A Song of Joy
(A Sergeant Garcia Story)
“I am only trying to save you needless sorrow,
Sergeant. You understand
that, don’t you?” Montez asked, his voice softening.
“Sí, Comandante,” Garcia murmured.
let us prepare to ride to Los Angeles within the hour,” the capitán
said returning to his packing. He
paused and looked meaningfully at Garcia.
“And I want you shaved by the time we leave.”
“Sí, mi capitán.”
A short time later, the small troop was riding
south, Garcia in the lead, trying desperately to keep from reaching up and
scratching his burning chin and cheeks.
As he rode, he also thought of what the comandante had said. He is right, he told himself. But try as he might, he couldn’t push thoughts of Isadora
from his mind. He kept
visualizing the sweet, lonely woman and the more he tried to forget her,
the more she seemed to burn herself into his brain.
Finally he was able to somewhat concentrate on the road
ahead and relegate his memories of Isadora to a part of his mind that
wasn’t needed to accomplish the task at hand.
The ride to Los Angeles was uneventful and he rode
ahead to announce Capitán Montez’s arrival as they approached
the outskirts of the town. The
capitán made a usual speech in the plaza about law and
order and then inspected the men in the cuartel.
Garcia officially turned over command of the garrison to Capitán
Montez and then dismissed the men.
It was suppertime and the sergeant was wondering what Isadora was
having for dinner.
“Sergeant Garcia,” Montez called out.
The sergeant turned and waited for the comandante to
continue. “I want you to
muster the lancers now for a short close order drill and musket practice
before they have their supper. In
fact, I want that to be a daily routine.
I also want the men to practice their horsemanship skills, close
order fighting on horseback, shooting.
I have read reports about the seemingly uncatchable outlaw, and I
don’t believe, for a moment, that he is impossible to catch or kill.
We only need to practice our military skills in order to capture
“Do you mean Zorro, mi comandante?”
“Yes, Zorro,” Montez answered tersely.
Garcia was about to mention that Zorro only showed
up when there was a wrong to be righted, but he felt it wise to refrain
right now. He saluted and
left to muster the men. They
would not be happy.
Later, he sat alone in one corner of the tavern,
mulling over the small mug of wine that his meager amount of money would
buy. Tio must have watered
down his table wine tonight, he thought.
It didn’t taste very good.
Garcia sighed and gazed into the fire.
He saw another fire in another place.
Shaking his head, he sighed. What
is wrong with me?
“Sergeant, may I join you?” a familiar voice
said, breaking into his moody reverie.
He looked up and saw Don Diego. “Sí! Please,
Don Diego, sit down. I am
very glad to see you.” And
truly he was. The young caballero
would be just the one to take his mind off of his troubles and to make
sense of his confused feelings.
The young scholar saw things so much differently than he did.
“Our new comandante seems to be a no
nonsense man,” Diego said, motioning to the bar maid to bring a bottle
of wine to the table along with another glass.
“Sí, Don Diego, that he seems to be,”
“And I heard a rumor that you delivered a baby
on your way to Santa Barbara,” Diego added.
Even Garcia was incredulous at the speed with
which this rumor had spread. His
face must have betrayed him because Don Diego chuckled.
“Corporal Reyes was here a little while ago and
he told me. I suppose he
heard it from the lancers of the Presidio Santa Barbara.”
Diego paused, seeing emotions on the sergeant’s face that gave
credence to the incredible claims the other lancers had made. He decided to prod a bit, but carefully, not wanting to
misjudge and hurt his friend’s feelings.
“I imagine it was quite an experience.”
“Oh, sí, Don Diego.
It was. The storm was
fierce, almost a hurricane, it seemed, and the poor señorita, all
alone and frightened.” Garcia
related the story, embellishing it in the appropriate places, and then he
stopped abruptly. Suddenly it
wasn’t just a story, something to make him feel important at his
accomplishments. It was something personal and deep that had happened to him.
And he didn’t feel very important.
“To be perfectly honest, Don Diego, I think that I was just as
frightened as Señorita
Perdiz, maybe more.”
“Sergeant, it is to your credit that you helped
her safely deliver her baby. That
took a great deal of courage and presence of mind.
You are to be congratulated, my friend.” Diego poured new wine into Garcia’s mug and raised his own
to salute the sergeant. “You
should be happy with your deed.”
Garcia smiled with his friend. Yes, I am happy. It
was a good thing. I helped a
sad, lonely woman and brought a new life into the world.
He thought of the baby in the crook of his arm.
Yes, that is enough to make one happy.
He laughed softly and raised his mug to clink against Don Diego’s
glass, and then he took a long drink.
His smile faded and he sighed.
There were several moments of silence between the two men.
The only sounds were the boisterous bantering of the other patrons
in the tavern. Someone was
softly playing a guitar, while another patron was flirting with the
barmaid. “Why am I
not happy, then, Don Diego?” asked Garcia, after the long pause.
He gazed at his friend and was sure that he saw sympathy in the
hazel eyes. There was
certainly none of the smirking, hypocritical, self-serving looks such as
he had seen from the Santa Barbara lancers. He could not stand to have Don Diego think any less of him.
With another sigh, Garcia just gazed down into his wine mug.
“Sergeant, you do not have to tell me anything
if you don’t wish to, but please know that I am your friend, and I will
listen without judgment.”
Garcia looked around the room and seemed to feel
eyes looking on him from all directions.
Diego followed Garcia’s gaze. “Sergeant, we can go somewhere more private to speak if you
wish. Perhaps the church
across the plaza.”
“Sí, Don Diego.
I think I would like that. You
have a way of making difficult things seem simple,” Garcia said,
brightening a bit.
“Ah, Sergeant, you give me too much credit.
But I will listen and perhaps together we can come up with a
solution to your problems,” Diego suggested.
“Gracias, Don Diego,” Garcia said.
Diego laid out a peso for the wine and the
two men walked out of the tavern into the softness of the evening dusk.
They sat in a side room surrounded by glowing candles lit by those
desiring special blessings for loved ones departed or still on the earth.
Diego asked, “Tell me, Sergeant, what is on your mind?
What is making you feel so sad?”
“Don Diego, do you remember when you encouraged
me to consider Doña Inez as a possible match for marriage?”
“Sí, and you were not too thrilled about
it at first,” Diego replied.
“I cared nothing for her, only seeing the
advantage of a marriage into her money.”
Garcia felt tied up inside. He
didn’t even know how to express his emotions right now.
Everything seemed so very jumbled up and confused.
There were several moments of silence.
“Do you have feelings for Señorita
Perdiz?” Diego asked, finally breaking the silence.
nodded. Then he looked up,
gazing into Don Diego’s eyes. “I
care very much for her. She
is a very understanding and kind woman.
She has had so many troubles and feels so much hurt.
I wish she could be by my side always.
I wish I could put my arms around her and take the sadness away.”
chuckled softly. “You are
in love, Sergeant. Congratulations,
my friend. Now what stops you
from making your wishes become a reality?”
can I support her, Don Diego? My
salary is pitiful, when it even comes.”
He paused, sucking in a ragged breath.
“And what woman would want me—a fat, old soldier?”
there is beauty inside that is often greater than that which resides on
the outside,” Diego said philosophically.
At Garcia’s puzzled look, he continued.
“Did the señorita give you any indication of not liking
you?” Diego asked.
no. I do not think so.”
go and ask her to marry you,” Diego said emphatically. “I will even pay for the wedding fiesta.”
would?” Garcia asked, hope shining in his eyes.
course, I am your friend, am I not?”
you are,” Garcia said brightly, and then he frowned. “But there is still the matter of being able to support
Isadora and her baby, and there is also the comandante.”
comandante?” Diego asked, not understanding the connection.
he said a marriage, especially to Isadora Perdiz, is not a good idea.
What he said made sense, but it did not make me feel any better,”
is because it is not right to ignore love, Sergeant. If you desire Señorita Perdiz to be your companion,
then you must have faith that there will be a way for it to happen.
You have to have faith in love and faith that God will lead you to
find the best way to take care of your dear lady and her child.”
suppose so,” Garcia said, still uncertain
know so. Now light a candle
for the señorita and for the baby.”
Diego put a peso into the poor box.
Don Diego, but I cannot think that such a lovely lady would want to live
with me.” Garcia lit two
candles and set them among the rest, pausing to say a quick prayer. He crossed himself and then turned back to the younger man.
I have heard Father Felipe say that you are a good man.
If a man of God says that about you, are you going to dispute it?
You need more faith in yourself.”
nodded and left, trudging slowly across the plaza. Diego
shook his head, wishing he knew more about this lady that the sergeant had
fallen in love with. Somehow,
he believed that the señorita had accepted and liked Garcia as he
was, a kind, simple soul, but to get the sergeant to believe it….
Ai, that is the rub, Diego thought ruefully.
He felt a tap on his shoulder and turned to see Bernardo, his mozo.
servant made signs, which Diego easily understood. Making his own gestures, they walked to their horses in
silence and mounted, riding out of the pueblo at a gallop.
When they were far enough from the town, Diego said, “Yes,
Bernardo, our sergeant has been smitten by Cupid’s arrow.
But he is so filled with doubt and insecurity that he cannot
believe that any woman would want to marry him.
Poor Sergeant Garcia is a victim of the abuses of many.
Even I have played on his simple way of thinking.”
made exaggerated motions so that Diego could see what he was saying in the
dim light of the moon.
I going to see the señorita? the young man repeated.
“Yes, I believe that would be a good idea, Bernardo.
I need to find out more about this woman before I blindly give
Sergeant Garcia more advice. I
will go to the mission first thing in the morning.” Bernardo made more
signs. “As Zorro?” Diego
asked. Bernardo made more
signs and the caballero finally stopped his horse so he could
better follow what his mozo was trying tell him. Bernardo followed suit and repeated what he had said.
Diego watched carefully and then nodded.
“Yes, I agree,” he said and then urged his horse back into a
gallop, one that would take them home quickly.