The Irish Colonel

 

by

Eugene Craig

 

 

 

 

DAY TWO

 

Chapter 13

 

"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 asked. 

"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 successes." 

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 it not?" 

"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 with!" 

"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."

 Monastario 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 administration." 

"And yet the English helped us against Bonaparte."

"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 natives." 

"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 war." 

"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 reliable." 

"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 defeat."

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 later."

"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 bottle.

 

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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 wondered. 

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. 

Who the 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, "Hello." 

Rosita Flores stood outside his room door in a green gown and smiled up into his eyes.

"Colonel O’Leary?" she asked in a whisper. 

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, dear." 

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. "I understand." 

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.

 

 

Chapter Fourteen
Chapter One
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