The Irish Colonel
Bernardo flicked the whip over the horseís ears
as he drove the buggy into town. Already the word had spread about the men
in the stocks being pelted with rotten food by the soldiers. Even some of
the townspeople had joined in. Bernardo shook his head. He had to see this
As he drove into the plaza, he saw six men in
stocks. Their hands were through openings just far enough from their faces
that they could not protect themselves from the flies that swarmed about
their heads and landed on them. The best they could do was flail their
hands or wrinkle their noses. Some even tried to blow the pests away, but
all to no avail. With the early afternoon breeze, the smell was pungent.
Bernardo pulled the buggy over to the far side of
the plaza and tied up the horse. He then made his way across the plaza to
see if he knew any of the men. He recognized one of the cocheros at once
and then, one of the vaqueros. He did not know the Indians and did not
recognize the peons due to the filth on them. He noted a few townspeople
who watched the men in the stocks from a distance and who spoke in hushed
terms. There were a few who stood closer and shouted insults to the
unfortunates, but most people seemed to be avoiding going beyond the
Bernardo made his way to the entrance of the
cuartel. The two soldiers on duty looked bored and casually watched him.
He looked inside, stretching his neck as if interested in getting a good
view. They did not move to stop him.
Within the cuartel he saw two men tied up with
ropes to stakes. Each man had each arm tied to a wooden post. One man
seemed to move between one post and another to release pressure on one arm
at a time. The other man just stood there glowering. A soldier walked by
both of them caressing a whip.
The first man asked the soldier for water. The
soldier picked up a wooden drinking cup, poured water into it, and then
threw it in the manís face, laughing. The second man admonished the
soldier for his actions. The soldier struck him across the face. The man
kept his balance, but Bernardo saw the trickle of blood from his nose.
The sun was beginning to warm up considerably and
Bernardo turned to one of the soldiers with his arms upturned in a
question. One soldier laughed at the other. "Look, the deaf and dumb
one wants to ask you a question, Hugo."
The soldier named Hugo turned toward the small man
in the brown mozoís outfit. He raised his eyebrows. "Itís Don
Diegoís servant, Bernardo," he commented. "I donít know if I
can make him understand or not."
Bernardo pointed at the two men inside and gave a
big shrug. The soldier thought a few moments before responding. As he
gestured he spoke.
"They are going to be whipped," he told the "deaf" man. He propped his rifle up against the wall and then stepped back. He stretched out an arm and pretended to be flailing something.
Bernardo nodded in understanding. He pulled out
his watch and pointed to it.
"Ah," remarked the soldier. He pointed
to the sun, removed his hat, wiped his brow, and put on an expression
being very tired. "When it gets hot."
Bernardo nodded again. He gestured with his arm as
if whipping something then spread his fingers to show the number five.
Then he pretended to whip again. When he finished, he smiled and raised
his eyebrows. The soldier frowned, not understanding what he meant.
Bernardo nodded and began his action again Ė pretending to whip
something then held up both hands to show the number ten.
"Iím not sure what he means," said
Hugo to the other. "Maybe he thinks five or ten will be
whipped." He shook his head at the servant.
Bernardo held up a hand and thought a moment. He
had an idea. He began to whip an imaginary figure, stopped and showed a
finger. Then, he repeated the action again. He held up two fingers. Then
repeated the action for three, and so on.
"I canít make heads nor tails of
that," said the first soldier. "Just tell him to get out of
But the soldier Hugo was intrigued. "Wait a
moment. Maybe he wants to know how many blows they are going to get."
He indicated one man and flashed two hands fully spread at him. He then
pointed to the other, knelt down and wrote a one followed by two zeroes in
the dirt with a gloved finger.
Bernardo gave a look of amazement at the number
one hundred in the dirt. He raised his eyebrows to Hugo. The soldier
nodded, pointed at the defiant prisoner and back to the number in the sand
Bernardo shook his head in wonder, gave a gesture
of thanks, and ambled away.
The two soldiers were satisfied. "Looks like
we got through to him!" said the first.
"Itís not easy," replied Hugo. "You need a lot of patience."
"Ha, not me," his companion replied.
"Having to do that on a regular basis would drive me crazy. Who would
want a deaf mute as a servant? More trouble than they are worth, if you
Hugo shrugged. "Maybe the fellowís
"Ah, good afternoon, CapitŠn Monastario,"
said Paddy after he finished hugging Elena a good-bye. "Iím afraid
my visit has come to an end for the present."
Enrique Monastarioís eyes narrowed as he saw
Elena reluctantly drop her hands from around the Irishmanís waist. He
was privately furious to see Oí Leary moving very fast into a domain
that he had staked out as his own. However, for the present, he would be
civil to both of them. "I trust I am not interrupting anything
important," he responded smoothly. "I am here to see you as we
discussed yesterday," he said to Elena.
Paddy smiled at Elena in an amused fashion. It was
apparent to him that she much preferred his presence to that of the
"Donít leave just this moment," she
pleaded almost inaudibly as the garrison commander began to walk toward
both of them.
He nodded. "Oops," he said. "Now
look what youíve made me do. Iíve even forgotten me own hat."
"Good afternoon, Paddy," Enrique said in
a pleasant tone. "Donít tell me that you must leave so soon."
"Today is a full one. Another day would be
better," Oí Leary replied.
"You will join me in a smoke, will you
not?" the officer insisted pulling out two cigars from his jacket
"Wonít you two have a seat?" Elena
injected. "Iíll get us some refreshments." She turned to hurry
back inside. She did not want Paddy to leave without her parents being
present and they were running uncharacteristically late this afternoon.
Both men sat down in the chairs and drew in on the
cheroots leisurely. Monastario found Oí Leary rather preoccupied and
thought that he might be able to use it to his own advantage. He studied
the red-haired man sitting next to him a few moments between puffs on the
cigar. Finally he spoke. "You know, Paddy, you are becoming a bit,
how should I put it, scattered, in your pursuit of social
"Why donít you leave the questioning of my
methods until after tonight?" Oí Leary retorted dryly.
"Popularity is not something I actively pursue, Enrique. It seems to
be an end result of my social relationships."
"You have a very interesting choice of new
friends, Paddy," the officer continued. "They all seem to be
members of the opposition."
"They are also the most prominent members of
the social order, my friend, and one ignores such men at oneís
"Just remember to maintain your perspective,
Paddy. When push comes to shove and the future of Spain is at stake, whose
side do you think they will be on?"
"You donít seem to be too worried about
socializing with members of the opposition either," observed the
Irishman, "or you would not be bothering to call on SeŮorita
Before he could reply, Elena Torres returned with
Ana, the elderly Indian servant. She brought both wine and a pitcher of
juice. She offered the juice first, and when that was consumed, she
offered wine. She seemed to be very intent on keeping the Irishman there
as long as she could. Finally after much small talk, Paddy stood up to
leave. "Iíll get you your hat," Elena said, bowing at last to
the inevitable. She left for the sala to retrieve it.
Monastario was glad that the Irishman was finally
leaving, but upon standing and giving each other polite farewells, Oí
Leary remarked to him. "Enrique, hereís an observation, one that
might give you some food for thought. Elena has a great deal of
apprehension about you and your intentions. Try being a bit more sensitive
to her concerns, to her interests, to her heart. It will go a long
The younger man did not really appreciate advice
that seemed to him very condescending. He found himself disliking the
manís observations even though they had proven fairly useful in the
past. "You seem to have many answers, Paddy, but you are not the only
one who is skilled in the waging of war, regardless of the front it is
being waged on."
"Is this really about war?" asked the
Enrique had a retort on his lips when Elena
reappeared. He watched her hand the hat to the Irishman, who smiled and
bowed to kiss her hand.
"Please come again," she said very
sincerely. "Iím only sorry Mother and Father missed you this
"There is always another time," he
replied, "and Iíll do my best to make up for my shortcomings of
today." With that, he tipped his hat to the comandante and closed the
gate quietly behind him.
Enrique Monastario turned to the girl and smiled.
"Ah, Elena, how nice it is for us to have a friend in common, like
Colonel Oí Leary. "
It was mid-afternoon when two men discussed the
situation in town in a dark corridor leading to a secret chamber, hidden
behind Diegoís room at the De la Vega hacienda.
"I see what you mean, Bernardo," said
Diego de la Vega as he unbuttoned his fancy vest and handed it to his
servant. "Once again CapitŠn Monastario is crossing the line, but
this time it has a new twist."
Bernardo nodded his head but still looked worried.
He watched as his young master donned the black garb and cape, then,
fastened the black scabbard to his belt, sliding the sword into place. He
snapped up the black hat from the table as well. "The heat of the day
is building fast and I will have to hurry." He paused and reached
into the drawer of the table.
Bernardo raised his eyebrows when El Zorro pulled out a pistol and proceeded to load it. He put the pistol in his belt.
"But CapitŠn Monastario is not the only one
trying out new tactics and strategies today, my friend. El Zorro has a few
ideas of his own. Perhaps the comandante will have to learn that it does
not pay to be too confident in his methods or his plans."
With that, the man in black disappeared down the
dark stairs to the hidden caves below where Tornado, the black stallion,
patiently waited. In a few moments, a dark shadow emerged from the caves
and began to move across the hills toward the pueblo of Los Angeles.
Elena Torres turned back from the closed gate and
faced her visitor. "CapitŠn Monastario, what a surprise to see you
here today. I had expected you later in the week."
Before he could respond, she picked up a vase of flowers and showed them to him.
"Don Patricio brought these flowers. Arenít
they lovely? Heís quite a gentleman."
Enrique Monastario regarded the flowers in an
amused fashion. "Thatís quite nice, Elena," he said, "but
you should be wary of Paddy OíLeary."
She looked surprised at that and asked warily,
"What do you mean by that?"
"Paddy is charming, but heís a
smooth-talking drunkard," the officer continued. "By his own
admission, he's not one to settle down. You probably are not aware of the
fact that he makes his way in this world by practicing the fine art of
picking pockets." He smirked. "Some gentleman. You must have
noticed that he is quite occupied today. He is involved in a personal
vendetta against old enemies. This vendetta could end in his death."
"I do not know about this vendetta,"
Elena admitted in a concerned voice, "and what you said may be true.
But Don Patricio never forgets to think of others. He thinks kindness is
more important than instilling fear in others."
starting to get frank with one another, thought the captain
briefly. The idea pleased him. He smiled. "Tell me something, Elena.
Do you really fear me?"
The young woman looked up into his bright blue
eyes and thought how nice it would be if they could be as warm and
cheerful as the Irishmanís were, but they were not. She thought she
should answer him directly so there would be no illusions on either side.
"Yes, Iím afraid of you," she
responded. "Iím afraid of your intentions against my family,
against my Father and my Mother. Iím afraid of your intentions regarding
what we have Ė our lands and my home."
Monastario gave a short laugh. "You think
that most men are after that, donít you? You havenít listened to a
thing that I told you the other night. Do you think all men only want to
marry you for that reason alone?"
"There are always those who will try, CapitŠn
Monastario," she replied in a defiant way. "But I will never
marry such a man. I will only marry a man who really loves me for what I
am, not what my family has." She felt drained by the strain of such
talk, and sat down in a chair.
Enrique Monastario removed his hat and placed it on the table. He pulled his chair over close to hers so that he could speak to her without raising his voice and without the Indian woman overhearing him. He took one of her hands from her lap and held it in his.
"Elena, I would never do anything to harm
you. You believe that, don't you?"
The question startled her as much as his taking
her hand in his. "I do not know the answer to that question,"
she replied truthfully. "The only side that you have ever shown me is
one of fear, or brutality against others. A relationship between people is
usually built upon trust and tolerance, not fear."
"You are being unfair to me, Elena. I have
not treated you in a way as to cause fear and I do not wish to. A man will
often act one way in his official capacity, but can be something quite
different in private."
"I have a difficult time understanding that
concept," Elena responded. "I prefer a man to be what he is at
all times and to all people. How can you put on one face to some and
another face to others? I hope you will forgive me for saying so, but such
an idea repels me. It means that we have to be deceitful in our
appearances and in our actions. Such behavior could only raise doubts as
to a personís honesty and integrity. How could anyone really know
whether the other was putting on an act or being sincere? Without the
qualities of trust, sincerity and consistency how could anyone build
loyalty and devotion to anyone else?"
"Do you really think I lack these
qualities?" he asked.
"I am sorry to tell you that, thus far, that
is the case," she said quietly. "I hope that you will want to be
friends, not just with me, but with my family as well. That is my
"I want to be more than just your
Ďfriend,í Elena," the officer insisted. He mustered the most
sincere and hopeful expression that he could.
"Then you will have to prove yourself,"
she said. When she saw his eyes flash, she feared she had gone too far.
"Just be kind," she added.
Monastario looked into her mild brown eyes and
considered another approach. "You know, Elena, I can be very generous
and kind to those I care about. But you must remember that it is the
strong people who rule the world. This is reality, whether we like it or
not. Those who appear kind or sentimental are destroyed and so one must
present an implacable front to that world."
When she began to protest again, he held up a
hand. "Let me give you a very concrete example, since you doubt me.
There are many royal families in Europe who marry, not because they
necessarily love each other at first, but in order to keep the peace, and
to keep the natural order of society. They build alliances for the good of
all. They may not love each other at first, but it is something that grows
as they get to know each other."
"Do you really think of us Ė like royalty,
then?" she asked, both surprised and amused.
"Of course," he replied, as if it was
more than obvious. "Donít you see that it is the same, even here in
California, just as it is in Spain?" He became very intense.
"You tell me that your family means a great deal to you. If so, you
must think not only of your own desires, but how the lands and safety of
your family could be preserved through a marriage with me." He paused.
"You and your family would benefit from this even more than I."
"How so?" she asked.
"I believe in being frank, Elena. My blood
would ennoble you, your family, and any children that would come from our
union. It would be an alliance of the elite of Spain with that of
California. It makes complete political sense that such an alliance of the
nobility, the military, and the land would be an unbreakable one. Surely
that is one of the best reasons I can think of for a marriage match
Elena was quiet a few moments. Strange, she thought, for all
that he is- he seems to be very sincere about what he believes. The
problem is, I disagree so much. "You know, Comandante, you seem
very interested in issues of power. But you have forgotten that for me,
and for most women, there is another power that you have not mentioned,
and that is the power of love and sentimentality, the power of compassion
She looked down at his hand that held her small
one. It was a hand that could grasp harshly or squeeze gently, it could
convey warmth or coldness, she thought, depending upon the mindset behind
it. Then she looked up into the compelling blue eyes. "Perhaps you
think that such things are a sign of weakness or even contemptible."
A slight smile played around his mouth. "No,
Elena. You are mistaken about that. Such things are appropriate Ė but
for women, not for men."
She shook her head. "How can you say
that?" she protested. "Men who show compassion and who are
sentimental are loved even more."
"Not by those who count, Elena," he said
"Everyone matters, whether they are rich or
poor," she countered. "Look at the artists, writers, poets, and
saints who are all loved for these qualities. Even a king can be loved for
Enrique Monastario began to feel as though he was
not gaining too much ground but he was persistent and kept his impatience
under control. "You are so protected from reality that you do not
understand that the world is a very brutal place, Elena. I understand why
you cannot see my point of view. I trust in time that you will. Perhaps
you could if you would learn from my life and from the forces of history
that are all around us."
"Maybe you are right, CapitŠn. You speak
much about history and politics, about power and bloodlines, but you have
never told me anything about your life, or about your family or even if
you have dreams or not. These little things matter, you know. How can we
agree on anything at all when you reveal so little?"
Enrique laughed lightly. "Now we can agree
because that is true. I expect that as we get to know each other you will
learn much about me and I about you."
"Why donít you start now?" she
"What do you want to know?" he asked
with a smile.
"Why donít you start with your
parents," Elena responded.
"I do have parents, contrary to popular
opinion," he said and his eyes creased in amusement.
Elena smiled openly at that. "Do you know
this is the first time youíve ever shown me that you even have a sense
"Good afternoon, Colonel Oí Leary,"
Don Alejandro greeted the Irishman. "No, Iím afraid Diego is not at
home at the present. He probably went into town or is out visiting
"I apologize again, Don Alejandro. It was
just an impulse to drop by on the way back. I thought Diego might be able
to offer an opinion about the situation in town."
The white-bearded man became agitated at once.
"You mean about Monastarioís latest outrage?" He shook his
head. "Throwing garbage at prisoners! Itís more than just juvenile,
itís a deliberate provocation. And whatís worse is the news of the two
hundred lashes! How could anyone justify that kind of treatment? This is
the nineteenth century, not the fifteenth! Weíre supposed to be children
of the Enlightenment, not of barbarism!"
"I agree with that sentiment," Paddy
replied calmly. "Unfortunately, we are also children of the
Inquisition, an institution that has still not been abolished. While I do
not believe that the comandante will actually carry out the order for two
hundred lashes, he is doing it in order to lure in el Zorro. He has quite
an ambush planned."
"I should have known it would be about a
trap, Colonel," Alejandro continued, "but, my friend, do not
underestimate the comandanteís predilection for extremes and extreme
"I was hoping that his show of reasonableness
was quite genuine. He told me that he was not interested in corpses when I
admonished him over the severity of the sentences this morning,"
Paddy told him. "He actually believes that by over-exaggerating the
sentences, it will lure in Zorro even sooner."
Alejandro de la Vega was silent a long moment. He
genuinely liked the Irishman and felt him to be an honorable gentleman.
Although he had his suspicions concerning the colonelís friendship with
CapitŠn Monastario, he would trust his instincts to confide in him a bit
of knowledge that would lend gravity to the situation.
"Don Patricio," Alejandro began, after
gathering his thoughts, "would you please have a seat? There is
something that I would like to tell you about one of the men who is being
sentenced to the lash. If you know this, then perhaps you can see
something more from our perspective here in Los Angeles."
"Regarding CapitŠn Monastario?" asked
"Yes," replied the don. "And not
just about Monastario. This is about the kind of Spain that we want to owe
our allegiance to, and our vision for building a better future here in