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Marietta: A Maid of Venice by F. Marion Crawford

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In the stolen purse, he explained, was a letter from his parents explaining they would not be able to help him repay his debt. On the morning he had walked out of the house on his way to the post office he had seen a man by the Danube with his stolen papers, so he had run after him. He was hungry, poorly clad and with no money. Alvise, impressed by his integrity and his language skills, took him on as his personal assistant.

In mid April he headed back to Venice with his new secretary in tow. It was one thing to read a story to Alvisetto or to practise spelling with him or to impart to him the occasional geography lesson, but quite another to be responsible for his formal education. And not so much because she would have preferred to spend her time differently, but because she felt she was not up to the task.

She hired Herr Gartner to give Alvisetto German lessons, and he made rapid progress. At first she had been reluctant, fearing that such a request would needlessly attract attention and risk exposing her to an embarrassing refusal on the part of the court. But she gradually changed her mind as she learnt that a number of patrician ladies in Venice—including her mother-in-law, Chiara, with whom relations had cooled after the scandal of her love affair with Colonel Plunkett and the birth of Alvisetto—had applied to receive the order.

Lucia was told by people knowledgeable about these matters that her request would probably be refused the first time around, and accepted the second—it was the usual practice.

There was nothing for her to do but wait. Paolina was hardly in a condition to appreciate the politics of Vienna etiquette.

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She had never really recovered since the death of Lucietta, and now she suffered from chronic fatigue and diarrhoea, and began to lose her voice. She was under the care of Doctor Zuliani, an old family doctor. Lucia had been treated by him in the past and she did not trust him.

How does he explain the pains in your chest? How does he explain your loss of voice? You know I believe the weakness of your nerves has a great deal to do with your general debility: to neglect this entirely, as Doctor Zuliani does, and to speak only of diarrhoea, does not predispose me to have much consideration for his ability. Doctor Speck was a self-taught medicine man who had picked up much of what he knew while working as a lay nurse in the hospital of Maria Caelis in Rome as a young man. He never revealed the composition of his remedies, but his devoted followers had a blind faith in his healing powers.

The modest apartment out of which he worked was always crowded with society ladies waiting to pick up their little packets—small envelopes, each holding a single dose of the preparation. We stand by the heating stove in the tiny entrance hall, fill up the living room and often have to spill into the kitchen.

He has brought about so many remarkable recoveries here in Vienna that he is looked upon as Aesculapius himself. And I believe in him so much that I take his powders without thinking twice about what he has put in them. Lucia convinced a reluctant Doctor Speck to prepare a powder for her sister—the doctor did not usually mix a preparation without visiting the patient first. It was reddish, very fine, and each dose looked like a generous pinch of paprika. She sent it off to Paolina, begging her to take it.

Paolina had reservations, but she did not want to disappoint her solicitous older sister. This medical exchange between the two sisters, stretched over several months, echoed their discussion a decade earlier on the merits of giving birth in the chair, with Doctor Speck now in the role of guiding light in the place of Doctor Vespa. Lucia, ever the older sister, could be very insistent in pressing her point if she believed it was for the good of Paolina.

Her shield, this time, was Doctor Zuliani, who gladly stepped into the breach, stating firmly that Paolina was not touching that reddish powder until Doctor Speck revealed its chemical components. But there the matter stood, for it was suddenly overshadowed by alarming news. Bonaparte was back in northern Italy and his arrival, Paolina wrote, had everyone saying that the next war would be fought there.

If war did break out and borders closed down, how would they stay in touch? Lucia reassured Paolina, mostly to reassure herself:. What is being said in Brescia about the break-out of hostilities in the near future is being said here in Vienna as well—all one sees at the theatre, these days, are plays with military themes.

But I am convinced these fears are groundless and we shall have peace for several more years. The recent wars brought too much suffering for anyone to contemplate a renewal of hostilities. No one is about to close down the mountain passes, no one is about to declare war. This was wishful thinking on the part of Lucia, for Bonaparte had been stoking the fires of a new European crisis for some time. The Treaty of Amiens in had brought relative peace to continental Europe, and for two years the first consul had focused most of his energies on domestic affairs, modernising public administration, reforming the judicial system, building up public education and founding the Banque de France.

When the plot failed, Bonaparte declared himself hereditary emperor, ostensibly to discourage further attempts on his life. Emperor Napoleon set about creating an imperial aristocracy, lavishing high-sounding titles of nobility on members of his family and his most loyal generals. The Cisalpine Republic in northern Italy, the puppet-state over which he presided, became the Kingdom of Italy, and he was crowned in Milan on 26 May The bulk of the French army was still assembled on the coast near Boulogne, apparently poised for an offensive against Britain.

Lucia received fresh news from Antonio Canova, the artist, who arrived in Vienna in mid June to install the mausoleum commissioned by Albert of Saxony-Teschen for his wife, the Archduchess Christina. Lucia had known him for many years and she had him over for lunch, eager to hear the latest from Italy. It was the season of white asparagus, the large, fleshy variety that was so popular with visitors, and Lucia went to the market expressly that morning to buy some.

After singing the praise of the trusty white asparagus, the great sculptor turned to the subject of war. Turning to the mausoleum he was working on, a large monument in the shape of a pyramid costing 8, florins, he said the expense of bringing the artwork across the Alps in such uncertain times was so high it had put a serious dent in the sum he was taking home. Austria, she informed Paolina, was preparing three armies: one under the command of the emperor, with General Mack at his side, and the other two under the command of Archduke Charles and Archduke John.

Let us hope this proverb will once more be proven true. Austria and its Continental allies—Russia, Sweden and Naples—responded by forming a new grand coalition with Britain. As the storm gathered during the summer of , Lucia and Alvisetto saw the city empty itself. Viennese society broke ranks, and all the great families retreated to country estates scattered about the Habsburg Empire. Only government officials and military officers remained in the capital, preparing the country for war.

Lucia felt she had the city to herself. Alvisetto and I walked for hours. It occurred to me that the same moon was shining over you; but, philosopher that you are, you probably did not even notice her. I pictured you in your room, the blinds closed, with only the light of your candle flickering around you. Lucia much preferred being in Vienna than in Margarethen. Her trips out to the country, while necessary to keep track of business accounts, became increasingly burdensome.

The drainage system still did not work properly, and after every rain-shower the grounds around the house remained waterlogged for days, attracting clouds of mosquitoes. On that same visit she discovered the caretaker had scabies. You know how I dread that disease. At Margarethen, Lucia was seldom in the mood to appreciate even the sounds of nature. The growing noises of war soon caught up with her in the country.

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The mood turned sombre in the house. After dinner, Alvisetto walked about the house with his big hat on—a peculiar habit he had recently developed and which his grandfather, Andrea, also had.


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Lucia watched her son come through the room as she sat at her writing desk. A few days later, Lucia was forced to break the promise she had made to Alvisetto about not leaving him alone: she had to go to Vienna to organise the move to a new apartment, a smaller place but with a nice view of the Danube, which she had let for six months.

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Alvisetto would not have it. Lucia stayed in Vienna only the time that was strictly necessary. The river here is at its widest point. While in Vienna, she learnt that she had been awarded the Starred Cross. It occurred to her that she now had a formal tie to the Habsburg Court. But the timing seemed so odd, what with war preparations by now in full swing. Two days later she was back at Margarethen with Alvisetto.

I have seen on the map that the Russian Empire is very extended and may provide us with many troops. In fact, the Russian army was already moving west, albeit at a woefully sluggish pace. Three hundred soldiers camped in the fields around the house. The commanding officer said cheerfully that if the boy were old enough he would recruit him.

Everyone laughed, and Lucia let her son bask in the limelight a little longer before taking him up to bed.

Classical Romantic Venice Vol. 01 by Caffè Concerto Strauss - Venezia - Venedig - Venetian -

There Mack waited for the Russian reinforcements marching west from Poland. He estimated Napoleon headed an army of 70, men, and he wanted to crush that force before it reached Italy, the presumed theatre of war. Once the Russians joined him, he should easily have the upper hand. But General Kutuzov and his troops were moving too slowly. Far worse was the fact that General Mack had made a terrible miscalculation: Napoleon had chosen to make Germany, not Italy, the main battleground of the new war, and planned to annihilate the Austrian forces before the Russian reinforcements arrived.

On 25 September, when he crossed the Rhine north of the Black Forest, Napoleon was at the head of , men, not the 70, General Mack had expected. The Austrian high command, suddenly aware of the catastrophic position of its army, urged the Russians to rush westward.