Consuelo reminds Maria of the agreement.
Chapter 19 Gentle Reminder
After leaving Benvolio, Maria went to her cell and found Teresa unpacking. When the two old friends saw one another they raced to each other and embraced. Forgotten was all the tension and animosity that had once seemed all but insurmountable. A large mastiff hound walked over and licked her hand.
“And who might this be?”
“This is Bruno. He followed me from the Hermitage He’s a bad dog and Benvolio has to take him back the next time he returns."
"Well then we will just have to make room for him, for the time being."
As Maria scratched his ears Teresa took a deep breath. “You must forgive me for the way I have treated you these past months. After you departed I began considering your words and did a little investigating….There might be more truth to what you told me than I was willing to admit.”
"The most important truth you need to realize is that Ricardo loves you and wants to marry you."
"I've always loved him and can't wait to tell him 'yes.'"
"That will be the happiest moment of his life..."
"How do I explain I slept with a Priest?" Teresa lamented.
“You don’t need to explain “Human Weakness” to my brother; as you must realize by now he knows well his own shortcomings and has been working hard to overcome them.”
“I’ve been a fool and learned the folly of reproaching others when my own actions have been fraught with ignorance. The price I paid was a child born out of wedlock.
“He already knows all about that and is making provisions for your daughter..."
"He does this for me?"
"His love is unconditional. He'll make a fine husband."
"I was so blinded."
To get matters on track, Maria changed the subject. "What kind of a ruse did Consuelo use on you?"
"How did you know of her trickery?"
“...Because she just finished propositioning me to do the same thing. As she did to Juanita, and heaven knows how many others.”
“What was the story she gave you?"
“She said that Don Ricardo was so angered by my scolding that he had brought up on charges of Witchcraft. That I could avoid the proceedings only if my innocence was vouchsafed by a priest…”
“…That a part of the questioning required me to be joined him in intercourse; that a witch can’t cast a spell or tell a lie while so encumbered.”
“She can be very creative…”
“What did she say to you?” asked Teresa.
“That my husband was on his way from France…”
“But you’re not married...”
“It’s a part of the story I used to apply for admission….”
“I see ….go on.”
“Anyway she said if I wanted to avoid being turned over to him, I needed an annulment and she knew a friendly Priest willing to provide one….in return of course for a certain favor…”
“Dear God….That woman is evil...How could I have been so stupid?”
Like I said she can be very convincing. Had I not known the falsehood from the start, she might have even convinced me.”
“How did she fool Juanita?”
“This you won’t believe”
“She told Juanita she was about to have sex with the Holy Spirit; just like the Virgin Mary….” Despite the seriousness, they looked at each other and giggled.
“Why am I laughing when I was just as gullible? Perhaps, even the greater fool.”
“There's no shame in being betrayed by that scheming woman.”
“You’ve no idea the pain she has put me through. What am I to do?"
“Say nothing for now. I’ve a plan that's beginning to form up in my mind."
“What do you intend to do?”
“Better we not discuss it. For your part, remain silent and whatever you do, don’t mention that we’re onto her.”
You will not believe what happened this afternoon. I was propositioned by RM Sanchez to have sex with a Priest. I pretended to go along…It should happen sometime next week. I've drawn up a map and will share further details as they become known. Then I want you and Benvolio to step in and expose this woman for the fraud she is.
Teresa is here now at San Miguel’s and we're roommates….She told me how she was tricked…Consuelo Sanchez, the Reverend Mother, told her you were bringing her up on charges of Witchcraft...that the only way to escape the interrogation was to have sex and her innocence vouchsafed by a Priest. It's an ugly story that does not bear repeating, but one that follows a familiar recurring pattern of betrayal and deceit.
She sends her love and petitions your forgiveness. I’m sending Benvolio tonight to deliver this message. I don’t know what I would have done without your foresight in making him my guardian angel
That evening Benvolio sat pretending to doze beneath Maria’s window. He was waiting for a letter she had promised to deliver when he heard footsteps. In his peripheral vision, he saw a figure with a hood pulled low coming down the street.
He looked up. “Meet me in the stable,” the voice whispered.
He arose, yawning, and stretched. He followed slowly. Upon entering the stable he again heard the low and familiar voice. ““I want words before you ride off…”
“I’m all ears…”
She snuggled close. He glanced around to make sure they were alone.
“I know I’ve been short at times these past few months.”
“It’s to be expected; snooping about is very nerve wracking.” He hugged, relishing the feel of her body.
“I never really believed there was a girl in Madrid."
“No, it was a pretext.”
“It was a means to vent the worry that simmers in my stomach.”
"What are you talking about?”
“I think I might be pregnant…”
“You think?” His breath caught in his chest.
“I’m all but certain…”
“That's wonderful news!” He lifted her by the waist and twirled her around. ”I’m going to be a father. Can you imagine that?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact I can, now calm down. I’ve despaired telling you, but it can't wait any longer. Soon I’ll begin to show.”
“Then we must get married at once!”
“I don’t want Ricardo surprised. You must tell him everything and ask permission.”
“He’s going to kill me. First he’ll find out what you’re planning and then he’ll discover what I’ve done. If I don’t return alive, be advised I love you and will be waiting patiently in eternity.”
“It won’t be that bad," she answered, not so reassuringly. "Just get it over with. Every hour that you’re gone is a misery. When I see your face it gives me renewed strength and right now my fortitude cries out for it.”
They embraced, kissed and slipped to their knees. His hands reached beneath her skirt and tugged down at her undergarment.
“This must be done in haste,” she said beginning to breathe hard.
He tore off his pants and shirt as she removed her habit. He hopped about pulling off his boots as she laid back on the newly spread rushes. He mounted and she yielded herself, sinking into the fresh smelling hay, breathing deeply of his manly scent. As they clutched, her fingers gripped his shoulders. It's so natural and right to be joined with him in this manner, she thought. I feel the blessing of God’s love in this man... someone devoted to spending his life with me, a man to make babies with, someone to watch with pride as he holds our children and helps me raise them into upstanding young men and women. What a joy it'll be, married to this pillar of strength and won’t I be the envy of all who see us together?
As he stroked he thought… How wonderful it will be to have a girl such as Maria to sleep with every night; a woman to serve my needs, to chase away the desire between my legs. Someone to fix my meals and keep my house while I’m engaged in the manly duties a husband must perform. What a joy to have a son, even a daughter ( ...if that’s God’s will,) and how the other men will look at me with envy, having such a beautiful and full bodied wife.
Despite their fear of being discovered they lingered, neither wanting the moment to end. The slapping of their intercourse, which set her aglow, soon began testing his stamina. At length he felt the call of the blaring trumpet. Maria peaked at that instant, crying out, "Benvolio!" Her bung tightened as his seed spurted into her womb.
As they lay spent in each other's arms, they reveled…. no, wallowed in a joy of happiness. It was a precious moment of bliss; a pleasure sweeter than either could have ever imagined. After a long pause and deep sigh, he withdrew and they arose together and began putting on their clothes.
“…Here’s the letter and a map of the Convent,” she explained. “The visiting monks are usually booked into the guest quarters as I've indicated. I think that’s where I'll be taken. We need to be thinking about a plan."
"I’ll be back soon," he answered. With one last kiss he embraced her, swung into the saddle and rode off into the night.
The next morning another letter arrived from Brother Bernardo.
Reverend Mother Consuelo Sanchez
Be advised that I will be arriving Wednesday and will be staying until Friday…I look forward to the visit.
The Reverend Mother sent for Maria. It was still early and classes were not scheduled to start for another hour.
“Yes, Reverend Mother?” said Maria poking her head through the door.
“I've good news. Your annulment is finalized and will be posted at the Diocese on Tuesday. The benefactor responsible for providing the necessary documents will be spending the night here on Wednesday; need I say more?"
“No, Reverend Mother,” answered Maria, her head hung in shame.
“Quit worrying about it. At seven o’clock I’ll be by to pick you up.”
“Yes mame,” she answered.
After Maria departed Sister Hilda stepped into the office….
“Teresa arrived yesterday from the Hermitage. Do you want to speak with her?”
The RM sighed. She had just received word that Teresa’s application for admission to the Sisterhood had been rejected by the Monarchy. She wondered what was behind the denial . Her first thought was that since Teresa came from a prominent family, they were now having some reservations about their daughter taking the vows. Poor girl, she thought, after all she’s been through, now to discover she can’t join the cloister. She’ll be devastated. Knowing that bad news never improves with age she resolved to do the notification at once and put the sad task to rest.
“Go find Teresa and send her up here…”
The Reverend Mother's new office was located atop the tower that had once been the keep. There were windows that surrounded the circular wall that gave a commanding view in all directions. Between the windows were bookcases and in the center was a huge oaken desk and conference table. A chandelier hung from the ceiling suspended by a long chain. As Consuelo paced about collecting her thoughts Teresa appeared in the doorway.
“You wanted to see me Reverend Mother?”
“Come in My Child. It's so good to see you again.”
She took a step inside.
The RM took a deep breath. "I’m afraid I have some rather bad news.”
“And what might that be?” asked the Novitiate.
“Your application to join the Sisterhood has been denied.”
Teresa, thinking this was a lead in to another proposition played along, not realizing it was the truth.
“And how is it that my petition was denied? Was it my pregnancy?”
"That did cause quite a scandal. It was the talk of the court for weeks. Perhaps it was the reason but in truth I don't know for certain why the Monarchy turned you down.”
“I see… Surely there is some way to get them to reconsider; perhaps some favor I might perform?”
“We could always petition them to reconsider…” replied the RM, not catching the faint sarcasm.
Teresa bit her lip. Don't do it, she told herself and with an extreme exercise of will, stifled her anger.
"Other than that, said Consuelo, I'm at a loss for what to do next. Perhaps you could get your family to plead the case?"
"Yes, my family...of course, I'll write them a letter."
"You know?" said Mother Sanchez, reflecting, "I’ll bet it’s the meddling of Don Ricardo that’s behind all this....Yes! That's it...he probably bribed some low level bureaucrat. By all means, get your parents involved and I'll write a letter to the Cardinal...We'll take this matter all the way to the Monarch’s if that's what's required."
"May I see the denial?" she asked, wondering if it even existed.
"See for yourself," said the RM handing her the parchment.
Sure enough at the bottom of the petition it was clearly written...."All petitioners with the exception of Teresa Montevallo are approved."
RM Sanchez walked over and put her arm around Teresa; I don't want to let this girl out of my sight she thought. If she gets together with Don Ricardo and they begin to compare notes, it will not bode well for the cause.
"Don't be discouraged by what you see Teresa. I think that together we'll find a way to work this out. With a little faith I think we can still get you into the Order and then I have big plans for your future."
I just bet you do, thought Teresa. With her best false smile she replied "I appreciate all you've done for me Reverend Mother, by your leave I’ll go now and write my letter."
Benvolio delivered the message and told Ricardo what was going on at the convent. A plan began to form as they discussed the situation from all angles. Ricardo certainly didn’t like the idea of using Maria as bait but I knew his sister well enough to realize that with or without their assistance, she intended to go through with it. Actually, what was going to be required, did not appear all that complicated. Once the whole sordid plot was exposed and the perpetrators were caught in the act, the rest could be managed expeditiously. As they brought the discussion to a close Ricardo could see something was still bothering his friend.
"Don Ricardo, " Benvolio said in a halting voice, "I've a matter of great importance to discuss with you."
"I'm in love with your Sister and we want to marry."
It took a moment for that to register... Then Ricardo looked up and inquired; "and what does Marie say about all this?"
"She wants to marry me as well, and see it done quickly."
"'I'm sorry to say this, but so great was our love that we acted precipitously."
"Are you saying what I think you are?"
"She'll soon be showing."
"Dear God! Man," Ricardo exclaimed, "I asked you to watch over her but not that closely."
He cringed, "I'm sorry, the temptation was too great and our desire insurmountable."
Don Ricardo put an arm around his future brother-in-law and sighed...."There’s not man on this earth I would rather see married to Maria than you. Tell her you have my permission, and blessing too for that matter."
"Thank you,” replied Benvolio in relief.
"As soon as we get Teresa and Maria out of that Convent, we can hold a quiet little 'Double' ceremony...."