Being the Random Yarns of Emily Cotton, Merry Scrivener of Fact & Fiction Historical, Animal, & Minimal to Amuse, Inform, & Enlighten.

Chapter 7 of Eva’s Secret

7. Manuel’s Threat
The Cat
Tabita woke to the tolling of bells. The great bonger of the Cathedral was muffled by the bulk of the Alhambra, but the smaller, higher bells of San Nicholas atop the Albaicin hill gave her the exact location. Tabita thought this was very clever of the humans, to make up for their poor sense of direction. Any place in Granada would be pinpointed by the position and sound of the different bells.
They were going on more than usual. It was Cathedral-day. Eva often went to the great domed building in the center of town on this day. Tabita tried to get up, and then collapsed again. Everything hurt.
Between her efforts on Elias and Blanca’s behalf, she had taken a severe beating yesterday. It was the most she could do to drag herself over to a tiny springlet to drink.
That made her famished, but she knew that she could not catch anything in her current condition. She made do with worms and beetles, which tasted like mud.
Then she purred a little, for healing, curled up in the leaf-mold and went back to sleep.
Casa Cerra, Sunday August 28, 1513
Cathedral bells rang above the city. Elias would be there, sitting with the novices from Holy Cross. Eva bent over her work, counting the strokes. Twelve. Mass was over.
Her brother thought she was worshiping in the charterhouse chapel right now. He would have no means of finding out otherwise: the Carthusians were a closed order, and they did not allow guests.
Elias would get her out of here, even if he had to buy her. But how could she get a message to him? The one she had given Andres was no doubt discarded; that had been a ruse to allay her suspicions. If only there were someone she could reveal her true identity to, someone who would go to Elias at Holy Cross!
“I’m tired of walking around the laundry patio.” Leonor leaned her elbows on the deep windowsill. “I wish we could go explore the rest of the compound.”
“It’s against the rules. The men-at-arms are rough.” Eva bit off the thread, also biting back what she wanted to say: Four days ago you wouldn’t even leave your room. She took up another torn garment from the basket and re-threaded her needle. “Why don’t you try sewing?”
“Our servants always did that.” Leonor pressed her face to the iron grille. “Don’t you at least want to see what’s out there?”
“I’ve already seen it. And anyway, if I was interested, I’d go to an upstairs window.” The view consisted of a wide brick-paved space with a central well enclosed by ugly, utilitarian buildings. Across the courtyard from the women’s dormitorio was another two-story edifice which housed the office and quarters for the dreaded Alcazar. This was flanked by blank-walled storehouses. Through an arched passage between buildings were stables for Cerra’s packstock. Eva could not see them, but she could smell them when the wind was in that quarter.
On the east, the compound backed up to the city ramparts. And to the west they were bounded by another wall with spikes on top, each spike a visual exclamation point declaring her new status: Slave! Slave! Slave!
“There’s a caravan coming in the front gate,” Leonor said. “That’s odd. Caravans don’t usually travel on Sunday.”
“They not let anybody in yesterday, all gate closed at command Inquisition.” An answer came from the door in Matron’s ungrammatical Spanish. She entered with a swish of skirts in the Castilian style. “I be returned from al Catedral. Everyone whisper over hunting demon-possessed priest. But Josemona’s cousin’s brother say to her they be all wrong; Inquisition looking for sorcerer be turned into cat.”
Eva choked. She missed Tabita dreadfully, although she knew that her pet was better off with Old Paloma.
“Well, whoever it was, I hope he got away.” Leonor craned her neck. “They are unloading bales of fabric. What’s the Arabic word for silk?”
“Harir.” Eva pronounced it carefully, without the Granadan slurring.
“You are teaching her Arabic! But that is wonderful!” Matron exclaimed. “That will make her life a hundred times better, for ours is the common tongue in all the lands of the Prophet.”
Leonor got the gist of that, for she made an attempt at an Arabic reply: “I learn fast. I have already please, thank you, I need water, I am hungry, and where is the privy?” She switched back to Spanish. “But I would learn even faster if I had a list of the words to study. Matron, can you get us a pen and some paper?”
“I have none of that, and I dare not ask Alcazar. But señor Cerra came with the caravan, perhaps he will give me some scrap—if he is in a good mood.”
Matron took the finished mending and left. Leonor surveyed Eva, arms akimbo. “You look like you’re sucking a lemon. What’s the matter?”
“It’s no use asking for a list of words.” Eva hated having to explain this. “I can’t read or write Arabic, I only speak it.”
Leonor gave an exaggerated sigh. “I don’t want it written in Arabic, I can’t understand the characters. I’ll just put down what each word sounds like using the Latin alphabet.”
Eva bit off another thread. The girl’s superior attitude was getting on her nerves. She would have to pray about it, or she was likely to say something she would regret.
She had let her regular prayer ritual lapse since coming here. Eva was used to kneeling before her mother’s prie-dieu, and it was harder to enter into the sense of God’s presence in the absence of a physical cue.
“I was taught to read and write Hebrew.” Leonor went back to staring out the window. “They say Arabic writing is similar. I bet I could learn it, if there was anybody here to teach me.”
God help me deal with this spoiled brat! Eva pressed her lips together and stitched with unnecessary vigor. If she were at home, she would work out her annoyance by playing her guitarra.
Sing anyway.
Eva hummed the opening notes of a favorite psalm and the music soothed her ruffled spirits. Why should she be annoyed at Leonor? The child’s whole world had fallen apart. Let her boast of what remained.
Eva started the first verse. “God stands in the midst of the mighty…”
Leonor came over and sat, listening. She joined in the second verse. Although she knew all the words and the rhythm, her nasal voice wandered off-tune.
When they were done, she sighed. “My Papa used to sing that. It’s a Jewish song.”
“No, it isn’t,” Eva countered. “It’s right out of the Bible. Psalm eighty-two.”
“Well, of course it is,” Leonor said. “The Psalms were written by King David. Most of the Bible is Jewish.”
“It’s Christian,” Eva insisted. “I was taught that song by Bishop Hernando Talavera, and he was the truest Christian I ever knew.”
Leonor softened. “It’s too bad there weren’t more like him. My Papa liked your Bishop. He said that if Talavera hadn’t given up his post as the Queen’s confessor, Torquemada would never have gotten so much influence, and Isabella wouldn’t have issued that decree making all the Jews convert.”
“He always preferred to be called Fray Hernando rather than Bishop Talavera.” Eva was pleased that there was something she knew that Leonor didn’t. “Once every fortnight I went with him on his visits to the poor.”
“The Queen protected him. But as soon as she was gone, the Inquisition started working out how to get him tried for heresy. If he hadn’t died when he did—” Leonor let the sentence hang.
“But Fray Hernando was a bishop! An archbishop.” Eva found that her fingers were shaking so much she could not sew straight.
“It doesn’t matter. No Spaniard is safe from the Spanish Inquisition.” Leonor got up. “I’ve had enough of sitting here. I’m going out to the laundry patio.”
Once alone, Eva put her head in her hands and wept. If she had any remaining doubts that the Inquisition was evil, this last bit of information removed them. Fray Hernando had said something once about the religious authorities being the ones who opposed Jesus.
But she had not understood that he was warning her about the church in her own time.
Outside, there was a shout. “Manuel Ortiz, you sly dog! When did you start working for Casa Cerra?”
Eva jerked upright, her tears forgotten. She flew to the window and looked out into the welter of baggage, mules and men milling around the central court. “Rafael Ortega, by my beard!” A familiar voice rose amid the dust. “Haven’t you heard? Casa de Pazia was shut down by the Inquisition. But Andres took me on as a man-at-arms. I’ll be working the caravans between here and Malaga until I prove myself.”
Someone swatted the mule nearest Eva on the rump, and the animal moved off toward the stables. And there, not ten yards from Eva, was the man who, until last week, had been the head of the de Pazia guard.
Eva pulled back again, her heart racing. If Manuel Ortiz saw her, he would know at once that she was not Eva Maria Perez. Her mind flashed back to her first encounter with Manuel, when he really did not know who she was.
Eva, age ten, October 1507
Anticipation lightened Eva’s heart as she skipped toward the front gates. Today was the day she most looked forward to, helping Fray Hernando Talavera. She loved his kindness and the way he made her feel known and special, even though he had the whole city in his spiritual charge.
He always wore the plain brown Hieronymite habit when he worked with the poor, and on this day only, Eva was allowed to dress in an old, undecorated grey Spanish surcote. The garment hung like a sack, its much-washed fabric flowing softly against her bare arms and legs: such a delightful difference from the many constricting layers of dress and underdress that were usually required to demonstrate to the world her father’s wealth and rising influence.
Even her shoes were plain – although if she were really poor she would have no shoes at all. Thinking of her favorite quote from St. Basil, Eva slipped off her jeweled pendant with the family crest and put it in the pocket of her baggy surcote, lest the gold chain show above her neckline.
She did not recognize the guard at the gate, a balding brown-haired man of average height whose shoulders were so wide that they strained the fabric of his new de Pazia livery. He turned at her approach, and she saw that despite his receding hairline he was not yet out of his twenties.
“Hey, little girl! Get yourself to the kitchens, you’ve no business loitering around the Casa gates!” The strange man’s brows were drawn in a frown and under his beard his mouth turned down at the corners.
Eva drew herself up with dignity. “I am not a little girl. I have almost eleven years. And I have every business here; I am waiting to greet His Reverence Bishop Talavera and welcome him as becomes the daughter of the house.”
“The daughter of the house indeed! Does a de Pazia dress like a beggar’s brat?” He raised a thick arm. “Get yourself from my sight, before I give you the blows you deserve for such impertinence!”
Eva jumped back just in time to miss the cuff aimed at her head.
She was shocked speechless; never had she imagined someone challenging her very identity!
But the new guard was advancing on her, and fear overrode her indignation. She fled, not pausing until she reached the shaded walkway closest to the kitchens.
She stopped behind one of the wide pillars of the colonnade surrounding the courtyard. Peering out cautiously, she saw that he had gone back inside the gate-chamber. She would wait for Fray Talavera here. When the Bishop came and she greeted him, the new man would be put in his place!
As she waited in the shadows, Tabita came running. The cat meowed pitifully, twining herself around Eva’s ankles. Then Tabita ran out into the courtyard. She stopped and looked back, meowing again. She expected Eva to follow.
Eva stepped out after the cat. Tabita led her to the massive old cypress tree around which the courtyard had been built, and Eva gratefully dodged behind it. High in the branches came the exhausted mew of a kitten.
The tree’s flat, scaly, evergreen branchlets were so dense that she could not see beyond the bottom limbs. Could she reach it?
Tabita rubbed against her ankles again. Another pathetic feline whimper confirmed that the kitten was stuck somewhere up in the tree.
At least there was no need to worry about damaging her clothes. Eva kicked off her shoes, climbed on the back of the ornate marble bench that framed the tree’s wide roots, stepped on the lowest branch, and forced her way into the dense foliage. The pungent smell of cypress surrounded her. Cobwebs and flat dry needles stuck in her hair and tickled down her neckline as she wriggled her way upwards. At last she found Tabita’s kitten: Stormy, the gray one, always too adventurous. He was a pathetic ball of striped fluff wedged between two high branches.
Eva reached out and gathered Stormy to her. She tucked him into the neckline of her gown, softness and tiny pricking claws sliding on her skin until the rope belt arrested his motion. There in the makeshift pouch he curled up, exhausted. The rumble of a miniature purr vibrated against Eva’s ribs.
On the way back down, the pressing branchlets insisted on sweeping her sack-like dress upwards. She had on nothing underneath, which did not matter while the dense evergreen foliage hid her, but Eva would have to be sure no one was in the courtyard when she descended the last few limbs.
As her groping foot found solid purchase in the crook of the thick lowest branch, she heard activity at the gate. It was the now-respectful voice of Manuel greeting her father! Eva froze. Then came the sound of Fray Hernando Talavera’s hearty welcome.
“Bring the meal out here and serve us in the courtyard, Nicolás,” her father was saying. “After you set up the table, you may go. His Reverence and I would speak of matters that are private.”
Eva did not want to hear about private matters. She only wanted to be gone before she was discovered. “Oh, St. Basil! Help me again!” Eva prayed silently.
Should she climb down right now and reveal her presence before they began their conversation? But that would mean exposing her legs before the Bishop, for the branches had a firm hold on the fabric of her skirt. And her deformed foot besides—in front of the bishop! Father would beat her unmercifully.
Nicolás set up the table right in front of the bench that surrounded the tree. It was one of her father’s favorite places to seat his guests, looking down the shallow rectangular pool toward the imposing front gates of Casa de Pazia. The diamond spray of the fountain led the eye upwards above and beyond the gate, where the Alhambra hill, topped with its ancient fortress, reminded the viewer of Iago’s influential connections.
Her shoes! She had kicked off her shoes and left them, right down there by the bench! Bishop Talavera sat down next to them and one of his feet nudged the stray footwear out of sight. Eva let out her breath in relief. Fray Hernando was always kind. She looked fondly down at his shiny bald tonsure fringed by white hair and the long beaky nose. If it were not for her father’s presence, modesty or no she would climb down and show him Stormy.
The savory odor of pastilla, a favorite meat-pie, was tempting. “Iago, my son, I wanted to speak to you about sending Elias into the church.”
“Fray Matias says he has the vocation. And the boy himself desires it most eagerly.” Her father piled rich food on his guest’s plate. “Try this, your reverence, the cook has made pastilla especially for you.”
“I fear Fray Matias has other motives than Elias’ vocation. As do you.” Bishop Talavera’s voice was gentle and persuasive. “As a recent convert, I understand why you might think it advisable to have one of your children enter the church. But of the two, I would choose Eva. She has the gift of mercy.”
Eva held her breath. If her father said yes, then she could dedicate her life to the poor! And then she would not have to marry some noble who wanted the de Pazia money and wear tight, hot clothing and spend her life among those to whom such things were important, pretending that they really were.
Her father was silent.
Fray Talavera pressed his point. “King Ferdinand is dedicating a new Franciscan convent right at the top of the Alhambra, in memory of Queen Isabella. I could use my influence to get Eva accepted as a full nun, instead of a lay sister. For a family not of noble descent, that would be most prestigious.”
“Oh please, St. Basil, let Father say yes!” Eva sent up another silent prayer. She would stay nearby, where she could still see all her friends, Nurse Veronica, the servants and the poor. And Elias would stay at home, instead of going off to live at Holy Cross.
Eva heard the knife clink as Iago set it down on his plate. “Eva’s dowry has already attracted considerable interest. Even though she is not yet eleven, Viscount de Badalona has made inquiries on behalf of his son. And I have been given to understand that the Conde Balazote is interested for himself.”
Eva’s jaw dropped in horror. She had been made to sit next to Don Renaldo, Conde Balazote, at a dinner last month. He must be fifty! He had pinched a bruise on her bottom and exhaled bad breath all over her while making sly remarks she did not understand. She had not been able to eat a thing after he had blown his nose on his fingers and wiped them on the tablecloth.
Badalona or his son she knew nothing of, but there was a town of that name on the map in the study, far, far to the east, almost in France. She would never see Elias or Nurse Veronica or any of her friends again if she were married to someone so far away!
Fray Talavera persisted. “If Elias goes into the church instead of Eva, you lose your only male heir! Who would carry on your family line?”
“I am not that old. If I marry again, I could get more sons.”
“That is another matter I wished to speak to you about today.” Eva could not quite see what Fray Talavera was reaching for, but she heard the rustle of paper. “I have received in my office your petition for a divorce from your wife, Maria de Pazia, on grounds of desertion.”
The girl’s heart turned into ice. Divorce! That meant there would be no hope of her mother returning. Fray Talavera’s tone became stern. “Surely you know that in these cases, the church recommends that the husband pursue his erring wife and do everything in his power to reconcile with her.”
Iago flung out his hands. “Maria left a year ago! How can I reconcile with her when I don’t even know where she went?”
“As to that, I have many friends among the Conversos, and I have made inquiry as to her whereabouts.” The priest withdrew a letter from somewhere in his robe. “According to my source, your wife Maria was staying last year with other refugees of your people in Avignon, France. You can write her in the care of Abbe Jean-Pierre.”
Eva’s heart leaped with hope. She might see her Mama again! Oh, if she would come back, if Father would forgive her—!
Iago became more conciliatory. “Of course I would not want to send my son into the church a beggar. I plan to settle a large gift on Holy Cross. Perhaps I could also fund another wing in your hospice for the destitute.”
Fray Talavera stood. “As to your son, you may disregard my advice; I am not in charge of Holy Cross.” There was anger in his voice; Eva had never heard Fray Hernando angry before. “But for the sake of your own soul, and so that your prayers are not hindered before God, I urge you to write to your wife and seek reconciliation.”
“I will write her then, Your Reverence.” Her father’s growl did not hold much promise of forgiveness.
Fray Hernando stumbled suddenly and grabbed the stone bench to support himself. Veins stood out on the back of the hand; his other was pressed to his chest.
“Your Reverence! Are you all right?”
For several long seconds there was no sound but labored breathing. Then Fray Hernando pushed himself upright. “I am sorry, but I am not feeling at all well. Please tell your daughter that I beg her pardon, but today we will not be visiting the poor together.”
“Of course, Your Reverence.” Iago raised his voice. “Manuel! Get the two-man litter for the Bishop!”
Eva saw flashes of activity as the litter with the family coat of arms was brought and Talavera, looking very pale, helped into it. “St. Basil, please make him well,” she prayed, trying to stifle her disappointment that today she was to be denied her small time of ministry at his side. “Bring him back next fortnight.”
The great gates clanged shut behind the litter and its bearers, but Iago still stood in the courtyard staring after it. He angrily kicked over the tray-table, dishes smashing against the tiles. “Six-toed Devil’s spawn!”
As soon as the courtyard was empty, Eva scrambled down from her hiding place. If she could not go with Fray Talavera, at least she could gather a bowlful of meat scraps to give Tabita and her kittens from the ruined meal.
Clutching her bounty, she hurried off through the kitchen courtyard, past the garden rows and the stables where she had made a nice nest for Tabita’s family behind the tool shed.
Just beyond the shed she could see Nurse Veronica coming down from the orchard, her apron full of pears. Eva was about to call her to come admire the kittens when she heard the voice of Manuel.
“Sweet Veronica! You have put on flesh. It becomes you.”
Eva crouched in the tall dry weeds by the shed and became very still. She did not want another meeting with this rough new man, not until she was properly dressed and with somebody powerful.
“Hello, Manuel.” Nurse stepped to one side.
Manuel blocked her path. “I thought to myself, ‘perhaps during siesta Veronica will give me a warm welcome home.”
“You know I am married now.” Nurse had that angry sound Eva had learned to respect. “I didn’t really like you much before you left, and the African campaign hasn’t improved you.”
“Ah, but my station in life has improved a great deal. Haven’t you heard that señor de Pazia has made me head of the household guard?” He gave what was intended as a smile, but looked more like a baring of teeth. “If you play nicely, I could make many good things come your way. But if you show yourself unfriendly, I can make your life, and that of fat Tomás, your husband, miserable.”
“Go away.” Veronica pushed past. Manuel took a grab at her bottom.
“Take your hand off me, you pig!” Veronica slapped Manuel with a resounding crack.
“You’ll pay for that in like coin!” Manuel threw Nurse right up against the tool shed wall.
“Tomás! Help!” Nurse Veronica sounded really scared.
Eva rose from her brushy camouflage like a small fury and went for the big man, kicking his ankles and pummeling his back. “Leave Nurse alone! You big bully!”
In his surprise at the unexpected attack, Nurse Veronica broke free. She ran back up the hill towards the orchards, shouting for Tomás.
Manuel spun around, astonished at seeing Eva again. “The brat who bothered me at the gate!”
This time she was not able to duck fast enough to avoid a heavy cuff. She stumbled, and the chain of her pendant slipped partly out of her pocket. The flash of gold caught Manuel’s attention.
He gripped her by the shoulder, his hold painfully tight. “So you are a thief! You will just hand over whatever is in your pocket.”
Eva’s head had barely stopped ringing from the blow. A surge of indignation gave her strength. “I am Eva de Pazia, the daughter of this house! I am going to tell my father that you struck me! You will be dismissed at once when he finds out how you have treated his family!”
“You already tried that tale, little liar.” Manuel reached over and ripped her pocket off.
To Eva’s mortification, the old fabric of her dress tore away with the pocket, revealing chubby lower limbs. Stormy tumbled out, clawing frantically, his tiny paws leaving long scratches as he slid down her bare leg.
Eva crouched, speechless, trying to cover herself with her arms as Veronica ran up, Tomás behind her.
“Evita! What has he done to you!” Nurse snatched off her apron and wrapped it around the shaking girl, while Eva burst into tears. “What is the meaning of this? Will you even molest the daughter of the house?”
Tomás waved his spade. “You will be sent packing, when the master hears!”
“This is really the daughter of the house?” Manuel lost all his bluster. “Her clothes–I thought she was just a beggar child–”
A high-pitched yowl cut him off as he backed over Stormy’s tiny tail. The furious mother cat launched herself at Manuel’s leg, claws digging into his hose.
Nurse turned on him just as furiously. “Wait until I tell the master how the man he hired to protect his house struck his young daughter and stripped her nearly naked!”
“Get off me, you vermin!” Manuel kicked Tabita from his leg and turned to Veronica. “You’ll find that will cut both ways. I have tales to tell of you. And there are others who can back me up. I am in mind of a certain night, a certain flamenco performance ‘Wild Veronica’ did for all the stable hands.”
Tomás looked at his wife and dropped the shovel.
“That was almost twelve years ago,” Nurse Veronica protested. She looked at her husband. “Tomás, I was young and foolish, and drunk besides.”
Eva peeped from the folds of Nurse’s skirt at the dreadful new man. He seemed to relish the trouble he was causing. “And now you are married to fat Tomás, and have no more children. Who knows, except for that night, you might never have been in the fortunate position you were, ready to step in as wet-nurse for Doña Maria’s daughter.”
Eva wondered what they were talking about. She could feel her beloved Nurse beginning to tremble.
Manuel’s voice turned low and menacing. “What if señor de Pazia knew about your past? Would he want a woman of such low moral character to have charge of his only daughter?”
For some reason Nurse Veronica was afraid, although Eva could not guess why; Nurse was the most moral person Eva knew! She tugged on Nurse’s hand reassuringly. “I would never let Father dismiss you!”
But she knew as well as her nurse that she had no say in such matters. She could only hope that Manuel was not aware of how lightly Iago regarded his children.
Veronica hushed her and spoke to Manuel. “All right, Tomás and I will overlook your behavior. Eva will too, because she can see that you really did not know who she was. Isn’t that so, Eva?”
Eva nodded reluctantly, unsure why Manuel made Veronica so afraid.
“Remember, then.” Manuel gave Eva a curt formal bow. “Your pardon, señorita. I will treat you with all respect due a daughter of the house.”
But his eyes were cold, and Eva shivered at the look he gave her.
Nurse Veronica took Eva to her room, where she put a cold, wet compress over the side of her head where Manuel’s blow had fallen. “Thank heaven he didn’t strike your face. I will be sure to comb your hair carefully, and the bruise will be gone in a few days.”
She put Eva in bed for siesta, tucking her in. “You won’t tell, will you, cariña? It could cost me my job, and I promised your mother that I would always look after you. Since the day I first put you to the breast you have been like my own child, little Dolores that died just after you were born.”
“Oh, Nurse,” Eva held onto Veronica tightly. “I wouldn’t ever do anything to make Father send you away!”
“Then go to sleep. I must go speak with my Tomás. He will be angry at Manuel, but he mustn’t do anything foolish.”
Sleep would not come. Eva lay staring at the door. Suddenly she realized that the latch was turning, ever so quietly. She sat up in panic, clutching the coverlet to her as the door opened.
Manuel slipped in. “Good. You are awake. I had to return this.”
He set her jeweled pendant with the de Pazia crest on the wash-stand. Eva stared at him, shivering with dread.
“Nurse Veronica says you will not tell your father about my unfortunate mistake today,” he went on, his voice soft but somehow threatening. “But I wanted assurance from your own lips.”
“I won’t tell,” Eva tried to keep her teeth from chattering in fear.
“Swear it.”
“I sw-swear by St. Basil that I will ne-never tell Father,” Eva stuttered.
“Good.” A small noise came from Manuel’s pocket. He brought out Tabita’s grey kitten.
“Stormy!” Eva held out her hands.
“I see you are fond of it.” He grasped the kitten’s head, ignoring its pitiful shriek, and with a brutal twist, wrung its neck.
He leaned in close, dangling the tiny lifeless body in front of her horrified face. “If you ever tell your father about today, I will do this to another of your cats.”
Casa Cerra, Sunday August 28, 1513
Eva shook off the memory. She had spent seven years avoiding the brute, but now Manuel Ortiz was her only chance. She leaned on the sill, her face to the window grille, and called. “Manuel!” He turned at the sound of his name. “Manuel Ortiz!”
Now he saw her at the window, he was coming over. “Eva de Pazia!”
“Please, don’t use my real name. I’m going as Eva Maria Perez.”
He looked at her speculatively. “So your nobleman got away with the dowry—right from under the Inquisitor’s nose! And left his ugly bride behind. How did you get here?”
“Andres tricked me. He thought I was Eva de Pazia’s companion.”
“I should have guessed you would be here. But if I keep your secrets, I’ll expect to be rewarded.”
“You will be!” Eva cast around for what would motivate Ortiz. “Elias will pay handsomely for news of me—he must be very worried. Can you get a message to him?
Manuel showed a sudden interest. “Of course. Just tell me where I can find him.”
Eva was puzzled. “At Holy Cross, of course.”
“I was there recently, and Elias was gone. Can you tell me where else he might be?”
“Over a week ago Abbe Matias sent him on some mission, but he should have been back for—” Eva stopped, remembering that Elias had said it was secret. There was an eagerness in Manuel’s manner which was out of proportion to the matter she was asking. “—perhaps you could ask if anybody has seen the Borgia. Elias and his horse are inseparable.”
“Well, I can’t promise anything. But I’ll ask around. Elias de Pazia is good for a lot of money.”
“I know he’ll pay well for news of me,” Eva repeated. “But hurry! I don’t know how long it will be before I’m—” Eva almost choked on the word, “—sold.”

Comments are closed.