Bianca cleared her throat gently as she stood in the doorway. The Reverend Mother was sitting on a bench in the chapel and Bianca needed to speak with her. “ Yes, child?” she answered, turning her head slightly so she could see who she was talking to.
“ I must have a word with you.” Bianca said, coming to stand by the bench. “ You may begin.” the Reverend Mother said calmly. It had been a while since she had helped Analisa escape with her lover and the guilt had built up inside her until she had to confess. “I have done something terrible,” she began.
“ When Analisa was found missing those many months ago, she had help to escape. I was in on her plan to run away and did nothing to stop it. In fact, I helped serve as a distraction so no one saw her leave.” The Reverend Mother said nothing yet, thinking over what she had just been told.
“ I swear that I thought I was doing the right thing at the time. I had no ulterior motive- I was just trying to help a friend.”
“ Please, punish me as you will; I just needed to get it out in the open.”
Surprisingly, the Reverend Mother smiled, stood, and gave Bianca a hug. “Don’t worry, my child. When Analisa left, she happened to leave a letter for me; I know everything and have decided that no punishment is necessary.”
“ Besides, I knew from the moment that Analisa was sent to the Abbey that she would never be able to make it as a nun. She was too flighty and romantic to lead a pious life.” “ Oh, thank you. It is such a relief to have the issue resolved.”
“ Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some work to get done.” the Reverend Mother took her leave gracefully and Bianca took the spot on the bench that she had vacated, glad to be resolved of her guilt.
Halfway across town, Netta and Tina had just arrived at Piero’s house. Netta was just about to knock on the door when she heard a voice behind her call hello.
“ Can I help you?” Maddalena asked. “ Yes, I’m looking for my uncle Piero. I need to talk to him.” Netta answered, motioning to the letter in her hand, “I have this for him, too.”
“ Yes, I’m Tina, Netta’s personal maid, and her father has sent us here to deliver the letter.” Maddalena was startled to hear that her cousin traveled with a personal maid. In all her life, she had never experienced the luxury of even one housemaid. “ Of course. My father is inside. I’ll take you to him.” she said, leading the way to the front door.
Tina and Maddalena went back outside to give Netta some time alone with her uncle. Piero was playing with Niccolo, trying to help him walk across the room, so he didn’t hear Netta enter at first.
Niccolo had recently had a birthday and had grown into a jolly toddler who enjoyed monopolizing his parents’ attention.
Netta made her presence known and introduced herself as Isabetta and Antonio’s daughter. Piero, glad to see his niece, put Niccolo down to play and ushered Netta to sit on a bench. “ So good to see you, Netta!” he began. “What brings you here?” “ I have a letter for you. It’s from my father.” Netta said solemnly.
“ Thank you.” Piero took the letter and slid it under his leg. He would read it in private. “Is something wrong?” “ To be honest, yes.” Netta confided in Piero, “My mother gave birth to a stillborn baby last night and now she won’t wake! I am terribly afraid that, though I have already lost my sister, I shall lose my mother, too.”
“ Goodness gracious! No wonder your father sent you here!” Piero was not prepared for the news and it was a terrible shock to hear that his sister was unresponsive. “ Yes, my father was wondering if my maid and I could stay a few days until things are better at home.” Netta asked. “ Of course you both are welcome to stay!” Remembering the letter tucked under his leg, he politely excused himself to read it and tell Giulietta what was going on.
Once her uncle was gone, Netta let her tears fall. She had tried to be strong, but telling her uncle what had happened brought back a flood of emotion. Piero was gone long enough for the sun to set, leaving Netta to her own devices for a while. Eventually, she heard a voice calling the family to dinner from the room behind her. Hungry, she followed it.
Tina and Maddalena came in from the back door to join the rest of the family at the table. Once the family was settled, Piero made an announcement, “Maddalena, Lucrezia, this is your cousin, Netta and her maid, Tin and they will be staying with us for a few days. Last night, your aunt, Isabetta, had her baby, but the child was stillborn. They are going to stay with us until things have calmed down a bit around their home.”
“ I’m glad to meet you!” Maddalena said eagerly. She had heard tales of her rich cousins her whole life and had always wanted to see them. “ Thank you.” Netta said shyly. “ Yes, we are very glad to have you two girls.” Giulietta said in between bites of her pasta.
“ It’ll be so fun to have you here!” Lucrezia piped up. “We can show you all around our house and play chess and, since you brought a maid with you, we will have so much more time to play together since she will help us with our chores!”
“ Lucrezia!” Piero was shocked as his daughter’s assumptions. “While she is here, Tina is our guest and will be doing no chores to earn her keep.” “ Yes, father.” Lucrezia said quietly and, embarrassed, she turned her attention to her dinner.
“ It’s alright, uncle Piero.” Netta said good-naturedly. Tina said the comment didn’t bother her either and, along with the rest of the people at the table, turned to their bowls. Dinner continued without mishap after that.
After dinner, the girls were given a quick tour of the house. While they were being shown the parlor, Netta pulled Tina aside to whisper in her ear. “While we’re here, I want you to be my friend, not my maid.” Beaming, Tina agreed.
After dinner, Netta was given an extra nightgown to change in to while Tina insisted she would be fine sleeping in her shift. The candles downstairs were snuffed and the family went up for the night.
The girls played in Maddalena and Lucrezia’s room while Giulietta made up the spare bedroom. “ And then you put one palm up like this, then the other.” As requested by Maddalena, Tina demonstrated some court dances that she had practiced with Netta during their lessons.
“ Do you really dance like that?” Lucrezia, who was used to dancing simple country dances, asked her cousin. “ Well, when I’m older. I’m too young to be allowed in the dances right now, but in a few more years, when I’m fourteen, I’ll be eligible for a marriage contract and can go to all the dances I want.” Netta explained.
The girls entertained each other by swapping stories until Giulietta announced that the beds in the spare room were ready.
Saying goodnight to her cousins, Netta was shown to her room with Tina following close behind. It was a small room, barely big enough to hold both beds, but neither girl minded; it seemed cozy.
It didn’t take long before Netta and Tina were snuggled down and fast asleep.
The next morning, Antonio had risen and dressed early. By the time the sun was barely up, he had already eaten and was pacing around the foyer. His letter had asked Piero if he would be willing to offer his knowledge of medicine to help Isabetta. It would have been too late to travel by the time Netta had given him the letter, but he would hopefully come today.
Antonio had nearly worn a hole in the floor by the time Piero came. Rushing outside to greet him, Antonio briefly explained the situation before leading his brother-in-law in the house and up the stairs.
For modesty’s sake, Isabetta had been dressed in her everyday clothes by her maids. Maria had cared for her mistress the best she could while waiting for Piero to come, but she hadn’t been able to wake Isabetta out of her comatose state.
Piero had brought along a bag of instruments and medicines, hoping that he could find a cure for his sister. Setting up on the nightstand, Piero created a station where he could work around the clock.
Hardly pausing to eat, Piero worked diligently hour after hour trying every medicine, salve, and cure he could think of, hoping one would do the trick. So far, no such luck.
Antonio spent the time praying and stressing over the situation. Left alone with only his thoughts, he had come to the conclusion that, if Isabetta recovered, he would forgive all of her past wrongdoings. All he wanted was her safely in his arms.
Meanwhile, Netta and Tina had settled nicely into the routine at the Moretti’s house. They helped with chores in the morning so all four girls were able to play throughout the afternoon. Piero had been staying the night at the Costa house, trying to revive his sister, but Giulietta was able to keep the household running smoothly.
The girls stayed up late into the night, swapping secrets and becoming close friends. However, Netta often felt a pang of homesickness and worried over her mother so she would quietly slip off to bed earlier than the rest.
It had been three days before Isabetta showed signs of life. Piero was at his wits end- he had tried everything but nothing had worked. He was worried that Isabetta was too far gone. However, in a startling turn of events, Isabetta’s eyes fluttered opened late one night, making Piero shout with joy.
Hearing the shout, Maria went in to see what was going on, only to find Isabetta up and fully awake. Overjoyed, she hastened down the stairs to tell Antonio the good news.
Maria barely had time to get half her words out when Antonio took off in a sprint to see his wife.
Isabetta had changed back into a nightgown by the time Antonio entered her chamber. Smiling, she watched as he raced across the room, a grin plastered across his face.
“ You’re alright!” he exclaimed, scooping Isabetta off the bed and hugging her tight. Oh, how good it felt to hold her once more!
“ Yes, I’m quite well; thanks be to Piero.” she answered as Antonio set her down gently. Not having regained all of her strength yet, Isabetta wobbled a bit on her feet and grabbed Antonio’s shoulders to steady herself.
“ Oh, sit down!” Antonio helped Isabetta back onto the bed and then crawled up next to her. “ My dear, I have something to tell you.” he began, holding her close.
“ I have done some reflecting in these past few days, and I want you to know that I am willing to look past all of our problems and start our marriage anew. I’ve finally seen just how much I love you and that I would be ruined if I were to lose you. Please say you’ll forgive my own harsh words and terrible actions.” Isabetta was shocked, to say the least, “Of course! This is all I ever dreamed about, I just didn’t know it would take my being so near death for it to finally occur.”
Antonio and Isabetta nestled close, glad to have the danger behind them.
Leaning in, they shared their first kiss and true husband and wife.
Ahem. Piero cleared his throat gently, embarrassed about interrupting the private moment. “ If it is convenient, I wish to speak with Antonio alone.”
“ Of course!” Antonio said, making sure his wife was comfortable before scooting off the edge of the bed. Crossing the room in quick steps, Piero gathered his things off the nightstand.
Antonio put out the candles so Isabetta could rest while Piero finished packing his things.
“ I want to thank you, Piero, from the bottom of my heart. You have no idea how much this means to me.” Antonio said, patting Piero on the shoulder. “ My pleasure. Although, there are a few things I want to get straight.”
Isabetta is fine, but we are not out of the woods yet. I’m not one hundred percent sure what Isabetta’s miscarriage was caused by, but I’m putting it down as stress. Please, I beg of you, restrain yourselves from, um, activity until a few months have passed. I am pleased to say, however, that no long term damage has been done and I’m sure she will be able to bear children in a year or so- once she has had full time to recover.” Nodding solemnly, Antonio promised that he would restrain from intimacy with his wife until she had regained all her strength and showed Piero out.
Antonio generously paid for Piero’s transportation so he was home just before the sun came up.
He came in quietly, trying not to wake the household, and set his bag in the corner, intending to head up to bed.
However, he was met in the stairwell by Giulietta who had heard him arrive. “ Come into the dining room and I’ll fix some breakfast. You must be starving after traveling all night.” she said, taking two pastries from the larder and setting them out.
“ How’d things go?” she asked between bites. “ Great!” he said, his mouth full of pastry, “It took a while, but Isabetta is well again.” “ That is wonderful, Piero!”
Piero told Giulietta all the details as they finished their meal. Once they were done, they headed upstairs to get a few more hours of sleep.
Piero slept late that morning, exhausted from his journey. He was woken midmorning when Giulietta went into labor.
Jumping to action, Piero helped his wife deliver twins Giuseppe and Caterina. They were beautiful little angles; a perfect homecoming present for Piero.
Once the twins were tucked away in the nursery, Piero called Netta to the parlor to tell her how things had gone with her parents.
“ How is mother?” Netta asked timidly. Piero’s mouth broke into a smile that calmed Netta’s fears, “Your mother is safe. She woke late last night and is growing stronger as we speak. That means it’s time for you to head back home. Why don’t you gather Tina and your things; your father has sent transportation.”
“ Oh thank you, uncle! I knew if anyone could save my mother, it would be you.”
Twenty minutes later, Netta had her things in the carriage and ready to go. She found Tina and they said their goodbyes to Maddalena and Lucrezia before climbing into the cart and heading home.
A few weeks later, a private funeral was held for the infant whose life had been lost. The loss was a tragedy, but now the family would work through it somehow.
“ Excuse me, Bianca. A letter has arrived for you.” One of the novices approached Bianca with a piece of folded parchment in one hand. Bianca set her book down and accepted it, giving her thanks for delivery.
Opening the letter, she found that it was from Analisa. Smiling, she began to read: My dearest Bianca, I trust by now you have heard of the letter I left for the Reverend Mother. I simply could not leave you to absolve all of the guilt. Not that I am suggesting that what we did was wrong- quite the contrary, actually. Let me tell you what has transpired since we last saw each other…
Marco and I traveled without stopping until we reached Venice where he had purchased a small villa on the edge of town. It is quite lovely, three stories tall with sprawling gardens all around. I’ve included a small sketch so you can see for yourself.
The inside is quite breathtaking also. Although, when we first arrived, I hardly had the chance to look around much, if you know what I mean.
We were married in a small ceremony without guests. It was lovely, though I wish you could have been there.
And that brings me to the wedding night… let me say it was every thing I had dreamed of and leave it at that.
Before long, I found I was expecting my first child.
Our son Erocle was born early in the morning in May. He was the most perfect little baby. So sweet and tiny!
I fell pregnant soon after and gave birth to our second son, Cosimo.
Erocle has grown into the most wonderful little boy since then. He has gotten so tall! And so handsome- just like his father!
And I am pleased to announce that I very recently gave birth again! This time was another little boy, Carlo…
And his twin, Stefano. Well, now you have been caught up as to what has been going on in my life. Please write back soon so I can hear how you have been faring while I’ve been away! Spero di sentirti presto!* Analisa * Hope to hear from you soon!
Bianca folded the letter and slipped it into a pocket. It was good to hear from her friend; good to hear she was doing well. Putting the book back on the shelf, she headed for her cell, already planning the letter she was going to write in response.
The end! Since all the problems of generation two are (finally) resolved, I can start of generation three! Well, until next time, Arrivederci!