She was beautiful, delicate, and innocent. How could Ramirez resist the urge to hurt her?
The milkmaid heaved open the stable doors. Cows cooed in recognition as she visited each stall in turn, caressing and checking young calves, milking their mothers into a large pail. Every time she knelt down to milk, her long skirt hitched up, exposing her firm, smooth calves, as white as the contents of her pail. As she went around, she sung gently to the bovines, an old folk ballad. It was coarse and low, but from her ripe pink lips it sounded like an aria.
She came closer. He could hear her heavy breathing, feel the warmth emanating from her, see her bosom heaving up and down. He licked his lips in anticipation and waited for her to pass. Then he rose, barely making a sound, walked behind her, and tapped her on the shoulder.
She shrieked, jumped, and dropped the pail. Although her scream made his ears ring, it was gorgeous, a sudden discordant note in the genteel pastoral of the country morning. She spun to face him, the skin painted even whiter with shock. When she recognised him, the white curdled and became a sickly green. She exhaled all at once, then struggled for breath. Ramirez watched her politely and waited, smirking at her hyperventilating.
When she seemed almost recovered, he looked into her pearlescent eyes and extended a hand.
“I'm dreadfully sorry if I surprised you.” She scowled back at him.
“Come now, don't be like that. It's a waste of your pretty face.”
She flapped one hand at him, waving him away.
“I have a job to do, Master Aquila.”
He knew the stories the serfs told about him. Some of them were true, most were wild exaggerations, none were flattering. He put an arm around her. As she struggled to pull away, he pressed a small purse into her skirts.
“For services rendered...” he leered.
Being slapped by a milkmaid is more painful than you might expect. It takes a surprising amount of strength to milk a cow well, and rather more to wrestle a stubborn bovine into a milking stool against its will. Ramirez felt like he'd had an iron stake driven through his skull. He wobbled, swayed, and almost collapsed. Through bleary eyes he could see the milkmaid bustling away, her skirts the only thing stopping her running at full pace. How dare she? How dare she strike her better and expect to get off scott-free! He staggered after her and hurled himself at her, knocking her face-first into the cow shit. His fists pummelled her. At first she tried to defend herself, tried to scrabble away, then she just groaned.
“Listen, you ignorant scum-fucking whore. You'll give me what I want, or not only will I make you look like the piece of meat you are, I'll tell my father you stole my purse and that I beat you to retrieve it.”
She moaned and wept, her tears mixing with the mud, shit, and blood. Ramirez rubbed her nose in the filth.
“Go ahead, cry. But you'll never refuse me again, will you?” She gibbered incoherently until he slapped sense into her dense little skull.
“Will you?” In a voice weak with crying, she croaked a negative.
“N-no. Whatever you want...”
“Address me properly!”
“Good.” He pulled the purse out of her skirts, stood up, and kicked her in the stomach a couple of times. Then he flung a few gold coins at her.
“You're not just a whore, you're a stupid whore. You should've taken my money to start with. Now look at you.” She lay there, crying softly. He blinked back his anger and sighed.
“If anyone asks, tell them a cow did it. I'll be back on Thursday.” He left her crying there, eating mud and blood and cow shit.
In the evening, Ramirez visited an opera house. It was playing a typical piece, about a libertine whose hedonistic ways and proud nature led to his destruction by the Saint. “It's remarkable,” he commented to a friend, “how depraved these characters are. Can you imagine if such people really existed?”