The Worlds Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906. Vol. XIII: ItalianSpanish
By Edmondo De Amicis (18461908)
From Military Life
AT the end of the courtyard a conscript was sitting alone on the door-steps, with his elbows resting on his knees and his chin sunk in his fists. He surveyed his comrades as they went out one by one, and when they were all gone fixed his gaze steadfastly to the ground. He looked like one of the worthy fellows who leave home and family with an aching heart, yet who come to their soldiers duty with a sense of necessity and willingness. But there was something more in his face than the half-bewildered, half-vacant look usually to be observed in conscripts during their first few days of service. The man showed a positively doleful countenance. Perhaps he was sorry he had not gone out with the others. It is a melancholy thing enough to spend a fine Sunday moping at home.
Company? again mocks the other. Are you aware that you are a regular idiot? He comes up to the soldier, takes him by the jacket, and, giving him a terrifying tug, exclaims, Look how you have messed your uniform by sitting on the ground like a beggar!
And hoist up those breeches, if you dont want them to be ruined in a week; smooth the front of your jacket; take out those ridiculous earrings; and dont stand there with your chin buried in your stomach, like a monk! Drop that idiotic stare!
Just then the pretty young canteen woman passes by, and stops to look at himthe heartless creature! To appear ridiculous before the eyes of beautyah, that is the worst disaster of all! So the poor wretch loses his head altogether, pulls about his necktie and buttons worse than ever, then drops his arms, his chin, and his eyes in succession, until he stands a mute picture of despair. The canteen woman laughs and moves on. The corporal, looking at him in utter contempt, shakes his head, repeating, You jackass! You jackass! Then, in a higher-pitched voice:
Wake up, my good man, and do it quickly, too, or else you will have to be shown how! Bread and water and the lockup first, and then the lockup and bread and water, and so on, change and change about, by way of variety, so that you wont get tired of it. Youd better remember that. Now, then, off to your bedroom and brush your uniform! Forward, march!