It was still dark when Netta and Tina rose. The stone floor was cold against their toes as they hurried across the room to quickly light the fireplace in hopes of generating some warmth. The two girls had tossed and turned all night in nervous excitement. Netta had received a letter from William a week ago saying that he had made the necessary arrangements and was ready for his fiancée to join him in England. Netta was set to sail on this evening’s tide, but not before the family held a goodbye party on her behalf.
The older women, Isabetta, Giulietta, and Bianca had gathered in the parlor to gossip and commiserate about how fast the years had been going by. Isabetta was saddened to see her daughter leaving home so soon so her sister, Bianca, tried to cheer her up by telling amusing stories from the convent.
The younger girls, Isabetta, Caterina, Tina, Maddalena, and Lucrezia had made their way to Netta’s room to do gossiping of their own. Netta had shown the girls her cassone , now full to the brim, and told them all about her husband-to-be. Soon enough, they settled down in a circle on the floor. “ So, Maddalena,” Netta began, “I hear you may have some happy news of your own soon.”
What Netta had said was true; Maddalena had recently become involved with a young man, Destry Wade, who went to school with Niccolo. While Maddalena had been more interested in more educational pursuits for quite some time now, she had found herself unexpectedly attracted to Destry.
Destry was originally from England but was sent to school in Florence to study with some of the better known humanists. He happened to go to school with Niccolo and they would sometimes walk home together.
Maddalena would sometimes get into spirited debates between her brother and his friend, but one thing led to another and, before she knew it, she and Destry were more than just companions.
Maddalena blushed and averted her eyes. Her whole family knew about Destry and many of them suspected he would ask for her hand sometime soon. “ So, what is he like?” Netta coaxed her cousin to tell more. Maddalena blushed even harder, but started telling enough about Destry to satisfy her cousin’s curiosity.
Down the hall, Leonardo was playing with his cousins, Giuseppe and Christoforo, rather loudly. They were running through the halls, shouting and jumping and having an all around good time. They were too young and wild to concern themselves with Netta’s impending voyage.
The older men were loitering in the dining hall enjoying some wine and discussing business. Since Niccolo had recently turned fifteen, he was considered old enough to spend time in the adults’ company and not playing with the younger children, a fact that he very much enjoyed.
The day passed quickly and, before she knew it, Netta was saying her last goodbyes to her relatives. “ Goodbye, dearest cousin,” she said, hugging Maddalena tightly. “I’ll write as soon as we land in England, I promise!” “ And I will write you back!” Maddalena answered and stepped aside so the rest of the family could hug Netta and extend their best wishes for her future.
The trunks had been carried to the dock this morning where the boat was moored, waiting to take Netta on her journey. She had only packed the essentials for her future household; William had promised her a new wardrobe, one better suited to the English styles, once she arrived in London. Tina would be traveling with her, along with Isabetta, Antonio, and Leonardo. Her family would stay a few months until after the wedding, but Tina would take up residence with her friend at Stone Rose Manor. The family said their final goodbyes and piled into the carriage.
The Morettis returned home and life went back to normal. Lucrezia and Niccolo still fought like cats and dogs, much to the dismay of their younger siblings who were often forced to act as mediators.
As soon as Netta arrived in London, she penned her dearest cousin a letter describing her journey. Overall, it had been rather uneventful and the whole party had arrived safely. As a token of her affection, Netta sent along some of her old dresses for Maddalena to wear, now that she had some new ones of her own.
The next surprise came a few days later when Destry stopped by a few days later to enquire after Maddalena. He had recently finished his classes and word was going around town that his father was calling him back to his childhood home in England. His father was ailing and Destry was due to inherit his family’s estate quite soon. When he arrived at the Moretti household, he paced nervously outside until Maddalena came out to see why he wasn’t coming in.
“ My dearest Maddalena.” he said, pulling her around the side of the house. “I’ve come to tell you that the rumors are true; my father is calling be back to London.” “ Oh. When do you leave?” Maddalena tried to keep her face straight, but she couldn’t help but let the sadness she felt show. “ That depends,” he began, pulling her close, “on your answer. You see, I couldn’t imagine going back home without you by my side. My true intention today was to ask your father for your hand, but only if you give your consent first.”
Maddalena shook her head enthusiastically and, taking him by the hand, pulled Destry inside. She quickly found her father in the parlor and pushed Destry onto the bench beside him. “ Why, hello, Destry.” Piero said, puzzled at his daughter’s odd behavior. “ Father, Destry has something to ask you.” Maddalena said, stepping back to let the men talk. “ Well, as you’ve no doubt heard, my father is ill and I’ll be returning to London by the end of the week. However, I wish to ask you for your daughter’s hand in marriage, in hopes of taking her home with me as my betrothed.”
Piero smiled to himself. Truth be told, he had seen this coming for quite a while and wasn’t the least bit surprised. “Signore Wade, I take it my daughter has already said yes.” Maddalena blushed from her spot by the fireplace and Destry nodded “yes”. “ Well, then I suppose there’s only one thing to do…welcome to the family, my son!”
Destry thanked Piero heartily and grabbed his betrothed and slipped a gold band on her slim finger. The rest of the family came into the parlor and offered their congratulations to the new couple. Giulietta made some treats, Piero brought out the wine, and they all celebrated late into the night.
Nearly two and a half weeks after docking in England, Netta was finally dressing for her wedding. The final arrangements had been made, the guests were waiting in their seats, and Netta was due to meet her fiancée at the altar in a few minutes.
Netta had found London rather cold compared to Florence and relished her new dresses with layers of petticoats to keep her warm. He quarters were fairly large and just as drafty. Her mother and brother were staying in the guest rooms down the hall and Tina had settled in to her own room on the other side of the house. Currently, her mother was fussing over her gown, making sure each pleat fell correctly and driving Isabetta absolutely insane. “Honestly, mother! It’s fine! You’ve dusted my shoulder off at least twelve times already.”
“ Oh, and a mother can’t help her daughter on her wedding day ?” Isabetta said, pulling back and admiring her handiwork. “I suppose you’re ready now.” “ Yes, you’re mother is right.” Tina said, crossing the room and giving her friend a hug.
“ You do look nice, though I can’t understand why you won’t wear a headdress. It is the most popular style among ladies right now.” Tina chastised playfully. “ Now, Tina. Headdresses may be in style here in England, but back home in Italy, a married woman isn’t forced to cover her hair and I wish to keep of our old traditions alive.”
“ I know,” Tina winked and adjusted the floral wreath, causing Netta to roll her eyes. From the open windows, they could hear the first notes of the processional march floating through the chilly morning air. Netta smiled at her friend and mother before leading the women out of her chambers.
Tina and Isabetta went straight down the stairs to find their seats among the guests while Netta turned down a separate corridor. Butterflies fluttered around in her belly as she took quick steps towards the back door which she was to enter through.
When she found her way out of doors, she was surprised to see that, along with various other friends of William, her uncle Piero was in attendance with his wife and two oldest daughters. Their presence pleased her and Netta walked down the aisle with confidence, smiling at those who would meet her eyes.
She joined a smiling William underneath the altar that had been constructed only yesterday morning. How quickly the time had passed! It seemed like only yesterday she was a young maiden, still sleeping in the nursery and now, here she was, practically a married woman! Netta was drawn from her thoughts by William taking her hand and beginning his vows.
“ I take the Antonia to my wedded wyf, to have and to holde, fro this day forwarde, for bettere for wors, for richere for pourer, in sycknesse and in hele, tyl dethe us depart, if holy chyrche it woll ordeyne, and therto y plight the my trouthe.” Netta responded in broken, heavily accented English, “I take the William to my wedded housbonde, to have and to holde, fro this day forwarde, for better for wors, for richer for pourer, in syckness and in hele, to be bonere and boxsom* , in bedde and atte bord, tyll dethe us departe, if holy chyrche it wol ordeyne, and therto I plight the my trouthe.” *meek and obedient
Netta sighed in relief once she finished speaking. She had learned English to the best of her ability in the short time she had had before the wedding and hoped that she did not fumble over any words. Normally, she conversed with her friends, family, and even William, in Italian or Latin, but it was decided that the ceremony should be held in the vernacular so the guests could better understand.
After the new Mr. and Mrs. Vijayakar were announced, the wedding party and guests adjourned inside to enjoy a delicious feast of fish, roasts, soup, bread, wine, and, of course, cake.
The dining hall was filled with the sound of friendly chatter and laughter for several hours. Entertainment was brought in for the guests to enjoy while the main courses were served, but they left during dessert so they could better talk amongst themselves. Netta hadn’t had the opportunity to inquire as to her cousins’ presence, but when she did, she was rather surprised to hear the answer.
Piero described Maddalena’s recent engagement to Destry Wade: He told of how Destry had been recalled to his family’s estate in England rather suddenly and requested that Maddalena return with him as his fiancée. Permission was granted for the union and they sailed two days later from Florence. Knowing that Maddalena couldn’t travel unescorted, Destry generously offered to pay for transport of a few of her family members, finding that Destry’s father had passed during the trip, making him the new Earl of Derby. The wedding had been set to take place in two weeks time.
Netta offered a hearty congratulation to her dearest cousin, glad to hear that she would marry a man whose estate was positioned hardly a block away. She would have great fun living so close to Maddalena. Dropping her fork, she jumped up and grabbed the bottle of wine that was sitting on the sideboard. “Such an announcement calls for a toast, surely!” she exclaimed in Italian. Half of the guests joined her with wine glasses in hand and the other half, not understanding what had been said, just followed along with the rest of the group.
The revelry continued late into the night and, once the guests had taken their leave, Tina pulled her friend aside to offer one more round of toasts.
“ To my dearest friend and her dearest husband. May your marriage be blessed with much happiness and prosperity.” The trio raised their glasses and drank. Netta bade her friend a good night before following her husband upstairs.
He lead her to his bedchamber where the new couple consummated their marriage.
Netta, on the other hand, supervised the clean-up. Now that she had been liberated from her maid status, she was not expected to actually clean, but she still felt as if she should do something to make right the mess the guests had caused. When she was done, she wandered into the library and found a book to read. Now that her friend was married, she knew that evenings would be quite lonely for her from now on.
Maddalena’s new dressmaker worked nonstop for the next two weeks to have her wedding dress ready in time for the ceremony. Her old wardrobe was given to Lucrezia to make room for her new one in the English style, which she accepted with enthusiasm. She decided that a new way of life, new styles, new food, new traditions, was a nice change of pace. Her new house was large and comfortable and she found that she fit right in with the workings of the household.
Only close friends and family attended the wedding in the garden. Destry’s mother was sickly and didn’t leave her quarters, even to watch her son get married. Not that Maddalena minded much. Her mother-in-law was a cold woman who had hardly said five words to her since her arrival. She much preferred to be in the company of friends and family.
Once the ceremony was over, the guests went inside to enjoy large helpings of cake and wine. They passed the afternoon with cheerful conversation until Piero announced that he and Maddalena’s siblings would have to take their leave in order to catch their boat back to Florence. Maddalena said tearful goodbyes to her family, not knowing when the next time she would see them; if ever.
Her fears were quickly put to rest when Destry lead her upstairs to consummate their marriage.
Netta and Maddalena soon settled into a routine. Maddalena hated spending time with her cantankerous mother-in-law while her husband was away on business, so she spend most of her free time with Netta. They lived only a short distance from each other and both girls could easily make the walk unescorted.
By the time Piero made it back home, the stress of travelling had taken its toll on his appearance. Their ship had run into bad whether and was thrown several leagues off course; a mistake that took several weeks of extra travel to correct. The worry that they might not make it back in one piece weighed heavily on his mind and by the time their feet were back on Florentine soil, Piero’s head had gone as white as goose feathers.
Now that her older sister was married, Lucrezia’s betrothal to Chandler was allowed to carry on and a date was set for their wedding. During the time she had been away, Chandler had taken all of his savings and bought a home for them to live in. It was a modest piece on the edge of town, but it would do.
The date of her wedding arrived soon and, before Lucrezia knew it, she was standing at the altar opposite her beloved.
The guests in attendance cheered loudly when the rings were exchanged and the new Signore e Signora Platz were announced.
The guests went inside to enjoy a modest feast that had been prepared by Giulietta and her daughter that morning.
Following the procession from Lucrezia’s childhood home to her new house, the guests crowded into the small rooms and entertained themselves for the rest of the evening.
Even Niccolo stopped fighting with his sister for one night and acted cordially towards her, even complimenting her cooking or appearance a few times. It was a nice surprise for Lucrezia who couldn’t have asked for a nicer wedding present from her little brother.
Soon enough, the last toast of the evening was drunk and the guests left the party.
Once the house was put back in order, Chandler took his new wife back to the bedchamber to consummate the marriage.
Lucrezia soon settled into married life, enjoying the satisfaction she found in keeping her own home.
Now only the younger kids were left at home: Giusseppe, Caterina, and Christoforo. Piero looked upon his shrinking household with sadness. It wouldn’t be too long before they were all grown up and out on their own.
Niccolo had recently reached the end of his studies at the boys’ school in town. He finished at the top of his class, catching the notice of the Masters at the University of Florence. The Masters were so pleased with his work in the field of science that they offered him full room and board in addition to tuition with the promise that, if he studied hard enough, he could someday teach at the university and have his research funded by them. Niccolo, of course, leapt at the opportunity.
He soon moved out of his childhood home and into a dormitory at the university. He lived alone, not quite welcome in the circles the other men travelled in. While he was just as smart as the best of them, he was looked down on because of his scholarship. However, he applied himself and ignored the smirks and odd looks from the other men as he passed them in the corridors.
While Niccolo was off at University, back home the rest of the children were growing like weeds. Caterina had blossomed into a beautiful young woman who ran about town with a boyishly short hair, not caring what people said. She was outgoing and courageous and soon caught the eye of a farmer boy who lived down the road, Orlando Centowski.
She had him wrapped around her little finger and he hung on her every word. She definitely was a wild young thing, very carefree and lighthearted, whose behavior caused her parents much concern.
Giulietta soon celebrated another birthday, nearly setting her cake ablaze with the many candles on top.
Her hair soon followed in the steps of her husband’s, turning a silvery white. Not that their ages slowed them down at all. Piero still worked diligently in his apothecary shop and Giulietta kept the house with the same care and attention she always had.
Another round of birthdays soon followed and Caterina had finally reached marriageable age. She was quite the pretty young thing and still monopolized Orlando’s attention every chance she got.
Even though they were twins, Caterina and Giuseppe couldn’t be more opposite. While Caterina was outgoing and unrestrained, Giuseppe was quiet and serious. While Caterina let the world read her feelings, Giuseppe kept his thoughts to himself most of the time.
As soon as he had saved enough to support a family, Orlando asked Piero for his daughter’s hand in marriage. She agreed and their wedding was set for the first day of April.
The family gathered in the Centowski’s new home to celebrate their union.
Orlando was a steady, hardworking young man who helped to balance out Caterina’s impulsiveness. One could say they were two halves of a whole.
Lucrezia, who had recently found that she was in the family way, had stopped by to wish her sister happiness in her marriage. Her new condition drained her energy quickly, so she stayed only long enough to watch the ring exchange and grab a bite of cake.
That night, once the guests had left, Caterina pulled her husband to the bedroom to complete their union.
Giuseppe soon moved out and established a home of his own. He began courting the daughter of a merchant that lived down the street, Mercedes, affectionately known as “Sadie”, and soon after, they were betrothed.
They held a private ceremony at the bride’s house with her father as witness. Sadie moved in to her husband’s house and, as they were considered wed in the eyes of society, they consummated their marriage.
However, Giulietta wasn’t satisfied with her son’s sneaky wedding and insisted that they hold a larger ceremony for friends and family to attend. Giuseppe agreed and invited several guests to witness a more public union.
They held a full-blown feast complete with the finest wine and desserts they could afford, much to the enjoyment of the guests.
Caterina, who had also announced that she was in the family way, came by and offered several toasts to the newlyweds. She and her twin were quite close and she could read him easily and see his happiness. He really was in love with Sadie and she wished them all the happiness in their marriage that she had found in hers.
The last of the children at home, Christoforo was eager to grow up. Since Niccolo chose education over business and Giuseppe was interested in music, Christoforo was set to inherit his father’s apothecary business.
He soon reached his eighteenth birthday and became a full employee at the apothecary shop. For six years now, he had been apprenticed to his father and was finally considered learned in the trade. He split the earnings with his father, putting his in the bank until he would move out on his own. At the moment, he was still living with his parents, caring for them and helping around the house until Niccolo would return from university to take his place as heir.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Christoforo met his wife in the shop when she came in for medicine for her father. It was love at first sight and Christoforo soon found himself proclaiming his undying love and intention to marry Sara.
Since Sara’s father was sick, she wasn’t watched closely and it wasn’t long before she and Christoforo were consummating a marriage that hadn’t even happened yet.
Sara soon told Christoforo that she was in the family way and, to avoid too much scandal, a quick ceremony was held with friends and family in attendance.
Sara moved in to live with her husband and the family fell into a regular pattern, waiting for the day when Niccolo would return and Christoforo would be free to go out on his own.
Finally! Six weddings down, one to go. (Well, actually two, but that’s a whole different story!) Hope you enjoyed it! Until next time, here’s a hint for the next chapter.