Paolo Abrego meandered down the dirt street to peruse the merchandise presented by women in colorful sarees and men in plain dhotis. A woman at the end of the street played a sitar as she sat beneath a thriving papaya tree. He passed her with a nod and a smile to examine rows of pans presenting cloves, cinnamon, turmeric, nutmeg, peppercorns, garlic, and mustard seed.
Another vibrantly clothed table displayed sticks of incense and phulkari sarees embroidered with orange, scarlet, and cerulean blossoms. Men sold knives and some sundry items beside them.
Paolo stood apart from the crowd in India with his chestnut hair pulled back and his plain cotton shirt and maroon breeches. He could see it in the eyes of the children who were not used to Europeans in their village. He smiled at one boy who darted behind his mother and peered around her legs at him.
After the display of weaponry was a presentation of gemstones: peridot, aquamarine, opals, garnet, jade, topaz, and amethysts. He leaned down with his hands clasped behind his back. Perhaps he could select one or two to return with and present them to the monarchy.
"Hello," the merchant behind the display nodded to him.
"Hello," Paolo returned with a smile. "You speak English, I see."
"I do. Come closer," the man hissed with a smile. "I have some gems that might interest you more."
Intrigued, Paolo leaned in even closer as directed. Out of a secret pocket in his clothes, the merchant extracted a trio of unpolished gems.
"Diamonds," he whispered to the explorer as though it was a secret. "Orange, yellow, and a most beautiful red. I must warn you, they are precious and a little more expensive than the rest. But have you ever seen such lovely gemstones as these?"
Paolo Abrego had not. His eyes sparkled when he saw the primadonnas of the gemstones peering up at him from the mahogany palm of the man's hand. These would delight the king and queen – much more than these other gemstones which, although pretty, were not particularly special.
"How much?" he met the man's eyes and saw the glint of recognition.
The merchant answered, and Paolo extracted the right amount from his own pouch of coins. The man clasped his hand between his own and poured the precious diamonds into his palm. He clasped his fingers around then, and with a nod and smile of appreciation, he shoved them deep into his money pouch and secured it against his belt.