A desperate fight for her birthright and freedom... Spiced with the colour and sensuous splendour of the sixteenth-century silk trade, Judith Lennox's The Glittering Strand is the triumphant story of a young woman's fight for independence. Perfect for fans of Rachel Hore and Kate Morton. Serafina Guardi and her father, a wealthy silk merchant from Marseilles, are sailing to Italy to celebrate her betrothal when their ship is captured by Barbary corsairs. Serafina finds herself plunged into the unknown, brutal world of the North African slave states. From there, she begins the long struggle to free herself from servitude. Serafina's wit and beauty are tempered by her ruthlessness - a ruthlessness which eventually threatens to lose her both her lover and her child. Embattled by the prejudices of the age and by the ambitions of her treacherous cousin Angelo, Serafina fights against poverty, loneliness and despair, vowing to regain her lost inheritance - the Guardi silk house - at whatever cost. What readers are saying about Judith Lennox: ' Ideal escapism ' '[Judith Lennox] is the ultimate storyteller... her stories are compelling and beautifully descriptive of both characters and feelings' '[Judith Lennox's] characters are marvellously drawn, and their lives draw the reader totally into the story '
Release date: April 9, 2015
Print pages: 480
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The Glittering Strand
At Algiers the pale walls of the houses doubled themselves in the sea, and I had to close my eyes to shut out the hard blue and white. I was sick, then; my eyes hurt. The crescents on the sails of the galleys were scarlet: blood-red part-moons against the midday sky, curling in the breeze.
There are no galleys in the harbour below. Barques and car-racks, pinnaces and galleons. More blue: if I half close my eyes I can almost see the Kingfisher threading her way through the fidgeting boats. Her pennants are of aquamarine, and my insignia is on the sails. Hearts beat a little faster, breath is caught in the throat at the sight of something beautiful. Did I ever tell you that, Thomas? Did I ever tell you to pause and listen for that collective sigh – of pleasure, of envy, of a scarcely understood pain?
Not that you would have paused and listened. You were always running, weren’t you, Thomas? Adjusting ropes, measuring distances, assessing the stars. Always in a hurry, always impatient. As though you knew.
Did I know, that day I set sail from Marseilles? Not at all: I was ten years old and sure of my own destiny. I took with me the blue gown the colour of your eyes, Thomas, the colour of Francesco’s eyes. Come to me, Francesco, and let me turn from the harbour and hold you.
I do not wish to see any more. I wish to remember.
The Guardi housekeeper, Marthe, made the blue gown, and Serafina embroidered it herself.
Marthe’s eyesight was too poor for such fine work, and Serafina had no mother to labour over a daughter’s betrothal gowns. But she liked to embroider, just as she liked to go with her father, or with Monsieur Jacques, or with Angelo, to the warehouse where the silks were stored. Her father would pull out the bright bales of fabric and, showing her the different colours, would say, ‘Choose whichever you like, petite. These are your inheritance.’
With Monsieur Jacques it was a little different. His small brown eyes would dart impatiently round the warehouse, his plump brown hand would wipe the sweat from his brow. ‘These should have gone already,’ he would say despairingly. ‘These wars, damn them! Which shall I cut for you, mademoiselle?’
Only Angelo touched the glimmering material as Serafina touched it, with respect, with reverence, letting the jewelled plains and patterns trail slowly through his fingers like sand. Emerald, ochre, gold, and crimson; figured, and damask, and brocade. And Angelo’s voice as he held up swathes of fabric. ‘The raw silk was brought to France from Persia, Serafina. From Persia to Aleppo, to Scanderoon, and then to Florence, where the workshops of the Corsini made it into cloth. Then it was sent to Livorno, and shipped from Livorno to Marseilles. And now we, the Guardi, will transport it to the great cities of the north.’
Serafina liked Angelo’s version best. Angelo was clever and handsome and knew the silk trade as well as anyone, even Franco Guardi, Serafina’s father. Angelo was not really a Guardi. He had lived with the Guardi family since before Serafina was born, but he was Serafina’s mother’s elder brother’s illegitimate son. His name was Angelo Desmoines, and when Serafina left Marseilles he was nineteen years old. When she was six Serafina intended to marry Angelo. By the time she was nine, she was wiser.
She chose the blue silk because it was the colour of the sea and the sky. A length for herself, and a length for Rosalie, her doll. Rosalie had a rag body and a wooden head. Later, sitting on a balcony overlooking the harbour, Serafina embroidered silver stars and golden moons all over the bodice of her betrothal gown. Moons and stars for Rosalie also, but in miniature, sparkling on the rich blue silk.
The Guardi house was four storeys high, and almost in the centre of Marseilles, not far from the highway of La Canebière. Serafina’s grandfather, who had left Florence for France, had built the house. He had seen the city of Marseilles for what it would become: a gateway to the north, through which, carefully assisted by him, all the glorious treasures of the Levant might flow. Eventually, leaving spices and metal ores to others, he began to specialize in cloth. Kerseys, linens and broadcloth from north to south, silks and grograms and cottons from south to north. Like twin currents in a river, but colluding, not opposing. Guardi pack-horses travelled the valleys of the Rhône, Guardi cogs and roundships sailed the Gulf of Lyons and the Ligurian Sea. If France’s civil wars made difficulties for the Guardi, then still they survived. Geography had conveniently isolated Provence, and Serafina heard nothing more than Monsieur Jacques’s complaints, saw nothing more than a few more limbless beggars in the back alleys of the city.
Apart from Monsieur Jacques, who was Franco Guardi’s factor, there was Monsieur de Coniques, the notary. Monsieur de Coniques drew up the legal documents, made insurance claims for any lost ships, was the final arbiter for any queries concerning merchandise. Franco Guardi addressed his excellent notary as Jehan, but no one else did, because though the notary’s family had once been noble, they had left him with nothing more than an old name and a qualification in law from the Sorbonne. Because of this, Franco disregarded Monsieur de Coniques’s drinking bouts. Franco Guardi had tremendous respect for an old name, an old family, old money, and quite understood that a man who had lost any one of these might seek to comfort himself occasionally with wine. Jehan de Coniques was thin and dark and clever, and to Serafina he was old. Any man of greater years than Angelo was old. She used to study him – secretly, she thought – wondering what it would be like to lose everything but your name and education.
Marthe, the Guardi housekeeper, had once been Serafina’s wet-nurse. She had nursed Serafina’s elder brothers too, but they had proved less tenacious, and had died before they were weaned. Marguerite Guardi had died of the smallpox when Serafina was six months old, but Serafina, nursed at Marthe’s plump white breast, had suffered only one pock-mark, on her belly, and no fever at all. The single scar remained, but she had no memory, of course, of her mother. Marthe was large and black-haired and bad-tempered, and before her eyes grew dim she had taught Serafina to embroider. Jehan de Coniques taught her Latin, Angelo taught her to know a good silk from a lesser one, the streets and the docks taught her French, her family taught her Italian. She did not know who had taught her her numbers: she thought that she had sucked them in like breast-milk, greedily, hungrily.
On the morning of the day on which she had learned of her betrothal, Serafina had played with the baker’s daughter, Lisette.
Lisette was two years older than Serafina, she had dark curls and a small but definite bosom. Serafina silently envied the baker’s daughter both the curls and the bosom.
They were making Rosalie a bed in one of the chests in Serafina’s bedchamber. Stockings, petticoats, linen and chemises from the chests were strewn on the floor. Rosalie reclined in splendour, her wooden head resting on a lace-edged pillow, a silk coverlet up to her chin.
Lisette, kneeling on the floor, was telling Serafina about the morning at the bakery.
‘He tripped over and the bag of flour burst. He was all white! He looked’ – Lisette lowered her voice so that Marthe, dozing in a nearby chair, should not hear – ‘he looked like Madame Lamotte.’
Serafina giggled. Madame Lamotte was immensely old, wore an orange wig, and far too much face-powder.
Lisette, pulling a face, began to giggle too. Marthe, eyelids twitching, stirred in her chair. Both girls, clamping their hands over their mouths, buried their faces in their skirts and rocked with laughter.
There was the sound of a footfall outside, and the door opened. Marthe’s eyelids flickered, Serafina wiped the tears from her cheeks and looked up.
She was in her father’s arms in a moment, small hands grabbing at his travel-stained clothes, dark eyes minutely studying his familiar beloved face for any alterations that the four-month voyage might have made.
Franco was a big man and, for an Italian, fair. Serafina did not resemble him: she was small and dark, like her Provençal mother.
‘Sir …’ Marthe, still hazy with sleep, had struggled out of the chair, and was laboriously curtseying, a great rustling of taffeta and scraping of buckram. ‘It’s good to see you safely back, sir. Run along now, child.’
This to Lisette, who obediently took to her heels.
‘We made Rosalie a bed, Papa.’ Serafina, seizing Franco’s hand, gestured to the chest. ‘See, isn’t she comfortable?’
‘Very comfortable,’ said Franco Guardi, absently. He smiled. ‘Come here, petite. I have news for you. And Angelo – and Jehan and Marthe. You must listen, too.’
Angelo and Jehan, who had climbed the stairs to greet their newly returned employer, came into the room.
‘When I was in Florence,’ said Franco, ‘I saw, of course, our old friends the Corsini. I talked to Michele at great length, and found that he was of a mind to marry again. He has chosen his bride. It was an important decision and one in which, I am glad to say, we found ourselves in complete agreement. You are to marry Michele Corsini, Serafina.’
At first, her principal emotion was one of confusion. Marriage was, after all, for grown ladies, for princesses in fairy tales, and not for Serafina Guardi, who had everything she wanted here, in Marseilles. Then, for an instant, she felt fear. Her father had spoken of her as though she were a pawn on a chessboard, a credit-note for barter. Her father wanted to send her away. Why did he want to send her away?
Her eyes stung. Serafina let his large hand slip from her fingers, and she turned away, so that he should not see her face. Stooping, she took the doll out of the wooden chest, and held her tightly.
‘Marthe will make you a new gown, Serafina,’ added Franco. ‘Angelo will take you to the warehouse, and you may choose whichever silk you wish.’
Franco smiled, and touched Rosalie’s bald wooden head. He said coaxingly, ‘You may sew a gown for your doll also.’
‘Rosalie,’ said Serafina, reminding him. Her voice hardly shook at all. ‘The same silk, Papa?’
Franco beamed. ‘Of course, my pet.’
He signalled for Angelo to pour the celebratory wine. Serafina thought of the gown she would make for Rosalie. Blue, with moons and stars on the bodice … She took a deep breath and found that she no longer wanted to cry.
She had, of course, known her duty for as long as she could remember. She was, after all, her father’s only child, the sole heir of the House of Guardi. Without her there would be no one to ward the house, the ships, the warehouses, or the mule trains and barges that carried silk to the north.
Slowly, Serafina looked round the room. She saw Marthe’s expression of pride, Jehan de Coniques’s look of utter boredom. And Angelo – in Angelo’s dark eyes she saw neither hate, nor resentment, nor anger at a stranger taking what in different circumstances might have belonged to him. Just a brief flicker of acceptance, as though he too had grown wise, and had known this day would come.
A marriage to Michele Corsini need not keep her from Marseilles, from the ships, from the business of silk and lace and linen. A few years spent in Florence, perhaps, but one day she would need to return home.
They raised their glasses to her. A nine-year-old child, saluted by three grown men. A nine-year-old child, to be betrothed the following year to a man the same age as her father. Serafina began to feel very proud.
The next day she picked out the blue silk.
A week later, when the commotion and work caused by Franco Guardi’s return had lessened, Angelo took Serafina out for an afternoon in the country.
He did so every month or so, when he had time, when the weather was good. The weather was still very fine – hardly any wind, the sky an unblemished blue. They travelled through the white hills behind Marseilles. Serafina rode her good-tempered mule, Angelo his small Spanish jennet. Serafina wore silk from the Levant and sat on a saddle of Spanish leather, her gloves perfumed with the rare scents of the Indies. But she noticed none of these things: she saw only Angelo ahead, his hair made gold by the sunshine, the feather on his hat bobbing in time with the rhythm of his horse’s hooves. Serafina liked to be seen with Angelo. She had noticed how the other girls looked at him.
They stopped in the hills, Angelo helping Serafina down from her mule. In front of them lay Marseilles and the wide blue plain of the Mediterranean; behind them were the hills and the ancient robbers’ nest of Les Baux. Serafina had seen Les Baux once, but she would not go there again, for there were ghosts there, ghosts of those thrown to their deaths from the high walls of the fortress. Cruelty for pleasure: the discovery of such a possibility had kept her awake at night.
Angelo spread his cloak on the grass. Serafina sat down, knees hunched up to her chin, watching the butterflies hang almost motionless in the warm air. It was all so still. Covertly, she watched Angelo. The shade of the olive tree dappled his smooth skin, deepening the indentations of mouth and nose, the cleft of his chin. He wore blue doublet and hose, and that blue was also darkened and patterned by the shadows of the olive trees. Serafina’s favourite story at that time was the tale of Aucassin and Nicolette. To her, Aucassin was always Angelo: gold-brown locks of hair touching his collar, a smile that said, of all the people in the world, it is you that I wish to be with now. She picked sprigs of rosemary and handed them to Angelo, wanting the world never to change.
Then Angelo, sitting up, his face in shadow, said, ‘And how will you like to be a married lady, Serafina?’
She had forgotten Michele Corsini and his tall terracotta house in Florence. ‘I will like it very well,’ she said idly, rolling on to her stomach. ‘But I will not be married for many years. I shall sail to Italy in the spring for my betrothal ceremony, that’s all.’
Italy. It gave Serafina great pleasure simply to say the word, Italy. Her father’s visits to the country of his origins were frequent, but Serafina had not yet travelled there.
‘A betrothal is as binding as a marriage,’ said Angelo, lazily twisting bindweed round the stems of rosemary. ‘You must love your betrothed, and no other man.’
Serafina stared at him. Love? Love was for fairy tales, for ballads. Why should she love Messer Corsini, who was an old man, a stranger? She said as much to Angelo, and he grinned, his teeth white against his tanned skin.
‘Why else do you marry, if not for love, little Serafina?’
She was nine years old, and she did not fully understand him. She only knew that there was something hidden from her, something important, something talked about only amongst grown-ups. She struggled to disguise her sense of humiliation with arrogance.
‘I marry, cousin, because Messer Corsini is a rich and great man. And because he is of good birth.’
Angelo did not stop smiling. He only rose, and, dropping the garland he had woven on top of Serafina’s small unkind dark head, walked to the shade of the olive trees.
Guiltily, Serafina scrambled to her feet and ran after him. Taking his hand she whispered, ‘Be my friend, Angelo. Please be my friend.’
Her voice trembled on the edge of tears. Angelo turned and adjusted the slipping garland, but his gaze soon returned to the blue sea, to the pattern of tiny islands that clung to the southern coast of France, to the white rims of the breakers that had begun to disturb the smoothness of the water.
‘Always your friend, Serafina,’ he said, softly. ‘What else would I be?’
Her fingers were still threaded through his. Angelo raised Serafina’s hand to his mouth and kissed it. Then he stooped and, fleetingly, his lips brushed against hers. His eyes were bright and dark and he was smiling. She could no longer hear the birds: their song was drowned by the drumming of her heart.
There was a small gust of wind, and Serafina saw what she at first thought were a dozen butterflies, tossed by the air currents. But they were not butterflies, she realized almost immediately. They were falling leaves, those first unmistakable signs of winter.
From that afternoon Serafina resolved to rid herself of ignorance. Sitting with Marthe one evening, sewing tiny silver stitches in the vast expanse of blue, she made Marthe tell her the secrets of marriage.
She learned that she would not wed Messer Corsini until she was truly a woman – and because she was only a tiny slip of a thing she might not become a woman for many years yet. She learned how babies were begun, and how they were brought into the world. The fear she felt was to do with loss of privacy, the sense of shame because she must endure such intimacies with a stranger. She knew her duty, though. As Marthe spoke, Serafina sewed perfect, small, even stitches, and her needle scarcely paused or shook.
When Marthe had finished, Serafina said, ‘Angelo says that I should love Messer Corsini.’
Marthe scowled. ‘You should not discuss such things with Monsieur Desmoines, petite. It is not proper. And of course you will love Messer Corsini. He will be your husband.’
Serafina finished off a French knot, resisting the temptation to bite the left-over thread with her teeth.
‘I will marry Messer Corsini and bear his children, but I will not love him. He is too old.’
Marthe looked troubled. She shifted her great bulk amid a creaking of buckram, a dry rustle of taffeta. She said sternly, ‘You must love no one else, Serafina. Italian men are very jealous of their wives’ honour.’
Serafina felt quite impatient with her beloved Marthe. Her marriage to Michele Corsini would not affect her true love – indeed, it would allow it to flourish.
‘I love this,’ she said, holding out the blue silk. It whispered in shimmering folds and waves to the floor, a web of glittering, covetable strands. Part of it was marked with stars and moons like the wide Mediterranean sky.
A single woman would find it hard to make her way in the man’s world of commerce, but a married woman might, if she was clever, prosper. The alliance of Serafina Guardi and Michele Corsini would be a business transaction, and she would respect it as such. She would provide her husband with heirs, and he in return would provide her with the necessary male figurehead for her beloved ship: the Guardi cloth-trade.
The business that her grandfather had begun, Serafina’s father had greatly expanded. Marseilles had profited by Venice’s recent troubles. Venice’s wealth had made her vulnerable: to the Turks, to Ragusan pirates, to the envy of other Christian nations. Although the coast of Provence was still plagued by Barbary galleys, treaties between the Sultan of Turkey and the King of France kept the encroachments of Islam to an irritation, rather than a wound.
All this Serafina had known for as long as she could remember. Padding after Monsieur Jacques as he oversaw the loading and unloading of the ships at the docks, standing silently, hands clasped behind her back, at the clerks’ desks as they wrote their endless columns of figures. Listening to Angelo itemize the different types of silk, their prices and their countries of origin. Employees must be patient with the pampered only child of their employer.
The Guardi owned both galleys and roundships. The square-rigged roundships carried a larger cargo, but were slow and cumbersome; the galleys, their bows painted white and gold, were slim and swift, like fish. Oriflammes pasted straight against the winds, they would dart from the harbour into the open sea.
The galleys were crewed by slaves and felons: twenty-five banks of rowers, chained to the benches, rowing twenty-five Sisyphean strokes to the minute, until they dropped, or died. Serafina was used to the galleys, but a stranger would scent their foul stench on the wind long before he caught the first glorious sight as they glided into port. The galley-slaves were naked but for their canvas drawers, and their heads were shaven. In port, they were housed in barracks by the harbour, with their own living-quarters and mosque. The Guardi owned an infidel kitchen-porter called Ibrahim. Five times a day, no matter where he was, he would fall to the floor and worship his heathen god.
The Guardi had soldiers, too, more than fifty of them. It was their job to see that the silks and grograms and mohair travelled north to Arles and Beaucaire and Valence, and then to the fair at Lyons. In turn, broadcloth and kerseys must find their way first to Marseilles, and then to Italy. The Wars of Religion had not made France a safe place for the carrying of gold and precious cloths. Though Monsieur Jacques often cursed the cost of the mercenaries, they were a necessary expense.
Franco Guardi taught his daughter about such things during their last winter in Marseilles. He had realized that their time together had become limited, that he had often been too busy, or simply too long absent from home, to spend much time with Serafina. It pleased him that she took such an interest in business affairs: pleased him also that Angelo and the notary, Jehan, who had often quarrelled, seemed at last to be agreeing better. Her father explained to Serafina the value of employees such as Angelo and Jehan, and told her that one must always treat them with respect. Remembering her former rudeness to Angelo, Serafina blushed and vowed in future always to choose her words with care. She had always been polite to Monsieur de Coniques – it would never have occurred to her to be otherwise.
And yet there was an undercurrent of resentment in the notary that even Serafina was aware of. The resentment was not directed against anyone in particular, but against the world in general. Jehan de Coniques was then still quite young – in his mid-twenties – but the bitterness of dispossession had given him the air of a man twice his age. He tolerated Serafina, as he tolerated all those who were equal to him or above him. This, perhaps, was his difficulty with Angelo – he could not decide Angelo’s position in the scheme of things. Angelo was a bastard, yet Angelo was also a close relation of the Guardi family, eating every day at the family dinner-table. Serafina sometimes suspected that Monsieur de Coniques knew that Angelo made fun of him, which Angelo frequently did, behind his back, with Serafina his only audience. He would twist his hat into a lawyer’s cap, twist his face into an incongruous mixture of disappointment and pride. My family had three chateaux and a hundred armed men, he would say, and now they haven’t as much as a chamber-pot. And Serafina would roll round the floor in giggles, her nine-year-old dignity completely destroyed.
She was happy, that winter. She had become accustomed to the prospect of her betrothal, to welcome it, almost, aware that her future status gave her an added and enjoyable importance in the Guardi household. Even the mistral – at first a fluttering of dry leaves and litter in the gutters, then a gathering of copper-coloured clouds on the horizon, and at last a dreadful, vengeful monster that stole the tiles from the roofs and loosed the ships from their moorings – did not send Serafina scuttling, as in the past, for the comfort of Marthe’s lap. She was grown up now: she was to be betrothed. Instead, she peeped from between the closed shutters as the ships were tossed to matchwood, and the baker’s house opposite lost most of its roof.
It was not until the evening of her departure to Tuscany that some of her equanimity began to fade. Serafina had felt restless all day, unable to sew or to read, prickly with an irrational but increasing dread. Her father and Marthe were talking: Marthe would not travel to Florence because her eyesight had grown too poor, her health too uncertain, for such a journey. A girl called Mathilde, a nervous, fluttering creature, would accompany Serafina as her nursemaid. They would be away throughout the summer months, because as well as the betrothal, Franco Guardi had business in Florence, Naples and Livorno.
It occurred to Serafina, sitting silently by the window, her doll in her lap, that when she returned, things might be different – would be different. She would no longer be a child, but a betrothed woman. Her family would be an unknown old man in Florence.
No. She clenched her hands into fists. Rosalie slipped to the floor unnoticed. The pile of boxes and bags, so neatly packed by Marthe, began to blur. Franco Guardi stood with his back to Serafina, facing the fire. No. This is my home, she thought, Serafina Guardi my name. Why should I leave?
Her father had turned, and was walking towards her. ‘Serafina, what is it, my dear?’
She ground one small heel into the floor. ‘I don’t want to go,’ she mumbled, overcome with a mixture of dread and delight at her insolence.
Her father did not hear her at first, so she repeated herself, lower lip stuck out as though she were still only two years old.
‘It’s a long journey, my love,’ said her father, kindly, ‘but we will travel slowly, keeping to the coast. You need not fear the open sea.’
‘I don’t want to go,’ Serafina said, mulishly. ‘I want to stay here.’
Her father tried to put his arm round her shoulders, but she pulled away from him, and stared glowering through the window. The sun had not yet set, and she could see the distant forest of masts and prows that crowded the harbour. Some of those masts belonged to the three ships that would set out on the long voyage to Pisa the following morning. The Gabrielle, the Mignon, and the Petit Coeur. The friendly sea suddenly looked forbidding, ominous, an unknown element. The masts, with their sails furled, were like a forest of pikes and swords stabbing the horizon.
Serafina heard her father say, his voice falsely cheerful, ‘You will see the land of your forefathers, Serafina. All the lords and ladies of Florence will come to your betrothal ceremony, and when you are married they will call you madonna. You will wear the beautiful gown that Marthe has made for you.’
Next, Serafina thought angrily, he’ll promise me a box of comfits and a puppy-dog. ‘You are my family,’ she said. ‘This is my home. Why should I leave it?’
‘Because you are a woman,’ said Franco, sadly. ‘So you must marry.’
Marthe had explained to her the physical side of marriage. She had been frightened then: now, she was angry.
‘Aye.’ Serafina spun round to face her father. ‘I must marry. To get an heir for you in an old man’s bed.’
She heard Marthe’s hiss of disapproval, and she saw her father’s face whiten and grow old. She regretted her words instantly: she could not bear the look of pain on his face. He was always such a happy man, such an – innocent, she might have said, had she understood the word then. Running to him, she uncurled his clenched fists, and wound her fingers through his.
‘Forgive me, Father,’ she whispered. ‘Of course, I am honoured to marry Messer Corsini.’
He still looked troubled. ‘This house will always be your home,’ said Franco Guardi. ‘The Corsini have a great name, but little money. One day, when I am gone, Michele and his sons – your sons – will carry on the business that your grandfather began. You will have to teach them how, Serafina.’
She began to cry then. Her head ached and her skin burned, and she had mislaid her handkerchief, so the tears fell in sparkling drops through her threaded hands, glinting on her bodice like diamonds.
They had to rise early the following morning to sail with the tide. Marthe dressed Serafina in layers of petticoats and a jewelled gown of tight black velvet, as though seeking to smother her with affection. She felt hot and suffocated before she had even left the house.
The weather was fine, the sky a clear bright blue dabbed with only a few puffy clouds. They walked the short distance to the harbour, Serafina’s bags carried by servants, including the red-hatted Ibrahim. He sprawled himself on the ground to pray as they left the house, but they had grown used to that, so no one even stopped to stare or curse. Serafina’s feet would hardly carry her: had she been a few years younger, her father might have swung her up on his shoulders and carried her thus enthroned through the crowds. But today she wore a bodice of buckram and a small, rigid farthingale, so, even though she felt sick to the stomach, and her legs were almost as lifeless as the bales of linen stowed in the Gabrielle’s hold, she made herself walk.
Until Angelo, whom she had not yet seen that morning, appeared. He led by the reins his own pretty jennet, which was saddled and bridled. He stopped in front of Serafina and her father, halfway across the market-square, and bowed, sweeping off his cap, so that his thick hair tumbled, brown and gold, over his face. ‘My lady,’ he said, and held out his hand.
So Serafina rode to the harbour on a neat Spanish pony, like any great lady. She passed the butcher’s, and the baker’s, and the pastrycook’s, and the baskets of fish set out on the quayside: mullet, dory, bonita,
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