He also knew that he hadn’t really made a good impression on the girl, but he had a few ideas on how to put things right. He had hatched a scheme, which to his own eyes, was absolutely flawless. He would tell the girl that he intended to leave the Ardinghelli’s to work for the Salvucci’s: at first he would sound a bit on the defensive, to ignite the flame of curiosity.
Then he would reveal that, if she followed him to Borgo Antico San Lorenzo, he would show her something that would convince her of his good faith. If the girl accepted, he would have the whole journey to conquer her interest.
As he was wandering gaily with these thoughts on his mind, smiling to himself at his perfect plan, he stumbled and fell over some hulk going about his own business on the opposite direction. Thomas got to his feet, feeling numb and dusted himself off: he offered a hand to the unlucky man he had run over because of his carelessness.
His hand remained outstretched and the smile of excuse vanished instantly. With all the people around San Gimignano at this time of day, he should bump into the biggest boy with whom he’d had a row a few days ago?!
Indeed the boy in the mud was Biagio, one of the Salvucci’s servants. After the quarrelling of a few days back, you could be pretty sure he would not be chuffed to meet Thomas again.
And in fact as soon as he realised that he had fallen stretched out on the road and covered with mud because of this stinky worm who was working for the Ardinghelli’s, a rush of blood went to his head. Biagio was trying to stand up quickly to give a lesson to this impertinent boy, but the muddy road seemed to hold him back somewhat longer.
Seen from the outside, the scene had something very funny: a small weak boy was standing in front of a huge boy ravelling in mud like a wild boar. On the other hand, Thomas knew he just had to take to his heels before Biagio could stand up, if he wanted to remain alive.
So he gathered up all his strength, turned around and started to run with all his might. He could feel his heartbeat in his ears and tears tightening his throat but, in spite of this, he clearly saw among the crowd that had gathered to watch, Emma’s gentle silhouette.
He could not stop to speak with her, unless he wanted to die immediately afterwards, but he absolutely needed to tell her something. He diverted his escape route a few yards to get as close as possible to Emma, mentally repeating the words he would tell her when he was close enough to be heard.
When Thomas was only a few steps away from Emma, he opened his mouth to speak but, inexplicably, his lips uttered no sounds. He stood blank gazing into the girl’s blue eyes that were looking down on him: time seemed to extend and double its course.
It lasted a moment. Just a moment. For the moment after, small Thomas felt a dull blow to his shoulders and a tremendous pain between his shoulder blades that left him winded and made him fall to his knees, with his eyes turned skywards.