The Irish Colonel
"Why did you come to the Américas, Enrique?
It would seem that the motherland needs you there – to help put an end
to the republican menace to the monarchy, that is," the Irishman
"I’ll tell you frankly, Paddy. I came here
for the same reasons you did: to find a new world in which to prosper.
There are many opportunities in the colonies."
"True enough. But I’ve always wondered
that, with all your talent and experience, with all your loyalty and zeal,
why you aren’t a colonel yet? Someone must have resented your
Monastario’s eyes narrowed. He then gave a hard
smile. "You once remarked that I caught on to situations rather
quickly, Colonel. The same is true with you. Yes, you are right. I served
the king loyally and long, but when the honors came and the promotions
were offered, the name Monastario stuck in their throats. There are always
those who are jealous of the best, and I was."
"Part of that was your brother’s doing, was
"Yes, the swine. He betrayed the motherland and ended up with our estates. And I, who served Spain the best, was treated like a bastard son." Monastario became moody a moment. "And then, there were those who were jealous of me and had influence. But there also were those who noted the injustice and told me, ‘Monastario, it’s all about politics. It’s not you and it’s not your doing.’" The blue eyes blazed and his voice took on a strident tone. "Two of my commanding officers, Colonel Molina and Lieutenant-
General Salazar, were at least honest. They told
me that I was wasting my time in Spain and there were new worlds, the
colonies, to go to where no one ever heard of or cared about our war.
There a man would be judged anew and could make a new reputation – and
be honored for it; and where there was a fortune to be made." The
capitán paused. "That is why I told you that our good fortune here
could more than make up for our lost inheritances. And it will!"
"So your appointment as comandante here was a
reward at last?"
"It is a sword that cuts two ways, Paddy.
True, I am comandante of Los Angeles, but it is a remote outpost of the
Empire, a miserable mud hole."
"But it is one of the largest pueblos in all
of California, Enrique, and with much potential. I think you are not
looking at the good side of things as much as you should. It is an
opportunity – in more ways than one."
"Perhaps," replied the blue-eyed
captain. "There are some good opportunities here, it is true. I have
learned one thing after all this ingratitude and that is this: it
doesn’t matter how hard you work, how much you sacrifice, or how loyal
you are. What matters is what you are and who you are." He leaned
toward the colonel and said fervently, "It is my intention to become
the most powerful force in California. I will achieve this with an
unbeatable triad: one – military power; two – economic power; and
three – social power. I have already achieved two out of my three goals
and my grasp of the third is just on the horizon. When that day arrives,
Monastario will no longer be a forgotten son, but a force to be reckoned
"Let us then drink to the day when justice is
done," proposed O’Leary. "For in this world there is a place
for each according to his merits and the honors that come forthwith. May
each of us find his true destiny and the happiness that this brings."
Both men clicked their mugs and drank.
Monastario contemplated the other man a moment.
"You know, O’Leary, the kind of justice that matters is the justice
that we make happen. Without strong, resolute men, the world would be lost
and our lot would be much worse than it is."
"There’s much truth in that," mused
O’Leary. "And still, there are men who try to see that those who
deserve to be rewarded in some way or another, get a reward. You never did
say what happened between Spain and California. Tell me, did you serve
long in México before being appointed comandante?"
"I was not in México, Paddy. I went from
Spain to fight the traitors who have declared themselves against Spain in
the Vice-Royalty of Peru and Venezuela. Knowing my experience with the
partisans in Spain, I was later sent as part of the royalist guerillas
outside of Caracas. I served in many campaigns against the rebels."
"When was that?"
"From 1816 through 1818. It was after the rebels declared New Grenada, Chile and Columbia ‘independent’ and followed the likes of scoundrels such as Generals Zaraza, Bolívar, Sucre, San Martín, and others. We had running battles with them. Can you imagine armies of tens of thousands facing each other, and all Spaniards? It was civil war – we Loyalists against the rebels."
paused a moment and added a little more wine to his cup. "And the
English - I now understand why you Irish loathe them so much. What they
did not do to supply the traitors in Venezuela and New Granada where there
are mountains of gold and silver! The English think they will supply their
industry with the riches of Spanish América and so give tens of thousands
of rifles, munitions and reales
to supply rebellion. The same is happening in the provinces of Panama and
Nicaragua which many thought would be turned over to direct English
"And yet the English helped us against
"They are opportunists, Paddy. One day, they
are on our side, claiming that they are helping us fight for maintaining
monarchy and freedom, and the next day, they are stealing us blind."
"Actually, they are far worse than that, Enrique. But how is it that you came to Los Angeles?"
"Let me preface the answer by saying this: I
served with great Spanish generals - from Peru to Venezuela. One lesson I
learned was how fickle and treacherous Spaniards in the New World are. How
could Spaniards, given everything by Spain, turn their back on the
motherland? Everywhere we found treason - men, women, and children threw
rocks at us, tried to poison our wine, killed our troops. And we struck
back, giving them a taste of what it is to betray Spain. We showed them no
mercy just as they did us. Every trick, strategy, and policy learned in
Spain against Bonaparte we used against them."
Monastario’s eyes grew bright as memories flooded over him. A dozen scenes flashed in his mind’s eye. Then, he gazed at the colonel again, his face taking on a new _expression. There was contempt in his voice when he spoke. "Yet, as soon as the rebels obtained victory, they fell out among themselves, battling over the spoils, proving once again that they need the motherland more than ever. Having said this, I conclude: my record was a success in these provinces, despite the failure of our armies. The failure of our armies was ultimately caused by a lack of political will. Knowing that California desires to keep its loyalty to Spain, and understanding the necessity of defeating the forces of rebellion, I was sent here to ensure that the traitors shall not seduce Californians loyal to Spain. Should rebellion raise its ugly head, I am the man to deal with it, just as I did in Venezuela and Peru."
"Then, you have finally been rewarded by some
who understand your loyalty to Spain," commented O’Leary. "I
thought that you had served in México due to your familiarity with the
"Ah, that. I did pass through México and
stayed at some very fine haciendas on the way here. There are some great
Spaniards there – loyal to Spain. Even you would have been impressed by
the graciousness of their homes, the size of their land holdings – some
of them hundreds of thousands, even millions of hectares," Monastario
said with some awe. "They told me how they had to battle the Indian
villages over property and water rights, labor issues, and taxes. But more
importantly, they showed me how they hewed a fortune out of the land, took
the savages and put them to good use, and ruled the land with discipline,
with a firm hand, and with a vision of a prosperous future."
"And so, the war moves from one front to
another," commented O’Leary. "How fortunate for Spain that she
has been able to utilize a man with your abilities in the field of
"There are those who criticize me,"
Monastario said thoughtfully, "for they are ruled by passion rather
than logic. In the future, they will realize that what I have done is for
their own good, and for the good of California and Spain. I do not mind
being hated by these people because I know that what I am doing is right.
Ultimately, that is all that matters."
"Of course it pays to have one’s local
allies lined up behind you," the Irishman said off-handedly.
"Then there are one’s agents who will reliably inform you about the
goings-on of suspects and traitors."
Monastario frowned. "I rely upon the troops
in the cuartel. There are few here in Los Angeles who are politically
"Then I will also find out who is, while
I’m at it," said O’Leary. "Listen, Enrique, it does not pay
to limit your forces short or long-term. Everyone needs allies, and the
more, the better. At least reward those who will not act, and isolate and
neutralize those who will. This should be basic."
"I’ve already seen to this, Paddy. No one
here can unite against the forces of the Crown. That is why this Zorro
fellow strikes out at the cuartel by himself. He is a lone actor. The odds
against his continued success are very limited."
"But there is one thing you may be
overlooking, old friend: as long as he has allies – those who shelter him, help him in secret,
cover for him – then his odds increase – and, thus, he is harder to
Monastario nodded. "We discussed this before.
That is why I need you to find out who these rebels are for sure. I have
my suspicions but, so far, cannot prove them, especially since they
involve some important economic interests in the region. But I do have a
plan that may force their hand. The first part of the plan is to lay a
trap for Zorro and then, you will take it from there. But more about this
"Another bottle, Enrique?" asked the Irishman.
The officer pulled a gold watch out of his jacket pocket and looked at it. "It’s getting late and I must see to the night detail."
O’Leary gazed at the watch with great interest.
"That’s a very fine piece of craftsmanship. May I look at it?"
Monastario unhooked the watch from the gold chain
and passed it over. O’Leary turned it over with great interest. The
workmanship was superb and it was a timepiece of great beauty, an
heirloom. He opened it up and read the engraved inscription. ‘For
Enrique - Honor and loyalty is our duty.’ It was signed ‘Father
Rodrigo Monastario, 18 March 1816.’ He read it out loud solemnly, and
then closed the case. "Was this your inheritance?"
Monastario put the watch back on the chain and returned it to his pocket. "It was a creed he always lived by and I am the only son to follow it faithfully. It is only right that this was given to me. As for the rest, it no longer matters." He stood up. "Until tomorrow, Colonel." He gave a polite salute, bowed and departed.
Patrick O’Leary shook his head. It was, he
mused, almost a father’s way of apologizing to his most faithful boy. Perhaps the old man didn’t have the strength to disinherit his eldest
son in favor of the youngest. And you thought that you had been delivered
a few rotten blows in life, he thought.
Well, Enrique has set out on his own road and it is a rocky one, strewn
with obstacles and dangers, many of them of his own making. I wonder if he
will ever possess the wisdom to know how to evade or overcome them so that
he finally fulfills his dream of proving his worth to his family – and
to himself. The colonel waved a barmaid over and ordered another
It was late that night when Colonel O’Leary made
his way up the stairs towards his room. He had learned a great deal about
Monastario and about how Los Angeles was run and why. This was almost like
the opening chapters of a historical novel, he told himself, with all the
players in place and the drama about to be spun out. But this was real and
it almost seemed like a repeat performance from Peru, Columbia, Venezuela,
or Spain. Are the lessons of history never learned? Or understood? he
He opened his room door. I’m
not as drunk as I hoped I would be, he thought. He placed his hat on
the chest of drawers and unbuckled his saber, hanging it from a wall hook.
He undid his belt and buckle, then unbuttoned his jacket and folded it
carefully, placing it on top of his wooden trunk. He groped for the
pitcher of water and poured a generous amount into the basin. He washed
his hands and freshened up by splashing water in his face and neck. He
took a towel and dried the water from his moustache and rubbed it
vigorously. Ah, that feels good. He looked around. Maybe I’ll just stretch out on the bed and think some more about all
this. He sat down on the bed and was just about ready to bunch up the
pillows when he heard a faint tapping at his door.
devil would come paying a visit at this hour? he thought. The
Irishman got up and went to the door. "Who’s there?" he asked
quietly. There was no answer. He frowned. Then, a very light tapping
resumed. He opened the door cautiously, peering out and then smiled,
Rosita Flores stood outside his room door in a green gown and smiled up into his eyes.
"Colonel O’Leary?" she asked in a
He opened the door and gestured her in. She
tiptoed into the room as he closed the door and looked about her. Then she
turned and met his smile with one of her own.
"What a lovely green gown you have on," he told her and looked her over in appreciation. Her hair was loose and pulled back over her shoulders. It fell almost to her waist. A smidgen of bright red lipstick remained and her eyes were bright and intense.
He took her hands in his. "What can I do for
you, little darlin’? he asked.
"Oh, Colonel," she began.
He interrupted her. "Just call me Paddy,
She smiled, "Oh, Paddy, you are so generous.
I had to come to thank you and to look into your eyes again. They are so
beautiful. I have never seen such green eyes before."
"Is that the only reason you are here, Rosita?"
he teased her gently.
"Ummm," she purred. "You are so
generous to Rosita, I thought that, perhaps…."
"You don’t have to say anything more,"
he said, moving two fingers to her lips gently to stop the flow of words.
She kissed his fingers before he took them away.
He put his arm around her waist and led her to the bed. He lifted her up
onto the mattress and sat beside her.
One hand smoothed the surface of the pillows while
she fastened the other around his waist. "Are you very tired,
Paddy?" she asked.
He shook his head and ran a hand through her hair, caressing it. He looked deeply into her eyes and saw her desire and loneliness. "Don’t you worry about a thing, dear. Paddy will take good care of you." He kissed her on the lips and she returned his with ardor.
Then she put her arms around his neck and pulled him down onto the pillows with her.
The candle on the dresser burned itself out and
the stars began to fade in the sky before the two lovers took leave of
each other. "I have to get back before Grandmother misses me,"
she whispered and gave him another kiss. He helped her dress and opened
the door quietly. "See you tonight?"
"Until tonight," he whispered and smiled, closing the door.