Puslapio vaizdai

sewed. Mother will do it for you cheap because you are a friend of mine." There followed a silence while shrewd eyes looked me over. "There's a button gone off your sleeve, and your lapels are all spotted with grease." There was There was a note of feminine reproach in her voice that recalled similar observations made by my mother. "It doesn't pay to let your clothes run down, Gina continued. "You come with me, and mother will fix everything fine for you-while you wait," she added, reading reluctance in my face, and assuming probably that it was caused by unwillingness to lose time. She didn't know, of course, as I did that I had in my pocketbook only eighty Italian lire, or the equivalent of eight dollars at that time, and that with those eighty lire I must manage to finish the month-food, lodging, and laundry-and that more money would not be forthcoming from the school of languages where I taught English until the first of the

next month.

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"How much would it cost?" I asked tentatively.

"Two lire," was the prompt and businesslike reply. reply. "Come on." She lifted Vittorio into her arms again and set off.

We found Gina's mother, the Signora Sarti, sitting in rather a dark room and working at a soldier's uniform.

"It's for my husband," she told me. "He looked so terrible in the uniform they gave him. It didn't fit at all; and him a tailor, you know. He was ashamed. He'll be so surprised when I send him this."

Gina set Vittorio down, took a piece of the gray-green uniform cloth

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"Buon' anima!" Signora Sarti murmured religiously. "They're only pawned," she added. "I'll get them back before they're lost."


"No, you won't, and you know it,' Gina corrected with that firmness which characterized all her statements. "They're gone for good."

"Father was so miserable about his ugly uniform," Signora Sarti defended, misty tears already in her eyes. "He couldn't bear an illfitting suit." She looked at me for appreciation, and I in turn looked at Gina. Somehow, with her sophisticated eight years, she dominated us both.

"Yes, that's so," Gina agreed heartily. "Don't heartily. "Don't cry about it, mother. Though I don't know how you will manage now to pay for Vittorio's funeral."

"I know," sighed Signora Sarti. "He's such a good baby too; never cries. Gina," she added, "take a

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"No. He wasn't dead then," answered the extraordinary child, and if I hadn't already had abundant proof to the contrary I should have believed her to be an unfeeling little ghoul, such was her sang froid, I might almost say her satisfaction, in speaking of death.

"But you mustn't believe in dreams and visions," I told them. "That is just plain superstition. They don't mean anything at all."

"I see visions," Gina added serenely. "I saw father lying wounded under some barbed wire last night." "Not dead!" gasped Signora Sarti.

The mother looked surprised, almost as if I had pronounced a heresy, yet I could see hope struggling in her ignorant pathetic face. She believed I must be well informed because I was a professore in a school. Also she wanted to believe that Gina's vision was wrong. She loved her husband.

"You don't believe in dreams?" she questioned doubtfully.

"Certainly not!" I assured her. "Dreams are rubbish."

"He says dreams are rubbish, Gina. Perhaps it's all right with your father." The mother looked pitifully at her daughter for support, but that strange little pallid-faced child held her ground tenaciously.

"I saw father wounded, lying all bloody under a mess of curled-up barbed wire."

"She saw him," Signora Sarti whimpered.

"Bloody, with the barbed wire on top of him," added Gina, as if describing an actual fact. "I couldn't see his face."

"Ah!" I exclaimed, desiring desperately to dissipate the ugly impression their superstition had thrown them into. "You see? You couldn't see his face. I'm sure it wasn't your father."

"Yes?" came the eager credulous cry of the mother. "Oh, I hope you are right!" Then to Gina, "You didn't see his face, did you?"

"I didn't have to. I knew it was father." She spoke positively.

Signora Sarti's piteous eyes came back to my face. "She knew him," she echoed, all hope again vanished.

"You mustn't believe it!" I protested. "You'll see it was just a mistake. I'm sure your husband is all right. He wrote himself that he was feeling better."

And when a week later they got another letter from him saying he was gaining weight, I was very triumphant. "Now do you believe me that dreams are rubbish?" I cried.

Signora Sarti smiled happily, but Gina looked unconvinced.

"I saw him as plain as I see you," she said, looking at me from those cavernous eyes of hers. "Vittorio's got a bad cough," she added. "He says his head and his back ache." She had him in her arms at the time and began to sway back and forth with him soothingly, an affectionate motherish expression on her wan face. Then suddenly I saw her close her eyes and totter. Before I could get to her, however, she opened them again and laughed a shrill little treble. "I had such a funny feeling," she said. "It was kind of scary and kind of fun-just like I was going too high in a swing. You know the way your stomach feels." She sat down then, and I could see that her fleshless little legs were trembling.

"Vittorio is too heavy for you to carry," I cautioned. "You look as if you didn't feel very well yourself."

"O Gesù Maria!" cried Signora Sarti. "You're not sick, Gina?"

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"Mother's most finished father's uniform," she announced a moment later. "Show it to him, mother. It'll be ready for the buttons to-morrow." Her dark eyes shone bright with satisfaction as Signora Sarti fetched the uniform for me to see. "Won't father be tickled?" Gina cried. "There! There! Vittorio," she soothed. "What is it, Star of Gold? Do you want to go to bed? Mother, he's sick. Do you think Dr. Brunelli will come if I beg him to?"" She got up from her chair, rather unsteadily I thought, and moved over to the bed where all three of them slept.

"We owe him fifty lire already." "Maybe he will come again." Gina covered the whining Vittorio and started for the door.


"I'll go with you," I said. "The doctor has to come.' Signora Sarti was crying as we went out.

"She can't get used to their dying," Gina explained when we were on the street. "This is the way the last baby went."

"Don't always be harping on death!" I reproved her sharply. "The baby is sick, but he isn't dying." Then at once I regretted my rude words, for the child's peaked little face began to twitch spasmodically. The chin quivered, the flat chest heaved, and she began to cry with heroic quietness, walking along by my side all the time.

I want Vit

"If I could "If I could The words

"You needn't think torio to die," she said. die for him I would." were said with passionate earnestness but very simply, and I felt a lump rise in my throat.

"I'm sorry I spoke like that,” I told her.

"That's all right. You feel kind of bad about Vittorio too, don't you? I know. Men don't cry. They get cross. I don't generally cry either. Father says I bear up wonderfullybut Vittorio and I, we get along awfully well-and I feel worse than usual. Here's Dr. Brunelli's." "You wait outside," I said.

"He'll come quicker for me than for either mother or father," Gina demurred. "Maybe I better go.'


"I think he'll come," I assured her. “Well, you try-and I can go afterward if he won't," she agreed.

I found her sitting quietly on the steps when I came out. There were two bright red spots on her cheeks, but I laid them to the crying.

"He'll be along in half an hour," I assured her.

A look of new respect came into Gina's eight-year-old face.

"And us owing him fifty lire too!" she murmured incredulously. "I didn't believe he'd come even for me."

Half an hour later we knew that Vittorio had the influenza. His was one of the first cases that heralded the epidemic that took a toll of from three to four hundred persons daily. For a city of the size of Genoa that is a frightful number; so alarming indeed that the authorities had recourse to night-time burials in order not to increase the terror that had caught hold of the people.


"And this girl is coming down too,' the doctor said with a hand on Gina's forehead. "Both of them must stay in bed."

"Me in bed?" scoffed Gina. "I'm not sick."

"You'll stay in bed," the doctor insisted.

"And who will go and stand in line for the bread and the milk in the morning?" Gina demanded. "You maybe?" Her laugh trilled high, and after the doctor had gone she denied with scorn that she felt bad. "The more people are sick the more money he makes," she told her mother. "You know I can't go to bed."

"I want you to go to bed for the rest of the day," I asked her. "Won't you do that for me? Then if you feel all right to-morrow you can get up. You can keep Vittorio company if you're in bed with him," I added quickly.

"I suppose I could," she agreed doubtfully. "Mother, can I sew buttons on father's uniform if I go to bed?"

Signora Sarti with a worried face was looking from one to another of us helplessly. At a nod from me she told Gina she could sew buttons; and Gina with a weary little sigh of which she was quite unconscious lay back among the pillows with Vittorio.

"Bed feels good," she announced. "I was just a little tired. To-morrow I shall feel fine." But looking down into those unnaturally bright black eyes and the pale cheeks with the spots of red, I doubted once more Gina's correct vision into the future. She was a sick little girl, and it had been only her Spartan courage that had kept her up till then.

"I'll come and see you to-morrow morning before I go to school," I promised.

"Maybe we'll have father's suit done," she called after me. "It's going to look fine on him."


But next morning there was not such happy news for me. Signora Sarti opened the door for me with eyes red from crying, her sobs breaking out afresh at sight of me.

"What is it?" I asked, quick fear clutching my heart. "Gina?"

Signora Sarti shook her head. "My husband," she gulped; "my husband-" Then she began to gasp and moan hysterically.

"Father is wounded," came the thin but matter-of-fact voice of Gina from the bedroom. "You wouldn't believe me when I saw him, but I knew I was right. The Austrians bombed him. He's coming home."

"But if he's coming home," I cried, "he can't be very seriously wounded."

"You don't understand," Gina said patiently. "One of his legs has been blowed off. They don't send 'em home unless they're no good for fighting any more." She pointed a thin arm at a gray-green uniform that lay over a chair-back. "We finished his suit last night."


"He'll never wear it now,' the voice of the unhappy Signora Sarti. "He's done with soldiering."

And into the eyes of the sick child before me I saw tears start forth.

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"I hadn't thought of that," she whispered weakly. "Poor father! He would have been so proud to wear it. It was all wool and would have looked good on him. He's to get here to-night."

"How's Vittorio?" I asked.

"Worse," she said quietly. "It's good father gets here to-night. Vittorio is like to die before next morning. Our babies all die just before the sun comes up. I guess it's easier for them then. They go right up without waiting to be buried, don't they?" Her they?" Her eyes searched mine earnestly. "I hope so, for I don't know where we'll get the money for a funeral. Grandma's earrings were the last valuables we had."

From the sewing-table came the muffled sobs and moans of Signora Sarti. Her face was buried in her arms, her spirit broken.

"Mother takes it hard-and me in bed!" Gina reproached herself. "I didn't mean to stay, but I felt a little wabbly, and mother said I shouldn't mind about the milk this morning. Vittorio won't drink it anyhow. They don't," she told me, "not when they are real sick."

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