Soon after this I went up to the Greek hawker and learned from him that these wares were indeed made by an Italian, who guarded the secrets of his manufacture in every possible way.
‘And twelve of us hawkers,’ added the Greek, ‘are hardly enough to sell these wares all over Tiflis.’
His story and Yelov’s indignation stirred me up, and then and there I thought of trying to steal a march on this Italian, the more so since at that time I had to consider beginning some business or other means of earning, as my money was already going like the exodus of the Israelites.
I first of all spoke with the Greek hawker, of course intentionally arousing his feelings of patriotism; then, having composed in my mind a plan of action, I went with him to the Italian and asked for work. To my good fortune it turned out that just previously a boy who had been working for him had been discharged for stealing tools, and the Italian needed someone to pour the water for him during the stirring of the plaster. As I was willing to work for any pay, I was immediately taken on.
According to my plan, I pretended from the very first day to be a blockhead. I worked very hard, almost as much as three men, but in other respects behaved stupidly. For this the Italian very soon even took a liking to me and no longer hid his secrets from this young fellow, who was so foolish and harmless, as carefully as he did from others.