the celebrations will simply be rather more elaborate this year than
in preceding ones.
The planned production of Tito Manlio is thus saved from
oblivion, even if the empty chair next to the Govenor’s does rather
remind everyone of the wedding that never was. Directly behind
the prince sit his daughters in all their ﬁnery, in the midst of them
a radiant Margherita Furlani. It is the happiest day of her life.
By the end of the carnival season memories of both Eleonora and
the defunct wedding have been consigned to history. Tito Manlio
has proved a huge box-ofﬁce success for the Vivaldis. The majority
of soloists are on their way home, all with bulging purses. It has
been an excellent season, but, for Antonio especially, an exhausting
one. He is more than happy that there is no big project on the
agenda for the near future and has vowed to use the coming weeks
to recover. Giambattista is busy packing for his return to Venice.
But for once, having got to know Paolina better, he feels fully
conﬁdent that he is leaving his son’s business affairs in safe hands.
Spring arrives, mild and soft. But in the wake of his father’s
departure Antonio has suffered a collapse. A bad dose of ﬂu has
kept him in bed for more than fourteen days with a high fever.
Paolina nurses him with all the skill she can muster. For the ﬁrst
few days he sleeps, hardly conscious of what is going on around
him. Once his temperature drops there is an improvement in his
condition, but he remains weak and the tightness in his chest is
almost as bad as ever. Paolina forces him to eat despite his
unwillingness to do so. In the afternoons she reads a little poetry
to him. Eyes closed, he listens with pleasure to her voice, its gentle
modulation acting as balm to his soul. Glorious! For now he has
no need of any other melody. Sometimes his attention wanders
from the text, but often, entranced by some combination of words,
his mind ﬂies back to Andrea Frasetti, the dilettante poet with
whom he was once snowed in when ﬁrst he visited Florence. And
then it strikes him how close her intonation is to his.
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