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The Cynosure

  Michael Bakunin
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One sad day my mother fell sick. What she, the family and I suffered no pen can describe. The slightest noise cause her atrocious spasms. Many times I rushed towards the group of young men approaching along the road of an evening and signing gayly to the new-born stars, imploring them for love of God and their own mothers to be quiet. Many times I begged the men on the street corner to go elsewhere for their conversation. In the last few weeks of her life her suffering became so agonizing that neither my father, nor her relatives, nor her dearest friends had the courage to approach her bedside. I remained with her, tortured by the sight of her suffering. For two months I did not undress.

Science did not avail, nor love. After three months of brutal illness she breathed her last in my arms. She died without hearing me weep. It was I who laid her in her coffin; I who accompanied her to the final resting place; I who threw the first handful of earth over her brier. And it was right that I should do so, for I was burying part of myself... The void left has never been filled.

But it was too much. Time, far from softening my loss, made the pain more cruel. I watched my father get gray in a short time. I became more retiring, more silent; for days at a time I uttered not a syllable and passed the days wandering through the forests which border the Magra. Many times, going to the bridge, I stopped long and looked down at the white stones far below in a bed of sand, and thought of them as a bed where there would be no more nightmare.

This desperate state of mind decided me to abandon Italy for America. On June 9, 1908, I left my dear ones. My sorrow was so great at the parting that I kissed my relatives and strained them to my bosom without being able to speak. My father, too, was speechless in his profound sorrow, and my sisters wept as they did when my mother died. My going had excited interest in the village and the neighbors crowded the house, each with a word of hope, a blessing, a tear. In a crowd they followed me far out on the road, as if a townsman were being exiled forever.

An incident of the parting is vivid in my memory; several hours before leaving I went to say farewell to an old woman


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