* * *
Fr. Kane was in his room. His body was bare waist up and there was harsh wound marks on his back due to the whipping during the Santos Passos. He pulled out a small bottle of ointment and tried to apply it on his back. It was a painful process since he couldn’t reach all the way back. As he struggled, another hand came up and gently applied an herbal paste on his wounds. Fr. Kane quickly turned around to find Rosalin standing there with a bowl of paste in her hand.
‘Yes Padre. Here let me help you…’
‘No please I’ll do it.’ Fr. Kane quickly looked around for his garment to cover his naked body.
‘Padre, I am sorry if I barged in your privacy. Please let me help you apply this paste on your wounds.’
‘Senora, please leave.’ Fr. Kane told her firmly as he put on his vest.
Rosalin looked at him hard. ‘Padre, you are a human being like us. You too feel pain. Is it wrong for a woman to come to the aid of a priest?’
Fr. Kane looked at her for some time. Without a word, he sat down again and lifted his vest from behind to expose the wound. She pulled out some paste and gently applied it to his wounds. Her touch seemed to do magic for Fr. Kane as he experience the soothing effect.
‘You are the first woman after my mother to touch my body.’
’Yes Padre. I know ‘cause I know you Padre.’
She continued applying the paste in silence. Satisfied that she had covered all the wounds, she kept the bowl down on the table and washed her hands at the basin. She then walked out of the room. She entered the Church. She gingerly walked over to the Pieta and knelt down slowly for her ritual prayer. She closed her eyes and murmured a prayer. Done, she got up slowly. Fr. Kane dressed in his priest vest, held her arm and gently steadied her on her feet. She looked at his loving and serene face.
‘Senora, you have so much love to give. Sometimes I envy you.’ Fr. Kane told her with a smile. ‘When your child comes out in this beautiful world, give all you have unto the child so that the child too does the same with the others.’
‘Padre, you still nice of me after all I have done to you?’
‘Senora, you simply followed your heart. You did no wrong.’
Tears flowed down Rosalin’s cheeks.
’No Senora, don’t cry. Smile ‘cause God himself is visiting you in the form of your child.’
‘No Padre, these are not tears of pain. These tears are tears of remorse I feel for myself.’
She then bent down slowly to touch his feet. Fr. Kane quickly took a step backwards.
‘What are you doing Senora?’
‘I am seeking your forgiveness Padre. I have sinned against you and against God.’
‘No Senora. I am a common man. Ask Him for forgiveness.’ He said indicating the crucifix on the altar.
Rosalin walked towards the crucifix and kissed the feet of Jesus. Tears flowed down her face. She looked at the face of Jesus. Fr. Kane gently touched her on the shoulder.
‘It’s getting late Senora. Come, I’ll reach you home.’
‘Padre you are a nice man and I played with your sentiments. Please forgive me.’
‘I forgive you Senora. Please don’t put too much pressure on your self. It will harm the child.’
They slowly walked out of the church in silence. In the dying sunlight, they reach the palace gates. Fr. Kane got out of the chariot and slowly extended his hand for Rosalin. He gently helped her down. She slowly bent and kissed his hand. They stood looking at each other, smile on their faces.
‘Start life afresh Senora. Tomorrow is going to be a beautiful day.’
She nodded at him and giving him one last look, turned around and slowly walked inside the gate.
From inside the palace and his study balcony, the Viceroy looked at Rosalin and Fr. Kane as they stared at each other. He saw Rosalin gently bend her knee and take Fr. Kane’s hand to kiss it and then turned around to enter the palace gates. He then saw Fr. Kane turn enter his chariot and ride away. He looked down at Rosalin as she slowly made her way inside the palace. He turned around and walked back in the room.
The Bishop was seated grimly across the table in his study. Other family members stood silently. The Viceroy paced in the room in deep thought.
‘Excellency, I must take your leave.’ The Bishop spoke with a sigh.
The viceroy looked at him. He nodded slowly.
The Bishop got up and walked to him. ‘I hope whatever decision you take, you take it in the right direction.’
He then turned and walked out of the room. Behind him, he heard the Viceroy tell Isabella to call Rosalin. Softly the Bishop murmured to himself. ‘May peace be upon you.’
As he walked down the staircase, he saw Rosalin. Rosalin too saw him and smiled at him. ‘Greetings your lordship.’
‘Greetings my child. How are you doing my dear?’
‘Alright your lordship. Your lordship, please bless me and my child.’ She slowly bent her head in front of him.
With a heavy heart, the Bishop raised his hand and placed it on her head. ‘Bless you child. May this night see you through all your pains and bring you a happy morning.’ The Bishop then walked out with determined steps. Rosalin looked at him oddly.
Rosalin turned around to find Isabella walking down the staircase. She smiled at her as Isabella embraced her warmly. Sensing something amiss since Isabella had never been so warm with her, she asked her. ‘Is something wrong?’
‘Rosa, the family wants you in the study.’ Isabella told her grimly.
Rosalin looked at her. Isabella gently squeezed her arm in assurance, a gentle smile on her lips. They then walked slowly up the staircase. Isabella held on to her arms and helped her climb the staircase.
They discreetly knocked on the door and entered. Rosalin took in the grimness of the situation as she looked around and found all the family members present. Everyone seemed to be giving her a queer look. The Viceroy looked at her, his eyes full of hatred and without waiting a moment for her to settle down blurted out. ‘Rapariga, what’s this we are hearing about you?’
‘What Pai?’ She looked at him curiously.
Viceroy turned around and walked to the window and looked outside. He found it difficult to question her. Rosalin looked at his back and then slowly at each of the family members. They all averted their eyes away unable to see her in the eye. Marcos walked up roughly and took her by her arms and pulled her closer to Viceroy Fonseca.
‘Let me tell you what happened. You and Fr. Kane are giving us a bad name.’
‘I don’t understand Marcos.’
‘Don’t be so naïve Rosalin. The world knows of your affair with Fr. Kane. I have seen it with my own eyes. And this child…’ He continued indicating her belly, ‘… is not Antonio’s but Fr. Kane’s.’
‘Shut up Marcos. Do you realise what you saying? How can you be so stupid?’
‘Don’t you try that on us, you bitch!’
‘Enough Marcos. Give her a chance to clarify herself.’ Lady Fonseca intervened sternly.
‘Your excellency, don’t believe her. I have seen her in the close confines of Fr. Kane and…’
‘Stop it Marcos! Vós sois malucos!’ (You are crazy!) Rosalin slapped him hard.
Marcos roughly held her by her shoulder. ‘I have not finished yet Rosalin.’ Angrily he called out to Samarth. ‘Samarth, come in.’
Samarth hesitantly walked in the room and bowed low before the royal family as they looked questioningly at him. Marcos walked up to him. ‘Samarth, will you tell his highness and the others what you saw the other day in the church?’
Samarth nervously twitched. He looked at Rosalin and then at the Viceroy who eyed him curiously.
‘Don’t be afraid Samarth.’ Marcos goaded.
Samarth diverted his gaze downward. Softly he whispered, ‘I saw Lady Rosalin and Fr. Kane in close proximity in the Church.’
‘Stop it!’ Rosalin yelled. ‘How can you malign the name of a holy person like Fr. Kane? He is an innocent man. He is such a noble man. Your highness, what you hear is only a part of it. It’s me who’s been a bad person. It’s me who loves Fr. Kane. It’s me who’s broken Antonio’s trust in me by thinking of Fr. Kane. He’s innocent. He’s always tried to get me to erase all this unwanted feelings for him but yet he failed and I failed…’
Rosalin broke down sobbing. Tearfully, she continued, her words choking inside her. ‘He is so vulnerable, so innocent and I like a vamp, had to bring mayhem in his life…’
The family watched her silently. Suddenly Rosalin clutched her belly as the pain ravaged her body. Teresa got up to help her but stopped hearing Marcos. ‘Don’t. That bitch doesn’t deserve our hospitality. She has maligned our name, smeared the royal family name with her sin. She doesn’t deserve to be in this house. Pai, ask her to leave immediately.’
Rosalin writhed in pain. It became unbearable and she soon went into labor. Seeing that no women was ready to help her, Isabella got up and ran to Rosalin. ‘It’s ok. You will be fine.’ She turned to the others. ’Everybody out! If no one wants to help her, fine but I am not going to let her die like this. You all should be ashamed of yourselves. Nobody in this room is of pure heart so why crucify just one person. You Irmao, you too had tried to woo her isn’t it. So is it because of that that you are trying to get even with her? Now get out and let her bring her child in this world. Out!
The crowd watched each other hesitantly. Suddenly there’s lot of commotions outside. A servant came in hastily and bowed low. ‘I am sorry for interrupting your highness. The villagers have surrounded the palace and they are demanding Lady Rosalin to be handed over to them.’
‘What?’ The Viceroy looked angrily at Marcos. ‘I hope you don’t have anything to do with his.’
‘Absolutely not your highness. I wouldn’t dare to malign the royal family name this way.’
Viceroy Fonseca walked out of the room and looked down from the railing of the balcony. The villagers had gathered in the hall downstairs with flaming torches and weapons of all kinds that ranged from spears to swords and iron rods.
‘What do you want?’ The Viceroy called out angrily.
The villagers saw him. The leader yelled. ‘Your highness, we want Rosalin. She has committed an immoral act against the Church and against us. We want to punish her.’
The Viceroy yelled back. ‘Who has given you authority to punish her?’
‘We don’t need any authority from others. Today, we are the authority. She has sinned and she should be punished.’
‘She has sinned against the Church. And the Church will decide her punishment. The Tribunal will try her case. You may all leave.’ The Viceroy ordered.
From amidst the crowd, Kishen walked out in the front and looked up. ‘No! We won’t leave without Rosalin. The Church will act biased with her and Fr. Kane. We are going to condemn them to death in our own way.’
‘You! Kishen, you forget that Rosalin is your master’s wife?’
‘I have no master now your highness. We request you to please hand over Rosalin to us or else…’
Marcos had joined the Viceroy at the window. He whispered. ‘Your highness, the villagers look like they might attack the palace. We better hand over Rosalin to them.’
‘Marcos, I won’t do such a thing. She is a part of the family and if she has sinned against the Church, then let the Tribunal try her case.’ The Viceroy said firmly. ‘Call the guards’ He thundered.
‘How can you let that happen? Don’t you see the villagers are not in their senses today? They will attack the palace if we don’t listen to their demands.’ Marcos tried to reason loudly.
The Viceroy looked at him angrily. ‘Marcos don’t forget whom you are talking to. You should be out there to stop them and not be a coward. Now go and do your duty. Get them all out of the palace!’
With a sneer, Marcos looked at him. ‘You are growing senile old man.’ He then took out his dagger and stabbed him repeatedly. The Viceroy clutched at him but with the energy drained out of him, he fell down dead.
Down, in the hall, the villagers attacked the soldiers. Lady Viceroy ran to save her husband and Marcos stopped her and dug the knife deep in her and twisted it brutally. She gasped and staggered backwards, her blood spilling all over the carpet. Marcos brutally kicked her and sent her reeling down the staircase. Isabella watched it from the study. She quickly locked the door of the study. Marcos banged on the door but it wouldn’t budge.
Some of the villagers started the staircase while the others looted the palace. Marcos realized that his plan had backfired and he ran out to the other part of the palace. Teresa and Manuel ran after him but couldn’t keep abreast of him. The villagers capture them. Kishen looked at Teresa as he caught her in a tight embrace. One of the villagers pulled out his knife and slashed Manuel’s neck killing him instantly. Kishen ordered a couple of villagers to seek out Rosalin.
Kishen then dragged Teresa in a room and raped her. Satisfied, he pulled out his pistol and shot her in the heart. He came out to realize that Rosalin wasn’t to be found. Again Kishen and few men searched the palace but Rosalin couldn’t be found. Their search brought them to the Viceroy’s study room. They tried to push the door open but without any results. The door was locked from inside.
Kishen ordered the villagers to break down the door. The men brought in hammers and sickles and attached the locked door. Soon the door comes down crashing. The room was empty. Rosalin had escaped. They had no idea of the secret passage that led from the Viceroy’s study to the outskirt of the village.
Through the dark tunnel, Rosalin weakly carried her newborn baby. She had no idea where the passage led. Isabella had pushed her through the trap door. But where was Isabella she wondered aloud. Finally she could saw a faint bluish glow. She walked out to find herself on the other side of the mountain. She could see the dark shadow of the church in the distance. With whatever energy she had, she walked hurriedly towards it. She kept herself in shadows wherever possible. She could see flaming torches far away and she knew the villagers were looking out for her.
A short while later, she neared the parish house and banged on the door. Fr. Kane opened it and shock surprise covered his face when he saw her in a disheveled state and holding a baby.
‘Padre quick, we need to get out of this place. The villagers have killed everyone at the palace and are now looking for us.’
’What? But why? And this baby?
‘My baby. Fr. Kane, I am sorry, I am sorry. The villagers think we had something going between us. They think it’s your baby. I am sorry Father. Please let’s leave this place and escape before they kill us all.’
‘Senora, I am a man of God. I fear only him. My God knows I am innocent.’
‘Please Father, don’t do this. Go away from here.’
‘You go Senora. Take this child somewhere till it’s safe to be back. Till Antonio isn’t back, protect yourself and your child.’
Suddenly they saw dark shadows move towards the church with flaming torches. There was a lot of shouting happening. Fr. Kane turned quickly towards Rosalin. ‘Quick you go by the back door.’
‘But Father…’ Rosalin looked pleadingly at him.
‘Don’t say a word. Go. May God be with you.’
He led her through the rooms to the back of the Church and opened a door. Rosalin gave him one last loving look. Fr. Kane is deeply pained by the calamities that had befallen her. ‘Go in peace.’ He closed the door behind her and waited for a few seconds as he hurriedly said a prayer for her.
As the door closed behind her, Rosalin ran as far as she could from the church. She stopped and turned around to take a last look at the church. She felt remorse about Fr. Kane. She was responsible for the hell that was going to fall on Fr. Kane. How can she then desert him at such a crucial time? I must atone for my sins she thought to herself. But the baby, how do I save the baby she thought. As if reading her mind, Isabella hurried through the bushes. Rosalin was relieved. They hug each other, tears flowing down their cheeks.
‘I am so glad to see you.’ Rosalin told her with tears in her eyes.
‘Quick Rosalin, we must get out of here.’
‘No Isa, you go alone. Take the baby.’
‘What about you?’ She asked him in astonishment.
Rosalin tearfully looked at her. A wry smile spread on her face.
‘I have to atone for my sins. I am going back to the Church before they kill Fr. Kane.’
‘I can’t let you do that. They will kill you Rosa!’
‘I know. But it’s the price I must pay for betraying God.’ She looked earnestly at Isabella. ‘Please Isa, take the baby and leave. Give him a new life. God knows that the baby is legitimate and that I am innocent. Now please go.’
‘But…’ Isabella looked at her pleadingly.
‘God is with me Isa. I have no fear.’
She handed the baby to Isabella. Tears flowed down her cheeks. She took one long last look at the baby and gently kissed it. She then kissed Isabella and then with determined steps, she walked back to the Church and around it. The villagers had reached the Church. Finding the door closed from inside, they start banging hard.
Rosalin’s voice stopped them. ‘I am here. I am the one who is guilty. Kill me and leave the poor Padre in peace.’
Kishen ran up angrily and pulled her by her hair. ‘No, we want the priest too. He has blasphemed against us and against his very own religion. He too has to die.’
The villagers yelled out in unison. ‘Burn her… burn her!’
‘Yes, that’s what we’ll do as dawn breaks. Arrange a stake for her and right here.’ Kishen ordered.
Dawn was just a couple of hours away and the villagers started building a stake in front of the church.
One of the villagers ran and locked the door from outside. Another ran behind the church to look the other door.
As soon as the stake was ready, Rosalin was tied to it. Villagers came up to spit at her and to mock her. She showed no sign of weakness as she kept a straight face.
As the dawn approached, the villagers started to pile dry woods all around her. And as the first rays of the morning sun lit the sky, Kishen picked up a flaming torch and walked to the stake. ‘This is for bring a curse to Goa.’ And he threw the flaming torch at the stake and soon the dry pile caught fire. He laughed menacingly.
But Rosalin eyes were elsewhere. She felt no pain as she watched the crowd cheering wildly, waving sickles and knives in the air. Over the burning fire, her attention was on the Church obvious to the scorching fire where a group of people were piling dry wood and hay all around it. Satisfied, one of the men then picked up a burning wood from near Rosalin’s stake and walked lecherously to the Church and threw the burning piece of wood on the hay.
Rosalin screamed. ’… No… don’t do it… please… please… he is innocent… please he is innocent… don’t hurt him. He is a man of God… He is innocent… please dooooooooooooooon’t …