He held forth at such length that he won the endorsement of six other men in the community including the son of one of the town councillors: at the next council meeting, they debated the question of whether or not they should allocate exceptional financial assistance to those citizens who would most likely repay this subsidy a hundredfold when they returned to the vicinanza? Didn’t betting on Australia make more sense than continuing to force adolescents to choke in Austrian or Italian chimneys, and family men to do seasonal work in France, barely earning enough to make ends meet? Between the seven of them, they had enough relatives in the assembly to carry the vote even if one of the grantees had the reputation, like Carlo Antonio, of being quarrelsome. Each of them received 700 francs to cross the seas, an enormous amount, more than three times maestro Giulietti’s yearly salary; it was a loan they would have to repay when they returned, to be sure, but until then, Carlo Antonio and his cronies were able to sign up with the Germans who were organizing the great crossing and there was no turning back. Caterina and Anna Maria were presented with a fait accompli. He would leave with the others in a fortnight and they would cross the Alps on foot to reach a lake where a boat would be waiting to take them to Lucerne. From there they would head towards Basel and the Rhine, from where they would then have to take a boat all the way to the sea, and after that… The two women were disoriented by the stream of unfamiliar names with which Carlo Antonio was inundating them, along with the promise of colossal fortunes and sunny tomorrows. It was for their good and that of the girls that he was going into exile, it wouldn’t be for long, then he’d buy some cows, some land, a house, neither Vittoria nor anyone else would dare challenge him, the gentleman he would become, he would show them all what he was made of. They had enough to feed themselves, didn’t they? The goat, the chickens, the fields, the big chestnut tree in Carbulun, and for ready money, all they had to do was send Virginia and Angela to Locarno to sell something now and again, there was always a surplus in the summer and, little darlings that they were, no one could refuse them.