Being Fair

by Patricia Crumpler







The coach was packed. Besides Diego de la Vega, there was a couple and their three children and a rather robust, short gentleman dressed - according to the conservative Spanish dress - in a very garish suit. In a most uncivilized manner, the gentleman kept his hat on inside the coach. The stage master helped the passengers into the coach as they settled in.

"Here, Señor, allow me to put your case with the other luggage," said the stage master to the compact gentleman.

"Nay!" said the gentleman. "It is me own personal case and it stays with me always. Besides, I needs something for me feet so I can see out the window."

"Very well, Señor, make sure you keep it under your feet, not bothering the others, for there is little room in the coach today," instructed the stage man.

"Not to worry. It is me own, and stays right next to me, for sure," answered the passenger.

The young couple sat opposite each other, the wife with a baby next to Diego and the father across with the small boy and girl on each side of him. The passengers felt the lurch of the coach as the six horses started on their way north. It was quiet and the air was fresh and cool. Diego watched as the man in the hat looked over to the little girl and grinned broadly at her. The child let out a scream. She sprang from her place next to the smiling man and plummeted towards her mother. Diego quickly grabbed the child to avoid a collision with the mother and the sleeping baby.

"Oh! Carmelita!" said the mother.

"Carmelita, what is wrong?" asked her father.

The little girl buried her head into Diego’s neck.

"Carmelita, come here this instant," commanded her father.

"No," answered Carmelita in a shaky but obstinate voice from behind the neck of the man who held her.

"Carmelita," whispered Diego, "tell me what is wrong. Are you afraid of something?"

As Diego talked in low tones to the shaking child he saw the hatted gentleman smile at the little boy which produced the same effect, for the little boy dove into his father’s jacket and covered his face.

Both parents were at a loss to explain their children’s behavior. Diego listened carefully as the child whispered in his ear.

"He has big, pointed teeth?" Diego asked very quietly.

"Sí, very big ones and he will bite me," she choked in return.

"Little Carmelita, I will not let him bite you. Look again, sweet niña, his teeth are not pointed at all," said Diego, so only the child could hear. She moved her head in the negative, not willing to take a second look. Diego saw the man in the hat look out the window as if nothing had happened.

"I am sorry Señor, I do not know why my daughter is holding on to you so, I will get her off of you right now," said the father half embarrassed, half-angry because of the embarrassment.

"Oh, no. Let Carmelita stay. I do not mind," said Diego with a kindly smile. Carmelita relaxed and moved a little so she was sitting in his lap, her back to the hatted man. The mother handed Diego a blanket, which he wrapped around the little girl.

"You are very good with children, Señor, do you have your own?" asked the woman.

"No, unfortunately I do not. But someday I will, and I hope my own little girl will be as precious as Carmelita." He looked down at the child, who smiled. Carmelita closed her eyes. The big lashes fluttered and she went to sleep.

"This is where we get off. This is where we live," said the father, shaking his sleeping children.

"Sí, this is where I get off as well," Diego said as he gently took off the blanket from his warm little guest. "I am ordering new tile for our hacienda, and after that, I will travel to San Luis to choose new furniture. We have added a new section to our home."

"Well, Delores Hidalgo is certainly the place to come for tile. It has been my family’s business for a few generations, and you will not find brighter or better designs," said the father. "I will be glad to show you personally, Señor."

"Excellent," replied Diego.

"Diego! It is so good to see you, my son. Did all go well?" asked Alejandro de la Vega at the dock.

"Yes, the furniture is being unloaded, and wait until you see the tile. See those crates?" answered the younger man.

"Come, we will be in time for lunch and you can tell me about your trip on the way home."

Theresa put the silver tray on the table.

"Welcome home, Don Diego. It has been most quiet with you gone," she said with a smile.

"So, you say you met a journalist on the ship? Tell me more," said Alejandro sipping his wine.

"Quiet interesting, yes. He said he was from Ireland and in his own words, 'intended to chronicle a bit of history.'  By the way, I have invited him to our fiesta."

"Ireland? When I hear of Ireland I can only think of the tales a priest once told me about little people who live there called leprechauns. It is said children and animals can see their true form," chuckled Alejandro, holding up his wine to the light regarding the color as a good vintner would.

"You do not believe in such a thing, do you father?" asked Diego.

"Of course not, there is no such thing," the older man answered still regarding the color against the light. "This is a new barrel, quite good, quite good indeed."

"Well, to return to my narrative, father, the journalist said Los Angeles is in for an interesting time. It seems that a wealthy king in Ireland is looking for the most beautiful woman in the world to marry. His emissaries are searching and will hold a contest," explained Diego.

Alejandro put down his glass, now intent on his son’s commentary. "A beauty contest? He will find little participation here, of course," he replied hotly. "No woman of any breeding would submit to such dishonor."

"Oh, but the contest is open to all women, not just high breed Spanish ladies, father. Brian O’Kenna said the winner would be a queen who will be apparent the minute she is seen. Very interesting, no?" laughed Diego.

"Disgusting," answered Alejandro. "By the way, there is already a stranger in town. The sergeant has identified him as William of Thorne from Ireland with all papers in good order. Perhaps he is one of the emissaries."

"Perhaps. And perhaps I shall make a visit to the tavern today. Life around here is becoming fascinating," said Diego with a big smile.

At the tavern, Diego recognized the garishly dressed gentleman leaning chest-high at the bar as the one who frightened little Carmelita.

"Buenos Dias," said Diego in the customary greeting.

"Top o’ the morning, and rest of the afternoon to ya," replied the man tipping his hat that remained on his head. "Do ye not serve beer here in this dry region?"

"Not usually, señor, but we have as fine wine as anywhere on this earth," answered the considerably taller gentleman.

"Nothing distilled?" the little man inquired.

"Our brandy is excellent," commented Diego.

"Bar keep! Your best brandy, please," demanded the little man.

The tavern keeper offered a bottle woven into a basket and put a glass on the bar. The man reached into his jacket for a coin.

"Señor, I am sorry, but I do not know this coin. I see it is gold, but it is not a Spanish gold coin. I cannot accept it," apologized the tavern man.

"Let me see a Spanish gold coin, man," said the man as he touched the rim of his hat.

"Allow me," said Diego who pulled a coin from his pocket.

The man looked carefully at the coin. "I am sure I can find one of those," he said.

Reaching into his pocket again, he pulled out a coin identical to the one shown by Diego.

"I may have a time getting you change, Señor," said the tavern man.

"Not to worry, begorra! I like me dram, so I will be sippin this brandy until my credit is used up!" said the small man with a smile. He picked up the bottle and glass and headed to a table.

"May I join you, Señor?" asked Diego.

The man’s hat nodded the affirmative.

"May I ask what brings you to our little city? Your accent tells me you are far from your home," said Diego in his most charming manner.

"Aye, very far, and on a serious mission. I might as well tell you now, for I will announce it in the square tomorrow. I am looking for a woman most fair. The woman who is true fair will be a queen, should she accept the offer of my king, that is the offer of marriage. In my land, Ireland, our king has been searching for many years. We have extended our search to your land. I feel like the lucky lady lives here. We shall see!"

"You are staying here in town, then?" asked the tall caballero.

"No. I have a camp, just outside of town," the little man answered with narrowed, suspicious eyes.

The next morning, in the square Sir William of Thorne announced the contest. Soon the town overflowed with people bursting with curiosity regarding this unheard of challenge. One of the residents piqued by curiosity was the lovely Arianna Caruso who had come to town with her mother and their maid Aulydia.

"Aulydia, must you stand like that? Straighten out. Do not hunch over so!" said Senora Caruso.

"And your hair, it looks as if you brushed it with a rake. Honestly, mother, I do not know why we allow Aulydia to continue to be a personal servant. I know father found her when she was a small child, but that does not mean we have to put up with the embarrassment," added Arianna.

"Well, she is fully trained, dear daughter, and personal maids are hard to come by," countered the fine senorita’s mother.

"Perhaps I should give her a few more of my old dresses. Maybe a bright color would help. But it will not help the bushy eyebrows or her crooked teeth. Ugh," said Arianna with a hard stare at the young woman in question. "Perhaps we should enter Aulydia in this contest!" teased the young woman.

Her mother snickered, and it was as easy to ignore this final insult as it had for Aulydia to pretend she had not heard the entire conversation. Aulydia had frequent practice ignoring the darted comments of her employers.

Many ladies of the city of Los Angeles were signing their names to the competition roster. The high bred Spanish ladies stood on the outskirts of the park, noses in the air making high bred remarks about the peons and Indians who thought they were attractive enough to interest a king.

Many people attended the fiesta at the home of the de la Vegas that evening and the one subject of conversation seemed to be the low class, foolish and disgusting event of the beauty contest. Arianna Caruso laughed, shook her soft black curls, and batted her well-known eyelashes at the mere thought of such an absurdity.

"But, you will attend to see if there is a winner, no?" asked Diego with an acerbic bite.

"Well, out of inquisitiveness, perchance I will attend," the senorita answered haughtily.

Alejandro added quietly with his hand to his mouth, "I would wager many of the ladies of the town will attend for the same reason."

"There could be no other reason, of course!" added Arianna as she turned on her heels away from the conversation.

Diego showed all of his teeth in a wide smile.

"What would you be thinking?" asked Brian O’Kenna, as he approached his guest.

"Oh, I was thinking that if these high bred beauties who would not dream of lowering themselves to be part of a contest, just happened to be near when the judging commenced, they just might be noticed by our esteemed guest from Ireland and proclaimed the fairest. Certainly they would denounce an offer of marriage, but then it would confirm to all in this city who was fairest," answered Diego.

"That could happen," nodded Brian.

Only on the Saint’s Fiesta Day did the city see such a bustling crowd. Tamale vendors almost ran out of their product and the tavern was standing room only. Naturally, the ladies of quality stood back on the sidewalk or sat in their buggies never mixing with the rabble. Brian O’Kenna walked around with notebook in hand sketching and making furious notes of this shindig. As the contestants lined up for all to admire, a great shout was heard in the crowd. A new guest had arrived; who called himself Sir Robert of Bacon. When Sir Robert and Sir William had discovered each other, a great argument ensued. The two men, well matched in size and temperament, hurled insults at one another and shook their grarled walking sticks in the air in great threat. No one in the city actually understood the words, but the meaning was crystal clear. It must have been a very old feud, for the hatred was plain to see.

The corpulent sergeant lumbered through the crowd to put an end to the discord.

"Gentlemen!" he bellowed. "What is the meaning of this? Let us act like civilized people. Can we not all just get along?" he asked.

Suddenly the argument turned into easily understood words.

"This worm!" the new man indicated of the other by a bent finger.

"You mean Sir William of Thorne?" asked the sergeant.

"William of Thorne?" scorned the man; "He is BillyBristle. And a brigand and blackguard he is." he added.

"Ho, ho! Sir Robert of Bacon!" laughed the other man. "It is BobbHogg," he corrected.

"I do not understand. Tell me what is the problem and perhaps we can solve it," interrupted the sergeant.

"He is not supposed to be here," stated BobbHogg.

"I got here first, I do have the right," argued BillyBristle.

At that the two men charged each other, wrestling and writhing as they moved about so fast that the crowd, which had now encircled the two fighters, could hardly make out the blur. When movements could be discerned more clearly, it seemed the gentlemen took on a different appearance, the look of distorted unattractive small men actively engaged in a quest of destruction. Every so often the crowd would cry "Oh!" in unison to an unexpected nasty blow, but the victim would shake himself and repay with an equal stroke.

No one seemed to notice the withdrawal of the chronicler, Mr. O’Kenna, as he made his way out of town. As the battling men continued beating each other at an inhuman pace, both looked up and suddenly stopped.

"Look! A maiden most fair!" yelled BillyBristle.

"Oh! A Queen, a queen for sure!" agreed BobbHogg.

They pointed in the direction of Arianna who quietly sat in the open buggy with her mother and personal maid, Aulydia.

"Make way!" shouted BillyBristle.

"Move aside! We must go to the fairest of all," added BobbHogg.

Arianna much used to the solicitude one of beauty often deals with, blushed and batted her long black eyelashes.

"Who me?" She pointed to herself wordlessly, and looked down in a well-practiced manner.

"Oh! Arianna," beamed Señora Caruso. "My beautiful lady child, I have always known you were the loveliest in the land, and now the town knows it, too."

"I saw her first, she is mine, the reward is mine, too!" said BobbHogg.

"Never!" shouted BillyBristle as he pushed his way through the crowd.

They both arrived at the buggy together, grasping the door handle in attempt to board the buggy.

"Please!" begged Señora Caruso. "You do not have my permission to speak with my daughter, even if she has won the contest.  Driver, head this carriage for home, my daughter could never be involved in such a low class activity."

Arianna covered her head modestly with her fancy lace shawl to show the town how repulsive such a fuss was to her grand upbringing. In spite of the moving carriage, the two little men gained access to the carriage.

"Be gone, I say," commanded Señora Caruso, and shielded Arianna with her body. The two little men ignored her as if she had been silent. As if choreographed, the two little men kneeled and touched the hand of Aulydia.

"Oh, Queen, Fairest of All, will you accompany us to Ireland so we may present you to our king?" they begged.

The driver stopped the coach.

"What?" asked Señora Caruso.

"Aulydia? It cannot be," questioned Arianna with a facial grimace that produced a most unlovely look on the señorita’s face.

"Oh, but she is lovely. Regard her hair, coarse and strong," said BillyBristle.

"The exquisite smile! Not an even tooth! The beauty of it all!" cried BobbHogg ecstatically.

"The eyebrows, like a painting!" cooed BillyBristle.

"And she is bent over! How perfect could a woman be?" asked BobbHogg dreamily. "Oh! The perfection, the incomparability of the woman."

Smoothing his suit, BillyBristle gained control of his demeanor, now assuming the appearance he first had in the town.

"Will you consent?" he asked.

A scratchy voice said, "Sí."

"Hooray!" the two men shouted.

"Shall we suspend our feud long enough to bring her to Ireland?" suggested BillyBristle.

"Can I trust you?" asked BobbHogg.

In a whisper only a few people could hear, BillyBristle held up his two crossed little fingers and said, "Leprechaun’s Oath."

"Hmmm," mused BobbHogg. "I guess I can trust that. Now, I am sure you have stored your valued possession," he said with his eyebrows raising and falling.

"Of course, and as soon as I have retrieved it, we can be on our way."

"Certainly," agreed BillyBristle, "And I must regain mine.

By now Aulydia was standing, beautifully bent, at the side of the two men.

"Let us go," said BillyBristle.

The trio headed out of town, leaving a host of Los Angeleans with gaping mouths, still wondering what had transpired.

"I will be back," stated BobbHogg, indicating the two others should wait for him as he entered a small cave, completely hidden by a thorny bush. The companions heard a pitiful cry, and out of the cave’s entrance came an unsettled and distressed individual.

"I have been robbed! Me gold, me own treasure is gone! Oh, Despair! Oh, gloom! What shall I do?" cried BobbHogg.

"Are ye sure ye looked? No self respecting Leprechaun misplaces his hoard," admonished BillyBristle.

The look flung in BillyBristle’s directing told him BobbHogg had used every means of detection to find his treasure.

"Let us retrieve mine, we need to go home," said BillyBristle, carefully not smiling at his worst enemy’s disaster.

Stopping at a large rock, BillyBristle commanded his traveling partners to stay put until he returned. It seemed a long time before they heard the scream of anguish.

"Me treasure! Me treasure is gone!" he wailed.

BobbHogg’s dark mood seemed to lift a bit as he sympathetically shook his head.

They both looked at each other. They nodded.

"CreepingKen!"  they both cried. "It has to be. He is the only one who could follow us and not be detected.

Both little men sat on low rocks and pulled at their chins. They looked like storm clouds about to rain.

In a sweet, but scratchy voice Aulydia said, "Look."

It was Zorro. On the back of the great black horse was the journalist, now a bit more wizened and possibly a foot shorter.

"Is this your gold, Señor?" asked the black clad man to BillyBristle. Zorro held up a box with a thistle embossed on its front.

"Aye!" said BillyBristle who jumped up turned around and clicked his heels in midair.

"And, would this be your gold?" said Zorro to the other man standing in awe.

"It would be, and thank you!" said BobbHogg as he took his leathern pouch with a large pig painted on its top. He danced a jig that caused Zorro to laugh.

"You are a fair man, indeed, especially for a human," complimented BobbHogg.

"The word ‘fair" can have many meanings," said Zorro. "I am sure that the residents of Los Angeles will think about this meaning for many years to come.

"Aye! There is fair, and there is fair,"  said BillyBristle happily.

As Zorro pulled the great horse away, the two little men looked at each other with mirth.

"We have our treasures back! We have it back! Ho! Ho! What clever fellows we are, we are! What clever fellows we are." They sang, they danced and they were quite delighted, until they looked around to see they were alone.

"CreepingKen! He did it again!" shouted BillyBristle who stomped up in down in rage.

"He has taken our Queen! We shall have no reward," cried BobbHogg, now kicked a heavy boulder into the air.

"Not fair! Not fair!" they both cried.

Zorro reared his horse on the next hill. He smiled as he saw CreepingKen gently helping Aulydia up the rocks. They paused and shared a sweet kiss. Zorro saw the lady smile and blush.

"Now that is certainly fair!" he said to Tornado. "Fair, indeed."



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