19th excerpt from the memoirs of Carlo Calcagni, a true Roman born almost one and a half century ago and my maternal grandmother’s eldest brother. Read all excerpts posted so far in English or in Carlo’s original Italian text.
Things got out of Hand
During our holiday at Consuma there was only one thing that was really bad and absolutely unbearable to me: a ram.
The two boys, Francesco [Boncompagni-Ludovisi, see picture below, MoR] and Patrizio, had received from their respective fathers an enormous ram as a gift – and so far nothing wrong.
Things though got out of hand with the purchase of a four-wheeled cart that they attached to the ram and that was making a grinding, terrible noise rolling on the road far from being asphalted at that time.
And there they were, the two boys, having fun at attaching and detaching the beast and taking their time as it happens and remaining much behind us along the road. And we calling and screaming at them that they at least rolled in front of us, where we’d always have been able to watch them and monitor the road whose sides had ravines and gullies.
We were two tutors like obsessed by the fact that we had to be in our walks not only tutors but also shepherds and had to endure numerous vexations on account of that innocent animal and of that even more innocent cart.
Cardinali and I were young, you know, and easy to get overly excited, but I certainly realize – now that I look back at those days – that the boys’ and their relatives’ demands were a bit too much. Playing with a ram, I can understand, but carrying it around for miles and miles (!!) among the laughters of passersby even if seldom met, it’s quite another question.
A Mephistophelian Idea in Mind
Now it happened that in the evening, after returning from excursions that had been particularly disastrous, I brought back the ram into the barn and worked the poor animal over with frequent though not too hard blows.
I was the one who always shut the beast into the barn, with this furtive, Mephistophelian idea in mind. Boncompagni’s cook instead picked the ram up in the morning before our daily walk.
One day the cook appeared before us with a bump on his forehead and a black eye.
“What happened?” I told him.
“I have no idea. While opening the barn this morning the ram charged me like mad and hit me here and here. I don’t know what’s the matter with that beast. It’s like furious, possessed.”
Of course I knew what the matter was but kept mum.
One day, during one of our very unfortunate walks together with our pupils and the ram attached to the noisy cart, the boys had remained far behind busy as they were with their good time with the crew. After a bend in the road we could not see them any more so we started to call, to yell. Nothing. So we went back and after reaching them we gave them a harsh reprimand.
Down the Ravine
To our reproaches good Patrizio stood quiet and mortified; not so Francesco who, freer and easier, stood in a stark attitude of protest and almost battle and said a few words that I can’t recall but sounded as if he, they, willed and had the power to have fun to their liking.
It happened in a flash. I grabbed the ram attached to the cart and threw it down the ravine which flanked the road. Everyone remained shocked and frightened. In its fall the cart fell to pieces and the beast broke free and fled.
We returned home crestfallen without the usual accompaniment of the rudimentary vehicle and of the poor animal. Francesco said nothing to his father. The poor boy felt however very much defeated and depressed.
The next morning he was as usual studying reluctantly and kept standing up and reaching the window to look around the countryside. He of course was thinking about the ram but said nothing. In the end he said to me all out of breath:
“Look, look, teacher! The ram, on top of that far away hill!”
It was in fact the beast but I seriously exclaimed:
“What ram are you talking about! Study, since it’s now time to study, not to think of your ram.”
But he, out of his mind: “No! THAT is my ram.”
Thus, pretending to be surprised, I said: “Well, if it’s really out there let’s run and catch it back.”
So we let books and studies to hell and hurled ourselves into the fields in order to grab the ram. Which kept quiet until we were far from it. I then walked into play and the ram which knew me very well fled like hell as soon I got close to catch it.
This game lasted for a long time. During the whole morning other spare chasers were recruited and it all ended up in a real, frantic hunt.
At last the beast was captured and put back into the barn.
If nothing else, I had obtained that there was no cart any more and that the ram with his tutors was always ahead of us since as soon as I moved closer the ram sprang forward in order to escape from me who had been and was his persecutor.
My tutorship ended because I had to be in the Army and my father had sensed from my letters that something was wrong so he called me back to Rome in an abrupt and final way.