“My Brother has not heard the Captain’s orders. That can be the only explanation.” An uncomfortable moment passed as the men contemplated each other. “Unless his wine has made him forgetful.”
“The flesh is weak, Padre Giaollo. I meant nothing.”
“The English-speaking woman is to be left alone by strict order of the Captain. You are a brave man.”
“No! No, Padre Giaollo. Allow me to repent.”
“Oh, is it now understood?”
“Yes, yes! And I will watch carefully for signs of disobedience in the others. I will be vigilant, Padre Giaollo.”
“Then I will say nothing of it. Perhaps, Brother, this time could be used in prayer?”
“Yes, of course.” Bowing his head, the priest turned to go.
“Wait there, my Brother! Spirits only dull the mind.” Macario held out his hand, and the first priest reluctantly placed the bottle into it. “To temperance, amigo!” Macario toasted him, and upended the bottle in a swig.
“God be with you, Padre Giaollo.”
“And also with you. Good night.” Macario offered the bottle to Meagan.
“Thank you, but no,” Meagan refused politely.
“The ‘thank you’ is accepted, the ‘no’ is not. It is a sin to drink alone, señorita, and I am a man of God. Now hold up your glass.”
Meagan consented and sipped the fiery liquid. “You speak English well, Padre Giaollo.”
“Macario! Please, call me Macario! Why would I not speak English, por Dios? It has all the good words and twice the bad! By my lights, I cannot understand why anyone speaks anything else.”
“But the ship and the soldiers, aren’t they Spanish?”
“As the days are hot, hang their mothers … but not I. I am Italian by birth, schooled in Oxford before I joined the seminary.” He spit onto the beach. “Rot all Spaniards!” he shouted, waiting for the chorus of returned insults. “Foul devils,” he said, turning back to Meagan with a grimace. “They will rule the world, of course.”
“Why are you here?”
“The Church likes Her lofty hand in others’ affairs, and She can be a persuasive wench. And you? From England, have you said?”
“No, not really.”
“France, then? You could be French. Ah, sweet Avignon, those blasphemers … begging your pardon if it offends, of course.” Macario took a swig and shouted, “God hates all Spanish and the dogs they lie with!” Catcalls were flung back. “They are all going to Hell,” he said offhand, listening to the returning curses.
“Excuse me, but they do not seem the kind of men one provokes.”
“I am a priest, child. What are they going to do? They have gotten themselves into a corner here on this beach, and chances are they will need me to get out…”