The Irish Colonel

 

by

Eugene Craig

 

 

 

DAY SIX

 

Chapter 25

 

 

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 for himself. 

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 central well. 

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 here." 

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 again. 

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 ask me." 

Hugo shrugged. "Maybe the fellowís honest."

 

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"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 comandante. 

"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 pocket. 

"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 popularity." 

"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 peril." 

"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 Torres." 

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 way." 

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 Irishman quietly. 

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 afternoon." 

"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. "

 

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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." 

So, weíre 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 wish." 

"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 between us." 

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 and caring." 

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 with finality. 

"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 these qualities." 

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 challenged him. 

"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 of humor?" 

 

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"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 friends." 

"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 measures." 

"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 the Irishman. 

"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 California."

 

 

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