Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Breakfast in the Sun Loggia of Bellosguardo.

Tristan and Allegra are chattering into their muesli, The early morning cartoons are on. It’s “Tin Tin” sobbing into his gruel. On Saturday mornings television viewing is allowed for breakfast at Bellosguardo. Dvorak is eating his muesli nearby while Nanky Poo, the Puli Terrier, is chewing very toasted bread with a tad of cream cheese. Lucrezia is drinking Lopsang Souchang tea with milk and reflecting on Serge.

In walks Sir Harold Acton.. So much has happened. Lucrezia has forgotten all about her invitation to him. He kisses her hand. “Cara, good morning. You look lovely and rested this morning.”

“Ciao, Uncle Harold.”

“Good morning, bambini! Don’t you look sweet.”

Tristan and Allegra plant very wet muesli kisses on Sir Harold’s cheek. Lucrezia laughs. He wipes the milk and cereal off with the most impeccable white linen handkerchief ever to grace Villa of the Saracen since Beau Brummel.

“ I love your hair when it’s primal and atavistic. The bed is much better than a hairdresser,” declares Sir Harold, examining her.

“Ah! Judas Priest. Porco Diavolo!” curses Lucrezia..

Uttered like a true Florentine,” comments Sir Harold.

“Dahling!” Lucrezia’s eyes and mouth point toward the children – then she leans over toward him. “I just remembered, my bed’s not been slept in, hold the fort at this end, please.”

Lucrezia walks quickly to the other side of the Villa into her bedroom. She folds the silk damask bedspread into the divan for two as Ruffo, her major domo, always does, then she tosses the bed covers and the pillows about. No! That’s too much. More adjustments. Now, it looks believable!

Dvorak has followed Lucrezia into the bedroom, sniffs, discovers a different scent than hers, follows the scent on the Florentine cotto underneath the grand piano and then on the sofa. Dvorak’s eyes spot tiny gleaming objects on the floor. They are Serge’s studs and Lucrezia’s orange silk buttons. The beast goes for the gold first. Crunch! Crunch! Crunch!

“Dvorak, give me that. Open your mouth please. There's a darling,” Lucrezia pleads, prying the immense mouth with the frightening teeth open. In Hungary, Komondors kill bears in the steppes.

Sir Harold’s well-bred English voice booms, “Are you having a bit of trouble in there?”

“Dvorak is chewing on silk buttons and gold studs.” Lucrezia looks chagrined.

“Dahling!” He looks at Lucrezia. “You didn’t … but of course you did! I’ll look for the buttons and studs, just get the beast out of here. How many buttons? Thirty? Good Lord! As for the studs.”

“Well, three are on the piano,” Lucrezia volunteers, “and three are somewhere on the floor. No! Two,” as she hands him the studs from Dvorak’s mouth.

Sir Harold feigns disgust. “All right pet. Just make sure the hairy white
 monster stays out while I collect them. Shoo! Shoo! And you, go pretty up, we have a forum to attend.”

In Sir Harold Acton's brown Bentley on the way to the Piazza della Signoria, Lucrezia is quiet and pensive. 

“I have made up my mind and I am not turning back, so help me God.” Lucrezia turns to Sir Harold and repeats “Serge Akimov, che sara sara.”

As Lucrezia and Sir Harold walk down the aisle towards the first row, “the stars” the dissidents are entering the stage one by one and taking their places on the frattina - the long monk’s  refectory table. Serge is there! They look at each other and smile radiantly. Serge imperceptibly mouths a kiss. Lucrezia reciprocates. Then she stops her impulses, looks around nervously to see if anyone has noticed, decides “So what?” looks back up at Serge and shrugs.

Katia Ferguson, the correspondent for the Herald Tribune tells Lucrezia, “I’d love to interview Sir Harold Acton, he's so impressive and so imposing.”

“Especially when it comes to his $600 million art collection, Villa La Pietra and other treasures, Sir Harold can truly be imposing,”  thinks Lucrezia. She introduces Katia Ferguson to him. He graciously suggests lunch at Villa La Pietra next week.

Poufie, the Mayor of Florence, is introducing Madame Yelena Bonner, wife of Dr. Andrei Sakharov. She is given a standing ovation as she takes the podium. A quiet, strong woman, Yelena Bonner is in Florence because she needs a complex ophthalmic operation on a rare eye disorder. Had her fate been up to the KGB, she would have been blind by now. The Italian Communist Party, the largest and wealthiest in the Free World, puts pressure on the Central Committee of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Not only does the Italian Communist Party distance itself from the human rights abuses, it urges more “transparency” in its government.

Madame Yelena Bonner’s speech is eloquent but careful. Neither Dr. Sakharov nor she would be happy living outside Russia. His mission is reform, not revolution. The dissidents led by Dr. Ota Sik, the elder statesman from Czechoslovakia, and Dr. Serge Akimov, the dashing economist from the Soviet Union, stand up at the end of Madame Yelena Bonner’s speech, clap and cheer. 

A voice in the audience shouts, “Viva Sakharov!” More voices join in, then the entire audience is on its feet, delirious with “Viva Sakharov!” 

Lucrezia and Serge’s eyes cross significantly. As the audience starts slowly walking out of the Sala Ducento, Lucrezia and Serge exchange glances. He starts to come down the steps to join her. Sir Harold Acton, Contessa Dominica Frassini, Gore Vidal, Katia Ferguson are with Lucrezia. Oblivious to all, Lucrezia moves toward the landing, stretches her hand out to Serge. He takes her hand, kisses it at the same time as Sir Harold Acton and Gore Vidal approach Serge and congratulate him.

1 comment:

  1. A short but interesting chapter. Sir Harold emerges as a fine character.


Isabel Van Fechtmann

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