The King is brought up to date on what is going on.
Chapter 20 A Conflict of Truth and Lies
Don Ricardo rode with all dispatch to Madrid. He had already suffered two setbacks in the eyes of the Monarchs and didn’t want to add a third. An immediate audience was not possible however, Plugar, the Queens secretary said he would do what he could to arrange an audience. It was set for that evening in the Salon.
The King was perplexed by the question of what do regarding the False Christians. He did not think that a catechism was going to satisfy the Dominicans and was pondering the revenues that would result from establishing the Holy Office in a manner to redirect the cash flow of the confiscated properties. The potential for financial gain was staggering and the Monarchy was in bad need of additional revenues.
It was a diversion to hear that Ricardo had requested an audience and that he would get to speak with his old friend in the Salon that night. After dinner he walked with Isabella to the Great Room with vaulted ceiling and a huge fireplace. About the hearth were stuffed chairs. Ricardo got to his feet as they entered.
Isabella clapped her hands in delight at seeing him… “So what is the latest episode in the life and loves of Don Ricardo de Quintillion?
Ricardo bowed and smiled….”There are new developments My Lady that I am sure everyone will find most interesting.
We too have news to share said the King. Despite our efforts to squelch the rumors your escapade at the Hermitage remains the talk of the Court.
“I have posted an official notice stating the position we discussed sire…however there have been some new developments.
“Wonderful, said Isabella. I do like being on the inside of new developments.”
We await your revelations….
Be advised that for the past few months Maria has been posing as an Initiate in The Order of the Holy Cross.”
“I knew it!” said Isabella slapping her knee. “I knew when she dropped out of sight, there was something afoot.”
“What did she find out?” asked Ferdinand.
“What she discovered was that that the Reverend Mother at the Convent at San Tomas is using her position to provide sexual favors to some of the priests.”
I’m not surprised by anything that goes on in those Convents and Monasteries, said Isabella. “How is she abusing her powers?”
“She uses her influence to get Novitiates to sleep with selected individuals.”
The King shook his head in disgust…”This has been rumored for years. For my part I always thought it was better to have to have “The Ladies,” involved than a choir boy limping around with a sore ass.”
“Ferdinand! You don’t have to be so crude...”
“Forgive me my dear, but I’m a pragmatist at heart. Where is the hurt in all this?”
“I would agree with you sire, if women did it willingly and were not beguiled into performing the service."
"Ah-ha said the Queen. Not what puts a different complexion on the matter. You say some of the young women are being coerced?”
“Teresa was. She was lied to; told that I had brought false charges of Witchcraft against her and was about to take her before the Sacerdotal Court.
“Go on,” said Isabella.
That only if a priest vouchsafed her innocence would she be spared… and the interrogation must be conducted while the two were joined in intercourse.”
“Dear God, said the Queen, “This was unconscionable Sweet little Teresa, so foully abused.”
“Abused and made pregnant!” answered Ricardo in anger.
“I’ll be damned!” said the King
“Then to shift suspicion away from themselves they started rumors that I raped her and was the father of her child.”
“Such audacity,” responded Ferdinand, shaking his head.
“They have plenty of that Sire, they practice it all the time. They turn young women into whores and use their services for their own perverse purposes.”
The King found this revelation unsettling. “You have proof that this is going on?”
Ricardo handed him Maria’s letter. At length he responded… “So Maria pretends to go along with the little charade and let you can catch them red handed?”
“Such is her intention.”
“So we might put an end to this scandalous behavior for once and for all,” said the Queen.
“We won’t put an end to anything…” Ferdinand qualified. This is a matter for the Church to resolve, However if Ricardo chooses to protect his sister from being abused, I can’t say that I blame him….And if the matter proves out, it will clear his name of those rape allegations that have been circulating around. I’d say that he has every right to get involved.”
As they were having this discussion a herald announced the arrival of a messenger wishing an audience with Don Ricardo, claiming it was urgent…
“Send him in,” said the King.
In great haste and out of breath Benvolio, entered the Salon and took a knee.
“This is Benvolio, Sire….The commander I relieved for hanging Count Rodrigo several months ago….
“You’re lucky you didn’t share his fate,” snapped the King at Benvolio. “Were it not for the intersession of your boss, you’d have been swinging right alongside him…." the King turned to Ricardo. "So what’s this moron still doing still in your service?”
“He’s presently acting in the capacity of my sister’s body guard. What is it Benvolio? ”
“I have a letter from Maria. I rode all night and half the day.” He handed it to Ricardo. Ricardo read it and his eyes got wide and the veins in his neck began pulsing.
“What is it?” asked Ferdinand, taking the letter.
I had a chance to get the full story from Teresa today. She related how she was duped by by the Reverend Mother and deflowered by Brother Antonio. She was very angry and about to confront Sister Sanchez when I persuaded her not to. The practice of using Nuns and novitiates to grant sexual favors appears to be a long time practice at the Convent.
As I related earlier, I was approached last week to have sex with a Priest. This was confirmed yesterday and is supposed to take place on Wednesday night.. Although I don’t know his identity for sure, a room has been set aside for Brother Bernardo. I have seen firsthand the evil manner in which Consuelo goes about propositioning these young women. I intend to go through with the liaison and have you and Benvolio arrive, hopefully in a timely manner, and see for yourself the proof of what is happening here. Perhaps you might bring the Cardinal along but be careful what you say beforehand since Brother Bernardo is his secretary.
I want to catch them in the act in the presence of witnesses. If I don’t hear from you before Wednesday night I will leave a red rose pinned to my window when I leave and drop some petals on the floor outside the room where Consuelo takes me. May god give his blessing to these plans and I pray you arrive in time to spare me the worst part of the ordeal that lies ahead.
As King read, his jaw too dropped open….. Isabella went to him and the King handed her the letter. She read it through not once but twice before looking up in absolute dismay.
“I don’t believe that Cardinal Mendoza and that conniving lackey of his had the nerve to parade this… this fraud before us and dare bring the matter to our attention,” said Isabella.
“Father Bernardo is often your confessor, Ferdinand. Can you believe this scheming Priest is the one who made Teresa Pregnant?"
"Did you not warn them both to stop besmirching the reputation of Don Ricardo? It was a deliberate attempt to cover up their miss deeds at the expense of an innocent man.”
“I’m not convinced that Cardinal Mendoza is complicit in this matter. It could be he is being duped by his secretary and my confessor no less. Bernardo seemed like such a pious and trustworthy fellow. This is the most amazing example of duplicity I've ever seen."
Ricardo trembled. In his eyes was a look of malevolence of such unbridled hatred that it made theKking and Queen wince. Neither had ever seen their friend in such a high state of rage. “I’ll go and settle this right now,” he declared.
“Guards,” Hollered the king!” Take Don Ricardo to a guest room and hold him there until I have an opportunity to think further on this matter.
Sorry my friend, but I’ll not have you acting in your present state of mind. You’re distraught. Get some rest and reflect on all that has happened. I think that tomorrow, with clearer heads, we’ll see an answer to this that will serve justice and the interests of everyone. Benvolio, go with Don Ricardo and keep him company. I want no harm to befall my Commissioner while his judgment is clouded by such dark emotions.”
Riccardo allowed himself to be led away. Ferdinand turned to his wife. “Is this not the most bizarre tale you’ve ever heard?” For every truth there’s a lie, for every joy a sorrow and the ends seem to connect leading us around in a circle of truth and deceit".
She shook her head…, anger in her eyes. ”Teresa is a sweet young woman. If what Maria claims is true, there’s going to be hell to pay.”