Styx & Stone

Read Styx & Stone for Free Online

Book: Read Styx & Stone for Free Online
Authors: James W. Ziskin
and explained: “The Guelphs and the Ghibellines were opposing political factions in late-medieval Italy. The Guelphs, named for a noble family in Germany: Welf, or Welfen in the plural, supported a political alliance between the pope and rulers from the line of the Welf family. In a nutshell, the Ghibellines were antipapalists and loyal to another Germanic line.”
    “Rather obscure reference, isn’t it?”
    “Not in Italian history,” he said. “The struggle for political supremacy in medieval Italy was pervasive. Years ago your father wrote a very interesting article on the subject. I could let you have a copy if you’d like.”
    “No, thank you,” I said, sorry I’d ever asked. “One more question, though. Hildy Jaspers said she hoped my father would become chairman, but he always hated the idea of administration. Had he changed his mind recently?”
    Bernie shook his head. “No, there’s been some scheming recently, by Ruggero in particular. Ercolano was pushing your father to stand for chairman; Chalmers’s term is up at the end of the semester. But your father never agreed to be a candidate.”
    The door opened and a stocky young man, dressed in a plaid shirt and black trousers with slicked-down black hair, entered. He nodded a polite hello to Bernie and me, then crossed the room, plopped himself down on the sofa, and opened a book.
    “Ciao, Bernie,” a voice called out from just behind me. A second young man had entered the room without my noticing and now stood above me. I looked up and started. He was a strikingly beautiful creature, like a Botticelli angel. Soft green eyes, gentle olive complexion, wavy brown hair, casual and loose, as if he’d just piloted a sailboat across a windy lake. He stood there, easy, engaging, instantly likeable, and smiled sweetly at me.
    Now it was Bernie’s turn to rouse me from my dream. I blushed crimson, unsure how long I’d been staring at the young man.
    “Ellie Stone, this is Luigi Lucchesi,” said Bernie, embarrassed for me if his obvious discomfort meant what I thought it did.
    “How do you do,” I said, holding out a hand. Luigi took it and pressed just enough to unsettle me further. Even his grip was beautiful.
    “Please call me Gigi,” he said. “Everyone does.”
    “Really?” I asked. “Gigi? Like Leslie Caron?”
    Bernie chuckled. “Not exactly. It’s just short for Luigi. Still, rather a silly name for a grown man.”
    Gigi smiled at the affront, seemingly taking no offense at all. Then he asked if I was Professor Stone’s daughter.
    “Yes. Are you a student of his?”
    “Oh, no. I’m a visiting lecturer.”
    He looked awfully young to be a lecturer, but Bernie would have surely contradicted him if he hadn’t been who he said he was.
    “What’s your field of study?”
    “I specialize in history of science and art. This semester I’m teaching a course on Galileo’s poetry.”
    “Galileo wrote poetry?” I asked. Again I had mortified Bernie. But Gigi didn’t seem to mind.
    “Some,” he said. “But he’s better known for other things.”
    As he spoke, I noticed his Italian accent was a dignified collection of precise vowels and guttural—not rolling— R s, what the Italians call erre moscia , or soft R . My father had described the phenomenon like this: “If you come from a wealthy family, it’s a sign of class or affectation, depending on your political persuasion. If you come from a poor family, it’s a speech defect, like a lisp.” This was the first time I’d actually heard it. I was bowled over.
    Gigi took his leave, his smiling eyes lingering on mine as he turned slowly toward the exit. Then he disappeared into the corridor, and I exhaled for the first time since I’d laid eyes on him.
    “I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that Hildy Jaspers plays in his sandbox,” said Bernie. “Not Professor Bruchner’s.”
    My heart took a tumble.
    “They seem very cozy with each other, but they try to keep everything on the

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