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The Foundling Wheel

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The Foundling Wheel |

It was a simple, rustic place to enter the world, as daylight faded. The orchard buzzed to the low tune of lazy bees and rhythmic cricket song and there, in the thicket of the lemon grove, Rosina lay. She had carefully chosen this place for its shady privacy. It was with foreboding, for she knew something of the pain she would experience. Childbirth had once brought tragedy to their family when both mother and infant died just days later. Now their father was an angry man made bitter with grief. Rosina avoided him, protecting herself from his short-fused temper and heartless ways.

Marco applied a cold compress to her forehead, supporting her through this test of endurance. The sun’s russet glow extinguished at the moment of parturition. “A boy”, he said, and Rosina looked into his eyes with fear. Taunted by demons, she believed the baby would be deformed or covered in thick black hair, a devil’s child. Yet Marco saw only an exquisite form. “Corpo perfetto”, beautiful body, he declared.

Rosina stole only one look at the baby; the image of him must remain in her heart and mind forever. Marco cut the cord, wrapped the newborn and laid him in a muslin-lined fruit basket. It was time to execute the rest of their plan swiftly and hopefully without complication. No one could ever learn the shameful truth.

He took the winding road leading down to the village, carefully mapping every step and carrying the basket with the greatest care. He trekked through the olive groves, cypress trees and lavender fields, the aroma ever fresh and pungent. Soon he would see the lights of the village, bringing the journey to its sombre conclusion.

A carved statue of Christ with arms outstretched guarded the entrance to the convent with grace and stony solemnity. Marco knew that the foundling wheel, ‘Culla per la vita’ ( life cradle), was situated at the side entrance; a hatch on the outside bearing a revolving crib. Here he gently laid the baby and placed a single kiss on his head to mark their sombre, bitter parting. He rang the bell, the sound of it was so jarring and melancholy, then turned the handle to gently swing the baby from the outside world to inner sanctuary. Marco began running, never once looking back; the pain of the irreversible act overcame him now.

It was Sister Angelique who responded to the sounding bell and she lifted the baby from the metal cradle. In the flickering candlelight she carefully inspected him, studying his perfect little form in wonderment. Who could have left him? In keeping with convent tradition as the first nun to attend, she chose to call him Angelo, a derivative of her own name meaning “angel” or “messenger”.

Marco made his solitary journey home; he could not suppress his heartache and feelings of remorse. This was the only possible ending and the consequences tore him apart. He would return to Rosina,

his sister and lover,

to tell her their child had been safely accepted into the convent. If they should ever be reunited, it would be the work of a miracle.

© Angela Craddock 2021-07-20


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