22 May, 1286
May God’s powerful grace fall upon you and soothe your wretched state with the remedy of his love.
No doubt you have spied that on the backside of this parchment lies your correspondence to me. As a barefoot brother I have not paper for dispatches–the reverse of this sheet (your letter to me)–naked as a lamb –pleads for service, and so I make good use of it and return it to you with my words counterposed. Withal I fear it was folly to put this confidence to ink, thus to the owner I return this solecism–this parchment you should to Vulcan’s furnace deliver, but your own hearth will do. I commend you to put these words to the fire! Let not prying eyes find them–your future and honor are at stake!
Daughter, I read your litany of misfortunes with an open heart. I’ll not dispute with you the account of your ill estate, nor lecture on those actions that were yours that led to your diminishment, your regret is obvious and may your contrition be fixed.
The draught you seek will be provided by your dearest sister, Maria Grazia. A gifted student of nature’s virtues and tonics, she will minister to your needs. Mark her, and do all she bids. She shall fashion for you a distilled liquor that you must drink off. Brace yourself! Tis a bitter brew, but drink it to the dregs you must. Dispel it not from your gut! Take once in the morning upon waking and once in the evening after Compline. The effects you will feel almost immediately once the second dose has been consumed. Get you sickly dispensation by Madonna Annunziata from attendance of Matins and Lauds. When the remedy runs its course through your veins the result will be quick and your blood will flow mightily. But such violent delights have violent ends, and the pain you will endure will be balm to your battered soul. Think you upon our Lord Jesus Christ as he progressed through the stations of the Passion. His spirit will comfort you in your moment of need.
As to your request for shrift of your transgressions. Once your body is cleansed your soul will be in need of ablution. Your penance shall be made through your dedication to the holy offices. When next I visit the Abbey your knees should be afflicted with scabs from all their service to our Lord. Renew your devotion to your prayers and in that way make manifest your sackcloth and ashes, and I will find thee absolved.
Daughter, I’ll not judge your stain. Young della Scala acted as a blaggard! In men’s veins run a hotter fluid than in those of the fairer sex. No doubt he took full advantage of your weakened state and pressed his passion. He ignored his obligation as a true and virtuous knight. I’ll not beshrew you for this account, but vouch you must to yourself and to me that you will not transgress again with the young Prince or any other man that might turn your fancy. Keep you modest and your actions temperate, my child. Save for the Lord or your lord and husband your passion.
Should you choose not to confess to your Lord Father your diminished state, and go on to take a husband, this counsel I offer you. On your wedding night, concluding a day of feasting and much drink, the groom is oft in no condition to judge if his lady’s virtue is in tact. Blood for the bedsheet and proof to kin and neighbors of your virtue can be obtained from a cut on a finger opened anew and spread upon linen during the conjugal exercise.
Benedicta, my daughter, do as I have so written and absolved you shall be of your fears and sins. Be vigilant in your prayers and devotions. Until such time as we meet again, I leave you with this blessing; be modest and honorable, Caterina.
May the Lord bless you and guide you,
Chiesa San Pietro in Archivio
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