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Messer Marco Polo

Chapter 1
Now it's nearing night on the first day of spring, and you could see how loath day
was to be going for even the short time until the rising of the sun again. And
though there was a chill on the canals, yet there was great color to the sunset,
the red of it on the water ebbing into orange, and then to purple, and losing itself
in the olive pools near the mooring-ties. And a little wind came up from the Greek
islands, and now surged and fluttered, the way you'd think a harper might be
playing. You'd hear no sound, but the melody was there. It was the rhythm of
spring, that the old people recognize.
But the young people would know it was spring, too, by token of the gaiety that
was in the air. For nothing brings joy to the heart like the coming of spring. The
folk who do be blind all the rest of the year, their eyes do open then, and a
sunset takes them, and the wee virgin flowers coming up between the stones, or
the twitter of a bird upon the bough. . .And young women do be preening
themselves, and young men do be singing, even they that have the voices of
rooks. There is something stirring in them that is stirring, in the ground, with the
bursting of the seeds. . .
And young Marco Polo threw down the quill in the counting house where he was
learning his trade. The night was coming on. He was only a strip of a lad, and to
lads the night is not rest from work, and the quietness of sleeping, but gaming,
and drinking, and courting young women. Now, there were two women he might
have gone to, and one was a great Venetian lady, with hair the red of a queen's
cloak, and a great noble shape to her and great dignity. But with her he would
only be reciting verses or making grand, stilted compliments, the like of those you
would hear in a play. And while that seemed to fit in with winter and candlelight, it
was poor sport for spring. The other one was a black, plump little gown-maker, a
pleasant, singing little woman, very affectionate, and very proud to have one of
the great Polos loving her. She was eager for kissing, and always asking the lad
to be careful of himself, to be putting his cloak on, or to be sure and drink
something warm when he got home that night, for the air from the canals was
chill. The great lady was too much of the mind, and the little gown-maker was too
much of the body, either of them, to be pleasing young Marco on the first night of
Now, it is a queer thing will be pleasing a young man on the first night of spring.
The wandering foot itches, and the mind and body are keen to follow. There is
that inside a young man that makes the hunting dog rise from the hearth on a
moonlit night: "Begor! it's myself'll take a turn through the fields on the chance of
a bit of coursing. A weasel, maybe, or an otter, would be out the night. Or a hare
itself. Ay, there would be sport for you! The hare running hell-for-leather, and me
after him over brake and dell. Ay! Ay! Ay! A good hunt's a jewel! I'll take a stretch
along the road."