Nicola Amati wasn’t a lecherous man but an artist with impassioned emotions that coursed fiercely through his veins. When the ripe French lass surrendered to his amorous advances during his court visit, she was simply naïve. She accepted his gift of the violin, a token of his devotion, he said, a violin he slipped away from the order he was to deliver to Catherine de Medici for her full orchestra.
When the doors crashed down and the girl’s father and his guards burst in, the violin was forgotten where it sat on the loveseat, of little consequence with the pandemonium in the inner chamber. Nicola was ejected, the girl exiled to England, to a distant cousin who would look the other way and let the shamed girl live. With her few possessions, the violin traveled across the Channel.
The violin roiled with the ship, possessed by the Englishman. It had been in his family—from a French great grandmother—and he’d learned to make a little music on it. It would help pass the long voyage and then the nights in his new land. Perhaps its music would woo a wife to ease his loneliness.
But the first winter proved harsh, the extravagance of the violin foolish, and he traded it for maze. The violin became a part of the Patuxet tribe.
The leader of the Lakota people gave the instrument to his woman. He’d found it in the tepee of his enemy on a raid and thought she would enjoy it. She caressed the wood, the carving and faded paint. A string was broken, lying limp across its body. She lay it in her lap and plucked the other strings. Notes sang out. At night she enjoyed its tones, putting them together and humming to make prayers for her ancestors.
Soldiers raided the huts of the Sioux after the uprising, taking what they pleased, burning the rest. A Philadelphian who’d been sent with the troops to aid the traumatized settlers found an old battered fiddle in a leather bag among the spoils and took it for himself. He’d play the fiddle for his sons back home, after the war. But back East again, the war took his arm. The fiddle was put in a case and stored in the attic where it couldn’t mock the broken soldier anymore.
The bulldozer was scheduled to flatten the decrepit house. Before demolition, in the back corner of the attic, a rotted violin case was found. Dumped out in the yard with all the other dusty and cobwebbed junk, a passerby who’d had violin lessons as a child said, “I’ll buy that, if you’re selling.”
“I just need all this gone. Take it.”
The violin went with its new owner to the shop for strings and inspection. The luthier lifted it from the case. “Let’s see what we have here.” His eyes gaped, but only briefly before he gained control and made his expression dull for his costumer.
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