**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

The Problem Of The Widow Salvini
by [?]

The mere mention of the widow Salvini always brings before me that other widow who came to our settlement when her rascal husband was dead after beating her black and blue through a lifetime in Poverty Gap, during which he did his best to make ruffians of the boys and worse of the girls by driving them out into the street to earn money to buy him rum whenever he was not on the Island, which, happily, he was most of the time. I know I had a hand in sending him there nineteen times, more shame to the judge whom I finally had to threaten with public arraignment and the certainty of being made an accessory to wife-murder unless he found a way of keeping him there. He did then, and it was during his long term that the fellow died. What I started to say was that, when all was over and he out of the way, his widow came in and wanted our advice as to whether she ought to wear mourning earrings in his memory. Without rhyme or reason the two are associated in my mind, for they were as different as could be. The widow of Poverty Gap was Irish and married to a brute. Mrs. Salvini was an Italian; her husband was a hard-working fellow who had the misfortune to be killed on the railway. The point of contact is in the earrings. The widow Salvini did wear mourning earrings, a little piece of crape draped over the gold bangles of her care-free girlhood, and it was not funny but infinitely touching. It just shows how little things do twist one’s mind.

Signor Salvini was one of a gang of trackmen employed by the New York Central Railroad. He was killed when they had been in America two years, and left his wife with two little children and one unborn. There was a Workmen’s Compensation Law at the time under which she would have been entitled to recover a substantial sum, some $1800, upon proof that he was not himself grossly to blame, and suit was brought in her name; but before it came up the Court of Appeals declared the act unconstitutional. The railway offered her a hundred dollars, but Mrs. Salvini’s lawyer refused, and the matter took its slow course through the courts. No doubt the company considered that the business had been properly dealt with. It is quite possible that its well-fed and entirely respectable directors went home from the meeting at which counsel made his report with an injured feeling of generosity unappreciated–they were not legally bound to do anything. In which they were right. Signor Salvini in life had belonged to a benefit society of good intentions but poor business ways. It had therefore become defunct at the time of his death. However, its members considered their moral obligations and pitied the widow. They were all poor workingmen, but they dug down into their pockets and raised two hundred dollars for the stricken family. When the undertaker and the cemetery and the other civilizing agencies that take toll of our dead were paid, there was left twenty dollars for the widow to begin life with anew.

When that weary autumn day had worn to an end, the lingering traces of the death vigil been removed, the two bare rooms set to rights, and the last pitying neighbor woman gone to her own, the widow sat with her dumb sorrow by her slumbering little ones, and faced the future with which she was to battle alone. Just what advice the directors of the railway that had killed her husband–harsh words, but something may be allowed the bitterness of such grief as hers–would have given then, surrounded by their own sheltered ones at their happy firesides, I don’t know. And yet one might venture a safe guess if only some kind spirit could have brought them face to face in that hour. But it is a long way from Madison Avenue to the poor tenements of the Bronx, and even farther–pity our poor limping democracy!–from the penniless Italian widow to her sister in the fashionable apartment. As a household servant in the latter the widow Salvini would have been a sad misfit even without the children; she would have owned that herself. Her mistress would not have been likely to have more patience with her. And so that door through which the two might have met to their mutual good was closed. There were of course the homes for the little ones, toward the support of which the apartment paid its share in the tax bills. The thought crossed the mind of their mother as she sat there, but at the sight of little Louisa and Vincenzo, the baby, sleeping peacefully side by side, she put it away with a gesture of impatience. It was enough to lose their father; these she would keep. And she crossed herself as she bowed reverently toward the print of the Blessed Virgin, before which burned a devout little taper. Surely, She knew!