Yesterday afternoon I went to the girls’ school building, near ours, to give the story of the boy from Padua to Silvia’s teacher, who wished to read it. There are seven hundred girls there. Just as I arrived, they began to come out, all greatly rejoiced at the holiday of All Saints and All Souls; and here is a beautiful thing that I saw: Opposite the door of the school, on the other side of the street, stood a very small chimney-sweep, his face entirely black, with his sack and scraper, with one arm resting against the wall, and his head supported on his arm, weeping copiously and sobbing. Two or three of the girls of the second grade approached him and said, “What is the matter, that you weep like this?” But he made no reply, and went on crying.
“Come, tell us what is the matter with you and why you are crying,” the girls repeated. And then he raised his face from his arm,—a baby face,—and said through his tears that he had been to several houses to sweep the chimneys, and had earned thirty soldi, and that he had lost them, that they had slipped through a hole in his pocket,—and he showed the hole,—and he did not dare to return home without the money.
“The master will beat me,” he said, sobbing; and again dropped his head upon his arm, like one in despair. The children stood and stared at him very seriously. In the meantime, other girls, large and small, poor girls and girls of the upper classes, with their portfolios under their arms, had come up; and one large girl, who had a blue feather in her hat, pulled two soldi from her pocket, and said:—
“I have only two soldi; let us make a collection.”
“I have two soldi, also,” said another girl, dressed in red; “we shall certainly find thirty soldi among the whole of us”; and then they began to call out:—
“Amalia! Luigia! Annina!—A soldo. Who has any soldi? Bring your soldi here!”
Several had soldi to buy flowers or copy-books, and they brought them; some of the smaller girls gave centesimi; the one with the blue feather collected all, and counted them in a loud voice:—
“Eight, ten, fifteen!” But more was needed. Then one larger than any of them, who seemed to be an assistant mistress, made her appearance, and gave half a lira; and all made much of her. Five soldi were still lacking.
“The girls of the fourth class are coming; they will have it,” said one girl. The members of the fourth class came, and the soldi showered down. All hurried forward eagerly; and it was beautiful to see that poor chimney-sweep in the midst of all those many-colored dresses, of all that whirl of feathers, ribbons, and curls. The thirty soldi were already obtained, and more kept pouring in; and the very smallest who had no money made their way among the big girls, and offered their bunches of flowers, for the sake of giving something. All at once the portress made her appearance, screaming:—
“The Signora Directress!” The girls made their escape in all directions, like a flock of sparrows; and then the little chimney-sweep was visible, alone, in the middle of the street, wiping his eyes in perfect content, with his hands full of money, and the button-holes of his jacket, his pockets, his hat, were full of flowers; and there were even flowers on the ground at his feet.
Yesterday afternoon I went to the girls’ school where my sister Silvia studies. I took the story of the boy from Padua to Silvia’s teacher because she wanted to read it in front of her class. While I was walking in, seven hundred girls were walking out. They were very happy because they would have a few days off on the occasion of All Saints and All Souls Day. Then something beautiful happened.
A small chimney-sweep with his black face was standing in the street opposite the school gate. He carried a sack, a scraper, and a broom. He was weeping and sobbing bitterly with one arm covering his face as he leaned against the wall.
Some girls in the second grade approached him and said, “What is the matter? Why are you crying?” The boy did not answer and went on crying.
“Come, tell us what happened?”
Finally he said he had cleaned chimneys for hours and earned thirty soldi. There had been a small hole in his pocket and his money had slipped through the hole. He had lost all his money and he did not dare go back home empty-handed.
The girls stared at him very seriously. The girls of the second and fourth classes, the younger girls and even an assistant all gave the chimney-sweep their money. Finally they were able to collect all the money he had lost and more.
It was beautiful to see the poor chimney-sweep standing amidst of all those colorful dresses, and the whirl of feathers, ribbons, and curls. Even the tiniest pupils who had no money joined the older girls and offered their bunches of flowers to the little chimney-sweep.
Suddenly the door keeper appeared and shouted to the girls,“The principal is coming!”
The girls scattered in all directions like a flock of birds. The little chimney-sweep was left alone in the middle of the street. He wiped away his tears and joy filled his eyes. The money and flowers were stuffed in his pockets and hat and even under his feet.
Đặng Hoàng Lan Summarized Chapter 11.