THE LITTLE PATRIOT OF PADUA
(The Monthly Story.)
I will not be a cowardly soldier, no; but I should be much more willing to go to school if the master would tell us a story every day, like the one he told us this morning. “Every month,” said he, “I shall tell you one; I shall give it to you in writing, and it will always be the tale of a fine and noble deed performed by a boy. This one is called The Little Patriot of Padua. Here it is. A French steamer set out from Barcelona, a city in Spain, for Genoa; there were on board Frenchmen, Italians, Spaniards, and Swiss. Among the rest was a lad of eleven, poorly clad, and alone, who always held himself aloof, like a wild animal, and stared at all with gloomy eyes. He had good reasons for looking at every one with forbidding eyes. Two years previous to this time his parents, peasants in the neighborhood of Padua, had sold him to a company of mountebanks, who, after they had taught him how to perform tricks, by dint of blows and kicks and starving, had carried him all over France and Spain, beating him continually and never giving him enough to eat. On his arrival in Barcelona, being no longer able to endure ill treatment and hunger, and being reduced to a pitiable condition, he had fled from his slave-master and had betaken himself for protection to the Italian consul, who, moved with compassion, had placed him on board of this steamer, and had given him a letter to the treasurer of Genoa, who was to send the boy back to his parents—to the parents who had sold him like a beast. The poor lad was lacerated and weak. He had been assigned to the second-class cabin. Every one stared at him; some questioned him, but he made no reply, and seemed to hate and despise every one, to such an extent had privation and affliction saddened and irritated him. Nevertheless, three travellers, by dint of persisting in their questions, succeeded in making him unloose his tongue; and in a few rough words, a mixture of Venetian, French, and Spanish, he related his story. These three travellers were not Italians, but they understood him; and partly out of compassion, partly because they were excited with wine, they gave him soldi, jesting with him and urging him on to tell them other things; and as several ladies entered the saloon at the moment, they gave him some more money for the purpose of making a show, and cried: ‘Take this! Take this, too!’ as they made the money rattle on the table.
“The boy pocketed it all, thanking them in a low voice, with his surly mien, but with a look that was for the first time smiling and affectionate. Then he climbed into his berth, drew the curtain, and lay quiet, thinking over his affairs. With this money he would be able to purchase some good food on board, after having suffered for lack of bread for two years; he could buy a jacket as soon as he landed in Genoa, after having gone about clad in rags for two years; and he could also, by carrying it home, insure for himself from his father and mother a more humane reception than would have fallen to his lot if he had arrived with empty pockets. This money was a little fortune for him; and he was taking comfort out of this thought behind the curtain of his berth, while the three travellers chatted away, as they sat round the dining-table in the second-class saloon. They were drinking and discussing their travels and the countries which they had seen; and from one topic to another they began to discuss Italy. One of them began to complain of the inns, another of the railways, and then, growing warmer, they all began to speak evil of everything. One would have preferred a trip in Lapland; another declared that he had found nothing but swindlers and brigands in Italy; the third said that Italian officials do not know how to read.
“‘It’s an ignorant nation,’ repeated the first. ‘A filthy nation,’ added the second. ‘Ro—’ exclaimed the third, meaning to say ‘robbers’; but he was not allowed to finish the word: a tempest of soldi and half-lire descended upon their heads and shoulders, and leaped upon the table and the floor with a demoniacal noise. All three sprang up in a rage, looked up, and received another handful of coppers in their faces.
“‘Take back your soldi!’ said the lad, disdainfully, thrusting his head between the curtains of his berth; ‘I do not accept alms from those who insult my country.
The Little Patriot Of Pardua
The Monthly Story
No, I will not be a cowardly soldier. I will enjoy going to school more if the teacher tells us a story each day. He said he would tell us one every month. Today the story is called “The Little Patriot of Padua.” It goes like this,
A French ship was sailing from Barcelona which was a city in Spain to Genoa. There were people of many countries including the French, Italian, Swiss and Spanish. Among the passengers there was an 11-year-old boy. He was alone, dressed badly and looked at the others with gloomy eyes. He would not speak to anyone. He had reason to be sad because his parents had sold him to a company of charlatans. They carried him all over France and Spain and taught him how to perform tricks. They always beat him and they did not feed him well. One day he was able to escape by asking an Italian consulate for help. The consulate placed him on a ship sailing to Genoa and sent him back to his parents.
The people on the ship asked him their questions, but he would never answer. One day three men who were not Italian were able to make him talk. The boy told them his story and the travelers felt sorry for him and gave him a few coins. The boy thanked the men and went to his berth. He began to think what he could buy when he went to Genoa. He could eat some good food after being hungry two years. He could buy a jacket to change the worn clothes which he had been wearing for two years. His parents would welcome him if he could bring some money to them.
While he was thinking about these things, he heard the three men who had given him soldi were discussing their travels. Then they began to talk about Italy. Each one of them complained about something.
“Italy is a country of ignorance,” said one.
“They are dirty people,” said another one.
The third one opened his mouth to say, “Ro…” meaning “robbers”.
But he was not able to finish the word when coins began to fall like rain on their heads. Immediately they looked up and saw the little boy of Padua who said to them, “Here is your money. I do not accept charity from those who insult my country.”
Đặng Hoàng Lan Summarized Chapter 10.