I romanzi di Mario Biondi ©
Gli occhi di una donna
(1985 - The Beginning in English)
With deep gratitude for the translator: Mr Ercole Guidi
(Guidi Online Translation)
The sky of Lombardy was as beautiful as it ever could manage: splendid, at peace. A steady breeze of Tivano had blown all morning, sweeping toward the plain the last remnants of clouds. It had dropped at noon and, after a brief respite, had been supplanted by the soft breezing of the Breva which down, on the lake, swelled the sails. Sail-white, lake-green, sky- blue. Summer.
The pouring rain of the previous days had conferred more intensity upon the color of the leaves and the compactness of the grass. The chestnut mare strolled unhurried about the corral, bowing as she grazed with studied moves. Pause she would, shake her full, almost immaculate mane, lift her tail onto her flanks to brush away the flies, now cruel as the last miasma of humidity dissipated. Enjoying the most of that movement was the pony, who, utterly heedless of the sharp kicks which at brief intervals attempted to scare him away, would trail her obstinately a few inches behind.
From one of the windows, as large eyes open into the whitewashed façade of the country house, a feminine voice, stentorian and imperious, hoary yet loaded with juvenile tones, tinged with a curious foreign accent, whipped the air of the afternoon, far more impetuous than the thin blows of the Breva.
Another feminine voice, querulous yet fiercely polemic, uttered a few words in response, which the light breeze was enough to submerge. The window was noisily shut and quiet reestablished its rule upon the large lawn of casa Lucini, shadowed by the line of lime trees and by the chestnut.
"Schwester, hold thy tongue! Shut up for once! You understand nothing. It's been one hundred years since you've understood anything. Hush!"
Sheltered by its mighty bulk, corroded by the passing of time and lush with oozing moisture, Emma Lucini stretched slightly, with intense pleasure, on the chaise longue. She laid the book she was reading on her knees and brought her hands up to her temples, which she felt slightly burning... She smiled. In her sixteen years, she new well it wasn't merely the heat of that wholesome summer that was soon to come to a close.
The good signorine of the Collegio Svizzero of Milan would be sure to scold her, had they caught her reading a novel, and that novel, then! They would have punished her and then hasten to inform her mother, throwing her into consternation. «You, a Lucini...» she would have sermonized.
But there, sheltered by the old knotty tree, consigned to the benevolent protection of nonna Rosa and Pietro's, her idolized big brother, she felt she'd be clear of any risks. She could read and abandon herself to all the mysterious shivers of the body, which the signorine svizzere and proprieties forbid, but which were always ready to stir, without waiting for orders or concessions.
The girl felt particularly bold. The story she was reading had excited and unsettled her. How she would have lived a life so passionate and adventurous, exciting and boisterous! She lifted a vigilant glance to the window and then pressed her cup-open hands onto the shape of her breasts. She shook her head. No, they were not as ample as the heroin's of the novel yet. But they would, and men would pay them due tribute.
July. One more month of vacation at the large villa on the hills, then they would return to Milan. On September 5th she would be sixteen and the same day her brother Pietro would turn twenty. Bizarre coincidence, which made her feel even closer to her brother. The salons of her Milanese house, the terraces open onto the roofs and dominated by the bulk of the Duomo would be hosting the grand reception.
Which that year was to be grander yet. Twenty! Pietro and his friends would show off their formal attire, certainly embellished by an accoutrement shipped from London just for the occasion: a pair of shoes by Look, a hat by Thomas, perhaps even an umbrella by Briggs, if the weather imposed it (or allowed it). Her schoolmates from the Swisse college would be wearing instead the most recent models by Frezzini, or by the Sorelle Longoni. If not even, the older ones, by the Sartoria Ventura.
And the presents! Pietro could certainly expect a tiepin by Confalonieri. For her, perhaps, at last, a small bijoux by Gatti. But perhaps it was still too early. No one, however, would hint at the gloomy and tedious news out of Vienna and Berlin. Nothing had the right to upset the sacredness of a 5th of September at casa Lucini.
The girl took off her ample white hat and fastidiously adjusted her hair. To be sure, she had been much grieved at the news of the assassination of the Austrian archduke, but her heart had also palpitated with excitement at the thought of the temerity shown by Gavrilo Princip. Oh yes, for the liberty of one's own country every act is admissible, especially if heroic.
Bosnia. Where on earth was this obscure and brave country? Where there really the minarets and the mosques of the Turks? It must have been far indeed, because when the nonni had gone to Constantinople, they had traveled for days and days, by carriage, horse, railroad, and boat. And the risks, and the peculiarities, which nonna Rosa would eloquently recount, proud and a bit wistful!
Emma settled back comfortably on the chaise longue and lifted her book again. Impudent in the absolute freedom of movements afforded her by the shelter of the tree, she crossed her legs under the ample skirt and dangled the ankle that had remained lifted over the grass. A wonderful story: she must absolutely get to the end before they returned to town. A little more than a month, crowded with walks, outings, picnics in the woods, horse rides, get-togethers.
As if she had been following her thoughts, the mare let out a resounding neigh that was echoed from the entrance walkway by a soft snorting of horses. Three young riders, hot and covered with dust, had gone past the gate and were coming forward, impeccable but not a little noisy.
With a cry of pleasure Emma tossed the book onto the grass and sprang to her feet, ready to thrust herself toward the newcomers. Then, in a flash, she regained her composure. She bowed, picked up the book from the lawn and hid it in between the two canvasses of the chaise longue. Then she raised her head, pushed out her chest and waited for the due tribute. Glittering eyes, heart pounding in her chest, accelerated breathing, yet impassible face.
The three young men unhorsed and started toward her. Pietro Lucini, Nicola Boselli and, two steps behind, Marco Federico Olgiati Drezzo. Family, friendship, and love. Never would Emma Lucini have felt equal to the extraordinary adventure of life without the company of her brother Pietro, the tender friendship of Nicola and her passion for Marco Federico. Sentiments which had stayed with her for years, which seemed born with her and with her had come of age. Which with her - she was certain - would have died.
Pietro Lucini, nineteen years old, twenty in just over a month. Marco Federico Olgiati Drezzo, turned twenty two months earlier. Nicola Boselli, seventeen years and some months. Emma could tell by heart the days that separated them from their birthday; they were dates noted down in all of her diaries and fixed indelibly in her memory.
"Little sister, little sister!" cried Pietro, laughing. "What are you hiding in the secret of that canvass? Forbidden readings, of course. Dangerous readings. You'd better be careful or I might tell on you. What is it mother says? 'Remember... "
"... That your father is a Lucini and I am a Montano, daughter of a Rossi Scarpa," concluded in his place Nicola Boselli, bursting out in turn in a candid laugh.
"Nicola Boselli," rejoined Emma in a resented tone, "I won't have you make fun of my mom. Make your apologies!"
"I certainly make my apologies, signorina, and humbly," the boy placated her, plunging himself into a perfect bow. "But I had no intention of lacking in respect for zia Carlotta. I only meant to help Pietro, who when it comes to sacred family phrases is a little absent minded."
He straightened from the bow and stared without embarrassment into the girl's eyes. Then he dared a step forward, take her hand an bring it to his lips. He deposited on it a light kiss, yet warm of a warmth not entirely attributable to the ride. A warmth only the young woman did perceive.
No one could have found unseemly the comportment of the young man. The Bosellis had been dwelling on that hill, overlooking lake Como, for an unknown number of generations, and the Lucinis had been vacationing there for over forty years, that is since the founder of the Industrie Meccaniche e Ferroviarie Lucini - nonno Pietro, who in this area was actually born - had the old house that was now gone built, and later replaced it with the purchase of Villa Rosa, which he had had appointed with all the modernities and amenities obtainable in the young kingdom of Italy and from the surrounding nations.
Emma and Nicola had played as children on those lawns and had shared every child-secret, even beyond the utterable, sometimes. They were thus like cousins and, not by chance, in naming Carlotta Lucini, the boy had called her «aunt».
More recent, instead, was her acquaintance with Marco Federico Olgiati Drezzo. It dated back eight years, when the young marquis, with his family, had taken to frequent that estate in summer, hitherto neglected in favor of other places of far more pomp and distinction. Lost, the buzz had it, for good.
When Marco had turned sixteen and Emma was approaching twelve, the two teens had for the first time seen each other for what they were. If it is love that which can blossom at such a tender age, then doubtless the young pair - without ever «confessing» to it - had been in love for four years. And with as much close-lipped diligence they dedicated themselves to the task of not letting anything transpire. Not a gesture, not a word. Courteous and firm detachment. Bonding friendship. Saying nothing, revealing nothing, they both new perfectly the same thing. One day they would be husband and wife.
And so while young Nicola joked noisily, in order to conceal a certain embarrassment and displeasure, and young Pietro laughed, the twenty-year-old marquis stood two steps apart awaiting his turn to be admitted to the salutation. Which the girl was mischievously well glad to hold off.
"Good afternoon, Marco," she at length condescended to say in a firm voice. And then, bowing graciously her head, almost deigning to soften herself, "Did you have a nice ride?" she enquired.
"Good afternoon, Emma," replied the young man with a likewise formal half-bow. "No. It wasn't so pleasant. Freccia's got something in his hind legs, so we had to cut it short. The usual rheumatism, I'm afraid. The weather up until yesterday's been really awful. And, poor Freccia, he's getting old."
Emma smiled with an understanding air and struggled to hold back an impertinent remark. She would have wanted to reply that that was why that animal was no longer being mounted by the young marquis, who gave it instead to poor Nicola, but a glimmer of civility prevented her from pronouncing that which doubtless would have been, other than impertinent, an offensive phrase.
Yes, poor Nicola was actually poor. His family had been largely well off, in past generations. It had prospered in the production and trading of silk, but the latter generations had seemed incapable of perpetuating the achievements of the former ones. Besides, it was said that the worsening of trade relations with France - an undetermined number of years before - had caused the situation to get out of hand.
But of that Emma could not say to be so sure. The Bosellis, however, did not own a saddle horse and Nicola attended a modest boarding school at Como. He could not be regarded as a match to casa Lucini and no other sentiment could supervene a mere friendship. The young man was aware of it and suffered from it, without saying anything; but it could not be helped.
"I must excuse myself," said Marco Federico, as if perceiving the slight embarrassment of the girl and wishing to put a remedy to it. "I must take a look at the poor beast. Nicola, Pietro, won't you lend a hand?" And with a wave of salutation the three young men started toward the horses, let free to tread in the lower corral, accurately separated from the mare, who eyed them still and proud, contemptuous and yet, to judge from the restless slight movement of her tail, fairly interested in their movements.
With likewise proud and disdainful stare Emma stood still to observe them. Then she fumed and stamped her little feet nervously on the grass. Males! What were they without horses? What were they for? Had they ever read a novel and learnt how to conduct oneself with a young lady! With a... woman!
She stooped, held out her hand to recover the hidden book and, having lifted her head more than ever and more than ever pushed forward her chest, she started resolutely toward the porch of the house. As she reached the step of the short staircase, however, she could not refrain from throwing a quick glance over her shoulders. Pietro was holding a leg of the sick horse and Nicola was stooped over to examine the hoof. Marco, instead, was standing, still, and he was looking toward her. He did not move, he did not wave, but did not look away.
Emma felt the familiar hot spell in her chest and crossed the threshold. As she reached the hallway, she raised her eyes and made a slight bow to the imposing portrait of her grandfather hung on the wall. How handsome he was!
She hurried up the stairs and, as she reached the landing of the raised level, she cried cheerfully:
"Nonna, do you hear me?"
"I certainly do," replied from a room the hoary and imperious voice, now softened, but still charged with her harsh foreign accent. "How could anyone not hear a thunderstorm such as you are?"
"Oh, nonnina, do not scold me. I'm so happy. Is it true that nonno was handsome?"
"Handsome and kindly, bambina dear," answered the voice through the half-closed door.
Emma pushed it open without asking permission. Then she darted into the half-lighted room and stooped to hug the majestic feminine figure seated in the armchair and wrapped in a clear and filmy dressing gown. She kissed her on both cheeks.
"Will you tell me how it was that you met him, in Vienna?"
"It doesn't matter, nonna. Be nice; tell it to me again. I fancy that story so."
The 5th of May 1821, albo signanda lapillo, was a day destined to go down in history. Lay oblivious the remains. Beaten and stunned the world. From the Alps to the Pyramids, from the Manzanarre to the Rhine swept cry and jubilation for the passing of the Great Corsican. The Lucini family, settled on the hills of lake Como, exulted for the birth of their male heir, Pietro Paolo Benedetto, he too destined to have his little chapter in the future historical-economic annals of Lombardy and later of Italy.
The Lucini family came from the Bassa Comasca, the lower Como Valley, where for centuries they had honestly run the farming trade, achieving, by the end of the '700, reasonable prosperity and considerable estate. However, the roaming of Napoleonic and Austrian troops had not a little damaged and concerned the head of the house, who on the eve of the year 1801 had deemed opportune to sell the land to the highest bidder and withdraw to less risky boroughs.
The place had been located. A sizable parcel of land well exposed to the sun and to the dampness of lake Como. Part of the estate of Prato Sant'Antonio, above Bellagio, which the marquis Olgiati Drezzo were forced to give up, pressed by the flamboyant lifestyle of the male heirs and by the claims of the female, blood-related or acquired to the family. From farmers, the Lucinis had turned into silkworm breeders and weavers of raw silk.
A good industry, which had allowed for the accumulation of respectable dowries for the daughters and to bring well ahead in the studies young Pietro, who had shown a remarkable bent for engineering. Having completed the education that was possible in the Milan of the 1940s, papà Lucini - in this case, too, much farsighted - had decided that his son would attend university in the capital of the Dual Monarchy, imperial Vienna.
Pietro, if not entirely aloof from sympathizing with the ideas divulged by Carlo Cattaneo at the Politecnico - to the not so thorough reading of which he had come through an otherwise downright fussy consultation of the Giornale dell'ingegnere-architetto, the Engineering and Architectural Journal - had willingly accepted the paternal imposition. If not exactly good, his disposition was nonetheless strong and ambitious: the splendor offered by the capital of the empire and the professional opportunities that would unfold before him dazzled him. He was able to draw great results and - it must be recognized - more out of the latter than out of the former.
While in the Cinque Giornate of mid 1848 the Milanese patriots - and among them many a schoolmate of young Pietro's - put up barricades and offered their chest to the bullets of Johann Joseph Franz Karl Radetzky's soldiers, driving them back all the way to the Quadrilatero, ingegner Lucini lent appreciated service by an important German engineering firm, with large subsidiary in Vienna.
In that very Viennese branch worked Hungarian engineer Lajos Kemeny. Between the two citizens from the restive fringe of the empire, had developed a solid and lasting friendship. In the month of May of 1852, on the same day in which he turned thirty-one, Pietro had entered into matrimony with Miss Rosa Kemeny, sister of Lajos, whom had come to live in Vienna with her brother's family after the death of her discerning parents, landowners in the fertile region of the Little Alföld. Land sold to cousins, dowry and prosperity secured.
Rosa Kemeny wasn't so young, having reached her twenty-third year of age, but was a woman of great beauty, imposing, imperious. Far more than her brother she had vibrated with passion for the cause of Hungarian independence, particularly by writing inflamed poems which she had read out with her contralto voice in the drawing rooms of Vienna frequented by students and public officials fellow citizens. Until her eyes had fallen upon the person of young ingegner Lucini, introduced into the same drawing rooms by her brother Lajos.
At that point she had decided that that taciturn Italian, consistent and positive, so divergent from the idea she had formed through her readings of the Mediterranean disposition, and what's more - in her view - very handsome, would have been the man of her life. And so it had been.
By and by she would discover that the region whence her husband came, being much closer to Switzerland and to the Alps than to the Mediterranean, ordinarily produced a stock of men more inclined to practicality than passion, and the thing had been greeted with composed Mitteleuropean satisfaction.
The new Lucini family had rapidly grown in prosperity and number. Pietro continued his steady climb within the Viennese branch. In 1854 Rosa had given birth to their firstborn, Carlo Lajos Stefano. Carlo after the now defunct nonno Lucini, Stefano after the likewise defunct nonno Kemeny, Lajos after the uncle, but above all after the flammable and inflamed Kossuth.
In 1858 had come the second born, Giovanni Alexander Benedetto. Giovanni and Benedetto after the great grandparents, Alexander after Petöfi as well as Manzoni. To care for the two infants, from the fat plain of the Little Alföld had come a robust fifteen-year-old country girl, requested to the Hungarian cousins and by these warmly recommended: Teresa Gabor. The two children were taught to address her as schwester, that is, sister, and Schwester she would become all through her very long life, in the course of which she had never again set foot outside the domains of casa Lucini, even renouncing to marry.
In that same 1858 Pietro Lucini had been appointed general director of the Viennese branch. But his eyes had taken to wander far beyond. In the State of the Savoy important events were taking place. It was not rash to hypothesize - in a not so distant future - its territorial expansion in the direction of Lombardy and of other Italian regions. Besides, the small Tessitura Lucini, on lake Como, had not a little suffered on account of warfare and did not appear to benefit excessively from the caution with which it was being run by the youngest of the Lucini brothers, Giovanni Antonio Luigi.
Pietro Lucini was certain that the future of his family - brother, sister and nephews included - no longer lay in weaving. Railroads would receive a ponderous impulse, and the thing in the world Pietro Lucini knew best was in fact all that of metallic went into making engines and railcars roll on the tracks.
In the course of 1859, in repeated and toilsome meetings with the managers of the German parent company, Pietro had eagerly put forward his projects, which at the end of the year, even in light of the new political situation with Lombardy by now annexed to Piedmont, had been accepted. In the spring of 1860 Pietro and Rosa Lucini, accompanied by their children Carlo and Giovanni - always cared for by the faithful schwester Teresa -, had thus moved to Milan.
In December of 1870 Pietro Lucini, just months before turning fifty, had given a solemn farewell to the German parent company and in January of 1871, in the municipality of Corpi Santi of Milan, the Industrie Meccaniche e Ferroviarie Pietro Lucini were established. The old Tessitura Lucini had been liquidated; brother and sisters had been indemnified and had gone back to set residence in the district of the Como province where the family originated. The old house and the shed of the weaving mill had been demolished and in their place the new family residence had been erected.
In 1875 - having brilliantly overcome the financial, agricultural and political crisis that had gripped Italy in the previous two-year-period - industrialist Lucini had conducted a personal negotiation with count Pietro Bastogi, former minister of the kingdom and chairman of the Società Ferrovie Meridionali, for the supply of the rolling stock necessary for the completion of over three hundred kilometers of railroads in Southern Italy.
The Lucini family was by now admitted with the highest familiarity into the most exclusive circles of prosperous Milan. Ingegner Pietro was a respected member of the Club dei Possidenti, the club of property owners, and valued board member of the Banca Popolare. His name appeared in the lists of the Società d'Incoraggiamento d'Arti e Mestieri, of the Associazione Industriali, Commercianti ed Esercenti, of the Società Infortuni sul Lavoro and of the Umanitaria.
The Brera's electoral society, while notoriously quite particular toward «property owners», looked with interest upon him as a possible candidate for City Council, as an industrialist from the former municipality of the Corpi Santi, freshly reunited administratively to Milan's.
His personality had also considerably gained in prestige, in October of '75, on account of his role, given his German industrialist past, in the organization of the Milanese visit of Kaiser Wilhelm I and in particular of the gala-farewell at the Scala. And yet one place continued to be barred to him: the Circolo della Caccia, the Hunting Club
At each assembly for the review of new membership applications, when that submitted by the founder of the Industrie Meccaniche e Ferroviarie came up for consideration, a black marble would drop inexorable into the ballot box: that of the president, the venerable, ultra-octogenarian marquis Federico Marco Olgiati Drezzo. Little mattered - or perhaps greatly mattered - that his heir, Giorgio Omobono Olgiati Drezzo, did spend his summers at the Ca' Granda or Ca' del Turco estate, on lake Como, on the borders with that part of the estate of Prato Sant'Antonio which, in years long past, had been ceded to the Lucini family.
With silk and iron merchants, the old marquis did not intend to entertain relations in this life. In the other it would have been seen.
Hence in the ballot box there arrived the white marbles of Crivelli and Beduschi's, Melzi d'Eril's and De Angeli's, Visconti di Modrone's and Mylius', Barbiano di Belgioioso's and Belinzaghi's, Castelbarco's and Gavazzi's, Amman's and Cantoni's, Jacini's and Richard's, Paribelli's and Bonacina's, Garavaglia's and Pellizzari's, Prinetti's and Minetti's, and so enumerating, but not that fundamental and indispensable of the old gentleman.
But at the end of 1876 there came about, among others, two remarkable events. Young Carlo Lucini, having brilliant completed high school with top marks and a further period of training abroad, began his engineering studies at the Istituto Tecnico Superiore, the young Milan's Politecnico, inaugurated only fourteen years before between via Senato and piazza Cavour.
The aged marquis Federico Marco, instead, fell prey to as nagging as prosaic an ailment: common, vulgar prostatitis. In his absence the fatidic black marble failed to fall into the ballot box and ingegner Pietro Lucini was finally admitted into the Circolo della Caccia, much congratulated by all of the members, including his next door neighbor - and on various accounts debtor - marquis Giorgio Omobono Olgiati Drezzo.
At the Spring reception of 1877 the venerable president made his solemn reappearance, leaning on a gold knobbed, finely lacquered walking stick and sustained, at his left, by the robust arm of his spiffy and forty-seven years old son. As he advanced between two lines of members who deferentially made way for him, his gaze could not help but to catch sight of the newly admitted, whom only in his absence could obtain the longed-for plenum of white marbles.
The venerable gentleman adjusted his pince-nez and observed the hand that was being held out to him for a long time, then, with a light shrug, as if to shake off a burden of past that had now become unbearable, shook it.
"How nice to meet you, dear ingegner Lucini," he said, grinding as ever his flawless Milanese «r» and honking deeply upon the «n». "It's been a while now that I needed to speak with you."
"The pleasure is all mine," replied composedly Pietro Lucini. "Tell me, signor marchese, in what may I be of service to you?"
"Wouldn't you, by any chance, have a flexible metal tube in your hardware shops?" asked malevolently the old man.
"I do not suppose we do, signor marchese," replied politely Lucini, diplomatically skipping over the fact that perhaps «shops» was not so appropriate a term, and «hardware» even less so. "I could always have this looked into by an employee of mine, though," continued he. "If you would provide me with indications as to its use, as well as its length, thickness and diameter, I suppose we might find something."
"Why, you take care of the size, ingegnere. I'd be needing it to piss in comfort." And, having so said in flawless Milanese, the grumpy old man rapped imperiously with his walking stick on the floor, turned around and walked away. As he departed he turned to his son, who continued to support him, and, very loudly, said to him, "Ah, Giorgino, remember to ask ingegner Lucini whether he can supply us with some barbed wire, so that his dogs, down at the lake, will stop wandering about our property."
In June of that same 1877 ingegner Pietro Lucini reached with Mr. Alberto Vaucamps and engineers Ambrogio Campiglio and Emilio Bianchi, owners of the Società Anonima delle Ferrovie Milano-Saronno e Milano-Erba, an agreement for the supply of the material and assistance necessary to make the train run over the 50 kilometers that separated Milan from Erba-Incino, at a reasonable distance from Prato Sant'Antonio, by December 1879.
And in that neighborhood, within a very short time, not only the dogs of Casa Lucini, but also the Christians took to wander around the estate of the marquis Olgiati Drezzo. In 1880 the ninety-year-old gentleman passed to a better life. A few months later his universal heir, marquis Giorgio Omobono, and ingegner Pietro Lucini met in the office of a notary of Bellagio, where the contract of sale by which the title of the second and far more important portion of the Prato Sant'Antonio estate, that on which stood the ancient Villa Rosa, passed from the former to the latter in exchange of a reasonable amount of cash and of the cancellation of a more than sizable amount of the debts contracted by the marquis from the ingegnere in the form of loans, was drafted and signed.
In that area Pietro Lucini was born and of that area he firmly intended to become the chief property owner. The house built just a few years before, in place of the old one and of the shed, was flattened in order to increase parkland, and the Lucinis began spending their summer vacations at Villa Rosa, completely modernized. In the meantime, in the same year 1880, Pietro's second son, Giovanni, had also entered the Politecnico of Milan, following the traditional period of studies abroad.
The years began descending an increasingly precipitous slope. In 1885 the Fabbriche Lucini became the S.A. Industrie Meccaniche e Ferroviarie Pietro Lucini e Figli. In February of 1895 the company's general director, ingegner Carlo, was urgently summoned to the War Ministry, in Rome. He returned with a pressing request, made to him by the Minister in person: for the glory of the future destinies of the Motherland it was asked that part of the Industrie Lucini be converted to war purposes.
In other words, it was ordered that it built gun carriages. But the old founder, the president and sole executive director, now at seventy-four years of age, was adamant. His fortune had been based on peace and railroads, not war and weapons. Leave others the honor. And to no purpose was an excited call to Milan by the Prime Minister in person, Sicilian Francesco Crispi, who raised his voice and struck his fist on the table to no avail.
Old Pietro Lucini rejoined half in Italian and half in German, yet the sense of his rejoinder was an unequivocal and irrevocable nay.
In lieu of the guns, the Lucini family supplied men. Captain Carlo, with all of his forty-two years, and lieutenant Giovanni, both reservists with the Corps of Engineers. There was the Adua massacre. Giovanni came back. Carlo, like many, too many other young Italians, was never seen again.
Fortunately the latter had neither wife nor children, whereas for five years Giovanni had been the happy spouse of signorina Carlotta Montano, and for two the father of a boy, registered with the names of Pietro Alcide Benedetto. Two years later the family was blessed by a new birth, a girl.
Tradition would have it that she should bear the name of her paternal grandmother, but the imperious signora Rosa vehemently opposed it. «My name,» she protested, «is mine as long as I live.» So the girl was baptized with the names Luigia Maria Emma. She too was entrusted to the care of schwester Teresa, and called Emma all her life. Like Jane Austen's Emma Woodhouse, who had made nonna Rosa's heart throb, as a young girl, down there, in Hungary.
Precipitous years. At the dawn of the new century, in the month of February of 1900, the old founder of the Industrie Lucini closed his eyes forever. He went to reach his farmer and weaver ancestors, but, above all, his unfortunate eldest son.
He left his entire estate to his only son Giovanni, whom, in the will, he urged to remember that his life had been:
«... Entirely consecrated to work and to the success of the industry that bears our name, having always in mind the aim of providing work and honest income for as many people as possible, as my limited means allowed. Hence do follow my example and remember that honest and regular work is the best way to make oneself useful to others, while improving oneself.»
In the same will, furthermore, he left a donation of 100000 liras to the Milan's Politecnico and one of 50000 to the Società d'Incoraggiamento di Arti e Mestieri, not neglecting the employees of the Industrie Lucini and the family's housekeepers, to whom he left «a number of monthly salaries equal to the years of service put in». He ordered, at last, that his civil and religious funeral be humble.
Exactly two years later, Carlotta Lucini gave birth to a second girl, and this time the bizarre granny condescended that she be given her name. «At any rate,» she explained, «I only have a few days before I'll be reunited with my Pietro again.»
Never was a prophecy more wrong. In the summer of 1914, at the very respectable age of eighty-five, Rosa Kemeny, widow Lucini, was yet more than hale and hearty. Seated in a comfortable armchair, in the apartment reserved to her at Villa Rosa, at Prato Sant'Antonio, on lake Como, she was reliving her past and was recounting it for the umpteenth time to the now teenaged and mischievous niece Emma.
"Handsome and kindly, bambina dear. Nonno Pietro was a handsome and goodhearted man."
ACQUISTATE Il MIO ULTIMO ROMANZO