Edmondo De Acimis
THE EVE OF THE FOURTEENTH OF MARCH
To-day has been more cheerful than yesterday. The thirteenth of March! The eve of the distribution of prizes at the Theatre Vittorio Emanuele, the greatest and most beautiful festival of the whole year! But this time the boys who are to go upon the stage and present the certificates of the prizes to the gentlemen who are to bestow them are not to be taken at haphazard. The head-master came in this morning, at the close of school, and said:—
“Good news, boys!” Then he called, “Coraci!” the Calabrian. The Calabrian rose. “Would you like to be one of those to carry the certificates of the prizes to the authorities in the theatre to-morrow?” The Calabrian answered that he should.
“That is well,” said the head-master; “then there will also be a representative of Calabria there; and that will be a fine thing. The municipal authorities are desirous that this year the ten or twelve lads who hand the prizes should be from all parts of Italy, and selected from all the public school buildings. We have twenty buildings, with five annexes—seven thousand pupils. Among such a multitude there has been no difficulty in finding one boy for each region of Italy. Two representatives of the Islands were found in the Torquato Tasso schoolhouse, a Sardinian, and a Sicilian; the Boncompagni School furnished a little Florentine, the son of a wood-carver; there is a Roman, a native of Rome, in the Tommaseo building; several Venetians, Lombards, and natives of Romagna have been found; the Monviso School gives us a Neapolitan, the son of an officer; we furnish a Genoese and a Calabrian,—you, Coraci,—with the Piemontese: that will make twelve. Does not this strike you as nice? It will be your brothers from all quarters of Italy who will give you your prizes. Look out! the whole twelve will appear on the stage together. Receive them with hearty applause. They are only boys, but they represent the country just as though they were men. A small tricolored flag is the symbol of Italy as much as a huge banner, is it not?
“Applaud them warmly, then. Let it be seen that your little hearts are all aglow, that your souls of ten years grow enthusiastic in the presence of the sacred image of your fatherland.”
Having spoken thus, he went away, and the master said, with a smile, “So, Coraci, you are to be the deputy from Calabria.”
And then all clapped their hands and laughed; and when we got into the street, we surrounded Coraci, seized him by the legs, lifted him on high, and set out to carry him in triumph, shouting, “Hurrah for the Deputy of Calabria!” by way of making a noise, of course; and not in jest, but quite the contrary, for the sake of making a celebration for him, and with a good will, for he is a boy who pleases every one; and he smiled. And thus we bore him as far as the corner, where we ran into a gentleman with a black beard, who began to laugh. The Calabrian said, “That is my father.” And then the boys placed his son in his arms and ran away in all directions.