Author

Daniel Maggetti

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Why did the Lord allow so many souls to come to this earth only to take them away again immediately? In the meantime, Carlo Antonio had met a certain Gottardo at the market, where he went once a month to sell the baskets he wove, and this Gottardo was going to strike it rich, he told Carlo Antonio, by emigrating to a country called Australia; enormous ships were being chartered for those who were not afraid of work and were tempted by adventure. An acquaintance of his, one Meletta from the Onsernone Valley, had come back from there a year later with wads of money in his pockets. He had found gold in a region where prospectors were pouring in by the thousands, it was stupid not to follow their example. Carlo Antonio, who had grown up with his mother and two sisters but without a father, had little regard for anyone, particularly women, whose opinions seemed to him redundant. He therefore consulted neither Caterina nor Anna Maria about Australia – it had become his idée fixe – and began surreptitiously gathering money to pay for the voyage, which was expensive and could take up to five months, according to Gottardo; but he never would have managed to save up even a tenth of what he needed without the help of the local council, may lightning strike them!, Anna Maria would say every time she thought of it. It was while the women were in church – the men only arrived at mass for the Elevation of the Host and left straight after – down at the osteria owned by Margheritun, who had been given the nickname Fémnascia (everyone knew why), that things had taken an unexpected turn: one Sunday after another, Carlo Antonio had eloquently described the riches of Australia and compared them to the poverty that was their lot in the valley, strangled as it was by food shortages, where women were beasts of burden and men condemned to hard labour, where one infant in three died before learning how to say mama, where the aged, crippled with ill-health, suffered from malnutrition and were a burden on their families.