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Книга The Godfather. Страница 7

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The Don clapped his hands together with decisive approval. “Well spoken. Very fine. Then you have nothing to complain about. The judge has ruled. America has ruled. Bring your daughter flowers and a box of candy when you go visit her in the hospital. That will comfort her. Be content. After all, this is not a serious affair, the boys were young, high-spirited, and one of them is the son of a powerful politician. No, my dear Amerigo, you have always been honest. I must admit, though you spurned my friendship, that I would trust the given word of Amerigo Bonasera more than I would any other man’s. So give me your word that you will put aside this madness. It is not American. Forgive. Forget. Life is full of misfortunes.”

The cruel and contemptuous irony with which all this was said, the controlled anger of the Don, reduced the poor undertaker to a quivering jelly but he spoke up bravely again. “I ask you for justice.”

Don Corleone said curtly, “The court gave you justice.”

Bonasera shook his head stubbornly. “No. They gave the youths justice. They did not give me justice.”

The Don acknowledged this fine distinction with an approving nod, then asked, “What is your justice?”

“An eye for an eye,” Bonasera said.

“You asked for more,” the Don said. “Your daughter is alive.”

Bonasera said reluctantly, “Let them suffer as she suffers.” The Don waited for him to speak further. Bonasera screwed up the last of his courage and said, “How much shall I pay you?” It was a despairing wail.

Don Corleone turned his back. It was a dismissal. Bonasera did not budge.

Finally, sighing, a good-hearted man who cannot remain angry with an erring friend, Don Corleone turned back to the undertaker, who was now as pale as one of his corpses. Don Corleone was gentle, patient. “Why do you fear to give your first allegiance to me?” he said. “You go to the law courts and wait for months. You spend money on lawyers who know full well you are to be made a fool of. You accept judgment from a judge who sells himself like the worst whore in the streets. Years gone by, when you needed money, you went to the banks and paid ruinous interest, waited hat in hand like a beggar while they sniffed around, poked their noses up your very asshole to make sure you could pay them back.” The Don paused, his voice became sterner.

“But if you had come to me, my purse would have been yours. If you had come to me for justice those scum who ruined your daughter would be weeping bitter tears this day. If by some misfortune an honest man like yourself made enemies they would become my enemies”— the Don raised his arm, finger pointing at Bonasera— “and then, believe me, they would fear you.”

Bonasera bowed his head and murmured in a strangled voice, “Be my friend. I accept.”

Don Corleone put his hand on the man’s shoulder. “Good,” he said, “you shall have your justice. Some day, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do me a service in return. Until that day, consider this justice a gift from my wife, your daughter’s godmother.”

When the door closed behind the grateful undertaker, Don Corleone turned to Hagen and said, “Give this affair to Clemenza and tell him to be sure to use reliable people, people who will not be carried away by the smell of blood. After all, we’re not murderers, no matter what that corpse valet dreams up in his foolish head.” He noted that his firstborn, masculine son was gazing through the window at the garden party. It was hopeless, Don Corleone thought. If he refused to be instructed, Santino could never run the family business, could never become a Don. He would have to find somebody else. And soon. After all, he was not immortal.

From the garden, startling all three men, there came a happy roaring shout. Sonny Corleone pressed close to the window. What he saw made him move quickly toward the door, a delighted smile on his face. “It’s Johnny, he came to the wedding, what did I tell you?” Hagen moved to the window. “It’s really your godson,” he said to Don Corleone. “Shall I bring him here?”

“No,” the Don said. “Let the people enjoy him. Let him come to me when he is ready.” He smiled at Hagen. “You see? He is a good godson.”

Hagen felt a twinge of jealousy. He said dryly, “It’s been two years. He’s probably in trouble again and wants you to help.”

“And who should he come to if not his godfather?” asked Don Corleone.

* * *

The first one to see Johnny Fontane enter the garden was Connie Corleone. She forgot her bridal dignity and screamed, “Johneee.” Then she ran into his arms. He hugged her tight and kissed her on the mouth, kept his arm around her as others came up to greet him. They were all his old friends, people he had grown up with on the West Side. Then Connie was dragging him to her new husband. Johnny saw with amusement that the blond young man looked a little sour at no longer being the star of the day. He turned on all his charm, shaking the groom’s hand, toasting him with a glass of wine.

A familiar voice called from the bandstand, “How about giving us a song, Johnny?” He looked up and saw Nino Valenti smiling down at him. Johnny Fontane jumped up on the bandstand and threw his arms around Nino. They had been inseparable, singing together, going out with girls together, until Johnny had started to become famous and sing on the radio. When he had gone to Hollywood to make movies Johnny had phoned Nino a couple of times just to talk and had promised to get him a club singing date. But he had never done so. Seeing Nino now, his cheerful, mocking, drunken grin, all the affection returned.

Nino began strumming on the mandolin. Johnny Fontane put his hand on Nino’s shoulder. “This is for the bride,” he said, and stamping his foot, chanted the words to an obscene Sicilian love song. As he sang, Nino made suggestive motions with his body. The bride blushed proudly, the throng of guests roared its approval. Before the song ended they were all stamping with their feet and roaring out the sly, double-meaning tag line that finished each stanza. At the end they would not stop applauding until Johnny cleared his throat to sing another song.

They were all proud of him. He was of them and he had become a famous singer, a movie star who slept with the most desired women in the world. And yet he had shown proper respect for his Godfather by traveling three thousand miles to attend this wedding. He still loved old friends like Nino Valenti. Many of the people there had seen Johnny and Nino singing together when they were just boys, when no one dreamed that Johnny Fontane would grow up to hold the hearts of fifty million women in his hands.

Johnny Fontane reached down and lifted the bride up onto the bandstand so that Connie stood between him and Nino. Both men crouched down, facing each other, Nino plucking the mandolin for a few harsh chords. It was an old routine of theirs, a mock battle and wooing, using their voices like swords, each shouting a chorus in turn. With the most delicate courtesy, Johnny let Nino’s voice overwhelm his own, let Nino take the bride from his arm, let Nino swing into the last victorious stanza while his own voice died away. The whole wedding party broke into shouts of applause, the three of them embraced each other at the end. The guests begged for another song.

Only Don Corleone, standing in the corner entrance of the house, sensed something amiss. Cheerily, with bluff good humor, careful not to give offense to his guests, he called out, “My godson has come three thousand miles to do us honor and no one thinks to wet his throat?” At once a dozen full wineglasses were thrust at Johnny Fontane. He took a sip from all and rushed to embrace his Godfather. As he did so he whispered something into the older man’s ear. Don Corleone led him into the house.

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