Cuore (Chapter 38)
Edmondo De Acimis
It was what might have been expected. Franti, on being expelled by the head-master, wanted to revenge himself on Stardi, and he waited for Stardi at a corner, when he came out of school, and when the latter was passing with his sister, whom he escorts every day from an institution in the Via Dora Grossa. My sister Silvia, on emerging from her schoolhouse, witnessed the whole affair, and came home thoroughly terrified. This is what took place. Franti, with his cap of waxed cloth canted over one ear, ran up on tiptoe behind Stardi, and in order to provoke him, gave a tug at his sister’s braid of hair,—a tug so violent that it almost threw the girl flat on her back on the ground. The little girl uttered a cry; her brother whirled round; Franti, who is much taller and stronger than Stardi, thought:—
“He’ll not utter a word, or I’ll break his skin for him!”
But Stardi never paused to reflect, and small and ill-made as he is, he flung himself with one bound on that big fellow, and began to belabor him with his fists. He could not hold his own, however, and he got more than he gave. There was no one in the street but girls, so there was no one who could separate them. Franti flung him on the ground; but the other instantly got up, and then down he went on his back again, and Franti pounded away as though upon a door: in an instant he had torn away half an ear, and bruised one eye, and drawn blood from the other’s nose. But Stardi was tenacious; he roared:—
“You may kill me, but I’ll make you pay for it!” And down went Franti, kicking and cuffing, and Stardi under him, butting and lungeing out with his heels. A woman shrieked from a window, “Good for the little one!” Others said, “It is a boy defending his sister; courage! give it to him well!” And they screamed at Franti, “You overbearing brute! you coward!” But Franti had grown ferocious; he held out his leg; Stardi tripped and fell, and Franti on top of him.
“Surrender!”—“No!”—“Surrender!”—“No!” and in a flash Stardi recovered his feet, clasped Franti by the body, and, with one furious effort, hurled him on the pavement, and fell upon him with one knee on his breast.
“Ah, the infamous fellow! he has a knife!” shouted a man, rushing up to disarm Franti.
But Stardi, beside himself with rage, had already grasped Franti’s arm with both hands, and bestowed on the fist such a bite that the knife fell from it, and the hand began to bleed. More people had run up in the meantime, who separated them and set them on their feet. Franti took to his heels in a sorry plight, and Stardi stood still, with his face all scratched, and a black eye,—but triumphant,—beside his weeping sister, while some of the girls collected the books and copy-books which were strewn over the street.
“Bravo, little fellow!” said the bystanders; “he defended his sister!”
But Stardi, who was thinking more of his satchel than of his victory, instantly set to examining the books and copy-books, one by one, to see whether anything was missing or injured. He rubbed them off with his sleeve, scrutinized his pen, put everything back in its place, and then, tranquil and serious as usual, he said to his sister, “Let us go home quickly, for I have a problem to solve.”