Mrs. Fasano's thought: a novella by Alberto Moravia (Racconti Surrealistici e Satirici)
Il Pensiero della Signora Fasano: una novella di Alberto Moravia
One is never too cautious when hiring a new housemaid, Mrs. Fasano thought.
Eventually, however, Mrs. Fasano found, or so she thought, someone who, although not perfect, seemed to be right for the job. A twenty-five-year-old girl from Abruzzo, simple and candid. Her rosy cheeks and robust build were a sign of tenacity and good attitude towards work; the expression of her blue eyes and smile indicated reliability, innocence and perhaps the absence of a “fiancé”.
After having briefly talked about board and lodging, laundry and Sunday “freedom”, Mrs. Fasano inquired about her past experience. Rosa, this was the girl's name, said that she had worked for the countess Folaga-Picchio for five years.
What a coincidence – the countess Folaga-Picchio was a socially prominent woman and Mrs. Fasano aspired to be invited to her house. Asking her for information could be an excuse to establish a contact, not a great excuse, it's true, but in any case...
In the morning, Mrs. Fasano called the countess stating immediately and in a very courteous manner that the maid was the reason for her call: “I know you are very busy and I know I am disturbing you... but as you know... nowadays... you never know who you come across... I am sure you understand.” The countess rejected that veiled invitation to use a friendly tone and said sharply that Rosa was absolutely commendable. “The only inconvenience,” she added after hesitating for a little while, “is that she is an angel.”
“Really?” exclaimed Mrs. Fasano, “an angel... and you call that an inconvenience?”
The countess, who was getting a little impatient, explained that she didn't mean an angel in the sense of “good as an angel”; Rosa was a real angel, with wings and a halo over her head.
“Now you understand,” concluded the countess, “that an angel is always an angel.. out of the house maybe.. but in the house... we took her in for five years, also considering she is an orphan... but eventually we had to let her go... you can try though... it may work out for you.” The countess briefly added a couple of more things, and then cutting the conversation short, said bye and hung up.
Once having obtained the information desired, Mrs. Fasano reflected on the advantages and disadvantages of the situation. Rosa was an angel and this was a great inconvenience according to the countess, and although she wasn't very familiar with angels, she certainly didn't have any good reason to question the words of the countess.
She was good at her job, however, as the countess had confirmed.
Just to be certain, Mrs. Fasano decided to talk about it with her husband, who was brief and rather brutal: “Whether or not she is an angel is none of my business... as long as she irons my pants, polishes my shoes and answers the door.”
After a long hesitation, Mrs. Fasano decided to offer the girl a probationary period. But she wanted to make sure to take advantage, here and there, of this unusual situation. “I will take you in,” she said to Rosa, “but the countess Folaga-Picchio told me you are an angel...” she paused for a moment hoping that Rosa would deny it; but Rosa just blushed and lowered her gaze, “and so you understand that I can't offer you as much as I offered the others... you must be content with a thousand lira less.”
“As you wish, Madam,” said the angel gently.
After a few days, Mrs. Fasano realized that she didn't like angels at all, in fact she felt a strong aversion towards them. Mrs. Fasano vented her feelings of aversion by deliberately giving Rosa the hardest time possible. For instance, after Rosa had swept the floor in the living room, Mrs. Fasano pretended to notice a speck of dust somewhere and made her clean again, this time on her knees and with her hands, while she stood nearby pointing out the dirty spots; the brass utensils were never shiny enough for her and the windows had to be cleaned by stepping on the window sill.
“You are filthy,” Mrs. Fasano went on repeating all day, “you are so filthy.” Not to mention when Mrs. Fasano got dressed: she had cruel demands, and just to choose and put on her socks she had poor Rosa get down on her knees with her bare foot on her lap for a good half hour.
But, as everyone knows, angels are patient; and Rosa truly excelled at this virtue. Mrs. Fasano, after waiting in vain for Rosa to make a mistake when performing her tasks, and after finding her truly perfect, came to the conclusion that the only, yet great inconvenience, was precisely that the girl was an angel. But how did this inconvenience show? And how could she use it to her advantage?
One Sunday morning when Rosa was out, Mrs. Fasano went to her room and searched meticulously the three dresser's drawers and the small fabric suitcase, only to find one dress, her only change of clothes, some shabby linens and a few other rags.
Those ragged clothes did not seem fitting for an angel, nor did the wooden brush and the half broken comb, which composed all of Rosa's toiletries. Her room, furthermore, did not smell like angel, but rather of inexpensive violet soap.
Therefore, Mrs. Fasano decided to spy on Rosa. She vaguely told herself that if the angel spread her wings when she was alone, by pulling them out of her shoulders as you pull your legs out of the gaming tables, that would be enough to fire her: you don't belong in a respectable house if you have wings, despite the fact that they may be hidden.
Mrs. Fasano hid behind Rosa's window, in the garden: she saw her getting undressed, brushing her hair and arranging it in a braid, putting on a long nightgown, sneaking in bed and turning off the light, but no wings. Even the halo, typical of angels, would be a good pretext to send Rosa away: “You can't serve meals with a halo, it simply can't be done... you have your lace bonnet and you must be content with that...”. But however hard Mrs. Fasano looked, she couldn't see any halo.
Nonetheless, Mrs. Fasano was certain: Rosa was definitely an angel. She didn't know why, as she sometimes said to her husband, but there was something about that girl, a number of things... a certain air... One day Mrs. Fasano finally told her husband: “I decided to fire Rosa... she may be good, she may be perfect... but I don't want angels in my house.”
And so Rosa was sent away. Mrs. Fasano said a few words to comfort Rosa when she saw tears in her eyes. Also, she wanted to make sure not to be misunderstood: “My dear,” she added, “you are not stupid and I am sure you understand... you have many good qualities, you are serious, hard working, honest... but you are an angel... this will always keep you from working in respectable households for long periods of time.” Having said that, Mrs. Fasano agreed to writing a good reference letter for Rosa, without mention of the angel matter.
A few days later, Mrs. Avocetta phoned to find out more about Rosa. “She is good,” answered Mrs. Fasano, “very good...but I must warn you... she is an angel.”
- The end -