THE CHARCOAL-MAN AND THE GENTLEMAN
Garrone would certainly never have uttered the words which Carlo Nobis spoke yesterday morning to Betti. Carlo Nobis is proud, because his father is a great gentleman; a tall gentleman, with a black beard, and very serious, who accompanies his son to school nearly every day. Yesterday morning Nobis quarrelled with Betti, one of the smallest boys, and the son of a charcoal-man, and not knowing what retort to make, because he was in the wrong, said to him vehemently, “Your father is a tattered beggar!” Betti reddened up to his very hair, and said nothing, but the tears came to his eyes; and when he returned home, he repeated the words to his father; so the charcoal-dealer, a little man, who was black all over, made his appearance at the afternoon session, leading his boy by the hand, in order to complain to the master. While he was making his complaint, and everyone was silent, the father of Nobis, who was taking off his son’s coat at the entrance, as usual, entered on hearing his name pronounced, and demanded an explanation.
“This workman has come,” said the master, “to complain that your son Carlo said to his boy, ‘Your father is a tattered beggar.’”
Nobis’s father frowned and reddened slightly. Then he asked his son, “Did you say that?”
His son, who was standing in the middle of the school, with his head hanging, in front of little Betti, made no reply.
Then his father grasped him by one arm and pushed him forward, facing Betti, so that they nearly touched, and said to him, “Beg his pardon.”
The charcoal-man tried to interpose, saying, “No, no!” but the gentleman paid no heed to him, and repeated to his son, “Beg his pardon. Repeat my words. ‘I beg your pardon for the insulting, foolish, and ignoble words which I uttered against your father, whose hand my father would feel himself honored to press.’”
The charcoal-man made a resolute gesture, as though to say, “I will not allow it.” The gentleman did not second him, and his son said slowly, in a very thread of a voice, without raising his eyes from the ground, “I beg your pardon—for the insulting—foolish—ignoble—words which I uttered against your father, whose hand my father—would feel himself honored—to press.”
Then the gentleman offered his hand to the charcoal-man, who shook it vigorously, and then, with a sudden push, he thrust his son into the arms of Carlo Nobis.
“Do me the favor to place them next each other,” said the gentleman to the master. The master put Betti on Nobis’s bench. When they were seated, the father of Nobis bowed and went away.
The charcoal-man remaitned standing there in thought for several moments, gazing at the two boys side by side; then he approached the bench, and fixed upon Nobis a look expressive of affection and regret, as though he were desirous of saying something to him, but he did not say anything; he stretched out his hand to bestow a caress upon him, but he did not dare, and merely stroked his brow with his large fingers. Then he made his way to the door, and turning round for one last look, he disappeared.
“Fix what you have just seen firmly in your minds, boys,” said the master; “this is the finest lesson of the year.”
The Coalman and the Gentlemen
Monday, the 7th
Carlos is the son of a very wealthy man who is tall with a beard. Betti is the son of a coalman. Carlos and Betti had disagreement. In the heat of argument, Carlos did not know what else to say because he was wrong. So, he shouted in a loud voice, “Your father is a dirty beggar dressed in rags!”
Betti did not reply to Carlos. He started to cry and he remained sad all morning. When he returned home, he told his father what Carlos had said. That afternoon Betti’s father who is a short man stained in black went to school with his son. He led Betti into the classroom by the hand in order to complain to the teacher.
Carlos’ father was in the hallway taking off his son’s coat while the coalman was complaining to the teacher. When he heard his name mentioned, he walked into the classroom and asked the master to explain the situation. The professor said the coalman had come to complain that his son, Carlos, had told Betti that his father was a dirty beggar dressed in rags.
Mr. Nobis’ face started to redden as he asked his son, “Did you say that?” Carlos did not answer. Then, Mr. Nobis pushed Carlos toward Betti and demanded, “Ask him for forgiveness.”
The coalman tried to intervene, but Mr Nobis prevented him from doing so.
Mr. Nobis commanded his son, “Ask him for forgiveness. Right now. Repeat my words: I ask you to forgive me for the insulting, stupid, and silly words which I have spoken to your father who my father would have felt honored to shake hands with.”
Carlos repeated these words in a low voice while his father was shaking hands with the coalman vigorously. Then he asked the professor to place the two boys next to each other. After the boys were seated side by side, Carlos’ father bowed and left.
The coalman wanted to say something to Carlos, but he could not find the words and just brushed Carlos’s brown hair with his big hand. After the coalman left, the professor addressed the class, “Remember well what you have just seen. This is the best lesson of the whole year!”
Đặng Hoàng Lan Summarized Chapter 12.