The Fishmonger’s Daughter
Cover Design: F. Poj
The Fishmonger’s Daughter
The river turned golden as the sun rose behind Alessio’s back. He steered the boat as he approached Ponte Vecchio at the heart of Florence. The bridge was rebuilt about a century earlier, after the flood of 1333. The road over the bridge was lined with houses and stores. He tied the boat to the abutment and called Filippa from under the bridge.
Filippa, the daughter of Benvenuto Bronzino, the fish merchant, opened her window to receive Alessio’s catch.
“Good morning, King of the Arno!” said Filippa.
“Good morning to you, Queen of Ponte Vecchio.”
“What brings you this morning to the crossing of our kingdoms?”
“I come to offer you the riches of my realm.”
“And what could that be, sweet Alessio?”
“Brown trout, in quantity and quality.”
“I see, but are they fresh?”
“More than fresh, fair Filippa, alive I towed them in the net behind my vessel…still in water.”
“Bravo Alessio! Wait for my bucket.”
Five minutes later she was lowering the bucket from the pulley of the first floor window.
As the first bucket came up she noticed the fish frantically shaking their tails.
“Truly alive, I see!”
When the last load was ready, Alessio stood on the bucket and hoisted himself up to the window.
“What are you doing, my king?” asked Filippa as she placed a trout on the weight scale.
“I come for a kiss, no less.”
“But you must go, Guidobaldo Malatesta is coming soon with his father to discuss a wedding date with my father. They will kill you if they find you up here.”
“What is this Filippa, a wedding?”
“Oh my sweet Alessio, will you take me away? Steal me from this bridge, from this nightmare, from those butchers.”
“I have enough savings. Will you come with me to Sorrento?”
“Sorrento, by the sea. Yes! But when?”
“After your father goes to bed tonight, come and meet me. I’ll be under the bridge with the boys by the right abutment.”
“I will, I promise.”
She said these last words as she pressed her lips firmly on his. When Alessio opened his eyes, he saw Guidobaldo coming through the front door.
“What is this?!” screamed the butcher’s son as he saw them kissing. “You stinking fish boy!”
He grabbed a knife from the gutting board and pushed Filippa against the wall. Alessio saw that Guidobaldo was ready to give him death so he took a large trout from the bucket and slapped the man’s face, then immediately let himself fall into the river below. The butcher boy saw Alessio get on his boat and run across the store and out to the street only to bump into Signora de Rossi, the widow of the hen merchant next door.
The basket of eggs was crushed between their chests.
“Out of my way!” he yelled.
He stormed into his father’s shop and jumped right out of the window to fall into the river missing Alessio’s boat by 2 hairs of a fruit fly.
“If I see you touching Filippa again, I’ll kill you fish boy!”
“You can kiss my trout, Malatesta!” screamed Alessio with a fish between his legs.
That evening, Filippa wrote a short letter to her sleeping father, and walked out.
Guidobaldo was spying on her from his window across the street. He made his way downstairs and out into the street. He saw Filippa turn the corner at the end of the bridge and ran for her exactly when Signora de Rossi opened her front door on his face.
“Aaah! It’s you again! You broke my nose you old bag of fat!”
“Oh I am so sorry my boy.”
“Move, old hen, I have a score to settle.”
Alessio and Filippa were sitting hand in hand under the bridge, by the right bank of the river. Piero Baldovinetti, Alessio’s best friend, was singing old songs, while Father Barbarigo was grilling a trout.
As Filippa finished her wine amidst giggles she saw a familiar figure approach clumsily down the embankment.
“Martinella, is that you?”
“Oh my dear, I found you!” answered Signora de Rossi.
“How did you know we were here?”
“Nothing happens on or under Ponte Vecchio that I don’t know of, my dear.”
“Well, I’m glad you came. We were just…”
“My dear Filippa, there is no time. That butcher’s son is looking for you and Alessio, and he carries a knife. You two should run far and fast.”
“Father Barbarigo, we must hurry, would you do us the honor?” begged Filippa.
“Nothing would pleaaaase me more, child. Off we go. Piero, Signora… we need you as wetnessessss’ said a rather inebriated priest.
As the group walked into the cathedral, Guidobaldo spotted them from across the piazza.
“I had a drunk too many…a drink too many I mean” said father Barbarigo, “On with the baptism…no…the wedding…rrrrright…holy mrathremony.” They all burst in laughter.
“Alesssssio Marrrfggghrmonti, do youuuu take Filrrhhippa Brronzinahh as yourrr…” Father Barbarigo attempted the speech while suddenly; loud knocking was heard from the main door of the cathedral.
“Open this damn door right away, you miserable scoundrels!” yelled Guidobaldo.
“Quick father”, said Alessio, “I do! I do!”
“Oh…all wwrrright. And you, fair Filfffhippa Brrronzinaaahhh, take Alesssio Marrrggh…”
“I do! Father, for the love of Jesus, I do!”
The thumping on the door was louder and louder.
“I prreneunce yeh…hussband and wwwrife. Yeh may kissss thee bridghhh.”
Filippa and Alessio kissed each other’s smiles.
BANG! Guidobaldo broke through the door and BANG again, a bronze crucifix came down on his head. Guidobaldo hit the floor unconscious as Signora de Rossi stood by looking at him like a satisfied hunter proudly looks at the fallen prey.
Filippa and Alessio were riding South on Pietro’s horse when the sun broke the day on the horizon.
“Have I told you about the size of the octopuses we used to catch in Sorrento?”
“No, my love, you haven’t” answered Filippa.
“Ten pounds and more, I swear.”
“Tell me more, my king, tell me more.”