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HOME > Classical Novels > The Miracles of Antichrist > SECOND BOOK “Antichrist shall go from land to land and give bread to the poor” I A GREAT MAN’S WIFE
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SECOND BOOK “Antichrist shall go from land to land and give bread to the poor” I A GREAT MAN’S WIFE
It was in February, and the almond-trees were beginning to blossom on the black lava about Diamante.

Cavaliere Palmeri had taken a walk up Etna and had brought home a big almond branch, full of buds and flowers and put it in a vase in the music-room.

Donna Micaela started when she saw it. So they had already come, the almond-blossoms. And for a whole month, for six long weeks, they would be everywhere.

They would stand on the altar in the church; they would lie on the graves, and they would be worn on the breast, on the hat, in the hair. They would blossom over the roads, in the heaps of ruins, on the black lava. And every almond-flower would remind her of the day when the bells rang, when Gaetano was free and happy, and when she dreamed of passing her whole life with him.

[186]

It seemed to her as if she never before fully understood what it meant that he was shut in and gone, that she should never see him again.

She had to sit down in order not to fall; her heart seemed to stop, and she shut her eyes.

While she was sitting thus she had a strange experience.

She is all at once at home in the palace in Catania. She is sitting in the lofty hall reading, and she is a happy young girl, Signorina Palmeri. A servant brings in a wandering salesman to her. He is a handsome young fellow with a sprig of almond-blossoms in his button-hole; on his head he carries a board full of little images of the saints, carved in wood.

She buys some of the images, while the young man’s eyes drink in all the works of art in the hall. She asks him if he would like to see their collections. Yes, that he would. And she herself goes with him and shows him.

He is so delighted with what he sees that she thinks that he must be a real artist, and she says to herself that she will not forget him. She asks where his home is. He answers: “In Diamante.”—“Is that far away?”—“Four hours in the post-carriage.”—“And with the railway?”—“There is no railway to Diamante, signorina.”—“You must build one.”—“We! we are too poor. Ask the rich men in Catania to build us a railway!”

When he has said that he starts to go, but he turns at the door and comes and gives her his almond-blossoms. It is in gratitude for all the beautiful things she has let him see.

When Donna Micaela opened her eyes she did[187] not know whether she had been dreaming or whether perhaps once some such thing had really happened. Gaetano could really have been some time in the Palazzo Palmeri to sell his images, although she had forgotten it; but now the almond-blossoms had recalled it.

But it was no matter, no matter. The important thing was that the young wood-carver was Gaetano. She felt as if she had been talking to him. She thought she heard the door close behind him.

And it was after that that it occurred to her to build a railway between Catania and Diamante.

Gaetano had surely come to her to ask her to do it. It was a command from him, and she felt that she must obey.

She made no attempt to struggle against it. She was certain that Diamante needed a railway more than anything else. She had once heard Gaetano say that if Diamante only possessed a railway, so that it could easily send away its oranges and its wine and its honey and its almonds, and so that travellers could come there conveniently, it would soon be a rich town.

She was also quite certain that she could succeed with the railway. She must try at all events. It never occurred to her not to. When Gaetano wished it, she must obey.

She began to think how much money she herself could give. It would not go very far. She must get more money. That was the first thing she had to do.

Within the hour she was at Donna Elisa’s, and begged her to help her arrange a bazaar. Donna Elisa lifted her eyes from her embroidery. “Why[188] do you want to arrange a bazaar?”—“I mean to collect money for a railway.”—“That is like you, Donna Micaela; no one else would have thought of such a thing.”—“What, Donna Elisa? What do you mean?”—“Oh, nothing.”

And Donna Elisa went on embroidering.

“You will not help me, then, with my bazaar?”—“No, I will not.”—“And you will not give a little contribution towards it?”—“One who has so lately lost her husband,” answered Donna Elisa, “ought not to trifle.”

Donna Micaela saw that Donna Elisa was angry with her for some reason or other, and that she therefore would not help her. But there must be others who would understand; and it was a beautiful plan, which would save Diamante.

But Donna Micaela wandered in vain from door to door. However much she talked and begged, she gained no partisans.

She tried to explain, she used all her eloquence to persuade. No one was interested in her plans.

Wherever she came, people answered her that they were too poor, too poor.

The syndic’s wife answered no. Her daughters were not allowed to sell at the bazaar. Don Antonio Greco, who had the marionette theatre, would not come with his dolls. The town-band would not play. None of the shop-keepers would give any of their wares. When Donna Micaela was gone they laughed at her.

A railroad, a railroad! She did not know what she was thinking of. There would have to be a company, shares, statutes, concessions. How should a woman manage such things?

[189]

While some were content to laugh at Donna Micaela, some were angry with her.

She went to the cellar-like shop near the old Benedictine mo............
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