At the Carlton, Duke Franz von Pishin and his entourage of servants enter the lobby. His associate Ludwig Donner assures Franz that it is one of the better American hotels. Franz hears the sound of clashing swords in the next room and looks in. Paladin is fencing with a partner, Jaillet. He scores a hit and Hey Girl brings him a towel. Franz introduces himself and says he left Austria six weeks ago, and explains that he and Ludwig are there on a delicate mission. Paladin says that he has another engagement, but Franz asks him to break it and presents Paladin's card.
As Ludwig comes in, Franz tells Paladin that he will pay him well and Paladin agrees to meet him for dinner that night. Franz introduces Ludwig and leaves, and Paladin points out that Franz resembles his cousin. Ludwig is surprised that Paladin knows Franz, and says that Franz is traveling incognito. Paladin promises that Franz's secret is safe with him.
That night, Paladin and Franz eat in the Carlton dining room. Paladin wonders why the Mexican people want another Emperor, pointing out that the Mexican peasants shot Maximilian when he tried the same thing. Franz assures him that he has a secret army of loyal Mexican subjects waiting for him, and explains that he needs Paladin to help escort him to the border. Hey Girl delivers brandy and waits, and Paladin explains that it is customary in the U.S. to tip the help. He then tells Franz to go home unless he's willing to possibly sacrifice his illusions... and his life.
When Paladin returns to his suite, he finds Ludwig waiting for him, admiring Paladin's collection of books. He asks him to decline Franz's offer, and claims that he's an old friend that wants Franz to meet his destiny. Ludwig is confident that the Mexicans will welcome Franz, and feels that Franz is too impressionable to associate with Paladin. He offers to pay Paladin for his trouble, but Paladin refuses and says that it's been no trouble. With that, Paladin shows Ludwig the door. Ludwig smiles, nods, and leaves. Once Paladin is alone, two men jump him.
When Paladin wakes up the next morning, he finds himself aboard a stagecoach with Franz and Ludwig. Franz wonders why Paladin changed his mind, and Paladin avoids saying how he came there. Ludwig tells Franz that they are going to Los Gatos. When they arrive, Paladin points out that there is no one waiting for Franz.
When they go into the main building, they find several peasants with guns waiting for them. Their leader, General Pablo Mendez, welcomes them. When Ludwig comes in, he greets Pablo by name and the two men embrace. Ludwig introduces Pablo as the commander of the Mexican Army of Liberation, and Pablo says that they have been waiting for him to arrive so that they can liberate their people. He swears his loyalty to Franz, and Paladin says that he is Franz's "military advisor." Franz agrees, and Paladin suggests that they have a general staff meeting. After a moment, Pablo agrees and has one of his men lead Franz and Ludwig off. Once they are alone, Pablo asks if Paladin brought the weapons with him. Paladin realizes what Ludwig promised Pablo.
The next morning, Pablo and Ludwig meet while Franz plays with the chickens. Pablo asks how Ludwig how long he plays the stupid game, and demands to know where the guns are. As Franz comes over, Paladin comes out and Ludwig claims that Pablo's entire army is camped across the river in Mexico. When Paladin suggests that they go there, Ludwig warns that it would be dangerous before they make their plans. Paladin says that they should start making their plans, and they go inside. Ludwig says that all of Pablo's tactical maps are with the army, and Paladin quizzes Pablo about his military strategy. It becomes clear that Pablo knows nothing about such things, and Ludwig says that they should leave the minor tactical concerns to Pablo. Franz agrees with Paladin, who says that Franz would feel more secure if Franz could see his soldiers. Ludwig puts Paladin off and Pablo agrees with Ludwig. Paladin suggests that they bring an honor guard of the soldiers so that Franz can review them. Ludwig starts to object, but Franz says that it's a good suggestion.
Once Franz leaves, Paladin figures that Ludwig offers to sell Pablo enough arms to conquer Mexico. He asks Pablo why he thinks Ludwig hasn't delivered yet, and claims that Pablo has told him about the guns. Once he leaves, Pablo tells Ludwig that he's done playing to Franz. Ludwig warns him to continue if he wants the guns, saying that they will be there before the day is over. Pablo asks about the honor guard and Ludwig tells him to arrange it.
Soon, a motley band of Mexican peasants have arrived and Pablo kicks them into shape. Paladin escorts a fully-uniformed Franz out, sarcastically noting that they are the finest fighting men in the world. Franz figures that they will be tested in battle, and Paladin points out that the honor guard's cannon is in less than ideal condition. The Duke insists that what they peasants lack in training, they will make up in spirit. He figures that the people love him, but Paladin confirms that only one of them speak English. Paladin asks the head peasant how long they have waited for Franz to come and conquer Mexico, and the peasant translates for the others. They all laugh, just as Ludwig's men arrives with a wagon holding the arms.
Franz signs for the weapons and Paladin explains that Franz is there because the Austrian government is furnishing the arms and sent Franz there to make it look legitimate. The Duke doesn't believe it and tells the peasants to tell Paladin that they are there because of their love for Franz. The head peasant says that he's there because he was paid ten pesos to come. Franz insists that the Mexicans can't have the guns and calls for a weapon. Ludwig is in an upper window and prepares to shoot Franz, and the head peasant spots him and instinctively shoves Franz out of the way, taking the shot meant for the Duke. The older man shoots Franz next, and Paladin kills Ludwig. Pablo comes out and Paladin drags the cannon over and aims it at Pablo in the arms warehouse. When Pablo ducks inside, Paladin orders him to come out. When the general refuses, Paladin lights the fuse and takes cover. The cannon blasts the warehouse, blowing up the Austrian guns.
Paladin goes over to the wounded Franz and tells him that the head peasant is dead. A smiling Franz says that the Mexican gave his life for him.
Written by Gadfly on Jan 29, 2017