The End Of The Rainbow – Episode 72

Adam sighed as he watched the early morning mist rise off the lagoon. Venice. Mysterious, beautiful Venice, which had disappointed him and taken him to the very edge of despair. He hunched his shoulders against the cold and the dampness which seemed to have penetrated his very bones. Paris suddenly seemed a world away.He already knew that he could not stay here. Indeed, he hadn’t meant to come, arriving at the onset of winter when the place was at its bleakest. But his unplanned journey had involved a succession of missed trains, wrong connections and blunders which had all led him astray from his intended destination of Florence with its great artistic treasures. He sighed again. Here he was instead in this damp, strangely secretive place, where everyone seemed to be trying to sell him something. His meagre supply of money was shrinking alarmingly. Even the splendour of the great church of St Mark and the vibrant paintings of Tintoretto had failed to move him.“This place is no’ for me,” he said aloud, attracting a curious glance from one of the few passers-by.Shivering, wishing that the winter sun would break through the mist, he turned away from the lagoon and made his way across the vastness of St Mark’s Square, hesitating a little before venturing into the marble-pillared grandeur of Florian’s. He told himself that he could afford some coffee, and perhaps a small pastry.While he sat there, his spirits rose a little. It was crowded, with great waves of conversation breaking round him. Groups of friends ate, drank, argued, laughed and brandished newspapers at one another in great billows of companionship. Having painstakingly learned enough French to make himself understood, Adam now didn’t have a word of Italian, but he thought it the most expressive and colourful language in the world. Sipping a tiny cup of the strongest coffee he’d ever tasted, and risking the cost of a small almond biscuit, he suddenly felt warmer, more alive and a little more optimistic.By the time he had ventured out again to the damp chill of the narrow, cobbled streets and hump-backed bridges that formed a network above the canals, his optimism, like his body warmth, had evaporated. There were few tourists about, and few gondoliers plied their trade. Even their piercing whistles, as they guided their gondolas round blind corners between the buildings, sounded echoing and lonely . . .Arriving the previous day, he had rented a small room above a caf near St Mark’s Square. The caf owner spoke a little French, which helped. He was generous, too. As Adam returned, chilled to the marrow, he set a steaming bowl of pasta before him, waving away payment. Adam was surprised, this being a city of merchants with a history of a thousand years of trading a place where, nothing, it seemed, came free of charge.Later, in the silence of his tiny room, he lay on the bed and tried to make plans for the next step in his journey. Again he knew he could not stay here. Such feelings of loneliness, of disappointment, would stifle creativity. He would not be able to paint here. Worst of all, he realised with a sudden flash of insight, the memory of Constance would haunt him in this place. They had planned to come here together to paint, had spoken of it many times as they had sat on the riverbank at Abbeylands. Adam had dreamed of them honeymooning here. Venice without Constance could never be happy for him.All night, Adam tossed and turned and then, just as first light crept through the shutters, he remembered Bellagio.“It’s a beautiful place at the far side of Lake Como,” Rhuari had enthused. “My uncle has a house there. He opens it up in early spring and stays till the autumn.”Adam closed his eyes and imagined it as Rhuari had described it. A place where artists painted on the promontory which jutted out into the vastness of the lake, where the Alps glittered in the distanc. A place of flowers and springtime warmth.He sat up, his excitement growing as he remembered talk of the Hotel du Lac where wealthy tourists gathered all through spring and summer, all keen to have the artists sketch or paint their likenesses.He tried to remember where he had put the Bellagio address Rhuari had given him.Hastily opening his valise, he found the slip of paper in the pocket of his spare jacket. As most of his things were as yet unpacked, Adam smiled, realising that he could be ready to leave in minutes! First, he told himself, he must get some sleep.His valise lay open by the side of his bed as, decision made, he let a contented drowsiness overtake him at last. There she was, as always, waiting for him. Constance. His last waking thought was that he was suddenly aware of her perfume, that unmistakeable scent of freesias that had always surrounded her.Smiling, he surrendered to sleep.


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