pigs. In just a couple of hours this pleasantly-charged air will turn
into a foetid stench of rot and decay, welcome only to the many
ﬂies come to feast on discarded fruit and the detritus of butchery.
But by then the market will be over for another day and people will
be busy clearing up as best they can for tomorrow. And so time
ﬂows imperceptibly on.
Antonio has bought strawberries. Each day he takes some
fruit back with him to the court. The sun is approaching the zenith,
beating mercilessly down upon the inhabitants of Mantua. Half-
naked children run about, happily splashing one another while
their mothers do their washing at the wells and swap the latest
news. Antonio hardly hears their chatter as he passes by, anxious
to get back with his fruit and rinse it while it is still fresh. He is in
high spirits. What luscious strawberries! He pops into his mouth
the crimson beauty of the season, so sweetly ripe! Surely he has
never tasted berries so deliciously soft and delectable. He puts the
basket down on the stone ledge of a fountain and thinks he will
rest his legs a moment.
‘Oops!’ squeals a girlish voice. The remainder of the fruit
is rolling away from the upset basket next to him and down the
steps; one strawberry already lies cruelly squashed beneath the feet
of a boy in his mad dash around the well. Perturbed, the priest
turns his attention to the child standing at his feet. She is about
ten years old and stares at him startled, her hand clapped to her
mouth. Vivaldi starts. Those eyes! For a split second it is as if he is
looking at himself in a mirror. She stares silently at him for a
couple more seconds and then shyly averts her gaze. Snatching the
little basket from the ground, she begins quickly to ﬁll it with as
many whole strawberries as she can ﬁnd. Her small companions
stand around laughing and pointing, while she carefully washes
each berry in the fountain. No longer daring to look the priest in
the eyes, she hands him the retrieved treasure.
‘What’s going on here?’ asks a female voice behind Vivaldi.
He turns to ﬁnd a woman standing with her sleeves rolled up,
presumably the mother of the girl, for the child has swiftly taken
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