Cuore (Chapter 47)


Edmondo De Acimis

Saturday, 29th.

On my return to school, the first thing I heard was some bad news. Garrone had not been there for several days because his mother was seriously ill. She died on Saturday. Yesterday morning, as soon as we came into school, the teacher said to us:—
“The greatest misfortune that can happen to a boy has happened to poor Garrone: his mother is dead. He will return to school to-morrow. I beseech you now, boys, respect the terrible sorrow that is now rending his soul. When he enters, greet him with affection, and gravely; let no one jest, let no one laugh at him, I beg of you.”
And this morning poor Garrone came in, a little later than the rest; I felt a blow at my heart at the sight of him. His face was haggard, his eyes were red, and he was unsteady on his feet; it seemed as though he had been ill for a month. I hardly recognized him; he was dressed all in black; he aroused our pity. No one even breathed; all gazed at him. No sooner had he entered than at the first sight of that schoolroom whither his mother had come to get him nearly every day, of that bench over which she had bent on so many examination days to give him a last bit of advice, and where he had so many times thought of her, in his impatience to run out and meet her, he burst into a desperate fit of weeping. The teacher drew him aside to his own place, and pressed him to his breast, and said to him:—
“Weep, weep, my poor boy; but take courage. Your mother is no longer here; but she sees you, she still loves you, she still lives by your side, and one day you will behold her once again, for you have a good and upright soul like her own. Take courage!”
Having said this, he accompanied him to the bench near me. I dared not look at him. He drew out his copy-books and his books, which he had not opened for many days, and as he opened the reading-book at a place where there was a cut representing a mother leading her son by the hand, he burst out crying again, and laid his head on his arm. The master made us a sign to leave him thus, and began the lesson. I should have liked to say something to him, but I did not know what. I laid one hand on his arm, and whispered in his ear:—
“Don’t cry, Garrone.”
He made no reply, and without raising his head from the bench he laid his hand on mine and kept it there a while. At the close of school, no one addressed him; all the boys hovered round him respectfully, and in silence. I saw my mother waiting for me, and ran to embrace her; but she repulsed me, and gazed at Garrone. For the moment I could not understand why; but then I perceived that Garrone was standing apart by himself and gazing at me; and he was gazing at me with a look of indescribable sadness, which seemed to say: “You are embracing your mother, and I shall never embrace mine again! You have still a mother, and mine is dead!” And then I understood why my mother had thrust me back, and I went out without taking her hand.

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