Cuore (Chapter 49)
Edmohde De Acimis
My mother is good, and my sister Silvia is like her, and has a large and noble heart. Yesterday evening I was copying a part of the monthly story, From the Apennines to the Andes,—which the teacher has distributed among us all in small portions to copy, because it is so long,—when Silvia entered on tiptoe, and said to me hastily, and in a low voice: “Come to mamma with me. I heard them talking together this morning: some affair has gone wrong with papa, and he was sad; mamma was encouraging him: we are in difficulties—do you understand? We have no more money. Papa said that it would be necessary to make some sacrifices in order to recover himself. Now we must make sacrifices, too, must we not? Are you ready to do it? Well, I will speak to mamma, and do you nod assent, and promise her on your honor that you will do everything that I shall say.”
Having said this, she took me by the hand and led me to our mother, who was sewing, absorbed in thought. I sat down on one end of the sofa, Silvia on the other, and she immediately said:—
“Listen, mamma, I have something to say to you. Both of us have something to say to you.” Mamma stared at us in surprise, and Silvia began:—
“Papa has no money, has he?
“What are you saying?” replied mamma, turning crimson. “Has he not indeed! What do you know about it? Who has told you?”
“I know it,” said Silvia, resolutely. “Well, then, listen, mamma; we must make some sacrifices, too. You promised me a fan at the end of May, and Enrico expected his box of paints; we don’t want anything now; we don’t want to waste a soldo; we shall be just as well pleased—you understand?”
Mamma tried to speak; but Silvia said: “No; it must be thus. We have decided. And until papa has money again, we don’t want any fruit or anything else; broth will be enough for us, and we will eat bread in the morning for breakfast: thus we shall spend less on the table, for we already spend too much; and we promise you that you will always find us perfectly contented. Is it not so, Enrico?”
I replied that it was. “Always perfectly contented,” repeated Silvia, closing mamma’s mouth with one hand. “And if there are any other sacrifices to be made, either in the matter of clothing or anything else, we will make them gladly; and we will even sell our presents; I will give up all my things, I will serve you as your maid, we will not have anything done out of the house any more, I will work all day long with you, I will do everything you wish, I am ready for anything! For anything!” she exclaimed, throwing her arms around my mother’s neck, “if papa and mamma can only be saved further troubles, if I can only behold you both once more at ease, and in good spirits, as in former days, between your Silvia and your Enrico, who love you so dearly, who would give their lives for you!”
Ah! I have never seen my mother so happy as she was on hearing these words; she never before kissed us on the brow in that way, weeping and laughing, and incapable of speech. And then she assured Silvia that she had not understood rightly; that we were not in the least reduced in circumstances, as she imagined; and she thanked us a hundred times, and was cheerful all the evening, until my father came in, when she told him all about it. He did not open his mouth, poor father! But this morning, as we sat at the table, I felt at once both a great pleasure and a great sadness: under my napkin I found my box of colors, and under hers, Silvia found her fan.