Assunta speaks: One day my father threw me out of his house. And he threw me out even though, at that time, our family life had achieved a certain harmony; we had forsworn love of one another in favor of a new era of politeness and reserve. Each act became part of a ritual, each day a repetition of identical phrases and gestures. We had, besides, a special protocol for Sundays and holidays, and on my birthday, and at Easter and Christmas, my father would make me a little present of a bag of caramels and a small bouquet of violets. On these occasions, wordless, he would kiss me on the cheek, slightly above the bone due to his great height, and I would have been shocked had he kissed me anywhere but there.

My father adapted himself superbly to this sort of life, and with very good reason: he did not want my sister and me to marry. From the time of my holy communion he set up a vacuum around us, refusing to receive anybody or to go anywhere himself. He even avoided family gatherings, since my sisters had salvaged their husbands from just such occasions. Instead he affected an unwillingness to be disturbed in his habits (and his laziness). Yet he spoke to us often of the day when we would marry, and abandon him to old age and sickness and solitude, and thus he became immensely sorry for himself.