Never an Empire

Never an Empire by James Green

Book: Never an Empire by James Green Read Free Book Online
Authors: James Green
had left him exhausted. Maria decided to let him sleep on as long as she could but used the time it afforded her well. She found the head man and explained that Father Enrique needed to sleep after yesterday’s exertions and had told her to deal with the matter of payment. He was, as she expected, extremely pleased that there had already been Confessions and an excellent sermon without so much as the mention of payment. He was even more pleased that he would be dealing with a woman to settle the money side of things. Maria pleased him even more by saying that Father Enrique left the amount he would receive entirely to the head man. However, Father Enrique had explained to her that she must make it clear that all that he did, Confessions, sermon, Mass, baptism, marriage, were all only as valid as the price paid for them. If nothing was paid they were valueless, if only a little paid their validity last no more than a short time, a week, a month, how long depended on the value the village placed on what Father Enrique had brought to them. If a great deal was paid what they received gained in value accordingly and if the best price was paid then the results would last a lifetime and beyond. Only the head man, Father Enrique had explained, knew how much the people of his village were worth and how much they were in need of salvation. How could he, as a priest of a town like San Juan Bautista, who knew nothing about the village or its people, put a price on what he brought? Before leaving, said Maria, Father Enrique would explain all of this to the people and tell them at what price their head man had valued them and their immortal souls.
    The head man, by this time almost shaking at what he had heard, begged her to name a price. With some sort of price named he might still be able to negotiate. But Maria refused.
    â€˜Father Enrique was adamant. He is such a holy man, so bound up in the spiritual, he has no time for worldly things such as money; all of that he leaves in God’s hands.’ She paused to make sure the message went well home. ‘And God always provides, provides most graciously. I cannot think what might happen to anyone who might oppose God so directly as to take advantage of Father’s gentle and pious innocence.’
    He capitulated, of course. To pay anything less than a princely amount would be a disaster for him as head man and even worse for his immortal soul. You couldn’t fight against such innocence and piety, never mind negotiate. This priest’s visitation might save him and the whole village from hell and damnation but it looked set to ruin him financially. Maria, satisfied that her work was done, left the head man to decide the exact figure he thought would satisfy God and the figure Father Enrique would announce on his departure. As she set off back to the hut where Father Enrique slept she decided to make sure and get full payment well before they left and, with armed police to look after them, there was no need to worry that the head man might have second thoughts after they left and try to get his money back. She wouldn’t put it past him.
    At the hut the sacristan was sitting outside by a fire on which was a metal bowl filled with hot water.
    â€˜How did it go?’
    â€˜It is done.’
    â€˜How much?’
    â€˜Never mind how much. You’ll see soon enough. Is that water ready? It’s time for Father Enrique to get up.’
    The sacristan wondered for a second whether he should press her for a proper answer, looked at her standing over him and decided not. Instead he tested the water.
    â€˜It’s ready.’
    â€˜Good. Give it to me.’
    â€˜It’s hot.’
    â€˜Then use your blanket.’
    â€˜It might get burned.’
    â€˜Yes, it might, and I might forget to pay you.’
    Like the head man, the sacristan knew when to concede defeat. He took his blanket from his bedroll, used it to get the hot bowl off the fire and stood

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