The Irish Colonel

 

by

 

Eugene Craig

 

 

 

 

Day Three

 

Chapter 17

 

It was after dark when Patrick O' Leary mounted his horse and left the Torres' hacienda. Don Nacho had offered him a bed for the night, but O' Leary declined. He had much experience in traveling the roads at night while in the army and, being that it was a moonlit evening, the ride would not be a difficult one. He thanked the Torres family for their hospitality and assured them that whatever they said about Monastario would be held in the strictest of confidences. 

Don Nacho had taken his hands and looked him in the eyes with affection as he stood, ready to take his leave. "Colonel, I sense in you an honorable man. Let me assure you that we have the greatest trust in the kind of man you are." 

Paddy reflected as he rode along the dirt road back toward the pueblo of Los Angeles that he always held an affection for people like the Torres. They might be naïve and unaware of the real danger they had put themselves in with the comandante, but they were honest and principled. People like me own family, he thought. Republicans - always on the side of the underdog and living their principles as well as speaking them. Their servants are happy, just like Bernardo at the De la Vegas. This spoke a great deal in their favor. And these are the kind of people that Enrique sees as a threat to his authority. 

The colonel understood the nature of the warning the captain had given Doña Luisa far better than its recipient did. Oddly, Enrique had been far more honest with her and Elena when he told her what he had done to people, like her father, in Peru. But it was a dreadful kind of warning that he imparted, as if to say 'don't say that I never warned you.' Maybe he even likes the girl - in his own way. 

I wonder how many people in this pueblo actually support the ideas of the Torres and the De la Vegas? Certainly, the troops in the cuartel are not inspired to loyalty nor are some of the townspeople. On the other hand, Enrique reveals very little. Surely he does have his local supporters, men as interested in maintaining the status quo as he is - men who would back him up if rebellion were to break out. Damn, things were more complicated than the placid face of the town first revealed. 

Then, there was this Zorro fellow. From what Paddy could ascertain, he had almost superhuman qualities, something that made the Irishman think of Cuchulain, Fionn and other Irish heroes who were supposed to have been seven feet tall and who could lay a dozen foes low with a single blow. Such is the making of legends, he mused, when legends are needed. I have a few ideas of my own on what he may be and what he may have done in the past, but then….  

The colonel gradually became aware of a horse's footsteps matching that of his own mount’s as he cantered along the moonlit road. He caught it for sure by suddenly changing the gait of his horse. Whoever was following him was doing so at a discreet distance, yet it was somewhere there, just beyond the trees on the hill. Damn, and me without me saber, he thought. You're getting careless in your old age, Padraig, me lad. 

He decided to give no indication he was aware that he was being paralleled. He studied the land formations ahead and saw that there were low lying meadows and rising and falling hills on either side of the road. With many trees, it would not be hard to get lost among them, disappearing into the shadows and becoming one of them. In addition, there were outcrops and a few other rock formations that would be perfect for ambushes at night. An ambush for one could be turned into an ambush for another and then it would become a contest of who was the most clever, adroit and imaginative. 

O' Leary gradually increased the speed his mare. He at once noted that his follower did the same. There was, of course, the obvious tactic of giving spur and galloping like hell all the way back to the pueblo. Then it would be a test of whose steed was the better. Besides, if the stranger was armed with a pistol or a saber, and meant to rob or kill, then the fight would be better played out on the ground. Paddy could take a knife out of the hand of an opponent before he had time to draw his breath - so, he was not too worried on that account. 

Up ahead, he saw how the hill melted down into the road on the right side. He knew at once what the stranger would do - intersect him at that point. So, someone wants to meet you, me lad, he thought. Shall we let him? As he approached the point in the road, he slowed down and eventually came to a stop. He turned towards his invisible opponent and shouted in a loud voice, "If it's me you want to meet, then come down here to the road and say 'hello' like a decent man." 

Only silence greeted his words. He sat back in the saddle, his eyes traveling over the dark oaks and moonlit hills. Then he saw it - a tall, slender man in black on a dark horse slowly making his way down the hills from among the dark trees. As he approached, the Irishman saw that he wore a black hat and there was a black mask that hid most of his face. At his side was his saber, also painted a dull black for night concealment. Behind him hung a black cape, more for show than substance, thought the colonel. Funny, thought O' Leary, I feel no sense of a threat from this fellow. 

"Ah, Señor Zorro," he said in a cordial tone of voice. "I was wondering when we would meet. No doubt you've shown up just to bedevil me, or is this just a plain robbery?" 

"Welcome to Los Angeles, Colonel," replied the man in black. "I have heard about your exploits with Espoz y Mina. He's a man I respect a great deal, and more for his recent politics, as opposed to his past ones." 

O' Leary pondered the statement. "I take it, then, that this is no robbery. A pity we can't meet over a glass of the vintage and discuss this more." 

El Zorro gave him a wide smile. "But I am here, as you say, Colonel, to bedevil you a bit." 

O' Leary studied the man opposite him - his build, his easy handling of the young stallion he rode, his clear diction. This man is no highwayman, he thought. "What did you have in mind, then, Señor?" 

"Just a word of caution, Colonel. Capitán Monastario is using you. Most likely he will prey upon your nostalgic feelings of comradeship towards him to do harm to the very people that you are finding are the soul and conscience of Los Angeles." 

"I'm not newborn to the woods, Señor Zorro," responded the Irishman impatiently. "You are not telling me what I don't already know and what others have said as well." 

"I mean no disrespect, Colonel, " El Zorro replied. "Capitán Monastario manages to find snares to entrap all sorts of men to do deeds that will enhance his own power over the pueblo. That power is not meant to improve the lives of Californians, but to advance his own stranglehold over this pueblo. He wants to be a feudal prince, lording over the lives and property of its inhabitants. And his model of a prince is Machiavelli or the Borgias, not El Cid." 

"Don't you think that's a wee bit harsh?" asked O' Leary. "To be a Machiavelli one must have the power of the state built upon an apparatus of followers with the same lack of principles. Monastario may be a petty tyrant, but he is no Machiavelli." 

El Zorro's continence became serious. "Colonel, where did Machiavelli get his start?"

With that, he whirled his horse about. "Until we meet again, Señor!" The black stallion retraced his steps up to the top of the hill. At the top of the hill, the rider paused and, looking down toward the solitary rider on the dirt road below, reared the horse up and waved farewell before disappearing over the hill. 

The Irishman hesitated only a moment. He spurred his horse in pursuit of the rider, up the hill, over the tall, dry grasses, until he reached the top. From that point he looked down into a myriad of valleys, dry arroyos, and dense trees. Of the mysterious rider, there was no sign. Now, where the devil could he have disappeared to so quickly? thought O' Leary. 

The Irishman rode his mount cautiously for a good half an hour and scouted the land and woods for any sign of movement or sound. Only the howl of a solitary coyote from far away reached his ears. It was only when the winds began to whip up in the late night air carrying the scent of the dry grasses, that he opted to head back to the pueblo. I'll come back again on the morrow, he decided. I will follow his trail from here, and then we will see where it leads to, Señor Zorro. 

 

**********************************************************************

 

Paddy O’ Leary returned to the inn. When he walked through the door, he saw Sergeant García and Corporal Reyes seated at a table. The corporal spotted him first and elbowed his companion. Both looked very hopeful. O’ Leary smiled to himself. After all the seriousness of the afternoon, he was looking forward to some lighter entertainment for the evening and the two soldiers might be able to provide it. He went right up to the table and made a show of looking them over carefully. 

"Good evening, lads," he said genially. "Looks like you’ve got an empty bottle there." 

García and Reyes put on a forlorn look. "Sí, Señor Colonel," replied García. "We’ve tried to make it last a long time, but there is not much in a bottle, for two soldiers, that is." 

"I suppose that’s because you haven’t drunk enough toasts. Toasts make the bottle last longer." 

"They do? What kind of toasts make the bottle last longer, Señor Colonel?" asked Reyes. 

"Well, now, they’ve got to be the right kind of toasts. Should we give it a try, just to prove my point?" he asked and waved over a barmaid. García and Reyes nodded eagerly.

The Irishman filled each mug about half way and said, "Here’s the first toast: May we always have a clean shirt, a clean conscience, and a peso in the pocket." 

García and Reyes looked at each other, nodded and drank. Half of the wine was gone already. They looked at each other again doubting the Irishman’s claim. 

"You know, lads," O’ Leary said in a confidential tone. "It’s a narrow neck that keeps the bottle from being emptied in one swig." 

"So that’s why they make bottles like that," commented Reyes. 

"It’s the wisdom of the Little People," remarked O’Leary. 

"The ‘Little People?’ Who are they?" asked García looking puzzled. 

"You mean to tell me that you never heard tell of the Little People?" asked the Irishman feigning astonishment. "I don’t know anyone who doesn’t know of them." He gave Reyes a challenging look. "How about you, Corporal?" 

"Uh, I don’t know anything about them, Colonel," Reyes admitted. "Are they, perhaps, midgets?" 

"Oooooh," groaned the red-haired man. "You lads need to be initiated into the magical world of the Little People. Who are they, you ask? Why, there is no one like them in all the world. They are the mischief makers, the harbingers of good and ill, and those that can grant you a pot of gold under the rainbow, if you happen to catch one." 

"A pot of gold? Under a rainbow?" García asked in amazement. 

"How do you catch one?" asked Reyes. 

"Well, now, you have to be clever and quick," O’Leary told them. "Now, I’ve never caught one me self, but I can tell you about a man who did." 

"How did he catch him?" asked the big sergeant. He had almost forgotten to take a drink of his wine. 

"Now, listen well, and I’ll tell you how, " began the Irishman. "There was a red-haired shoemaker named Jack. Now one fine day, Jack was crossing the marsh late in the afternoon to take a shortcut home when he heard a strange sound, like a little ‘plink, plink, plink’ coming from a dry spot he saw right around the bend of the marsh reeds." 

"What was the sound?" asked Reyes, full of apprehension. 

"Why it sounded just like a shoemaker hitting a nail with his hammer. But, in the middle of a marsh? And do you know what happened next?" 

Both soldiers shook their heads. 

"Why he smelled the strong odor of tobacco on the air. Jack carefully crept around the reeds to see where it was coming from and lo, and behold, there he sees one of the Little People, a little man sitting on the stump of a willow tree. And he was dressed in black breeches, bright red stockings, a green frock and one of those three-cornered hats." 

"What happened next?" asks Reyes as García nodded with wide eyes. 

"Why, he thinks to himself ‘Now you have to be quick to catch one of them and you can NEVER take your eyes off of them a single moment, not even for an instant. If you can catch one, why they would have to lead you to their hidden pots of gold. But, watch out now, they had a hundred tricks for making sure they cheated you and there are scores of stories about how the Little People escaped from the Big Folk – that’s us. But this one would not get away, Jack promised himself. He took a big breath and began to creep along the damp ground." 

"Now normally, a Leprechaun could have heard anyone approaching, but that day it was very hot and he really wasn’t paying much attention to his surroundings in that he was plinking away with the shoe in his hand. So, you can bet your last peso that he got the fright of his life when he found that someone had grabbed him by the shoulders and shouted, "Oooh, I’ve got you now, Mr. Leprechaun! And I won’t let you go!" 

"Now the Leprechaun, surprisingly, didn’t struggle or fight, or even appear to be too worried. ‘Aye, that you have indeed,’ says he. ‘Now, tell me, what you want from me?’ 

"The pot of gold!" interrupted García with relish. 

"‘If it’s my crock of gold,’ said the little man, ‘then you’re out of luck. I was captured last week by one of your people and I had to give up my gold then. And we Leprechauns can only have one pot of gold in a lifetime.’" 

Reyes and García looked disappointed. "What? No gold? What did Jack do next?" asked García. 

"Well, Jack doesn’t believe him. You know how the Little People will lie about these things," explained O’Leary. "But the Leprechaun said, ‘Why should I lie to you? The Little People never lie, we just never tell the full truth. But we never tell a lie.’" 

"’You mean to tell me that you have no gold, not even a little silver or even a copper or two?’ asks Jack. 

"‘Nothing,’ says the Leprechaun. 

"‘Well, then, what do you have?’ asked Jack. ‘I won’t let you go. You must know that I have some fairie blood in me, all red-haired people have fairie blood, so you won’t be able to escape me. Now, tell me, what can you pay me with?’" 

"Well, with this," says the Little Man, wiggling one hand free and pulled a small leather bag off his shoulder. "I’ll give you this." 

Now Jack looked at the bag. It was a small, square bag with a strap to go around the shoulder. With one free hand, he popped it open, but it was empty inside. Well, he didn’t refuse the gift just yet. After all, it was a Leprechaun’s bag and who knows, it might even be magical." 

García and Reyes looked at each other. "Magical?" they asked. 

"Aye, magical. So, Jack is no fool and he asks, ‘What’s so special about this bag? The Leprechaun gives him a crooked look and says, ‘Well now, I’ll tell you. This just looks like a small bag, but it grows. The more you put in it, the more space it has in it. You could put a table in there, chairs, even a bed! I’m telling you the truth,’ he added." 

So Jack decides to take the bag, but pops it over the head of the Leprechaun. All of the sudden the bag grew and grew and grew, until the little man was completely inside of it. ‘Now do you believe me?’ asks the Leprechaun. 

So Jack decides to believe him and gives the Little Man his freedom in exchange for the bag. The Leprechaun looks at him thanks him and bids him a safe trip across the marsh. Then, in a flash, he disappears. Jack pulls his coat around him and continues to cross the marsh. One of these days, we need someone to guide a man across such a marsh so he won’t get lost, he mused. 

"That’s all he got, a leather bag?" asked Reyes. 

"No, stupid," García remarked to him. "A magical leather bag that grows." 

"Now, it was many years later that Jack came to make use of that bag. At first he had done well as a shoemaker. But he made his shoes so well, that people did not come back for many years to get them repaired. There was one bad winter where he barely earned any money at all. He got in debt borrowing from his friends and he felt bad because he had always been an honest man and was eager to pay back his debts. But how could he?" 

Reyes gave García a long look while Jack's virtues for paying back his debts were extolled, but García ignored him. 

"One fine day Jack was sitting all depressed when a strange man came up to him. The man was dressed all in black – black overcoat, black stockings, black hat, shiny black shoes and a black hat. The man was very thin and was smoking a thin black cigar. The cigar smelled very bitter, more like brimstone than tobacco. He walked right up to Jack. He spoke Irish with a foreign accent. He also wore black gloves but with a thick gold ring on the outside of his little finger." 

"’What can I do for you, Sir?’ asks Jack politely." 

"'Oh, there’s nothing you can do for me, Jack’ says he, ‘but what I can do for you. It’s come to my notice that you are a bit short of money.’" 

"’Oh, that,’ says Jack. ‘I pay my debts. It’s true I owe a few pounds here and there, but my business is picking up. I’m afraid I don’t know you, Sir. How is it that you know my name? I don’t believe you told me yours.'" 

"‘No, I didn’t say," says the stranger. ‘But some people call me ‘Himself.’" 

"‘An odd name’ thought Jack, but he was polite." 

"‘Now I’ve come to make a bargain with you,’ said Himself." 

"‘What kind of bargain?’ asks the shoemaker." 

"‘Oh, only a small one,’ said the man in black. ‘It’s like this: I’ll offer you all the money you need. You’ll be the richest shoemaker in all of Ireland.’" 

"‘Ooooh,’ says Jack, ‘now what is it going to cost me?’" 

At that point, Corporal Reyes looked troubled. "I don’t think that’s a good idea, Sergeant." 

"Shut up, stupid," said García eagerly. "He might make a good deal." 

Reyes looked doubtful. 

 The colonel patiently waited until they had refocused their attention on him."Now the man in black was direct. ‘All you have to do is make me a promise,’ says he." 

"‘What kind of promise?’ asks Jack." 

"‘In seven years time, you will come with me, no questions asked,’ says Himself." 

"Jack noticed that Himself had very red eyes. ‘Where will we go?’" 

"‘No questions,’ said the man in black." 

"‘Hmm,’ says Jack. ‘Can I have some time to think about this?’" 

"‘You have to understand that I don’t make this offer too often and only to special people,’ says Himself. ‘And you see, I have to catch a diligence to Dublin fairly soon, so make up your mind.’" 

"‘All right,’ says Jack. ‘I’ll do it.’" 

"And so the deed was done. The man in black reached inside his coat and pulled out a sack of gold and gave it to Jack. ‘You have all the money you need and you will never want for business,’ he said. Thus, saying this, he walked quickly away and disappeared down the road." 

"Now it so happens that what Himself told Jack was true. In time, he moved from his little cottage into a nice house, he saved his money, paid all his bills and soon was eyeing a local girl to ask to marry. Then, he realized that seven years had passed by very quickly. 

"One day a man came to call. He was dressed all in black. He asked the maid if Jack were in. She said he was and whom should I ask is calling. ‘Tell him it is ‘Himself,’ says he." 

"Uh, oh," said Reyes. He actually looked nervous. "What happened next?" 

"Now Jack knows who it is and he’s not going to argue. He went to see him right away. That pleased Himself very much. ‘Let’s go right now,’ says he." 

"So Jack says, ‘I’m ready. I’ve packed me bag and am ready to go.’" 

"‘You won’t need any bag where you are going,’ says the man in black with a grin."

"‘I don’t go nowhere without my bag,’ said Jack. ‘Everything I need is in it.’" 

"Now, Himself got curious. ‘What’s in the bag?’ he asked." 

"‘Oh, I can’t tell you. Lots of things,’ said Jack." 

"‘You can’t fit much in that small bag,’ said Himself mockingly." 

"‘It holds plenty for me,’ said Jack." 

"‘Well, let me see,’ said the man in black." 

"‘Nope,’ says Jack." 

"‘Well, why not?’ asked Himself. ‘It really won’t hurt to see, will it?’" 

"‘Well, all right,’ says Jack. ‘It won’t.’ He knelt down and opened the bag. Himself looked in. ‘Why, it’s empty,’ he said." 

"‘No, it’s not,’ said Jack." 

"‘Why yes it is,’ insisted Himself." 

"‘Are you sure?’ asked Jack. ‘Take a real close look.’" 

"So, Himself leaned way over as Jack held the sides of the bag open, and in a flash Jack pulled the bag over the head of the stranger. The bag grew and grew and grew. In an instant it had swallowed up Himself! He snapped it shut as quickly as he could." 

García and Reyes looked at each other in amazement and then back at the colonel. "What happened next?" they asked in unison. 

The colonel smiled. He poured out more wine in their mugs, but not too much because they had barely drunk what he first poured them. 

"Now Jack danced a little Irish jig as he watched the bag wiggle back and forth. ‘Let me out of here,’ he heard Himself say." 

"‘Not until you give me back my promise,’ said Jack." 

"‘No!’ said the voice in the bag." 

"Now, Jack’s first thought was to go get help from the priest. But on his way to the church, he passed by a neighbor, Farmer O’Neill. O’Neill and his two sons were threshing corn with flails, which are like whips." 

"‘Good morning to you,’ calls out Jack." 

"'And a good morning to you,’ says O’Neill. ‘What do you have there?’" 

"‘A bag of hard leather,’ says Jack. ‘I need to get it softened.’" 

"‘And how will you do that?’ asked the farmer." 

"‘Well, I was hoping that I might get it beaten,’ explained Jack. ‘Only I can’t take it out of the bag or the surface might get torn from the force of the flails.’" 

"‘Well, ‘ says O’Neill, ‘my sons and I could beat it from the outside and make it all soft for you.’ So, Jack says fine, and the farmer said ‘Stand back,’ and with that he and his sons beat the bag until it became all nice and soft from the feel of it. They must have pounded on it an hour and a half. By then it was limp and fine." 

García and Reyes grinned at that. 

"Now Jack flips them a coin and thanks them heartily for all their fine work. The farmer and his son were pleased. But Jack and not yet finished. He threw the bag over his shoulder and proceeded to the local foundry." 

"At the foundry worked three of the Tully brothers. When Jack came up, they greeted him and asked him what he was about. Jack told them that he had a bag full of hard leather that he needed softened up. They remembered that he had made some fine gloves for them once and good shoes, so they were obliging enough." 

"Once again, he explained he could not take it out of the bag for fearing that the surface might get marred. And once again, he found three willing workmen who were more than happy to beat the bag for all they were worth with their blacksmith hammers. They did so for three hours and were amazed that the bag showed no damage, but it certainly was soft when they finished. They wanted to buy it from him, but Jack turned them down. ‘I’ve had it too many years to sell,’ he said. ‘And it’s special.’" 

"Jack had one more stop along the way to church. He stopped in on the miller, Mr. Delaney, an old friend. Now Delaney had a grand mill and he made all the bread in the town and for some of the nearby towns as well. It had huge grinding stones. 

"Now Jack went up to the miller who asked him if he wanted to buy some bread. ‘Of course,’ said Jack, ‘but first could you do me a favor. You see, I have this hard leather inside this bag and it needs softening up a spell. Could you put it in your mill and turn it around a spell?'"

"‘But it might wreck your bag,’ said the miller." 

"‘Oh, no. It’s a very strong bag, stronger than it looks.’" 

"So the miller puts the bag on the wheel and the huge stone crushes it flat against the second stone. Then the huge stone rolled away, came back around and did the same thing again and again. An hour later, Delaney hands Jack the bag. ‘I’m surprised it’s not in shreds,’ says he handing the bag over." 

"‘Well, I told you it was a special sort of bag,’ says Jack. And with that he throws the bag over his shoulder and sets off for home munching the warm loaf of bread. He decides to wait before going to see the priest. When he gets home, he sets the bag down and says to it, "I’ll let you out if our deal is off. Promise.’" 

"There was a long pause. Finally the Devil says faintly, ‘I promise.’" 

"So Jack opens the bag and shakes out Himself. The Devil looked very battered and bruised. His black clothes were covered with flour. He got up off his feet and shook his fist at the shoemaker. ‘You’re a terrible man. I wouldn’t even have you as a devil.’ And with that, there was a flash of blue light and he disappeared. Jack laughed a long time and then went home." 

"So, he beat the devil," said García looking very pleased by the outcome. 

But Reyes looked troubled. "Uh, Colonel, so what happens later?" 

"Later? What do you mean by that, baboso?" interrupted García. "The story’s over." 

"Well, now, García," said the colonel, "Corporal Reyes has a good point. And the story isn’t really over – yet." 

"It’s not?" asked the sergeant looking puzzled. 

"Yes, Sergeant," said Reyes. "You know, what happens later – when Jack gets old and it’s time for him to die? What happens then?" 

"Ah, a very good question, Reyes?" says O’Leary. "You’ve got some good insight into the situation. So what happened then? I’ll tell you." 

The Irishman picked up his mug and took his time with a few swallows. Then he smiled. "Now Jack lived to be a ripe old fellow. Why, he was ninety years old when he died. And wouldn’t you know it, he died and went to Hell – for after all, he had sold his soul to the Devil for all that gold and good fortune. The problem was that the Devil didn’t want him." 

"Now Jack marches up to the gates of Hell itself – and the door is made from black marble with large silver bolts set in each side and a huge silver knocker on the front of it that is shaped in the form of a dragon’s head. And so Jack took a hold of it and knocks very loudly. For a long time nothing happened and then the door creaks open and he hears a voice saying, "Yes?" – and the voice was booming and echoing as if it came from a long distance away. 

"’Well,’ says Jack, ‘I just died and here I am, so I suppose this is where I’ve got to come.’

At that, a dark figure steps into the doorway. He’s dressed all in black – why, he’s the tall, thin man with red eyes. Jack recognized him at once." 

"It was the Devil, Himself," exclaimed Reyes excitedly. 

"Aye, it was. So the Devil takes one look at him and says ‘You’re not coming in here – I remember what you did to me. You just run along and go to the other place.’ And with that, he slams the door shut. 

"So, Jack takes off and comes back the way he came. Soon the road turns lighter – from dark to gray to light – and then he sees the white marble gate of Heaven in the distance. Well, the gate looks like the gate to Hell except that it was all white marble with gold bolts and studs and a gold knocker on it. So Jack takes a hold of the knocker and knocks very gently." 

"The door was opened almost immediately by a tall, thin figure dressed in white. ‘Well?’ asks the Angel pleasantly." 

"'I just died,’ explained Jack, ‘and, although I thought I went to hell, Himself wouldn’t take me and told me to come here.’" 

"‘Oh, ‘ says the Angel, looking surprised. ‘I’ll have to check my books on this one. What’s your name?’" 

"Jack told him. The Angel disappeared a few moments and returned with a large leather-bound book with gold clasps at the corners. He opens the books and runs his finger down the list until he found Jack’s name. ‘Hmmm, sold your soul to the Devil, did you? We can’t have you here.’" 

"‘Well, I’ve already been there and they won’t have me,’ said Jack." 

"‘You’ll just have to go back,’ says the Angel." 

"‘He slammed the door in me face,’ pouted Jack." 

"‘All right, ‘ says the Angel with a smile. ‘We can’t have you here, so we’ll just send you back elsewhere.’" 

"‘Back elsewhere?’ asks Jack. ‘Back to where?’" 

"‘Why back to Earth,’ says the Angel. ‘We’ll give you some penance to do for a few hundred years and maybe you’ll be able to come in here.’" 

"‘Well, what will I have to do?’ he asks."

"‘You once said that there should be someone with a light to lead people across the dangerous marshes when it gets late.’" 

"‘I said that?’ Jack mused. ‘I don’t remember saying anything like that.’ Then, he remembered the day the Leprechaun had given him the leather bag. ‘Oh, I remember it now.’" 

"With that, the Angel closed the book with a thump. ‘So then, that is what you’ll do…’" 

"And it is said that Jack still wanders this Earth. You can see him sometimes as he roams across the marshes with his lantern. The country people call his spirit 'Jack o’ the Lantern.'" 

"Really?" asked García doubtfully. "I’ve heard of a story about marsh lights. Do you really think it is Jack wandering in there?" 

"Of course, he is," said O’Leary, gesturing for anther bottle of wine. "But remember, this happened in Ireland, so that’s where Jack is. I don’t know about Spain or California." 

"I don’t think we have anything like that here," said Reyes thoughtfully. "But it wouldn’t be a bad idea." 

"We couldn’t have that here, Corporal," García said with authority. "There are no Leprechauns in California." 

"Well, I don’t know about that, Sergeant," observed the Colonel. "They say that wherever there’s an Irishman, a Leprechaun is bound to show up. Just to bedevil us, of course. Maybe they come in with our luggage on the ships, like the mice." 

Reyes’ eyes grew large. "Say, Sergeant, if you ever see a Leprechaun, you’ll now know what to do." 

García rolled his eyes. "It’s better to know what to do when you see Himself!"

"And what is that, Sergeant?" 

"Don’t talk to him at all! Go back to the barracks at once!"

 

 

 

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