1636: The Chronicles of Dr. Gribbleflotz – Snippet 14

Alberto smiled. “True, but you are the one who did it, and for that you have my eternal gratitude. How are you getting to Padua?”

“I was planning on following the road to Verona, then heading for Padua.”

“We are headed for Mestre, with cargo for Venice, but we stop at Padua.” Alberto reached out and rested a hand on one of Phillip’s. “You are welcome to join us.”

That was seconded by Pietro, who added that their route was some fifty miles shorter than the route Phillip had been thinking of following. It was an offer Phillip would have been a fool to refuse. Not only was their route shorter, but he would no longer be a vulnerable lone traveler. Phillip paused to consider the possibility that Alberto and his men might rob him and leave him for dead, but it was only a momentary thought. They seemed truly thankful for what he’d done for Carlo. There was only one possible answer. “Thank you very much. I’d like to join you.”


Phillip had been keeping an eye on Carlo for a couple of days now, and he was starting to get worried. Carlo was limping more and more, and although he was insisting that there was nothing wrong with him, Phillip couldn’t miss the signs of a developing fever. He hurried ahead to warn Alberto that he needed to check the injury.

“There’s a good spot near the river just ahead where we can get off the road,” Alberto suggested.

Less than fifteen minutes later they turned off the road onto a meadow beside the River Talvera. While the Rovarinis checked the oxen and wagons Phillip got Carlo to pull down his pants so he could remove the bandage.

The wound was a mess. A wide area around the gash was inflamed, but worse than that was the swelling. The stitches were almost enveloped by the expanding skin. Phillip dug into his medical kit for a flake of Obsidian and used it to cut the stitches. The wound started to open and pus seeped out even as he cut the stitches, and it oozed out after he removed them. That was what Phillip’s reading had warned him could happen, but it didn’t make it any more pleasant to encounter. Still, he’d read his great grandfather’s dairies and knew what he had to do. He called out for some help to hold Carlo still before smiling apologetically at him and handing him a piece of wood. “I’m sorry, Carlo, but this is going to hurt. Put it between your teeth and bite down onto it.” Carlo swallowed and inserted the piece of wood.

Phillip waited until he had a couple of Rovarinis holding Carlo before he wrapped a finger in bandage and poked it into the wound. Carlo let out a muffled scream as he fought against the restraining men. Phillip saw the distressed looks on their faces and knew he had to do something to sedate Carlo.

“Do you have any schnapps?” He called out. That got a positive nod from Alberto who hurried over to a wagon, returning with a bottle of Grappa. He offered it to Phillip, who shook his head and pointed to Carlo.

“You want Carlo to drink it?” Alberto asked.

Phillip nodded. “I want him drunk enough not to notice anything I might do.”

Alberto raised a brow Phillip’s way, looked at the label on the bottle and sighed heavily before forcing Carlo’s mouth open. It took over half the bottle before Carlo became sufficiently insensitive to Phillip’s jabbing of his wound that he could continue.

With Carlo no longer struggling Phillip was able to progress much faster. Finally the wound appeared as clean as he could get it. He could see blood seeping through some of the exposed flesh. That was supposed to be a good sign. But there were areas where blood wasn’t seeping. That was a bad sign as it suggested the flesh there was dead.

According to his great grandfather’s dairies, there was only one thing to do with dead flesh in a wound, and that was to cut it out. Phillip knapped a large flake from his lump of Obsidian and used that as a scalpel to slice small pieces from the wound until he was sure he’d removed all the dead flesh. Then he smeared some of his honey based ointment into the wound and sewing it closed again. Only then did he turn away and throw up.

“Are you all right?” A worried Alberto asked.

Phillip wiped his mouth against his forearm and nodded. “I’ve never done that before.”

“Have you finished doing what you have to do?” Alberto asked.

“I still have to bandage it.”

Alberto thrust the bottle of Grappa into Phillip’s hands. “I can do that. Have some of this to steady your stomach.”

A week later, Padua

No one had thought to tell Phillip that Padua was Alberto’s base, so he was surprised when they pulled into a large property and a woman and four children ran up to Alberto.

“His wife,” Pietro informed Phillip. “She will look after you while we go on to Mestre.”

“Does Frau Rovarini speak German,” Phillip asked.

“Nope,” Pietro said. “You’ll just have to learn Venetian.”

Phillip was spared an immediate introduction to Frau Rovarini because she’d moved her welcome onto Carlo. In sharp contrast to his last encounter with his own mother, Carlo’s mother gave every impression of being pleased to see him. And that was after only a few weeks separation, not like the years Phillip and his mother had been apart. It was a sign, if Phillip really needed one, that his mother’s behavior wasn’t normal.

The surprises continued when he was introduced to Carlo’s mother. She made it clear that he was welcome in her house, and even gently pinched his cheek and said something.

“Paola says that you’re too thin and need a proper home cooked meal,” Alberto translated.

Phillip smiled at Paola and expended most of the limited vocabulary he’d picked up traveling with Alberto’s teams thanking her. Then he turned to Alberto and held out his hand. “Thank you for letting me travel with you. I don’t suppose you could direct me to suitable lodgings?”

“But you will be staying here!” Alberto said. The tone of his voice suggested outrage that Phillip should think otherwise. “You didn’t think we’d do anything less after what you did for Carlo?”

“Did what for Carlo,” Paola demanded.

Phillip didn’t actually understand what Paola had said, but he recognized the “for Carlo” bit, so he wasn’t surprised when after a brief exchange with Alberto Paola ran over to Carlo and ignoring his protests, pulled his pants down. There was a wail of anguish when she saw the stitched injury, followed almost immediately by a flood of instructions.

“What’s going on?” Phillip asked Alberto as Carlo was carried into the house.

“Please don’t take offense, but my wife has called for her cousin to check Carlo’s injury.”

“I’m not offended,” Phillip said. “In fact I’m glad someone better qualified than me is going to check what I’ve done. Is your wife’s cousin a doctor?”

“No,” a cheeky Pietro said. “He’s much better than a doctor. He looks after horses.”

June 1613, Padua

Even with Alberto Rovarini vouching for him Phillip had been finding it difficult to find work in Padua that fitted around his university lectures. Today however there was a renewed skip to his footsteps as he hurried home. He stopped in his tracks while he digested that thought. Since when had he started calling his lodgings with Paola’s cousin home?

He reached the house at the run, almost running down Giacomo’s wife. “My most humble apologies,” Phillip said as he stepped aside to let Francesca Sedazzari past.

“What’s the rush?” Francesca asked. “You look happy. Have you found a job?”

“Sort of,” Phillip said the pleasure at what had happened obvious in his voice. “Leonardo di ser Martino da Vinci isn’t happy with the quality of cupels he’s been getting. I told him I could make excellent cupels, and he’s agreed to let me share his laboratory if my cupels are as good as I claim.”

“Is that good?” Francesca asked. “I thought you wanted a job. What good is sharing his laboratory?”

“I can make acids. My acids were some of the best the Augsburg assay laboratory ever produced. I should find a ready market for them here in Padua.” Phillip wanted to throw his arms around Francesca and hug her, he was so happy.

“So all you need to do is make some cupels?”

Phillip nodded.

“What are cupels?”

“They are small vessels that you use in a fire assay. They’re usually made out of ash from bones, antlers, or wood. I’ll need a few other things, but do you know where I might be able to get some bones? Preferably the skulls?”

“There’s Giovanni. He has a knacker’s yard by the river.” Francesca smiled. “I’m sure Giacomo will be happy to introduce you to him.”