right; life must go on. Ashamed, he bows his head before Maria in
a long prayer of thanksgiving that she has opened his eyes.
The sun will be setting in less than an hour. Paolina and the priest
sit side by side on a low wall, looking over the derelict marketplace.
It is difﬁcult for either to imagine this as the pulsing heart of a
vibrant trading centre. Antonio gets to his feet and stretches.
Paolina cannot help but notice the shine that has returned to his
eyes, the healthy colour in his cheeks. ‘Come on, Paolina, I’m
starving! Let’s see what Tomaso has ready for us.’
Hardly daring to believe her senses, Paolina jumps down
to join him. ‘Starving?’ For weeks she has heard no such sentiment
pass his lips. Hand in hand they walk back to the boat.
Tomaso has been frying fresh sardines, and Antonio
cannot eat enough of them. After supper the two sit together in the
saloon, the windows closed to keep out the mosquitoes. Just one
small candle illuminates their private ﬂoating world, so that they
can watch the lights of Venice glittering far off across the water.
‘Strange, isn’t it?’ says Paolina. ‘So near and yet so far away.’
Torcello is silent as the grave, and that night Antonio
sleeps more soundly than ever in his life before.
The next morning they are greeted by the bleating of sheep, nosing
inquisitively at the boat from the quayside. The weather is clear,
and, if Tomaso’s grin is anything to go by, the wind is in the right
direction, too. He will not have to row today; this breeze will do all
the work for him. Zigzagging her way between the creeks and
gullies of the Palude Maggiore, Il Delﬁno picks her way through the
great marshes. The extended reed-beds are paradise to a rich
assortment of water birds, and herons arise screeching from their
ﬁshing-ground to glide low over the plumes of reeds and make a
digniﬁed descent somewhere further downstream. At last the little
yacht emerges from the marshes, to ﬁnd the waters of the lagoon
stretching away ahead. Tomaso carefully sails the route indicated
by poles standing up out of the water, for the lagoon’s many fatal
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