Cuore (Chapter 31)
Edmondo De Acimis
Precossi came to our house to-day with Garrone. I do not think that two sons of princes would have been received with greater delight. This is the first time that Garrone has been here, because he is rather shy, and then he is ashamed to show himself because he is so large, and is still in the third grade. We all went to open the door when they rang. Crossi did not come, because his father has at last arrived from America, after an absence of seven years. My mother kissed Precossi at once. My father introduced Garrone to her, saying:—
“Here he is. This lad is not only a good boy; he is a man of honor and a gentleman.”
And the boy dropped his big, shaggy head, with a sly smile at me. Precossi had on his medal, and he was happy, because his father has gone to work again, and has not drunk anything for the last five days, wants him to be always in the workshop to keep him company, and seems quite another man.
We began to play, and I brought out all my things. Precossi was enchanted with my train of cars, with the engine that goes of itself on being wound up. He had never seen anything of the kind. He devoured the little red and yellow cars with his eyes. I gave him the key to play with, and he knelt down to his amusement, and did not raise his head again. I have never seen him so pleased. He kept saying, “Excuse me, excuse me,” to everything, and motioning to us with his hands, that we should not stop the engine; and then he picked it up and replaced the cars with a thousand precautions, as though they had been made of glass. He was afraid of tarnishing them with his breath, and he polished them up again, examining them top and bottom, and smiling to himself. We all stood around him and gazed at him. We looked at that slender neck, those poor little ears, which I had seen bleeding one day, that jacket with the sleeves turned up, from which projected two sickly little arms, which had been upraised to ward off blows from his face. Oh! at that moment I could have cast all my playthings and all my books at his feet, I could have torn the last morsel of bread from my lips to give to him, I could have divested myself of my clothing to clothe him, I could have flung myself on my knees to kiss his hand. “I will at least give you the train,” I thought; but—was necessary to ask permission of my father. At that moment I felt a bit of paper thrust into my hand. I looked; it was written in pencil by my father; it said:
“Your train pleases Precossi. He has no playthings. Does your heart suggest nothing to you?”
Instantly I seized the engine and the cars in both hands, and placed the whole in his arms, saying:—
“Take this; it is yours.”
He looked at me, and did not understand. “It is yours,” I said; “I give it to you.”
Then he looked at my father and mother, in still greater astonishment, and asked me:—
My father said to him:—
“Enrico gives it to you because he is your friend, because he loves you—to celebrate your medal.”
Precossi asked timidly:—
“I may carry it away—home?”
“Of course!” we all responded. He was already at the door, but he dared not go out. He was happy! He begged our pardon with a mouth that smiled and quivered. Garrone helped him to wrap up the train in a handkerchief, and as he bent over, he made the things with which his pockets were filled rattle.
“Some day,” said Precossi to me, “you shall come to the shop to see my father at work. I will give you some nails.”
My mother put a little bunch of flowers into Garrone’s buttonhole, for him to carry to his mother in her name. Garrone said, “Thanks,” in his big voice, without raising his chin from his breast. But all his kind and noble soul shone in his eyes.