A Song of Joy

(A Sergeant Garcia Story)

 

 

Chapter 5

 

Garcia nodded to the lancer and then glanced around at Isadora, who was watching them both while she ate.   Turning back to the soldier, he said, “Doña Isadora is still eating.”  Suddenly he didn’t want to leave. 

“The Capitán told me to come and get you and the . . . señorita, and return to the way station as quickly as possible,” the private insisted. 

Garcia caught the slight hesitation and then emphasis on the word señorita and found himself bristling at the private’s implications.  “Very well, then.  Saddle my horse while I help the señorita to the carriage.  She is not able to ride a horse yet,” Garcia told him.

The private glanced past him at Isadora and said, “Why not?”

“She just had a baby, stupid,” Garcia said testily.  “Why do you think I asked that a carriage be sent?”

“Oh, sí, Sergeant,” said the private, as though he really hadn’t thought of the implications of the orders he had been given.  He stared at Isadora again, his eyes widening in surprise when he finally saw the baby lying at her side. 

The private dismounted and went to do Garcia’s bidding, while the sergeant returned to the dilapidated shelter.  “Ah, Isadora, you will be sleeping in a proper bed tonight.”  She nodded, but Garcia thought that she didn’t seem to appear too happy about it, either.  “You go ahead and finish eating while I pack my saddlebag, and then we can go down to the carriage.”

She gazed meaningfully at the soldier.  “I am full, Sergeant,” she said, reverting back to formalities.  “I have only to get the baby.”

Garcia caught her use of his title and pondered for a quick moment. 

“Sergeant, I need the saddle,” the private called out, interrupting his thoughts.   Garcia sighed and nodded, understanding what Isadora was doing and supposing that the soldiers might get some crazy ideas if they heard the two of them addressing each other so familiarly.   Why did life have to be so very complicated? he thought.  Garcia carried the saddle to the lancer and then returned to pack his belongings.  It only took him a moment to stuff his clothing into the saddlebag and then he gathered up the half-asleep baby.  He could not help himself; he paused and spoke a few nonsensical words into its ear, rubbing the wispy strands of black hair from its forehead.  “Preciosa,” he murmured.  Then the moment was over and he handed the baby over to its mother. 

“Thank you, Demetrio,” she said softly, low enough for just him to hear.  “You would make a wonderful father.”  Then she paused as though she had just thought of something.  “You aren’t . . . married, are you?” she asked, clearly embarrassed. 

“Oh, no, Isadora. I am not,” he replied sadly.  “Who would marry such . . . I mean, the Army has been my life these past twenty years.  “It is hard to think of marriage when you are a soldier.”

“But not impossible,” she murmured.  Louder, she said, “I think that you would also be a good husband.”

Garcia blushed, but murmured a quick thank you.  The lancer approached.  “Your horse is ready, Sergeant,” he said. 

Clearing his throat, Garcia drew himself up and turned toward the soldier.  “Very well, Private.  You lead my horse down to the El Camino Real, and do not forget my saddlebag,” he ordered.  As the lancer remounted, Garcia said to Isadora, “Hold tightly to the baby.”  He bent down and easily picked her up. 

“Sergeant, I am not that helpless!” she protested. 

“It is getting dark, Doña Isadora,” he replied.  “You might step on a loose stone and fall and hurt yourself and the baby.  I would not want that to happen to either of you.”   She smiled enigmatically and laid her head on his ample chest.  He mentally sighed, enjoying the feel of her body against his, but he forced himself to concentrate on the path ahead of him.  The lancer followed behind, the horse’s hooves clattering on the rocks.  As the path converged onto the King’s Highway, Garcia saw the capitan’s carriage sitting in the half-light of the early evening. 

“Put me down, Demetrio,” she said softly.  “We are at the highway and I am not a total invalid.”

Garcia did as he was told and Isadora hobbled the rest of the way to the carriage, only grasping on to his arm for support, her baby held tightly to her chest.  After helping her into the carriage, he mounted his horse and rode alongside until they reached the way station. 

Quickly dismounting, Garcia helped Isadora from the carriage, again letting her hang on to his arm.  As they entered the inn together, Garcia called out, “Innkeeper, the señora needs a room, ground floor if you have one.”  As the mostly one story building sprawled alongside the King’s Highway, Garcia didn’t doubt that there would be one.  

Sí, señor, it is very busy tonight, but we do have a small room at the end of the building,” the innkeeper said, pointing down a narrow hallway.  “Would you sign in, please, Señora?” he asked Isadora.  She handed the baby to Garcia and then signed the register.  When she had finished, the innkeeper gazed thoughtfully at her signature before motioning for them to follow him.  As he followed the man down the narrow hallway, Garcia was reminded of a skinny Tio.  Again, Isadora held on to his arm with one hand, cradling her baby close with the other.  Her steps were fairly sure, but the sergeant could tell that walking was painful to her.  The innkeeper finally opened the door at the end of the corridor and lit a candle.  It was, indeed a small room, but it was adequate with everything that Isadora would need.   Except for one tiny item. 

Señor, the lady needs a cradle for her little one,” Garcia told him. 

“Sergeant, please, I do not run a nursery.  I have no such thing,” the innkeeper protested.  “The senorita will have to sleep with her baby, or fix a bed for him in the corner.”

“It is all right, Sergeant,” Isadora murmured, her voice tired. 

Garcia glanced at her.  She looked drawn and worn out.  As it had only been a day since the delivery of her baby, he had no doubt that she was exhausted.  Again, the use of the term ‘senorita’ was not lost on the sergeant.  Gossip traveled fast, it would seem, but he remembered the times when he spread a great deal of the goings on of the pueblo.  Perusing the tiny bed and the dusty corner, Garcia frowned and said testily, “The bed is too small.  The young one would fall off or keep Doña Isadora awake trying to keep from smothering him.  And the corner?  No, not good at all.”  He stared hard at the innkeeper, who simply shrugged.  Then a thought occurred to Garcia, one that almost had him smiling in surprise.  “Do you have a stable?” he asked.

“Sí, of course, Sergeant.”

“Good.  Is there a manger in there for the animals to eat out of?” Garcia asked.

“Sí.”

“Excellente!  Clean it, lay fresh bedding on it and bring it for the young señor to sleep on,” Garcia ordered.  “And do not take too much time doing it.”  The innkeeper looked incredulous.  Garcia fixed him with another hard stare and added, “If it was good enough for our Lord and Savior, a lowly babe from Santa Barbara should not mind.”  The innkeeper saw the look in Garcia’s eyes, gulped, and nodded. 

“Thank you, uh, Sergeant,” Isadora said softly, gratitude in her eyes.

“You sleep well, Isadora,” Garcia said, taking her hand and kissing it lightly.  Somehow, he did not mind that the innkeeper was standing just outside the door.  She nodded and he turned reluctantly and left. 

“And you sleep well, too,” she called out after him. 

As he returned to the main room, a soldier approached him.  “The capitán desires to speak with you, Sergeant.  He is upstairs in the first room.”

,” Garcia said and trudged up the stairs, his heart heavy for reasons that he could not entirely fathom.  He did know that he felt lonely in a way that he had not felt before. 

At his knock, the comandante called out, ‘Enter,’ and Garcia opened the door.  Capitán Montez, a middle-aged man of dark skin and wavy black hair sat behind a small writing desk gazing at him.  He had a thin mustache and a well-trimmed beard, and the intense gray eyes seemed to miss nothing as they scrutinized him carefully.

“You are the acting comandante.”  It was a statement, not a question, but before Garcia could say anything, the capitán continued.  “Your appearance is excused for now, considering that you were helping the woman in her need.”

Gracias, comandante,” the sergeant said meekly.   He wasn’t totally sure of this new capitán, but he wouldn’t take any chances on irritating him first thing.

“But that obligation is over.  I will send the . . . señorita to the mission with two lancers tomorrow, while you will do what you were sent to do—escort me to my new duty station.”

“Sí, mi capitán,” Garcia said, disappointed.  He had hoped to be able to escort Isadora himself, but he could see in the comandante’s eyes something that kept him from even suggesting such a thing. 

“And you will bathe tonight before you go to bed, Sergeant,” Capitan Montez said acidly, wrinkling his nose. 

“Sí, Capitán,” Garcia said. 

“You are dismissed.”

“Sí.”  Garcia saluted and smartly turned and left the room.  As he descended the steps and approached the innkeeper, he heard something that caused anger to fill his heart.  Out of the corner of his eye, he saw several lancers, drinking wine, laughing and joking with one another.  While there was nothing wrong with having a good time with one’s companions, it was the topic of conversation that had Garcia agitated. 

“Ai, Pablo, did you see her today?  Did you hear the sergeant?”  This was the lancer who had saddled his horse.  “He called her señora.  Then he called her Doña Isadora, as though she was some kind of grand lady instead of the whore that she is.  And he acted like a grand caballero.  Her on his arm, helping her into….”

“Shh!” another lancer hissed.  “The sergeant is here.”

Garcia immediately walked over to the lancers’ table and stood next to it.  “From now on, you will speak of this woman, Isadora Perdiz, with more deference.  No matter what happened to her in the past, she is still a Spanish lady and should be respectfully treated,” he said heatedly, his rage only barely contained.  This kind of anger seemed almost foreign to him and it, too, surprised him, but he did nothing to suppress it.

“Sergeant, do you know what that ‘lady’ did?” another lancer asked.  “We live in Santa Barbara.  We know about these things.”

“Sí, Private, I do know.  She tried to please a man who made her promises and then ran away with her honor.”  

“She is unmarried.  She has a baby.  A baby born in sin.”  The rest of the lancers had wisely shut up and were watching to see what developed.  They saw the smoldering anger in the sergeant’s eyes. 

The words came out of his mouth before he could even think of what he was saying.  “That baby was born like any other baby.  And which of you is sinless?”  Garcia glared at each man before continuing.  “You will speak no more of the señorita in this manner.”  With that, the sergeant turned on his heel and walked away.  He ordered his bath and quickly cleaned up, wanting to be finished before any one else decided on the same course of action.  He pulled out his second uniform and perused it.  He would have preferred to have clean underwear as well, but that could not be helped.  With a slight smile, he remembered the baby wrapped snugly in his long handled underwear. 

He wiped off the worst of the stains on his ‘clean’ uniform before putting it on.  Sighing, Garcia wished he could go and talk to Isadora, feeling that somehow she would be able to calm his angry feelings, but it was not possible.  It would be unseemly and the gossipmongers were already at work.  Instead, he went to his room, a barracks-like affair with space for many occupants, took off his uniform jacket, and lay down on the hard slat bed in the corner of the room.  His mind whirled at all that he had experienced in the past day, and for a long time refused to let him relax.  Finally, though, he drifted off into a dream-filled sleep.  He saw himself catching Zorro, collecting the reward and wondering what to do with it.  Marry a fine señorita, his subconscious answered.  But who would it be? his dream self asked.  Finally his dreams ended and his fatigue pushed him into a sleep so deep that he didn’t even hear the activity of the lancers coming to bed later in the night.

“Sergeant, Sergeant, wake up!  It is time to go!” a voice buzzed in his ear. 

Go? he thought.  Go where?  Then it dawned on him. They were going back to Los Angeles.  Then he further woke up.  Isadora!  She was going to the mission this morning.  He wanted to say good-bye.  He jerked up out of the bed and grabbed his jacket, throwing it on in an instant.  Glancing at the soldier, who was watching him curiously, he asked, “Is the señorita awake yet?”

“Sí, and the carriage just left for San Gabriel,” the lancer said. 

“What?” Garcia sputtered.  “What?”

“She just left, Sergeant, by the Capitán’s orders.”  The lancer continued to watch him and then added, “The Capitán wants to see you as soon as possible.”

She is gone, he thought, stricken with inexplicable sadness. 

“Sergeant,” the lancer repeated, shaking his arm and breaking into his reverie.  “The Capitán?

“Oh, yes,” said Garcia remotely.  “What?”

With a sigh of exasperation, the soldier repeated, “The capitán wants to see you as soon as possible.  As soon as you have had breakfast and have gotten ready to leave.”

“Sí, thank you, private,” Garcia said, returning fully to the present.  What now? he wondered.  Running his hand through his unkempt hair, the sergeant buttoned his jacket, straightened his banda and headed for the inn’s main area.   Without stopping for breakfast, Garcia slowly climbed the steps and knocked at the comandante’s door.  At Montez’s acknowledgement, the sergeant walked in, saluted and stood waiting. 

Capitán Montez was packing things into his saddlebag and didn’t turn around immediately.  Garcia waited without saying a word.  Finally the comandante looked up, studying Garcia for a moment.  The sergeant felt a slight chill as though Montez could look right through him.  He had felt the same way with Monastario. 

“Why haven’t you shaved, Sergeant?” Montez asked. 

“The razor gives me a rash, mi comandante.”

“Better a rash then a court martial,” said Montez tersely. 

“Sí, capitán,” Garcia answered, knowing argument was useless. 

“It has become quite apparent, Sergeant, that you have some, shall we say, feelings for Señorita Perdiz and her child.” 

Garcia said nothing for a few moments.  Then, “Comandante, everything that has happened to her is not her fault.”

“Her father sent her away in disgrace.  She violated the tenets of the Holy Mother Church.  But that is beside the point.”  Montez paused, steepling his fingers and gazing meaningfully at his subordinate.  “How were you planning on supporting her?  You do not get paid regularly, and, I would venture to say, from what I have heard, that what little you get is spent before half a month is over.”

Garcia started to open his mouth in protest, but thought better of it.   The capitán said nothing that he hadn’t already told himself. 

“And what makes you think she would even want such as you?  You are fat, you are slovenly and you are naive to even entertain thoughts of marriage to any woman, much less a high-born one, never mind that she has been labeled a woman of . . . less than sterling virtue.”

Again, Garcia said nothing.  There was nothing he could say.  It was true.  He wanted to cry in frustration, but he was a grown man, a soldier of the king, and, for a short time, acting comandante.  He must not show anything that would shame him. 

 

 

 

Chapter Six
Chapter One
Zorro Contents
Main Page