Cuore (Chapter 22)
Edmonde De Acimis
IN THE HOUSE OF THE WOUNDED MAN
The grandnephew of the old employee who was struck in the eye by Garoffi’s snowball is with the schoolmistress who has the red feather: we saw him to-day in the house of his uncle, who treats him like a son. I had finished writing out the monthly story for the coming week,—The Little Florentine Scribe,—which the master had given to me to copy; and my father said to me:—
“Let us go up to the fourth floor, and see how that old gentleman’s eye is.”
We entered a room which was almost dark, where the old man was sitting up in bed, with a great many pillows behind his shoulders; by the bedside sat his wife, and in one corner his nephew was amusing himself. The old man’s eye was bandaged. He was very glad to see my father; he made us sit down, and said that he was better, that his eye was not only not ruined, but that he should be quite well again in a few days.
“It was an accident,” he added. “I regret the terror which it must have caused that poor boy.” Then he talked to us about the doctor, whom he expected every moment to attend him. Just then the door-bell rang.
“There is the doctor,” said his wife.
The door opened—and whom did I see? Garoffi, in his long cloak, standing, with bowed head, on the threshold, and without the courage to enter.
“Who is it?” asked the sick man.
“It is the boy who threw the snowball,” said my father. And then the old man said:—
“Oh, my poor boy! come here; you have come to inquire after the wounded man, have you not? But he is better; be at ease; he is better and almost well. Come here.”
Garoffi, who did not perceive us in his confusion, approached the bed, forcing himself not to cry; and the old man caressed him, but could not speak.
“Thanks,” said the old man; “go and tell your father and mother that all is going well, and that they are not to think any more about it.”
But Garoffi did not move, and seemed to have something to say which he dared not utter.
“What have you to say to me? What is it that you want?”
“Well, good by, until we meet again, my boy; go with your heart in peace.”
Garoffi went as far as the door; but there he halted, turned to the nephew, who was following him, and gazed curiously at him. All at once he pulled some object from beneath his cloak, put it in the boy’s hand, and whispered hastily to him, “It is for you,” and away he went like a flash.
The boy carried the object to his uncle; we saw that on it was written, I give you this; we looked inside, and uttered an exclamation of surprise. It was the famous album, with his collection of postage-stamps, which poor Garoffi had brought, the collection of which he was always talking, upon which he had founded so many hopes, and which had cost him so much trouble; it was his treasure, poor boy! it was the half of his very blood, which he had presented in exchange for his pardon.