Fiorenza realized that something was wrong
when people began following Bianca everywhere.
The older daughter of the merchant Otoniel
might be beautiful and well-to-do, but
she was also greedy and lazy and
therefore no great catch.
It wasn't just people, either.
The horses and cows called out
to her from over the fences.
The dogs and cats rubbed
against her, wanting to be petted --
which was a problem, since
Bianca did not much like animals --
all except for Marchesa Micia,
who sensibly avoided the girl.
Fiorenza asked around, discreetly,
to see if anyone might know
what in the world was going on,
but everyone was too busy
dealing with it to talk with her.
Bettina declared Bianca
to be the best sister ever,
and wasn't that telling?
Otoniel tried in vain to disperse
all of the unsuitable suitors.
Don Candido delivered a sermon
on modesty and chastity, also to no avail.
Fiorenza finally lost her patience when
she saw that not even a spring downpour
had dispersed the crowd mooning around
Bianca's house, their chilled hands clutching
bedraggled bouquets of flowers in the rain.
So the wisewoman went into the house,
trusting her charms and her wits to protect her,
and said to Bianca, "Tell me what's happening."
"It is all the fault of that cat!" Bianca exclaimed.
Now it was true that Bianca and Marchesa Micia
had no great love for each other, but that
could hardly explain such chaos.
"In what way is it the cat's fault that
the whole village has run mad?" asked Fiorenza.
"I brewed a love potion," Bianca admitted.
"What did you do, you fool girl,
drop it down the village well?"
Fiorenza snapped, for no good
ever seemed to come from a love potion.
"No! Before I could use it on anyone,
the cat knocked it over with her tail
so that it spilled all over me," said Bianca.
"No wonder everyone is trailing behind you
like bees after a flower-seller's cart," said Fiorenza.
It was, however, an easier matter to mend than if
Bianca had dosed some boy with the stuff.
"What possessed you to do such a thing?"
"I wanted to stop being alone," Bianca said.
"Besides, I knew you wouldn't brew one for me!"
That was certainly true.
"Indeed I would not, and
you should not have either,
for now we have a problem,"
Fiorenza said to her. Mai soli
was a difficult potion to break.
"I know," Biance said miserably.
"What am I to do about it?"
"You must go and purify yourself
in the sacred well of Santa Cristina,"
said Fiorenza. "Only such holy water
can wash away what you have done."
"But that's all the way in Sardinia!"
Bianca whined, wringing her hands.
"Then you had better get started,
for your best chance of success
will be on the second Sunday of May,
when the local people celebrate
the feast of Santa Cristina," said Fiorenza.
"If you miss that, you might have
to wait for the Archangel Gabriel on
the fourth Sunday of October."
Grumbling, Bianca went to pack.
Fiorenza let herself out, and
there met Don Candido.
"Bianca is preparing for a pilgrimmage
to the sacred well of Santa Cristina," said Fiorenza.
"Perhaps you should repeat that sermon
about modesty and chastity, for she
seems not to have heard it."
"I shall do that," said Don Candido,
heading into the house.
Fiorenza shook her head at the crowd
of sodden admirers, petals raining
from their forlorn bouquets.
No doubt half of them would be
down with a cold by the end of the week,
and mobbing the door to her cottage instead!
With that in mind, Fiorenza went home
to brew a big cauldron of cough syrup.
* * *
mai soli -- never alone
-- Italian Love Phrases
Love potions appear throughout entertainment, and almost always go wrong somehow.
Water has long been considered holy and purifying, such as the Santa Cristina Sacred Well in Sardinia.
Many herbs are useful for making cough syrup.