Part the One Hundred Forty Sixth: Coming Ashore Triumphant
“Why are they gathering like that?” Hope asked Osei as they watched the Guarda d’Arecibo come together into a large group.
“If I assume the worst,” he replied, “then the crew has been betrayed by Esteban or one of his colleagues, and they are forming up to take them all in.”
“Shouldn’t they be running faster or something, if that were the case?”
He watched them intently as they congregated. Hope noticed as they did that many of the people in the market were also putting aside whatever business they had been engaged in and were heading in the same direction as the Guarda were.
“Could you keep your head about you if we were in the midst of a Spanish crowd?” he asked.
Hope nodded, hoping she could hide her inner doubts from him.
“Then we must be among the throng if we are to know what has happened.” He added before she could reply, “And lest we’d be more noticeable by not attending to this.”
She stayed close to Osei as the two of them tried to work their way through the crowd. As he offered earlier, he acted every bit the servant of a socio as he cleared a path for her with a shove, an elbow, and the occasional “Haga el camino para la señorita,” for good measure.
A few steps past displaced crowd members later, Hope came upon what drew their interest.
The man leading the party walking off the dock seemed to give off the brightest light a person could emit without actually being set afire. He filled his finery with an imposing bearing as he strode ashore to the wonder of the crowd, his eyes a deep brown that seemed to burn into anyone that dared look directly into them, which no one in the crowd dared do. His steps as he tread the ground seemed like those of a colossus, with a bold, commanding gait.
He paused, however, at the sight of Arecibo’s cathedral, and immediately went down on one knee in genuflection. The forty men around him followed his example, and soon the crowd did as he did. The man at the center of everyone’s attention gave the Sign of the Cross on his forehead, lips and heart, before he rose again to continue along the way.
An old woman emerged from the crowd with trepidation and turned to face him, crying as she relayed her tale of woe. The man looked at her face, took out her hand, and placed in it a few doubloons. The men around him quickly reached for their sides to have their fortunes at the ready for the rush of alms seekers that came looking for coins as well.
Briefly, Hope’s eyes met his, and she felt full on what the crowd was feeling, the sense of power and purpose in this man. What she could only surmise from the crowd’s reactions she now knew with certainty, that this was a man of purpose and will, a natural leader bordering on a force of nature.
She was too fascinated by him to heed the warnings she screamed at herself…
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