The Legacy of Grazia dei Rossi

The Legacy of Grazia dei Rossi by Jacqueline Park Read Free Book Online

Book: The Legacy of Grazia dei Rossi by Jacqueline Park Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jacqueline Park
son. The First Kadin , Rose of Spring, mother of the Sultan’s first-born male, Prince Mustafa, had failed to produce a second male heir to guarantee the succession. Given the high rate of child mortality, Hürrem’s boy was wildly celebrated as a savior of the Ottoman dynasty and earned her the title of Second Kadin .
    So when Hürrem appeared at the Valide’s door tearful and in need of solace in the days following the circumcision of her older son, the concubine was greeted warmly by Lady Hafsa. This was not the first time the Second Kadin had sought counsel from the Valide. Soon after the birth of her son Mehmet, she had begun to cultivate the boy’s grandmother. Never aggressively, always respectful of protocol, always careful to request an appointment before she crossed the long hallway that divided the Valide Sultan’s suite from the rest of the harem. And always bearing gifts — a special cream to whiten the aging skin, a sleeping draught to bring sweet dreams to the Valide’s sleepless nights. Full of news of the great world, Hürrem was sure to bring along gossip collected from the Jewish peddler women from whom she bought her laces and ribbons and lotions and potions.
    At first Saida resented the interloper. Since childhood, her grandmother’s attention had been fixed on her. Now she had to share it. But as time went on, she began to look forward to Hürrem’s visits. She even began to ask Hürrem to beg small favors for her from her father, the Sultan. Not that she was afraid of him. But, as Hürrem so often reminded the Lady Hafsa and Saida, bearing the weight of the world on his shoulders, the beloved Sultan ought not to be burdened with their small concerns, least of all by the ones who loved him most.
    “Allow me to see what I can do,” Hürrem would say, “before we trouble the great Padishah. Poor man, he carries such a heavy weight.” Their duty, after all, was to lighten his load, he being the source of light in their lives and in the whole world. Even the Valide Sultan, the mother he revered, bowed and kissed his hand when he entered her rooms. And she addressed him as “my lion.”
    Their mutual adoration of this man had bound the three women together. Over time, Saida lost most of the jealousy she bore her father’s favorite Kadin ; and the Valide Sultan gave up some of her pride of place. Lady Hürrem had managed to smile her way into their hearts, a very shrewd preparation for the day when she might need the help of one or both of them.
    Today being such a day, Hürrem was now familiar enough to make a direct appeal to the Valide Sultan. Ever respectful of protocol, she first apologized profusely for disturbing the lady and made certain to assure the Valide that what she was seeking was simply the advice of a wise woman. Then she got to the point: a rumor she had picked up while bathing in the hamam . Only a whiff of scandal. Nevertheless, most disturbing. By now, she had their undivided attention.
    “I have heard a story.” She leaned forward and lowered her voice to a whisper. “Perhaps it is not true. But if it is . . .”
    The Valide, a woman not given to touching any being less exalted than herself, reached out to pat the other woman on the shoulder.
    “What is this rumor, Hürrem?” she asked gently.
    Silence. A sigh.
    “We cannot help you if you do not tell us.”
    “Oh, Lady, I am so ashamed. I fear it is all my fault for being so slow to learn. Although I do try . . .”
    “To learn?”
    “To learn my letters so that I can write to my exalted lord in my own hand and read the letters he sends to me. As it is, I must trust the scribe who writes my words down and who reads the Padishah’s letters to me. I cannot believe this scribe would betray me, and yet there is this rumor . . .” She dabbed at her eyes with a gold-embroidered handkerchief. “I am told that my letters are being hawked in the bazaar.”
    “Sold? For money?” Even the imperturbable Valide was

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