Author

Daniel Maggetti

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Anna Maria had not lived alone at the time: her daughter-in-law, Caterina – Catalina as she was called here – shared her home along with her two granddaughters, Virginia and Angela, born to her son Carlo Antonio and his first wife, Agnese, buried at the age of thirty-two with a stillborn baby. Agnese had also given birth to a first Pierino who had been sent out on the roads of Italy with a squadra of chimneysweeps when he was nine. Six months later, Don Remigio gave them his death certificate. He had died of dysentery on a pile of straw in a stable in Lombardy, wrote a local parish priest whom a tenant farmer had been able to summon in time to administer extreme unction. It is not good for a man to live alone and Carlo Antonio did not waste time after becoming a widower in finding, in the village across the valley nestled at the foot of the howling mountain, a young woman to his taste whose parents couldn’t wait to marry her off – down there, they are more poverty-stricken than we are and since most of the pastures and forests surrounding them belong to us, one more mouth to feed makes a big difference. Caterina Pilotti was gracious and obliging: although Anna Maria had been very fond of Agnese, she also took to Caterina, valuing the nineteen-year-old’s openness and the tenderness she showed the two orphaned girls. On Sunday they went to mass together, Caterina’s wavy, chestnut hair piled up and covered with a black scarf printed with purple roses. Sitting next to her, Anna Maria felt as if she had been granted a kind of respite, as if misfortune had finally released its hold and a new era was beginning. This impression was reinforced by Caterina’s pregnancy, there would be a new heir, sure enough, as handsome as the rüsca who had disappeared in his shroud of soot, they wouldn’t let this one fly away, and he would know how to command respect. The sickly baby girl Caterina bore did not survive three months and like many other little innocents, she was put to rest in a corner of the cemetery where they always dug the graves of the eternally anonymous small bodies, the number of which, should they have ever dared draw up a tally, was frightening.