When Arthur Olsen and his beautiful wife were killed in an auto crash, quite a few people were sad but nobody was surprised. Arthur could best be described as a 'bon vivant' who had shown great skill and fortune, building and expanding a margarine factory. He was a very wealthy man. His love for pretty women and fast cars was well known, so only a few were surprised that he was killed in a crash.
A few days after the funeral his two sons were called to the family lawyer's office for the reading of the will. Jonathan, the older of the two, was an efficient businessman, and after his education was finished, he had worked in the family business. Jonas, the younger of the two, had inherited his mother's talent for music, and at the age of 25 he was now an educated but not very well known composer.
Apart from all the legal mumble jumble and the conditions should his wife have survived him, the will boiled down to:
"To my son Jonathan I leave my factory on the following conditions: 25% of the profits - but never less than 100.000 dollars a year - shall be given to Jonas, and future changes in the structure of the business can only be made if the two can agree. To my son Jonas I leave my Morgan sportscar and my small factory in Italy on the condition that he maintains it as the social experiment it is. The present manager, Signora Mandelli, can be reached at Via Regia Mirabile..." The amount of cash in my different bankaccounts will be about 600.000 dollars which are to be divided equally between the two."
As Jonas and Jonathan had always been good friends, but never really close, they just accepted what they had been given, although the 'small factory in Italy' was a bit of a mystery to them. They knew that their father now and then had gone to Italy to sort out 'things', but he had never revealed the nature of this business.
Three weeks later Jonas packed his favourite keyboard into the Morgan, and on a bright Saturday morning he drove up in front of an old building in Via Regia Mirabile. There were many names on the list inside the front door, but Signora Mandelli's was not there. For a short moment he was afraid his father had made a joke on him, but when he asked for Signora Mandelli at the baker's on the corner, he was told that she had moved out one week ago and that she was now living at 'the factory'. The kind baker told him to look for the big, red building by the lake at the end of the road.
Jonas braked hard when he caught sight of the building. It was huge! 4 stories high, close to 60 meters long, built on the rocks right on the shore with a magnificent view of the lake and the Alps in the distance. It was meticulously maintained and bore no trace of industrial activities. The enormous windows towards the lake was the only evidence of the factory's age and nature.
He started the Morgan again and drove down to the lake. An open gate in the fence allowed him to drive into the yard in front of the building. Well kept lawns and flowerbeds bordered the narrow gravel road up to the front door, and as he brought the Morgan to a halt at the huge front door he could not help himself: He honked the strong horn of the small car.
A minute or two later the door opened, and two women ran down the stairs and shouted: Hi, Arthur. Oh, Arthur, you are back?
When Jonas pulled off the black leather helmet he had found in the Morgan, the women looked very disappointed at first, and with a suspicious stare at him asked: "and who are you then?"
"Good morning, ladies. I'm Arthur's son, and I seem to have inherited this place. Can you tell me where I can find Signora Mirandelli?"
The oldest of the two, an extremely pretty woman, who looked to be somewhere in her late thirties (but he always found it difficult to estimate the age of those Mediterranean women) stepped forward and said: "I'm Signora Mirandelli. And why are you here and not Arthur?"
"My father was killed in an accident 3 weeks ago, and he has left me this factory."
She turned round and said something in Italian to the younger woman, who then disappeared into the building. When Mirandelli turned back to him he saw the beginning of tears in her beautiful black eyes.
"You must be Jonas, then. Arthur has told us a lot about you."
It was only at that moment that Jonas started to wonder that they called his father by his first name.
"How much has he told you about this place?"
"Not a thing. All I know is, that he went here often, but he never told any of us about the place. So kindly explain to me what all this is about."
Jonas got out of the powerful little car, and he was in for another surprise. Mirandelli put her left arm round his shoulder, kissed him on his cheek and guided him towards the front door.
"I'm terribly sorry about your father. We all loved him very much, but we didn't know anything about his death. So we are just as anxious to know better as you are."
They had reached the big door, and once inside she said: "Let's go to my office and have a little talk to clear things out, and then we'll have to meet all the others."
Her small but beautiful office was on the ground floor with an exquisite view of the lake through the huge old-fashioned factorywindow.
"So you own this factory now? And you don't know anything about it?"
"No. My father's will only said something about a 'social experiment' and that he hoped I'd keep it up as such."
"We sure hope so too!"
She looked Jonas into his eyes as if she was probing to find an answer to that question.
"I'd love to, if only I knew what it is all about."
"Well, to tell it the short way: Your very dear father has lent us this factory. He started out in the traditional way hiring workers and producing margarine. After a few years he realised that unmarried mothers were having a very hard time in Italy. That's when he changed everything and why we all love him so much." Once again Jonas noticed Signora Mirandelli's eyes getting wet and shiny, and she was having a hard time not to cry.
"You know, signora, it warms my heart to see that you are so sorry that my father is dead. I loved him very much myself, and I am still in grief over it. Tell me more about this place - maybe I can put you at ease as far as the factory's future is concerned."
"Well, again to put it shortly: This factory can only hire unmarried mothers. The buildings were still Arthur's, but he resigned from taking out any profits from the production. They were all supposed to be used for the benefit of the mothers and their children. He built about 25 nice apartments on the top floor, started a day-care centre on the third floor, and then he left it to us all to cooperate, elect our own leaders and run the factory as a commune."
"Wow, the old guy always had a streak of a socialist in him, but when it came to business he was just as tough as any other guy. I'm happy to hear this."
"Today we are all having a wonderful life here. The production is running smoothly, we have very, very low 'sick days off', the girls are respected in town, and we all have a fairly high income, though we spend a lot of money keeping the place up to the standard we all want to live in."
"I noticed that, coming in here. Not much of a factory to look at."
"That's the way we want it. And about once a month Arthur would come down here to give good advice and to liven up the place."
"Yes, you can tell me that. He was always the one for a good party and a fine woman. All his life."
"Mmmm. That's one of the other reasons we loved him so much. When he arrived the 'girls' were close to fighting for a chance to be with him, because he was so much fun and such a wonderful lover."
"I am not sure I can live up to that reputation - I really don't know that side of his life very well - but I'd sure be willing to give it a try."
"And what about the factory. Would you be willing to give it a try? We all know, that the buildings are yours, but we hope you are not going to sell them."
"You know, I don't think I will. I'm a composer, not a businessman. I'm secured a fair income for the next many years. On the other hand this place could bring me a lot of inspiration for my work. Do you have an apartment where I can stay when I'm down here?"
Mirandelli jumped up and impulsively dragged him to the windows.
"Look down there. That place looking like a boathouse - with the balcony built so it reaches out over the lake? That's Arthur's house. Maybe we should call it Jonas' house from now on?"
"Why not uphold the name to keep the memory of him alive?"
"Oohh. That memory will live for a long time anyway."
"All right, signora. Will you be my interpreter? My Italian is almost non existing, but I hope to learn it quickly. I have an announcement to make. At what time will you be able to get all the women together so I can make a speech to them?"
"I'm sure I can guess what's going on in the factory right now. Angela has told the others that Arthur has died, and right now they are probably not producing any margarine at all. They will be sorry to have lost Arthur and they'll be scared that they'll loose their good life."
"Well, lady. Let's go and put that fear to death."
"You really mean it? You're going to let us continue?"
"Yes, I sure am. Why kill a good thing to make it a factory like thousands others."
.... There is more of this story ...