Children of Liberty(5)

By: Paullina Simons

“You don’t have to repay us,” Ben interjected, overhearing. “Really. The apartment is furnished and vacant. Use it like a hotel room. If you like, you can pay for dinner. That should cover the cost of the room. Dinner and wine. And tomorrow morning you can go to Lawrence.” Ben’s expression read, though why you would want to is beyond me. And Salvo’s expression read, I would rather sleep on the street like a drunk than take one of your empty rooms.

It was Mimoo who ended the impasse. “Salvo, your mother is exhausted. Say thank you to these two men. We accept.”

Gina nearly clapped. Thank God for her practical-minded mother. She knew Salvo would never relent; his pride was too great. She never understood that. Did that mean she had no pride? She didn’t think so. It just meant she wouldn’t let foolish pride stand in the way of what she really wanted. And what she really wanted was to see what the two young men were offering her family. “Pride is a peccato capitale, Salvo,” she whispered into his ear as they hurried to help their mother.

“Lust and sloth also, sister,” he retorted.

“Our carriage is waiting for you just there,” Ben said to Mimoo, solicitously taking her elbow and pointing to the far end of Freedom Docks, toward the city, where a number of other carriages stood arrayed, waiting for fares. “Will you be all right walking?”

Mimoo smiled at Ben. Salvo, who saw everything, muttered a bad word to the heavens. “Young man, I just traveled six thousand kilometers. Will I be all right walking a hundred meters? Let’s go. Let me take your arm.”

Gina walked behind Ben and Mimoo, pulling her own trunk, exorbitantly pleased. Salvo dragged the rest of the baggage. “Where did you learn to speak Italian, young man?” Mimoo asked Ben.

“Oh, just a word here and there to help us with our business. Most of the immigrants we greet are Italians.”

She appraised him approvingly. “Are you a good son to your mother?” she asked.

“I am a son,” Ben allowed.

“She must be proud of you.” She glanced back at Gina, walking next to Harry, and frowned. “You two are brothers?”

“In spirit,” Ben said, “In spirito santo.”

Salvo managed not only to drag the two largest trunks, but also to walk ahead of everyone else, as if he knew where he was going.

“Your brother is leading the way?” Harry quietly asked Gina with a shrug. “In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”

Gina didn’t quite understand, but she couldn’t speak even teasingly against her brother to a stranger. Before she could think of something witty to say, Mimoo disengaged from Ben and motioned her to come. “Gia, come here. Walk with me. Let the men carry the heavy things.”

Gina hurried ahead, taking Mimoo’s elbow, freeing Ben to direct Salvo to the appropriate horse and carriage.

“Your mother is a wonderful woman,” Ben said to Salvo, stopping at a sickly gray mare.

Salvo eyed him with disdain. In Italian he said, “What you’re trying to get next to my mother too?”

Ben didn’t understand the words, but got the gist. With a tip of his hat, he stopped making nice to Salvo and untied the straps of the open wagon. The mare didn’t look like it would live through the ride with the trunks. It didn’t look like it would live through the heat of the evening.

After the baggage was loaded, Mimoo and Gina climbed up and sat in the open carriage facing the road, while Ben and Salvo perched on the bench opposite and Harry climbed into the driver’s seat, grabbing the reins. The pale horse lurched forward, its jerking motion nearly dislodging the carefully arranged and roped trunks on the rear rack. Ben admonished his friend to be more careful.

“I’ll try,” Harry said, “but you know it’s my first time at the reins.”

Ben calmed Mimoo down. “He is only joking. Harry, stop it, you are frightening our lovely passengers.” Even Mimoo smiled benevolently at being called bellissima. Salvo looked ready to punch him.

“Will this take long?”

“Not too long. But it’s dinner hour. The traffic will be heavy. We’re about a mile away. We’re headed to an area of Boston called the North End. Have you heard of it?”

“I haven’t, no,” Gina said. “Is it nice?”

“You’ll see.” Ben smiled at her. She smiled back. Salvo glared at her. She stopped smiling and stuck out her tongue at her brother.

“So what’s in Lawrence?”

“Our cousin Angela lives in Lawrence,” Salvo said, directing Ben’s attention to himself. “She is waiting for us. She thinks we are arriving today. We are going to live with her.”

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