Comandante of Monterey
and the Challenge of Señorita Anamaría Verdugo
Eugene H. Craig
Anamaría and Melana spent the night together in
Melana’s room. They pulled the covers over their heads and whispered
about the day's events long into the night. Both fell off into an
exhausted sleep in the wee hours of the morning. Nevertheless, they were
determined to act as if they had all the energy they needed for the
events of the next day.
The early fogs evaporated quickly and gave lie
to the concerns of the evening before. Velásquez left after breakfast
and it was as if the fogs departed with him.
Anamaría convinced Felipe to show her the puppy
that del Guerro had expressed such an interest in. “Can I just give it
to him?” pleaded Melana. “It’s just one puppy out of six.”
“Well, daughter, I don’t know if he’ll accept it. How can he keep a puppy in the cuartel?”
“Even if he can’t, it would be nice to make
the gesture, to show that we think he deserves it,” interjected Anamaría.
“My little niece,” said Felipe in a teasing
manner, “I think you are starting to become quite fond of Captain del
Guerro.” When she began to protest, he waved his hand. “Oh, don’t
do that. I actually approve. He’s a good, honest man and heaven knows
we need someone like that in the cuartel.”
Melana made a little gesture to Anamaría and
left the room. Felipe started to rise, but Anamaría asked him to stay.
“I need to talk to you about something, Uncle” she said. “It is
important and I didn’t want to bring it up with Melana in the room.”
“All right, dear, what is it?” he responded,
sitting down in his favorite chair by the window.
“It’s about Señor Velásquez. You said last
night that he was only ‘a good uncle’ for her. She doesn’t want it
to be any other kind of relationship at all.” She paused. Felipe was
“I am speaking for both of us. Melana and I
are interested in men with an appreciation for our interests, not just
their own. I don’t trust Señor Velásquez anymore and Melana has her
doubts as well. I guess it’s an instinct. I can’t explain it any
better. I just wanted to let you know.”
Felipe sighed deeply. “Thank your for your
frankness, Anamaría. You’ve never had any difficulty in expressing
yourself.” He sat as if deep in thought a few moments. “Life is not
always fair, Anamaría, and sometimes we have to think deeper and
broader than our own personal interests. I am trying to think of
Melana’s future – a good and secure future for her once I am
“Isn’t Melana’s happiness more important,
Uncle? I think that is even more important than security.”
Felipe tried to be very patient with his niece.
“You know that I have spent my entire existence trying to make a
better life for all of us. I want my daughter to have the best. At
eighteen years of age, she can hardly be expected to make the right kind
of decisions. It may mean that she will have to make a few compromises
Anamaría’s eyes inadvertently filled with
tears, and she became very upset. “Are you saying you would force
Melana into a marriage she would not want, Uncle? You would break her
Felipe tried to end the conversation. This was
not something he wanted to discuss. “Sometimes a young girl cannot see
that she eventually would be happy, knowing that her children would be
secure and comfortable. I don’t think Pedro is the monster you seem to
think he is. Oh, he has his rough edges to be sure, but time can work
Anamaría was so put out that she could not reply.
uncle looked at her and said as a final word. “You know, Anamaría,
sometimes it’s for the best that men and fathers make decisions about
their daughter’s future, and not the woman. I hate to bring this up,
but I do so to make my point. You yourself are in love with a man, a
legend. You are now twenty-three. You will wait your entire life for
this man, but he will never be yours. Then, what would you have done to
yourself? There are very fine men here in this community who would make
a good husband for you – the very caliber of men that you say you
want, and yet, you would not have them because they do not meet your
ideal like the dashing outlaw. I know you disagree with this, your face
hides nothing, but please think about it, dear. You know that I would
not do anything to hurt Melana, but I must think of her future.”
“If you’ll excuse me for saying so, Uncle
Felipe – I think if you make such a decision that you will be hurting
Melana, far more than you could ever dream. A man like Velásquez just
is not worth it. As you point out, surely there are other men in this
community who would make far better husbands for her than him. Maybe you
should think about that!”
Felipe was shocked by her words, and so was she
– by her own boldness. Never had she showed the kind of resolve that
she now expressed, but she was devoted to Melana and wanted to do
everything she could to help her.
“I think the conversation has come to an end.
Leave me, dear, and go visit your friends. We need time to reflect and
consider all that has been said. Don’t be angry. We all try to do what
we feel is best and sometimes we are wrong. I don’t deny that. But you
could be wrong, too.” With that Felipe walked out of the room. He
didn’t even see Melana waiting in the hall.
Melana watched her father leave the house and go
down to the stables. She was glad that Anamaría had distracted him long
enough for her to get his account book. She was eager to be gone.
Anamaría came out towards the stairs. She
looked very troubled. Her uncle had really touched a raw nerve with her
views on her own life and she wondered if she was being a hypocrite.
“What’s wrong, cousin?” asked Melana.
“Oh, nothing. Nothing for now.”
“I’m all set. Let’s go! Here’s the
sewing bag for you to carry or you can carry the puppy, if you like. I
packed everything carefully.
“I feel like holding on to something right now, Melana. I’d like to carry the puppy, if you don’t mind.” She took the little puppy into her arms and pressed her face against its head. The puppy licked her cheek and squirmed excitedly. She placed him in a large woven basket lined with a folded piece of cloth.
As they went towards the stable and the waiting carriage, they saw Felipe Verdugo take off on his horse. They waved but he did not respond. Within a minute, he had disappeared beyond the towering pines that swept down the winding road. Minutes later, the two cousins followed in his wake toward the pueblo of Monterey.