Cuore (Chapter 25)

 Cuore

Edmondo De Acimis
CHAPTER 25
THE ASSISTANT MASTER

Wednesday, 4th.

MY father was right; the master was in a bad humor because he was not well; for the last three days, in fact, the assistant has been coming in his stead,—that little man, without a beard, who seems like a youth. A shameful thing happened this morning. There had been an uproar on the first and second days, in the school, because the assistant is very patient and does nothing but say, “Be quiet, be quiet, I beg of you.”
But this morning they passed all bounds. Such a noise arose, that his words were no longer audible, and he admonished and besought; but it was a mere waste of breath. Twice the head-master appeared at the door and looked in; but the moment he disappeared the murmur increased as in a market. It was in vain that Derossi and Garrone turned round and made signs to their comrades to be good, so that it was a shame. No one paid any heed to them. Stardi alone remained quiet, with his elbows on the bench, and his fists to his temples, meditating, perhaps, on his famous library; and Garoffi, that boy with the hooked nose and the postage-stamps, who was wholly occupied in making a catalogue of the subscribers at two centesimi each, for a lottery for a pocket inkstand. The rest chattered and laughed, pounded on the points of pens fixed in the benches, and snapped pellets of paper at each other with the elastics of their garters.
The assistant grasped now one, now another, by the arm, and shook him; and he placed one of them against the wall—time wasted. He no longer knew what to do, and he entreated them. “Why do you behave like this? Do you wish me to punish you by force?” Then he thumped the little table with his fist, and shouted in a voice of wrath and lamentation, “Silence! silence! silence!” It was difficult to hear him. But the uproar continued to increase. Franti threw a paper dart at him, some uttered cat-calls, others thumped each other on the head; the hurly-burly was indescribable; when, all of a sudden, the beadle entered and said:—
“Signor Master, the head-master has sent for you.” The master rose and went out in haste, with a gesture of despair. Then the tumult began more vigorously than ever. But suddenly Garrone sprang up, his face all convulsed, and his fists clenched, and shouted in a voice choked with rage:—
“Stop this! You are brutes! You take advantage of him because he is kind. If he were to bruise your bones for you, you would be as abject as dogs. You are a pack of cowards! The first one of you that jeers at him again, I shall wait for outside, and I will break his teeth,—I swear it,—even under the very eyes of his father!”
All became silent. Ah, what a fine thing it was to see Garrone, with his eyes darting flames! He seemed to be a furious young lion. He stared at the most daring, one after the other, and all hung their heads. When the assistant re-entered, with red eyes, not a breath was audible. He stood in amazement; then, catching sight of Garrone, who was still all fiery and trembling, he understood it all, and he said to him, with accents of great affection, as he might have spoken to a brother, “I thank you, Garrone.”

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