1636 The Flight Of The Nightingale – Snippet 06

Chapter 4

Sabatini awoke at a nudge.

“Marco,” he heard Francesca say as he was opening his eyes. “Time to go.”

He shook his head to clear the cobwebs from his thinking, and rolled to his feet in a limber motion.

“Oh, to be young again,” Renata murmured. She pointed toward a door. “Chamber pot’s in there.”

Sabatini took advantage of it, making sure the door closed firmly and that he threw the latch. He was glad to see the latch, actually, but he figured that actors being both lively and often bawdy, everyone would insist on the latch for self-preservation. There was no candle or lamp in the cubby, but enough light leaked in under the door and from a gap in the outer wall just above the ceiling to let him see what was what. It didn’t take long before his business was done and he was back in the back stage area, checking his clothes to make sure that they were straight.

Francesca was waiting, toe tapping. She had her new coat on and was holding the bag with clothes. The other bag, the one with the papers, must be under the coat, much as she had carried it under the cloak. Sabatini understood that. Those papers were more important to her than almost anything.

“Ready?” she said. Sabatini nodded as he scooped up his own bag. “Let’s go.” She looked at Renata, and gave a nod that was almost a bow. “Thank you for your help, and thank Barbara again for me when you see her next.”

“It was our pleasure, dear,” Renata said in what Sabatini thought of still as a reedy voice. “Santa Cecilia bless you, and go with God.”

A moment later, they were outside the theatre in the pre-dawn light.

“Which way?” Sabatini asked. He knew about where the Piazza di San Sabatini was, but he wasn’t sure what the best way was to get there from the spot where they were standing.

“This way,” Francesca said, turning and leading the way farther down the alley in the faint pre-dawn light. It ended abruptly in a cul-de-sac, which took Sabatini aback, but Francesca walked over to a door set in the left-hand wall. It opened at her touch, and Sabatini followed her into a rather dark hallway. He kept his hand on the wall as he followed almost blindly.

Sabatini stumbled as they crossed a threshold into what seemed to be another building based on the brickwork. There were a couple of candles in the room, which seemed to be a small taverna. An older woman who was wiping down tables looked up and nodded as they walked by. Francesca nodded back, but said nothing as she walked to another door. That door also opened at her touch, and let them out onto a street.

Three corners and several short blocks and they turned onto the large piazza before the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Flore. They crossed the piazza and entered Via di Martelli, which immediately fed into the Larga.

Francesca was walking briskly in the slowly growing light. She said nothing, and gazed straight ahead, but Sabatini was certain she knew what was going on around her. There were servants and tradesmen on the streets, either hurrying to work or carrying loads for deliveries. In their common clothing, carrying their bundles, the two of them just seemed to blend into the crowds.

Two long blocks and they entered Piazza di San Sabatini. Now at last Francesca stopped for a moment — or rather, hesitated to look around. Just as her eyes seemed to locate what she was looking for, a loud voice called out, “Aunt Maria!”

A large and burly individual hopped down off of a cart and bounded toward them, arms spread wide. “Aunt Maria! Here you are! It is so good to see you.” He wrapped his arms around her, even though she stiffened for a moment in surprise. Sabatini stepped back a couple of paces, to create a little distance. Based on what they were supposed to be doing, he needed to not be a part of this scene. He turned to his left a bit, and walked over to gaze at the basilica, but keeping Francesca in the periphery of his vision.

Giulio — that must surely be him — gave Francesca a resounding kiss on the cheek and released his embrace. “Oh, Aunt Maria, I am so glad Cousin Giovanni was able to convince you to come. Uncle Umberto needs tending badly, and he won’t accept anyone but you.” He took Francesca by the arm, and gently urged her toward the cart. “But please, he is hurting so badly, we must be on the way. The sooner you get there, the sooner he will listen to sense.”

Francesca climbed up into the cart, boosted by Giulio, looking over her shoulder at Sabatini as she did so and giving a bare hint of a nod and smile. Sabatini relaxed a little. If this was indeed Giulio, then things were going according to what he knew of the plan, anyway.

There was a sleepy little donkey standing before the cart, who looked around reproachfully when Giulio climbed up into the cart as well, took the reins in hand, and shook them.

“Get along, Rosario, you lazy thing,” Giulio called out, shaking the reins again. The donkey faced forward, seemed to sigh, and leaned into his collar. The cart started moving with a hint of a squeak from the wheels. Sabatini’s mouth quirked at that — that kind of noise would drive Francesca mad.

Giulio kept up a running thread of conversation, mostly on his own. Sabatini could see Francesca nodding as the cart pulled away. He waited for it to travel a distance, before following in its track.

Giulio took Via degli Arrazzieri out of the piazza, the Street of the Tapestry Makers, but the street was only a block long and its T was crossed by the larger Via San Gallo, where Giulio turned the cart to the right, to the north, and headed for the city gate. Sabatini followed, and he caught a glimpse of Francesca looking over her shoulder to for a moment to make sure he was still in sight…

It was a fair distance to the gate, and a grumble from his stomach reminded him that he hadn’t eaten anything yet today. He kept an eye out, and sure enough, before long he saw a baker’s boy carrying a towel covered tray the same direction he was going.