of bed. It is impossible to sleep on now that he knows Paolina will
reappear in a little while expecting him to be up and ready.
Splashing his face with warm water, he begins to wake up. It is
weeks since he’s been outside and he still feels very uncertain on
his feet, but he manages to get dressed and eat some bread and
nuts before Paolina comes back to collect him. Rushing in without
knocking, she takes him happily by the hand, picks up his coat and
together they descend to the arcade, she supporting him on the
stairs. Down in the courtyard they ﬁnd waiting for them a
decorative open coach, harnessed to a mare. ‘Voilà’, laughs Paolina
as Vivaldi stares at it in astonishment, ‘We’re going to take a drive.’
Greatly relieved he is not expected to walk anywhere,
Antonio steps up into the baroccio. It is small and compact, just big
enough to seat two people, and there’s a small hamper tied to the
back. Paolina springs up beside him and takes the reins. Clicking
her tongue she urges on the mare and, as if she’s been doing this
all her life, takes the carriage neatly through the gate. The priest
gazes in wonderment at the young woman seated next to him, so
self-assured and relaxed, the reins held loosely in her hands.
‘I didn’t know you could manage a horse and carriage,’ he
remarks rather shyly.
She looks at him with triumph. ‘I told you I was capable of
more than just washing clothes.’
At a gentle trot they traverse their old haunt of the market-
square and ride on out through Cerese Gate, leaving the city behind
them. Passing the buttresses of Palazzo Te they canter westwards
towards Parma. But Paolina is not going that far; after a couple of
miles she turns off right. The mare paces quietly over a sandy track.
There is no one in sight. The land around them is brilliantly
verdant, newly grown crops standing emerald, two hands high.
Now and then they pass a farm and wave to folk at work in the
yard, but the mare is less friendly disposed towards the dogs that
run barking alongside the coach, sometimes for hundreds of yards
at a stretch. After an hour or so the track divides and Paolina turns
off right once more. Soon they reach the riverbank. By now the sun
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