As they arrived at the church, the sound of the Gregorian chant reverberated as the choir sang a hymn. Its then came to a resounding stop as they stepped inside just in time to see Fr. Kane walk out of the pulpit towards Antonio and Rosalin.
Fr. Kane had a bible in his hand. He stood before Rosalin and Antonio and looked at them both. ‘Antonio and Rosalin, you are here in the presence of the Lord to unite in the holy matrimony.’ He turned to Antonio. ‘In Lord’s presence, do you Antonio, take this woman Rosalin whom you hold by the hand to be your lawfully wedded wife, and do you covenant to be true to her, to love, cherish, and protect her, in sickness and in health, in poverty or in wealth, until death do you part?’
Antonio, his eyes lovingly trained on Rosalin replied slowly. ‘I do.’
Fr. Kane then turned to Rosalin. ‘In Lord’s presence, do you Rosalin take this man Antonio whom you hold by the hand to be your lawfully wedded husband, and do you covenant to be true to her, to love, cherish, and protect her, in sickness and in health, in poverty or in wealth, until death do you part?’
Rosalin looked at Fr. Kane hard. There was a long pause. Fr. Kane looked at her and Antonio and gave a nervous smile. Her mind wandered back to the night on the beach. She could clearly see the image in her mind of Antonio shooting the last assailant in the heart and then brutally kicking him. She closed her eyes for a second and then opened them again. She looked down at her hand and then slowly turned to Antonio with a smile. She took his hand in hers. ‘I do.’
Fr. Kane looked at them and then turned to look at the congregation behind them. Loudly, he proclaimed. ‘In the presence of the almighty Lord, your highness Viceroy Fonseca and Lady Fonseca and the people of Goa, I now pronounce you man and… wife. You may kiss the bride.’
Antonio got up and taking Rosalin in his arms, kissed her hard on the lips. The crowd cheered.
Outside, guns went blazing and drumbeats filled the air. Fr. Kane stared lovingly at the bridal couple and as Antonio turned her around, his lips still locked with hers, she looked at him over Antonio’s shoulders and stared at him silently. Fr. Kane embarrassingly turned his eyes away.
He saw the Viceroy as he walked towards him with a smile. He extended his hand to the Viceroy. ‘Congratulations your majesty.’
‘Thank you Padre. Thank you.’
He then turned to Lady Fonseca. ‘Congratulations Lady Fonseca.’
‘Thank you Padre.’ She responded back with a smile. They then turned to see the bridal couple walk towards them, their faces beaming with joy.
Outside the church, a large crowd of villagers had gathered to wish the bridal couple. The bridal couple followed by the royal family exited from the church amidst loud cheers from the crowd. Music started to play again as the royal family took the palanquins to go back home.
That night at the palace, there was great rejoicing. Fireworks filled the air. Inside the palace hall, there was a festive atmosphere. The hall was richly decorated. People dressed in their best attire were seen mingling with each other. Some of them were dancing to the music being played by a group of musicians in one corner. Antonio and Rosalin too were dancing. The Bishop of Goa, Fr. Kane, Viceroy Fonseca, Lady Fonseca, Rosalin’s mother Catalina, Tia and Tio Alberto Costa who happened to be Pascal’s brother and Manuel keenly watched the couple closely. Pascal Costa was a proud man. ‘Your highness, never seen a better party then this.’
‘Well Pascal, it’s my son’s wedding if you remember.’ The Viceroy smiled at him.
‘How can I forget your highness. My daughter is surely lucky to marry a noble and a brave man like Antonio.’
On the other side of the hall, Teresa and Isabella were with a group of women. They too were watching the bridal couple dance. One of them said seem to narrate some joke and everyone of them broke into laughter. Across the room, Marcos too was watching the couple but indifferently. Over Antonio’s shoulder, Rosalin saw him. They stared at each other. Sensing something amiss, Antonio pushed her at arms length and looked in her face. ‘ Hey what’s wrong?’
‘That man over there, you know him?’ She pointed out.
‘Who?’ Antonio asked turning around. He saw Marcos looking at them. Marcos smiled at Antonio.
‘Hey Marcos. What you doing there?’
Taking Rosalin by her arm, Antonio gently led her across the floor towards Marcos. ‘Hlello Marcos, where had you been since morning?’ He turned to Rosalin. ‘Rosa, I want you to meet Marcos, my brother-in-law. Marcos this is Rosalin… my wife.’
Antonio started to laugh at his own little joke. Marcos took Rosalin’s hand and bowing low and his eyes locked with her, gently planted a long kiss on the back of her palm. ‘Enchanted Lady Rosalin… May I have the pleasure of a dance with someone as beautiful as you?’
Rosalin gives a soft laughter. ‘Sure if his highness doesn’t mind.’
‘Hey not at all. Rosalin, this man is more of a friend than a relative. You two go ahead and enjoy. I’ll catch up with the guests.’
Antonio left them alone and drifted off towards his family. Rosalin links her arms with Marcos’ and they walked together to the middle of the dance floor. Marcos took her in his arms and they slowly danced to the music beat.
Antonio had reached the Viceroy. Seeing the bishop, he took his hand and gently kissed it. ‘Thank you, your Lordship for gracing this occasion.’
‘Wouldn’t have missed it my son. Congratulations!’
‘Thank you, your Lordship.’
‘Well young man, the party is great but I must take leave now.’
‘But your lordship, the party’s just begun. Surely you can’t leave until you bless the bridal couple.’ The Viceroy pleaded. The bishop gave a short laughter. ‘My blessings are always with them. But I must leave now. I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow.’
‘As you wish so. Antonio, please walk his Lordship to the door will you?’
Rosalin watched Antonio and Bishop walk to the exit. Marcos saw too and he started to inch closer to Rosalin. He pulled her closer. She tried to adjust herself.
‘You are beautiful. No wonder Antonio flipped for you.’
‘Thank you. But then you don’t look bad yourself.’ Rosalin turned on her charm.
Marcos eyed her curiously. ‘Aha. Regretting the marriage?’
‘Are you?’ She questioned back.
Marcos pulled her closer firmly. Rosalin squirmed in his grasp. ‘Stop it. You are hurting me.’
‘I have just begun darling. But then I can be nice if you are nice to me too.’
Rosalin pulled herself out of his grasp and took a step backward and glared at him. ‘Obrigado but next time, don’t try that line on me. There is nothing here that you can offer what Antonio can’t!’
She turned around and walked towards Viceroy Fonseca. As she crossed the dance floor, she saw Fr. Kane eye her quizzically. On the other side she could see Antonio walk back to the group. Isabella too saw Antonio and cuts off from her group and walked towards him and accosted him. ‘Hi.’
‘Hi Isabella. You look lovely tonight.’
‘Don’t lie. ’
‘Really darling, you look absolutely beautiful.’
‘In that case how come I lost the opportunity to marry you?’
Antonio caught hold of her and took her in his arms. ‘Because I love Rosalin.’
‘What is it in her that made you marry that woman?’
‘Love darling, Love.’
Isabella looked at him admiringly. She then took the opportunity to kiss him on the lips. Rosalin saw them passionately kiss each other. Fr. Kane too saw them as he walked across to meet Rosalin. Eyeing them so cozy, she thought aloud. ‘I wonder if I made a mistake…’ As if reading her thought, Fr. Kane softly said as he neared her. ‘Don’t believe in everything you see. It might just be an illusion.’
Rosalin looked at him and smiled. She then pointed her thumb over her shoulder across at Antonio and Isabella. ‘I wasn’t referring to that Padre.’
‘Then…?’ Fr. Kane looked her questioningly. Rosalin just sweetly looked at him, fluttering her eyelids innocently. Flustered, Fr. Kane quickly averted his eyes away. ‘Senora, please, stop playing with words.’
Before she could respond, the Viceroy’s voice boomed aloud. ‘Hey folks, time to raise a toast to the bridal couple.’ Empty glasses quickly get replaced and all the men stand to attention as the Viceroy raises his glass. ‘To the bridal couple.’ ‘Ole ole…’ The crowd cheer wildly.
Viceroy Fonseca, Lady Fonseca, Antonio, Rosalin, Marcos, Teresa, Isabella, Pascal Costa, Catalina, Tio Alberto, Tia Alberto, Manuel then sit down around a long rectangular dinning table facing each other. Fr. Kane sits at the head. The others in the hall too sit down at various tables as more drinks are served. Antonio murmured something in Rosalin’s ears. She blushed and nodded her head sideways in protest. Antonio pleaded with her again in a hushed tone. ‘Please darling…’
‘Is something wrong son?’
Antonio quickly turned around to face his father. ‘No Pai.’
He turned back to Rosalin and pleaded again for something. Viceroy Fonseca looked at the duo with a concern.
‘Son, what’s the matter?’
‘Pai, I was just requesting Rosa to play some music. She is good at playing the organ.’
‘Really? That’s wonderful daughter. We too would love to hear your music.’
‘But your highness…’ Rosalin protested feebly.
‘Please girl, don’t be shy.’
Her father hushed. ‘Daughter, don’t be rude. Go!’
Rosalin said softly, ’But Pai, I…’ She stopped as Fr. Kane’s voice filtered in her ears. ‘Please Senora.’
She turned to look at him. The others waited in anticipation. She gave him a teasing smile. ‘Please Senora. You are a woman of many talents. Don’t curb your God-gifted talents and let it go waste.’
Rosalin slowly got up. Everyone in the room turned around to look at her as Viceroy clapped in encouragement. She walked to the musicians who quickly stepped backwards. She sat down on the stool in front of the organ and delicately felt it. She looked sideways at the crowd watching her earnestly. Across, a senior soldier walked up to Viceroy Fonseca and bowing low, whispered something in his ears. Viceroy’s facial expression changed for a fleeting moment. Rosalin looked at him. He smiled at her. She looked at Fr. Kane. There was pin drop silence. Rosalin turned to look at the keys of the organ.
She took a deep breath and slowly started to drum the keys. Soft music filled the air. Everyone’s mesmerized by the beautiful music that floated around. Rosalin started to hum along with the music. She lost herself in the tranquility of playing the organ and finally came to a stop in frenzy. A heavy silence hung in the air as she sat still. Viceroy then started clapping followed by a thundering applause from the rest of the crowd.
She opened her eyes and with a wide smile looked around to find everyone standing and cheering her. She then walked down the hall with elegant steps to the table. Marcos turned to Antonio mischievously. ‘I can understand why you fell for this woman.’
Isabella turned to him. ‘Irmao, Antonio sure made a nice choice.’ Antonio smiled at them and turned to look at Rosalin again. As she neared the table, Antonio got up and pulled out her chair and she smiled and nodded her head slightly to indicate ‘Thank you’ and sat down. Antonio too followed suit. ‘ Vos sois belos, my rapariga… that was beautiful music I should say.’
‘Thank you dear.’
Fr. Kane spoke. ‘If I may be permitted to say, Senora Rosalin here is truly gifted and beyond comparison and you, your excellency is a man beyond words and rightfully deserving this lovely and talented young woman.’
‘Why, thank you Padre. But I’d say you deserve a better praise than I. For you have devoted your entire life for service to God and to our fellow human beings from such a tender young age.’
‘Your excellency. My life is God’s gift to me. He has given me this life and he has the command over it, to do as he pleases.’
‘You are being humble Padre Kane. ’ Marcos intervened.
Rosalin looked across at Fr. Kane mischievously. ‘Your excellency Marcos is right. Fr Kane too is an enigmatic figure. He is as charming and as beautiful as the morning sunrise. And as pure as the dew drops on the dark and cold winter night. If only he would have chosen another profession, he would have made some poor rapariga…’
‘Shut up Rosa!’ Pascal ordered her quickly with a masked anger. He then turned around bowed before Viceroy Fonseca and Antonio in forgiveness. ‘I am sorry your excellency…’
He turned back to Rosalin and in a hushed anger tone reprimanded her. ‘Rosa, think twice before you say anything stupid. Fr Kane here is a man of God!’
There was still a mischievous smile on Rosalin’s face. ‘Yes Pai, that’s what I ment… that he is a man…’
‘It’s okay, Pascal Costa. I am sure she didn’t mean what she said.’ Fr. Kane intervened. Antonio smiled and raised his hand to calm Pascal down. ’Hey peace be upon you homem. A rapariga bonita e joking… ’ ’Aren’t you my dear? He continued as he looked at Rosalin.
Marcos gave a short laughter. ‘You bet Antonio, Lady Rosalin has a way with words. Surely a woman of many hidden talents.’
Hearing her praise, Antonio broke into loud laughter. Rosalin too started to laugh aloud her eyes glued on Fr. Kane and soon everyone had joined in. Fr. Kane looked at her somberly as he muttered softly, ’I tell you solemly, one of us shall betray God.’
Words filtered across in Rosalin’s ears and she cut short her laughter and stared at him seriously with just a wee bit of a smile still lingering while the others continued with their laughter and then suddenly they too stopped as the deep meaning behind the words sank in. They stared at each other in apprehension.
Teresa tried to break the ice as she nervously said aloud. ‘Hey cheer up. Just enjoy the party.’
The Viceroy boomed to his servant. ‘Hey Saby, bring more wine. Everyone enjoy the party.’
Everyone’s back to normal except for Rosalin and Fr. Kane. They continue to stare at each other as Marcos eyed them disdainfully. The words kept ringing in Rosalin’s ears. ‘’I tell you solemnly, one of us shall betray God.’