The Count is found dead on top of Angelina.
|Chapter 2 Dead in the Saddle
Angelina dressed hurriedly…She was worried that Teresa would tell someone what she had seen and there would be a terrible scene with her husband…that her reputation, never in the best of favor, would become subject to a full blown scandal. Once back at the manor house she was relieved that everyone was acting quite normally. Down the stairs came her husband, yawning. He motioned to her.
“Come," said the Count, leaning upon his cane, “I’ve called the carriage and it’s time for us to go. Bid your friends farewell while I thank our hostess. “
As she made the rounds saying goodbye, Angelina looked about for the young girl who had stumbled upon them moments earlier in the garden. A friend told her that Teresa had departed a quarter hour ago. The only thing that appeared amiss was the look on Maria’s face. It was both pensive and penetrating.
She suspects something but I don’t think it will be a problem, she concluded. Any scandal would also compromise her brother.
At the top of the stairs she ran into Carlos Trujillo. He looked dashing in his uniform, a handsome young man but one without a title or means. He was one of Ricardo’s friends and an admirer of hers who had always worshiped from afar.
“Leaving so soon?”
“We’re entertaining tonight and I need to check on the preparations."
“Sounds exciting,” he replied, basking in the attention.
“Why don’t you plan on joining us?”
“I wasn’t invited …”
Unruffled, she reached into her tote and took out an envelope. “I had no idea you’d be arriving with Don Ricardo,” she said, handing it to him.
As she extended her fingers he took the envelope and bowed graciously, deftly kissing the tips.
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” he answered in appreciation.
She let them linger longer than necessary…
“I really must be going now.” She turned down the steps and in her wake, left a sparkle of devotion shining in his eyes.
Carlos has always had warm sentiments, she thought. In my need I even considered him a candidate. In many ways he would have been a good husband. He comes from a noble family but they are all wretchedly poor. She met her husband at the turn-about.
Slightly out of breath he asked, “Have you made your farewells?”
She took his free arm while with the other he leaned heavily on his cane. Together they walked slowly towards the waiting coach. She made a mental note to have a quiet conversation with Teresa, at the earliest opportunity. The Montevallo’s had a summer home between their two estates. Teresa’s father was Plugar, the Queen’s secretary and her mother Melina, one of the Ladies in waiting. They were Old Christians who had risen to prominence in the last generation.
The groom opened the door and helped her husband up the steps. How he hated the need for assistance but he could no longer manage alone and was becoming resigned to it. She followed behind, stepping briskly and looked about from the top step. From that vantage point she saw Ricardo strolling towards the Hacienda.
I wonder, she thought wistfully, hand on her stomach? Settling into the seat she smiled at her husband. The Count returned her look with affection. The carriage jerked into motion as she patted his thigh.
It was a lovely evening and the country estate was ablaze with candles and oil lamps. There were over two hundred guests and it was easily the social event of the year. Carlos arrived on horseback and handed the bridle to a groom. He went inside with his invitation and told the doorman his name.
He walked into the ballroom and was met with the sounds of conversation and music. “Captain Carlos Trujillo,” announced the herald. Strolling alone down the stairs he joined the receiving line. His name proceeded down the cue until at last coming to Angelina…
“So glad you could join us Captain….Will Teresa and Don Ricardo be joining us?”
“The Commissioner sends his regrets My Lady. He wasn’t feeling well and retired early."
“Juan," she said, introducing him to the Count, "This is Carlos Trujillo, the son of Squire George Trujillo, who once served in your militia. He's a Captain, with Don Ricardo in the Hermandad.
“I remember your father well,” said the Count with a penetrating stare. “I was saddened to hear of his passing.”
“He always spoke highly of you sir. I’m honored by the invitation…”
“The Count gave him a hard look and turned dismissively…”Enjoy the good company.”
I wonder the meaning of that? he thought, continuing over to the banquet table. The young captain was immediately surrounded by several of his friends and began to socialize. He was an elegant dancer and there was no shortage of attractive ladies. From one to the next he danced as the orchestra played until intermission. As he was refreshing his glass Angelina walked up.
“You seem to be having a good time. I'm so glad you could join us."
"The pleasure is mine," he answered. "Is there still room on your card?”
"I’ve saved the third," she said gaily… "So don’t forget! I’ll be very disappointed if you don’t appear. “
He could hardly wait as the orchestra resumed and played the first two numbers. In the pause before the next, he stepped forward and Angelina flowed into his arms. Around and around they circled with a grace not lost on the others who shared the floor.
“So what really kept Don Ricardo away this evening?” she asked.
He assumed she was making polite conversation…. “As I left he was engaged with his correspondence. Every night he spends several hours writing orders that coordinate the activities of his commanders.”
“…Such a busy man. I’d have thought he would be here with Teresa… Maria told me she expects them to become engaged.”
“I haven’t seen Teresa since we arrived this afternoon although I heard she was by briefly.”
“Seems odd, wouldn’t you say….?”
“I agree. Ricardo talks about her constantly and her absence pleads an explanation.”
The dance began to taper down and he was sorry to see it end. It was the first time they had danced in years and never before had she shown him such interest. He bowed low…“You made my evening Angelina.”
“And you were dashing and danced like a chevalier…”
Another stood waiting and he reluctantly handed her off… as he did there was a pause and those about them stepped back and applauded politely. It was a custom in those days to acknowledge a couple that danced exceptionally well. Carlos hoped to see Angelia again but she was much the center of attention and after midnight excused himself and returned to the Hacienda.
As the last of the guests departed Angelina and the Count retired to their suite and prepared for bed. It had been a long day for both but the Count seemed agitated. He had noticed his wife dancing with the handsome Dragoon and heard the applause that followed. In addition he recalled seeing them together earlier in the day. However, what was really bothering him went much deeper. His infirmities gave him constant pain making him increasingly bitter. To find relief he drank too much and tonight had been no exception. When he spoke his voice was slurred with jealously.
"My," he said…"You and Captain Trujillo made quite the pair…”
"Yes," she answered, yet to realize the meanness of his temper. "Carlos is certainly light on his feet."
“How was it, he came to be invited…? “
“When I realized he was a commander of Don Ricardo, I thought it appropriate.”
“How thoughtful of you,” he said disdainfully.
"Do I detect a tone of hostility?"
"Now why would a cuckold, ever feel such a sentiment?"
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I’ve been told you have a roving eye My Dear; a roving eye.”
“Are you planning to work yourself into a tirade?” she replied, seeing the clouds of argument beginning to loom.
“Into what dark rat-hole did you lure your latest conquest, Darling? I bet you couldn’t wait for my siesta…“
“Why must you ruin a perfect evening with you insinuations and slander?”
“Insinuations....slander? You take me for a complete fool? In the coach with the doors closed, the rut of your exertions clung like a foul stench."
“And I thought you’d forgotten the smell. “
“Bitch,” he cried out swinging with the back of his hand…she stepped back and he spun about catching himself as he tottered.
“You’re drunk,” she said in disgust…. “What does it matter what I do as long as it’s discreet….”
“Whore!” he answered in a fit of rage, advancing in halts and jerks.
“You knew what I was when you married me. It never kept you from playing the macho husband….. How you did strut and fret, pretending to be the father of my child.”
His eyes bulged as he reared his corpulent frame. He’s about to swing, she thought. With a nimble deftness she rolled across the bed as he lashed out with his cane. It missed narrowly and his knees sagged…His face was florid and his eyes bulged as he suddenly grabbed his chest. With a gurgle, he twisted and fell forward onto the mattress. His limbs flailed and body twitched convulsively. She watched spellbound wondering what to do next. Long minutes passed before he finally became still. Angelina stood frozen in shock, unable to believe what had just happened. What have I done, she thought in stunned silence? Slowly she recovered her senses and impulsively ran to the door. About to open it, she paused taken by a second thought…
Counting on her fingers she numbered the days since the onset of her flow. It had been no idle claim… her threat to Don Ricardo, and the numbers once more confirmed it. The Count had only this morning arrived from Madrid after three months absence. How would she explain a pregnancy? She had planned to demonstrate some affection around the servants, at least giving some pretext to his paternity… but now he was dead. His family harbored an intense dislike and would relish the opportunity to brand her unfaithful. A vision of being cast destitute onto the street flashed through her mind. What was she to do?
The answer came in the Devil’s whisper. Oh my God, she thought, but the more she considered it, the better the idea seemed. It was the frightful answer to all her fears. Angelina reached down and locked the solid oak door. Then, she walked over to her husband and began stripping of his clothes. He weighed well over three hundred pounds and it was a struggle getting them off. When at last he was naked, she pushed hard, rolling him to the edge of the bed. He perched precariously on the edge.
Careful now, she cautioned herself…if he goes to the floor I’m lost. Wedging pillows to keep it from happening she pulled back on the covers. Then she undressed completely and lay down alongside. Taking his shoulder she strained mightily, rolling him over on top. He reeked of stale sweat and alcohol…
Angelina squirmed and wiggled until directly beneath and reached for his manhood. It had shrunk to the size of a peanut, making copulation clearly out of the question. With her free hand she threw the coverlet over them. Then she heard a long and flatulent venting that came from deep inside his body. In concert the weight of his flesh began to settle even more heavily around her. It smelled noxious and she found herself hopelessly pinned underneath. It was smothering and in her discomfort she began crying out. At first nobody noticed and she cried still louder. Real anxiety fed her voice and the shrieking from her lungs was suddenly no longer an act. At length one of the passing maids heard her cries.
“Help me! Someone please help me!" She pleaded in desperation.
The maid ran to fetch the Majordomo…He returned with several of the staff.
“Help, Help,” She continued to lament!
“What is it?” he responded, pounding on the door.
“My husband’s had a stroke…..He’s had a stroke….”
“Open the door my Lady!”
“I can’t,” she answered…. “His body has me pinned.”
“Stay calm, Stay calm, ” was the Majordomo’s answer. Gathering his wits he decided what to do next. It was another ten minutes before servants armed with axes chopped through to the hinges and the door toppled inwards. Into the chamber poured the onslaught, witness to what would be whispered endlessly for years to come. The Count lay sprawled over his wife as she lay beneath, all but suffocated. As they pulled him off there came a collective gasp of shock. It was grotesque, seeing Angelina’s beautiful body spread-eagled beneath her corpulent dead husband. Like hens, three generations of house servants covered her with blankets and whisked the poor young woman to the guest room.
As the word spread, the response was both notorious and sympathetic. Imagine the trauma? So it was that the gossip spread from mouth to mouth. That poor woman, to lose a husband under such a dreadful set of circumstances.