Meaning of Life
There a God?
of Christ
Catholic Faith

Chapter Six - War to the Knife

      DON CAMILLO had something on his mind that would give him no peace. It all began the day he met the "live corpse," a young man who had supposedly died after fighting in the mountains with Peppone and his men during the Resistance. Don Camillo himself had officiated at the funeral and followed the coffin to the cemetery. Then one day in the city after the war was over, Don Camillo caught a glimpse of this same young man who was far from being dead as mutton. But it wasn't the walking corpse that bothered Don Camillo. He discovered that the coffin had contained, not a dead body, but a collection of loot seized from the Germans. He also knew that Peppone and his men had used the loot to finance the building of their People's Palace; and just because he had run across this useful bit of information, as well as the walking corpse, he had been able to persuade Peppone and his followers to make a modest contribution to the building of a Recreation Centre for the children of the village. And there the matter rested. The People's Palace was built and the Recreation Centre had a swing which was the delight of the children — especially Peppone's son, who played on it by the hour, chirping joyfully like a fledgling. But the question that troubled Don Camillo was how Peppone's men had managed to smuggle the coffin containing the loot out of the cemetery in the first place without attracting attention.
     The cemetery served the whole township and was therefore fairly large. It lay outside the village and was built on the conventional plan—that is, enclosed by four walls, one of which had an entrance gate. These walls were bare and plain on the outside, while on the inside they formed an arcade over rows of tombs.
     In order to solve the mystery, Don Camillo took upon himself the role of Sherlock Holmes. He went to examine the cemetery. Halfway down the left-hand arcade, in the second row, he found the famous niche, bearing a marble tablet on which was carved the fake name of the fake corpse. He turned his back on the niche and proceeded to walk straight through the grassy plot, studded with crosses, until he came to the central aisle. There he wheeled round in the direction of the gate and counted the number of steps it took him to reach it. The next day he walked inconspicuously along the path running parallel to the outside of the left wall, once more counting his steps, and when he had counted enough of them he stopped to light the butt of a cigar. The wall was overgrown with vines, but an attentive eye could see that about three feet above the ground, at a point corresponding to the niche the priest had inspected the day before, there was a section of plaster of a lighter color than the rest. And Don Camillo's eye was an attentive one.
     "This is the way the treasure came out, and where one object came out another can go in. The thing about holes is that they allow two-way traffic."
     He continued his walk, stopping in front of the police station to chat with the sergeant.
     That night the police quietly made a hole in the cemetery wall, at the point where Don Camillo had noticed the different shade of plaster, and out of the niche they took one machine-gun, thirty-eight tommy-guns and twenty-three pistols, all of them so shiny and carefully oiled that they would have tempted any hothead to launch the "second phase of the revolution" then and there. The news created quite a stir and even got into the big-city papers, but no one came to claim the guns. At that point the story had seemed to fizzle out, because Don Camillo took care to make no reference to anything that had happened.
     "When God gives you an inch, don't take a mile," he said to the police sergeant, when the latter tried to get something more out of him. "You ought to be glad you've got the guns."
     "I can't be so easily satisfied. Now that I've found them I feel I must find the dead man whose place they were taking."
     "I understand, but I wouldn't worry about him, Sergeant," Don Camillo advised him. "The guns are more important. After all, they can shoot, and that's more than a dead man can do."
     Peppone, of course, had no comment to make, but he was about as easy in his mind as a man who has swallowed a mouse.
     "He must have done it," he shouted to Brusco. "No one would dig a hole in a tomb unless he was sure there was nobody in it. But I'll make him pay."
     He, of course, was Don Camillo, who continued to be extremely discreet. All he did was to plaster the walls of the "People's Palace" and Peppone's workshop with signs reading:

     Near the local cemetery, the corpse of the "second phase of the Revolution." Claimants apply to the police.

     Five days later the village woke up to find itself covered with big yellow posters bearing the following notice:

     Six hundred pounds of dried foods and tinned groceries consigned by the Regional Relief Committee to the priest, Don Camillo, for distribution to the needy. If Don Camillo finds these goods, will he please turn them over to the rightful owners.

     Signed: The Village Needy. Death to all thieves!
     Don Camillo rushed indignantly to the police station. "I'll report them!" he shouted. "I'll report and accuse them, every one! This is an outrage!"
     "Who's to be accused?" asked the sergeant. "The notice is signed 'the village needy.' "
     "'Needy' indeed! The village riffraff! Peppone and his gang are at the bottom of this."
     "That may be. But we have only your word for it. Go ahead and file your complaint, and then we'll investigate."
     Don Camillo started to go home, but in the square he pulled down the first poster that caught his eye and tore it into small pieces.
     "Go on! Tear it up!" a man shouted to him from a bicycle. "But truth will out!"
     And a ragged and disheveled woman added her cries to his:
     "Look at the priest's bulk!" she jeered. "He's grown fat on the food he stole from the poor!"
     Don Camillo went his way, and a little farther on he met Filotti.
     "Do you see what I see, Signor Filotti?" he asked him.
     "Yes, I see," answered Filotti, calmly. "But you mustn't let it bother you. I'm sure you can clear yourself. If I were you, I'd put up a poster reproducing your receipts for the groceries and the list of the persons to whom you distributed them."
     "What receipts? What groceries?"
     "The groceries from the Regional Relief Committee."
     "But I didn't receive anything!" Don Camillo shouted. "And I didn't know such a committee existed!''
     "Good Heavens! Is that possible?"
     "It's more than possible; it's the literal truth! I never received a single thing!"
     "How's that? It's unbelievable that anyone should make up a story of the kind. But if you say so, it must be true . . ."
     Farther along the way Don Camillo ran into Signor Borghetti, who was reading the poster through spectacles perched on the end of his nose.
     "This is a wicked world, Don Camillo," he said, shaking his head.
     Old Barchini, the printer, was standing at the door of his shop.
     "I didn't print it," he explained. "If they'd given me the job, I'd have told you about it. What about these groceries, Don Camillo? Are these the goods we were supposed to get from the Bishop?"
     Just then Peppone's truck went by with Smilzo at the wheel.
     "Here's a good appetite to you!" he called out, and everyone laughed.
     Don Camillo ate no lunch. At three o'clock he was still lying on his bed and staring up at the beams of the ceiling. At four o'clock an infernal clamor rose from the church square and he looked out to see what was happening. There was an enormous crowd below, and, as might have been expected, the front ranks were filled by women. Don Camillo found most of their faces unfamiliar, and he thought of Smilzo and the truck.
     "They've picked up roughnecks from all the surrounding villages," he said to himself. "They know how to organize. I'll grant them that."
     "We want our groceries!" the women and children shouted. "Down with the exploiters of the people!"
     "I've nothing to give you," shouted back Don Camillo from the window. "Because no one gave anything to me. It's a miserable lie!"
     "We want to see for ourselves," a woman shouted, shaking her fists at him. "If you have nothing to hide, let us see!"
     The crowd surged against the presbytery door, and Don Camillo withdrew from the window and took his shotgun down from the wall. Then he laid it on the bed and went to look again. The police sergeant and six of his men were standing guard at the presbytery door. But the crowd seemed to have gone wild and was still clamoring to get in. At this point Peppone stepped forward.
     "Quiet," he shouted. "I have something to say."
     The crowd kept silence, and Peppone looked up at the window.
     "Don Camillo," said Peppone, "I am speaking as Mayor. This is no time to argue about whether what the poster says is false or true. These people feel that they have been cheated and they are justified in protesting. In order to avoid bloodshed, you must allow a committee to inspect the presbytery. The committee will include myself and the village Council and also the police sergeant with his men."
     "Bravo!" shouted the crowd.
     Don Camillo shook his head.
     "There's nothing to see," he said. "This is my house, and I won't have it invaded. The poster was a lie from beginning to end; I'll swear to that on the Gospel."
     "Swear to it on the cupboard where you've stowed away six hundred pounds of our groceries!" the crowd shouted. "You're not going to get away with it so easily."
     Don Camillo shrugged his shoulders and stepped back. The crowd threw itself against the policemen and threatened to engulf them. But the sergeant kept his presence of mind and fired a shot into the air. The crowd retreated far enough for the police to pull themselves together and take a new position of defense.
     "Stay where you are, or I'll have to use force of arms!" shouted the sergeant.
     The crowd hesitated, then moved slowly but resolutely forward. The policemen paled, clenched their teeth and loaded their guns. Just as it looked as if events might take a tragic turn, Don Camillo raised his hand.
     "Stop!" he shouted. "I'm coming to open the door."
     When he came to open it the committee was ready. There were thirty members in all—Peppone and his Councilors and the police sergeant with four of his men. They made a mercilessly thorough search, opening every chest of drawers and cupboard and cabinet, tapping the walls and floors, sounding every bottle and barrel in the cellar and exploring under the eaves, up the chimney, and in the woodshed. Even if anything so small as a needle had been the object of their search they would surely have found it. All the food they discovered in the kitchen amounted to three eggs, a loaf of bread, and a rind of cheese. And in the cellar, two salami sausages and two gourds full of lard hung from the ceiling. Don Camillo stood by with folded arms and an indifferent air. After they had fingered the mattresses they said they wanted to examine the bell tower and the church. The sergeant turned pale, but Don Camillo led the way, and let the committee look into the sacristy and the confessionals and under the altar. They did not touch anything, but insisted upon nosing everywhere. Finally, with nothing to show for their pains, they left the house, with their heads hanging. They conferred for a while with the crowd, and finally the latter melted away.
     Don Camillo ate no supper either. He lay for a while on his bed, gazing up at the beams of the ceiling, then when he could see them no longer he went into the church and knelt before the altar.
     "Lord, I thank you," he murmured. But there was no reply.
     Now whenever this happened Don Camillo acquired a fever and went on a diet of bread and water for days and days, until the Lord felt sorry for him and said: "Enough." But this time he hadn't had even bread and water so he went back to his room. There were two windows in this room; one looked out on the village square and the other on the presbytery garden. The latter was still wide open, and hanging out of it was a blanket that had been put there to dry earlier in the day. He pulled the blanket in, revealing three nails in the outside wall of the house, each one with a tommy-gun strung to it. He pulled in the guns and put them in a sack. Then he went to the cellar and took down one of the two sausages and the gourds. Only one of the sausages was stuffed with pork, and both gourds contained heavy yellow grease with cartridges embedded in it. He added a sausage and both gourds to his sack, climbed over the garden hedge and walked across the fields until he came to the river. There he got into a boat, rowed out past that spit of land known locally as the Island and threw the sack into the water. After that, he went back to kneel in front of the altar.
     "I thank You, Lord," he whispered again. "I thank You for not having let them find the things I have just thrown away. Those are what they were after. They wanted to make a sensational story out of their discovery. I thank You not for my sake, but for having saved the reputation of the Church."
     "Very well, Don Camillo. But I told you many times before to throw those things away."
     Don Camillo sighed.
     "Here I am, stripped of everything, with only an old shotgun that would scare nothing bigger than an owl for a weapon. How am I to defend myself?"
     "With your honesty, Don Camillo."
     "No," said the priest. "You saw today for Yourself that honesty is no defense. Peppone and his gang knew what they were really looking for, but the others shouted against me just because of a false accusation intended to persuade them that I was a thief. My honesty was no help at all. And it won't do any good in the future. They don't know I've got rid of the guns, and because they were thwarted in their plan to disgrace me they'll continue their war to the knife against me. But I'll . . ."
     He threw out his chest and clenched his big fists. Then he relaxed, lowered his head and bowed low.
     "I'll do nothing at all. The lie has been sown by now, and I'm known as 'the priest who grows fat on the food of the poor'."
     As he said this, the thought came to him that he hadn't eaten all day and so he closed the church for the night and went to the presbytery cellar. There he reached for the sausage with the intention of eating a slice or two for a late supper. But his knife struck something hard.
     "I threw the good salami away with the guns, and here I am with one full of cartridges," he said to himself with a melancholy smile.
     After a sad meal consisting of a rind of cheese he went to bed. Meanwhile, in the darkness of his own room, Peppone was thinking of the meager contents of Don Camillo's cupboard: three eggs, a loaf of bread, and a piece of cheese. He turned over and over in his bed, unable to close his eyes. Then he remembered the two sausages hanging in the cellar. "Well, he'll have a bite of sausage," he muttered to himself, and went to sleep with an easy conscience.
Go on to chapter seven, The Polar Pact     on the meaning of life website.


An index of inspirational articles and helpful tips for your daily life can be found on our
Main Index Home Page

      Please take the time to see it. Thanks.


Don Camillo 4 | Don Camillo 5 | Don Camillo 6 | Don Camillo 7 | Don Camillo 8 | Don Camillo 9 | Don Camillo 10 | Don Camillo 12 | Don Camillo 13 | Don Camillo 14 | Don Camillo 15 | Don Camillo 16 | Don Camillo 17 | Don Camillo 18 | Don Camillo 19 | Don Camillo 20 | Don Camillo 21 | Don Camillo and his Flock 2 | Don Camillo and his Flock 3 | Don Camillo and his Flock 4 | Don Camillo and his Flock 5 | Don Camillo and his Flock 6 | Don Camillo and his Flock 7 | Don Camillo and his Flock 8 | Don Camillo and his Flock 9 | Don Camillo and his Flock 10 | Don Camillo and his Flock 11 | Don Camillo and his Flock 12 | Don Camillo and his Flock 13 | Don Camillo and his Flock 14 | Don Camillo and his Flock 15 | Don Camillo and his Flock 16 | Don Camillo and his Flock 17 | Don Camillo and his Flock 18 | Don Camillo and his Flock 19 | Don Camillo and his Flock 20 | Don Camillo and his Flock 21 | Don Camillo and his Flock 22 | Don Camillo and his Flock 23 | Don Camillo and his Flock 24 | Don Camillo and his Flock 25 | Don Camillo and his Flock 26 | Don Camillo and his Flock 27 | Don Camillo and his Flock 28 | Don Camillo and his Flock 29 | Don Camillo and his Flock 30 | Don Camillo and his Flock 31 | Don Camillo and his Flock 32 |
| Don Camillo | Siterightnow Page |
| Return Home | The Meaning of Life | Is There a God? | Prayer | Teachings of Christ | Our Catholic Faith | Music |

Copyright © 2019, American Life Helping Institute. All rights reserved.