The next morning, Niccolo was pleased to find Renee awake and moving about. He greeted her with a kiss
and bade her to stay abed while he dressed for work. “Caterina is coming soon, with Heather and the baby,
and she will see to your breakfast.”
Renee was glad to see Caterina when she came shortly after Niccolo left for his private tutoring
appointments. Heather had come as well, but opted to stay downstairs to help catching up on the
housework and look after Giac.
“I brought someone to see you!” Caterina said, extending the baby to her mother.
“She’s beautiful! So much like her father.” Renee said and bent close to her daughter. She held out her arms
and pulled her close, covering her bald head with kisses.
“Niccolo said he is going to get right on hiring a midwife, but in case she gets hungry before then, Heather
is downstairs and has offered to nurse her since you are still recuperating.”
“That’s very kind of Heather, but it seems my little daughter is sleepy, not hungry.”
“The cradle is out by the fireplace, I’ll take her while you clean up a bit.”
Renee handed over the drowsy infant and took in her reflection in the mirror, “You weren’t kidding,
Caterina! I look terrible.”
“Now, now,” came Caterina’s response from the next room, “if you want, I can heat some water for a
“A bath sounds lovely, I must say, but I think that can wait a while. I’d like to spend some more time with
my daughter. Perhaps, by the time-”
Renee had to stop speaking when a wave of dizziness hit her hard and caused her legs to wobble. The next
thing she knew, her knees buckled, she was falling backwards, and the world was fading into black.
When Caterina heard the thump of Renee hitting the floor, she came running and felt the blood drain from
her face when she saw her friend lying on the floor.
Quickly, she hoisted Renee’s unmoving, but thankfully still breathing, form onto the bed and left the room
in search of a messenger.
The first person she ran across was Giac. He had been sitting at the desk, working on his Latin translation
when he was interrupted by his aunt’s frantic plea for him to deliver a message.
“I need you to go into town and find the physician as quickly as you can. Tell him that your mother has
fallen ill and ask him to hurry back!”
Giac closed his folio and abandoned his quill. He took the coins Caterina offered and pocketed them before
dashing out the door to find the doctor.
Caterina left to find Heather and inform her of the situation. Now there was nothing left to do but wait for
When the physician finally arrived, he was gasping and out of breath. Apparently Giac had fairly pulled the
man by the arm all the way there. Caterina took him aside and explained Renee’s fall.
He gathered his tools and was shown to Renee’s room where he asked for privacy to complete a thorough
“Come closer, Giac. She won’t bite!” Heather said, coaxing the boy closer to his sister.
“She looks so…small and wrinkly.” Giac said with a curious look at the baby. Heather realized with a
smile that this must be the first time Giac had seen a baby.
“What do you think, Giac? Do you like your sister?” Caterina asked when she wandered into the parlor.
“Eh. She doesn’t do much, does she?”
“Don’t worry, she will be running all about the house soon enough and you two shall be as thick as
thieves.” Caterina assured her nephew.
“Sure, but how is mother doing? The physician’s been up there a while now.”
“Well, Giac, you mother has been having a tough time recovering, but I have high hopes. She should be
right as rain by tomorrow morning.”
“But, but what if she doesn’t get better?” Giac asked quietly.
“Now, now, Giac. I’m sure your mother will be fine. Caterina said and sat on the bench. She pulled Giac
onto her lap and hugged him close, trying to calm his fears.
Giac let himself be comforted while he prayed silently and asked the Virgin Mary to look after his mother.
* * *
It wasn’t until late that night Niccolo went looking for his son. Giac had long since retired to his room to
play with his toys. He had found Latin too hard to concentrate on so he found distraction with painted
“Your mother’s awake, if you want to come see her.”
Giac’s heart leapt at his father’s proposition. “Of course I would!”
Niccolo allowed a half smile and steered Giac, who was practically skipping at the idea of seeing his
mother, towards the room.
Giac stared at his mother’s still body with hesitation. She hadn’t moved since he came in the door and he
wasn’t sure if she was really awake. “Mamma?” he asked and moved closer to the bed.
Renee turned her head slowly and forced her eyes open. She was so tired from the tonic the physician had
left for her, but she didn’t want to miss seeing Giac. “How have your studies been going? Are you keeping
up on your Latin?”
“Um, well, I’m working on it. Latin isn’t very fun though.” Giac looked sheepishly at the window.
“Now, if you stay ahead with Latin, I promise we can start our French lessons again once I’m better.”
“I promise, but guess who I met today!”
“My sister! Heather brought her over today and let me look at her.”
Renee smiled and patted the bed next to her, “Come up here and sit next to me. Was she crying when you
saw her? Tell me all about it!”
* * *
“It’s getting late, son. I think it’s time you headed off to bed; your lessons start bright and early in the
morning.” Niccolo came in nearly an hour later after almost falling asleep in the hallway while waiting for
Giac to come back out.
Giac’s face fell into a frown but Renee tugged on his sleeve before he could argue, “Your father is right, it
is late. Come give me a kiss and head off to bed. We can talk some more later.”
Giac did as he was told and left the room with a heavy heart.
Niccolo took the spot his son had vacated and pulled Renee onto his lap, grateful for the chance to talk to
When Renee was too tired to talk anymore, Niccolo tucked her into bed and left for his own chambers.
Instead of changing and climbing under his own covers, he kneeled in front of his crucifix and folded his
Most merciful Jesus, lover of souls, I pray you by the agony of your most sacred heart, and by the sorrows
of your Immaculate mother, to wash in your most Precious Blood the sinners of the world who are now in
their agony, and who will die today.
Heart of Jesus, once in agony, have mercy on the dying.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul. Assist me in my last agony, and grant that I may
breathe forth my soul in peace with you…
“Any news?” Caterina asked eagerly when the physician came downstairs from his second examination.
“Unfortunately, my news is not good news.” He answered but wouldn’t look Caterina in the eye.
“What’s wrong, signore? You can tell me.”
“Signora Moretti’s infection has, unfortunately, spread. The tonic I left for her yesterday is the only known
cure, but since it has had no affect on her, I don’t hold much hope.”
“So there’s nothing to do? Nothing we can try? Something has to work!”
“Sorry, signora, but no. There is nothing else I can try; I’m afraid her life is in the hands of God now.
Man’s knowledge of medicine is too limited to make any difference now. I bid you good day, madam.” The
physician bent into a bow and left for the door.
Caterina walked with him and gave her thanks for his service.
After she locked the door behind him, she turned around and let her tears fall. Their situation really was
hopeless; it seemed as if she was going to lose her best friend.
She wiped her eyes and sniffed. It wasn’t any use crying now- it was best to stay active and hope that she
could do something to help Renee.
“I’ve brought you some food!” Caterina announced with over-the-top enthusiasm. She balanced the bowl
in one hand and looked hopefully at the still form lying prostrate on the bed.
“I’m not hungry.” Renee mumbled. She didn’t bother to peel her eyes from the spot on the ceiling she had
been staring at since the physician had left.
“Alright, then. How about taking some of the medicine?” Caterina swapped the bowl for the glass vial
sitting on a table. It couldn’t hurt to try, at least.
“No thanks. That concoction tastes vile and I know what my diagnosis is. There’s no use anymore.” As she
spoke, tears formed in the corners of her eyes and threatened to spill. She blinked rapidly to make them go
“Come, now, we mustn’t give up! The medicine may help,” she pleaded.
“No, Caterina. The physician made it perfectly clear that my infection’s spread too far. I haven’t any hope.”
Renee turned away to look out the window.
“Well you can’t just lay there, then. We have to find something to do.”
“Well, there is a favor I was hoping you would do for me.”
“I will do it for you if you take some medicine.” Caterina bargained hopefully.
“Fine, gather some parchment and a quill and I will have some of that dreadful tonic.”
“I’ve put the letters in my pack, Renee. I’ll take them home with me this evening as you wish. I stopped in
the library and grabbed a book. I figured I could read to you a while.” Caterina walked as she flipped
through the pages.
“You’re still in the middle of Dante’s Inferno, right? What page was it?” When Renee didn’t answer,
Caterina closed the book and looked up.
When she saw the scene that was presented in front of her, Caterina dropped the book and forgot about
everything she had been doing.
Sad eyes that weep for pity of the heart,
Too many tears have brought you weariness,
Now and for evermore your light is spent.
Yet, since I seek some healing for the smart
Through which I suffer ever deadlier stress,
I needs must frame my words to a lament;
And, since I mind me how of old I went
Talking with you of my sweet Lady while
She dwelt with us, rejoicing so to do,
With none save you
Will I hold converse, gentle hearts that wile
In women! I will tell, weeping for rue,
How she departed heavenwards suddenly
And left sad Love discomforted with me.
Renee is gone from us unto the skies,
Unto the realms where angels take their rest;
Ladies, she bides with them, afar from you.
Frost did not blight her, nor before our eyes
Did fever-heat consume her; she was dressed
In her own perfect gentleness; the true
Light of her virtue shone so clearly through
The halls of Heaven that the Eternal King,
Beholding it and filled with glad amaze,
To please His gaze
Was fain to gather such a lovely thing
Unto Himself, well knowing the ways
Of earth in pain and bitterness are spread,
Unworthy for her tenderness to tread.
Her gentle soul hath doffed the lovely veil
Of flesh which it so wondrously did wear,
And dwells all-glorious in appointed place;
Whoso in speaking of her doth not wail
For pity hath a stony heart and bare
Wherein no spirit entereth of grace;
In a vile heart no thought of her hath place,
However, deeply versed in cunning lore,
Hence from the like no tears could ever flow:
But they who know
How she went hence and how she looked before,
Searching ’mid memories of long ago,
Are heavily bowed with sorrow, sob and sigh,
Bereft of comfort, and are fain to die.
My mournful soul is shaken with long sighs
Whene’er it happeneth that my thoughts incline
Towards the Lady who hath broken my heart;
And many and many a time in me arise
Such passionate longings that this blood of mine
Is changèd in my face. If thought depart
Not suddenly from me, in every part
Sorely am I afflicted with distress,
And in my anguish do cry out aloud
And am so bowed,
For very shame I covet loneliness.
Then, tearfully divided from the crowd,
I call on Renee, saying: “Liest low in death?”
And even as I call, she comforteth.
Through mournful sighing and despairful tears
My lonely heart doth sicken unto death
Till those who hear me wax compassionate;
And what hath been the story of my years,
Since my sweet Lady in new life drew breath,
No mortal tongue could fittingly relate.
This bitter life so troubleth me of late
That even if I wished I could not tell
You, Ladies mine, how it doth fare with me;
Is life abased men murmur: “Fare thee well”
Whenever they my pallid features see;
Only my Lady can divine my soul,
And at the last her grace will make me whole
O pitiful Song, go sadly on thy way
And find the matron and the maiden-throng
To which each sister-song
Of old was wont to carry happiness;
And thou who art the daughter of distress
Go mournfully and unto them belong!