused the left,

and retired in great style on the double-quick. I was enchanted,

and said:

“Now, doctor, that is something LIKE! Chickens are the ticket,

there is no doubt about it. What is the next squad?”

“The Imperfect.”

“How does it go?”

“IO AVENA, I had, TU AVEVI, thou hadst, EGLI AVENA, he had,


Wait–we’ve just HAD the hads. what are you giving me?”

“But this is another breed.”

“What do we want of another breed? Isn’t one breed enough?

HAD is HAD, and your tricking it out in a fresh way of spelling

isn’t going to make it any hadder than it was before; now you know

that yourself.”

“But there is a distinction–they are not just the same Hads.”

“How do you make it out?”

“Well, you use that first Had when you are referring to something

that happened at a named and sharp and perfectly definite moment;

you use the other when the thing happened at a vaguely defined time

and in a more prolonged and indefinitely continuous way.”

‘Why, doctor, it is pure nonsense; you know it yourself. Look here:

If I have had a had, or have wanted to have had a had, or was in a

position right then and there to have had a had that hadn’t had any chance

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Categories: Twain, Mark