To Father Thomas Fitzherbert SJ of the Illustrissimus Collegium Anglicanum in Rome
From Maestro Giacomo Carissimi in Thuringen Gardens, Grantville
Very Reverend Father,
I am sorry it took so long to write you again, but a journey through Europe in these days is everything but short and comfortable. Only after I reached my final destination could I spend some time to tell you in detail of my adventures. I only hope your students and the other teachers at the Collegium will forgive me for the time I steal from your primary duty. Hundreds of miles on the road can fill a lot of pages and break a courier's back!
I haven't received any letter from you yet, but I'm sure I will in the next weeks. After all the letter must cover the same distance I did and only the Americans seem capable of traveling faster than on horseback.
We arrived in Grantville last night and we are finally getting some rest from the fatigues of the trip. We are hosted in a brand-new inn that is more clean and comfortable than any other place where we have slept in the past weeks. We may also dare to pay a visit to the bathhouse and enjoy the too often neglected pleasures of hot water and soap. Soon maybe we will enjoy some of amenities of the twentieth century.
This town is so different from any other I've visited, so unique that it would take too much time to describe even my first impressions, but I promise to carry out this task in my future letters.
Today, as soon as we arrived we paid a short visit to the local church, but we plan to introduce ourselves in a more polite and thorough way to Father Mazzarre, Grantville's parish priest. Our goal is to make a good impression, but it's hard to have a respectable appearance so covered in mud and dirty as we were this morning.
We need also to start looking for a long-term accommodation. The town is crammed full, but I have the feeling that some American will help us.
As you have certainly noticed I said "we" and not just "I." Many things happened during this trip and I'm not alone here. Well, I think I'm confusing you, so I had better start from the beginning.
I left Rome very early on a hot day in June. It was the only possible way to avoid the traffic that jams the gates of the city when many people come from the countryside to sell their products.
As I told you in my previous letter, my travel companions were three German Jesuits all freshly graduated from the seminary and ready for their first assignment. The youngest of them, Matthias Kramer, was going to Innsbruck to teach in the local college. The other two, Dietrich Adler and Heinrich Schultheis, were directed to Wien, where the Company has its headquarters for the Holy Roman Empire. Together with their servants, we had an armed escort of five horse arquebusiers detached from the papal cavalry. With their leader, the Cavalier Ruggero Longari, they were remaining in Wien at the papal legation.
The coach we traveled in is a proof of the power and influence of your order, dear Father. It was entirely made of timber reinforced with bronze. Not only it had glass windows and not just leather curtains, but six horses pulled it. Moreover the coach was provided, I have been told, with one of those new "swan neck" suspension systems that allows the wheels to make large turning movements and makes traveling easier for the passenger. Made to fit six to eight people it was very conformable for just the four of us and I had planned to read as much as I could during the trip.
I brought with me a small library: a copy of Torquato Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered, that small but already so famous book titled Lo Statista Regnante written by Don Valeriano Castiglione, the two volumes of the Advancement of Learning by Francis Bacon, your recently printed translation of Turcellini's Life of St. Francis Xavier. I found it very appropriate to bring along also a copy of Tacitus' Germania.
After all, Father, it is you who always said that reading a page or two in Latin every day keeps the mind keen and well trained. Unfortunately, as I will explain later, I didn't have many occasions to read.
Once you leave Rome, the Via Flaminia follows the Tiber valley for a few miles until Saxa Rubra where it begins its way among hilly countryside headed toward Civita. Many travelers, once on the top of the first hill, make a stop to rest in a place called Malborghetto. A very large inn has been built there, using the remains of a triumphal arc. The view from there is breathtaking. Under a blue summer sky, it looks like a Tiziano's landscape. One can see the whole Roman countryside and the last ridges of the Apennines surrounding it. Far in the background, one can see the whole of Rome and it is still possible to recognize some of its features like the Dome of Saint Peter, the cuppolone.
While we were relaxing under a pergola lazily eating food from a tray full of pears and pecorino, I saw a rider coming in haste up the road. He was somehow familiar, but only once he got closer could I recognize Girolamo Zenti. He was riding a very tall steed and was dressed like someone ready for a long trip. Thigh-high boots, a leather doublet and a plumed large hat made him look very different from the artisan I met in his shop. The sword at his side and the two pistols on the saddle did nothing but reinforce the impression. My Girolamo looked like a dragoon!
Quite surprised, I began waving at him. I rose from the table to meet him along the way and I told him how startled I was to see him the on the very same road.
"Well, Maestro, for the moment I can just say I had a change of mind. I will explain myself later, once it is possible to have some privacy. I'm happy to have found you so early. At the Collegium, they told me you had left at dawn. Thank God you are not rushing those horses! Besides, I'm afraid I have to ask you the huge favor not to introduce me to your friends as Girolamo Zenti. You'd better tell them I am Carlo Beomonte, a friend who needs to travel to Germany and would like to share the long journey with you."
I did as asked, but I was eager to know more.
The same night, when we were guests at the Rocca Colonna in Castelnovo, I met him in the castle's courtyard. He was sitting on a bench trying to stretch his long legs and watching the castle servants doing the last chores of the day. After some time, once he realized we were alone, he lighted his clay pipe and gave me an account of the latest facts.
Girolamo had spent the night before in Trastevere gambling in a tavern; a place notorious for being visited by the offspring of the Roman aristocracy.
One of them had spent hours playing dice with my friend. Playing and losing big money. This was a very dangerous and explosive situation. As you can imagine, the young noble didn't accept losing face in front of friends and accused Girolamo of cheating.
To make his words sound truer, the young noble hastily drew his sword, probably expecting that a normal commoner would have backed off. Instead my companion, maybe for having drunk too much wine, reacted by drawing his own sword.
"Probably I took more fencing classes than he did, or maybe it was just surprise, but I ended the fight quickly by putting a few inches of steel through the young nobleman's shoulder. Nothing deadly, but enough to put me in serious trouble. It is never self-defense when the loser is the son of the Marquis Casati.
"So, while my friends kept the young man's retinue at bay, I escaped as quickly as I could. While running home I realized I had just two options left: leave town that very same day or find refuge in a monastery and take the vows. I don't see much myself as a member of the clergy. Even if judged innocent by the police, I would have had to fear Casati's personal revenge."
Girolamo went home to change clothes and to take the pistols he kept in an hidden place together with his cash money and papers. Then he sneaked into his partner's home nearby and explained how he was forced to go away, probably to Naples, to escape the law. He had then spent the rest of the night hiding in a safe place in the ghetto.
With the day still young, he went to get the horse that he kept in a stable just inside Porta San Paolo. He had already begun his escape south when he recalled I was leaving for Germany. So, with a certain apprehension, he reentered Rome and paid a visit to the Collegium. There he met Renato, S. Apollinare's sacristan who told him of my departure for Grantville a few hours before. Relieved to know I wasn't too far away, he went north following the Flaminia until he caught me.
I objected that even if we made it to Thuringia it could be a long exile for him. But, quite confidently for a fugitive, he replied:
"Yes, I know it can be long. But if what you have told me of these Americans is true, they will value a man more for his skills than for his birth. And that is a place where I'd be happy to live. I'm tired of licking aristocratic boots any time I want to sell one of my works. I'm tired of being unable to read the books I want or to live the way I want. I'm fed up with these aristocrats and their caprices! Considering how much I'm interested in these pianos of yours, there is no better place to go!"
I was seriously afraid he could have put himself and me in further trouble. But there is something in him I like no matter what. I find his careless approach to life quite enticing and his enthusiasm contagious. So I told him I was happy he would come along, but that he had to be careful. More troubles and he would have to travel alone.
He promised me I would not regret my decision. Beside some minor accidents, I may say he has been very discreet for the rest of the trip.
He had another surprise up his sleeve.
It happened just the morning after our talk, while we were getting ready to leave the castle. The three servants were loading our chests and the rest of the baggage on the coach roof. The driver, under his coach, was carefully greasing axles and hubs and our escort was letting the horses having a last drink. Girolamo was nowhere to be seen.