He knew there was no point in recording absences. From the very beginning, members of the community had made it clear to him that school should not compete with the real work for which the boys and girls in a village were needed; the livestock, the hay, potato and chestnut harvests were dependent on them, whereas books and notebooks, fine, but on condition they were confined to the winter months once the firewood stores were complete, and at least the schoolroom was heated so the little ones’ teeth wouldn’t chatter as much as at home. Anna Maria did not resist as a rule, even if she would have preferred now and again for Pierino to spend time with his playmates instead of being cloistered for company with no one but the old woman she had become. In any case, it wasn’t possible for her to push him to mix with others: two curses hung over the young boy’s head and no one in the village was ready to forget them even though Pierino was not responsible for anything. When she had gone to Don Remigio for advice, he had dismissed her, reciting the verse “I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me.” Anna Maria had got used to ignoring the first transgression from almost forty years ago, the one that rebounded on her as well and had destroyed her life. She had come up with various strategies to keep herself from persistently brooding on the past and to erase all traces of that era; if Vittoria hadn’t been so single-minded about it, time would probably have begun to do its work with her as well. But the second sin was still fresh, barely a dozen years old, the same as Pierino, and so, with good reason in this case, how could she not remember?