Cuore (Chapter 55)
Edmondo De Acimis
Surely, neither your comrade Coretti nor Garrone would ever have answered their fathers as you answered yours this afternoon. Enrico! How is it possible? You must promise me solemnly that this shall never happen again so long as I live. Every time that an impertinent reply flies to your lips at a reproof from your father, think of that day which will infallibly come when he will call you to his bedside to tell you, “Enrico, I am about to leave you.” Oh, my son, when you hear his voice for the last time, and for a long while afterwards, when you weep alone in his deserted room, in the midst of those books which he will never open again, then, on recalling that you have at times been wanting in respect to him, you, too, will ask yourself, “How is it possible?” Then you will understand that he has always been your best friend, that when he was constrained to punish you, it caused him more suffering than it did you, and that he never made you weep except for the sake of doing you good; and then you will repent, and you will kiss with tears that desk at which he worked so much, at which he wore out his life for his children. You do not understand now; he hides from you all of himself except his kindness and his love. You do not know that he is sometimes so broken down with toil that he thinks he has only a few more days to live, and that at such moments he talks only of you; he has in his heart no other trouble than that of leaving you poor and without protection.
And how often, when meditating on this, does he enter your chamber while you are asleep, and stand there, lamp in hand, gazing at you; and then he makes an effort, and weary and sad as he is, he returns to his labor; and neither do you know that he often seeks you and remains with you because he has a bitterness in his heart, sorrows which attack all men in the world, and he seeks you as a friend, to obtain consolation himself and forgetfulness, and he feels the need of taking refuge in your affection, to recover his serenity and his courage: think, then, what must be his sorrow, when instead of finding in you affection, he finds coldness and disrespect! Never again stain yourself with this horrible ingratitude! Reflect, that were you as good as a saint, you could never repay him sufficiently for what he has done and for what he is constantly doing for you. And reflect, also, we cannot count on life; a misfortune might remove your father while you are still a boy,—in two years, in three months, to-morrow.
Ah, my poor Enrico, when you see all about you changing, how empty, how desolate the house will appear, with your poor mother clothed in black! Go, my son, go to your father; he is in his room at work; go on tiptoe, so that he may not hear you enter; go and lay your forehead on his knees, and beseech him to pardon and to bless you.