she had been naked.
After a few moments, I realised that I was not alone in appreciating that prodigious metamorphosis. One of the girls cried out: âIrene, youâre gorgeous! Your breasts and the little what-sits are sticking out.â
The novice did not seem unduly worried. After all, we were only children, so no scandal. Her only concern was with the injury to Fulvioâs neck, which was cut deeply and was bleeding. She picked him up in her arms and ran with him towards a nearby farmhouse where there was a trough in the yard with water from a stream. She jumped right in with the boy in her arms and began washing him from the neck down, swaying with him from side to side, trying with this little game to get him over the shock which had left him speechless.
Shortly afterwards, the farmerâs wife came down from the house above the stables, from where she had seen everything. She had understood the nature of the problem and so came armed with sheets and blankets. She was accompanied by a little girl whom, when she saw the blood pouring from Fulvioâs wound, she sent to the kitchen to fetch linen bandages and some alcohol. Irene then handed Fulvio over to the care of the woman and, water dripping everywhere, clambered out of the trough: with the sheets and blankets pulled around her, she ran over to the stables.
My poor brother meantime was screaming like a bald buzzard as the woman disinfected his wound. A few moments later, wrapped up in the blanket, the novice emerged from the stables. My brother, with his head swathed in bandages, was parcelled up in a canvas sheet.
That seemed to be the end of the adventure, but three days later Fulvio took a turn for the worse. He turned pale, his face the colour of a rag, and was vomiting and running a temperature. The doctor came to Pino three days a week, and had left just that morning. The doctor in Tronzano had had to rush to Luino where his mother had suffered a heart attack. My father wired a cable to the station at Maccagno six kilometres away: âFind me a doctor.â
âThere is one, but heâs out doing his rounds and we canât trace him,â came back the reply.
All the while, Fulvio was deteriorating. His temperature had reached forty degrees, and there was no way of knowing what had happened to him â congestion, intestinal infection or meningitis? It did not occur to anyone to think of the injury to his head.
Mamma continued placing cold patches on her sonâs head and warm ones on his feet, but finally gave up and threw herself on a chair in despair. âMy son is dying, and no one is coming to help us,â she moaned between her tears. âWeâve got to get a car to take him to the hospital in Luino.â
âHereâs the butcher coming in his van,â said my father, trying to reassure her.
She paid no heed, but sat uneasily in a trance-like state, as though listening to someone talking to her, then gave a serene smile. She turned to my father: âYou can calm down now, itâs going to be all right. Someone will be here in a moment to save him.â
âA very good doctor, on his motor-bicycle.â
âYes, my grandmother has just told me. She was here a moment ago.â
My father patted her cheek. It was clear that despair was causing his wife to lose her mind.
âHere he is now!â Mamma leapt to her feet and rushed to the window. âItâs him!â
A motorbike had drawn up in the square in front of the station, and a police sergeant and a gentleman carrying a small case dismounted. They hurried up the stairs, the sergeant arriving first. âA stroke of luck! Hereâs the doctor from Mugadino. Iâd gone into the chemistâs to ask if they knew where the general practitioner lived, and I met the man himself just as he was leaving.â
âAs a matter of fact, we were expecting him,â said