Cuore (Chapter 30)
Edmondo De Acimis
But Votini is incorrigible. Yesterday morning, during the lesson on religion, in the presence of the head-master, the teacher asked Derossi if he knew by heart the two couplets in the reading-book,—
“Where’er I turn my gaze, ’tis Thee, great God, I see.”
Derossi said that he did not, and Votini suddenly exclaimed, “I know them!” with a smile, as though to pique Derossi. But he was piqued himself, instead, for he could not recite the poetry, because Franti’s mother suddenly flew into the schoolroom, breathless, with her gray hair dishevelled and all wet with snow, and pushing before her her son, who had been suspended from school for a week. What a sad scene we were doomed to witness! The poor woman flung herself almost on her knees before the head-master, with clasped hands, and besought him:—
“Oh, Signor Director, do me the favor to put my boy back in school! He has been at home for three days. I have kept him hidden; but God have mercy on him, if his father finds out about this affair: he will murder him! Have pity! I no longer know what to do! I entreat you with my whole soul!”
The director tried to lead her out, but she resisted, still continuing to pray and to weep.
“Oh, if you only knew the trouble that this boy has caused me, you would have compassion! Do me this favor! I hope that he will reform. I shall not live long, Signor Director; I bear death within me; but I should like to see him reformed before my death, because”—and she broke into a passion of weeping —“he is my son—I love him—I shall die in despair! Take him back once more, Signor Director, that a misfortune may not happen in the family! Do it out of pity for a poor woman!” And she covered her face with her hands and sobbed.
Franti stood impassive, and hung his head. The head-master looked at him, reflected a little, then said, “Franti, go to your place.”
Then the woman removed her hands from her face, quite comforted, and began to express thanks upon thanks, without giving the director a chance to speak, and made her way towards the door, wiping her eyes, and saying hastily: “I beg of you, my son.—May all have patience.—Thanks, Signor Director; you have performed a deed of mercy.—Be a good boy.—Good day, boys.—Thanks, Signor Teacher; good by, and forgive a poor mother.” And after bestowing another supplicating glance at her son from the door, she went away, pulling up the shawl which was trailing after her, pale, bent, with a head which still trembled, and we heard her coughing all the way down the stairs. The head-master gazed intently at Franti, amid the silence of the class, and said to him in accents of a kind to make him tremble:—
“Franti, you are killing your mother!”
We all turned to look at Franti; and that infamous boy smiled.