General Largo Ortega, the provision general of the Mexican Revolutionary Army, and Minister of External Finance, comes to the Carlton to meet with Paladin. Largo's bodyguard Lupo insists on checking Paladin for guns until Paladin shoves him away. Largo explains that he wants to find Count Armando del Casares and his mother, the Countess. Armando was a treasurer for the old Mexican government, and Largo wants the $18 million back now that he has overthrown the government. The money is in French bonds, and Largo insists that the money belongs to the people. He assures Paladin that the money will go to the people, and Paladin accepts the commission. As Paladin goes, Largo insists that Lupo goes with him.
The next day, Paladin, Largo, and Lupo ride out. They make camp that night and Largo explains that that he fought in the Revolution and had the man who beat his brother shot. He boasts of burning everything but the books, and read them to learn what he needed to become a colonel. Largo became a general when he learned that his predecessor was taking money from the aristocrats. Paladin talks of the French Revolution and how one deputy said that the Revolution was only humanity turning over in its sleep. Largo concedes the point and Paladin says that he will go in first to arrange the meeting. He suggests that Largo and his mother may no longer sleep as aristocrats, and Largo reluctantly agrees.
The next day, Paladin rides to the town near the Casares' hacienda. He gets some food at the local kitchen, and congratulates the chef serving food on his skill. The cook's mother demands the food, and the cook explains that he plans to start a franchise and needs a manager. He offers Paladin the job, and Paladin introduces himself. The cook is Armando, and Paladin explains that Largo is there to see him. The cook's mother, the Countess, insists that the Empress Carlotta is the only government. Armando realizes that the "Butcher of San Pedro" has come, and Paladin explains that he is Largo's honor guard. The cook draws a gun and figures that Paladin is there to kill him. Paladin says that he is only there to ask Armando to meet with Largo, and assures them that no one will be hurt. The Countess agrees and Paladin rides back to Largo.
Later, Paladin escorts Largo to Armando's dwelling. They share wine and Armando points out that Largo burned his vineyards. Largo says that they grow corn there now, and he and the Countess spar about whose blood fertilizes the fields. Armando and Largo concede that they would have each other killed given the opportunity, and Largo explains that the government must have money or the people will starve. He asks the Casares to return the bonds, and the Countess insists that they belong to the Empress Carlotta when she is well enough.
Paladin notes that Carlotta will never be well enough to return to power, and notes that the bonds might be worthless in a few years but could keep children from starving. Armando points out that the generals will pocket the money, and Largo concedes the point but notes that the people will also eat. When Armando asks for Paladin's opinion, Paladin says that he believes him but the Countess does not. Furious, Largo says that he has said what is needed, and Armando insists that they will never betray their sacred trust. The general vows to take the bonds one way or another, tells Paladin to explain about Lupo, and storms out. Paladin assures Armando that he still has Paladin's word.
That night, Paladin returns to Largo's camp and Largo says that they don't need him now that he's settled on the matter. Paladin tells him that Lupo won't handle the matter, but Largo warns the Casares' lives aren't worth those of two million. He tells Paladin that it's not his cause, but Paladin says that it is now. Lupo goes for his gun and Paladin shoots him dead. Largo carefully picks up Lupo's gun and puts it in the dead man's holster, and Paladin tells him that he can have the bonds but not the Casares' lives. The general warns him that there is only one way.
Paladin rides back to the Casares and points out that they're worthless to them. He wonders if they want to start a counter-revolution and advises them to take the money and hire an army. Armando says that he won't abandon his kitchen and it's a matter of honor. The Countess says that one should be strong enough to live and die by a dream, and Paladin tells them that Largo is a good man, peasant or aristocrat. If he kills Largo then nothing will change except that Largo is dead.
Largo breaks in and Paladin goes to meet him. Armando looks to his mother and then tells them to stop. The Countess gets the bonds and gives them to Paladin, who hands them to Largo. Largo takes them and takes off his hat to the Caesares, and tells them that they are of the same people and it will always be. He bows to them and Armando bows back. The Countess offers her hand and Largo kisses it, and then goes to his horse. Paladin tells Armando that he will look forward to seeing his next kitchen.
Paladin goes over to Largo, who admits that overcoming by force is only half the battle. He quotes Shelley, and Paladin gently corrects him before they both ride off.
Written by Gadfly on Apr 30, 2017