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After the Divorce

A Romance

Grazia Deledda

211 pages
Library of Alexandria
Nineteen Hundred and Seven. In the "strangers' room" of the Porru house a woman sat crying. Crouched on the floor near the bed, her knees drawn up, her arms resting on her knees, and her forehead on her arms, she wept and sobbed continuously, shaking her head from time to time as though to indicate that there was no more hope, absolutely none at all; while her plump shoulders and straight young back rose and fell in the tightly fitting yellow bodice, like a wave of the sea. The room was nearly in darkness; there were no windows, but through the open door which gave upon a bricked gallery, a stretch of dull grey sky could be seen, growing momentarily darker; and far, far away, against this dusky background, gleamed the yellow ray of a little, solitary star. From the courtyard below came the shrill chirping of a cricket, and the occasional stamp of horses' hoofs on the stone pavement. A short, heavy woman, clad in the Nuorese dress, with a large, fat, old-woman face, appeared in the doorway; she carried a four-branched iron candlestick, in one socket of which burned a wick soaked in oil. "Giovanna Era," said she in a gruff voice, "what are you about all in the dark? Are you there? What are you doing? I believe you are crying! You must be crazy! Upon my word, that's just what you are—crazy!" The young woman began to sob convulsively. "Oh, oh, oh!" said the other, drawing near, and in the tone of one who is deeply shocked and amazed. "I said you were crying. What are you crying for? There's your mother waiting for you downstairs, and you up here, crying like a crazy creature!" The young woman wept more violently than ever, whereupon the other hung the candlestick on a large nail, gazed vaguely about her, and then began hovering over her disconsolate guest, searching for words wherewith to comfort her; she could only repeat, however: "But, Giovanna, you are crazy, just crazy!" The "strangers' room"—the name given to that apartment which every Nuorese family, according to immemorial custom, reserves for the use of friends from the country—was large, white, and bare; it had a great wooden bedstead, a table covered with a cotton cloth and adorned with little glass cups and saucers, and a quantity of small pictures hung close to the unpainted wooden ceiling. Bunches of dried grapes and yellow pears hung from the rafters, filling the room with a faint fragrance; and sacks of wool stood about on the floor. The stout woman, who was the mistress of the house, laid hold of one of these sacks, dragged it to another part of the room, and then back again to where she had found it. "Now then," said she, panting from her exertion, "do stop. What good does it do? And why should you give up, anyhow? What the devil, my dearie! Suppose the public prosecutor has asked for the galleys, that doesn't mean that the jury are all mad dogs like himself!"