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V DON FERRANTE
A few days later Gaetano was standing in his workshop, cutting grape-leaves on rosary beads. It was Sunday, but Gaetano did not feel it on his conscience that he was working, for it was a work in God’s honor.

A great restlessness and anxiety had come over him. It had come into his mind that the time he had been living at peace with Donna Elisa was now drawing to a close, and he thought that he must soon start out into the world.

For great poverty had come to Sicily, and he saw want wandering from town to town and from house to house like the plague, and it had come to Diamante also.

No one ever came now to Donna Elisa’s shop to buy anything. The little images of the saints that Gaetano made stood in close rows on the shelves, and the rosaries hung in great bunches under the counter. And Donna Elisa was in great want and sorrow, because she could not earn anything.

That was a sign to Gaetano that he must leave Diamante, go out into the world, emigrate if there was no other way. For it could not be working to the honor of God to carve images that never were worshipped, and to turn rosary beads that never glided through a petitioner’s fingers.

[65]

It seemed to him that, somewhere in the world, there must be a beautiful, newly built cathedral, with finished walls, but whose interior yet stood shivering in nakedness. It awaited Gaetano’s coming to carve the choir chairs, the altar-rail, the pulpit, the lectern, and the shrine. His heart ached with longing for that work which was waiting.

But there was no such cathedral in Sicily, for there no one ever thought of building a new church; it must be far away in such lands as Florida or Argentina, where the earth is not yet overcrowded with holy buildings.

He felt at the same time trembling and happy, and had begun to work with redoubled zeal in order that Donna Elisa should have something to sell while he was away earning great fortunes for her.

Now he was waiting for but one more sign from God before he decided on the journey. And this was that he should have the strength to speak to Donna Elisa of his longing to go. For he knew that it would cause her such sorrow that he did not know how he could bring himself to speak of it.

While he stood and thought Donna Elisa came into the workshop. Then he said to himself that this day he could not think of saying it to her, for to-day Donna Elisa was happy. Her tongue wagged and her face beamed.

Gaetano asked himself when he had seen her so. Ever since the famine had come, it had been as if they had lived without light in one of the caves of Etna.

Why had Gaetano not been with her in the square and heard the music? asked Donna Elisa. Why did he never come to hear and see her brother, Don[66] Ferrante? Gaetano, who only saw him when he stood in the shop with his tufts of hair and his short jacket, did not know what kind of a man he was. He considered him an ugly old tradesman, who had a wrinkled face and a rough beard. No one knew Don Ferrante who had not seen him on Sunday, when he conducted the music.

That day he had donned a new uniform. He wore a three-cornered hat with green, red, and white feathers, silver on his collar, silver-fringed epaulets, silver braid on his breast, and a sword at his side. And when he stepped up to the conductor’s platform the wrinkles had been smoothed out of his face and his figure had grown erect. He could almost have been called handsome.

When he had led Cavalleria, people had hardly been able to breathe. What had Gaetano to say to that, that the big houses round the market-place had sung too? From the black Palazzo Geraci, Donna Elisa had distinctly heard a love song, and from the convent, empty as it was, a beautiful hymn had streamed out over the market-place.

And when there was a pause in the music the handsome advocate Favara, who had been dressed in a black velvet coat and a big broad-brimmed hat and a bright red necktie, had gone up to Don Ferrante, and had pointed out over the open side of the square, where Etna and the sea lay. “Don Ferrante,” he had said, “you lift us toward the skies, just as Etna does, and you carry us away into the eternal, like the infinite sea.”

If Gaetano had seen Don Ferrante to-day he would have loved him. At least he would have been obliged to acknowledge his stateliness. When[67] he laid down his baton for a while and took the advocate’s arm, and walked forward and back with him on the flat stones by the Roman gate and the Palazzo Geraci, every one could see that he could well measure himself against the handsome Favara.

Donna Elisa sat on the stone bench by the cathedral, in company with the wife of the syndic. And Signora Voltaro had said quite suddenly, after sitting for a while, watching Don Ferrante: “Donna Elisa, your brother is still a young man. He may still be mar............
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