“ Say goodnight to your sister!” Giulietta instructed Maddalena as she rocked the infant back and forth. “ Goodnight, Caterina!” Maddalena cooed and waved her hands at the baby, making the baby giggle. “ Now off to bed with you!” Giulietta pat Maddalena on the shoulder and gave her a little push towards the door. “Tomorrow is Niccolo’s birthday and you need your rest.” Lucrezia scooted out of the room, closing the door gently behind her as to not wake Giusseppe or Niccolo who were both already asleep in the nursery.
The next afternoon, the family had gathered around a cake in the kitchen to watch Niccolo blow out his candles.
Isabetta and Antonio had come over that morning, bringing Netta along to play with her cousins. Tina had tagged along and the four girls were currently playing in the other room. The adults were watching as Niccolo reached for the candles and his mother pulled him out of reach of the flames.
Soon after, Niccolo was munching away on a piece of cake in the dining room. His sisters and cousin invited him to play, but he declined, preferring to sulk about the house on his own, lamenting over the fact that he didn’t have any brothers to wrestle with; only a bunch of girls.
Later that week, once the children were tucked into bed and the house was empty, Piero challenged Giulietta to a game of chess to settle a dispute they had been having over Niccolo’s education. “ I still say he should be sent to a school!” Giulietta said, sliding her rook across the board. “ And I insist he learn my trade! He is of the proper age now to become my apprentice and, once he is old enough, I will turn the apothecary shop over to him!” Piero blocked her move by capturing her rook with his knight.
“ Niccolo has shown great interest in books! In fact, he much prefers them to anything else, really! How many times have we caught him hiding in a corner, reading, instead of completing his chores?” Giulietta emphasized her point by taking her husband’s queen with her bishop. Now he only had a rook and a few pawns left. “ That may be so, but taking over my trade is the proper thing to do. He may have the makings of a scholar, but, as the oldest son, it is his job to follow in my footsteps.” Piero scanned the board for a few moments before making a last attempt to win the game. He moved his last rook across the board and took Giulietta’s knight.
With a graceful flick of the wrist, Giulietta took Piero’s rook with her queen, placing her piece directly in line of his king. “Checkmate!” she announced gleefully as she jumped up, “Looks like I win!” Pushing the pieces into the drawers, Piero stood also, “So it seems, my dear. It appears that Niccolo will be attending school, as you wish.”
“ Don’t look so upset, Piero! You forget that you have another son! Niccolo may not take over your business, but Giusseppe will be old enough soon.” “ Yes, yes, I know.” he said, smiling. He truly loved his wife’s enthusiasm. “Now, I think it best we look into schools. There still is, after all, the matter of cost. We are not the richest people in all of Florence and I want my son to have the best education possible.”
“ Don’t worry, we have time for that later.” Giulietta said sweetly, wrapping her arms around Piero’s neck. “Besides, I just beat you in chess. Shouldn’t we celebrate?” “ Oh, I think we should.” he answered, kissing her on the lips. Walking with arms their arms around each other, they went upstairs and to their room to celebrate Giulietta’s victory.
Soon later, Maddalena, Caterina, and Giusseppe were all due for a birthday. Giulietta had worked all day to bake three cakes for that night’s celebration.
Maddalena had blossomed into quite the attractive young woman. While she knew any man would love to have her as his wife, she preferred the pursuit of knowledge to the pursuit of men.
Halfway across town, Netta had also recently celebrated a birthday.
She had grown into a great beauty admired by many. Several young men had already lined up, vying for her attention, but her father kept them at bay. Unlike her cousin, she was very excited to grow up and start a family soon.
Her parents, who had recently become much closer, spent much of their times in each others company, leaving Netta free time which she used to further her studies in housekeeping.
Under the tutelage of her nanny, Marie, she had become quite learned in the womanly arts. She could sew, keep funds, clean, and cook like the best of them. With the addition of her sizeable dowry, she was looking forward to several marriage proposals soon.
Maddalena, on the other hand, didn’t have a large dowry waiting for her. It was of modest size and not much of an incentive for the local Florentine boys to come calling. It hardly mattered to her, though. Maddalena busied herself by helping out around the house and reading whatever she could get her hands on. She rather enjoyed having discussions with Niccolo, who had recently been accepted into school.
The headmaster, Signore Grimaldi had visited the family at the request of Piero. He was the headmaster of a very prestigious school for boys located along the river in the center of town. When he saw Niccolo’s potential, the headmaster kindly looked past the family’s lack of funds and offered him a scholarship which he immediately accepted.
While things were going well in the education department, the same could not be said for Niccolo’s relationship with his sister, Lucrezia. For some reason, the two could not get along and often spent their days fighting…
Finally the day came that Lucrezia would grow up. Blowing out her candles, she wished for lots of friends and for Niccolo to stop beating her.
She thanked the saints that she finally towered over her brother and would be able to put him in his place if he picked a fight with her again.
Over at the Costa house, things were going well. Isabetta had recently discovered she was pregnant again.
When she told Antonio, he was over the moon and insisted that she take it easy and relax for the next several months.
One day in late October, Isabetta went into labor. Netta quickly found Marie at the behest of her mother and explained the situation.
Remembering what had happened last time, Marie hastened off to help Isabetta deliver the baby, praying that things would go better this time.
After several long, lonely hours of waiting and pacing in the parlor, Netta was called up to see her sibling.
Isabetta had given birth to a bouncing baby boy, christened Leonardo. Marie pronounced him healthy and strong and the entire family thanked the Lord that they would not have to suffer another loss.
Leonardo grew quickly into a little cherub-faced toddler. He was the apple of his father’s eye and waddled around after Antonio, trying to imitate him in every way.
In the Moretti household, Piero and Giulietta also welcomed a new addition into their family. They had just returned from the Twelfth Night feast at Isabetta’s house when Giulietta went into labor.
Christoforo was delivered safely just before midnight. An exhausted Giulietta tucked him into a cradle and fell into bed herself.
“ Yes!” Niccolo exclaimed in joy when he saw the marks he had earned in his classes. All of his professors thought highly of him, even if his schoolmates didn’t. they often teased him about his scholarship, waving their riches in front of his face, but it hardly mattered to Niccolo. He knew that he was smarter than the rest of the boys and used it as his own leverage to get them to leave him alone.
“ Mother, mother! Look what my professors have written about me!” he waved the slip of parchment up and down excitedly and hopped about excitedly, trying to get her attention. “ In a minute, dear.” she answered distractedly as she bustled across the floor with Christoforo in one arm and a bowl of dough in the other. Niccolo waited a few seconds for his mother to finish, but when Christoforo started crying, he gave up.
“ I got good marks from my professors again, mother.” Niccolo said, folding the paper and putting it in his pocket. His mother was so busy he knew she wouldn’t have time to read the comments. Tonight was Christoforo’s birthday and she was trying to bake a cake and make dinner simultaneously. “ That’s great, dear!” she commented quietly. She was focused on housework and didn’t have time to concentrate on much else. “Pick that up, will you?” she pointed to a bottle that had rolled off the counter. Sighing, Niccolo picked up the bottle and set it on the counter before leaving. While he wished she paid more attention to his schoolwork, it didn’t much matter to him; he tried just as hard.
Several hours later, the family gathered in the kitchen to celebrate Christoforo’s birthday.
Unfortunately, Christoforo suffered from allergies from the pollen floating in the summer air. Piero worked hard and was able to make a new remedy to calm his sneezes which became quite popular among the Florentine townspeople.
In the meantime, Lucrezia shocked the family by dyeing her hair blonde: the fashionable hair color. She had bought elements from a local alchemist and applied them to her head in order to seem more attractive. She had grown up quickly and was already thinking about romance, love, and, most important of all, marriage.
Luckily, her plan worked. She soon caught the eye of a young man who lived down the street named Chandler. His parents had passed on a few months ago and he was currently supporting himself by making and selling candles.
Lucrezia soon found herself quite smitten with the young man. He would walk her home from the market sometimes and, sneaking away from prying eyes, steal kisses from the eager young maid.
A few weeks later, as Niccolo stood in front of his cake, he made a wish on his candles.
His time at the academy had rubbed off on Niccolo and he wished to always be able to learn more, but at the same time be able to support his family is the same luxurious lifestyle that the other boys in his class bragged about.
Lucrezia, on the other hand, was far too busy with her romantic escapades to concentrate too much on her future. She and Chandler had snuck around the house often, kissing in corners and hugging in secret. It wasn’t appropriate for a young maid such as Lucrezia to be so intimate with a man not her betrothed.
Unfortunately for them, they weren’t sneaky enough. Chandler was over for supper one evening when he and Lucrezia had sneaked off to the front room to sneak a few kisses. Piero had gone looking for his daughter, only to find her locked in the boy’s embrace. Pulling the two apart angrily, he angrily demanded an explanation. “ I-I was only-well, that is to say…” Chandler stumbled nervously over his words, embarrassed about being caught. “ I said, explain yourself!” Piero thundered.
Lucrezia gave Chandler an encouraging look, urging him to explain the situation. Taking support from her glance, Chandler began again, “Signore, I am in love with your daughter.” Piero just stared the boy down. “ Signore, I must admit that we have been carrying on like this for several weeks and I am ashamed about doing it behind your back. I had hoped to come to you and ask for her hand. That is, if you’ll allow me.” Piero continued staring for a while. Truth be told, this was the last thing he had expected to find when he came looking for his daughter that evening.
Turning to Lucrezia, he sighed and asked “How do you feel about this, dear?” “ I love him, papa.” she answered assuredly. Piero rolled his eyes and threw his hands up in defeat, “Very well. If you both feel so strongly, I give my consent. I will have the banns posted this Sunday at church. Consider yourselves betrothed.” Piero called his wife and the rest of his brood into the front room to announce his daughters (very) recent engagement.
He sat at the piano and played a merry tune while the newly betrothed couple indulged the family with a kiss to celebrate. The rest of the family cheered and Giulietta wept, wondering how her daughter had grown up so fast. It seemed that just yesterday she had still had black hair and was toddling around the house.
The banns were posted that Sunday as Piero had promised and, upon hearing the news, Lucrezia’s relatives celebrated and passed on their congratulations. Isabetta, who had announced she was with child again, sent her niece a few things to store away in her cassone*. *A chest made for a bride to store things she would need for married life. The equivalent of a hope chest.
Leonardo had recently had a birthday and, since he was now of the proper age, had begun his apprenticeship with his father. He went to work with him every day to learn the trade of the Costa business.
When one of Antonio’s colleagues in England, William, heard of Leonardo’s apprenticeship, he traveled down to Florence to come meet the future heir to the Costa fortune. He traveled alone and, because Isabetta was busy with the impending birth of her next child and Antonio busy with business, Marie instructed Netta that the job of entertaining the guest fell to her. She gave him tours of the house, introduced him to all her friends about town, and took him to parties almost daily. Together, the two had a grand time and soon became friends.
Their routine was interrupted one night when Marie informed the household that Isabetta’s child was ready to be born. The house flew into a frenzy, all members trying to pitch in because the birth was not going well. Marie had noticed strange complications and was worried that the baby would not make it.
However, Marie heaved a huge sigh of relief when it turned out to be nothing more than twins. Cara and Bella were delivered brought safely into the world that night.
The day after the twins were born, Netta was able to escape to the sunroom to do some painting. William had been out since that morning so she had had some time to herself before he returned. She was so lost in her artwork that she didn’t notice when her father came into the room.
He stood behind her and cleared his throat to get her attention. Netta startled a bit and put her brushes down to inquire as to her father’s visit. “ I have some good news, daughter. William came to me this morning before he went out. It seems that you have made quite the impressions on him, my dear! He asked for your hand in marriage!” Netta blushed as she listened to her father. True, she had grown fond of William in the past few weeks, but she had never expected a proposal!
“ What did you tell him, papa? Did you say yes?” “ To be honest, he caught me quite off guard. I’ve been so wrapped up in my business and the birth of the twins that I neglected to notice the relationship developing between the two of you. I told him that I was not able to make that decision and gave him permission to ask you himself.” “ He’s going to ask me ?” Netta stared incredulously at her father. A million questions popped into her head and they all tumbled out of her mouth, “When will he ask me? What will he say? How should I answer? What am I supposed to do?”
“ Don’t worry about all that!” Antonio patted his daughter’s shoulder comfortingly, “When he does ask, answer how you think you should.” “ What do you think, papa?” “ William is a great friend of mine and I hold him in high esteem. If I were you, I would give great consideration to the union. It would be an advantageous match for the both of you.” Netta just nodded and promised to think about her answer. Antonio excused himself and Netta went back to her painting, this time with her head full of new, strange thoughts.
That afternoon, William returned to the Costa house and asked Netta for a private audience. She agreed to meet him and, after freshening up, came downstairs to find him stoking the fire in the dining room. She took a seat at the far end of the table and watched silently as Tina came joined them at the other end. Tina was trusted by the entire family and constantly acted as chaperone for Netta and William.
“ Say goodnight to your sister!” Giulietta instructed Lucrezia as she rocked the infant back and forth. “ Goodnight, Caterina!” Lucrezia cooed and waved her hands at the baby, making the baby giggle. “ Now off to bed with you!” Giulietta pat Lucrezia on the shoulder and gave her a little push towards the door. “Tomorrow is Niccolo’s birthday and you need your rest.” Lucrezia scooted out of the room, closing the door gently behind her as to not wake Giusseppe or Niccolo who were both already asleep in the nursery.
“ I’m very pleased you accepted my invitation, Signora Costa.” William began the conversation as he sat down by Netta. “ I’ve told you a million times, you may call me Netta.” she answered. William blushed and agreed to use her nickname. “ How was your trip this morning? Did you go anywhere of interest?” she asked him, trying to get the conversation going.
“ It was pleasant, thank you for asking. I went into town and did some shopping. As a matter of fact, I picked something up for you at the jeweler’s.”
William picked a small box up that had been sitting on the floor by the table legs. “I saw this in a shop window and thought of you. As your father has no doubt already told you, I have become quite fond of you during our short acquaintance. “
“ I know that you don’t have to accept my, but I would be very pleased if you would become my wife.”
William slid the box closer to Netta and waited for her answer. At first Netta panicked. Her mind blanked and she didn’t know how to answer. Taking a deep breath, she thought back to what her father had said. Answer how you think you should.
“ I would be honored, William.” William’s face broke into a smile as he opened the box and slipped a diamond ring onto Netta’s finger.
Netta excused herself as soon as was possible and dragged Tina out into the garden where they both squealed in delight over Netta’s engagement. “ I can’t believe it! You’re engaged !” Tina said as she examined Netta’s ring. “ I know! I never expected it, either!” Netta’s face became serious for a moment, “And you know what it means, don’t you?” Netta shrugged her shoulders. “I’ll have to move with William. To London.” The move was something Netta had contemplated before answering but had come to the conclusion that it would be exciting to see a new place.
“ I hadn’t thought of that.” Netta said and her face fell. The two had been together since birth and were the best of friends. It would a rather sudden and difficult change to be separated by so many miles. “ I have a plan though,” Netta said excitedly. “Come with me! I would be so lonely without you and I’m sure William wouldn’t mind!” Tina’s face lit up, but before she could say anything, Netta interrupted her, “However, there is one stipulation. I want you to travel with me as a companion; not a servant.” Tears sprung to Tina’s eyes and she nodded eagerly. Words failed her as she absorbed the situation. Netta was releasing her from her servant status and she was going to travel as a lady’s companion , not a poor serving girl. She could hardly contain her excitement as she gave her friend a hug and hurried off to tell her mother the good news.
The next day, William announced that it was time for him to return back to England. He was going back to his family estate to make arrangements for Netta to join him in a few weeks once he had set up a home for the two of them. The family walked him out the door to say their goodbyes.
Once William had said most of his goodbyes, Antonio and Isabetta kindly life him with Netta so the couple could say a more intimate farewell.
“ I’ll send for you once the estate is ready.” William said. “ I’m looking forward to it.” Netta blushed as she spoke. It was strange being alone with William, but she figured that, now that she was engaged, it was alright. She moved in to give William a hug, but he caught her off guard by kissing her full on the lips. Her whole body tingled as she watched her betrothed take his leave.
Rushing inside and up the stairs, she found Tina and quickly told her about what had just occurred. The two stayed up late into the night, talking and giggling in nervous anticipation. Neither of them were quite sure what was in store for them, but they couldn’t be more excited to find out.
That’s all for now! See you all next time for the start of the looooong round of generation three weddings!!