Comandante of Monterey
and the Challenge of Señorita Anamaría Verdugo
Eugene H. Craig
The comandante of Monterey was making his
apologies for keeping the young ladies up so late. "I'm sorry these
matters have taken up so much of the evening," he said to the
Verdugo cousins. "I hope you will allow me to make it up to you
Melana shook her head. "Oh, no, it was no
imposition at all and, besides, we had such a good time at the Inn. We
must do it again."
Luís turned towards Anamaría. "My
apologies to you, too, dear Anamaría. I truly enjoyed our evening out
and our little chat. Things should proceed along the lines I related to
you earlier. Until then, allow me to bid you a very pleasant evening and
Anamaría didn't trust herself to say anything
at that point and gave him her hand to kiss.
In a few more minutes, the door had closed
behind the officers and Anamaría and Melana were sitting down
discussing the evening's events.
"Isn't Alonso wonderful?" gushed
Melana, sitting down with her back to the window. "He is just the
nicest man I have ever met. I saw you two talking outside, but you
looked so serious."
"Oh, we just talked about a lot of things.
Yes, I think he's a very nice man, too, Melana. Even though Luís has a
higher rank, they are the best of friends."
"You know, Anamaría, Captain del Guerro
asked me all sorts of questions about Father's business acquaintances
and I just told him everything I could think of. I hope it was enough.
He asked me so many questions. I began to get very worried, but he told
me that he just had to find out as much as possible. He said that all
the information helps to solve a puzzle. He was so nice about it. I
really trust him. What do you think about him?"
"I don't know, Melana," Anamaría
said. "I think he's very nice, just like you say."
"Oh, there must be more to it than that,
cousin," insisted Melana. "You two were really talking up a
storm on the way back. And you walked so slowly together, arm-in-arm.
Don't tell me there's nothing you have to say."
Anamaría smiled at her cousin. "You are
very observant, Melana. Yes, we talked a lot, but only about Uncle
Felipe and those kind of matters."
"But you are now calling him 'Luís.' I
noticed that right away. And he is calling you 'Anamaría.'
"Oh, Melana, you are just so romantic. You
see romance in everything. I told Captain del Guerro that I considered
him more than just the comandante here - look how much he has helped us
- and that he should be less formal with us, that's all. Really, I don't
think that's anything at all." She became flustered in spite of
Melana didn't believe a word of it. "All
right, Anamaría, if you say so. But I think he really likes you as
well. He's such a gentleman, too."
"Let's go to bed now, Melana. I'm very tired and the wine is putting me to sleep. I probably shouldn't have had that extra half a glass."
In the wee hours of the next morning, Melana was
awakened by the sounds of sobbing. She opened her eyes and listened
carefully. She looked over at Anamaría, who had her back to her, and
sat up. "Anamaría, what is wrong, darling? Why are you
Anamaría felt her cousin's hands on her
shoulders and kept sobbing. Melana kissed her cheek. "Don't cry.
Tell me about it, Anamaría. Telling helps."
Anamaría was crying as if her heart was broken. She could hardly speak to her cousin.
"I'm just mixed up, Melana….I don't know
what to think….I don't know what to say. Alonso told me this story
and…" she sobbed, with her chest heaving.
"What did Alonso tell you that makes you
cry?" insisted Melana.
"It was about Luís. I feel so sad for him.
Here he is so brave and I've treated him so badly. How could anyone ever
forgive me? Why am I so hateful?"
"Now, you mustn't talk like this, Anamaría.
What did Alonso tell you about Luís? What happened?"
"Oh, Melana, it's just so sad. He was
married once but he never got to see her - his wife - very much because
of the wars. And then, when he got some time to go home…he wanted to
surprise her and come home….and when he got there, he found that she
had died…….oh, Melana, it is just so terrible," Anamaría
started sobbing again. "Imagine, traveling so far to see the one
you love, only to find her dead………and never to see the one you
love again…I don't think I could bear it!"
"It's all right, it's all right, darling.
But, look how strong our captain is - look at all the good things he is
doing and how well people think of him."
"Oh, it's not just that, Melana” she
wept. “All of us look tough on the outside, but who really knows what
is on the inside."
Anamaría sat up. "Just look at me, Melana.
I think I'm the same way. Look at me - calm, cool Anamaría -that's what
the world thinks. Nobody can penetrate my tough hide because I know the
game they are playing. But this is different, Melana. I've never felt
like this about anyone before. I liked Luís when I first met him that
day at the carriage. I even defended him to Ricardo. But after Luís
tried to hang Ricardo, I almost hated him, even though it was all
Ricardo's fault. And now, I don't know what to think. I just keep
thinking about how he must miss his wife and how much he loved her and
if he will ever find anyone again. I just keep on crying about it.”
The tears flowed down her cheeks.
"Oh, Anamaría, there's nothing wrong with
caring about Luís, or even loving him. I think you do love him. If you
did not, why would you care about what had happened to him a long time
"Well, it wasn't that long ago, Melana"
Anamaría sniffed. "Alonso said it was only a few years ago. But
Melana, I don't know if I love Luís or I just feel sorry for him. Maybe
I'm feeling sorry for myself, too, because, well, because I've never
known what it is to love someone, I mean, to really love someone. Do you
remember today when he took little Fella into his arms and played with
him? I was so moved by that. I just didn't realize that here was a man
who could love something the way Luís did."
"Oh, Anamaría, you must be in love with Luís.
Why, when you just said you didn't know what it was like to love
somebody, you didn't even mention Señor Zorro!"
"Señor Zorro!" exclaimed Anamaría.
"You see what I mean? I haven't even thought about him at all, the
man I wanted to marry more than anyone else. All I do is think about Luís
now, not el Zorro. Am I really in love, Melana? I wish I knew."
With that she settled back down on her pillow.
Her cousin snuggled in close to her and put a hand on her arm. "Oh,
Anamaría, I think I know what love is now. I think I love Alonso. All I
do is think about him, how handsome he is, how kind he is, and how I
feel when he is near."
Anamaría smiled almost sadly. "I know Melana, and I think he is starting to love you, too." She sighed. "How nice, to know that you really are in love."