After her wedding, Graziella moved in with Mingu, at his mother’s house. Lina spent her school days there too. Tiudo and Dolora remained at home, in the ghostly place still known as the Loggia.
Don Paolo was happy that with Graziella's marriage, his children were now connected firmly to a family that would support and protect them as he got closer to his end.
When Mingu came to talk to him, Dolora saw a chance to plead her case again. The men spent hours behind locked doors, as she waited patiently in the kitchen, helping Gemma, keeping an ear and an eye on the goings on in the salotto. They could only afford paying Gemma to come in once a week to help with the laundry, but she would stay overnight and helped Dolora with some heavy tasks. Winter was the time for families to butcher hogs and make sausages. Not this winter. Every minute was spent cleaning and tending to Don Paolo.
On this day Mingu brought a couple of people from town to help with routine tasks of pruning and spraying vines. Dolora was miffed, knowing that these people had to be paid, and be fed, all additional expenses. He knew what difficulties they were having this year.
Mingu and Don Paolo talked for a while, the conversation moving in many directions.
“The new house in town and la vigna vicina are your wedding presents. I will need to sell the wheat fields to pay my doctor’s bills; so, I can’t hire but one person to help you with the vineyards and olive groves from now on. Tiudo can help in a year or two. It’s been tough meeting our obligations right now.”
“I didn’t want to bother you when you were so sick.”
“We need to remedy the fact that you haven't been paid for a while either. But the next harvest should be better...”
“I don’t need much. But, with a new wife, we will need to furnish the house, get feed for the horses. I want Graziella to return to her studies but she has made up her mind.”
“She hasn’t talked to me!”
“With due respect, Don Paolo, I’m the man she needs to talk to now.”
“Yes, yes. Of course!”
“I plan on taking care of her. If she wants to continue her studies, I’ll arrange it.”
“How are you going to do that, Mingu, without an income, without a dowry? I don’t mean to insult you, but you have no trade, no skills. Except as a contadino, a man used to working with the land. These lands used to feed all of us; now, it’s not so easy. I hear Mussolini is planning a land reform. Who knows how that will break us even more. We used to have means to send our children to school, and marry them to suitable suitors. No offense, Mingu. She wanted to marry you. I didn’t object. Her mother, God bless her soul, stepped down to marry me. She made me most happy and never brought up our class difference.”
“Not the same, Don Paolo. You were, still are, high class in these parts.”
“Well, in a way. Marianna’s family was full of professionals, people with intellectual skills. I couldn’t hold a decent conversation in that house, though I went past elementary school myself before I joined the military. I almost wish we had settled in Naples. Our children would be educated and exposed to a better group of people. No offense, Mingu. I don’t mean your family at all. I knew your father and mother before you were born; buona gente, the Ambros. Loyal and honest. I wouldn’t have anybody else marry one of my daughters. Now, promise me something…”
“Losing a mother is hard enough. Now, with my bad health,…”
“No need to ask. She is …”
“And another thing…”
“I’m …” Don Paolo couldn’t continue as a harsh coughing fit stopped him mid sentence. Mingu got him a glass of water and waited for the cough to stop. Dolora walked in and Mingu turned to her:
“Your father gave us la vigna vicina, the one on the way to Melfi. Who has been working that piece?”
“It’s been leased.” She said. She must get a detailed list of all the holdings before things get worse, she thought. Why did her father split the land so? That piece was their Mother’s dowry, meant for the daughters, all of them. Graziella is already getting a new house, and now the vigna vicina. How is that fair? What’s left for her, for Lina?
“I’m running that for Graziella and me, exclusively.” Mingu told her.
“I have to stop the lease, then.” She said, not really sure what that entailed. She was learning about finances one problem at a time. First thing to do, was to make a detailed list of holdings. She tried to stay focused on that thought, as things were quite fluid around the place.
“All we need now are the furnishings. Usually, that’s what my side of the family provides. But I haven’t gotten paid for the last year.” Mingu had been rattling on and on before she understood.
She noticed how different she felt for him now that he was part and parcel of every discussion they would be having. This feels strange, too strange, she thought.
“A year?” She was trying to remember when was the last time she had handed him money. She had taken over the finances in the last few months. Maybe Don Paolo’s health is confusing everything.
“Two, last harvest and this harvest.” He emphasized.
“Why didn’t you say something earlier?” She asked him with a tinge of anger in her voice.
“I didn’t want to bring more concerns up. Anyway, if you are doing the books now, you need to know all these things.” He had caught her mood swing and attributed it to all the confusion in the house.
“Fine. I’ll check into this.” She mumbled.
“We’ll be gone for a week on our honeymoon. My mother will come and stay with you guys.”
“That’s kind of her; but we are doing fine.”
“I want to convince Graziella to stay in school. She thinks I would object; but I would be so proud of her if she became a doctor.”
“This is a bad time…” Dolora was growing more and more anxious. How does he make all these decisions without consulting us, she thought. Now, he is deciding for Graziella too.
“You know that nobody can help Don Paolo. We need to accept his fate. But, your sister had this opportunity of a lifetime. Why do you stand in her way? What can she do that you or I can’t do for your father?” And with this last statement, he left the Loggia. There was no money for his labors and no dowry either. He better think of some other way to provide for his new family.
Dolora didn’t bother her father with her concerns. She went looking for Tiudo instead.