|The Stargazer's Apprentice
Author: Daylily PM
Clara takes a job assisting an astronomer, even though his heliocentric theories are the laughingstock of town and a thorn in the clergy's side. Together they discover a meteor heading straight toward town. But of course, no one believes them...Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Sci-Fi/Friendship - Chapters: 8 - Words: 15,542 - Reviews: 5 - Follows: 3 - Updated: 02-16-13 - Published: 11-02-11 - id: 2966840
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The greetings were civil and brief. Franz had brought a tray of breakfast pastries to the observatory. Mrs. Lucas started nibbling on an éclair as soon as she sat down in her plush velvet chair. Clara was relieved so far, though she was too nervous to eat.
"If you'd come to the window please, Miss Lucas." Gianpaolo walked over to the telescope, already set up on a tripod. "Mrs. Lucas, you're welcome to observe this as well," he added.
"Thank you, sir, but I'm only here to supervise."
"But Mama, don't you want to see?" Clara asked.
Clara approached the window, and stood before the telescope, preparing to look through the viewer.
"Nope, not yet, Miss Lucas," Gianpaolo corrected. "First, I want you to look at Jupiter with your naked eye.
Clara winced. Not just from being corrected in front of her mother, but mainly because he had said naked, and her mother was certainly scrutinizing every word.
She went around the tripod to the window pane. Gianpaolo instructed her how to locate Jupiter in relation to the constellations. Clara knew all the constellations already, from her map-making excursions with the late Mr. Lucas. She was proud Gianpaolo didn't have to teach her those. But her father had never taught her how to find planets, though. Map-makers are only interested in things that stay fixed and permanent, not things that move or change.
"Notice how bright it is, and how it doesn't twinkle, like the stars. It simply glows."
Clara simply nodded, not having anything smart to add.
"You've had a decent look at it?" he asked. "Look as closely as you can."
"Should I be looking for moons?" she asked.
Gianpaolo laughed. "Well you can look, but you won't see them with your naked eye."
He said naked again. And corrected her again. This was not going as she'd hoped.
"Now, take a look through the telescope, and tell me what you see."
Clara had to stand on tip-toe to peer in, as Gianpaolo had set up the view for himself, and he was taller than her. She closed one eye, as taught, and let her eye focus on the image in the glass.
She gasped at what she saw and pulled away from the telescope to look at the planet with her own two eyes again, not caring what Gianpaolo or her mother might think of her. She found Jupiter once again, got a good look, and then returned her eye to the telescope.
"Now, tell me what you see, Miss Lucas." She could hear the smile in his voice.
"Those three dots that look like three new stars next to it? Are those the moons?"
"Well, what do you think?"
"Well, you said you discovered three moons, so I suppose so."
"But what if I hadn't mentioned they were moons. What would you think they were?"
She looked up at him. "I'd think they were stars. Small stars. Or stars too far away to see without the telescope." She looked back in the telescope. "But if you track them, and map out their position— if their position in relation to the rest of the stars stays the same, then they're stars. But if they stay next to Jupiter, then they're moons. But they wouldn't stay in the same place next to Jupiter, they'd go around it. Because our moon goes around."
"Very impressive, Miss Lucas."
She'd relish the compliment later, but right now she wanted to know more. "Have you been tracking them? How long?"
"Two months. Since you started bringing me your paper. It's not enough data to publish my findings yet, but it's enough to show the correlation."
"Can I see the charts? Do they go around at the same rate as our moon? Can I come back next week to see if they've moved?"
"Next week too?" came her mother's voice from across the room. In her excitement, Clara had forgotten to be wary of that.
Gianpaolo chuckled. "You can come whenever you'd like, weather-permitting. And mother-permitting."
"Please Mama? Please say yes. Look through the telescope, Mama, it's hardly believable."
She gestured to the telescope, but Mrs. Lucas remained sitting. "I'd like to have a word with Gianpaolo alone, if you please Clara," her mother said in an unmistakably austere tone.
"But Mama," Clara insisted, "it's all been so proper, and nothing unchristian—"
"I will speak with Gianpaolo alone, Clara." That was final.
Clara gave them one last pleading look and left, closing the door behind her.
Franz was outside the room. Clara put her ear to the door, but Franz shook his head at her. She sat down on the steps to await her fate.
She could not make out their words, but she heard them raise their voices. She was unable to determine who was saying what, but they both seemed equally loud and angry. Suddenly, both voices softened. A few curt words from her mother. And then inaudible.
Her mother had clearly won. Clara knew the pattern from listening to her mother win arguments with Orianna, and with the late Mr. Lucas, and most of all with Clara herself. Gianpaolo had been defeated, and Clara only hoped her Mrs. Lucas would at least allow her to continue selling paper to him.
She heard footsteps on the other side of the door, which brought her back to her feet. Gianpaolo held the door open for her mother, and followed her out into the hall. Clara looked to both their faces for answers.
Gianpaolo spoke first. "Clara, your mother is almost as determined as you are."
Clara looked at her mother.
Mrs. Lucas straightened her already straight shoulders. "You would not believe what this man asked me. He wanted to pay you twenty five silvers a week to come here night and day and be his apprentice."
Clara gasped. "Really? Oh mama, please, it would be completely—"
"Hush girl," her mother interjected. "I told him it was nonsense." She looked at Gianpaolo with narrowed eyes.
"Instead," she continued, "he will pay you fifty silvers a week in addition to—"
Clara didn't believe what she was hearing. "Wh-what?"
"—in addition to what he's paying you for the paper you supply him."
"Thank you!" Clara couldn't hold in her excitement, "Thank you, Mama! Thank you, Gianpaolo! I know I'm not as smart as the university students, but I won't let you down."
Gianpaolo smiled. "Well, as I told your mother, as a scientist, I value an inquisitive mind far above an 'impressive' education. You've really proven yourself to be quite the little question-asker. My favorite quality in a student."
Clara beamed and turned back and forth between the two of them, saying, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"
"Hush," Mrs. Lucas said again. "Now there are some conditions. You will have Saturday and Sunday off, of course, as well as Wednesday evenings. You will attend mass every Sunday and you will meet with Father Lorenzo every Wednesday, or the deal is off. Saturday you will have work to do at home. And you will keep up your weekly chores without complaint."
Clara nodded her consent, trying to make herself look serious and professional despite the enormous smile threatening to pull her face apart.