1636 The Flight Of The Nightingale – Snippet 07
“Got bread under that?” Sabatini asked.
“No, I’m carrying rocks,” the other boy retorted. “Of course I have bread.”
“Marco,” introducing himself.
“Sell me one?”
Guido looked around. “I don’t knowâ€¦these are supposed to be going toâ€¦”
“Tell them a dog jostled you and a loaf dropped off. I’m starving, and I’ve got a long way to go today.”
Guido looked around again, and shrugged. “Show me the coin.” Sabatini reached into an inner pocket of his jerking and pulled out a soldi. Guido looked horrified. “I can’t change that. I don’t have anything on me.”
“Fine,” Sabatini said. “Give me two loaves, then. I’ll want something to eat this evening, too.” He was overpaying, but he didn’t care. He was hungry.
Guido stepped close beside Sabatini as they walked. “Fine. Pick up the towel, put the coin on the tray, and take the two loaves on the edge.”
Sabatini did exactly that, tucking one of the loaves inside his jerkin, and tearing a bite out of the other with sharp teeth.
“Mmm,” he mumbled past the wad of dough he was chewing. “Good.”
“Should be,” Guido said. “My master is one of the best in Firenze. Good travels to you.”
“Thank you,” Sabatini replied after he cleared his throat. “San Giovanni watch over you.”
With that, Guido split away from Sabatini and headed toward an upcoming cross-street. Sabatini continued on. He was lagging farther behind Giulio’s cart than he wanted to be because he and Guido had slowed down a bit while they exchanged words, coin, and bread, so he stepped up his pace.
The bread was fresh, and even still had a trace of warmth inside it from the baking. The crust was dense, but the inside was light and a bit moist, which was good, as Sabatini didn’t have a water bottle. But he strode along with a will, enjoying the fresh bread, and watching as they drew closer to the Porta di San Gallo, the northernmost gate out of the city.
Sabatini was close enough to the cart now to hear that Giulio was still talking. He must have been doing it on purpose. Sabatini had to admit it attracted attention to him, and as long as Francesca limited her responses to nods and the occasional quiet word, she was just background to Giulio’s performance. And performance it was.
The gate was open today, and those guards in view stood to one side or the other, simply watching as people entered and left, but focusing mostly on the former. Sabatini saw that he had caught the eye of one of the guards, so he flashed him a big grin after he popped the last of his bread in his mouth. The guard returned the grin with a thumb’s up sign.
Sabatini took a careful sigh after he moved out from the shadow of the gate to stand on the road outside the city walls. First milestone of their very long journey reached — they were out of Firenze. A lot of miles to go, but that was a matter of putting one foot in front of another for a lot of days. Or at least, he hoped it was.
The cart crested a low hill. They were in the foothills of the Apennine Mountains, and Francesca was now glad of the cart. The thought of her legs having to go up and down hills wasn’t comforting. She kept checking on Sabatini, but he was still keeping pace with them.
“And there is Fiesole,” Giulio remarked. Even his volubility had run down after the first couple of miles on the road, and after the traffic had thinned out some. These were the first words he had said in some time.
“Finally,” Francesca said with some relief.
Giulio looked at her and chuckled. “Surely my repartee was not that bad.”
“My feelings have nothing to do with you and everything to do with hardness of the seat in this lurching excuse for a conveyance.” She put her hand out to the side as one of the unsprung cart’s wheels rolled over a small rock in the roadway. The track to Fiesole, although not bad as most roads went, was certainly not as good as one of the old Roman Empire via roads. Francesca was ready to get off and walk on her own feet.
“Well, I suppose we could have borrowedâ€¦”
“Stolen,” Francesca interjected.
Giulio waved a hand. “What’s in a word? As I was saying, we could have borrowed the dowager princess’ carriage, but I’m afraid that would have defeated your purpose.”
“Indeed.” Francesca’s tone was dry enough to serve as a desiccant. Giulio chuckled again.
Francesca turned to look at her companion. The angle was far enough around that she could get a glimpse of Sabatini still trudging along some distance behind them. She faced back to front, content to know that he was still with them.
After another furlong, Giulio said quietly, “You will be missed, you know.”
Francesca looked at him out of the corner of her eye. “Right,” she said. “A fifty year-old woman singer who has lived in the shadow of the court all her life will undoubtedly be missed.”
“Maestra,” the actor responded, “you are valued by many in Firenze — perhaps more than you know — and you will be missed. Even Salvator Rosa has said he will miss you, because no one can talk him into a corner like you can.” That drew a snort from Francesca, which engendered a grin on Giulio’s face. Rosa, an artist and writer, was a recent transplant from Roma, but was originally from Napoli. Like most artists Francesca had met, he was a walking stick of ego and arrogance. However, she had to admit in his defense that he was almost as good as he thought he was. And he had upon occasion made her laugh.
“I’m sure he said that,” she said in her dry tone again.
“He did,” Giulio protested. “I heard him say it with my own two ears.” Francesca shook her head. “It’s true!” he asserted.
“Fine,” Francesca said. “He said it. Whether he meant it or notâ€¦”
“He is an artist and a writer,” Giulio said with a grin. “Of course he meant itâ€¦for the moment.”
That evoked a laugh from Francesca.