The Letter

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The Letter from Signora Catarina di Cellini
La Famiglia di Cellini, Villa dell'ovest (AS 40, March)

To my dearest sister Marie — Greetings to you and your household, and the Lord's blessing on your head.

It is with a trembling hand I write you today to tell you of the most amazing treasured letter I received last night. I was enjoying a quiet evening with friends from the Inn I told you so much about in my last letter. As these young men are inclined to much frivolity and jocularity, it is no wonder that I choose to spend my evenings enjoying their antics.

A messenger arrived with a parchment sealed with wax, lettered with an exquisite hand. Señor Diego and Señor Raphael, whom I introduced in my last letter, tossed the parchment around between them, and I admit my curiosity was piqued. As I have ever endeavored to help them bring honor to this Inn, as payment for their exquisite kindness and protection to a widow traveling alone, I sought to intercept this letter to see what their fuss was all about.

Imagine my surprise, dearest sister, when my own name was inscribed on the parchment! It read:

Eilidh
care of the Inn of the Crimson Spade.
message of strictest confidence and privacy

I broke the seal on the letter, and started reading with some small measure of nerves, for no one has written me in many months with your own exception. I've made some small sketches within, to give you a small sense of how this letter appeared, and the fine hand with which it was wrought. But allow me now to quote this grand Lady's letter to me, for indeed it was sent by a renowned Lady in these parts:

two days afore Lent, this year, XL
My dearest Eilidh,

Didst thou think us fools? Or perhaps just me? Or doest thou merely underestimate the knowledge and contacts of our household?

I tell you now, sister, at this I stopped reading and jumped straight to the end of the letter, for fear of who should address me with such fervent words. The letter was signed by Signora Caterina di Cellini, La famiglia di Cellini, Villa dell'ovest. And here is where to my shame I mistook her name for another's, and remained confused for nearly an hour. For although the grace and loveliness of Signora Caterina is well-known in these parts, and I had enjoyed the honor of sharing a table with her in the past, I misread her name for another lady in her family, a grand matron of the family known in far off countries and lands, also known as a Signora di Cellini. Mayhaps my eyes are not what they were in our youth, as we played on our agéd father's ancient lands, but I misread "Caterina" for "Dianora" for Dianora Lizabetta di Vittori di Cellini. But now I will return to the letter itself again, and not keep you waiting for its message.

Didst thou think us fools? Or perhaps just me? Or doest thou merely underestimate the knowledge and contacts of our household? To be certain, didst thou not think we would find out, or come to find who thou art?

Well, whatever be the cause, I can assure thee that thou have been sorely mistaken. We do know. We have found out. Thy name is held in much honor and high esteem at the courts, and thy... disappearance was well noted. Thy whereabouts are sought wide and far by those who wish thee returned. And thou? Serving in a dockside tavern? 'Tis certainly not prudent, nor tasteful in the least. Why, should the proprietors find out, they will assuredly be... displeasured.

My lady, please come leave this meager life and attend me in our villa set up outside the city. For thy protection and my love, if nothing else. We wouldst keep thou safe and thou wouldst do us much honor to bestow thy presence upon us and enliven our halls with thy... effervescence. I, promise, thou wouldst have ample opportunity to delve into cookery or other various means to pass the time as thy heart contents.

Please, send thy word and I shall take my coach, at once, to retrieve thee.

All my heart,
Signora Caterina di Cellini
La famiglia di Cellini, Villa dell'ovest

Now, remember dearest sister, that I was still mistaken that the letter was penned from across the seas in far off from Signora Dianora. I know this will fill you with amusement, and I still laugh at myself in my fear and trepidation. For how worrisome it seemed that word would reach across kingdoms and lands in such a short time.

You must remember in my last letter, I told you of the war-like campaign that the men of swords and titles did wage recently against those fearsome foes from the neighboring kings. And I took pity on my dearest friends at the Inn of the Crimson Spade, and rolled up my sleeves to run their kitchen for the soldiers who were bed down in their rooms for a week. (Our mother would be proud of the work we accomplished in the kitchen for this week.)

These were fierce fighters, all, and generous honorable men for certain, and of many high titles, lands, and responsibilities. Never did any of them treat me unkindly or with too much familiarity. They sang, ate, and drank with much gusto, sharing tales and tunes from their homelands, and one even played sweetly on his lute for all who would listen. They often reminded me of our cousins and those warlords our neighbors. They made me feel like I was home and with the family of my youth, rather than far abroad and longing for your tender embrace or the shining faces of your daughters, may they continue to grow in the Grace of our Lord. As a widow, some do continue to fear for my safety traveling abroad and away from the royal court of my youth, but never have I feared the ruffians, for our Lordly Father seems to have been smiling down upon me, granting me warm fires and safe lodgings everywhere I go. Remember, even in their youth, these proprietors of the Inn of the Crimson Spade have been unfailingly gracious to me and given me both safe-keeping and means to keep my hands from sinful idleness.

These fighters from afar, seemingly hired by a local sea captain, were also either from the di Cellini family holdings or favored friends and close bondsmen of this family (I am still somewhat uncertain the relationships each of them held in their home lands). It is my understanding that after lending their swords to our King, they have taken their leave and traveled safely to their homes and lands again. So you can see why I might be confused and overwhelmed with the apparent affection of their great Signora. My eyes welled with tears of happiness, for an offer to come under the protection of the di Cellini is not a pearl to be cast aside lightly, and one that I had hardly dreamed would be offered in such fervent letter.

When my eyes were dry, and I began to look around at the friends with whom I was passing the evening meal, imagine my surprise when it dawned on me in whose presence I was breaking evening bread. That fine caption of the White Star, Captain Lot, had brought along much of his crew for the evening, and in fact, I had not been paying close attention when I reclined around the fire and tables with my friends. Now, please remember dearest sister that darkness is quite thick in winter, and we were not retiring at the Inn, but with my friends from the Inn. No, as I wiped away my tears of happiness, I found they had led me to the home of Signora Caterina herself. Then my mistake in reading came crashing in, and I realized the Lady of the House herself was requesting that I join her in her house. As we laughed at my failing eyesight, someone was kind enough to suggest that perhaps it was merely the tears of joy themselves that shrouded my understanding on first reading of her letter.

So, dearest Marie, you can cease your fretting and late night prayers, for I have been taken into a House of Great Honor and Renown in this land, and cannot be mistaken for a scullery matron or poor tavern help. And also I entreat you to not think poorly of this Inn, for they have great friendship with the di Cellini families and with the crew of the White Star. And they remain fast friends and are my younger brethren indeed. Now I must find a way to pen an answer worthy of dearest Caterina, and will be thinking of you fondly as I say my evening prayers.

As always, your most loving (and eldest) sister, I remain — Eilidh (yes love, I've returned to the name of our youth, rather than the anglicized name of Ellen from court)