Luck of the Irish
Zorro finds that luck comes in many different forms when he sets out to catch a gang of bandits
A note from the Author:
Chapter One - The Luck of the Irish
"Sergeant, where might I be able to find the local tavern and also, perhaps, a place to spend the night?" a lone horseman inquired of the portly soldier.
Turning, Sergeant Garcia noticed a peculiar lilt to the stranger’s Spanish, but couldn’t put a country of origin to the accent. Since Mexican independence, there had been more foreign visitors in this part of California. It kept him busy, but some of them were also willing to fill the wine cup of a certain sergeant while they explained their business.
"Señor, we have but one posada in our fair pueblo, but I am afraid that you may have problems finding a place to sleep there this time of year," Sgt. Garcia replied graciously. "As the acting comandante, however, I must ask you a few questions and then maybe we can find a place for you to stay."
"That be fair enough, Comandante," the stranger answered pleasantly.
Garcia smiled a bit, always pleased when someone acknowledged his position. "Where have you come from, señor?"
"Recently or originally, Sergeant?"
"Well, both, I suppose," Garcia answered, a bit confused by the foreigner’s total cooperative spirit. Many of the people he questioned were incensed by what they perceived as an invasion into their private affairs.
"Well, Comandante, perhaps my tail bones and our throats would benefit by discussing this in the pub over a bit of ale.....or wine, I suppose, would be the better term," the stranger said with a pleasant smile, dismounting.
"Sí, that is a most wonderful suggestion," the sergeant smiled broadly at the young man. Pointing across the plaza to the tavern and giving a final warning to the hapless soldier he had been berating, Garcia accompanied the horseman. For some reason, which he couldn’t figure out, the sergeant found himself instantly liking this pleasant-seeming fellow. The man was fairly young, probably not any older than his good friend Don Diego was, and his smile was quick, again much like Don Diego’s. Perhaps that is why he was drawn to him. This foreigner seemed much like his friend.
Physically, the man was slighter; perhaps a few inches shorter than he and fairly thin. The sun-darkened face held a hint of ruddiness, indicating European origin. The stranger’s hair was reddish brown, his eyes a deep bluish-green.
"Ahh, Sergeant," the stranger said a few minutes later after draining a mug of wine. "This may not be what I am used to, but after the terrible dust of your El Camino Real, this is heavenly nectar."
"Sí," the sergeant agreed wholeheartedly. "Now, the questions, señor?"
"Ah, yes, Sergeant. I have been traveling in Mexico these past four months. I am a writer and my backers in the home country enjoy my tales of the uncivilized western hemisphere." Seeing the sergeant’s questioning look, he continued. "I am originally from the fair emerald-green land of Eire." The sparkling eyes held a hint of homesickness for just the briefest of moments and then the merry look returned.
‘Eire,’ Garcia thought furiously. ‘Where in the world would that be?’
"Ah, a visitor," a pleasant voice came from behind him. "And from Ireland, too. I have heard and read about your country, señor, but never met anyone from the land of St. Patrick."
Recognizing the voice, Garcia beamed. "Don Diego," he boomed. "Join us."
Diego de la Vega, being insatiably curious, didn’t hesitate. In fact he had come over for that very purpose, wanting to find out more about this amiable stranger. Pulling up a chair, the young caballero smiled at the newcomer and made himself comfortable.
"Señor, this is my good friend, Don Diego de la Vega. Don Diego, this is....." he hesitated, not having gotten that far in the conversation.
"Sean Gerald Donahue Fitzpatrick. Sergeant, Don Diego, at your service."
"Señor Fitzpatrick, welcome to our pueblo," Diego said brightly. "What brings you here, if I may ask."
"As I was telling your comandante, I am a writer, sent by several well-to-do backers to write about the wild and uncivilized western hemisphere. I was in Mexico, which is a charming country, by the way, when I heard something, which intrigued me. Inquisitive person that I am, I decided to investigate. I also assumed that Lord Branham would enjoy a few pages about Alta California as well," Fitzpatrick explained.
"What was it that you heard, Señor Fitzpatrick," Diego inquired, curious.
"I heard stories from a few traders and travelers about the existence of a man that they called El Zorro. Are these stories true?" he asked, his eyes brightening in anticipation. "The tales seemed so fantastic. I almost got the impression of a supernatural being or at the very least, one with help from supernatural or magical beings."
Diego sat back, his face impassive, but inwardly he was surprised. He knew that Zorro was well known in the areas of southern California and to a lesser extent, northern California; but Mexico? And the idea of his clandestine activities being considered in the realm of the supernatural somewhat amused him. Garcia just nodded his head and refilled his wine cup.
"Is there such a person?" the writer insisted.
"There is an El Zorro, Señor Fitzpatrick," Diego told him. "But to say he is supernatural would probably be an exaggeration." He paused and then added with a slight smile, "Nothing magical, just good luck and skill, I suppose. But why would you say that he is helped by supernatural beings. What supernatural beings are you referring to?"
"Oh, it is said in my country that the wealthy and long-lived ones have one of the little people sitting on their shoulder. I am referring to the fairy folk."
Diego lifted his wine glass to his mouth, mainly to hide the grin that threatened to turn into a laugh. The young man seemed serious, though and the caballero didn’t want to insult him. "Fairy folk?" he finally asked.
"Oh, leprechauns, and the far darrig, and pucás. The little people are usually mischievous, sometimes devious, although they have been known to be quite helpful, if they take a liking to you," Sean explained. "They are very small, but can do amazing things. For instance, the pucá lives alone and can change his shape into any animal he wishes, although he prefers that of a black horse. The far darrig are also called the red men and they are quite mischievous, too." His audience now included more than just the sergeant and the young ranchero, he noted. "And leprechauns hoard gold, and to get it from him, you have to look him in the eye and demand it, never looking away. He cannot refuse. Sometimes they will grant wishes."
"Gold?" Garcia inquired, entranced with the story and intrigued with the reference to the gold.
"Oh, yes, leprechauns are the shoemakers of the elves, so they are very rich and keep their gold in kettles, hiding it in caves or whatever nooks and crannies they can find."
"Well, we have none of those in California, nor do we have an abundance of gold, so Zorro would not have one of the little people sitting on his shoulder," Diego said with a chuckle.
"Oh, sí, but Señor Zorro is possessed of much skill and a very fast horse," Garcia concurred. "And I suppose good luck as well." The sergeant looked thoughtful for a moment. "I wonder if Zorro’s horse could be one of these pucás?"
Fitzpatrick looked thoughtful for a moment, too. "Well, we Irish are considered to be very lucky. I think that I will meet this man. How would I go about it?"
"That is impossible, señor," the sergeant said with a chuckle. "He only rides when there is trouble."
"Well, at least I can write about California," the Irishman said, sounding disappointed. "That is if I can find a place to stay."
"This time of year is very busy. After the rains of winter, there are many fiestas. It is also the time when the rancheros are most busy with the birth of new calves and foals, as well as the planting," Diego explained. "But, señor, if you need a place to stay, you are welcome at the de la Vega hacienda. We have plenty of room, my father and I, and I would not have it said that California hospitality was lacking when you write back home."
"Are you sure, Don Diego?"
"Positive," he said and turning, started signing to the moon-faced man standing at the tavern bar. "I am telling my servant to ride home and have the guest room prepared for your arrival. Bernardo is a most devoted manservant, but he can neither hear nor speak. In a day or two, when you have rested from your ride, we can attend a fiesta. You should have a great deal to write your Lord Branham about, Señor Fitzpatrick."
"Gracias, Don Diego," Sean said, deeply grateful for this unexpected, but not surprising hospitality. He had been moved by the graciousness of many people in the former Spanish colony.
"Diego, have you taken leave of your senses?" Alejandro de la Vega stormed. The older man paced the length of the library and then turned to face his son once more. "This man has admitted his determination to meet Zorro and you bring him here?"
Smiling, Diego reassured his father, "It would have been unseemly to withhold our hospitality, Father. And besides, I really do not see anything coming of this." Leaning against the large hardwood desk, he waited for his father to calm down a bit more. "And if Señor Fitzpatrick is staying here with us, we can keep an eye on him."
Gazing at his son, Alejandro finally said with a sigh, "Yes, you are right, my son. I did not think of that. Just be careful." Diego nodded. "He is napping now?" Alejandro asked.
"Sí, Father. He said he had ridden part of the night and all morning and was very weary. I asked Juanita to prepare a large meal for tonight, having taken the liberty of inviting Sgt. Garcia to dinner as well. He seems to have taken a liking to our Irish author."
"Yes, it is a good thing you warned Juanita, with the good sergeant coming to dinner," he commented dryly. Both men chuckled.
Diego turned to Bernardo, who had been standing nearby. "Make sure that you keep an eye on our guest when he is awake, Bernardo."
"Ah, Don Alejandro, this was a most wonderful meal. Gracias." Sgt. Garcia sighed as he consumed his last tortilla, using it to mop up the final bit of gravy on his plate.
"I will have to agree," Sean commented. "It was wonderful, even if a bit spicy." Bernardo refilled the wine glasses. "And your wines are most excellent, Don Alejandro."
"Gracias, Señor Fitzpatrick," Alejandro acknowledged. "Which part of Ireland are you from?"
"East of Limerick, señor. The most lovely green hills, blue skies, clear waters. The air is clean and fresh and on some days you can smell the salty tang of the sea blowing in on the morning breeze across the majestic River Shannon. The hills roll like the waves of a gentle sea and the grass makes the horses strong and fast."
"Señor, if you write the way you speak, then your benefactors have chosen well," Diego commented with a smile. "But we raise good and hearty animals here in California as well. Would you care to go for a short ride and see our hacienda." Then he paused. "But I am a poor host, you are probably tired of being in a saddle."
"Oh, no, Don Diego," Sean said. "I would be greatly honored to see your rancho. The evening is most beautiful and I have grown rather fond of the sunsets in this part of the world."
Diego motioned to Bernardo to have their horses saddled. "Father, will you be accompanying us?" Alejandro nodded. The manservant left.
A loud knock interrupted their congenial banter. When Diego opened the door, Corporal Reyes rushed in breathlessly. "My pardons, señores. Sergeant, I received word that the payroll shipment from Mexico has been stolen between San Pedro and Los Angeles. One of the soldiers accompanying the courier was able to get away and bring us the news."
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