Comandante of Monterey
and the Challenge of Señorita Anamaría Verdugo
Eugene H. Craig
Two Spanish officers escorted their lady
companions to the Gregorio Verdugo home, which was not far from the
center of the town of Monterey. Anamaría Verdugo and Captain Luís del
Guerro lingered behind the other couple.
felt quite relaxed as he strolled arm in arm with the elegant young
woman at his side. He pointed out the evening star to her in the glow of
a golden sunset. "Soon, a thousand such worlds will take its
place," he mused. "The stars have never ceased to create
wonder in me as I gaze at them from any place I have ever been."
"I like the night sky as well,"
responded Anamaría, "but usually on the patio at home where I feel
"Hopefully, one day you will view them from
your artist's viewpoint when the sky is clear and there is no light to
mar their beauty. There is a feeling of serenity that comes with an
unencumbered view of the night sky, even when surrounded by the dark
forest. There, the sea breeze and the stars form a unique harmony,"
the captain said, coming to a halt along the street. Then he returned
his gaze to his companion and looked apologetic as if he had said too
much for the occasion. "Ah, but forgive me, Anamaría."
The young lady had enjoyed his observation, but
feeling a little awkward at the freshness of their new friendship, she
changed the subject. “Luís, I have been thinking about your question
of earlier today and I may have an answer for you - the question you
asked me is whether Uncle Felipe has enemies or not.”
The comandante had his arm through hers and drew
even closer. It was not hard to whisper in his ear because he was barely
an inch taller than she was in her heels. “I’m listening, dear,”
“I talked with Melana and we think that there
are two possibilities. One is a man called García. He lives here in
town and most of his dealings are with Pedro Velásquez, although he has
been out to Uncle Felipe’s in the past. The other is an unknown. Last
night Uncle Felipe asked him to check back at García’s for his lost
journal and then at the Inn where he was frequenting. I don’t know the
cattlemen Uncle Felipe deals with. You will have to ask Melana about
“Ask us in for a few minutes and give me a
chance to do that this evening, if it will not be an imposition on
either of you,” responded Luís. “The chain of events seems to be
running just ahead of us and I’d like to catch up with it before the
trail grow too cold to find the kind of evidence I need.”
“Luís, do you think anyone could be watching
us or following us, based on what has been going on?” she asked
“I don’t think that is an unreasonable
assumption to make,” he answered carefully. “I want you to know,
however, that I am vigilant and I sense no danger at the present. Our
appearance at the Inn tonight served a dual purpose, one of which was
meant to show that we are merely being sociable, passing our time in
entertainment and pleasant conversation – for public consumption.”
"And the other purpose?" she asked
The captain let the question pass unanswered,
but gave her arm a gentle squeeze.
“Can you tell me anything at all about this
afternoon?” she probed.
“Only that I arrested Señor Velásquez,” he
“Oh,” she laughed. “I heard you tell him
that you would, if he kept insulting an officer of the Crown.” She was
“And that officer’s new puppy,” joked Luís
lightly, wanting to put his companion at ease. He could tell she was
enjoying the banter and wondered if she really believed what he just
turned another corner and came to the Verdugo residence. Melana and
Lieutenant Morales seemed to be waiting for them. In another minute they
were ushered inside and down a hall to a brightly lit sitting room. The
comandante asked Melana for a word with her and they sat down near the
sat down with Alonso Morales near a window that overlooked the interior
patio. “You know, Lieutenant, I haven’t had a chance to speak to you
at all these last two days. It seems that my cousin has had all the
“That’s very kind of you Señorita, but I
don’t think Melana has had all the fun. I have really enjoyed her
company as well,” he replied with a sparkle in his eyes. “When I
told your uncle that she must be a fascinating conversationalist, it was
“What sort of things must she be talking
about? Hopefully, not all
those romances she reads.”
“Not at all,” Morales protested. “I’m
almost amazed by the kind of literature and history she has read. She
knows all the best poems and literature of Spain and other countries.
She was really fascinated with the captain’s poem and told me all
about the kind of art and music of the period.” He paused and looked a
little embarrassed. “I must sound pretty much taken by her.”
Anamaría smiled benevolently at that.
“That’s all right, Alonso – oh, may I call you that? – I can
tell you that Melana loves having such a good listener as you are. Our
spirits are lifted when we can talk with kindred souls.”
“You know, Señorita,” he leaned over
confidentially, “both the captain and I feel that way as well.”
Anamaría was silent a few moments and looked
over at Melana and Luís. “Would you care to walk out with me to the
patio, Lieutenant?” she asked. “I need some fresh air.”
The army officer rose with her and they strolled
out the door. She sat on a bench and gestured for him to join her. Once
they sat down, she got to the point. “Could I ask you a confidential
“Yes, of course, “ the officer said quietly.
“And I’ll answer the best that I can.”
“Can you tell me something about Luís
– not just what kind of officer he is, but what he is really
like, well, you know, what kind of man he is?”
“That’s a complex question and I would have
to give you a complex answer to be fair to the captain," the
lieutenant began. "Briefly, he is one of the finest officers I have
ever known – being conscientious and efficient. He really believes in
good government and law and order. He tries to be the best example he
can be, even if he tries too hard. The amazing thing is that, despite
all the corruption and politics, he attempts to stand above it, or at
least to get out of the way of the harm it does."
Alonso smiled in a contemplative way.
"He’s very set in his ways about what is right and wrong and that
guides him in his actions. You probably already have sensed some of
this.” Morales paused a moment and looked at Luís through the window.
“Now that is the part you didn’t need to hear, but I wanted to tell
you anyway because, as his subordinate, I have never worked under anyone
who gave credit where credit is due to the degree that he does. It takes
honesty and integrity to do that.”
The lieutenant grew quiet a few moments, combing
one hand through his sandy-colored hair before resuming. “As a man, he
is much the same. The Army has been his life so it shapes our views and
goals. He is personally courageous and generally very tolerant, more
than most, I mean. However, like most of us, that tolerance only goes so
far. You can strike him with your glove once or twice and he might
overlook it or forgive you, but try doing it that third time and
you’ve gone too far with him.”
Anamaría involuntarily gave start as she
remembered the near hanging of Ricardo del Amo. "‘You've got a
tiger by the tail’ - that's what a friend of mine said."
blue eyes met her brown ones. “I know what you are thinking - about
your friend del Amo. Yes, he told me about that. It has bothered him. He
felt it was the worst command decision he ever made and his pride was
dealt a blow. But Luís is a man who does not wallow in this sort of
thing. He moves on. He is reasonable and levelheaded. He feels that he
has moved beyond the unpleasantries and that the road ahead is open.”
paused a moment before concluding, “I hope this gives you some more
insight into the captain, whom I am proud to say is my friend, not just
a commanding officer.”
Anamaría was silent for a few minutes after he finished. Then she asked, “Does he have a family? I don’t even know if he’s married or not.”
“Yes, he has a family in Spain – brothers and sisters. I don’t know them. I think his
parents are still alive. He’s not married now. He lost his wife a few
years ago to a cholera epidemic.”
“I see,” said Anamaría in a quiet voice.
“I’m sorry to hear that." She hesitated. " Did…. did her
death hurt him?”
“Yes, I think he has never stopped missing
her. But isn’t that true of all of us whenever we lose a loved one or
family member? He came home on unexpected leave from the war. He wanted
to surprise her with his good fortune, only to find she had passed away
just a few days before. So, it was a shock.”
"Did they have any children?" she
asked, feeling numbed by the revelation and wondering if there was any
happy ending to such a sad story.
"No," the lieutenant shook his head.
"There probably wasn't time. It was the war - and the war."
Anamaría looked through the window at Luís
again. “I hope you don’t think I’m asking questions that are none
of my business,” she said. “But I’ve seen a different side
recently to a man I thought I would dislike because of the situation
with Ricardo. There are many qualities of his that I've come to admire.
I guess I just wanted to know more because, because I’m afraid of
being disappointed in someone again….. I don’t really know how to
Alonso leaned close, took her hand in his and
said very sincerely, “I hope you won’t be offended by what I say,
because it really comes from my heart, Anamaría.”
The young man gathered his thoughts and began.
“I think that we sometimes become disappointed in someone else if we
expect perfection in them. And none of us is perfect. We all make
mistakes in our judgements or what we do on occasion. Don’t idealize a
man. Accept that which is good and learn to live with everything else.
You can do that if you decide that all his good qualities are worth the
little bit of aggravation.”
The young officer then looked a little
embarrassed because of how straightforward he had been to her. “I ask
your pardon for saying this. Just don’t be disappointed by Luís’
mistakes. Take a look at the man he is overall. I think you will find
that his good qualities outweigh anything else.” He released her hand
Anamaría smiled into the young lieutenant’s
eyes. “You are a true friend to the captain,” she said. “I also
admire that a great deal. I'm glad you are his friend, Alonso, and mine,
too. You have been very honest with me and I've missed that even in my
own friends. The only other person who has ever spoken to me like you is
Diego de la Vega. But he lives far away in Los Angeles."
"Do you love this man?" asked Alonso.
Anamaría smiled in a wistful sort of way. "I'm very fond of him, but I don't love him. He likes me very much, I know that, but I've already told him that I consider him a brother, nothing more."
Morales looked up observing that del Guerro had
risen from his seat and was looking through the window. "I think
the captain is finished now. Perhaps we should go back inside."