Excerpt of Waking Raphael by Leslie Forbes
(Page 2 of 3)
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Their masters were still some way off when Muta identified the man in
front, a face she recognised, even now. She thought: Will he know me? Why has
he come back after so long? Then she bolted, up towards the old road and all
the other walking ghosts.
Did you see that? one of the hunters said.
The older man in the lead, closely watching the womans progress up the
steep hill, replied, You think shes living at San Rocco, Lorenzi? The
interrogator was a big, beefy animal in his early seventies, but fit, buffed
up, expensively maintained, with a tone of voice that implied an infestation
of vermin on his private property, vermin he had paid heavily to be rid of. He
looked like someone who expected value for his money and had plenty of people
willing to beat it out of you.
I doubt it, answered Lorenzi. Shes more likely got a den up
there where she joined the old German road. Those hills are riddled with
caves, as you know.
The older man leaned over to peer at something. Shes lost a shoe.
Looks like a museum piece, something left over from the War.
Something left over from the War . . . He picked up the shoe by its
laces and shifted his pouchy, well-fed eyes to the hill, where the running
figure had disappeared. Whats that scar-faced dog of Procopios
called? Baldassare? You told me hed track anything?
Almost anything . . .
But when they tried to catch Baldassare he refused to be caught. He stood
back and looked at them and pulled the unscarred side of his face into a snarl
to match the one given by the boar, then lit out on his own towards home.
There goes our best dog, said Lorenzi. Now what?
Charlotte Penton, walking alone on one of the unmade-up tracks that circled
and criss-crossed this tightly folded part of Italy like interlaced cobwebs,
was contemplating the view from the crest of the hill back towards the Villa
Rosa, the idyllic hotel where two hours earlier she had treated herself to a
solitary and very expensive lunch. It was her first proper day off in six
weeks, and with her restoration of the Raphael portrait nearing completion,
Charlotte had vowed to allow herself a few treats before returning to London.
There, as the result of her recent divorce, the solitude would be of a
different, less voluntary kind.
She took a deep breath, enjoying the warm, sweet, afternoon air. Off to her
right was a scene possessing all the orderly grace of a Raphael. In the
foreground a corridor of painterly trees, groomed and plumed as feather
dusters, led in a direct line of perspective up the hard white drive to the
hotel gates, and beyond that to the spires and pantiled roofs of Urbino,
rose-pink against the mauve of even more distant hill-towns. The lightthat
splendid, golden Italian light which softened the edges of objects while at
the same time mysteriously making them clearer and more resonantfilled
Charlotte up like a rich, heavy wine. She thought: I will always know this
place; I have already known it. For as a student in Florence she had admired
these same hills and castles in a portrait of Urbinos greatest ruler,
Federigo da Montefeltro, so that even before coming here she had known this as
a landscape she could love.
To her left was an equally familiar but altogether wilder view, of
foothills rising steeply into the Apennines, only the odd ruined building
holding back the encroaching woods and brush. It resembled the more grisly
paintings she restored, early Flemish and German works of martyrs and
crucifixions devoid of human optimism, their plunging chasms and savage
torrents coded warnings for a violent or tragic life.
Excerpted from Waking Raphael by Leslie Forbes Copyright© 2004 by
Leslie Forbes. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House,
Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or
reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.