Giuanna had heard how the Prince of Aragon, Giacomo, had beaten Count Manfred and Judge Ugone, but she didn’t know what it meant. All she knew was that that was why they were now living in the mountains, waiting for the moment when they could return to the sea, which Giuanna couldn’t remember.
That’s where they lived, on Mount Arbo, but her father and older brothers visited the town down by the sea once a year. Whenever Dad returned to Arbo, he would talk quietly with Mom and the brothers, and they would look worried.
Once, after Dad and Onorau returned from town, Onorau told Giuanna something quite incredible. ”You know, Giu, we went to a town where the houses were like a stone enclosure.”
”My father has told me about it. You could see it in the old house, Dad told me.”
”Yes. We went there too, but we stayed overnight with Father Lenardu…” ”Why do they call Lenardu Father, when Lenardu is not Father, but Father is Father, and
Lenardu is just the brother of the father.”
”Because Lenardu is a priest, he is a priest of the Church of Jesus, and priests are called fathers.”
the brother explained.
”I thought he was a priest of the Church of San Michele!”
”Well it’s complicated Giu, San Michele is a bit like one house in one yard,
but all the houses are Jesus.”
”But is Lenardu also the Master of the Well?”
Now the older brother looked around worriedly, even though he was in his own mansion
with his little sister, and then looked at Giu, frowning, ”You must never speak of the Well, unless you are sure no one will hear! Never! You may only talk about it with me, my father and mother, and only when no one else is around!”
Giuanna looked around, and saw that the old maid, Altea, their only one, went into the cattle shed, and then whispered to her brother, ”But is Uncle Father Lenardu the master of the Well?”
”You are too little to understand what a well is!”
”But Lenardu is a priest of Jesus San Michele?”
”Yes, yes! But now may I tell you what I saw in town?” Giuanna looked at her brother, as if considering graciously, and then nodded ”Tell me, Onorau!”
”I saw a princess!”
”A princess? The Emperor’s daughter?”
”Lenardu told me it was Gosantina, the king’s daughter, on her way to her husband!”
”A real princess?”
”A real princess! And guess what was amazing?” Onorau leaned over his sister like a shadow.
”Well!” her sister couldn’t help but exclaim.
”A princess travelling in a little house carried by men?”
”The men carried the house?”
”It was little, like a closet, and the men carried it!”
”The men carried the princess in the closet?” Giuanna didn’t quite understand this.
”It had yellow and red stripes, and a curtain for a door.”
”Like in my bed?”
”Well it was pretty much like your bed,” the brother admitted, ”but much nicer. And yours wasn’t
bed doesn’t have stripes. But that’s all right,” the brother declared, almost brazenly.
”Oh no?” The little sister wondered with her eyes rolled back.
”The princess was looking out of that little booth, and she had a really strange animal in there. It was so
like a grey dog the size of a little lamb, but it had arms on each limb to climb all over the princess!”
”A little dog the size of a lamb with paws?”
”Lenardu told me it was a special Saracen dog called a scim or monkey.” ”A dog with hands?”
”And that’s not all!” And now Giuanna tried for a long time to fend off curiosity,
and tried to imagine the most improbable, before she pushed aside her pride and condescended to ask.
”Not just a dragon or a unicorn or… ” and the girl had to pause to think of something even stranger, ”not just a lion!”
”Me and Lenardu were just about there when the princess was carried past. Father Lenardu said we had to bow, and not to look directly at the princess’s face, but I glanced, just for a moment, and guess what?”
”Her skin was the color of milk?” the girl tried.
Now Onorau had to think for a moment before answering, she glanced at her own field and shepherd tanned young arm, and then at her sister’s mostly indoors and hat-wearing ten year old cheek, ”yes it was paler than yours, but it wasn’t the color of milk!”
”Tell me!” her sister cursed the story.
”His eyes,” and Onorau bent down so that his sister could look into his eyes, ”they were blue!”
”Blue?” The girl looked at her elder brother with her head cocked, considering the options. One was, most likely, that her brother was trying to trick her, the next possibility was that the city fumes and sea air had confused her brother, and the third, confusing possibility was that the princess really was blue-eyed.
”Like the sky, or like a vein in a lamb’s umbilical cord?” Giuanna asked.
”Neither of them,” and now was his brother’s moment of reflection. He glanced around before he said anything, lest his father should be caught careless, ”Have you ever had a case in the dead of winter where you forgot the old wooden stove right side up in the evening, and in the morning when you wake up and run to look, there’s a layer of ice?” And before Onorau could continue, Giuanna snapped, ”Never!” which reveals to her brother that the daughter of the family is as careless as the brothers.
”When you look at the reflection of the sky in the icy wooden bucket, it’s a shade of blue a little like the princess’s eyes.”
”Ice blue eyes!”
”That’s right, ice blue!”