Alchemist Gift – Renaissance. It’s a Miracle.
Alchemist Gift continued: The five reprieved witches soberly waited as Marta along with her daughter returned to the Provost’s Office. The room was warm and lit by many candles. Marta carried some simple dresses, clothing donated for the poor, that would be warm and comfortable. Rosina had heavy woolen socks and opened back slippers for everyone and an arm load of towels and small blankets.
Upon seeing her charges Marta was struck by the irony; they stood quiet and sullen in a semi-circle around the raging hearth. Marta felt ambivalent toward the entire situation. She knew these people. She did business with some of them. She saw them in church and at the market place. As far as she could tell they were faithful wives, good mothers and honest traders. But they confessed to being witches earlier that day and the Word of the Church is true and sacred and to be obeyed. Marta had to consider her own immortal soul. For now, they were her concern and she would treat them kindly with warmth and charity.
Rosina and Marta went to each woman, one at a time, and helped them out of their soaking shifts. They gave the shivering women towels and helped dry their hair, shoulders and backs. The kind and gentle treatment changed the somber mood of the room. When Rosina helped Bianca Molino step out of her clothes, Bianca looked down at her chest and arms and legs. To her happy amazement the sores were gone. The pain was gone. Her skin was healthy and clear again. Naked, she fell to her knees and sobbed for joy as she thanked God over and over again.
Marta put a warm blanket over the woman’s shoulders. “Go fetch the Bishop.” An excited Marta called out to Rosina. “Hurry girl, hurry; tell him it’s a miracle!”
Rosina opened the door. The rain had stopped. The sky, though still dark, was much less overcast and was beginning to clear as the last of the cold wind was replaced with an unseasonably warm, westerly breeze. The afternoon sun tinted the bilious clouds with gold, rose and gray hues. Sunlight poured down in grand, wide, beams illuminating and warming the square. Steam began to rise from the paving stones. Birds returned from the shelter of the eaves and the belfry. They alit at puddles, drank, bathed and sang glorious little songs.
Those who were pent up in the church and shops and wherever they could find shelter began to reappear. Parents were reunited with children. Some boys and Sergeant Gagliardi circled the church bell that was lying on the ground in front of the dais. Monsignor Petri finally climbed out from his den under the dais and lumbered like a large black bear toward the sacristy. He thought of how good the wine would taste and how it would warm and refresh him.
People looked at each other differently, more thoughtfully. Although the external trappings of class still divided them they shared in a deep communion that was revealing and humbling. A quiet politeness shown by all, rich to poor, sinner to saint, dispelled the morbid and visceral shadow that darkened those self-righteous souls who were so blood thirsty just a few hours earlier.
The wood for the cleansing pyres was scattered all over the place. Pieces piled up against the city gate, against the fountain and the dais. When the gutters backed up, the neatly stacked logs and branches floated away on rivulets of rain water and were driven by the wind willy-nilly ending up in most unusual places. The six naked stakes stood like the ruins of some pagan temple.
“Where’s the bishop?” Rosina asked the first few people she saw; they didn’t know. Rosina answered their curious looks with, “Mama says it’s a miracle, I saw it with my own eyes! It’s Bianca Molina, go look; they’re in the Provost’s office.”
As she ran to the rectory she told everyone in earshot that a miracle took place. The word “miracle” was now on everyone’s lips. When Rosina saw the Mayor, Doctor Gallo, Father Eduardo and Lorenzo Patriarca at the front door of the rectory she immediately headed toward them.
“Mayor Renaldi, sir, sir, Father Eduardo, there is a miracle.” Rosina, out of breath, was excited and happy to be the bearer of such news. As an afterthought Rosina remembered to curtsy.
“Rosina is it? A miracle you say?” The others smiled and looked at the red cheeked girl whose eyes were glowing. Renaldi tried not to be too patronizing. “Tell us child, what miracle is this?”
“Bianca, Bianca Molina she is cured. Her sores are gone, her skin is clear. When I left the room she kneeled down and cried and thanked our savior. It is a miracle, yes?”
Renaldi’s arrogant smile faded and his brow furrowed. “Those terrible oozing sores are gone? Is that possible?” The mayor addressed the question to Doctor Gallo.
The doctor cocked his head to the side and looked past the mayor as he thought for a few long seconds, then he returned to the mayor and the others. “Not in my experience. I have never seen or come across a spontaneous healing such as this. If that’s what it is. But, that is not to say it isn’t possible.”
“It can’t be a miracle,” said Lorenzo Patriarca bluntly. “Our Lord Jesus would not heal a confessed witch and then strike down my daughter would he?”
“Signore Patriarca, it is the hail that struck down your daughter, not our dear lord.” said Father Silva gently.
Before Lorenzo could speak, Gallo took the reins of the conversation.
“We must examine the woman; this talk of a miracle is just that: Talk!”
Renaldi spoke to the girl. “Fetch the bishop, go to the kitchen door and knock loud.”
Rosina dashed off toward the rear of the rectory, over the stone path that ran through the little garden then up the step to the back door. She knocked and waited. Rosina heard the shrill sound of a chair leg being dragged over the stone floor. Then she heard footsteps and Annamarie’s voice.
Annamarie opened the door and let her friend in. “Rosina come in, come in. What is it?”
The girl burst into the room, she took her friend by the hands. “I must get the bishop, Mayor Renaldi told me to. It’s a miracle! “
Annamarie met Rosina’s joyful news with a confused stare. “Miracle?” she finally said.
“Yes, I must get the bishop.” Rosina wriggled her friend’s hands as she spoke.
“Bishop DiMars said he wasn’t to be bothered.” A look of concern crossed the girl’s brow. After a few seconds of deliberation Annamarie spoke. “Let me ask him.”
“I’ll go with you.” Rosina took Annamarie’s hand and they mounted the stairs. Annamarie lightly knocked and waited for a reply; when she heard none she looked over to her friend. Rosina who needed to deliver her message had no problem pounding on the door. “Bishop DiMars, Bishop DiMars, Mayor Renaldi sent me. There’s been a miracle.”
Annamarie though shocked at Rosina’s actions could not help an impish smile as she held back her friend’s hand as Rosina was about to knock again. “No, no.” Annamarie whispered.
“Mayor Renaldi sent me and so did Doctor Gallo and Signore Patriarca.” called Rosina.
DiMars was finished with his penance. He sat in the dark on his bed. He wore a shawl around his shoulders. His back hurt but he was at peace. He had to digest the news before he answered. Since Patriarca’s name was mentioned the miracle might involve Gina, his daughter. With Renaldi involved it could have something to do with either one of their futures and with Gallo, it might be of a celestial or mundane nature. One never knew with that man. He rubbed his forehead and cheeks. Then finally called out to the girls. “Have them wait in the parlor, I’ll be down shortly.”
Rosina and Annamarie scampered down the stairs. Rosina left her friend and headed back to the Provost’s office. Annamarie ran through the rectory to the foyer and opened the front door. The four men entered, followed Annamarie into the parlor and sat. “Bishop DiMars will be down shortly.” Annamarie left the men and returned to the kitchen, put the big copper kettle on the fire and prepared a tray with five cups and the tea pot.
The bishop entered the kitchen. He was dressed in black and wore a large silver cross. He had his comfortable slippers on. Annamarie was putting the loose tea in the small, woven brewing basket. He spoke in the familiar and lively tone his young servant was used to. “No… no tea…, be a good girl and set out glasses and fetch the brandy.” Annamarie nodded; he stopped her before she left the room. “The miracle, what do you know?”
“Only that Bianca Molino is cured. Her sores are gone. That’s what Rosina said; she said she saw it with her own eyes.”
“Bianca Molina.” The bishop repeated, “Cured.” He let out a sigh then nodded and accepted what had happened. “Find some biscotti or maybe some cheese and bread, one or the other and set it out for us.”
“Yes sir.” Annamarie left the room and headed for the pantry.
Bishop DiMars stood there for a moment and twiddled his thumbs. “Perhaps that is what this day needs, a miracle.” He thought to himself.
He left the kitchen and walked down the dark hall. The parlor was awash with light that poured through the tall windows. Renaldi, Gallo and Father Silva stood when the bishop entered. Lorenzo crossed his arms, remained seated and frowned.
DiMars nodded to all and bid them to return to their seats. “Signore Patriarca, your daughter, any change?”
Lorenzo Patriarca did not answer directly so Doctor Gallo spoke up. “She is still asleep. She has been taken home and I will look in on her tomorrow.” After a slight pause and a quick glance at Patriarca and then back to the bishop he continued. “It is good of you to ask.”
“And well he should. If it wasn’t for him Gina would be well and happy.”
Renaldi took his turn. “Lorenzo, The good bishop is no more responsible for the weather than anyone else. Please, your daughter is in all of our hearts and in our prayers. Please, make peace with yourself, and with a man you’ve known for most of your life. As leaders, it is our duty to deal with this new situation. A miracle, is it possible?”
Bishop DiMars looked at Father Silva. “Eduardo, none of us has seen this miracle, go to the Provost’s Office and look in on Bianca and the others. Remember, they will say what they think you want to hear. They’re confessed witches; don’t be fooled by any of them. Come back and tell us what you think.”
“Go alone? Don’t you want to see the miracle for yourselves?”
“There will be plenty of time to see Bianca Molino. We trust your judgment.” All nodded in agreement with the bishop.
Father Silva checked his feelings of pride by biting the inside of his lip. “As you wish.” He nodded to each of the men and left them.
“He is a good boy.” said Renaldi with a wistful smile on his lips. “Now, good sirs, now we can discuss this puzzle we have on our hands. You know how these plebs are, so superstitious. We must consider how to deal with Bianca Molino, as well as the other four.”
“What are you talking about?” demanded Patriarca; Jacopo Gallo leaned in and nodded in agreement with Il Signore.
“I’m talking about this: how are we going to look? This morning we are condemning these women to death and this afternoon God bestows a miracle on undoubtedly the most docile of them.” Renaldi and the bishop were in agreement.
“What are you two talking about? I don’t give a fig for what these peasants think, or for that matter your schemes. You DiMars, all you can think of is getting out of here and going to Rome and eventually the Vatican. Your future does not ride on the apron strings of a witch, it rides with me. If I were you I would be on my knees right now praying for my daughter. Her outcome is your outcome. You Renaldi, all you can think of is the next election. Remember where your votes come from.” Lorenzo laid his finger on the side of his nose and gave it a few soft taps.
“Yes Signore, our concerns are certainly not your concerns.” Renaldi agreed.
“The people will believe what we tell them. I see no need for you to be bothered with our petty lives.” Renaldi used his best self-effacing tone.
“Please, that’s enough.” came Patriarca’s exasperated rejoinder.
“Annamarie, where’s our brandy?” The bishop called.
As if on cue the girl entered the room. She carried a silver tray with glasses and a bottle of brandy. She had more than an adequate amount of cheese and thin slices of bread on a plate. She placed the tray on a side table.
“Thank you, dear girl. You’ll find my wet clothes by my door, be a good girl and tend to them. Now, away with you.” Annamarie curtsied and smiled at the Bishop.
Lorenzo Patriarca gave a disgusted shake of his head, and sighed as he spoke. “You treat that little wench like a daughter, not a servant.”
Renaldi shot a wide eyed glance at the bishop. The bishop looked at his old friend as he checked a flinch and remained as expressionless as he could. He took a deep breath. Doctor Gallo studied the looks on both men’s faces and immediately surmised the secret.
“You must forgive me Signore Patriarca if I aspire to be as gentle as the lamb of Christ.”
“Yes, as gentle as a lamb. Believe me, there are no lambs at the Vatican.” Turning away from DiMars and Renaldi, Lorenzo Patriarca looked at his doctor. “Jacopo, I’m in need of your coach.” then to the bishop and mayor. “I must leave, and I leave you to your fortunes or follies. Good day mayor.” The bishop felt the sting of being snubbed, but he let it go and gave a nod and a halfhearted smile.
When Patriarca and Gallo left the room Renaldi got up and poured two glasses of brandy. He handed one to the bishop. DiMars looked into the glass and swirled the amber liquid around, held the glass under his nose and drew in the heady bouquet.
“Don’t fret my friend, Lorenzo is angry and you unfortunately are his Judas. He will soften as soon as Gina gets better.” re-assured Renaldi.
The bishop took a sip and trapped the brandy between his tongue and the roof of his mouth, held it there for a few seconds and swallowed. “You did not see her.” he said thoughtfully.
“A few little bumps on her head, she’s probably sitting at home before a nice fire and eating custard as we speak.”
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The Alchemist Gift is a book about the lives of people in the Renaissance and the alchemy that brought them together with its repercussions on our modern-day hero, Roland.
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2013 Mark D. Giglio, www.theartofgiglio.com
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