Cuore (Chapter 53)
Edmondo De Acimis
I was watching you from the window this afternoon, when you were on your way home from the master’s; you came in collision with a woman. Take more heed to your manner of walking in the street. There are duties to be fulfilled even there. If you keep your steps and gestures within bounds in a private house, why should you not do the same in the street, which is everybody’s house. Remember this, Enrico. Every time that you meet a feeble old man, a poor person, a woman with a child in her arms, a cripple with his crutches, a man bending beneath a burden, a family dressed in mourning, make way for them respectfully. We must respect age, misery, maternal love, infirmity, labor, death. Whenever you see a person on the point of being run down by a vehicle, drag him away, if it is a child; warn him, if he is a man; always ask what ails the child who is crying all alone; pick up the aged man’s cane, when he lets it fall. If two boys are fighting, separate them; if it is two men, go away: do not look on a scene of brutal violence, which offends and hardens the heart. And when a man passes, bound, and walking between a couple of policemen, do not add your curiosity to the cruel curiosity of the crowd; he may be innocent. Cease to talk with your companion, and to smile, when you meet a hospital litter, which is, perhaps, bearing a dying person, or a funeral procession; for one may issue from your own home on the morrow. Look with reverence upon all boys from the asylums, who walk two and two,—the blind, the dumb, those afflicted with the rickets, orphans, abandoned children; reflect that it is misfortune and human charity which is passing by. Always pretend not to notice any one who has a repulsive or laughter-provoking deformity. Always extinguish every match that you find in your path; for it may cost someone his life. Always answer a passer-by who asks you the way, with politeness. Do not look at any one and laugh; do not run without necessity; do not shout. Respect the street. The education of a people is judged first of all by their behavior on the street. Where you find offences in the streets, there you will find offences in the houses. And study the streets; study the city in which you live. If you were to be hurled far away from it to-morrow, you would be glad to have it clearly present in your memory, to be able to traverse it all again in memory. Your own city, and your little country—that which has been for so many years your world; where you took your first steps at your mother’s side; where you experienced your first emotions, opened your mind to its first ideas; found your first friends. It has been a mother to you: it has taught you, loved you, protected you. Study it in its streets and in its people, and love it; and when you hear it insulted, defend it.