two falcons with gold rings

17. God rest you and keep you from harm — Caterina

May 11, 1286

To my Confessor and Savior, Fratello Lorenzo

Kind Fratello, I recommend my soul unto your good graces — please hear my sins and absolve me as much as is befitting.

Most honorable Fratello, I beseech you to suffer me this correspondence such that I may reveal unto you my desperate state and implore you to to offer me succor. Read further in this sad missive where I will prosecute my own story about the events that transpired here in Lucca recently.

First in my tale of woe, as you may well know, my dearest Mother was delivered of a son and of her soul on the same day. My brother Alyusio was brought forth in a sea of blood, the tide of which could not be stanched and thus my mother bled onto heaven. The midwife, Marcella, ministered to my dear mother as she had for four of her previous births. Who knows why our Lord would take a mother of five? Leaving them each motherless? Do you know, Fratello? Have you any discernment of the actions of the Almighty that you might provide an answer to this question?

Not a fortnight passed before my sweet brother shuffled off his mortal coil and followed our Mother into heaven. He was a lamb, with a sweet disposition and imploring eyes. He was my father’s great delight and only son. Why do you think God our Father called my little brother into his realm? Has he not angels enough?

And still there is more.

During this period, the younger Lord Della Scala was a guest in our home. Because of ill humours he was sent to Lucca to take our healthful waters and regain his fortitude. While I’ll not belabor the course of events, for as I have discovered in labor lies death not life, I must disclose onto you, my dear confessor, the meat of what transpired. Does the Lord accept confessions fashioned with a quill? Or is the voice a necessary component in the transmutation of sin into forgiveness? I know not, so I will carry on with my declaration in the hopes that it might scour the sins encrusting my soul. During the period of the Prince’s sojourn, it fell to me, being the oldest of my siblings, to show him the sites of my noble city and its many places of interest as my Mother had taken to her child bed, and my Father was otherwise occupied with his affairs of business. Bartolomeo and I visited all of our important districts of Lucca. The time in each other’s company knit us tightly as the weave of my best shawl. Our affection was chaste I assure you. My father arranged that we were chaperoned in all our activities by his manservant Silvestri. In time the waters of Bagno a Corsena, had their desired effect, Lord della Scala grew strong, and his return to Verona drew near. My girlish attachment to him, caused me great sadness at the prospect of his departure. And so it came to pass that my Mother departed this life, just before the della Scala departed for his home. I was overcome by my grief when I bade him good journey. Silvestri was about his household activities, and my father was engaged with his dead wife and new son —my Lord and I found ourselves completely alone. Bartolomeo held me close to comfort me as I wept at my loss. My sense of decorum was greatly diminished by my anguish. I found my body pressed close and molding to his. We stayed locked in that intimate embrace overly long. Next I felt his breath on my neck and his hands in my hair. Fratello, I demure from describing all that transpired but in a short period of time Lord della Scala quite forgot himself and his dignity. When his passion had passed, Bartolomeo in his haste to depart, bade that he would remain silent — to speak of what had transpired to no one and not to disparage my honor in any way. He explained that his father was just then negotiating a marriage alliance which would bring him great wealth and power. What was not said, was that he loved me. He departed quickly, in my haze I barely recall his stumbling in the room for his hose and sword before making his exit without a single glance behind to me.

Oh, Fratello, I am lost! My virtue taken. My value gone. My father is ignorant of my new state — I cannot share this latest calumny with him. But I cannot stop recollecting Bartolomeo’s scent, the urgency in his body–and remembering it brings me shame. Better that my Mother is not alive to see me, for she would apprehend my state in an instant.

And so, dearest Fratello, my mind turns to the last of this dark litany, the most terrifying consequence — what if I am with child? My loss of virtue is one thing but to bear fruit from this shameful coupling would be unimaginable! And so I come to the counterpoint to my confession. Fratello, I know that you are a gifted apothecary. My dearest friend, Maria Grazia, extolls your knowledge of plants and their uses from her time spent with you, studying in the garden at our Abbey. Fratello, knowest thou of a draught to aid a one such as me to ensure that the fruit once planted ripens not? I fear that I compound sin upon sin and the usury of my wickedness will be more than I can afford.

There you have it, Fratello Lorenzo. I am a wretched sinner and begetter. Please, help me in my hour of need. I beg of you.

I have been advised by my Lord Father that I am to return to the Abbey Santa Giulia shortly. This letter will precede me but by a few days. I await your response at the Abbey upon my return.

God rest you and keep you from harm,

Caterina Interminelli
Villa Interminelli, Lucca


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