Aldo Stern
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The New Mole


By Aldo Stern, 2016-10-08

Don Aldo Stern, senior Magistrate for the Island of Rocca Sorrentina in the Sorrento district of the Kingdom of Napoli stood at the end of the new structure.  Oddly enough, after just a few months of weathering during the construction, it had already acquired an apparent patina of age.  But then of course, it was built mostly with salvaged materials scrounged from the far side of the island, and other old stone, iron banding and bollards brought down by His Majesty's engineers from the royal yards at Castellammare.  That was the main reason it went up so quickly: the stone was already cut and dressed, and there was the remains of the foundation of the mole that had been built by the Elswitts when they held title to the island.  Once the support and interest of King Ferdinando was squarely behind the project, the actual construction was relatively straightforward.  "Everything in life should be so simple," thought the magistrate.

That original mole had been demolished not long before Don Aldo had come to the island, some six years ago.  Il Principe had devised a plan to expand the size of the harbor, which had been carried out in his absence, while he went on that fateful trip to the new World.  Boulders had been placed to create a breakwater, the harbor had been dredged, a fine stone dock added right by the grand arch, and the old mole was level to permit larger ships into the older part of the labor by the roman steps.  

The only problem was larger ships hadn't used that space as intended.  Instead, the biggest ships anchored out in the new harbor, sheltered from the winds by the little island with the former harbormaster's house where Donna Sere now resided, and under the protection of the heavy guns of the "nuova fortezza."  They also had more room to maneuver out there: the old inner harbor was  fairly confined.  Smaller ships did alright, but as the economy of the island kept improving and more vessels stopped to exchange cargoes and discharge or take on passengers, more dock space was needed.  So the council of magistrates of Rocca Sorentina had devised the plan to rebuild the old mole...now the "new mole"...or was it perhaps best called the "new old mole?"

Well, either way, it hopefully would serve trade well, and it certainly looked fine...it was not the biggest such structure, even among the smaller coastal communities around the bay, and certainly looked tiny when compared to the great mole in Napoli, but it had been finished off nicely and seemed like it would serve its purpose well.  

And standing out at its end and looking back to the island, it certainly provided an excellent and appealing new view of the village...

Don Aldo looked up at the ancient campanile of the church, and the charming, asymmetrical jumble of houses, including his own odd little villa with the off-centered porch, grape vines, and arbor made from salvaged ship's timbers.  The west side of the village looked as if some irresponsible giant child had casually dumped toy houses and blocks at random on a sand pile at the beach, and then wandered off, leaving the mess to eventually be collected by some long-suffering but infinitely patient giant governess or nanny.

As the setting sun made the little houses and ancient stones glow with warmth, the magistrate was once again struck that it was perhaps one of the most beautiful locales he had seen during the course of his travels, and certainly stood out as his own personal favorite place on the planet.

new mole rocca_21.png

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So...my dear Professore, have things returned to normal?

Normal, my dear Conte, is something of a relative term when applied to life on our odd little island.

The Conte Foscari chuckled. I always suspected as much. And has my ward fully recovered?

The Professor cast his line out a short ways from the boat. Not entirely. It will take some time for her to regain her usual enthusiasm. But she is young and resilient. And now that she has had the fever, Dottore Greymoon tells me that she will not likely get the disease again. This may actually make her an even more effective operative for you, no?

The Conte nodded but did not answer with words. He knew that the Professore had not meant to make him uncomfortable, but the Conte Foscari did not particularly wish to reflect upon the fact that there were practical as well as personal reasons that he wanted Devi to recover fully. He was, in fact, very fond of her. But she was also incredibly useful to him. And it was quite true what the Professore had implied: Devi could now safely go many places that other operatives might find disagreeably unhealthy...all the same, he vaguely wished that Don Aldo had not left his understanding of that reality unspoken.

After a bit of silence, the Professore spoke again.

Have you have had word from Roma?

I have indeed had a pigeon from my man Luca in Roma. Luca is very good at finding things out,and his enquiries have turned up several interesting facts.

Ah. I see. This is why you wished to go fishing with me?

Well, I thought it was a pleasant afternoon, and fishing is very relaxing...just a couple of old friends out trying to snag something for dinner.

And the fact that no one can overhear us out here is entirely coincidental, added Don Aldo with a wry little smile.

933_blogs.jpg?width=750The Conte shrugged. Indeed...it is an additional benefit that small boats out in the bay offer one a certain level of privacy.

So here we are, just a couple of old friends out in the middle of the harbor trying to catch some sea bass. And while we wait for the fish to cooperate, we can talk. May I ask what your good fellow Luca has learned so far?"

Quite a bit actually. Firstly it would seem that the unfortunate Maria Cecilia does indeed belong to the Antonnacci Family: she was the second daughter of a certain Pietro Antonnacci, a well respected and successful Goldsmith."

Ah. I assume the 'well-respected' part of the equation is problematic, yes? asked Don Aldo.

Indeed, repleid the Conte. For it would seem that they did indeed disown their daughter, but long before she got herself into a delicate condition. Maria's father had organized a very suitable marriage with a second son of a minor aristocratic family...but Maria would have none of it. The father threatened her with the convent, but she refused that solution and ran away...and then it would seem that she had fallen in with a bad crowd...a crowd who liked to take Maria with them, to...rather Hedonistic parties. As you saw, Maria had no trouble fitting in...she was most attractive and had enough manners and education to mingle successfully. So Antonnacci had already washed his hands of his wayward daughter, and she was staying with a young friend from yet another minor aristocratic family...

The Professore looked thoughtful. Well...this brings us to an interesting point. while she may well have known our friend Don Mercurio...in perhaps both senses of the word...there is, in fact,the possibility that he was not the actual father of the child?

The Conte nodded. As for Sior Mercury's part in this affair, I shall come to that presently. You see, my man Luca got some very detailed information from the household servants before he presented himself to Sior Antonnacci to break the sad news of Maria's death.

But he did eventually delver the sorry news, no?

Oh yes, answered the Conte. Luca broke the news of her death to Maria's father, who although moved to tears and regrets, felt it would be best if his daughter was buried here in Sorrentina...there would be too much to explain.....it would be easier to ay that she died of the fever, whilst traveling.

Fillipe Foscari noted that his friend's usually impassive, benevolent countenance face suddenly darkened. The Conte couldn't quite tell if it was surprise or anger, or perhaps both. He was not entirely used to seeing Don Aldo react to situations with anything other a calm and philosophical demeanor.

Does this surprise you? he asked.

Aldo Stern sighed and then shrugged. "She was their child. Only that. I suppose one can argue that the family's reputation is something that can still be salvaged. and that having the young woman resting close to her home and family is a moot point. The dead are dead...but gossip lives on.

Yes, replied the Conte. I am afraid this is the case. The other thing was that Sior Antonnacci had no idea his daughter was expecting a child...and...well, the Antonnaccis are ambitious to step up into higher social circles. The father has arranged very clever, advantageous marriages for his other daughters...he has three others to be married...and wants nothing to spoil their chances. So I am afraid, according to Luca, the grandfather showed no enthusiasm for his new granddaughter, and thought it splendid if she could be adopted, preferably with no connection to him.

As he finished this statement, Conte Fillipe Foscari found himself sighing a bit, a wave of sadness washing over him. He was a little surprised at himself. He was nobleman of an old house in the ancient Republic of Venezia. He understood the ways of the world and had witnessed the injustice and sorry outcomes of that reality almost daily. Perhaps he was just tired.

His friend, however, seemed to be showing signs of anger rather than world-weariness.

I have heard enough. So be it, Don Aldo said curtly. We shall put the woman Maria to her rest here, and ...if they wish to have no complications with regards to the infant, we shall deal with that as well. Our good Dottore Greymoon and his Donna Athena will make a good family for her. Perhaps a damned sight better family situation than that of this ambitious goldsmith who should have wished to take her.

Conte Felippe was not accustomed to hearing his old friend cursing. He answered quietly, Yes, my friend...I think the infant may have better chances at happiness with Dottore Greymoon than with a return to her mother's family.

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The Professore nodded in agreement and gave his line another flick to try to attract something to take the bait. You know Dottore Greymoon is establishing an apothecary here and plans to practice his craft on Rocca? he asked.

I had heard this, said the Conte. A wonderful idea. I like the Dottore: he only bleeds and purges when necessary, and has a great knowledge of herbal treatments for various afflictions. It will be good to have him and his new family around on the island. Maybe Devi can hlep him out, when she has fully regained her strength....she is very knowledgeable about herbal medicines.

It would be helpful for her to have a task to focus her attention, agreed Don Aldo.

The Conte smiled. Well, Devi is a stubborn young woman, and given she is determined to wait for your man Achile to return, I concur that she should have some sort of gainful occupation.

The Professore smiled and looked at the Conte Foscari with an expression that seemed to reflect his usual philosophical, even-tempered mein. But then suddenly, it seemed that something crossed his mind and a flash of resentment burned in his eyes.

Does this ambitious goldsmith require some payment from us before he will sign documents that will prevent him from making any claim to the little girl in the future? he asked in voice that held a slight edge of menace.

Conte Foscari shook his head. The goldsmith Antonnacci was more than happy to sign the necessary documents...which Luca just happened to have with him. In fact, he was more afraid that Sorrentina was making claims on him for the child's upkeep. I already have the signed documents in my study.

Don Aldo smiled a bit, seemingly reassured. Ah, of course, your good man Luca would have gone prepared, and got the matter settled before any second thoughts might occur to the goldsmith...still I am curious...did Luca have to pay the man some kind of honorarium to seal the bargain?

Luca did indeed go with the document I charged him to prepare, and indeed got the goldsmith to sign before he changed his mind...there was no mention of the goldsmith asking for any kind of payment...but as to whether Luca managed to get some kind of payment for himself from the Goldsmith for facilitating the arrangement...well....I cannot say. But he is a Roman after all...

Don Aldo laughed and resumed moving his pole and line in a pattern that he hoped would attract the attention of something tasty.

The Conte gave his own line a few desultory flicks and began to wonder if his hook was still baited or not. As he gazed out over the calm waters of the bay, he quietly commented, In this case, I think the little girl will do better as an adopted orphan than an unwanted illegitimate granddaughter...

The Professore made a small noise that indicated his agreement. After another pause, Don Aldo sighed and commented, Well, I am glad it is settled then: we can have the christening and Donna Lorsange can be the Godmother as she so ardently desires: the good Dottore and his lady may proceed with beginning their family; and we...as you say...will be back to what passes for normal on Sorrentina.

The Conte smiled. I shall be pleased to be godfather, if the Greymoons concur, he added. And I will stand by the trust I set up in my daughter's name for the education of the child."

"That is most kind of you, my friend."

"Miliegraze It is the least I can do in these unfortunatecircumstances."

"But what of Don Mercurio and his possible role in this?"

"Ah," the Conte continued, "as for our Sior Gandt and his involvement in this strange and sad affair -- Luca has managed to talk to the servants that were working at the particular party that both Sior Gandt and Maria attended. Now, the news concerning Sior Gandt is very interesting: as I said, Luca was able to interview several of the servants present. And Sior Gandt did indeed linger in Roma, to take advantage of various games of chance...it would seem that he had plenty of money to play with.....but his luck was mediocre, and he probably lost as much as he won. Mind you, there was a lot of revelry in the Palazzo where the party was held that evening...a very boisterous crowd....a lot of laudanum and opium smoking as well as good wine...and Maria Cecilia was there also, rather the worse for wear."

The Professore looked up from his fishing, extremely intent upon the Conte's report. Please go on, my friend.

The Conte nodded and resumed his narrative. The servants stated that they saw two gentlemen, well-known sons of great families, plying her with drink...one of the maids said she saw them pour something into the drink before they gave it to Maria, and that after a while Maria lost sensibility...the gentlemen carried her into a nearby room. The maid made it clear what their intentions were. Meanwhile, about this time, Sior Gandt was having a break from his gambling, and was wandering around the Palazzo. It would seem that the two gentlemen were in the process of taking advantage of Maria's insensibility when Sior Gandt happened into the room. At this point, according to one of the footmen Luca spoke to, a small fight ensued between Sior Gandt and the two aristocrats, which was prevented from going any further by the arrival of the said footman...after which Sior Gandt, helped the footman, carried the semi-conscious Maria to a coach. Sior Gandt went with Maria in the coach, presumably to see her safely to her friend's house. Luca then talked to the coachman, who didn't seem to think that anything untowards happened during the short coach ride, but did observe that by the time they had arrived, Maria had regained most of her senses...Sior Gandt gave Maria into the care of the house servants, and the Coachman took him back to the party, where apparently he carried on gambling.

Don Aldo had an odd little smile on his face. I see...and naturally, she drew an incorrect conclusion from the circumstances...yes?

Yes, answered the Conte. It would seem that it might have been that Maria only remembers being taken home, and not what happened at the party, and came to incorrect conclusions as to the identity of her child's father. This information is also interesting in that, if I recall correctly, during the course of the card reading that Merry Chase did for the infant, there was some indication that the father of the child was actually a person of some importance. Not that our dear Don Mercurio isn't important in his own unique way...but from the perspective of most of the world, even a minor Roman nobleman has a bit more degree of importance than a landless young Briton who is a part-time police informer and full-time gambler and n'er-do-well.

As I said, things back to their normal status for life on Rocca...slightly confused, slightly complicated...a festival of irony and never dull....and speaking of which, I have some other news for you.

Oh? Other news?

Don Aldo smiled rather broadly this time. Yes, indeed...and good news, actually. Perhaps Devi will not have to wait so long. I have had word from Achille that with Abu bin Malachi's help, he has located and secured the worldly remains of the noble lady who had been taken to North Africa.

Ahhhhh...interesting...so Achille is on his way home?

Well, they have arranged to have what was left of the lady cleaned up, as is appropriate. So the bones are packed and he will accompany them to the lady's home and her family in the Duchy of Tuscany, where he will present the remains and the evidence that these are indeed the bones of their loved one.

A sad mission for Achille, said the Conte. But Devi will be delighted, I am certain.

At this point, as Don Aldo pulled on his line, he seemed to feel something tugging at it. He gave a slight jerk to engage the hook and began to draw it in. Whatever he had caught did not seem to be putting up much of a fight.

As he held it up, Conte Fillipe Foscari drily commented, An interesting catch Professore...what do you propose to do with it?

935_blogs.jpg?width=750Oh perhaps I shall have Merry make a stew of it," laughed Don Aldo. "Will you join me for dinner if I induce her to do so?'

I am correct, that is, in fact, a lady's shoe, is it not?

Indeed, my friend, it does seem so. From a rather large lady, unless I am very much mistaken.

The Conte peered at it more closely. There is something oddly familiar about it. And while immersion in the water of the bay does not seem to have improved it any, I am compelled to observe that its former owner does not seem to have been possessed of much in the way of good taste or fashion sense.

Well, at least we have something. Let us take our catch of the day and proceed home. I wonder what Merry will tossin the kettle with it to make something delectable of this.

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So...my dear Professore, have things returned to normal?

Normal, my dear Conte, is something of a relative term when applied to life on our odd little island.

The Conte Foscari chuckled. I always suspected as much. And has my ward fully recovered?

The Professor cast his line out a short ways from the boat. Not entirely. It will take some time for her to regain her usual enthusiasm. But she is young and resilient. And now that she has had the fever, Dottore Greymoon tells me that she will not likely get the disease again. This may actually make her an even more effective operative for you, no?

The Conte nodded but did not answer with words. He knew that the Professore had not meant to make him uncomfortable, but the Conte Foscari did not particularly wish to reflect upon the fact that there were practical as well as personal reasons that he wanted Devi to recover fully. He was, in fact, very fond of her. But she was also incredibly useful to him. And it was quite true what the Professore had implied: Devi could now safely go many places that other operatives might find disagreeably unhealthy...all the same, he vaguely wished that Don Aldo had not left his understanding of that reality unspoken.

After a bit of silence, the Professore spoke again.

Have you have had word from Roma?

I have indeed had a pigeon from my man Luca in Roma. Luca is very good at finding things out,and his enquiries have turned up several interesting facts.

Ah. I see. This is why you wished to go fishing with me?

Well, I thought it was a pleasant afternoon, and fishing is very relaxing...just a couple of old friends out trying to snag something for dinner.

And the fact that no one can overhear us out here is entirely coincidental, added Don Aldo with a wry little smile.

934_blogs.jpg?width=750The Conte shrugged. Indeed...it is an additional benefit that small boats out in the bay offer one a certain level of privacy.

So here we are, just a couple of old friends out in the middle of the harbor trying to catch some sea bass. And while we wait for the fish to cooperate, we can talk. May I ask what your good fellow Luca has learned so far?"

Quite a bit actually. Firstly it would seem that the unfortunate Maria Cecilia does indeed belong to the Antonnacci Family: she was the second daughter of a certain Pietro Antonnacci, a well respected and successful Goldsmith."

Ah. I assume the 'well-respected' part of the equation is problematic, yes? asked Don Aldo.

Indeed, repleid the Conte. For it would seem that they did indeed disown their daughter, but long before she got herself into a delicate condition. Maria's father had organized a very suitable marriage with a second son of a minor aristocratic family...but Maria would have none of it. The father threatened her with the convent, but she refused that solution and ran away...and then it would seem that she had fallen in with a bad crowd...a crowd who liked to take Maria with them, to...rather Hedonistic parties. As you saw, Maria had no trouble fitting in...she was most attractive and had enough manners and education to mingle successfully. So Antonnacci had already washed his hands of his wayward daughter, and she was staying with a young friend from yet another minor aristocratic family...

The Professore looked thoughtful. Well...this brings us to an interesting point. while she may well have known our friend Don Mercurio...in perhaps both senses of the word...there is, in fact,the possibility that he was not the actual father of the child?

The Conte nodded. As for Sior Mercury's part in this affair, I shall come to that presently. You see, my man Luca got some very detailed information from the household servants before he presented himself to Sior Antonnacci to break the sad news of Maria's death.

But he did eventually delver the sorry news, no?

Oh yes, answered the Conte. Luca broke the news of her death to Maria's father, who although moved to tears and regrets, felt it would be best if his daughter was buried here in Sorrentina...there would be too much to explain.....it would be easier to ay that she died of the fever, whilst traveling.

Fillipe Foscari noted that his friend's usually impassive, benevolent countenance face suddenly darkened. The Conte couldn't quite tell if it was surprise or anger, or perhaps both. He was not entirely used to seeing Don Aldo react to situations with anything other a calm and philosophical demeanor.

Does this surprise you? he asked.

Aldo Stern sighed and then shrugged. "She was their child. Only that. I suppose one can argue that the family's reputation is something that can still be salvaged. and that having the young woman resting close to her home and family is a moot point. The dead are dead...but gossip lives on.

Yes, replied the Conte. I am afraid this is the case. The other thing was that Sior Antonnacci had no idea his daughter was expecting a child...and...well, the Antonnaccis are ambitious to step up into higher social circles. The father has arranged very clever, advantageous marriages for his other daughters...he has three others to be married...and wants nothing to spoil their chances. So I am afraid, according to Luca, the grandfather showed no enthusiasm for his new granddaughter, and thought it splendid if she could be adopted, preferably with no connection to him.

As he finished this statement, Conte Fillipe Foscari found himself sighing a bit, a wave of sadness washing over him. He was a little surprised at himself. He was nobleman of an old house in the ancient Republic of Venezia. He understood the ways of the world and had witnessed the injustice and sorry outcomes of that reality almost daily. Perhaps he was just tired.

His friend, however, seemed to be showing signs of anger rather than world-weariness.

I have heard enough. So be it, Don Aldo said curtly. We shall put the woman Maria to her rest here, and ...if they wish to have no complications with regards to the infant, we shall deal with that as well. Our good Dottore Greymoon and his Donna Athena will make a good family for her. Perhaps a damned sight better family situation than that of this ambitious goldsmith who should have wished to take her.

Conte Felippe was not accustomed to hearing his old friend cursing. He answered quietly, Yes, my friend...I think the infant may have better chances at happiness with Dottore Greymoon than with a return to her mother's family.

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The Professore nodded in agreement and gave his line another flick to try to attract something to take the bait. You know Dottore Greymoon is establishing an apothecary here and plans to practice his craft on Rocca? he asked.

I had heard this, said the Conte. A wonderful idea. I like the Dottore: he only bleeds and purges when necessary, and has a great knowledge of herbal treatments for various afflictions. It will be good to have him and his new family around on the island. Maybe Devi can hlep him out, when she has fully regained her strength....she is very knowledgeable about herbal medicines.

It would be helpful for her to have a task to focus her attention, agreed Don Aldo.

The Conte smiled. Well, Devi is a stubborn young woman, and given she is determined to wait for your man Achile to return, I concur that she should have some sort of gainful occupation.

The Professore smiled and looked at the Conte Foscari with an expression that seemed to reflect his usual philosophical, even-tempered mein. But then suddenly, it seemed that something crossed his mind and a flash of resentment burned in his eyes.

Does this ambitious goldsmith require some payment from us before he will sign documents that will prevent him from making any claim to the little girl in the future? he asked in voice that held a slight edge of menace.

Conte Foscari shook his head. The goldsmith Antonnacci was more than happy to sign the necessary documents...which Luca just happened to have with him. In fact, he was more afraid that Sorrentina was making claims on him for the child's upkeep. I already have the signed documents in my study.

Don Aldo smiled a bit, seemingly reassured. Ah, of course, your good man Luca would have gone prepared, and got the matter settled before any second thoughts might occur to the goldsmith...still I am curious...did Luca have to pay the man some kind of honorarium to seal the bargain?

Luca did indeed go with the document I charged him to prepare, and indeed got the goldsmith to sign before he changed his mind...there was no mention of the goldsmith asking for any kind of payment...but as to whether Luca managed to get some kind of payment for himself from the Goldsmith for facilitating the arrangement...well....I cannot say. But he is a Roman after all...

Don Aldo laughed and resumed moving his pole and line in a pattern that he hoped would attract the attention of something tasty.

The Conte gave his own line a few desultory flicks and began to wonder if his hook was still baited or not. As he gazed out over the calm waters of the bay, he quietly commented, In this case, I think the little girl will do better as an adopted orphan than an unwanted illegitimate granddaughter...

The Professore made a small noise that indicated his agreement. After another pause, Don Aldo sighed and commented, Well, I am glad it is settled then: we can have the christening and Donna Lorsange can be the Godmother as she so ardently desires: the good Dottore and his lady may proceed with beginning their family; and we...as you say...will be back to what passes for normal on Sorrentina.

The Conte smiled. I shall be pleased to be godfather, if the Greymoons concur, he added. And I will stand by the trust I set up in my daughter's name for the education of the child."

"That is most kind of you, my friend."

"Miliegraze It is the least I can do in these unfortunatecircumstances."

"But what of Don Mercurio and his possible role in this?"

"Ah," the Conte continued, "as for our Sior Gandt and his involvement in this strange and sad affair -- Luca has managed to talk to the servants that were working at the particular party that both Sior Gandt and Maria attended. Now, the news concerning Sior Gandt is very interesting: as I said, Luca was able to interview several of the servants present. And Sior Gandt did indeed linger in Roma, to take advantage of various games of chance...it would seem that he had plenty of money to play with.....but his luck was mediocre, and he probably lost as much as he won. Mind you, there was a lot of revelry in the Palazzo where the party was held that evening...a very boisterous crowd....a lot of laudanum and opium smoking as well as good wine...and Maria Cecilia was there also, rather the worse for wear."

The Professore looked up from his fishing, extremely intent upon the Conte's report. Please go on, my friend.

The Conte nodded and resumed his narrative. The servants stated that they saw two gentlemen, well-known sons of great families, plying her with drink...one of the maids said she saw them pour something into the drink before they gave it to Maria, and that after a while Maria lost sensibility...the gentlemen carried her into a nearby room. The maid made it clear what their intentions were. Meanwhile, about this time, Sior Gandt was having a break from his gambling, and was wandering around the Palazzo. It would seem that the two gentlemen were in the process of taking advantage of Maria's insensibility when Sior Gandt happened into the room. At this point, according to one of the footmen Luca spoke to, a small fight ensued between Sior Gandt and the two aristocrats, which was prevented from going any further by the arrival of the said footman...after which Sior Gandt, helped the footman, carried the semi-conscious Maria to a coach. Sior Gandt went with Maria in the coach, presumably to see her safely to her friend's house. Luca then talked to the coachman, who didn't seem to think that anything untowards happened during the short coach ride, but did observe that by the time they had arrived, Maria had regained most of her senses...Sior Gandt gave Maria into the care of the house servants, and the Coachman took him back to the party, where apparently he carried on gambling.

Don Aldo had an odd little smile on his face. I see...and naturally, she drew an incorrect conclusion from the circumstances...yes?

Yes, answered the Conte. It would seem that it might have been that Maria only remembers being taken home, and not what happened at the party, and came to incorrect conclusions as to the identity of her child's father. This information is also interesting in that, if I recall correctly, during the course of the card reading that Merry Chase did for the infant, there was some indication that the father of the child was actually a person of some importance. Not that our dear Don Mercurio isn't important in his own unique way...but from the perspective of most of the world, even a minor Roman nobleman has a bit more degree of importance than a landless young Briton who is a part-time police informer and full-time gambler and n'er-do-well.

As I said, things back to their normal status for life on Rocca...slightly confused, slightly complicated...a festival of irony and never dull....and speaking of which, I have some other news for you.

Oh? Other news?

Don Aldo smiled rather broadly this time. Yes, indeed...and good news, actually. Perhaps Devi will not have to wait so long. I have had word from Achille that with Abu bin Malachi's help, he has located and secured the worldly remains of the noble lady who had been taken to North Africa.

Ahhhhh...interesting...so Achille is on his way home?

Well, they have arranged to have what was left of the lady cleaned up, as is appropriate. So the bones are packed and he will accompany them to the lady's home and her family in the Duchy of Tuscany, where he will present the remains and the evidence that these are indeed the bones of their loved one.

A sad mission for Achille, said the Conte. But Devi will be delighted, I am certain.

At this point, as Don Aldo pulled on his line, he seemed to feel something tugging at it. He gave a slight jerk to engage the hook and began to draw it in. Whatever he had caught did not seem to be putting up much of a fight.

As he held it up, Conte Fillipe Foscari drily commented, An interesting catch Professore...what do you propose to do with it?

936_blogs.jpg?width=750Oh perhaps I shall have Merry make a stew of it," laughed Don Aldo. "Will you join me for dinner if I induce her to do so?'

I am correct, that is, in fact, a lady's shoe, is it not?

Indeed, my friend, it does seem so. From a rather large lady, unless I am very much mistaken.

The Conte peered at it more closely. There is something oddly familiar about it. And while immersion in the water of the bay does not seem to have improved it any, I am compelled to observe that its former owner does not seem to have been possessed of much in the way of good taste or fashion sense.

Well, at least we have something. Let us take our catch of the day and proceed home. I wonder what Merry will tossin the kettle with it to make something delectable of this.

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Observations on the End of the Quarantine


By Aldo Stern, 2014-08-09


~*~917_blogs.jpg?width=750Dottore Greymoon's temporary clinic has been dismantled, and I face the minor task of reassembling the accademia lecture hall. The quarantine is over.

We held a public meeting today which was attended by myself, Dottore Greymoon and Dottore Panacek, the Conte Foscari and a number of concerned citizens and visitors to the island, all of whom had the opportunity to share their thoughts and concerns.

We had been given persuasion by His Excellency the Governor of the Sorrento District, and following our review of the facts -- that there have been no further serious cases reported in five or six days; that there have been relatively few deaths, such as the two sailors aboard the Genoese merchantman La Sirena; that most of the others who had the disease, such as two other sailors and the young woman Devi, are now recovering; and that it appears the worst cases were contracted elsewhere before the people came to la Rocca -- the doctors and I voted to end the restrictions.

Even Signorina Antonacci, the young woman who had one of the worst cases of the fever, was showing signs of recovering in recent days. But then the poor girl went into labor and weakened by the fever, died after the child was born. Arguably, however, her death was not from the fever, it was from the stress of the childbirth.

So.even as a debate is carried out as to how the child shall be looked after (provided that Conte Foscari's inquiries in Roma indicate that the Antonacci family does not wish to take responsibility), we have begun getting things back to what passes for normal on this odd little island.

919_blogs.jpg?width=750

Signs are being taken down, ships are coming and going -- La Sirena has already buried her dead and left for Genoa -- and tomorrow the public spaces and shops shall re-open. I understand there is interest in people meeting at Signora Macbain's coffee house to hold an impromptu celebration at about 11 AM tomorrow. I regret I shall probably not be there as I must leave on His Majesty's revenue cutter Iphigenia and goto the mainland, so I can make a full reportto the Governor. I have already seen to certain measures that the doctors recommended: we will have more bonfires to purify the air, everything and every place is being washed with vinegar; and the Guardia are looking for pools of stagnant water and any swampy areas that must be drained so the fetid water does not create the miasmatic vapors that probably cause the disease. The Governor will be interested in hearing a report on all these measures, and I must leave with the morning tide.

But before I do that, I shall address one more task. I must see to making arrangements for returning Signora Macbain's confiscated property to her.

920_blogs.jpg?width=750

Posted in: default | 9 comments

Observations on the End of the Quarantine


By Aldo Stern, 2014-08-09


~*~917_blogs.jpg?width=750Dottore Greymoon's temporary clinic has been dismantled, and I face the minor task of reassembling the accademia lecture hall. The quarantine is over.

We held a public meeting today which was attended by myself, Dottore Greymoon and Dottore Panacek, the Conte Foscari and a number of concerned citizens and visitors to the island, all of whom had the opportunity to share their thoughts and concerns.

We had been given persuasion by His Excellency the Governor of the Sorrento District, and following our review of the facts -- that there have been no further serious cases reported in five or six days; that there have been relatively few deaths, such as the two sailors aboard the Genoese merchantman La Sirena; that most of the others who had the disease, such as two other sailors and the young woman Devi, are now recovering; and that it appears the worst cases were contracted elsewhere before the people came to la Rocca -- the doctors and I voted to end the restrictions.

Even Signorina Antonacci, the young woman who had one of the worst cases of the fever, was showing signs of recovering in recent days. But then the poor girl went into labor and weakened by the fever, died after the child was born. Arguably, however, her death was not from the fever, it was from the stress of the childbirth.

So.even as a debate is carried out as to how the child shall be looked after (provided that Conte Foscari's inquiries in Roma indicate that the Antonacci family does not wish to take responsibility), we have begun getting things back to what passes for normal on this odd little island.

919_blogs.jpg?width=750

Signs are being taken down, ships are coming and going -- La Sirena has already buried her dead and left for Genoa -- and tomorrow the public spaces and shops shall re-open. I understand there is interest in people meeting at Signora Macbain's coffee house to hold an impromptu celebration at about 11 AM tomorrow. I regret I shall probably not be there as I must leave on His Majesty's revenue cutter Iphigenia and goto the mainland, so I can make a full reportto the Governor. I have already seen to certain measures that the doctors recommended: we will have more bonfires to purify the air, everything and every place is being washed with vinegar; and the Guardia are looking for pools of stagnant water and any swampy areas that must be drained so the fetid water does not create the miasmatic vapors that probably cause the disease. The Governor will be interested in hearing a report on all these measures, and I must leave with the morning tide.

But before I do that, I shall address one more task. I must see to making arrangements for returning Signora Macbain's confiscated property to her.

920_blogs.jpg?width=750

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910_blogs.jpg?width=750

August 2, 1784.

Yes, it is confirmed that what we are dealing with is the so-called Yellow Fever, or as the Spaniards call it, the "vomito negro."

We have talked to the Capitano of the Genoese ship, la Sirena,and he says that three of their sailors and one passenger have the fever. These men are isolated in the forecastle of the ship, and the rest of the crew are being watched to see if they develop the symptoms. The Capitano seems a good fellow and he and his officers understand very well why we cannot let them come ashore. The ship did in fact sail from Sicilia six days ago with a cargo of olive oil and dried fish.

The royal Neapolitan revenue service ship Allegrareached the mainland very quickly and returned by morning with orders from the Governor of the Sorrento District. So now we are under quarantine -- a temporary board of health has been established for the district, headed by some english gentleman who I assume must be a friend or relation of Sir John Acton.

We are to keep all ships in the harbor -- if anyone leaves the island by small boat, they must have a "clean bill of health" from the doctors, and they can bring nothing with them, particularly bedding or any clothing other than what they are wearing. We are to close all public gathering places and confiscate bulk products that may carry the contagion, such as coffee and wheat if it comes from North Africa or Sicilia. The Governor's staff evidently were pleased to hear we had already set up a lazaretto, and they will be sending nursing sisters -- one or two anyway -- when another revenue cutter returns tomorrow early in the morning.

As chief magistrate I have carried out the Governor's instructions. Accompanied by Moschetierri Hansen and Peschi, I have gone around and closed down spaces such as the taverna, the bakery, the cabinet of curiosities and the coffee house. The coffee house was full when we arrived. I do not think people expected this, for the most part. It took a while for the Guardia to clear them all out.

I have been confiscating the products that someone thinks may be a source of contagion. Poor Signora Macbain was not happy when the boys took her three big sacks of coffee beans. If they have to be destroyed I will see to it she is reimbursed, even if it has to come out of my pocket instead of King Ferdinando's.

We later held a town meeting at the old fortezza to answer people's questions and to tell them what to expect. I thought it better to have people inside, in the cool shade of the thick stone walls, rather than out in the hot afternoon sun, but we still had some of ladies fall ill and have to be examined by the doctors. They found that Donna Candace and a Signorina Emily were simply overcome by the heat, but the woman Devi, who works on behalf of the Conte Foscari appears to have actually contracted the fever.

Achille, I know, is fond of this young woman, Devi. I wish he were here.

Don Lucerius and Don Merucurio volunteered to detonate barrels of gunpowder around the village and harbor in order to purify the air somewhat and fight the contagion. They did so with the aid of our stalwart Moschetierre Peschi who carried musket with fixed bayonet to keep the feckless and foolish at bay for their own good. Do such measures actually help? I cannot say. But much of the powder was donated by the captains of ships in the harbor for the public good, so at least it is not costing the Rocca Sorrentina council of magistrates too dearly.

Tomorrow at 10 AM, Dottore Greymoon and Dottore Panacek, and the nursing sisters (if they have arrived) shall preform examinations in a temporary medical facility that the good Dottore Greymoon has set up in the lecture hall of the academia. Any person who can get a clean bill of health from them may then travel in small boats to the mainland if they absolutely need to, but those who stay -- and are healthy -- will be invited to some private social events. I intend to organize one such event at my rooms in the villa on Tuesday evening, if all goes well. Don Mercurio has likewise offered to host something at his house later in the week.

I think doing this will help keep people's spirits up, cheering them with good company and distracting them from the melancholy thoughts that come with such situations. The orders from the Governor only said we must close public gathering places. They said nothing about private socializing. But the key will be the examinations tomorrow. If no one else seems infected, and we can go another five or six days without having anyone else fall ill, that will indicate that we may relax the restrictions and that things will be well...

except, of course, for those mariners on the Sirena and the poor lady from Roma in the lazarettoand Devi. I shall have to see if Padre Cuthbert can be permitted to join usI think he is at Pompeii again. We may have need of his services.

Don Merucurio has certainly been helpful.

I wonder why?

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910_blogs.jpg?width=750

August 2, 1784.

Yes, it is confirmed that what we are dealing with is the so-called Yellow Fever, or as the Spaniards call it, the "vomito negro."

We have talked to the Capitano of the Genoese ship, la Sirena,and he says that three of their sailors and one passenger have the fever. These men are isolated in the forecastle of the ship, and the rest of the crew are being watched to see if they develop the symptoms. The Capitano seems a good fellow and he and his officers understand very well why we cannot let them come ashore. The ship did in fact sail from Sicilia six days ago with a cargo of olive oil and dried fish.

The royal Neapolitan revenue service ship Allegrareached the mainland very quickly and returned by morning with orders from the Governor of the Sorrento District. So now we are under quarantine -- a temporary board of health has been established for the district, headed by some english gentleman who I assume must be a friend or relation of Sir John Acton.

We are to keep all ships in the harbor -- if anyone leaves the island by small boat, they must have a "clean bill of health" from the doctors, and they can bring nothing with them, particularly bedding or any clothing other than what they are wearing. We are to close all public gathering places and confiscate bulk products that may carry the contagion, such as coffee and wheat if it comes from North Africa or Sicilia. The Governor's staff evidently were pleased to hear we had already set up a lazaretto, and they will be sending nursing sisters -- one or two anyway -- when another revenue cutter returns tomorrow early in the morning.

As chief magistrate I have carried out the Governor's instructions. Accompanied by Moschetierri Hansen and Peschi, I have gone around and closed down spaces such as the taverna, the bakery, the cabinet of curiosities and the coffee house. The coffee house was full when we arrived. I do not think people expected this, for the most part. It took a while for the Guardia to clear them all out.

I have been confiscating the products that someone thinks may be a source of contagion. Poor Signora Macbain was not happy when the boys took her three big sacks of coffee beans. If they have to be destroyed I will see to it she is reimbursed, even if it has to come out of my pocket instead of King Ferdinando's.

We later held a town meeting at the old fortezza to answer people's questions and to tell them what to expect. I thought it better to have people inside, in the cool shade of the thick stone walls, rather than out in the hot afternoon sun, but we still had some of ladies fall ill and have to be examined by the doctors. They found that Donna Candace and a Signorina Emily were simply overcome by the heat, but the woman Devi, who works on behalf of the Conte Foscari appears to have actually contracted the fever.

Achille, I know, is fond of this young woman, Devi. I wish he were here.

Don Lucerius and Don Merucurio volunteered to detonate barrels of gunpowder around the village and harbor in order to purify the air somewhat and fight the contagion. They did so with the aid of our stalwart Moschetierre Peschi who carried musket with fixed bayonet to keep the feckless and foolish at bay for their own good. Do such measures actually help? I cannot say. But much of the powder was donated by the captains of ships in the harbor for the public good, so at least it is not costing the Rocca Sorrentina council of magistrates too dearly.

Tomorrow at 10 AM, Dottore Greymoon and Dottore Panacek, and the nursing sisters (if they have arrived) shall preform examinations in a temporary medical facility that the good Dottore Greymoon has set up in the lecture hall of the academia. Any person who can get a clean bill of health from them may then travel in small boats to the mainland if they absolutely need to, but those who stay -- and are healthy -- will be invited to some private social events. I intend to organize one such event at my rooms in the villa on Tuesday evening, if all goes well. Don Mercurio has likewise offered to host something at his house later in the week.

I think doing this will help keep people's spirits up, cheering them with good company and distracting them from the melancholy thoughts that come with such situations. The orders from the Governor only said we must close public gathering places. They said nothing about private socializing. But the key will be the examinations tomorrow. If no one else seems infected, and we can go another five or six days without having anyone else fall ill, that will indicate that we may relax the restrictions and that things will be well...

except, of course, for those mariners on the Sirena and the poor lady from Roma in the lazarettoand Devi. I shall have to see if Padre Cuthbert can be permitted to join usI think he is at Pompeii again. We may have need of his services.

Don Merucurio has certainly been helpful.

I wonder why?

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909_blogs.jpg?width=750

This time of year with its warmer weather and the presence of miasmatic airs is one in which it is good to be observant about certain thingsThe following are notes I assembled regarding what has transpired today, August 1, 1784:

At present there is a Genoese merchantman in the harbor of Rocca Sorrentina, and she is flying the yellow and black flag indicating illness among its passengers or crew. She is called "La Sirena" -- I wonder if she recently sailed out of Sicilia, from whence we have had reports of fever spreading through some of the cities and towns.

The commandante of the Guardia has assigned men to make sure no one comes ashore without permission from this vessel -- tomorrow we shall have to investigate further.

Signor Gandt appeared at Dottore Greymoon's lecture today, carrying a woman who was very ill, seeking assistance for her.

Both Dr. Greymoon and Dr. Pancek being at the lecture, she was quickly examined and found to have a fever. She is a younger lady, who I believe to be recently arrived from Roma, and the matter is further complicated in that she is with child. No one seems to have come to the island with her. It is fortunate that Don Mercurio happened upon her and had the grace and presence of mind to bring her to a place where she could so readily obtain assistance.

Dr. Panacek and Dr. Greymoon determined to take her to isolation in the lazaretto which we have established in the old guard room of the Castello di San Pietro out in the harbor (partly in response to the reports we received from Sicilia). They borrowed my small sloop to carry her there, which Don Mercurio very kindly volunteered to pilot.

One of the King's Revenue Service ships, the brig "Allegra," was leaving this evening to return to its station in Castellammare di Stabia. I have asked the Capitano to request some nursing sisters from the mainland be sent.

I can think of nothing else to do at this moment, but I have many questions.

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