The Irish Colonel

 

by

Eugene Craig

 

 

 

DAY SEVEN

 

Chapter 30

 

 

The livery stable in town bustled with activity earlier this Tuesday morning, for the coach and horses were being readied for the trip to San Pedro, the port of entry in southern California. There, passengers would board a scheduled ship and head south towards the warmer Pacific harbors of México. On occasion, passengers would board other ships that paused at San Pedro before the final leg of their journey north to Monterey, the capital, or to San Francisco. 

The blacksmith and his assistant would check the iron shoes of the team of horses chosen, inspect the long leather reins, the wooden shaft, the axles, the wheels, and finally, the interior of the coach. Then, they would be hitched up and brought just outside the stables to wait for the boarders. The blacksmith's assistant would load up the luggage and strap it down on top of the coach as well as securing boxes and chests to the back.

In the general store, Isabel Cárdenas was folding the last of her husband's shirts into an ironbound chest that had seen much use in its day. Roberto was, as usual, preparing items in the store as if he had no plans whatsoever to leave and journey far from Los Angeles.

And at the inn, a red-haired Irishman took his breakfast as normal. He had slept without dreams or perhaps he didn't remember that he dreamt at all. The night had been both long and short. When he got back to the inn, Sergeant García had entertained him, with stories of what had happened at the cuartel that afternoon with El Zorro's raid. For once, the Sergeant had the entire bottle to drink for himself and even Paddy's own melancholy had disappeared for a while in the telling of tragedy and farce. Finally, Rosita had sat up with him and gave him a long report on her encounter with Enrique Monastario. Paddy laughed in spite of himself and then fell off into a deep sleep. 

At the distant hacienda of Don Nacho Torres, Elena Torres lay in bed and dreamed of a green-eyed Irishman who brought her flowers and who would fight in battle with her father against a blue-eyed captain on a white stallion.

Diego de la Vega opened the door to his room and looked out over the patio of green trees and colorful flowers at the distant hills of yellow grasses and green oaks trees. He turned to his faithful servant. "Today is the day of reckoning, Bernardo. I only hope that Paddy O' Leary will act in the manner that my faith in him will confirm." 

Bernardo nodded. He indicated someone on the patio below. It was Diego's father, Alejandro. 

The white-bearded don looked up to the balcony and saw his son standing among the hanging plants. He waved a book at him. 

Diego headed down the stairs. "Good morning, Father. What are you reading?" 

Alejandro took him by the arm. "Diego, I've been reading the book that Colonel O' Leary loaned you about the history of Ireland. The more I read, the more I become struck by something that the colonel said to me about Capitán Monastario." 

Diego was interested. "And what was that, Father?" 

"When I first met Colonel O' Leary, he described the comandante as a man 'with the burden of the Ages on his shoulders.' Yet as I read this tragic and inspiring history, it seems to me that it is really the colonel who embodies that description." 

Diego nodded. "I know what you mean. That also reminds me of something that Paddy said about the comandante, something that applies to him as well. He remarked that 'the belief in the possibility for salvation and redemption has given many men hope. But take that hope away, and what do you have left?' " 

"You know, my son, Don Patricio is a complex man, but a man after our own heart. He has tried to be fair to everyone, including the comandante. His actions seem to reveal a man whose heart is torn between the past and the present and how to come to terms with both." He began looking at his son's face with concern. "Where did you get that bruise from?" 

Diego touched his cheek. "Paddy gave it to me. We had a disagreement last night and he took a swing at me. I was trying to get him to deal with his past - and he had had too much to drink. I should have known better." 

"Well, my son, each man must make the decision on what to do with his own life. As friends, we can only advise, we cannot decide for him. Somehow, in spite of my past misgivings of his intentions, I feel that the colonel will make the right decisions and for the right reasons. He is a man of honor." With that comment, father and son strode inside for a quiet breakfast.

 

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Paddy was dressed in brown and wore a red sash. His hat was black and he wore a pistol in his belt. 

He walked casually out of the inn and towards the general store. It was much too early for the store to be open, but the front door was not the only entrance. He took a side street that led to the back of the store and saw that the door was partly opened. He walked up to it and listened carefully before opening it and stepping inside. 

The red-haired man was only a step or two inside when he heard the voices of two people. One was Isabel Cárdenas, the other was a voice from a memory, a distant and dark memory. But it was his voice. The man's measured dialogue and intonation was unmistakable. Paddy pressed himself against the wall as he listened to the conversation of a man telling his wife that the trunk was packed, and that all he needed was to fetch his bag. There was only an hour left before the coach would leave. 

Paddy's moment of truth had come. He turned and left the way he had come, leaving the door as he had found it. He took long strides down the short street, then slowed his pace to a casual walk as he made his way back to the inn. He knew what he had to do. 

The colonel went up stairs to his room and tossed his hat on the bed. He opened his shirt and removed a key on a leather string from around his neck. Taking the key in his right hand, he knelt down in front of his trunk and opened the lock. He took out his uniform, his regimental hat and boots, and laid them out on the floor. Then he reached deep into the bottom of the trunk. 

Wrapped in a piece of leather, bound by a strap of leather string, was the object of his intent. He laid it on the dresser. He turned and began to change his clothes. Colonel Patrick James O' Leary of His Majesty's Irish Regiment would make his appearance for an execution in full dress uniform, with its epauletts, medals, sash and polished boots. He fastened on his sword. He contemplated taking the pistol. It was a pistol that Monastario had given him. For some reason, it seemed wrong to take that pistol because of its symbolism, so he put it in a drawer of the dresser. 

The Irishman picked up the scrap of leather and untied the cord that bound it. Within the folds was revealed an old knife with ancient bloodstains on it, bloodstains from an old war. The knife was unique for on its elaborate hilt bore an inscription in Irish gaelic -‘Is treise tuath no tighearna’ – "A people is stronger than a lord." How his enemy had twisted that truth when he chose to betray the cause of Spain and to serve a foreign lord. Paddy put it in his sash. He put on his hat. He left the room.

 

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Sergeant Demetrio García López was standing at the open gates of the cuartel when he looked across the plaza at a man taking very purposeful strides. "Look, Corporal. Isn't that Colonel O' Leary over there?" 

The sleepy-eyed corporal followed the line of his pointed finger. "It looks like him, Sergeant." 

The big man watched as the colonel reached the general store and went in through the front door. "I thought Colonel O' Leary had retired. Maybe he decided to re-enlist."

When the officer had disappeared from sight, the sergeant turned back towards the corporal. "You know, Reyes, Colonel O' Leary should never have retired. We still need men like him in the army." 

"Well, Sergeant, maybe he never really did." 

 

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The store was empty and the minutes were flowing away like the grains of sand in an hourglass. The bins of fruits and grains, cloth and timber, plates and delicate wine glasses, sweets and salt passed him by in a blur, yet he saw everything distinctly.

Paddy O' Leary reached the back of the store. He went through the cloth curtain that separated the private and public areas. There was an open doorway on his right. He put his hand on the hilt of his sword. 

Roberto Cárdenas was kneeling and shutting the travel bag when he heard steps stop abruptly behind him. He looked up and froze and the sound of a stern voice. 

"Seamus Ciarán O'Flaherty!" 

Cárdenas looked up and the blood drained from his face. He saw a man in the uniform of the Irish regiment with a drawn sword. "Is mise, Padraig O’Laeghaire," he replied in Irish Gaelic. "It is I, Patrick O' Leary. Somehow I knew you would come, Rory. Somehow I knew this moment would arrive." He rose slowly to his feet. 

"Are you ready to flee again from a comrade and brother you betrayed?" Paddy admonished him gesturing to the bag. "Will ye not stand up and take your punishment like a member of the Gael would?" 

"Punishment?" replied the brown-haired man. "Punishment, Rory! As if I’ve not been punished all these years with men who would not listen to the truth, men who closed their ears to anything but their own passions, their own version of the truth." 

"And what is the truth, Ciarán? What is the truth for those in Heaven and those in Hell? How can you live with yourself after all these years?" 

"How can I live with myself you ask? And how have you lived, Rory?" asked Roberto. "Is revenge so important to you that it has become the kind of nightmare that I've lived?" The man sat back down on a wooden crate. He stared at the floor as he spoke. "You have no idea how miserable I've been." He looked up at the colonel. 

"Well, I'm here to end your misery and to avenge those who are no longer able to avenge themselves because of how you betrayed them," Paddy told him coldly. 

There was a movement behind him and Paddy glanced over his shoulder. In the short hall stood Isabel Cárdenas and her son, Pedro. Her face was full of fear and the boy looked shocked. 

Paddy was startled at their sudden appearance. "Señora Cárdenas," he exclaimed and saw the boy's face. "Will you please leave us?" 

"No, Padraig," interrupted Roberto, "it is only right that they know the truth, too." 

Isabel Cárdenas pushed her way into the room. "What is going on, Roberto?" She turned to the Irishman. "Colonel O' Leary what is happening between you two?" She was anguished at the scene before her. 

"I am sorry to inform you that I am here to avenge the deaths of thousands of men in our regiment who lost their lives as a result of your husband's treason during the war, Señora," Paddy told her. 

"What right do you have to kill my husband?" she challenged him, although the tears streamed down her face. "What gives you the sole right to be his executioner?" 

"Isabel," began Roberto. 

"I have a greater right than anyone in the regiment, Señora, because Ciarán - Roberto's real name - is my own half-brother," Paddy replied. "I must show you some evidence." He pulled the dagger from his sash. "This is his knife, the one that smote me and almost killed me. The blood you see on it is my blood. My own kin attempted to assassinate me in battle, a man I loved and trusted. His treason not only shamed the regiment, but it did the same to my family. I am under a great obligation for the honor of both." 

"What Rory says is true, Isabel, but only from the view of a man who only knows half the story," Roberto told her. He turned to O' Leary. "Every man has a right to make a last request before he dies and my last request is to tell the entire story." 

"It is a reasonable request," Paddy acknowledged. "I am sure that we all want to hear it." He stepped far away from the door for the boy to enter the room. 

Pedro ran to his father and hugged him, weeping. "It's all right, Pedrito," Roberto told him, holding him and stroking his hair. It was many long minutes before the boy composed himself. "Sit down here with me and I'll tell you what happened a long time ago." The man put his arm around his son's slender shoulders. 

" I was a member of the Irish regiment of the Spanish army," the man began. "My name was Seamus Ciarán O' Flaherty. My father was Rory's father, but my mother was not married to him. I took her last name, not his, and this was the custom of my people. Still, we grew up as brothers and treated each other as brothers do - fishing and fighting, going to school and church together, and serving in the same regiment in Spain to fight Bonaparte, to fight the French invaders. Rory and I were the best of friends." Roberto paused and looked up at his half-brother who nodded. 

"But what happened that tore us apart, we two who had been inseparable as youngsters, in the army, and later as guerillas?" His eyes looked beyond the walls of the store and he saw another past world unfolding before his eyes, a world full of the smell of gunpowder, of the sound of cannon balls whistling through the air, of men shouting as they rushed forward, often barely seeing each other's features in the smoke, fogs or rains that could obscure any battlefield. "It was the day of a great planned offensive. I was assigned to a scouting expedition with a few men. Rory was not there with me at the time." 

O' Leary spoke. "We were preparing the troops for a surprise attack that would happen when the scouts got back." 

The man with the brown hair nodded. "Our mission was to find out exactly where the French pickets were, to estimate the number of troops at their command, and to report with preciseness the layout of the land so we could launch a surprise attack and follow through." 

"Just don't neglect to mention, for the sake of the record," Paddy interrupted, "that of all the men of the regiment, Ciarán, it was you who doubted the victory of our arms and predicted a disaster if we rode forth." 

"It was Spain and the war for the North," Roberto explained to Isabel. "It was 1812 and the French were on the march throughout Europe. There were many battles and Bonaparte had reached Moscow. All of Europe seemed to lay prostrate at his feet. Many were weary of war. It is true that I often doubted the outcome of arms, but was I alone in my doubts, Rory? Do you really think that just because a man expresses doubts and frustrations that this fact alone means that he committed treason?" 

"So you say," responded the colonel. "Continue with the story." 

"Unknown to us, a French scouting patrol had the same mission against our troops. They saw us coming and laid out an ambush. We fought our way back as best we could, but most of the men were killed. Only a few of us survived and we were taken prisoner." 

"What happened to you Papa?" asked Pedrito, speaking for the first time. "What did the French do to you?" 

"The French interrogated us, but we told them nothing. Their commanding officer was determined to get the most out of us that they could. When he could not, he decided to use us instead. He came up with a plan. This plan forever changed the lives of everyone - both the French and the Spanish. And it changed the lives of Rory and me, too." 

"What was it you sold out for, Ciarán, gold? Your life?" asked Paddy indignantly. 

His half-brother ignored these questions, yet answered them. "It was decided to take our uniforms and disguise French soldiers as Spaniards in an attempt to lure our troops into a false sense of security," Roberto explained. "One of the sad aspects of our people's lot under English rule is how many of us have been driven out of our native land into the armies of foreign nations. There were Irishmen serving in the forces of Bonaparte, not just in the armies of Spain. We were often on the opposite sides from each other in battle - for different and for the same reasons. Rory can explain the history better than I can. The officer commanding the French troops was a Captain Liam Maguire. His family was originally from Ulster." 

"Was the French captain Irish like you, Papa?" asked the boy. 

His father smiled. "Yes, Pedrito. He was from a different part of Ireland." 

"So the Spanish thought that it was their own troops who were coming toward them when it was really the French?" exclaimed Isabel. 

Paddy was silent. 

"That is true, but there is another detail to know. Many of us used to wear distinguishing feathers or decorations on our uniforms or caps, just a matter of personal pride or vanity. We were young in those days and did things like that," he responded. 

"We still do," added Paddy. "But tell me this, how is it that I saw you with my own eyes and you carried this dagger aimed at my heart?" 

Roberto looked Paddy in the eye. "Captain Maguire knew that if one of his men, resembling me in the dark, wore my uniform with my feathers, appeared along with that of other Spaniards, then our troops would suspect nothing." Then he smiled and said unexpectedly. "But I must leave the story here because we were bound and hauled away. He turned to his half-brother. "Rory, it is you that must now continue the story." 

Paddy looked as if his mind were thousands of miles away and years in the past. In his mind's eye he saw the glimmer of distant campfires, like the stars in the sky. He saw the forms of men approaching him casually, and the chaos that followed. 

"When the scouts returned, we thought that they had cleared the way for the attack, for there was nothing in their actions that indicated the grave danger we were in. I saw Ciarán," he indicated his head in Roberto's direction, "because of his feathers and walked out to meet him. I greeted him in Irish and he returned my greeting - though I admit, it was at a distance. I turned round to gesture to our men to move forward and I felt him race suddenly to my side. I turned in surprise and saw the upraised dagger, your dagger, Ciarán." 

"You saw my dagger, Rory, because the Frenchman had it in his possession as well. How amusing they thought it was that an Irish dagger would possibly kill an Irishman serving the cause of Spain." 

The young boy turned to O' Leary uncertainly. "Did the French soldier stab you?" he asked. 

"Yes. He aimed for my heart, but caught me in the side when I turned back on him. We fought. There was a rush of men on all sides, the French attacking and the Spaniards fighting back and being overwhelmed." 

"What happened to you, Rory?" asked Roberto. "How did you make your escape?" 

O’ Leary did not like how the conversation was being personalized, but he wanted all the facts brought out, including his own. "I was wounded in the side and fell. Our men were rushing forward with bayonets and sabers drawn. You turned and charged forward towards our men. I rose to follow you and was hit in the head with a blow of a musket butt. I felt the feet of men trample me and I lost consciousness for a while. When I came to, there were dead and dying men all around me. I came across our boys as I staggered across the field - the Moor, Jimmy O' Reilly, Carlos and others. Some of them were dying and asked me was it really you that had led the French attack. I told them that I had seen you with my own eyes and swore I would avenge them. They asked me to do so and then I shut their eyes." 

"But this is not the end of the story, is it, Roberto?" asked Isabel. "How is it that you had to flee from Spain?" Paddy looked surprised at her question, but nodded in agreement. 

"Over the next several days, some of our troops were taken prisoner. When they saw us in the rear, they assumed the same thing you had - that we had led the French in exchange for our lives - and they cursed us. The French were too clever to allow us to explain to them what had really happened and kept us separated. 

"It was common practice, Isabel, for each side to exchange each other's prisoners from time to time," her husband explained. "The French had no more use for us and, about a year later, we were in a group that was exchanged for their own captured soldiers." 

"Upon our return we assumed that we would rejoin the ranks and continue in the war. And so it was for a few of us. However, it came to the notice of the army command that there was some controversy regarding our actions and accusations began to be made. The colonel who summoned me to answer the charges, informally, of course, told me that a few of my comrades who had been released had already been killed by former members of our regiment. Although he listened to my story, he told me that feelings were so strong against us, that he advised me to disguise myself, change my name and serve elsewhere against the French." 

Roberto Cárdenas sighed. "I was indignant but I took his advice. My cause was still the cause of Spain. Better to fight against Bonaparte in disguise than not at all. But it was not that easy. The stigma of the events of those days carried far and wide and wherever I went, I heard whispers about this and such a fellow who was coming to the regiment might be 'one of them.' Finally, Joachim Morales, an old comrade from the regiment, saw me and opened fire on me with his gun, shouting to some soldiers that I was a traitor. I fled to save my life and threw myself on the mercy of one Colonel Santos. He sent me into hiding after hearing my report." 

"Now my story is almost over. I wrote to Lieutenant-General Salazar, explaining the situation, and had it delivered by a trust-worthy Spanish friend. General Salazar was known as a man of compassion and tolerance. He was a man who would tell you the truth. But one of his aides saw the letter and saw the chance to make some political fortune for himself. He sent men to capture and arrest me. I was warned of their coming and finally met up with English forces under Wellington. I told them what happened and they allowed me to join their ranks. I served with them until the war was over." 

"What did you do after the war, Father?" asked Pedrito. 

"I sent a secret message to my mother who was living with my first wife, María. She sent word back that María had died a few years before. She traveled to Lisbon with a boy and then she returned to Spain. I was never to see my mother again." 

"I was the boy, wasn't I, Papa?" the child asked. 

"Yes," smiled his father. "Yes, you were. We traveled to Jamaica on an English vessel. We got on another vessel that took us to Cuba. From there we went to the colonies in the Américas because there were many veterans of the war who went to Cuba and I wanted to get away from them. I thought that in a new land where no one knew us, we could start over again. I wanted Pedro to have a life without a history. Peru seemed as remote a place as any to start a new life, but little did we know of the turmoil we would encounter. All I wanted was peace and quiet and to forget the past. We fled war in Peru, in Venezuela and Columbia. Finally, I chose to come to California because it seemed like it was the 'ends of the Earth.'" 

Roberto Cárdenas paused. He looked over at Paddy O' Leary. "Then I overheard Rory speaking in the store. I knew that I would have to leave again because all Rory knew was what he thought he had seen." 

He turned to O' Leary. "I always knew you well, my brother. I knew that if other men were as intent on killing me and not knowing the facts, that you would not be far behind. I cannot say that I don't blame you, but I also know that you will give every man his due before you dispatch him. And this is all that I ask." 

The room was silent a long time after he finished speaking. Everyone's eyes then turned to the man in the white breeches, black boots and green regimental jacket and hat who had returned his saber to the scabbard. 

"You have no idea how much I want to believe you, Ciarán," Paddy said. "But this is a case like no other and men change. Can you give me any positive proof that what you have told me is God's truth other than your own word?" 

The other nodded. "In the old days, a man's word was his honor, but I submit to you that, at least in your own mind, you have a right to demand more of me. Allow me, if you will, to get some documents from my bag." 

Paddy nodded. 

The man knelt down and opened the travel bag. He pulled out several documents and handed them to O' Leary. Then he sat back down on the box. Isabel sat next to him and put her arm around his shoulder. Together, all three of them watched the Irish colonel.

Paddy O' Leary read through the documents. They told him that Roberto Cárdenas served with distinction with His British Majesty's forces in Portugal against the French. He read through a diary that documented what happened from the time he was released from the French back into the custody of Spain. He saw a copy of the letter he had written to Lieutenant Salazar and he saw the stamped custom forms from England, Jamaica and Cuba. Paddy stopped reading and folded the documents, and walked over to Seamus Cianán O' Flaherty, his own half-brother. He handed him the documents. Then he spoke.

"The snail has come to Jerusalem, Cianán. But, how do I know these documents are not forged? And how do I know that you didn't take the name Roberto Cárdenas from some other man who did serve with distinction?" 

"I don't know if you could ever find the answer to that, Rory. I had to change my name. But if it means anything to you at all, I do have a postscript from the war I would like to share." 

"What is a postscript, Papa?" asked the boy. 

"A postscript is a short story to tell after the main story has already been told. It gives you more information to think about after the long story is finished," explained his father. He turned to the colonel. 

"Do you remember the Irish captain, Liam Maguire, of the French Army who set me and the others up? After the war was over, Captain Maguire joined the liberation struggle in Spain for a republic. He became an agent to bring news to the Américas regarding support in Spain for the independence of the colonies and the struggle to bring down the tyranny of Ferdinand." 

"Interesting," remarked Paddy. "It would seem the logic of his republicanism would bring him to fight against monarchy in Spain, something that Spaniards would have welcomed. But how does this prove to me that these documents are really yours? How will I ever know that you did not betray the cause of Spain and the cause of republicanism? There is still reasonable doubt on my part. Tell me something more." 

"What you don't know is that our struggle for freedom has received a set-back. Captain Maguire was captured here in Los Angeles several days ago. He did not go by his real name. His code name was Vincente. He would not talk. Capitán Monastario killed him before he had time to get word to republicans of the feeling in Spain and before El Zorro could rescue him," Roberto told him sadly. "He felt he could best serve our cause by being the messenger. We had no idea that the royalists would get him. Now we will never know if California will move with the ranks of a republican Spain and vice-versa. And you will never hear my story from his lips." 

It was these words that drew a surprised look from Paddy O' Leary. "Christ Jesus!" he exclaimed. "With these very words you vindicate yourself!" 

Now it was Roberto's turn to look stunned and puzzled. "How do you mean?" 

Paddy strode over to stand before his seated brother. He had a big smile on his face. "By Christ, I believe you now, Cianán. What you don't know is that El Zorro rode to free the prisoners in the late afternoon and they escaped. Maguire was almost dead and fell off his horse while fleeing. Monastario and I found him in a ditch. Monastario called him 'Vincente' and tried one last time to get him to talk." 

"Did he succeed?" asked Isabel anxiously.

"He did indeed, but it was not an answer Enrique was expecting. Maguire uttered a name that astonished the comandante. The name he managed to utter was 'Mina.' Enrique thought that it referred to Xavier Mina. That is all that he knows."

"What can it mean, then?" asked Roberto. 

"Not to worry," Paddy answered him. "Before I came back to Los Angeles, Don Alejandro told me the news that he had learned in secret. Maguire had made contact, only not to republicans here in Los Angeles. And the word is this: our belovéd Espoz y Mina has returned from exile to Spain! He has declared himself for a republic. He summons all of us to fight for a republican Spain and to defeat the forces of the royalists." 

There was a joyful expression on the faces of Roberto and Isabel Cárdenas. "Then, his mission was not in vain," Roberto exclaimed, standing up before his brother. 

"No, it was not," Paddy said with great emotion. "Cianán, I've done you a great wrong. I came to the Américas searching for a man who I thought had betrayed the cause of Spain and republicanism to self-interest. I can see now that you have never left the cause behind." With these words, both men embraced, holding each other tightly in that kind of bear grip that conveys more in its depth of feeling than in its show of strength. 

When they finally released one another, Roberto Cárdenas, in actuality Seamus Cianán O' Flaherty, remarked. "You know, Rory, deep down I had this sneaking suspicion that you had a lot more sense than I ever gave you credit for. I wasn't sure when you drew the sword, but you always did followed the saying that 'there are two tellings to every story.' I need to give you a lot of credit for meeting my highest expectations." 

"I don't deserve that," Paddy mused. "You see, I was really all set to do my worst to you. Then I met up with this fellow Zorro, not just once, not just twice, but three times. Did you hear me now? Three blesséd times. And what did the man have to say to me? Why, he quoted more Irish proverbs to my face than Father Murphy did in a sermon. And the sermons he gave me would do a bishop justice, not just a priest. As for running into him, you should have seen the chase he led me on, and me, no closer to catching him than you would if you tried to snatch a moonbeam. And then there was our swordfight. Did I ever tell you about the bullwhip he carries? You should have seen him knock over the soldiers at the cuartel with it, why he was knocking them over, left and right…." 

 

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"Uncle Paddy, why does Papa call you 'Rory' all the time? And why do you call him Cianán? I thought he said that his real first name is Seamus," Pedro Cárdenas asked the Irish colonel as all four walked out into the front of the store. Roberto and Isabel began hurriedly serving several customers who had been loitering about for some time as they waited for someone to appear. 

"That's a very good question to ask, Pedrito," answered the man with the red hair. "In Old Irish the name Rory means a person with red hair. It's a nickname. I call your father Cianán because it's an old word that means 'dark' or 'black.' It usually refers to the hair color." 

"Oh," replied the boy thoughtfully. "But Papa doesn't have black hair, it's brown." 

"Now, that all depends on your point of view. You see, so many of us have blond or red hair that all the ones with darker hair are called the 'Dark Irish," but it doesn't mean they are really 'dark'." 

Don Diego de la Vega entered the store and saw the colonel seated on a box with the boy on his knee. He was showing the boy a knife with an elaborately carved hilt. 

"Good morning, Colonel. Looks like you've rejoined the regiment," Diego observed cheerfully. 

"Ah, Diego," the colonel said looking up. He lifted the boy high up in the air and then put him feet first on the floor. As he rose, he observed the cheek of the other as he came forward. "I need to apologize for my behavior last night. I ask your pardon." 

"We all have bad nights, Paddy. But like storms, they pass, and then the sun comes out again. Sometimes there is even a rainbow at the end." 

The colonel nodded but before he could speak, Diego turned to the boy. "Hello Pedro. Tell me something. There is a large trunk outside. It has your father's name on it. Is he going anywhere? The stage coach already left." 

Roberto Cárdenas overheard him. "Heaven help me, I forgot about the trunk." He hastened out of the store door. 

Pedrito Cárdenas looked up at the tall ranchero. "Hello, Don Diego. No, Papa is not going anywhere now. He does not need to." He looked up at the red-haired Irishman. "Do you want to know a secret, Don Diego?" 

Diego smiled at Paddy and knelt down beside the boy. "Yes, I would," he said. "Is it about the trunk?" 

The boy smiled shyly in turn. "Oh, no, Don Diego." He looked up again at the red-haired man who nodded. "Nobody knew that my father and Uncle Paddy are brothers. I mean, they are half-brothers, but they are still brothers. It was a secret. It's not a secret any more." 

"And does everyone get to live happily ever after now?" Diego asked the child. "Is it the end of a good story?" 

Pedrito Cárdenas smiled happily but then shook his head. "Oh, no, Don Diego. It is not the end of the story. It is only the beginning. Did you know that Uncle Paddy met El Zorro and chased him on his horse? Not just one time, not just two times, but three times. And you should have seen Uncle Paddy on his new horse, Erin. Erin is almost as fast as El Zorro's horse and he almost caught El Zorro!" The boy's eyes were wide with excitement. 

Paddy moaned and put his hand to his forehead in mock shock. "Christ Jesus, my nephew is a born Irishman. Now who would have thought that?" 

 

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

   

"Do you really have to leave us so soon, Paddy?" asked Isabel Cárdenas as the red-haired Irishman slung two heavy leather bags over the saddle and climbed up on the great brown stallion. "We’ve had so little time together. When will we see you again?" 

"Oh, I'll be back," he assured her cheerfully. "Now, I can't promise when. I've a little mission to perform of me own, but I'll send word." 

"You'll always have a home with us, brother," Roberto Cárdenas told him. "Don't stay away too long. Remember this - May the Lord keep you in his hand and never close his fist too tight on you."

"He never has to either of us, Cianán," he responded with a smile. 

"Good-bye, Uncle Paddy," waved Pedro. "Come back soon." 

Diego de la Vega mounted his palomino and accompanied Paddy O' Leary to the edge of town, to the El Camino Real which led north towards Monterey and to San Francisco. 

"How did Señorita Flores take the news of your departure? Was she quite upset?" Diego asked.

"Diego, my friend, Rosita Flores is a formidable little woman and an independent one. She's a lot like me. But neither of us are quite ready to settle down yet. She wants to see more of the world and on her own terms, not anyone else's. We'll meet again some day," the colonel added philosophically. 

"And the Torres family?" 

"We had a very long talk. Don Nacho and I had some very important words together on how to organize to fight the royalists both now and when the time comes for real action. He was greatly saddened by the death of Captain Maguire, but I told him that Liam would be happy knowing that he served the cause of republicanism here in the New World. We are part of a mighty historical struggle between the Old World and the New, Diego, and there are those of us who understand that every birth causes pain, and sometimes injustice, but that in every historical epoch change must happen. In my life I have seen the possibility for good change and I want to be on the side of a world that will be as different from this one as ours once was from the one we sprang from so long ago." 

"If you don't mind my asking, how did Elena take the news?"

  "She's a very brave young lady under a state of siege," Paddy responded. "I have no doubt that the strength of her foundations will enable her to weather the storm. She will have to employ many tactics, feints, and parries to outwit Enrique, but I have a great deal of confidence in her." 

"And what about the comandante, Paddy? You probably didn't make him too happy by pulling up stakes and deciding to leave." 

"Ah, Enrique. What can I say? If any a man ever believed that he embodied the need to preserve the world he was born into, it is Enrique. He really wants to recreate an old feudal Spain here in California. I sympathize with his hatred of the French, but not with his hatred of republicans. Had Bonaparte never attacked Spain, he probably would have been a nice fellow, happy in the knowledge that his older brother was disinherited by his father and that he, the worthy son, became the heir to their estates because he was the honorable one. But life didn't turn out like that. It's one reason why war is so bloody rotten and criminal. It can change our lives from white to black and set us on roads that we were never meant to travel."

"In our new world, Monastario, hopefully, will be an anachronism, but for now, he is a dangerous one," Diego commented thoughtfully.

"Like any petty tyrant, he is, Diego. But don't forget - tyrants come and they go. Remember our saying - Is treise tuath no tighearna’ – "A people is stronger than a lord." 

"Have you reached any final decisions, Paddy, on what to do next?" Diego asked. He handed the Irishman a small leather-bound book on the history of Ireland. Paddy tucked it into his jacket. 

"I've a small mission of me own in a quaint town called Monterey," Paddy responded with a smile. "There is a new governor, just appointed, an older gentleman. They say that he's quite a republican. He might just want to start looking into the affairs of Los Angeles - if not right away, then certainly in the time to come. If I can do anything to help the Torres family - and yours - I'll try - for 'you'll never plow a field by turning it over in your mind'." 

They reached the edge of town and Paddy gave a sigh. "Well, here we are at last." He leaned over to the young don and stretched out his hand. 

"I'll be sure to remember that," Diego said, taking his in a firm grasp. "Who knows, I might even have to learn to fight with a sword meself." 

Paddy grinned. "You just remember this old Irish saying, Diego - 'A scholar's ink lasts longer than a martyr's blood.'"

He chuckled and kept on as he turned his horse away. "Now I've always believed that the longest road out is the shortest road home and it's no use boiling your cabbage twice. The older the fiddle, the sweeter the tune. By degrees, castles are built. It's difficult to choose between two blind goats. Men are like bagpipes - no sound comes from them until they're full. The one who waits for the fine day, will get the fine day. The person who brings a story to you will take away two from you. The dog that's always on the go is better than the one that's always curled up. Better own a trifle than want a great deal. Remember, even if you loose all, keep your good name for if you loose that, you are worthless. Wisdom is what makes a poor man a king, a weak person powerful, a good generation of a bad one, and a foolish man reasonable…." 

 Diego smiled to himself. "Colonel, you've kissed the blarney stone." He knew the colonel could no longer hear him. 

In the distance, a man in a lightweight black cape suddenly stopped on the hillcrest, turned, and shouted back to Diego. "Oh, Diego, when you see El Zorro tell him that…." 

Diego strained to hear the words, but they were whipped away by the breeze. The colonel waved and disappeared over the hill-lock.

Diego turned his horse back toward Los Angeles. He had a good idea of what the Irish colonel had intended to tell El Zorro. He knew that the colonel had learned and gained something incomparable in his interactions with the people of Los Angeles and his encounters with the Fox - his family, new friends and allies, and a sense of his own continuity in struggle - from Ireland, to Spain and at last to California. Here was another man who took his place in the struggle for a new and better world for all - the kind of world that El Zorro not only dreamed of, but fought for.

 

 

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