‘Sire, this is Montanha village. The most prominent one in the area and closer to the palace.’ Kishen indicated with a wide arc of his hand across Rosalin’s village sprawled below. He was with Antonio and a few of other soldiers atop a small dusty track that ended at a ridge that overlooked the village. Behind them, the church loomed large over them. They were there to do a survey of the area for Antonio’s sake. Antonio looked down at the village, slowly taking in the breathtaking sight. Lush, green fields surrounded the village and beyond it. On the other side, the sea sparkled under the bright sun.
‘Once you cross the village, a short distance away Sire, is the market place. It’s where most of the revenues are generated by way of taxes that we levy. Traders from all over Goa ensemble there once a month with their wares. We also have some of our village and town locals running shops there.’
Antonio quietly took in the details as Kishen went on. Mid way, he turned around his horse and trotted down the hill while the others followed him. Kishen kept abreast with him as he continued pointing out important locations. They had reached the church and unconsciously Antonio did a sign of the cross as he passed it. They traveled down the hill at a trot and came to the village. The village was widely sprawled with some of the houses quite big. Kishen pointed out that the big houses belonged to the local Christians who had found favor with the Portuguese while the other houses belonged to the pagans. There were huge gaps between most of the houses with the dusty street that ran through the village.
Kishen pointed out further. ‘Since the head of the village is Pascal Costa who happens to be a personal acquaintance of his highness, these pagans are given certain liberties.’
They were now trotting the dusty path through the village. The villagers had gathered out on hearing the sound of the hoof beats. They recognized Antonio as the member of the royal family and they quickly bowed their head in reverence. Antonio slowly nodded in their direction as he scanned their faces. His eyes were on the lookout for Rosalin. He recalled from the night of the party, that she was Pascal Costa’s daughter.
‘Where is Costa’s house?’ He asked aloud.
Kishen gave him a sideward glance. ‘That’s the house.’ He pointed out indicating Rosalin’s house.
They reached the house that Kishen pointed out. Antonio got down from his horse and walked inside the courtyard. Kishen signaled the soldiers to wait outside. He too decided to stay outside as he gave Antonio a long look. Unaware of Kishen’s unfriendly stare, Antonio walked down the courtyard and climbed the steps to the house. He rapped sharply on the door and waited. He could hear footsteps inside walk over. The door was pulled open sharply and Rosalin’s mother peered outside to find Antonio standing outside. Her eyes traveled from his head to his toes taking in the royal vest he wore.
‘Yes?’ She bellowed at him, not recognizing him. Being in good books of the Viceroy made her too brave a woman, to be in awe of a man in uniform.
‘My name’s Antonio… Antonio Fonseca.’ Antonio extended his hand. Hearing his name, she quickly realised who he was as she took his hand and bowed low hastily.
‘I am sorry your highness, I didn’t recognize you.’ She sputtered as she took a step backwards. ‘Please come in your highness in our humble abode.’
Antonio entered and slowly took the room inside. ‘Nice house.’
Mrs Costa nodded eagerly, a big smile on her face.
Antonio looked around and then turned towards her. ‘Nobody seems to be home?’ Before she could reply, laughter filtered across to their ears. Antonio casually walked over to the extreme window and looked outside. Outside, he could see a small river run by. Near the river there was a small clearing. Rosalin’s friends, her two cousins and some of her friends were playing a peculiar game. He watched them play and then shifted his eyes on Rosalin. She was seated on the boulder and singing a folk song as she watched most of other girls play Fugdi, a local folk dance which he wasn’t aware of. They certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves, Antonio thought to himself as he watched them.
‘That’s my daughter Rosalin, there on that boulder.’ Mrs Costa pointed out proudly, her chest swelling with pride.
Antonio simply nodded in acceptance, his eyes glued on Rosalin. He watched her for some time and then silently walked out of the house. Mrs Costa watched him curiously. She saw him go around the house. She went back to the window and saw him circle the house to come to the rear where the river flowed. She saw him stop at a distance and enjoy the dance as some of the girls, mostly in pairs but a couple of them in trios, their hands holding each other’s crisscrossed, increase the pace of their circular movements. As Rosalin increased the tempo of her singing, the girls increased the speed of their circular movements to match the speed and finally it reached its climax as the singing reached its crescendo and then the swaying slowed down to a complete stop. The girls’ laughter filled the air as they tried to catch their breath. Suddenly they stopped as a lone clapping reached their ears. They turned around to find Antonio walking towards them applauding. They quickly reverted their eyes in embarrassment. Rosalin quickly jumped down from the boulder as she saw him.
‘Your highness, this is a pleasant surprise.’
‘Was passing by, thought I’ll meet you to find out if you are ok.’
‘I am fine your highness, obrigado.’
He glanced across the girls. Kayani shied away and hid behind the others. Antonio smiled mischievously.
‘What was all that?’
‘That’s one of our folk dances, your highness.’ Rosalin answered with pride.
‘Antonio.’ He pointed out, his eyes still glued on the girls.
‘Pardon me?’ She looked at him quizzically. And then it dawned on her and she smiled in embarrassment. She realised he wanted her to call him by his first name. He walked over to the girls and looked at each of them. He took hold of Marie’s hands and imitated the dance but it proved awkward for him as he nearly tripped over his own feet. The girls burst out laughing. Antonio joined in the laughter.
‘Will someone show me how it is done?’
Rosalin walked over and stood facing him. ‘Let me show you how to do it.’ She glanced across at Kayani. ‘Kayani, you sing.’
But Kayani went further into hiding behind the girls. ‘I’ll sing, I’ll sing.’ Marie yelled enthusiastically.
Rosalin looked at her in approval and nodded her head. Marie started the folk song and Rosalin slowly cross her hands at the wrists and indicated Antonio to do the same. With her right hand she clasped his right and with her left she held on to his left hand. With both the feet close together, she let her body slant backwards as far as the grip would allow her. Antonio did the same and slowly she started to sway around in a circle. Antonio kept abreast of her actions, as their feet slid on the ground in an arc. The pace was slow but as Marie got faster with her song, the circular movement went faster and faster. But for Antonio, a first time dancer, it was too much and he found his feet entangling with hers sending both of them sprawling on the ground. And as he fell on his back, his hands still clutching hers, he found himself pulling her too with him. He hit the ground with a big thud and she followed him as her chest rammed into his, bring a big gasp out of her. He held on to her as she tried to catch hold of her breath.
‘You ok?’ He asked her with concern. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Slowly she opened her eyes again to look at him. ‘I think you need a few more lessons.’
‘Well if you are going to teach me, I’ll take lessons throughout my lifetime.’ He replied mischievously, his eyes locked on her face.
They silently stared at each other. Behind them, one of the girls said something and all the girls broke into laughter bringing them out of their trance. She quickly got up, dusting herself. Antonio got up behind her and found the girls still giggling. He looked at Rosalin.
‘What’s so funny?’
Rosalin stifled her laughter. ‘Antonio, this dance is only done by women!’
‘Oh.’ Antonio looked around in embarrassment as the girls again broke into laughter. Rosalin too joined them and Antonio found himself smiling at his own little joke.
From the house window, her mother watched the scene with growing concern. This was all going in the wrong directions, she thought to herself.