Teresa remains adament, Torquemada makes his case and Benvolio prepares for battle.
|Chapter 4 Clouds of Dismay
Maria knocked on the door of the Montevallo’s home in Madrid. She hoped to find Teresa at home and was nervous about the prospects of what she’d come to discuss. It opened and Teresa looked out and cringed. She was clearly discomforted by her friend’s visit.
“I stopped by the Summer House and they told me where to find you, “said Maria.
“I’m at a loss for words, “Teresa replied, “So much has changed…all my hopes and dreams have been dashed.”
“May I come in?”
“…Very well, but only for a few minutes…I’ve much to do and time is short.”
By the doorway Maria saw a neat row of luggage. On the way to the parlor she remarked, “… getting ready to take another trip?”
Inside they took seats by the window and Teresa answered. “I’m leaving this afternoon for the Convent in Avila. I’ve been accepted as an Initiate into the Order of the Holy Cross.”
Maria was taken totally by surprise. “Is this the result of what happened in the garden? “
“I won’t deny that it played a role but it’s not the whole reason. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time…trying to decide what to do with my life. I thought I had the answer but God has shown me a new path. Not the one I imagined, but one important to the faith and helping those less fortunate.”
“I sympathize with your feelings, Teresa, but be advised that Ricardo is as disconsolate as you are…”
“He didn’t appear so, the last time I saw him.”
“I don’t condone his behavior. I can only say that he was tempted by Angelina and what man could ever resist her?”
“The man I once trusted with my heart….The man I planned to spend my life with. “
“If it's any consolation he realizes his mistake. Ricardo is beside himself with anguish and will do anything to redeem himself. He begs your forgiveness and asks your hand in marriage.”
“Well he can just forget that. If he can’t restrain his lust before we marry what hope is there for afterwards? I’ll not be one of those wives who must forever suffer a philandering husband.”
“He’s not as you describe, Teresa. You know it as well as I do. With you for a wife he would have no need for anyone else. “
“So you say…”
“If you can forgive this one mistake, I'm certain he’ll make a fine husband, with more qualities than you could ever hope for. “
“My hopes for Ricardo died in the garden. The matter is decided. You can tell him you spoke in his behalf. Now please Maria, you must excuse me. I’m expected at the Palace for a welcome by Cardinal Mendoza.”
“Won’t you please reconsider? Ricardo will be devastated. “
“...He’ll just have to get over it. At 3 O’clock the coach is taking us to Avila. You’ve been a dear friend,” continued Teresa with a hug, “regardless of the strain this puts on our friendship, I’ll always love you.”
“The same for me,” Maria tearfully replied. “My heart goes out. Please write….promise?”
It was a long ride back to the Inn. Maria wondered if there was anything she forgot to say that might have convinced Teresa to reconsider. She concluded that for the moment, there was nothing more to be done. Perhaps given some time that vivid sense of betrayal might blur and her feelings begin to soften. Upon her return Ricardo was waiting….
“How did it go?”
She'd been thinking how she might soften the blow and realized there was no sense trying.
“Teresa is joining the Convent. She’s gone to the Palace for a welcome by Cardinal Mendoza. This afternoon a coach will be taking her to the Holy Cross Convent in Avila.
“Oh God,” Ricardo cried out in anguish…. “What am I going to do now? “
Two commanders in the Hermandad stood behind the stable, having a conversation. The one called Benvolio was holding a stick and pointing to the ground. His first name was Joaquin and he commanded a Battalion of Infantry. His friend was Carlos, a Commander of Dragoons. They were planning an operation designed to lure the Infamous Francisco Llorente, a notorious bandit, across the border from Portugal into North West Spain.
Benvolio was a big man, born the son of an impoverished Noble. When he was ten, war had broken out when Alfonso V invaded the frontiers over a border dispute with Spain. In the fighting that ensued, their estate was pillaged, his family perished and the entire village burned to the ground. As a consequence, Joaquin harbored an intense hatred for the Portuguese. Even if Llorente was a bandit, he was a Portuguese Bandit and another opportunity for revenge.
“Let’s go through this again,” said Carlos, but newly arrived…. “Where do you think the raiders will strike?”
“In the forest here,” replied the other, pointing to a terrain model composed of sand, stones and pieces of string. “It’s a day’s march from the border and offers excellent cover and concealment for the brigands. “
“And what makes you think they’ll attack?”
“I’ve a reliable source… As you know a rich train of wagons and merchants is forming at Vigo enroute to the Annual Festival in Madrid. Two years ago they were attacked along the Southern route after leaving the port. It took place here at Verin and the spoils were taken back across the border to Chavas. Since then the caravans have been following the Pilgrims Route further north. We have reason to believe the next strike will come between O Cebreio and Ponferrada. When it comes, those renegades will have a surprise waiting. I’ll have my men hidden in the wagons, dressed as merchants and pilgrims.”
“How do I fit in?”
“I want your Dragoons to cut off any retreat south. My Infantry will close from the North and East….here, here and here.”
“Let me get this straight…You’ll have a company intermingled with the wagons and the rest of your foot an hours march away….You will walk straight into the ambush and expect to stay alive for a full hour…are you sure this is a good idea?"
“...unless you have something better in mind."
“I do. Let my cavalry converge from the North and East…Your forces move into blocking positions further south. My lancers can get there in half the time, and we might just live to tell about it.”
“Are we not friends?" he said wryly, "Not to mention the spoils… that we split evenly.”
“Agreed, but you assume more risk than necessary. This is more than my duty, Carlos; it’s my vengeance…a personal matter.”
“And making my fortune has of late become a personal matter; intensely so. You might even call it an obsession. If we destroy Caliente it will mean Knighthood, the collection of the King’s bounty and a rich stipend from the Hermandad….Does that not make for a close bond?"
"It’s good to have a personal friend like you, Carlos…"
Ricardo rode in haste to the palace. He went straight to the chapel. Outside a carriage was drawn up and the coachmen were loading bags. Continuing into the sanctuary he saw the novitiates seated in the front, being lectured by Cardinal Mendoza. Teresa was dressed in a habit with a narrow white border about the hood. When the welcoming address was over, family members crowded about embracing and making their farewells.
He waited in the background wondering what to do….Teresa’s father Pulgar, the Queens Secretary was there embracing his daughter, as well as her mother, Melina a Lady in Waiting. As the entourage proceeded out of the chapel, Ricardo stepped forward in his uniform. He was an imposing figure. Teresa saw him approaching and looked nervously away, withdrawing to the interior of the group.
“Please Teresa…don’t do this," he called out stepping closer. Several large Nuns blocked his advance as the group moved outside. Brushing past he cried out again… “Teresa, I beseech you…don’t do this to me….I love you.”
The novitiates looked about at one another whispering as they were ushered up to the carriage and began boarding. At last only Teresa remained on the steps.
“Please Teresa,” he cried out again…"Don‘t leave…. stay and marry me.”
At the top she paused and turned about…“Can’t you see I'm now promised to God? You had your chance, Ricardo, and betrayed my love. Go back to that woman of yours and quit pestering me.” With that she stepped inside and slammed the door. The driver cracked the whip and the carriage began rolling out of the courtyard. The onlookers were stunned and spoke in low tones. Ricardo stood forlornly, tears rolling down his cheeks. Those gathered were shocked and muttered among themselves.
“Who is that officer?” someone asked ….
“Why it's Ricardo de Quintillion, the King's appointment to the Hermandad.”
“Have you ever seen a grown man so behave in public?”
“He must really love her…”
“But did you not hear her words?”
“Indeed I did. What she implied was scandalous…and him a high public official. He should be ashamed.”
Frey Tomas Torquemada sat patiently at the long conference table awaiting his audience with the King and Queen. He was a Dominican, a man of absolute faith and conviction, holding that Christianity was the one true faith and that Catholicism was its voice. He was honest, sincere and absolutely fanatical in his beliefs. Like his great grandfather he was a learned theologian with a doctor’s degrees in philosophy and Divinity. He was the Prior of the Convent of Santa Cruz of Segovia and a man held in great esteem... that extended all the way to the Vatican. He observed the rule of poverty in all aspects of his public life, following a strict diet and maintaining a severe code of dress…. As a young man he had been the confessor to Isabella and it was rumored that he made her promise that should she ever became queen, to rid Spain of the Heretics.
Across from him sat Frey Hernando Martinez. He too was a Dominican and the Canon of Ecija. They were much alike in their beliefs; however Frey Martinez took them to the point of madness. He was one of the most fanatical and outspoken zealots of his day, inciting the multitudes with inflammatory oratory and urging mobs to violence. His fanaticism led to riots in Seville and the burning of synagogues.
As Ferdinand and Isabella entered they both rose respectfully. These Monarchs had done more for their country than any two in the nation’s history. In the past ten years they had elevated Spain to one of the premier powers in Europe. In the view of these holy men, there was but one task that remained to cap the glory of their reign.
“I do hope this doesn’t become another sermon assailing the Jews,” said Ferdinand. He had listened before and tolerated these little meetings, more on behalf of the Queen than out of any sympathy of his own. He refused however, to let them get his wife alone and have her suffer the effects for days afterwards.
“Your position on the Jewish Question is well established,” continued the King. “and I weary of the endless harangue.”
Frey Torquemada spoke first. “As the prophets suffered for their faith, so must we speak the witness of Jesus Christ our Lord. You know that God will not rest until we have a single faith to complement a single Monarchy. It will be the crowning legacy to your illustrious reign.”
“Well don’t hold your breath,” the Ferdinand answered. “My Jewish subjects have raised the huge sums necessary for sustaining the war that lead our armies to victory. That’s more than I can say for the Church.”
“As always they give with the one hand and take with the other," Torquemada continued saying, "while good Christians carry the load and pay in blood the wages of freedom. When was the last time a Jew got his hands dirty or offered to carry a sword?”
The King shrugged.
Frey Martinez stepped in. “While our people beg, starve and bleed, the Hebrews count their riches and swagger about, flaunting their arrogance and counting their ill-gotten gains. “
“They can be annoying at times,” answered Ferdinand, “but right now we need their support and the revenues that go with it. As for arming the Zionists, I fail to see how that serves our interests.”
“If they stayed in their ghettos and quit trying to proselytize that would be one thing Sire, but they tax the patience of the faithful, forever trying to win back old and new Christians alike.”
“I agree, that is a problem that needs remedy,” spoke up Isabella. "Exactly what are you proposing?"
"We’re not proposing that you expel the Jews," said Torquemada. “While that's the hope of all good Catholics we concede it might not be timely. Rather we were hoping you would consider establishing the Holy Office as a means of dealing with the false Conversos."
“As the Queen pointed out," said Ferdinand, "dealing with the treachery of those who deceive God is a serious matter, however, I don’t think that “The Inquisition” is such a good idea….Those who benefit from such a course of action, live in Rome. We do the work; the Pope confiscates the property and all the revenues flow back to the Vatican. “
“We’ve been trying to sever that strangle hold that bleeds us of our lifeblood, “said Isabella. “Would you would have us apply a spigot to our jugulars? Have you no understanding beyond your narrow and parochial views?”
“What we understand is the need to punish these false Christians and end the rampant Judaizing,” said Frey Torquemada. “We must put an end to the midnight worship of false believers. You must bring the full weight of authority to bear and correct this detestable evil…if allowed to spread it will lead to civil unrest, moral outrage and the people will cry out for remedy. I beseech you both. Act to correct this grievous injustice before it corrupts our faith and does great harm to the country.”
“I’ll speak with Cardinal Mendoza,” said the Queen, “and see what can be done.”
Later that evening Ricardo met informally with the Monarchs in their Salon, which adjoined the suites of their private wing of the Palace. The three had a long acquaintance and close friendship. As he entered, Ferdinand looked over at his Queen with a wink.
"So how is the amorous Don Ricardo doing this fine evening? I hope we're not keeping you from the ladies..." It was said in jest but Ricardo winced. Isabella stood and came over smiling.
"You're a naughty boy,” she said kissing his cheek…“we despaired ever seeing you enchanted by love and to our complete dismay you make a scandal and reveal yourself for the romantic darling you are."
"Perhaps I should explain," he said turning red.
"What's to explain?" interjected Ferdinand..."You made a fool of yourself…We told you to find a wife not grovel before the entire Court.”
“Ferdinand!” said his wife, “Don’t be such a scold…and with Teresa, no less, the daughter of my Secretary and Lady in Waiting…”
"…But why a Novitiate," Inquired Ferdinand? “Is that not an invitation to disappointment?”
“It’s a complicated story, Sire…“
“I hear she mentioned another woman,” interjected Isabella…. “What is that all about…?”
“You’re embarrassing him…” said the King.
She turned to her husband and answered. “And he should be, trifling with the affections of the woman he loves.” Turning back to Ricardo she continued. "The word is you begged her forgiveness in front of everyone..., at least that's what I was told… Already it’s the scandal of the Court… a grown man, shedding tears as his beloved rides off to the convent."
“Sounds like a bunch of nonsense to me,” said the King. “Say the word and I’ll have her parents call the foolish girl home.’’
“She’s not at fault, Sire. I’m the one to blame…”
"Men usually are… How did this love affair ever come to fruition?"
"I've known her since we were children and despite my long absences she's never been far from my mind. She's a long-time friend of Maria's. We became acquainted gradually when I was home from the field... and during our innocent encounters; there came a seed that rooted in my heart... "
"How romantic," said Isabella clapping her hands together.
"Not if she takes her vows and becomes a Nun."
"Surely, once she realizes our dear friend has honorable intentions..."
"I’d marry this instant if she’d have me,” said Ricardo. "Now I’ve ruined everything."
"So it seems," said the King..."Sounds to me that there is more to this convoluted tale than you're letting on..."
"…perhaps if I spoke to her, woman to woman."
"Please my Lady...Maria has already promised to do that....she thinks we should let everything calm down."
"Now that's good advice," agreed the king..." and while everything gets back to normal, I need for you to go North to the mountains....those damned Basques are at it again. How do I reason with subjects I can't even talk to?"
"A most difficult language to learn, Sire..."
"Well you managed it... I remember how you brought them into the alliance when our need was great...well, I require your services once more... the last thing I need is a festering sore in my... you know what?"
"He knows what I'm referring to and I put the matter as delicately as I could. Take two weeks... Go and speak to them as my personal negotiator. Don't give away the kingdom but find out what the real issues are and work out something agreeable."
"But what about Ricardo’s other problem?"
"All Church appointments require our approval. They have to come through us on all certifications and that includes a petition to vows."
"I didn’t realize.....," Ricardo answered.
Well, you do now. That girl won't become a nun without our say so."