Chapter 7

     The weather conditions were miserable for travel, and Francis did not envy the Spanish guards having to ride in the pelting rain and wind all the way to Castle Medina. He imagined that they would be soaked through by the time they arrived, and thought perhaps a fire should be built in one of the hearths. He said as much to Don Santoña as they were crossing the drawbridge. It was hard to be heard over the thunder and sounds of the horses and carriage wheels.

     "Perhaps we should have waited for this storm to pass," said the Spaniard. "But I thought it best to get this behind us."

     Francis nodded. He would not have wanted to wait another day. The dread was bad enough. He looked over at the priest who had accompanied them. Father Angelo had been persuaded to come by being told there were innocent souls involved, persons who had every right to a proper burial. Whether or not the argument shamed the priest into coming or if he would have come along without it, Francis didn't know or care. There was something reassuring about having him with them, though he thought one priest was hardly enough to combat the evil that permeated the very stone of the castle.

     Fresh torches had been brought wrapped against the rain, and were carried inside along with equipment for carrying and burying the bodies. The horses were all taken to the stables where the coachman agreed to see to the soldiers' horses as well as his team. Two of the guards, who all were quite soaked, built a fire in the grand parlor hearth, and the six of them wrung out their cloaks and tunics and dried themselves in front of the fire.

     "Catherine," Don Santoña began, "you must tell us where you think Nicholas would hide if he were here alone."

     She nodded. "I would have told you in the past that he would be in the lower levels, the torture chamber, or that other room, but I am not so sure now. Perhaps he is not alive."

     "Perhaps. My men have brought a rope ladder and will descend to the bottom of the pit to search."

     Francis did not envy them. "And what of the upper levels?" he asked her. "Did he spend much time there?"

     "Not that I know of. Except his own room of course, and Elizabeth's room. He spent a lot of time reading in the library as well."

     Don Santoña nodded. "Well, it is clear that we need to search the pit first. If we find his body, then no more searching will be necessary. Mister Barnard, I would prefer you to wait here with my niece while we go down to the dungeon."

     "No, I want to go, too," the woman said before Francis could respond.

     "My dear, I cannot allow you to go down there."

     "I have been there before, Uncle. It is nothing. And with you there and the guards, I have nothing to fear."

     The Spaniard looked at Francis and smiled slightly. "I hope this is instructional to you, Mister Barnard. My niece is very willful. You should be prepared."

     Francis smiled and looked at Catherine. "It is her strength I admire so." He took her hand and kissed it. "If you wish to go down, Catherine, I will not leave your side."

     "It is not necessary for you to subject yourself to that place again, Francis."

     "I was going nonetheless. But thank you." He squeezed her hand, remembering with a sudden burst of warmth, his dream from the night before. If only this infernal journey were over!

     "If we do not find him, you know he could be anywhere," Francis said to the older man. "This castle is riddled with hidden passages, I am sure. I discovered one myself the last time I was here. I do not doubt there are more."

     "Perhaps we should leave him be after we have seen to the dead?" Catherine suggested. "If no one comes here again, won't that be prison enough for him?"

     Francis thought she looked stricken suddenly. If he was caught, madman that he was, he could be locked away in an asylum like the one to which she had been sent away. As much as she loved her brother, he imagined that she could not bear that thought.

     "But he could leave and wreak havoc," Don Santoña said. "He must be found."

     "And how long do you intend to continue searching?" Francis looked at him with hard eyes. "Six men and ourselves to search this huge place? Do you really think he could not escape us if he so intended? We would need thirty men to find him."

     "Francis is right, Uncle. There are parts of this castle we never used. They were sealed off years ago. And there could be so many hidden passages. We might never even come close to finding him."

     Don Santoña looked at them for a moment, then nodded. "You are right. But we will search as best we can today. If we do not find him, we will go on to San Sebastian when the bodies have been properly buried."

     Francis sighed with relief. So their stay would not be interminable. "I think we should destroy that pendulum device while we are here," he said. "If Don Medina is here, no more men need become victims of it."

     "Assuredly. It will be done." He glanced toward the parlor. "I will check on the men. I am anxious to be done with this."

     Father Angelo came up to them then, passing Don Santoña on his way. "I have blessed the men at their request. Do you wish me to bless you as well?"

     Francis found himself nodding as Catherine stated her affirmative. Roman Catholic or not, it was still a blessing he could welcome.

     "Thank you, Father," the woman said. "May The Father bless you as well."

     "Yes, señorita. Thank you."

     "We are ready," Don Santoña said, coming up to them flanked by his men. "Catherine, please stay to the center of the group."

     She nodded as they arranged themselves, four soldiers, Don Santoña and the priest, Catherine and Francis, then the last two soldiers. Torches aloft, they proceeded to the stairs leading down. Francis put a guiding arm around her as they went, wishing he could shield her from all the evil the castle held.

     But most especially from her brother.


     Catherine's attention became fixed on the arm about her back. Would that they could embrace! She would then feel truly safe. But it was not the castle or her brother that disturbed her, it was the presence of so many men, and she was the only woman. Nor did the fact that there was much unpleasantness to endure bother her. She was prepared for that. Catherine felt she had seen the worst men could do, and this excursion did not touch her. That it was difficult for Francis was all that made it hard for her. She was ashamed that he had suffered at her brother's hands, and she would never have wanted him to have to relive any of it, even just in memory.

     The group traveled down to the first lower level where the Medina family was interred, and also where many things were kept in storage, including wine. But they only passed through to the torture chamber below, and Catherine was struck hard by the smell of rotten flesh. She knew without a doubt she would not be able to hold down what little breakfast she had eaten. Covering her mouth and nose with her handkerchief preserved her dignity at least until they reached the bottom of the stairs. She had to step over rats scurrying away from the corpse, and it seemed that much more sickening to her.

     "Catherine, are you all right?" Francis said, his arm tightening about her.

     She nodded, managing to hold it in.

     "Take care of that body first, then take it upstairs," Don Santoña told his men while Francis led Catherine to the far corner away from the iron maiden and the contents it had spilled the day before.

     "Do you wish to sit down?" said the Englishman quietly to her.

     Catherine could only nod, knowing if she opened her mouth, she would find herself heaving.

     A moment later Francis provided her with a stool, and she sat, her back turned to the rest of the room. "Perhaps we should go back upstairs?" he said, his hand on her back. "I will fetch a glass of water."

     Catherine shook her head, fighting for control. But it was hopeless, and she could not prevent herself from leaning forward and vomiting on the dusty stone floor. She had eaten little, but her stomach continued to heave for a few minutes. Francis held her, steadied her, then helped her to sit back on the stool when she was finished.

     "I should never have let you come down here," he said, stroking her back.

     His hand, even through the stiff material of her bodice and the lacings, was soothing. "I needed to be here," she said, wiping her mouth with her handkerchief. "I did not know the smell would bother me so much. I am sorry. I have embarrassed myself."

     "Do not be embarrassed, Catherine. I have only sympathy for you. Would you like me to get some water for you?"

     "No. I will wait until we go upstairs." She looked up at him. "But thank you, Francis. You are so kind."

     He smiled gently, though the torches on the other side of the room did not provide enough light for her to see his face well. "You bring out the best in any man," he said.

     She thought that was hardly true, but she could not tell him why. Instead she glanced back toward the iron maiden to see that the soldiers had the woman's body wrapped up and were starting up the stairs with it. That would, no doubt, improve the quality of the room's air, but the stench would not completely go for a long time.

     Don Santoña came over to them. "Are you all right, my child?"

     She nodded. "I think all the traveling has unsettled my stomach. I could not bear the smell."

     "Yes, it is a difficult thing to tolerate. You may go upstairs if you wish. I will send two men with you."

     "No, Uncle. I am fine now." She stood up and found she was grateful for Francis' steadying arm about her.

     "When they return, we will begin searching the pit. We have brought a rope ladder, but I am convinced there is another ladder somewhere down here—how else to paint the high walls of that room?"

     The couple nodded, and Catherine felt Francis stiffen slightly. It must be so hard for him, she thought, yet he was bearing up bravely. How can I ever be worthy of him?

     Because he wants you, she told herself. And you will not disappoint him. He deserves to have what he wants.

     She looked up then to see Father Angelo's eyes on her, and she had the irrational thought that he knew everything about her, that she was hardly virtuous enough to marry Francis. But then the old man smiled gently, and she realized she was being foolish.

     The soldiers returned quickly, no doubt having placed the body somewhere near the other tombs. Catherine thought they looked pale and frightened, at the very least unnerved.

     "You need not go, Catherine," Francis told her. "As you know, there is little enough room on that ledge. If we need you, we can call you, but I cannot see that will be necessary."

     "You should stay here with her, Mister Barnard," said Catherine's uncle. "I do not doubt my men can handle this job."

     "Nor I, but I wish to see that mechanism destroyed."

     "It will be done, and you may inspect the work when we have finished, no?"

     Catherine thought Francis nodded only reluctantly, but she was glad. She did not want to be with all these men alone without Francis.

     "I will leave one guard with you." Don Santoña snapped his fingers at the men and instructed them. One Catherine thought was probably the youngest, detached himself from the group and came over to them. The rest fell in formation about the priest and Fernando Santoña and started for the door to the pendulum room.

     "You should sit back down, Catherine," Francis said as the men disappeared through the door. It swung shut automatically behind the last one.

     She nodded, feeling still weak and a little lightheaded. "I am sorry, Francis. I am sorry about my brother and what he did to you."

     He put his hands on her upper arms as he stood before her looking down into her face. It was much darker without all the torches, but she could see him in the light of the one held by the remaining guard.

     "Catherine, that was months ago. None of it was your fault. Please feel no need to apologize."

     "But my family has brought you so much pain—"

     "No, no that is not true. I am with you—I could not ask for a greater gift." His hands tightened slightly on her upper arms. "Sit down again, Catherine. You appear so pale, and I know you were not feeling well."

     She didn't resist when he turned and guided her back to the stool. The lingering odor of decaying flesh was still nauseating, and had she been alone she probably would have given in to the urge to vomit again. Instead she sat and lowered her face to her hands for a moment, feeling Francis' hand on her back.

     What the sudden hard pressure of his hand meant before it slipped off her completely, Catherine couldn't immediately tell. It went suddenly very dark as something hit her head. Sounds of scuffling lasted only a moment, and she tried to call out. But there was a fuzzy darkness descending all around her, and she couldn't move. And it did not matter.


     Sharp, piercing, flashing heat stabbed his head as it moved. Francis didn't know what was happening, but something seemed familiar about the pain, and after a moment he was able to think enough to remember what it was. He'd been hit on the back of the head before. That's what this was like, only he was moving this time, somehow, in short jerks.

     Francis tried to open his eyes, but the light of a torch burning somewhere nearby seemed impossibly bright. He felt the upper part of his body come off the ground, his arms pulled tight over him, something pinching and cutting the skin of his wrists, and he forced himself to lift his head and look around.

     His face met with cloth as his body was pulled upward bit by bit. He felt the need then to get his legs under him and struggled to do so.

     "Francis!" he heard someone hiss, and his foot came down on something softer than the flat of the stones. He pulled his face back, realizing that the cloth had been from the folds of Catherine's skirt. He got his feet under him completely then, and his arms were suddenly stretched taut above him. The bite of manacles around his wrists made him look up. It all became clear. Above him his wrists were shackled together and a chain connected to them had been drawn up and through a large ring a foot or so above the reach of his hands. Against him and facing him was Catherine, fettered the same way. She was shorter, and her eyes only came to the level of his throat, so that he could see over the top of her head. But her wrists came together lower than his, and her arms partially blocked his view.

     He looked down at her, bolts of pain still flashing through his head. She looked frightened, her eyes wide on his. At least she was still fully clothed. His doublet and shirt had been removed, and the chill in the room wrapped around his bare skin.

     "Ah, my adulterous brother is awake."

     "Nicholas, no!" Catherine said, her voice desperate.

     Francis looked past Catherine's arms to see the figure from his nightmares standing there. He was dressed in his black torturer's robes and was securing the chain on a hook in the wall. There was a smell coming from him even from several feet away, something unwashed and ripe as decay. His skin had an unhealthy pallor, and Francis would have thought he was dying had he not just exhibited considerable strength in hoisting Francis' body up off the floor.

     His face twisted in a frown of disbelief and pain, Francis shook his head slowly. "I am not your brother."

     "Fitting, do you not think?" Nicholas Medina said, clearly believing himself to be Sebastian Medina and Francis his brother Bartolome. "That the adulterers should die together?" He approached, limping—no, dragging one leg.

     Francis would've recoiled from the smell had he any slack in the chain. Close up, he could see Medina was days unshaven. Nicholas' blue eyes were bloodshot but steady on the bound pair, and he bore that same twisted half-smile of pleasure he'd had in the room with the pit.

     "Nicholas, I am Catherine. Your sister!" the young woman said desperately.

     Nicholas produced a piece of rope and leaned close to them to pass it around their waists. He pulled it tight and knotted it, tying them together. Francis could feel the rough hemp cutting across his bare skin. Under other circumstances he would have welcomed the feel of her body against his, but this was intolerable. It was wrong. And he found he was breathing hard, beginning to feel an ache in his shoulders.

     "Nicholas, please!" she continued. "You know me. You are my brother. I am Catherine!"

     Not a flicker of understanding crossed the madman's face. It was as if he did not hear her. "Since you have brought people here who will destroy my ultimate device of torture—"

     "They will hear us!" Francis said, cutting him off. He left go with a full-voiced cry for help and Catherine joined him in it, her shrill scream making his head pound.

     "They will hear nothing!" Nicholas said, when they stopped for a breath. "Because I have locked them in the room with the pit, and should they escape from there, which will take time, they will have to find this room. By that time, you will no longer be able to scream."

     "Nicholas, please," Catherine pleaded with him. "Please look at me. Can't you see? I am your sister, Catherine!"

     But the madman had turned away. She and Francis looked at each other. "They will find us," he said softly. "They must."

     "Perhaps they will," Nicholas said, "but it will be too late to save you. You will be punished for your adulterous ways, for your betrayal. I will use more conventional means because that is all I have available to me in this room. They will still take you both to hell where you belong." His resonant voice sent a deep chill through Francis.

     They looked at him as he waved his hand toward a lit brazier, out of which were protruded two metal rods. Francis felt his gut clench with dread. "She is your sister, Don Medina! How can you do this to her!" He glanced frantically around the room. It was less than half the size of the torture chamber, but it had several small alcoves beneath curving arches. Under the entrance of one of those, deeper than the rest, was where he and Catherine were chained.

     "But first I will soften up your resistence, Bartolome. You will suffer first so that she may watch you. She will see you flinch in pain. You will flinch against her, and she will not be able to escape knowing you suffer." He let out a mad cackle of delight.

     Francis turned slightly, her feet were between his, and he wanted to shield her from her insane brother.

     "It might surprise you to know how old this leather is, Bartolome," Don Medina said casually, dragging his leg behind him as he came over to show them what he held. It was a whip with a single, thin lash. The leather was dark and looked well cared for. "I used this to break down many a heretic."

     Francis turned his head away, closing his eyes for a moment. He couldn't look at Catherine then. He was afraid, and it was hard to get a breath with Catherine's arms in front of his face.

     "You see, this is what I live for," said Nicholas Medina, the madman who thought he was his own father. "To punish the wicked, to punish betrayal!" He snapped the long whip in the air. "My other chamber was the perfect place to take you to hell, but this will do as well." He laughed softly to himself. "Hell has many rooms."

     Francis had his head turned to the side. He didn't see it coming, but he felt it like the blow of a cudgel. The whip knocked him forward, sliced across the skin of his middle back like a searing burn. He let a out a slight grunt, surprised by how much it hurt. And then came another blow, but he braced himself for it. Nevertheless, it rocked him forward slightly, forcing him to put pressure on the chain. In the cold, dank air he began to sweat.

     "Oh, Francis!" Catherine said after he endured another lash. Her voice sounded fraught with emotion, and he knew she was looking up at him. But he couldn't look at her. He could only look toward the darkness of the alcove, he could only flinch when the whip struck across his back, leaving behind a long bruise and welt, and sometimes a bleeding laceration from which he could feel blood leaking in a trickle down his body.

     He controlled his reaction, squeezing his eyes shut, clamping his teeth together to keep in the cries that wanted to surface as the pain built. The cords stood out on his neck, the veins in his temple pulsed, sweat trickled down his face into his eyes, onto his chest. His shoulders began to protest the position and the strain the blows placed on them. He heard Catherine pleading for him to no avail, he heard the sharp sound when the whip struck him, he felt his strength ebbing as the beating went on, lash over lash. No chance for the sharp sting to taper off, only the savage rip of another blow. Catherine's body, which was pressed against most of the length of his, felt unbearably hot to him. What had been a pounding ache in his head was forgotten. The fiery pain of the lash claimed most of his attention. Francis panted between clenched teeth, he prayed for this to end, for the madman to stop, even though he knew with a part of his mind that worse was to follow.

     And somehow he began to feel slightly detached from it all. A haze descended over him, and his jaw relaxed and he panted, no longer reacting as much to the blows, and it was then they stopped.

     "You see," panted Nicholas Medina, "how effective this old whip can be."

     "Francis, are you all right?" Catherine said softly. "Look at me, Francis. Look at me."

     He turned his head and looked down, gasping his air. She looked fuzzy and out of focus to him, but he thought he saw tears. Perhaps they were his own, perhaps it was just the sweat that had gotten in his eyes. "Doña," he panted, leaning his head against her arms because it was suddenly too heavy to hold up. He could barely think, and it was a moment later when he began trembling, his teeth chattering. He was cold now except for the steady heat from his back.

     Francis felt the shock of icy water thrown in his face. It fell from him onto Catherine, and he shook his head once and grimaced as that sent a new bolt of pain through his skull. But shivering or not, he was more alert. He looked at the madman, blinking the water from his eyes.

     "It is time for the real torture to begin," said Nicholas, his smile twisted and terrifying. In each hand he held a rod, the end of which was bent and glowing orange with heat.

     "Nicholas, please!" Catherine said. "He is not Bartolome. You've made a terrible mistake! I am Catherine, your sister!"

     "Of course you protest. That is what the guilty facing punishment often do."


     He turned and placed the brands back in the brazier, then limped over to them. "You love her, do you, Bartolome? My wife?"

     "I am not Bartolome," Francis protested as levelly as he could, but his voice was ragged.

     Nicholas Medina then grabbed them each by an arm and forced them to turn where their sides faced the room. He stood behind Catherine and brandished a knife.

     "NO!" Francis said, finding strength from somewhere to pull at his chains.

     Catherine pressed against him as her brother put the knife down the back collar of her bodice. He drew it down with a slash, cutting through the starched material and then the laces.

     "Stop it!" Francis protested. "Let her alone!"

     "She is as guilty of betrayal as you are," Nicholas said, and took the edges of her bodice and the blouse she wore beneath in his hands. He ripped it wide, exposing her back.

     "NO! You are wrong! You are mad!"

     With something akin to neatness, Don Medina parted her luxurious dark hair with his filthy hands and lifted it over her shoulders to the front. He seemed transfixed by her hair for a moment. "My beautiful wife. You will indeed suffer the torments of hell." His hands held her head a moment before he tore himself away and hobbled back to the brazier.

     Francis was no longer shivering, but he felt Catherine doing so. "You must not do this." He couldn't bear the thought of her lovely skin burned or even bruised.

     "Please, Nicholas, I am your sister," she said. "Our mother— Isabella is dead—our father has already killed her."

     He ignored them and returned holding the brands as he had before, one in each hand. Francis could feel the heat from the metal as Nicholas moved the rod behind Francis' back. The other, he moved behind Catherine's back, each close enough to feel the heat without burning.

     "And now, Bartolome, I am going to touch you with this, and if you remain steady, you will not flinch against her. If you do flinch against her, sir, you will force her onto the other brand. Let us see how strong your love for her is."

     Francis scarcely had time to brace himself. And it didn't help anyway. The orange-hot metal met his back somewhere between his shoulder blades and he jerked away from the instant agony with a low cry. Catherine cried out as she was forced against the other brand, but she quickly clamped her lips together to stifle it, though Francis could hear her moan.

     Nicholas laughed as Francis tried to think around the sizzling burn on his back.

     He heard voices then, not just the madman's laughter. "HELP!" he called out. "HEEELP UUUUS!"

     Catherine did not hesitate to raise her voice with his. But his call for help turned into a cry of agony as the other man not only touched his lacerated back with the glowing end of the rod, he held it there until Francis could smell his own flesh burning. And Catherine was screaming, too, their cries drowning out the shouts coming from outside the room.

     When the iron was pulled away, the burning went on, but Francis only gasped in air. He couldn't see where the room's door might be, but he heard pounding. He could scarcely see at all. There was nothing but the white-hot sear on his back. It was all he could feel.

     "They will not find you alive!" Nicholas said, raising one of the rods.

     Francis tried to turn his body to shield Catherine, even though he knew what would happen when that hot iron touched him. It came down as a blow, struck across his back, the hottest end burning his skin, the other end cooler and only deeply bruising.

     It fell on him at least three more times amidst shouts and sudden chaos and Catherine's cries. Francis didn't know if she was being struck, but a thunderous bang put a stop to everything. He hung from his chains, unable to move, barely able to breathe. All he could feel was a roaring pain in his back and shoulders.

     "Catherine," he gasped as he suddenly felt the weight of his arms coming down. His knees buckled, and someone helped him lower his arms slowly, shoulders screaming from the sudden change of position.

     "I'm here, Francis." Her hands were touching his face, he heard rattling of metal and looked up, barely able to stay conscious, and saw her in front of him, kneeling.

     His voice was a whisper. "Catherine." There were voices around him, but only one cut through the fog in his mind. His back was an open wound, throbbing and burning hot at the same time. His breaths were deep pants of exhaustion.

     "It is all right now, Francis."

     He looked at her. "You're hurt." He remembered that it was somehow his fault.

     "Not badly. I'll be all right."

     "We are taking you both out of here," said Don Santoña. "There is nothing else to do here now."

     Francis was beginning to feel a little more alert as some of the pain slacked off. "The pendulum?" he said. He felt blood rushing through his arms into his hands.

     "The mechanism will be burned. My men are taking it down."

     Francis swallowed. "I want to see."

     "You are in no condition to go there."

     He forced himself to straighten, though he was still on his knees. His eyes found Don Medina lying a few feet away, a spreading bloodstain on the stone floor beneath him. "He is dead?"


     Francis looked at Catherine. Her face was streaked with tears. "I'm sorry. I know you loved your brother."

     "He was not my brother. My brother died months ago." She rose to her feet with help from the priest, but it obviously hurt her to move her shoulders.

     Two men lifted Francis to his feet, but he could not stand without their help. They got him, stumbling the whole way, out of the castle, and Francis did not turn to notice if anyone locked it up behind them.

     Rain was still pelting down, and it was bitterly cold on his bare skin, but they held him there a few minutes to wash the wounds on his back while they waited for the carriage. Francis felt cold and dim. He shivered, kneeling in the mud while icy clean rain cleansed the blood from his cuts and cooled the heat of the burns.

     He did not know how long it took before the carriage arrived, nor did he notice much around him. He did not think about what would become of Nicholas' body, or what had happened to the guard who had been left with them. Nor did he wonder how they had been rescued. He merely felt the rain in his open wounds and wondered if Catherine was feeling the same thing.

     Some indeterminate time later he was helped into the carriage with Catherine, Father Angelo and Don Santoña. He was so cold the garments they draped over him seemed soaked with it as well even as they dried him off. He leaned his head over Catherine's lap because he couldn't sit up and she pulled him gently down. Her hands were freezing cold, too, and her clothing was just as wet as he was. Francis had his arms across his chest, shivering, though without the icy rain, his back was starting to heat up again.

     "We will soon be to a dry place, " she said through chattering teeth. "You will be warmed, and Consuelo will look after your wounds. She is very good at that, Francis. She knows plants that help with many things."

     "You're hurt, too," he managed, hating feeling so helpless, but unable to be anything else.

     "It is but one small burn. Consuelo will heal it easily."

     Francis closed his eyes, letting his head rest on her lap then. I want to be out of Spain, he thought. A sea voyage is preferable to being in this country. My poor Catherine. I should never have let her come back here. She was hurt. I have failed her.

     And yet she continues to stroke my hair, to touch me so gently. She is so forgiving. Ah, I must earn her love. I will make it up to you, Catherine. You will never suffer again.

     He drifted between unconsciousness and sleep and was roused out of it when they arrived at the inn in Terrelavega. Francis was put in a different room, larger and with only a single bed and a hearth. His wet clothing was removed by Consuelo, and she placed something that felt instantly cool on his burned back. It was the long leaves of some succulent plant, split open and spread out so that the inner gelatinous surface rested on the burns. As long as the plant remained moist on the burns, they did not hurt. And though it did not feel particularly pleasant to have them on the whip lacerations, she kept some on those as well.

     He lay face down on dry sheets in a warm room, covered by a quilt except for his wounds. Consuelo spent several hours with him, leaving only periodically, and changing the leaves for fresh ones when they had lost their succulence. Francis slept through some of it, especially after he was given some kind of drink that tasted of alcohol and herbs. He thought briefly of Catherine as he was going to sleep, and hoped she was all right. And he managed to thank God for not letting her be hurt worse. Because he was realizing she was all that mattered to him.