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- Stories by Foreign Authors: Italian - 1/20 -
STORIES BY FOREIGN AUTHORS
A GREAT DAY ......... by EDMONDO DE AMICIS
PEREAT ROCHUS ....... by ANTONIO FOGAZZARO
SAN PANTALEONE ...... by GABRIELE D'ANNUNZIO
IT SNOWS .......... by ENRICO CASTELNUOVO
COLLEGE FRIENDS ..... yy EDMONDO DE AMICIS
NEW YORK 1898
A GREAT DAY ....................... Edmondo de Amicis PEREAT ROCHUS ..................... Antonio Fogazzaro SAN PANTALEONE .................... Gabriele d'Annunzio IT SNOWS .......................... Enrico Castelnuovo COLLEGE FRIENDS ................... Edmondo de Amicis
A GREAT DAY
EDMONDO DE AMICIS
The Translation by Edith Wharton.
The G--s were living in the country, near Florence, when the Italian army began preparations to advance upon Rome. In the family the enterprise was regarded with disapproval. The father, the mother, and the two grown daughters, all ardent Catholics and temperate patriots, talked of moral measures.
"We don't profess to understand anything about politics," Signora G--- would say to her friends; "I am especially ignorant; in fact, I am afraid I should find it rather difficult to explain WHY I think as I do. But I can't help it; I have a presentiment. There is something inside me that keeps saying: 'This is not the right way for them to go to Rome; they ought not to go, they must not go!' I remember how things were in forty-eight, and in fifty-nine and sixty; well, in those days I never was frightened, I never had the feeling of anxiety that I have now; I always thought that things would come right in the end. But now, you may say what you please, I see nothing but darkness ahead. You may laugh as much as you like... pray heaven we don't have to cry one of these days! I don't believe that day is so far off."
The only one of the household who thought differently was the son, a lad of twenty, just re-reading his Roman history, and boiling over with excitement. To mention Rome before him was to declare battle, and in one of these conflicts feeling had run so high that it had been unanimously decided not to touch upon the subject in future.
One evening, early in September, one of the official newspapers announced that the Italian troops had actually entered the Papal States. The son was bursting with joy. The father read the article, sat thinking awhile, and then, shaking his head, muttered: "No!" and again: "No!" and a third time: "No!"
"But I beg your pardon, father!" shouted the boy, all aflame.
"Don't let us begin again," the mother gently interposed; and that evening nothing more was said. But the next night something serious happened. The lad, just before going to bed, announced, without preamble, as though he were saying the most natural thing in the world, that he meant to go to Rome with the army.
There was a general outcry of surprise and indignation, followed by a storm of reproaches and threats. No decent person would willingly be present at such scenes as were about to be enacted; it was enough that, as Italians, they were all in a measure to blame for what had happened, without deliberately assuming the shame of being an eye-witness; there was nothing one could not forgive in a lad of good family, except (it was his mother who spoke) this craze to go and see A POOR OLD MAN BOMBARDED. A fine war! A glorious triumph, indeed!
When they had ended the lad set his teeth, tore in bits the paper clutched between his fingers, and, lighting a candle, flung out of the room, stamping his feet like an Italian actor representing an angry king.
Half an hour later he stole gently back to the dining-room. His father and mother sat there alone, sad and silent. He asked pardon of his father, who grumblingly shook hands; then he returned to his room, followed by his mother.
"Then we shall hear no more of these ideas?" she tenderly suggested, laying her hands on his shoulders.
He answered her with a kiss.
The next day he crossed the borders of the Papal States.
The discovery of his flight was received with tears, rage, and invectives. They would never consent to see him again; if he came back, they would not even rise from their seats to welcome him; they would not speak to him for a month; they would cut off his allowance; they had a hundred other plans for his discomfiture. With the mother it was only talk; but the father meant what he said. He was a good but hard man, averse to compromises, and violent in his anger; his son knew it and feared him. It was incomprehensible that the lad should have ventured upon such a step.
The news of the 20th of September only increased the resentment of his parents.
"He will see," they muttered. "Only let him try to come back!"
Their words, their gestures, the manner in which they were to receive him, were all thought out and agreed upon: he was to receive a memorable lesson.
On the morning of the 22d they were all seated in the dining-room, reading, when there was a great knock at the door, and the boy, flushed, panting, sunburnt, stood erect and motionless on the threshold.
No one moved.
"What!" cried the boy, extending his arms in amazement, "you haven't heard the news?"
No one answered.
"Hasn't any one told you? Has no one been out from Florence? Are you all in the dark still?"
No one breathed.
"We have heard," one of the girls at length faltered, after exchanging glances with her father, "that Rome was taken--"
"What! Is THAT all?"
"That is all."
"But what a victory! What a victory!" cried the son, with a shout that set them trembling. "So I am the one to tell you of it!"
They sprang up and surrounded him.
"But how is it possible?" he went on, with excited gestures--"how is it possible that you haven't heard anything? Have there been no rumors about the neighborhood? Haven't the peasants held a meeting? What is the municipality about? Why, it's inconceivable! Just listen--here, come close to me, so--I'll tell you the whole story; my heart's going at such a rate that I can hardly speak..."
"But what has happened?"
"Wait! You shan't know yet. You must hear the whole story first, from beginning to end. I want to tell you the thing bit by bit, just as I saw it."
"But WHAT is it?--the Roman festival?"
"The King's arrival?"
"No, no, no! Something much more tremendous!"
"But tell us, tell us!"
"Sit down, lad!"
"But how is it that we haven't heard anything about it?"
"How can I tell? All I know is that bringing you the first news of it is the most glorious thing that's ever happened to me. I reached Florence this morning--they knew all about it there, so I rushed straight out here. I fancied that perhaps you mightn't have heard yet--I ... I'm all out of breath ..."
"But tell us, tell us quickly!" the mother and daughters cried, drawing their chairs around him. The father remained at a distance.
"You shall hear, mother--SUCH things!" the boy began. "Here, come closer to me. Well, you know what happened on the morning of the twenty-first? The rest of the regiments entered; there were the same crowds, the same shouting and music as on the day before. But suddenly, about midday, the noise stopped as if by common consent, first in the Corso, then in the other principal streets, and so, little by little, all over the city. The troops of people began to break up into groups, talking to each other in low voices; then they scattered in all directions, taking leave
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