A Song of Joy
(A Sergeant Garcia Story)
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 . . .
and return to the way station as quickly as possible,” the private
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,
“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
“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
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
“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.
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.
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.”
there a manger in there for the animals to eat out of?” Garcia asked.
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
“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
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.”
“Sí,” 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
“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.”
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
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
“Sí, and the carriage just left for San
Gabriel,” the lancer said.
“What?” Garcia sputtered.
“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
“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
“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
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
“The razor gives me a rash, mi comandante.”
“Better a rash then a court martial,” said
“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
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
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.