Series Page, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. ix-xiv

One

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1. reverie

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pp. 3-6

Often as she went about her daily tasks, sometimes rushing to the hermitage to meditate or study her pattern book, Adela wondered why she had never been able to remember the face or figure of her mother. It grieved her. And, now, as she rested in the garden on a...

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2. sanctity

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pp. 7-8

It had been the abbess’s decision alone to put Adela under the watch and tutelage of old Milagros. Who better among them, reasoned the abbess, to instruct the child of a poor woman who did not wish to have her daughter chained to the order for life? Ah, Milagros. Unlike...

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3. harmony

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pp. 9-12

Those days passed in agitated defiance for some, simple resignation for others. For not a one, save for Inés and María, had willingly desired the cloistered life to which they were to be always bound. Their lives had been decided by imperious fathers, brothers, uncles, guardians...

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4. rosary

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pp. 13-14

Long before she had decided upon the time and manner in which she would convey to Adela the gift s of her heart, she had committed them to memory. Like a rosary prayed silently. One by one, flower by flower, they rested in the place where knowledge and unknowing...

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5. legacy

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pp. 15-18

Never having spoken of her worldly years to any of the sisters, save for the abbess, divine providence had finally granted Milagros the moment in which to pass on the memories and thoughts that she had guarded in silence for so long...

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6. solemnity

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pp. 19-22

Th at afternoon a solemnity never before experienced by the sisterhood fell upon their house. Their cherished Milagros had passed from the earth. And the communal grief was great.
In response to their sadness, most of the sisters chose to abstain...

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7. sanctuary

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pp. 23-24

The bishop, having meditated on his sister’s needs, concluded that the Convent of Saint Agnes would be an ideal sanctuary for her. The Convent of Saint Agnes was a small, congenial, and temperate monastery, just outside the city gates. A simple house devoted to prayer...

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8. clarity

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pp. 25-28

The day following Sister Milagros’s death, a thunderous storm erupted. Rain fell from the heavens with cooling clarity, lifting away the pollen of the Andalusian fields for miles around. Kneeling in prayer, in a dreamy state, at first Adela didn’t hear the sound of laughter...

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9. gaiety

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pp. 29-32

The abbess woke up suddenly, tugging at the edge of her cot. It was not yet morn. Was the strange tale she had dreamt a premonition or a very clear message from Mother Mary herself? Perhaps it was a warning of laxity and excess or the dire consequences of not following...

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10. liberty

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pp. 33-36

Adela worked best on the altar cloth in the early hours of the day, when light bid darkness farewell and took her sovereign place. Adela’s golden caterpillars also did their finest work at dawn.
Careful to follow the instructions of Milagros, she had done exactly...

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11. finery

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pp. 37-40

Shortly aft er the abbess’s ceremonial departure from the convent— there had been a special mass offered up for her protection on the camino delivered by the prelate himself—the bishop’s sister, Soledad Paz, came calling. And sure enough, she was accompanied by ten...

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12. sobriety

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pp. 41-44

Th at afternoon, Adela, with the help of three trusted sisters, rushed to the henhouse for eggs, teated the cows for milk puddings, pulled radishes and lettuces, and ground spice for stewed fruit. She was making a special sweet, a saffron cake with pomegranate sauce that...

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13. litany

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pp. 45-50

The dinner came to an end but the evening was far from over. The bishop, in accordance with ecclesiastical law, now went to the library for an audience with each and every nun who had a grievance. Depending on the month or year, such an evening could last beyond...

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14. mercy

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pp. 51-54

Life at Saint Margaret’s had become more difficult, indeed, thought Adela, as she busied herself in the garden and tended to her herbs and lettuces. The reverberations of the disastrous dinner had made the bishop’s sister a nuisance to them all. The convent had become...

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15. charity

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pp. 55-56

At first, she thought she was having a nightmare. She had heard so many tales of horror from Dulzura, of late. Talk of the Holy Office, gruesome accounts of the Inquisitors’ work to rid the land of heretics and unbelievers, misfits, and miscreants. Jew and Moor. “They use...

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16. delivery

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pp. 57-64

No one, least of all Adela, expected the abbess’s return on the Feast of the Assumption, for the Reverend Mother’s pilgrimage was intended to be arduous, done in utmost reverence and penance; a long journey by mule coach and on foot. And Santiago was a great distance...

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17. duty

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pp. 65-66

The bishop finished the last sentence of his report for the Holy Office with the sentence, “In all good conscience and with sole dedication to God the Father, I now await the directives of your graces on the matter of the Convent of Saint Margaret.” Attached to his letter of...

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18. curiosity

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pp. 67-72

At first, no one heard the clamor of her fists against the hardwood of the massive doors. Th e bells were ringing to remind the sisterhood of their evening prayers. But aft er the last reverberation of a solitary chime, little Beatriz tugged at Isabela’s sleeve and said, “There is a...

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19. remedy

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pp. 73-76

“Whereupon your vision blurs and patience fails you in your work, Adela,” Milagros had whispered on the night of her passing, “take this. It is a remedy, a potion of old that my own mother taught me. It will fortify your spirits and calm your soul.” Th e feeble teacher had...

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20. heresy

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pp. 77-82

Late in November, just as the abbess had nearly recovered from her wounds, fevers, and jangled nerves, the convent received an unexpected visit from a dramaturge priest, at least the gentleman introduced himself as such to the abbess. His name was Hernán de Vigo...

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21. honesty

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pp. 83-88

On the last Thursday of each month Señor Solá, the wine merchant, made his call at the convent. He was prompt, gracious, and honest, a kindly man who had been a purveyor of libations to the convents and monasteries of Sevilla, Granada, and Valencia for decades. No...

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22. poetry

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pp. 89-92

As the playwright savored his chocolate, which was spiced with vanilla, he thought about the nun who greeted him the day before. There was un no séqué about her. Her allure was distinctive yet hard to understand. For this sister Adela possessed not the perfect profile...

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23. rarity

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pp. 93-98

Th e morning of the first rehearsal for the play was unlike any other morning the abbess could remember. It snowed. Perhaps it was a sign from the Virgin.
As soon as she awoke, she noticed the frost on the windows. She tentatively touched the glass with her pinky and withdrew her finger...

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24. chastity

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pp. 99-102

Alone in the bathing house, Adela thought about her new role as seductress. Adela the actress. Adela the temptress. But she was Adela la monja. Adela the lace maker, the cook, and the helpmate. Until the morning’s meeting with Señor de Vigo, she had never heard the...

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25. quietly

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pp. 103-108

On a perfect, starlit night, Adela decided to visit the Alhambra once more. Only this time, she would venture inside. She had often thought of the palace as she went about her sewing and chores, wondering if and when she might have the opportunity to visit again...

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26. mystery

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pp. 109-110

The abbess heard the sounds of quickening footsteps. There was a creaking of the gate. And then the final click shut. It was midnight. She looked out her window and saw that Adela had returned.
That night the abbess found it hard to sleep. She worried about...

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27. nativity

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pp. 111-114

Señor de Vigo stood at the front of the chapel, awaiting the cast of sisters. He was deep in thought, for the day before he had received word from the bishop that his sister, the pious Soledad Paz, was in an abject state. Why had he not moved forward in his investigation...

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28. regality

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pp. 115-118

Th e day of the theatrical presentation had arrived, and there was not a sister among them who felt confident or well enough prepared to meet the King.
As Adela rushed around the halls and passageways of Saint Margaret’s, helping Isabela put their...

Two

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29. festivity

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pp. 121-124

It was the New Year. Festivity, nearly ecstatic—if the sisters were to allow themselves such freedom of emotion—was in the air at Saint Margaret. The drama had been a wondrous success, indeed. And for this the abbess and the sisters were grateful. The King was very...

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30. agony

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pp. 125-126

Soledad Paz lay on her bed in a state of agony. Her anger and growing frustration over that interminable investigation had reduced her to a wreck. She was certain that her own soul was in danger of eternal hell if she failed to prove her claims...

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31. epiphany

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pp. 127-128

Later that night, the abbess met with the sisters privately. It was an annual custom: A Three Kings Day observance, in which she gave a token of esteem to each and every nun. She had labored over these small gifts. For María, she had made a small cross from the polished...

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32. lucidity

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pp. 129-130

What to do with the information she now possessed? She read for the second time the twenty-third page of her mother’s book. She stopped when she came to the thirteen principles of faith on which her mother wished to guide her: that divinity creates life; that He is...

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33. delicacy

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pp. 131-136

Hernán de Vigo, feeling somewhat gleeful by the prospects of a romantic adventure and a prolonged stay at the convent, met happily with the abbess, at her request, to discuss his plans for the new pageant. They sat in the courtyard, where the morning sun shone white...

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34. reality

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pp. 137-140

“Well, your mother was dignified,” said the abbess, as she passed a tiny cup of sherry to Adela in her private sitting room. “You might wonder what I mean by this. She inhabited grace. She was tall and elegant. Your mother’s features were refined. And she had very blue...

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35. homily

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pp. 141-142

When the bishop finally understood that he had little sway over Hernán de Vigo and that the playwright was working according to his own measure and conscience, he decided to placate his sister as best he could with a little homily and scripture each day...

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36. ability

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pp. 143-146

The playwright sat in the parlor of his suite, turning the pages of his play. How to get his cast of players, nuns of reserve, to better interpret his words and the emotions they conveyed; this was the problem. How to teach these women to act...

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37. secrecy

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pp. 147-148

Adela had not been to the hermitage in days, so busy had she been with household chores, her cookery, thoughts about her mother, the ministrations of the playwright, and the comedia’s rehearsals.
At dusk, one night, she hurried to the little hut, carrying a bowl of...

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38. especially

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pp. 149-150

As soon as Adela entered her room, she lay down on her bed, holding the exquisite caterpillar work in her hands. She closed her eyes and thought about the playwright. Especially his form and voice. She blushed to admit: she loved his voice. It was of a teasing sound, not...

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39. piety

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pp. 151-152

The King was in his castle study in Madrid, listening to his architects droning on about their latest projects. The new Escorial palace monastery was near completion. The advisers in his midst were arguing for yet another monumentally expensive wing, an addition to the...

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40. royalty

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pp. 153-154

Only the day before, the abbess had received a letter that troubled her greatly. It had arrived by courier directly from the King himself. Among the issues pertaining to his imminent visit was news of the Queen’s growing household and her request for two dressing gowns...

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41. savory

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pp. 155-158

“Daughters,” began the abbess one evening at supper, “we have much to discuss concerning the repast that we are to offer the King and Queen after our Easter pageant. A matter of great importance. And of sensitivity. The food that we prepare must be of the rarest taste...

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42. calamity

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pp. 159-164

One Sunday evening—exactly a week before the King’s much awaited second visit—after the sisters had gone to bed and all the lamps had been extinguished, after each and every prayer and supplication whispered had made its way to heaven and the angels, saints, the...

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43. hostelry

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pp. 165-166

The abbess and Adela walked side by side leading the others in a serpentine line led by Hernán, gallant as always, on horseback. They moved slowly, as the roads were thick with mud and strewn with debris. Now and then the abbess squeezed her young charge’s hand...

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44. hospitality

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pp. 167-168

The following morning, when the sisterhood awoke to cock cries in the distance, they drifted out the door and saw that the morning sky was apricot and golden. And it was warm. Hassan had arranged a generous breakfast for them, on small copper tables, in the courtyard...

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45. strategy

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pp. 169-172

The Duke of Ronda, a man in middle age, was an aristocrat of particular and exquisite tastes. This the sisters knew. For not only was he admiring of their finest, dearest work—and paid them handsomely for it—but he was generous and thoughtful. Over the years, he had...

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46. carefully

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pp. 173-176

After the nuns had spent their first week at the palace, the bishop paid a visit to the sisterhood, with the express purpose of having a certain conversation with Mother Ana. These days, he was furious at the abbess. He blamed her for his sister’s total breakdown. How he...

Three

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47. relativity

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pp. 179-184

Th e abbess sat still, ever so still, in her chair, holding a small glass of aguardiente. She was reflecting on the events of the past nine months on this her saint day, January 28. The Virgin’s account of what would befall the sisterhood had been so truthful, so decidedly correct, that...

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48. finality

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pp. 185-188

Since returning to Madrid at the behest of His Majesty the King, Hernán had enjoyed a most accommodating life, both personally and professionally. Delighting in the playwright’s sacred one-acts and sonnets, the Sovereign often asked him for small entertainments...

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49. faintly

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pp. 189-190

One evening, shortly aft er the abbess had announced her new plans for the sisterhood, a messenger from the Duke of Ronda arrived at the convent. Knocking at the gate, he was soon met by Isabela.
“I will wait here,” he said, after handing her a parcel for the abbess...

Four

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50. generosity

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pp. 193-196

Standing at the window, she saw wide, somnolent clouds. The salt air mist. In this new place, where seagulls swooped and sighed, she knew a very different beauty from that in Granada. This was a euphoric town full of clanging bells and wildness...

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Author’s Note

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pp. 197-198

A Stitch in Air was born of two experiences decades apart. The first was a two-day visit to a convent in Southern Spain when I was a junior in college studying in Madrid. Easter Week I decided to leave the capital to travel to Andalucía to see the great cities of Sevilla...

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About the Author

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p. 199

Lori Marie Carlson is an editor, translator, and novelist whose numerous books include the landmark anthology, Cool Salsa, and the novels, The Sunday Tertulia and The Flamboyant. She divides her time between New York City and Durham, North Carolina, where...