Una nota per il lettore: A note to the reader In case you haven’t noticed, since the last chapter, Giacomo has been secretly exchanging letters with a woman named Beatrice in hopes of someday convincing her to be his wife.Their correspondence hasn’t been explicitly featured in any chapter, but it has been posted on the Renaissance Legacy site.I suggest reading them before beginning this chapter if you haven’t already as they are a key part of the storyline.
“Good morning, mia cara,” Lucio stroked Alessandra’s soft hair with one hand and kissed her gently on the forehead. Her eyes fluttered open and she smiled. “Is it morning already?” she said despairingly and snuggled closer to him. “Have we got to leave this room today?”
“I’m afraid we must,” he answered with a sigh. The late morning sunlight streaming in through thewindows was an inevitable reminder that they must be up and about. If they lingered much longer, they would surely be missed. “Cannot we just remain in one another’s arms? Renata and Ghita keep to themselves mostly; no one would miss us.”Lucio hummed audibly, thinking the situation over. “That does sound like quite a lovely way to pass the day. I should think that-”
The couple was startled into silence when a heavy knock sounded at the chamber door.Alesssandra dove off the side of the bed and crouched low to the floor. She stayed as still as possible, praying that she couldn’t’ be seen, while Lucio went to see who was there.
His heart sank when he saw that he was standing face to face with Carlo, the one person that he wanted to see least. He let out a sigh of annoyance, “What do you want?” “Good morning,” Carlo replied in a haughty manner. “I’m sorry if I woke you. I was unaware that you liked to sleep so late. I am an early riser, myself.” “No need to apologize; I was already awake.”
“Of course you were. Now, I only came up to say that your presence has been missed at the breakfasttable. Now that I am back from the Villa, I wish to speak with the entire household this morning before I get onto business and it is getting rather late.”“I will be right down, then.” Lucio made to close the door, but Carlo stuck his foot out and prevented it from shutting. “One more thing: have you any idea where my wife has gone off to? I cannot seem to locate her anywhere.”
From her spot kneeling on the stone floor, Alessandra’s heart beat faster and she began to panic. She hadspoken too soon when she assumed that no one would miss her; she hadn’t thought that Carlo would turn up so suddenly. He was supposed to still be at their Villa in the countryside.
“I’m sorry, Signor. I haven’t the slightest idea. I’ve been in here all morning.” “Fine. Then I will see you in a few minutes.”
As soon as the door shut and Alessandra was sure that she could hear Carlo’s footsteps echoing far downthe hall, she rose from her hiding place. “What are we to do now, Lucio? I had no idea that he was coming back.”
Lucio’s face was a mask of serenity whereas Alessandra was wringing her hands nervously. “Fear not, my dear. We will figure something out. I will not let that man take you away from me.”“Have you forgotten, Lucio? ‘That man’ is my husband. He will take me back into his bed this very night and there is nothing I can do to refuse.”Lucio’s eyes flashed angrily, but his expression remained calm. “Let’s not dwell on that fact. Give me onelast kiss for now and then hurry off to get dressed. You can say you went out early to visit your brother. If we ask Giacomo nicely, I’m sure he will corroborate your story.”
Alessandra nodded and leaned in for what could be their last kiss for a very long time. __
At the request of his brother, Nico put away the book he had been reading and stood in front of Giacomo, looking at him with a frosty expression. “What?” “Now, Nico, let’s try to be civil, please.” Nico’s expression softened at Giac’s honest tone. “What do you wish to speak about?”
“I know we haven’t been on the best of terms lately and I have sought you out this afternoon to offer an apology.” “An apology?!”
“Yes, I came to say that I am sorry. We have not seen eye-to-eye since our fight nearly a month ago and I know that you disapprove rather strongly about my behavior as of late.” Nico blushed. “Well, yes, that is true. I cannot say that spending all hours with your courtesan a very Christian pursuit.”
Giac gritted his teeth, the slight against Kari striking a nerve, and reminded himself that he was here tomake amends. “That is beside the point. All I wish to say is that I am sincerely sorry for having yelled at you. I was not quite myself that night, but that does not excuse my actions.”“Thank you, Giac! That means a lot to me,” Nico said with a genuine smile. He had hated fighting withhis brother, but now it was thankfully all over. He held his hand out to shake, but Giac held a hand up to make him pause.
“One more thing: because Alessandra has kindly agreed to take responsibility for your sisters, it has left me plenty of free time to make arrangements for your future.” Nico held his breath expectantly, hardly daring to hope. He had been hinting for months that he wasready to join the church, but all of his efforts had gone unnoticed. Since his father had died, he had been living in a sort of limbo, ready to grow up and find his place in the world, but not allowed to.
“For the past several weeks, I have been in communication with the University at Pisa and they have justwritten to inform me of your acceptance. In two days time you shall be on your way to the University to study canon law!” Nico could hardly contain himself from jumping up and down. “You really mean it?!” It wasn’t quite taking holy orders yet, but it was a welcome start.
“Of course I do!” Giac chuckled at seeing his excitement. He remembered how he himself had felt whenhis father had told him he was to go to University to study. It was several years ago now, but the memory would never fade.
“Oh, thank you!” All past disagreements forgotten, Nico pulled Giac in for a sudden hug. “You’re the best!” __
The air smelled of sweat and sickness; a stale ambiance encompassed the room. Giac shuddered and crossed himself.Half an hour ago, he had been relaxing in his office, spending a rare night at home with a glass of wine and Alberti’s third book on architecture when a solid knock had roused him from his thoughts. A messenger from the house of di Brandi had brought a letter. Thinking it was another missive from Beatrice, Giac had opened it with good humor.
But as soon as he read it, his lightheartedness went immediately away. It was a summons from Iacopo di Brandi himself, back early from his travels. So Giac had hurried across town, only to be greeted at the door by a somber-faced maid and lead to a room filled with a somber priest, a busy doctor, and three teary-eyed ladies knelt in prayer.
The maid motioned to a bed upon which Iacopo di Brandi rested with his eyes half closed. As soon as hesaw Giacomo, he expended a great effort to push himself up into a sitting position and then onto his feet.
The doctor, hovering nervously in the background, protested loudly. “Signor, you must have your rest! Please, do not get up.”Iacopo waved his hand in annoyance. “I shall do as I please.” The doctor backed down and left to find something to do in another corner of the room.
Giacomo’s shoulders drooped when Iacopo turned his full attention on him. Though obviously ill, he was still an intimidating figure. “You sent for me, Signor?”“Indeed I did, boy. You need not be nervous, though. I know all about the letters you’ve been exchanging with my daughter, Beatrice.”
Giac blanched and went down on one knee in supplication. “Please forgive me, Signor, if I’ve causedoffense. I swear that my intentions were, and still are, honorable towards your daughter. The letters were nothing but a way for us to get to know one another a bit better.”Iacopo only chuckled to himself. Giac glanced up nervously, wondering if he would not be reprimanded as he had thought.
Suddenly, Iacopo’s amusement was cut short by a coughing attach.Giac jumped to his feet and reached out to steady the ailing man. The doctor looked on worriedly. “See, I told you! You need to lie down, Signor!”
Iacopo waved him away angrily again and took deep breaths to stop his fit. Once he had recovered, he shrugged Giac off and motioned for Beatrice to come over to him. She obeyed and hastened to his side. Giac blushed as he realized that this was the first time he wasactually seeing the woman with whom he had been communicating for the past several weeks., but she was oblivious to his presence. “Father, you really must listen to the doctor and lie down!” But the stubborn man ignored her advice as well.
Taking Giac’s left hand and Beatrice’s right in his own clammy grip, Iacopo pulled them together and bade them to clasp. “Children, it is no secret that I am dying.” Beatrice choked back a sob. “No, father! Please, don’t speak of such horrible things.” Iacopo shook his head. “It is terrible, yes, but true and we cannot avoid the future. I am not much longerfor this world and it is my final wish to make sure that you, my dearest daughter, will be cared for when I am gone.”
Iacopo pointed to a man who had just come up behind them. Giac and Beatrice let go of one another andturned around. Iacopo nodded in greeting. “Children, this is Signor Marco da Pisa: a friend of mine and a notary here by my request.”
Signor Marco offered his hand for Giac to shake. “Nice to meet you both.” Iacopo took his daughter’s arm and twined it about Giac’s.
The notary smiled. “Signor Moretti, do you take Beatrice di Brandi as your wife?” For a second, Giac couldn’t speak. His mind raced as he attempted to organize his thoughts. The weight of Iacopo’sglare pressured him to think carefully before choosing his response. Finally he managed to mumble a feeble “Yes, I do.” “And do you, Signorina Beatrice, take Giacomo Moretti as your husband?”Like a frightened doe, Beatrice stared unblinkingly at Signor Marco. All the color drained from her face and she babbled incoherently until her father prodded at her back to get her to mumble, “Yes, I suppose.”
“Then I pronounce you man and wife. If you’ll all follow me to the table by the fireplace, I’ve got the marriage contract drawn up for you to sign.” Putting on a show of composure, Giac stepped right up to the table and followed the notary’sinstructions on where to sign. Inside he felt just as scared as Beatrice looked. The whole situation hadcome about rather suddenly and he hadn’t had any time to properly process the information, let alone figure out how to react.
Once he had signed in all the proper places, Giac relinquished his pen to Iacopo and stumbled back several steps.Beatrice watched on, stunned, as her father signed her away to her new husband. She snuck a few nervous glances at Giacomo but didn’t have the nerve to look him fully in the eye.
“Now you shall be well cared for, my dear,” Iacopo explained gently and squeezed her hand encouragingly.“Please, father, don’t make me do this. It’s too sudden.” Hot tears spilled down her cheeks and she shook in fear. “I do not want to leave you!”“Be calm, child, and dry your tears. What’s done is done; there can be no going back now. My time has come to an end and I can no longer look after you. You must move on to find happiness with Giacomo Moretti as your husband.”
“Papá, I cannot!” “You must. Now go.” Suddenly another coughing fit seized Iacopo. As he struggled for breath his face grew ashen and his knees weakened. Watching her father slowly sink to the ground, Beatrice let out a desperate wail and her tears came even harder.Giacomo snaked his arm around her shoulder and tugged her gently towards the door. “Come, now, Beatrice. Do as your father said; let’s go.”
The room descended into chaos as Giacomo tried to steer her out into the hall. The priest prayed loudly. Beatrice’s cries were joined by those of her handmaidens’. The doctor shouted instructions. The maidsscrambled to gather instruments and medicines. The notary gathered his paperwork. And finally, Iacopo’s coughs rose above the din. “Please, please don’t make me go!”Beatrice’s cries reached near-hysteria as Giac tugged on her arm.
“Come on, we need to leave. There is nothing we can do to help your father now.” Beatrice tore her eyes away from the hectic scene carrying on in the background and met Giac’s gaze.“You don’t understand; he is all the family I have left. I cannot abandon him so! There must be something I can do to help!” Giac shook his head dismally. His expression was hard, but his tone of voice was gentle. “Beatrice, I amyour husband; I am your family now. Your father said so himself. No matter how much you wish it weren’t true, there is nothing you can do to help him. Now, let’s go.”
Beatrice gave up her wild pleas and reluctantly let Giac guide her from the room. His grasp was firm and unyielding, but she still fought against it, twisting her head further as she walked.The doctor was on his hands and knees, trying frantically to revive Iacopo who had collapsed completely to the floor. With a horrified gasp and a fresh round of tears, Beatrice watched as her father’s coughs subsided and he quit moving all together.
Giac shut the door soundly behind himself and the cacophony of the sickroom was cut off instantly. Beatrice shuddered; Giac pulled her close. “He’s gone,” she said bleakly. She sniffed loudly and her tears began to subside.Giac stroked her hair gently in an attempt to provide some comfort. With a grim smile he noticed that her grip tightened. “Come, now; we’ll get through this together. Let’s get you home.”
After-dinner conversation passed genially among the occupants of the room. Lucio inquired aboutRenata’s upcoming dinner invitation from her cousin Heather and Alessandra was teaching Ghita court dances in case the invitation should be extended to both sisters.Altogether the mood was pleasant and cheerful, a great change from the atmosphere at dinner. Carlo’sreturn had caused dialogue around the table had been noticeably lacking and he hadn’t seemed pleased.
When he strolled into the room, conversation stopped once again. Alessandra dropped Ghita’s hands and Lucio scooted to a more respectable distance from Renata.
“Oh, please don’t stop what you’re doing on account of me,” Carlo said in an effort to be agreeable. Ghita abandoned her sister’s side, seeking a seat as far away from her brother-in-law as she could find. “I was just teaching Ghita a new dance,” Alessandra said in a hard tone. “But we’ve finished for now. Is there something you wanted?”“I was coming to say that I was retiring for the night,” he said with significant gaze. “I should think that you’re tired as well. Won’t you come to bed?”
“Oh, but it’s my turn to learn the dance! Alessandra promised to teach me after Ghita.” Renata protested weakly. She knew she didn’t have much of a chance opposing Carlo.
As was expected, Carlo sniffed in contempt and answered with authority, “Perhaps tomorrow.” “I did promise her, Carlo,” Alessandra entreated. He leaned in close. “That wasn’t a request, Alessandra. Come on, now.”Alessandra hung her head and, saying a quick goodnight, followed her husband dutifully upstairs.
“Please, not tonight, Carlo. I’m not feeling very well. I have a headache.” Carlo ignored her and began to untie his hose. “Please, I’m not feeling well at all.”“Don’t lie to me, Alessandra. You were well enough to dance a rowdy jig with your sister not two minutes ago. Now, get into bed.” Carlo spoke gruffly, his hands yanking at the strings on his tunic. When Alessandra didn’t move, he motioned to the bed. “You are my wife and I said get.”
Alessandra’s pulse raced as she complied and turned the blankets down on the bed. Her hands shook as she took a seat and watched from the corner of her eye as Carlo discarded his tunic and hose.
He joined her on the bed, maneuvering his heavy form above her. She cringed as his weight pressed down on her. She shrank back into the mattress, hoping desperately that Carlo would continue no further.She was bitterly disappointed as when she felt his clammy hand grab on to the hem of her dress and slide it slowly up her leg. She closed her eyes tight and retreated into her mind. Instead of lucidity, she chose to concentrate on conjugating Latin verbs, just as she had done on her wedding night.
“Here, drink this.” Giacomo set a goblet of spiced wine down in front of Beatrice and encouraged her to take it. “It’ll warm you up a bit.” Lost in her grief, Beatrice kept her gaze lowered and fiddled with her dress in her lap. Her tears had stopped long ago, but she hadn’t said hardly a word since they had left her father’s house. Giac had lead her through the winding streets of Florence, letting her lean on him for support. Oncethey got back to the house, Giac took her upstairs and let her into Viola’s old room so she could dry her tears. While she washed up, Giac lit a fire and went down to the kitchens to pour her a glass of wine.
Giac took a seat opposite her, unsure what to do. Seeing her mourn for her father brought back painful memories of his own. After a few minutes of awkward silence, he attempted to start a conversation. “I’ve been in yourposition before, you know. I lost my mother many years ago. I was pretty young, but I’ll never forget my sorrow.” Beatrice’s shoulders sagged in response. Giac reddened, afraid that he was going to make her start to cry again, and tried to explain. “I only meant that Iknow how you feel. The pain is terrible, but it will get better. You will never forget your father, but you will come to accept your loss. Trust me.”
Beatrice sniffed. “Oh.”A few more minutes lapsed in silence before Beatrice raised her head to speak. “Giacomo Moretti: G.M. It was you who sent me the letters, right?”
“Uh, yes,” Giac cleared his throat, “the letters were from me. I knew you would figure it out sooner orlater. I had only hoped that our first meeting would be happier, but I suppose one cannot control such things.”“But I do not understand; I didn’t figure out your identity. When my father came back, he knew he wasdying and his first plan was to send me to a convent so I would be cared for after he was gone. I didn’t want to go so I showed him your letters – out of absolute necessity, I assure you – and your wordschanged his mind. How did he know who to contact when he had just learned of our correspondence?”
Giac rose and, wishing he had brought a glass of wine for himself as well, joined Beatrice on her couch. “There issomething you should know. Your father asked me not to tell you, but I think these are rather extenuating circumstances.” “What is it?” she asked hesitantly, afraid of the response.“A few years ago, our fathers were drawing up a marriage for us, but negotiations moved slowly and nothing concrete was in place when my father died. For a long time, I had no idea and so plans went by the wayside. It wasn’t until I went through some papers my father left behind that I even knew about you.”
“I approached Iacopo, hoping that we could reopen negotiations, but he refused. His opinion of me was fairly low, but heagreed to give me a second chance while he was on his trade route. If I could pull my act together and prove a good match for you, he would consent to our marriage. “A few years ago, our fathers were drawing up a marriage for us, but negotiations moved slowly and nothing concrete was in place when my father died. For a long time, I had no idea and so plans went by the wayside. It wasn’t until I went through some papers my father left behind that I even knew about you. I approached Iacopo, hoping that we could reopennegotiations, but he refused. His opinion of me was fairly low, but he agreed to give me a second chance while he was on his
“I wasn’t allowed to let you know, but he never directly forbade me from talking to you. I thought putting it allin writing would be the best route to take. Your father was a smart man, Beatrice. It’s no wonder that he knew who ‘G.M.’ was the second he saw my signature. Iacopo had men keeping tabs on me all the while, so I guess he was satisfied with me in the end.” Beatrice’s eyes were locked somewhere in the distance. When she spoke, her voice quavered. “I had no idea.”
Suddenly ashamed of keeping so much from her, Giac cautiously placed his hand on her arm. When she didn’t pull away, he wrapped it entirely around her shoulder and turned her head to face him. “Don’t’ beupset. Your father obviously saw some good in me or else he would have sent you straight to that convent. I can be a good husband, I promise. Just wait and see.”A small smile tugged at the corner of Beatrice’s mouth. “I’ve never known my father to be a bad judge of character.”
Giac laughed and, motioning to the untouched glass on the table, he asked “Are you going to drink that?” Beatrice shook her head. “At the moment, I couldn’t eat or drink a think.” “I’ll walk you to bed, then.” Giac withdrew his arm and pushed himself up off the cushions.
As they went into the hall, Beatrice wound her arm around his. “Where do I sleep?”“Well, the room we just left will be yours eventually, but at the moment it’s not furnished properly.” “Oh?” “Yes, it’s missing a few key pieces of furniture,” Giac chuckled, “namely a bed. It used to be my stepmother’s room and when she left, she insisted on taking it with her.” Beatrice smiled.
Giac lead her around the corner and, unlocking the door to the unused room, let her inside. “Tonightyou’ll stay here. It was my sisters’ room, but it’s been empty for a while. There are extra blankets and candles in the chest, in case you need anything.” “Thank you.” He bade her goodnight and left.
When he was halfway out the door, Beatrice spoke up. “Wait a moment.”
Giac turned back and looked at her questioningly. “Is there something else you require? Are you hungry after all?” “No, it’s just that…” Beatrice fiddled with her fingers and blushed, “You’re leaving?” “My bedroom is at the other end of the hall…”“Not that. Um,” Beatrice motioned vaguely to the bed behind her, “We were married today, were we not? So, doesn’t that make this our wedding night? Aren’t you supposed to stay? Or would you rather I came to your room?”
Giac grinned and folded his arms over his chest. While the notion did not displease Giac, he was makingan effort to be chivalrous. He figured that it would be best to hold off consummation until their marriagehad been declared publicly. Plus, there was her father’s funeral to think about, things to smooth over with Kari, and the poor girl had been traumatized enough for one day. “I think we’ve had enough excitement for now. You’re exhausted and we haven’t even had a proper celebration. What do you say to simply calling it a night?”
Beatrice bent her head and said sadly, “As you wish, Giacomo. Please accept an apology, though. I am sorry to offend.” He gently took hold of her fingers and kissed the back of her hand. “I assure you, Signora, that I amleaving you tonight only out of respect for you and your father. Please trust me when I say that you do not displease me in any way.”
The compliment caused Beatrice to blush and she withdrew her hand reluctantly. The embarrassment of being ignored on her wedding night alleviated, she curtseyed sweetly and gave Giacomo a final “Goodnight” before retreating to the bed by the wall.
After a good night’s sleep, Beatrice was up early the next morning and eager to get to work. Her two ladies and her old housemaid arrived soon after breakfast, bringing some of her things and news. Eagerly they told Beatrice about the reading of her father’s will. He had left her a sizeable dowry as well as the house and all of the furniture. Thefuneral was being taken care of by Iacopo’s business associates and she was not to worry about it. Word would be sent around later when a definite time for the services had been set. Once all the gossip had been shared, the three ladies reluctantly set to work under the direction of Beatrice. But no sooner than had they reached for the first chest balanced on the edge of the cart, they were interrupted by Giacomo.
Taking in the situation, he nodded his approval and went up to Beatrice. “Good day, ladies. I see we are wasting no time this morning.” Beatrice swept her arm out, indicating the loaded-down cart. “Yes, they brought over some of my belongings. I was planning on spending the day decorating my rooms. If you don’t object, that is.”
“Not at all! I had the same idea myself and left the door unlocked. I trust you remember how to navigate the corridors?” “Yes, I do. Thank you. Are you going out?”“Yes, I am. I have several things to take care of this morning. I will be back later today.” Giac smiled to the general group, his way of saying goodbye, and left the four girls to unload the cart.
Giacomo hadn’t slept much the night before. Locking himself in his office, he burned his candle into theearly morning hours making plans for a wedding feast that was to take place as soon as possible. Many detailed lists and estimated cost calculations later, Giac arrived at a final plan he was confident would work. The majority of the day, he decided, would be spent making necessary purchases. First he went to the jeweler’s to buy a gift for his new wife. Then it was to the tailor’s to see what they had by way ofexpedient outfits and, when that didn’t turn out, it was on to another shop to see how quickly a new suit of clothes could be made.
The sun had long since set by the time Giacomo made it back home, several bags of denari lighter. Worn out from the day’s haggling, he stopped by Beatrice’s room on his way to bed. Knocking politely, he waited for permission to enter before he did so. “Good evening, Signor,” Beatrice said with a smile. “I was wondering when you would be back.”
Giac dismissed the ladies in waiting with a flick of his wrist. They silently filed out the door while hepulled Beatrice into the center of the room. “I’ve had a busy day, but I wanted to see you before I turned in for the night.” “Oh?”
“I bought you something today.” Giac pulled a small bag out of his pocket and tipped the contents into his hand. A thin gold ring sparkled in the candlelight. “It’s a wedding gift for you.” Beatrice shrieked in delight and held out her hand. “It’s beautiful!”
Giac slipped the ring onto her finger. “It’s the only one they had available for me to bring home today, butI’ve also commissioned a new set of orecchini e collana*. They will be ready in time for our wedding feast.” * Earrings and necklace
Excitement sparkled in Beatrice’s eyes and she hugged him impulsively. “You mean we are having a wedding party? I wasn’t sure considering the circumstances…”Giac laughed. “We may be already married, but there’s no saying we can’t celebrate properly! I’ve set the date for one week from Wednesday and invitations will be sent out tomorrow. Our courtship may havebeen anything but orthodox, but I still want to give you every opportunity possible. Other girls get their wedding parties and you will, too.”
Beatrice radiated happiness. “I consider myself the luckiest girl in tutta della Toscana* to have married a man such as you. Thank you for all you’ve done for me.” Giac kissed her hand and said, “Anything for you, mia moglie.” ** * In all of Tuscany ** My wife