Note: Italics indicate Aunt Virginia’s recollections.
So we did go over to his house on Saturday evening; his two sisters and parents were there but again his oldest sister wasn’t there with her husband. We were in his parlor once, it was an 18th
century decoration, very ornate. One maid was there who would stared at me the whole time. It was mother, Virginia, me, and Uncle who attended. He had sent the chauffeur to pick us up.
The important thing was when we were invited to that party, Felice’s dad was going to give a toast. Well Laura was worried that the notary would say something about the two of them being engaged and so forth. Well Laura interrupted him before he began and asked to talk to him before he began with his toast. She asked to go to the study to have a few words with him. So the two of them walked out and Felice followed them and said, “I think that has something to do with me, so I will go to.”
So we went to the study. I really didn’t want Felice to come too, but I couldn’t tell him in his own house that he could not come. So while we were in the other room I said to my future father-in-law, who I addressed using his title because that’s how it is done in Europe, I said to him, “First of all, I ask you to excuse me for my Italian, I speak poor Italian. I understand it, but I don’t speak like a native.” He said, “No signorina, you speak well enough.” And then I told him, “It is hard for me to explain, but I have enjoyed meeting your son. But I am not in love with him. I must plead with you that you take my side and help me to encourage him not to marry me. I am not an asset, I would be a burden. I don’t speak your language, I don’t know your custom or your people, I would not be a help. I would be a liability to their family. He should marry one of his own…” and he interrupted me saying, “Excuse me signorina, we have discussed this and you should know in Sicily to have a son is a great honor because he carries the name of the family. We have only this one son and three daughters. We love them equally, but my son is his mother’s heart. My wife lives for him.”
I don’t need to give all the details but what he said to me, he made me understand when he said to me, “My wife and I love our son, we wish him happiness. We have no right to tell him where to find it. When we tried, it did not work. Now that he found it, we cannot stop him. We have lived our life, while my son is just starting his life. We owe it to him to have the ability to make his own choice. We are willing to sacrifice our son, who we love so much, in order for him to marry the girl he wants to be with.” In other words, he would be willing to let Felice leave Italy and go back to the United States with me. He told me that they have done this and that for their son but he said, “We will do even this for his happiness.” Finally he also said to me, “If you marry my son you won’t be a daughter-in-law, you would be my daughter and instead of having three daughters, I would have four.”
While his father was talking, Felice did not say a word but I could tell he was swallowing hard. And when his father said, “We are willing to give him up. It would break my wife’s heart but we would do it for his happiness.” I realized then that I was not getting anywhere with my argument, so we went back into the room and the first glass of champagne was given from Felice to me. At the end of the night, Felice gave me a picture of himself that he just had taken that day for me. He had the photographer come to his house to take his picture and on the back it said, “To Laura
, so when she takes this picture with her she will know she has taken my heart with her.” Well we left after that and went home.
Unfortunately when we left that night, Laura forgot the picture. So Felice came the next day and said, “Did you forget something?” She said, “No I don’t think so.” He then pulled out and gave her the picture.
I didn’t love him at that time! I liked him a lot but I think I was so worried that I would have to leave my dad, my mother, sister and brother in order to be with him. He was a stranger in a foreign country. I only had an aunt and grandmother there, but I didn’t grow up with them, As much as I loved them, it was not the same. I was accustomed in the states to doing a lot of things and Sant’Agata was a small town. My mother even said to me, “I was born and lived in this country, but I would not come back to live here. It is so different.” She told me I was crazy and I would regret it if I moved there.
Anyways, so the next morning my mother said to me, “I might as well tell you, but it is said Felice is the man that went and had the tickets cancelled. When your dad was here, the Notaio expressed the desire for his son to meet you and that he would love to have you for his daughter.” After that I confronted Felice and asked, “Why would you do that?” I thought we had known each other well enough that we could have talked about it. I told him, “I thought we had an understanding that we would be frank with one another,” and I said, “God forbid, if I meet someone else I would be the first to tell you and you wouldn’t have to hear it from the other people.” So I said “No wonder those letters are so beautiful.” Then I accused him of copying the letters like a Casanova. I continued accusing him and confronting him because I was so mad. He got up and was furious and said, “I’ve heard enough! You are accusing me of writing those letters falsely and pretending to love you, when I thought I had opened my soul to you.” He stormed out and banged the door.
I remember thinking good and that it was finally over. I told my grandmother and mother not to worry and that it was over and we wouldn’t be hearing from him anymore. Instead though, his father wrote a letter and said that Felice wanted to come back and explain things. But we were getting ready to leave so there wasn’t time for that. Then a little later I received another letter saying, “I don’t know whether to love you or hate you.” He continued on saying that I accused him wrongly and so forth. Then he went to his sister and she said he ought to excuse me because I was American and didn’t know their ways.
Well my uncle and everyone was afraid and watched me like a hawk, they weren’t sure what Felice was going to do. Felice left their house and nobody knew where he had gone. We had my cousin from another town, Peter, accompany us to protect us on our travels. My uncle from Sant’Agata came too, but only traveled with us as far as Palermo and Peter was going to travel all the way to Naples with us till we got on the steamer that would take us to the states. My uncle went through the entire boat in Palermo searching for Felice to make sure he wasn’t on the boat. He exited the boat and told us he made a complete search and found nothing and we were fine to board the boat.
So Peter, he was big, said, “Don’t worry. I will be with them till the boat leaves Naples.” Uncle said his farewell and boarded a train back to Sant’Agata. Peter and my mother were on the boat talking and my sister and I had to go down to the cabin. We had a package that we were to place in our cabin because we didn’t want to carry it around the deck with us. So I said, “Mom, I have this package and we are going to take it to the cabin. After we get settled a little, we will come back up.” So she continued talking to our cousin and we went down.
Remember the story of Monte Cristo, and how the clock struck eleven? Well we got down to the cabin and all of a sudden we hear someone say, “Laura.” It was so startling. He was standing right there in the hallway because he had gotten the cabin right next to ours.
So my sister walked into our cabin and I handed her the package and just then I heard “Laura.” I turned around and there Felice was standing right there at the entrance to our cabin! I said, “Felice, what are you doing here?” he told me he couldn’t let me leave thinking that he hated me. He said “You have taken my heart. I could not let you go and think ill of me. I don’t want you thinking all my letters were putting on an act. I had to come and tell you that I really love you. Those letters were from my heart, not from any book.” And I said, “Felice, your family, what are they going to think? Send them a telegram.” He told me he already did and that he didn’t want them to worry any longer. He sent a telegram saying, “I saw Laura
. I am with her now.”
I told my sister we needed to go back upstairs and tell mama that he was here. So he followed us up to the deck to where our mama was still talking to Peter and once we got close my mother was saying, “I thank God we got rid of him” and just before she finished her sentence Virginia said, “Mom, the Cavaliere is here!” My mother could hardly speak, she began making the sign of the cross and was stunned. She acknowledged that he was here but was caught way off guard. My poor mama. She was caught speechless.
After Felice met my mother on the boat, we did make up and decided to continue our friendship. If it was meant to be we decided it would happen. So we promised to write to one another. I did not kiss him though, I did not feel like kissing him. I did like him a lot by this point.
We wondered where he had been hiding when our uncle had searched the boat. I think maybe he saw uncle and just went behind or ahead of him.
So we arrived in Naples and had to board our other ship. We had to wait in a long line of people because we had to check in and we thought that we would never make it. Well by this time, Felice was still with us and he walked right up to the ticket booth and he opened up his coat jacket a little. He had a little button that showed the person who he was and then we were moved to the front of the line! Before the ship left, we had a little time to walk around Naples.
While walking around Naples, we stopped at the church. Felice and I both knelt down and prayed. He prayed that God would bless us with a reunion and that he would make his dream come true. We made our way back to board the boat and we said goodbye to him. We went down to the cabin and found a huge bouquet of roses in our sink. We rushed back to the boat entrance to say thank you to him, but the gates had already closed so you couldn’t talk easily but I raised the roses up and waved to him! I yelled over to him, “Pray to God that I don’t get sick.” And he responded with, “I’ll pray to God that we will get married!” He didn’t understand that isn’t what I was asking!