Cuore (Chapter 18)
Edmondo De Acimis
Yesterday I went to take a walk along the Rivoli road with Votini and his father. As we were passing through the Via Dora Grossa we saw Stardi, the boy who kicks disturbers, standing stiffly in front of the window of a book-shop, with his eyes fixed on a geographical map; and no one knows how long he had been there, because he studies even in the street. He barely returned our salute, the rude fellow! Votini was well dressed—even too much so. He had on morocco boots embroidered in red, an embroidered coat, small silken frogs, a white beaver hat, and a watch; and he strutted. But his vanity was destined to come to a bad end on this occasion. After having run a tolerably long distance up the Rivoli road, leaving his father, who was walking slowly, a long way in the rear, we halted at a stone seat, beside a modestly clad boy, who appeared to be weary, and was meditating, with drooping head. A man, who must have been his father, was walking to and fro under the trees, reading the newspaper. We sat down. Votini placed himself between me and the boy. All at once he recollected that he was well dressed, and wanted to make his neighbor admire and envy him.
He lifted one foot, and said to me, “Have you seen my officer’s boots?” He said this in order to make the other boy look at them; but the latter paid no attention to them.
Then he dropped his foot, and showed me his silk frogs, glancing askance at the boy the while, and said that these frogs did not please him, and that he wanted to have them changed to silver buttons; but the boy did not look at the frogs either.
Then Votini fell to twirling his very handsome white castor hat on the tip of his forefinger; but the boy—and it seemed as though he did it on purpose—did not deign even a glance at the hat.
Votini, who began to become irritated, drew out his watch, opened it, and showed me the wheels; but the boy did not turn his head. “Is it of silver gilt?” I asked him.
“No,” he replied; “it is gold.”
“But not entirely of gold,” I said; “there must be some silver with it.”
“Why, no!” he retorted; and, in order to compel the boy to look, he held the watch before his face, and said to him, “Say, look here! isn’t it true that it is entirely of gold?”
The boy replied curtly, “I don’t know.”
“Oh! oh!” exclaimed Votini, full of wrath, “what pride!”
As he was saying this, his father came up, and heard him; he looked steadily at the lad for a moment, then said sharply to his son, “Hold your tongue!” and, bending down to his ear, he added, “he is blind!”
Votini sprang to his feet, with a shudder, and stared the boy in the face: the latter’s eyeballs were glassy, without expression, without sight.
Votini stood humbled,—speechless,—with his eyes fixed on the ground. At length he stammered, “I am sorry; I did not know.”
But the blind boy, who had understood it all, said, with a kind and melancholy smile, “Oh, it’s no matter!”
Well, he is vain; but Votini has not at all a bad heart. He never laughed again during the whole of the walk.