Anna has no such scruples and her self-conﬁdence and the
expression she puts into her music lessons prove enough to impress
her new teacher. The child’s little face is unblemished, and if only
the pox passes her by she will turn into a lovely woman.
The audience in Vicenza adores Vivaldi’s opera. Paolina has stayed
at home as Giambattista expressed the desire to accompany
Antonio; the trip is a short one and Paolina has no desire to play
gooseberry. She has decided instead to spend her time fruitfully
renewing her acquaintance with Venice, and has already discovered
some bookshops. Intoxicated, she breathes in the scent of freshly
tanned leather, hand-made paper and ink. Hours pass by unnoticed
as she immerses herself in her own world, leaﬁng through new
publications by Racine and Corneille or a reprint of Art Poétique by
Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux. Very occasionally she indulges herself
and buys a copy of something, clasping it to her breast like priceless
treasure as she runs home on winged feet. Then, in the privacy of
her little room, she gently opens the new book and luxuriates in
the pleasure of reading. Outside these precious hours she looks
after Anna and helps Mamma Camilla in the house. It is an
uneventful life, but she feels safe and both she and Anna are
thriving. Anna has made friends with one of the girls next door.
They go to school together and share their secrets.
Mamma Camilla gets on quite well with both sisters. Anna
is a sweet-tempered and polite child, less common a phenomenon
than it once was, as Camilla is fond of remarking. The older woman
accepts Paolina as a good friend of her son, no more than that.
Although Camilla asks herself increasingly what the true nature of
their relationship might be. She has her suspicions, purely intuitive,
and follows her feelings just as any other woman and mother does.
The truth is that from the ﬁrst moment she saw them together she
has had her suspicions and these have only grown in the meantime.
She tries to lure things out of Paolina with apparently innocent but
carefully aimed questions. But she has met her match in the
younger woman. Paolina is extremely chary of Camilla’s cheerful,
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