its source not yet visible through the mist, blinds him; with a groan
he pushes aside the wooden shutter and looks in the mirror.
‘Mother Maria!’ he exclaims, horriﬁed. There is an enormous lump
on his forehead. But that’s nothing compared to his eyes, dull and
lifeless as a drowned sailor’s and aﬂoat on thick, blue-grey bags
that remind him of the dead ﬁsh on the market-stalls of the Rialto.
An expression of hopelessness hangs about the slack mouth that is
usually so shapely. Pushing back the red curls that he has to thank
for his nickname of ‘Il Prete Rosso’, ‘the red priest’, he rubs his brow.
Despite his mere thirty-one years, he looks old, and oh, how he
hates himself like this. Full of remorse, he shuts his eyes and turns
away from the mirror.
‘I have to get to work,’ he slowly realises. But the moment
he tries to stand straight the dizziness returns and a wave of nausea
almost has him throwing up. Retching, he stumbles back to bed
and falls in. Clinging as if to a lifeline, he holds onto the sheets
and tries to take long, deep breaths and overcome the sickness.
Through half closed eyes he can see his clothes lying in a crumpled
heap in a corner. His beautiful cloak! He realises for the ﬁrst time
that he is only in his underwear and suddenly feels how cold it is.
Pulling the blankets up over himself he racks his brains to recollect
the events of the previous evening. He has no idea how or when he
got to bed. Equally mysterious is the bump on his forehead and his
bruised ribs. He turns carefully onto his back in an attempt to
escape Maria’s penetrating stare. The minute he closes his eyes, the
giddiness comes back so he at once opens them again and peers
upward at the beamed ceiling. At ﬁrst the wooden rafters seem to
be dancing, but each time he blinks they move more slowly, and
ﬁnally assume their proper place. Only now can Antonio begin to
order his thoughts. Fragments of the previous evening come back
to him. Disjointed memories of the party, dancing, lots of happy
people and wine, a great deal of wine. And the king of course, the
king had been there; but there is something, someone else, a
woman…! He closes his eyes and tries to picture her face. Instead,
he sees a young man with an arrogant smile, an insolent grin. And
15-42 Chapter 1.indd 19 22-11-2007 14:08:54