Conversation in Plague Time

The unknown guide continued to remain; and without appearing to have any business to detain him, lingered to talk a little more with Renzo, and resumed the conversation about bread.

“If I had the control, I would order things better,” said he.

“What would you do?” said Renzo, endeavouring to exhibit every appearance of attention.

“What would I do? Every one should have bread—the poor as well as the rich.”

“Ah! that is right.”

“See how I would do. I would fix a reasonable rate within the ability of every one; then bread should be distributed according to the number of mouths, because there are gluttons who seize all they can get for themselves, and leave the poor still in want. We must then divide it. And how shall we do this? Why in this way. Give a ticket to every family in proportion to the mouths, to authorise them to get bread from the bakers. For example: they give me a ticket expressed in this manner; Ambrose Fusella, by trade a sword cutler, with a wife and four children, all old enough to eat bread (mind that); he must be furnished with so much bread at such a price. But the thing must be done in order, always with regard to the number of mouths. For instance, they should give you a ticket for—your name?”

“Lorenzo Tramaglino,” said the young man, who, enchanted with the project, did not reflect that it all depended on pen, ink, and paper; and that the first point towards its success was to collect the names of the persons to be served.

Manzoni, The Betrothed.

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