Beatrice, riding three lengths in front of them, begins to pick up
speed. She turns her head to the side, giving the lovers a sprightly
profile, before dashing off with the horse.r>
"We had better follow her," Francesco says, a look of grave concern
coming over his face.
"That will not be easy," Isabella replies.
Isabella does not like to see any interest in her sister from her
betrothed, though she cannot imagine why. With her exceptional
qualities, she should not worry one bit. But worry she does. Francesco
is from a family famous for breeding horses. Nothing arouses the
passions of the Gonzagas of Mantua like a great horse, or a rider who
can handle one. Beatrice looks back one more time before guiding Drago
through one of the city's grand arched portals to a road where she can
ride faster. Francesco takes up the challenge and speeds after her on
his dark stallion, the jewels in his silver saddle catching just enough
of the winter sun to sparkle.
Isabella follows, but at a slower pace. It would be extremely unladylike
for her to compete with her boyish sister in this game for Francesco's
attention. Besides, she does not want to sweat so badly under her new
habit that she will be embarrassed later, when, helping her descend from
the steed, Francesco will take her small hand and slyly raise it to his
lips. Let Beatrice dismount in her typical disheveled state--damp,
stringy hairs hanging about her face, and oozing sweat like the horses
she rides into the ground. Isabella settles into a steady canter as the
two race ahead of her, first Francesco taking the lead, then Beatrice
gaining on him, so close that it looks from this distance as if she is
trying to make her horse bite his stallion's rear end.
If one is to look upon the two sisters objectively, as Isabella prays
Francesco does, one has to observe Isabella's advantages. Isabella has
spent all her life at her distinguished mother's knee, while Beatrice,
from the ages of two to ten, was left behind at the court of Naples all
the way on the other side of Italy as a peace offering to their
grandfather, King Ferrante, whom everyone feared and hated, but who had
taken an instant liking to Beatrice. Isabella reads Latin impeccably and
can recite Virgil's Eclogues to the satisfaction of her tutors and her
father's eminent guests. Beatrice, on the other hand, has spent the four
years since her return to Ferrara being pushed to catch up with her
sister in their studies. She can barely spell. She can recite a poem or
two in Latin, but Isabella doubts that she has any idea of what she is
saying. Isabella plays musical instruments and sings like an angel.
Beatrice loves music, but must be sung to. Isabella has studied rhetoric
and mathematics and can take either side in an argument over at least
one Platonic dialogue. Beatrice enjoys poetry, but prefers that others
read it to her. Isabella is the loveliest dancer in all of Ferrara,
turning her head elegantly this way and that. Not only does she have the
correct timing, style, and balance necessary for the art, she also knows
just where to place her smile as she turns, dips, and lowers her head,
eyes lingering on their specific target, until the lids fall modestly in
time with the music. Beatrice manages at dance, but is no match for her
graceful sibling. Isabella has read all of the books in her father's
library and all of her mother's romance novels about the chivalric days
of old. She has watched carefully as her parents commissioned and
acquired paintings and other works of art from the most illustrious
talents of the age.
U.S. ebook sales up in 2012, but rate of growth is slowing(May 16 2013) In 2012, trade book sales (i.e. non academic book sales) rose 6.9%, to $15.049 billion, and e-book sales continued to grow, although the rate of growth...