Alchemist Gift – Marcella Narrowly Escapes
Alchemist Gift continued: Marcella found that her curiosity brought her to every shop, some she entered and others she just peered in through the open door or the windows. She loved the different spicy scents and acrid odors of the market place. She loved the colorful people with their funny rhyming chants they would sing-song to attract buyers. One man had birds that sang beautiful songs from behind the bars of their little gold colored cages. Marcella wished she had the money to buy all of them and set them free.
Marcella saw everything in a new and thirsty light. The buildings in the town and the town itself that had never been more than a backdrop for the dramas and diversion of its citizens all of a sudden became a wonder of organization and a testament to human ingenuity. Marcella had seen the church almost every day of her life. In the midpoint of her thirteenth year she realized what a truly breath taking achievement it was.
One morning on the way to the fountain she saw a lead pencil that had rolled into one of the cracks between the time worn paving stones. She snatched up her find and thanked Saint Anthony, then ran to the bookbinder and begged a few scrapes of paper. That evening she sat out at the garden table, and by the light of an old sputtering oil lamp she drew her own fanciful versions of buildings and towers and castles.
A few months after her glorious experience, she had her first period. Marcella became a family concern. One morning she was told by Fausto to leave the shop because she dropped two spools of thread and as they rolled across the floor they became quite entwined. The more she tried to separate them the tighter the tangle became. Her little ego was smarting from Fausto’s rather indelicate words.
Marcella headed for the kitchen to see if she could help her mother prepare the mid-day meal. She heard Farintino and her mother talking. When she heard her name mentioned she stopped outside the kitchen door and went unnoticed as she stood in the hallway and listened.
“Good husband, I feel Marcella is too young for such a thing.” The two sat at the old gray work table in the kitchen. They drank water. Amelia had sent the three little ones out to spend the blustery afternoon with their Great Aunt Prunella.
“She is ready. Any man with half a brain would snatch up such a clever and fresh young thing.”
“Good husband, she is still no more than a girl.” Amelia idly ran her finger tip over one of the many long slice marks that crisscrossed the table top, and then sipped her water. The wind blew outside and the leaves on the orange tree squeaked on the window pane.
“Father thinks it’s time. You know he has never taken to her.”
In a rare show of impatience she repeated her husband’s words. “Yes, I know, I know he has never taken to her, or taken to you or to me for that matter.” Amelia looked up. “She is a good girl and has always done what she is told and never complained. Farintino, she’s still a girl. Look at her, she is so skinny. She hasn’t even the beginnings of a curve to her body.”
“You were a girl when you came here.” Farintino said gently.
“Yes I was, so young and such a silly child even at seventeen.” Amelia felt a shiver stir in her. “Let’s not rush her out of the house, she is my daughter. The girls and I would miss her.”
After a pause Farintino finally agreed. “Yes she would be missed, but we have other fine Andano daughters; you will not be all alone.” Farintino’s attempt at levity fell short. He could read the concern on Amelia’s face at finding a husband for Marcella.
Marcella backed away from the kitchen door. She was stunned at the thought of being married off; of being sent away. Panic drove her out the back door and through garden to the back gate and into the alley. She ran down the alley and across the square. She could see nothing but her feet and hear nothing but the slap of her footfalls against the paving stones. She felt nothing but the strong cool breeze against her face and bare arms. Marcella ran towards the east gate. She dodged around the busy people and wooden carts, past a barefoot country girl with a long crook who ushered a flock of shirking geese, past a dozen or so gray and brown donkeys laden with colorful crockery or bolts of fabric or firewood. Marcella ran past a few idle laborers who lounged in the shade of the gate’s arch and laughed and mocked some beggars who were arguing about who was to sit where and who was there first.
She finally ran under the arch and outside the town’s walls. When she was a good hundred yards or so past the gate she slowed, and stopped, bent forward, put her hands on her knees and tried to catch her breath. Her heart raced in her chest. Her blood surged and pounded in her veins. She couldn’t seem to get enough air in her lungs. The early autumn breeze rushed over her and cooled her flushed and sweaty face.
Marcella slowly caught her breath, her heart beat less fast and she regained her calm and composure. She continued to walk along the path away from the town. “I don’t want to get married.” she said out loud. “I’m not going to get married, no matter what any of them say.” Hearing the words made her feel better. She was both hungry and thirsty and wished she ate something or drank something before she ran off.
She followed the lane to a little side trail that went up over a low hill. Marcella wanted to get to her special place and sit alone in the shade of the walnut tree and look out over her beloved pond. The side trail to the pond shrunk to a foot path that was now no more than a faint line crushed into the dry grass. It descended into a wide golden pasture bordered by low hillocks studded with large granite rocks and boulders.
Marcella looked ahead and saw a number of rust colored, shaggy cattle under the walnut tree; some sitting, some standing and some drinking from the now muddied brown pond. She slowed and stopped at the sight of the cattle. Her refuge was taken. Marcella stood there. The grass rippled and hissed around her knees in the breeze.
Before long she saw the farmer, Carlo Longo, cross his pasture headed for his cattle. Nero, his very energetic black and white dog raced ahead of him, barking the entire time. The dog stopped and impatiently waited for his master to catch up. The moment his master was within a few feet, Nero with his tail wagging wildly ran back to him and jumped up and nudged Carlo with his paws. The dog lost itself in a few frenetic circles, bounded ahead of his master and threw a few sidelong glances back at Carlo to make sure he was still coming. Carlo waved when he saw Marcella. She waved back and left Carlo and Nero to drive the cattle away. With some disappointment Marcella decided to turn around and head back home. Neither Farintino nor Amelia knew she knew.
Marcella hadn’t gone fifty paces on the lane when she looked up and saw her sisters and Great Aunt Prunella coming towards her. Marcella was never so glad to see her aunt and sisters. She ran up to them and threw her arms around the surprised and smiling woman.
“Hello sweetheart, have you come to greet us?” She gently pushed Marcella’s hair out of her eyes and laid the longer strands over her ears. “You’re a sight; all sweaty and red, have you been running?”
Before Marcella could answer Maria spoke up. “We just got some honey. I’m carrying it.” With some effort she held up a small crock that was tied with a cloth over its mouth.
Marcella’s other two sisters, Miranda and the youngest Rini, were engrossed in eating chunks of honey comb. Honey was all over their hands and faces along with a good sprinkling of dark brown dust. Marcella offered to carry the crock so Maria could eat her honey comb, but only on the Maria’s condition that she carry the crock into the kitchen and give it to mother.
The girls and Prunella made their way back to Terra Sanctus. Marcella was on the left of Prunella and the three sisters on her right. Marcella ached to tell her aunt the awful news but she decided to wait until they were back home and alone.
It was all moot. Shortly after Marcella ran out the back door while Farintino and her mother were discussing her future, Fausto, who was in the main room looking over the ledgers, felt a sharp pain in his right temple. He heard a crackling noise in his right ear and his vision was crowded out by a storm of red and black flotsam. He fell and hit his head on the corner of his desk and lay there unconscious until Farintino went looking for him. He told Amelia and she hurried out of the house and asked the first doctor she found to come with her.
The doctor happened to be a certain Jacopo Gallo, an army surgeon who just bought his release from military duty. He sat outside on a bench in front of the barber shop and was just finishing his lunch of soft cheese and some garlic biscuits he bought from a pretty young girl. He still wore his uniform and the caduceus insignia was in plain sight. He left the carnival of mangled bodies and gangrenous limbs that always lead to pointless amputations that would nine times out of ten become septic and just prolong the soldier’s misery on his eventual march to eternity. Amelia’s urgency was quelled as Gallo raised his hand to calm the excited woman. To his surprise it worked.
“It is my father-in-law, Master Fausto Andano, he has fallen and is unconscious.”
Gallo looked at the biscuit in his hand took a bite and looked up at Amelia. “And, why do you tell me this?”
Amelia was annoyed that the doctor spoke with his mouth full and by the doctor’s indifferent manner. “I see on your breast you wear the caduceus. Are you not a doctor?”
Gallo slipped the last bite of biscuit into his mouth and gave the impression of deep thought as he slowly chewed and swallowed the morsel. “You are correct; I am a trained doctor and surgeon.”
After a pause Amelia said, “We have money.”
Gallo nodded and stood and followed Amelia back to the house.
Gallo’s diagnosis was that Fausto had a stroke and hit his head when he fell to the floor. There was nothing Gallo could do for him. “Keep him warm and he may wake up or he may not. Pray for his soul and recovery.” He stood tight lipped and craned his neck and leaned in a little toward Farintino. Gallo raised his eyebrows and cleared his throat.
Farintino thought for a second then took his purse from the desk drawer and handed Gallo a silver piece. Jacopo looked in his palm at the coin. “Call on me again.” he said as he left the house. The moment he was clear of the front door he turned his hand over and looked down at the silver piece and smiled, then chuckled to himself. “That was too easy, much too easy.”
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.
I am writing the novel Alchemist Gift online in real time. I will share a few paragraphs of the book with each blog. I am still writing the book. I’d like to know how you like what you are reading. Please use the comments section to share. If you make suggestions in your comments, I may incorporate your ideas into the book. We hope you will enjoy the process as much as I do, follow the saga and share it with your friends and colleagues.
Copyright 2013 Mark D. Giglio, www.theartofgiglio.com
All rights reserved. This article may not be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, in part or in whole, without written permission of Mark D. Giglio. Use of this article without permission is a violation of federal copyright law.