Zorro & the Old Comandante

by

 

Eugene H. Craig

 

 

 

 

Chapter Eleven

 

"You know, Corporal Reyes," Sergeant García said as they walked past the prisoners’ cells at the cuartel, "I am very happy that there is no mistake about the wine at the inn. What did you do to get free wine?"

"I don’t know, Sergeant," answered Reyes. "I didn’t do anything. I just went to the inn and bought some wine yesterday and that’s when Señor Pacheco told me I didn’t have to pay."

"I wish someone would buy me some wine," a voice said behind them.

García and Reyes turned to look at the tall vaquero who leaned against the bars of the cell. "I am sorry, Señor Robello," the sergeant responded. "There is no free wine for prisoners. Perhaps you would like some tea or some water?"

Robello let out a snort. "Tea or water? Why are you torturing me? Why can’t you get me some wine?"

"Well, you would have to pay for it," replied García.

"Why should I pay for something when the corporal gets it for free?" complained Robello. "Why should he get something that nobody else gets?"

García contemplated the question. "I asked myself the same question," he told the prisoner. He gave Reyes a long look.

"Say, Sergeant, I have an idea. Maybe I get the wine because I’m a corporal. Maybe there is a special day that corporals get free wine."

"Maybe there are two special days," García said with a raised finger. "Yesterday and today. It will be interesting to see if your luck holds for tomorrow." He thought a moment. "I wonder if there are special days for sergeants."

"I don’t know," replied Reyes. "Maybe you should ask Señor Pacheco if there are special days for sergeants."

"That’s a very good idea, Corporal," smiled García. "I will ask Señor Pacheco tonight."

"Ask him if there’s a special day for prisoners," Robello interjected sarcastically. "If there is not, I am going to complain."

García laughed at that. "And who are you going to complain to, Señor Robello? To Señor Pacheco?"

"I’ll complain to the Comandante, to Capitán de las Fuentes," replied Robello. "He talked a lot about justice. I’ll see if he can make some more justice for me."

"I think you should speak with him tomorrow because he will not be our comandante for too much longer," García told him. "Capitán Monastario will be coming back and then…well, then, things will not be so good for you, Señor Robello." García paused. "It won’t be too good for any of us," he mused.

There was a stir in the next cell. The prisoner rose from the sleeping platform and came up to the cell door. It was Joaquín Enríquez. "When will Monastario be coming back?" he asked in an agitated voice.

García turned towards the dark cell. "I do not know for certain, Señor Enríquez," he replied. "Capitán Monastario did not say. I imagine it will be in several days, perhaps tomorrow, perhaps next week. Who knows?"

Each man was quiet a moment as if contemplating the same fate. Finally, García shook himself. "Let’s go check on Hugo, Corporal. He is supposed to be bringing supper to the prisoners. I think he is running a little late."

"Maybe he needs some help with the food, Sergeant," Reyes replied.

"I will be more than happy to help him with that," García replied as he walked off with the corporal.

Back at the cell, Tomás Robello shook his head. "You know, Enríquez," he said to the man in the jail next to his, "you and I had better enjoy the few days we have left before Monastario comes back. After that, this place is going to take a turn for the worse." He listened for a reply, but there was none. He returned to the sleeping platform and sat up against the wall contemplating his future. "Yes," he repeated, "this place is going to take a turn for the worse."

 

******************

 

"I don’t know where she could have possibly gone," María Pérez replied to her husband’s repeated questions. "I did not see her leave."

"She’s not in her room at all. Perhaps she left with De las Fuentes. She acts so unnaturally, nothing she would do would surprise me," Sebastian retorted. "If he were not the comandante, what I wouldn’t tell him."

María was shocked. "How could you imply such a thing about your own daughter?" she said with tears in her eyes. "Margarita would never leave at night with a man without letting us know and without having a chaperone. I hardly think that a man like Capitán de las Fuentes would act dishonorably. He’s a fine gentleman."

"What do you know?" her husband attacked her. "You never even knew that she had become acquainted with the fellow, yet here she is falling all over him, barely knowing him at all."

"Padre Felipe introduced them and she later met him in church," María responded defensively. "The padre would have never introduced them if he did not think the captain was not a gentleman. How could you think otherwise? His manners are perfect and it is important that Margarita likes him so much. She has never shown any interest in any man and now that she has, you want to find fault with him."

"He’s just an overly pompous official and a colossal bore," Sebastian responded. "You are hardly in any position to have an opinion of him, hardly knowing him yourself. Padre Felipe no longer knows how to act responsibly over this matter. I strongly suggest that you don’t try to take her side against our family interests. I have told Salvador here that I have promised her to him and that is the way it is going to be. I will hardly allow you or her to stand in my way. Do I make myself clear?"

"You just don’t want to hear the truth. The truth is that Margarita will not marry just anyone. She will only marry whom she loves," María began.

"Enough of this nonsense," Sebastian shouted, interrupting her. "How dare you challenge me! You go to your room now! I will deal with both of you later." He was furious. He didn’t want Salvador to think that he could not control his own wife and daughter.

Salvador watched the scene without any expression on his face. He was growing impatient at the entire situation and thought that Pérez was making a mess of things. He considered taking the situation into his own hands. "Don Sebastian," he said after watching María climb the stairs towards her room, "I have a suggestion. Your idea about tomorrow night at the party is a good one. I’ll insist that she dance with me all night and it will not only bring us together, everyone will see us and make the right assumptions. As for later this evening, I’ll come back and we can see how we can respond more favorably to her music. Since she likes it so much, I can take a more active role in looking interested. De las Fuentes is very clever, it’s true, but I think he’s bluffing, just like you suggested. He probably can’t play worth a tinker’s damn. He half admitted it when I asked him about guitar. We need to call him out and show Margarita that he is not what he claims to be. You know how much Capitán Monastario postures; this fellow is probably of the same breed, just more polished at it. He is pretty convincing. That is why we need to do something about it."

Sebastian thought a moment. "You may have something there. Margarita will expect him to be what she fantasizes him to be. When he doesn’t meet her expectations, she will become more vulnerable and that is when we pounce." He rubbed his hands together. "You know, Salvador, I like the way we think alike."

**********************

 

"What could ever have led His Majesty to act so vindictively against you, Your Excellency?" asked Diego indignantly. "How could he possibly object to your reports which have proved not only to be accurate, but full of foresight?"

"The truth of the matter is that His Majesty felt it necessary to punish me for what he viewed as my contrary ways – I did not uphold wrong policies and challenged those who did. He stripped me of my position on the General Staff to make sure no one would question his advisors," explained the small man with the moustache and beard.

"How did this come about, if I may ask?" Alejandro interjected. "You were the voice of reason during times of confusion and fear."

"I attended a General Staff meeting at which he was present. He made an offhand remark that ‘the colonel’ should fetch thus and so documents. There was a stir among some. I had no idea he was referring to me since there were no colonels present at this meeting. All of us just stood there around the table and he finally turned to one of his favorites – I shall not mention his name – and told him to ‘instruct the Colonel.’ That is how I learned of my demotion. I suppose since the war had ended he felt he could dispense with my services much easier."

"That is a shocking way to deal with anyone," remarked Diego. "And you had no warning?"

"I was, of course, aware of His Majesty’s annoyance at just about anything I spoke of," answered De las Fuentes, "but I had no idea it had reached the point of such rancor. I personally believe those seeking to ingratiate themselves with him encouraged him. I was an easier target than you might imagine."

"I don’t understand," Alejandro shook his head. "Not you, of all people."

"This was, sadly, taken to an extreme, not just over military matters," De las Fuentes explained. "His Majesty found further displeasure in my appearances at Court, at the theatre, at any and all affairs of state whether public or private. It seems that he could not abide my person at all. In short, he found my presence in Spain an anathema to him. In order to encourage my exile, which he would not order directly himself, he created a series of incidents that forced my hand, including a further demotion to the rank of captain. He even forbade me to marry my fiancée. I left Spain in despair. I ended up on the staff of the colonial army in Lima, thanks to friends. However, I have been moved around, probably to insure that I do not become too settled in any one place where one can build friendships and loyalties. As to your question - No, I am not an inspector of any kind, merely a substitute for Capitán Monastario who wished an officer to be appointed during his absence."

"I am shocked, Your Excellency," exclaimed Alejandro. "How could His Majesty ever take offence from you? You are his own cousin."

"I did not know you were related to His Majesty," Diego commented. "Does he act like this towards other members of his family or relatives?"

"Ah, young Don," Francisco responded, "Let me explain our relationship. It is not so literal as it would seem. You see, there are families in Spain far nobler than the Italian Bourbons who now occupy the throne. The Ducque of Osuna and those of Alba, Medinaceli and the Comte of Fuentes y Mora, the princes of Fuentes y Alarcón, and others - we are the hereditary nobility of Spain. Sad to say that most of the families are so inbred that they produce imbecilic or mediocre offspring, just as the Spanish Hapsburgs who went extinct. My family is one of the exceptions in that regard, praise be to God. As to your other question: We, as such, are referred to as ‘cousins’ and traditionally the kings have paid deference to us, knowing that we are equal to or even above them. Such families as ours are viewed as allies and friends. Only we do not remove our hats in the presence of the king; only we have the right to sit in the presence of the king; and only we do not fear to give a king our honest opinion without giving offense. But the times have changed, at least for me."

"Surely you do not harbor Republican sentiments to warrant such treatment?" asked Alejandro, probing a bit. He was only half serious and gave a mischievous smile.

De las Fuentes looked almost shocked at the suggestion and raised his hands in dismay at the idea. "I am a monarchist to the marrow of my bones!" he exclaimed. Then he smiled apologetically as if one caught off guard. "Ah, but I truly believe in enlightened monarchy, in the Philosopher King."

"Then is his hostility a personal one as well?" asked Alejandro seriously.

"The truth of the matter is that His Majesty takes offense to me on a number of levels, starting with the personal," Francisco explained. "You may find this bordering on the ridiculous, but it is a fact. I am his exact height and I look him in the eye as I do each of you. I am told that he is intimidated by such forwardness. He will not meet my gaze. I have been told that His Majesty finds offense at the sound of my voice. He finds that it cows him. His own voice is high pitched which is no fault of his own, as God has given us what He wills. Due to the neglect of his own parents, His Majesty does not fence, does not ride, does not dance well, plays no musical instruments, reads no books, and has no curiosity about the world. He has never been trained in the armed forces, has never traveled to any land, except for France where he was a prisoner of Bonaparte, albeit a pampered one. He spent his time there - five years - playing cards, billiards or hunting. He has never looked through a telescope or a microscope and has no ambition to do so. He seems to resent those who have. His Majesty, I am told, found offense at my discussion of such topics that invite intelligent reflection or contemplation. I encouraged His Majesty to interact with foreigners at Court and he did so, finding much pleasure in such activities, yet he blames me for having too many foreign friends. I am sure that, in some way, the manner in which I conduct myself greatly offends His Majesty."

"It is hard to believe that His Majesty could be so petty," Diego said, shaking his head. "Could it be possible that he objected to your natural talents because he has none himself?"

"There are other, more important reasons, beyond the personal and they are political," Francisco continued. "Let me give you a further example. While he was held captive in France during the war, those fighting the French established the Cortes of Cádiz. That was in 1812. You must understand that we had no king in Spain during that time. The Cortes established a constitution for Spain and a constitutional monarchy. I supported this with many misgivings because of the attack on monarchical right. The constitution also abolished the special legal status and landed seigniorial rights of those of us in the nobility. I was opposed to this. On the one hand, I supported other changes because they established formal civil equality for all subjects and I am an enlightened man in this regard. Then, on the other hand, I opposed constitutional government because it placed legislative power in the hands of a broadly elected parliament besides limiting the power of the crown."

"May I ask you why you oppose a broadly elected parliament?" asked Diego. "I’m afraid I don’t understand many of these political views."

"Ah," replied the captain. "Based on logic, the population at large would first have to be broadly educated. Many of our Spaniards are illiterate. Hundreds of schools would need to be built, men of culture trained and paid for by the state. I believe we could manage this as long as we were not trapped in wars that sap the wealth of the kingdom so grievously. It would take decades to accomplish such a vision while not offending the Church too much. The merchant class would have to be less grasping and less exploitative of those under their power to trust them in participating in decisions that bring them control over others. Knowledge is power and that is what these other two classes lack along with the sense of when to properly use such power. In this day and age I fear their intentions are good, but their current perspective would be their undoing. I believe that the power of the king should not be curtailed, but that he needs access to better advisors."

"Your Excellency, I wish you no offense," Alejandro said, leaning forward slightly. "Based on the problems with the monarchy that we have had since the death of Carlos III, don’t you think limited powers for the king would make a certain amount of sense? A king who has seen fit to reestablish the Inquisition, a king who opposes religious toleration, a king who persecutes members of his own class - are these not good reasons to limit monarchy?"

"My friend, I do not take offense at your remarks. I do not do so because we are reasonable men attempting to examine how to perfect government," Francisco responded. "I think good government depends on the monarch, such as Carlos III under whom we prospered as a kingdom, and advisors who should be men of learning and self sacrifice. What we have now is an aberration. I myself support religious toleration, which is something that not even the Cádiz Cortes would support. In fact, they deliberately excluded it. I was astonished that in all their self-professed liberalism, they would not do this. I have met many educated non-Catholic foreigners, such as Jews, Protestants, and even atheists. While I do not agree with them, I find that most of them are honorable and principled individuals and that is how they should be treated. I supported the abolition of the Inquisition and was later condemned for taking this stand. On the other hand, I also opposed the so-called ‘freedom of expression’ because I believe it is nothing more than a guise for a radical journalism that has demanded thoroughgoing reform of its own choosing and produced a wave of categorically anti-Christian writings. When people are confused by the social and economic chaos released by injustice and wars, some turn to men of moral debasement like the Frenchman, the Marquis de Sade. When the monarchy of France tolerated such a man and his writings, they helped to advance the decay of civic virtue. But perhaps they no longer cared. And when you no longer care about your subjects, you are lost. I also opposed the separation of church and state in terms of the religious basis of good monarchy on earth. On the other hand, even the Church needs to be accountable to its flock and the corrupt and greedy weeded out."

Bernardo entered the room silently and refilled the wineglasses of the three men. So intent were they in their conversation that they only nodded absently to him. Bernardo retreated into the background and listened to the conversation with his back turned as if engaged in other tasks.

De las Fuentes continued. "My major heresy, I suppose, is that I am opposed to the unenlightened monarchy of Ferdinand and the re-imposition of the Inquisition and all its savage repressions of sincere Christians. What I deplore most is what I view as inept absolutism. It ushers in a conflict of classes and the terrifying possibility of a revolution like what happened in France. Don’t misunderstand me. I think that we Spaniards are ultimately above this, but I see the decline in monarchy going hand in hand with all our troubles. His Majesty was furious at anyone who minutely agreed with the Cortes and has never forgiven us for supporting any aspect of it. So, his personal antipathy and his political hostility have been at the core of this problem. His wife opposed his obsession with breaking me, but was unable to use her influence in this matter. She was a good influence on him in general and moderated his actions overall. I grieved considerably upon hearing of her premature death from tuberculosis just a few months ago."

"You know, Your Excellency, despite our differences, I want you to know that you have many friends and sympathizers that you do not know of," Alejandro said with great sincerity. "Each one of us honors a man like you and we wish that, somehow, we could be of service to you."

For the first time Francisco de las Fuentes showed some emotion. He looked beyond the two men to the window and to the darkness beyond it. "I am deeply moved by your friendship and understanding. It was an episode of my life that is still very painful for me," he confessed in a very quiet voice. "His Majesty intervened most vindictively in both my professional as well as personal life." He looked up again at his hosts. "But you must not endanger yourself. From what I understand, this Capitán Monastario is the kind of man who would take much pleasure in persecuting anyone who could be singled out for political differences with the Crown. Politically, I am not worth the trouble. Sometimes I am very grateful that few know of my past, and yet sometimes it is a relief to meet someone to share it with."

"Your Excellency, I believe that there is always hope," Diego spoke earnestly. "For what is life without hope? Surely there is justice in this world of ours and the pendulum must swing in the other direction."

"I hope you are right, Don Diego," Francisco responded. "There seems to be a higher power, though, that is punishing me, and not just the king. I am certain of it. There have been too many incidents to add up to just one angry king in Spain. I have attempted to analyze it. I believe that I have other political enemies who have employed the powers of witches or warlocks to constantly plague my steps."

Alejandro de la Vega looked startled. "What makes you believe this, Your Excellency?" He was now very concerned about the prince’s mental state.

"Ah, I know what you are thinking," the officer replied, taking in the reaction of the two men sitting opposite him. "Rest assured I am not mad, or at least I do not think that I am. However, there are too many coincidences to believe otherwise. Let me give you an example of why I believe this is so. I have the same dream over and over, like a windmill turning constantly. It is a nightmare. I cannot sleep at all in my bed. The only place I sleep is in church where I feel protected to some degree, perhaps by one of the saints or by the Holy Virgin. Only they could counter the magic of the dark forces."

"When did this nightmare begin?" Diego asked.

"It began after the king began to take personal vengeance against me. His curses, or those of others, have followed me here to the Américas," explained De las Fuentes. "Sometimes I am so tired from lack of sleep, I feel as if I am sleepwalking through life. I go to church everyday to ask forgiveness and to ask God if He can give me some guidance or perhaps make a sign to show that He has heard my confessions. I do not know what else to do. I even consulted with black witches while in a Brazilian port. One threw all sorts of dirt at me and mumbled in a foreign tongue. She made a doll in the representation of my enemies and stuck it full of thorns. She danced around a fire and blew incense into the air. The other led me into the ocean in some rite and submerged me, almost like a baptismal. I was not very impressed, but then I am disconcerted by any woman, black or white, who would smoke a cigar. I later thought that I had acted very foolishly in consulting pagans. Fortunately no one knew that I had done this, so by the time the ship reached Peru, there were other matters to attend to." De las Fuentes paused and smiled sadly. "I have often wondered myself if I am going mad. My duties in the army and attending to the affairs and concerns of the subjects of the king has kept me occupied and for this I am grateful."

"Your Excellency, any man who has endured what you have has good reason to question to what extent his punishment was reasonable," Alejandro told him. "I know of noblemen being banished to the provinces for this offense or that by the king. It was a whim and always temporary, just to make a point. It happened under Carlos IV. But never has a prince been subjected to such injustice as you have. But these injustices are politically and personally motivated as you yourself have pointed out. Every king has his servants and they help him extend his actions even across the seas. This is where your misfortune has come from, not from witches. We are the products of social and political fortunes or misfortunes and these are acts of men, not acts of God or demigods. As children of the Enlightenment, whether monarchist, republican, or apolitical, we know there are processes at work and each one plays itself out to a logical conclusion. Once it has, the pendulum begins to swing in the opposite direction. Did you not state so yourself when you spoke at the hearings of balance and reason?"

"Ah," responded De las Fuentes. "You sound much like Señor Enríquez who debated me today on this very topic. He did so after an attack of the twitching illness with which he is afflicted. He does not believe that his affliction has anything to do with possession or witchcraft. He says there is a reason behind it and he told me many things that happened to him in his life. I still think he must be possessed because, despite his adherence to reason, he also told me that he believes that he is more than one being inhabiting the same body. When I asked him to explain this, he said that he perceives himself as two different men, one rational, one irrational. I told him that today he was the rational man, but in the courtroom he seemed possessed and out of control."

"I do not deny that Señor Enríquez displays starkly different behavior at the most unexpected times," Alejandro admitted, "but I must say that I believe that there are varying degrees of madness. Madmen are rarely always out of control, but there are incidents or perhaps illnesses that seem to trigger their malaise. We may not understand the reasons for this but they still exist in whatever form they do. Some men are born with physical defects while others are born with mental ones. Perhaps there is a relationship between the two, a relationship that is obscure to us because one affliction is obvious and the other hidden."

"You know, Your Excellency," Diego added, "just because we cannot explain something does not mean the occult is at work. We humans are very ignorant about the world and how nature works. Once upon a time we did not know what lightning was and attributed it to the wrath of the gods. Now, with advances in science, we are able to view it as a kind of fluid in the same nature as electricity. The American scientist, Benjamin Franklin, is famous for his writings on this. Our European scientists, who agree with this, insist that we must use our natural ability to reason. Did not the scientist Isaac Newton, whom you so rightly quoted, also advocate the use of empirical knowledge and observation to deduce actions?"

"You gentlemen put me to shame," Francisco remarked ruefully. "Although I would respond by saying that while much of what you say is undeniable, I would add that there are other avenues by which we understand our world, and ones not solely based on reason. How do we place such qualities as intuition, imagination, or common sense? I admit that Señor Enríquez told me some facts about his life that could cause me to come to very different conclusions from the ones I have espoused. I am grateful to you gentlemen for arguing these points with me, for it is in such discussion that small truths are born. Although I prefer to think of myself as a child of the Enlightenment, I am also a prince. I am a child of our system of monarchy and church, a system that could be perfected in so many ways had we the wisdom to act out the teachings we have been given. Under the right kind of king, what such leadership could not accomplish."

"Many of us wish that this could be so, Your Excellency," Alejandro commented. "I have often wondered if the reason we have yet to attain is because we travel through stages of development, just as a baby becomes a child and a child becomes a man. Soon the man becomes an old man and then is replaced by still yet another baby who becomes a child and so on. We no longer live in caves and go naked or wear animal skins. We no longer worship animals as gods. We no longer live in ignorance of the fact that there are men like ourselves in many parts of the world, dreaming the same dreams that we do - philosophically and personally. There are many good developments that bring us closer together as men, developments that have occurred in our own lifetime. But all of this is a process of becoming. We see that the world has its ups and downs, but there is room for all of us to prosper in our own way, but we need, as I think all of us will agree, to be children of the Enlightenment."

"I think my father is referring to a kind of cycle that we experience both as men as well as being a part of our world," Diego interjected. "I know Your Excellency has had both good fortune in his life as well as bad. But everything must have a beginning and an end. I would like to think that it is time that a new cycle begins for you here in California. Who knows, perhaps it has already begun."

"I will seriously contemplate your words, gentlemen," responded Francisco de las Fuentes. "You give me much to meditate upon. I regret that, at times, my melancholy can get the better of me. I seek the balance and I take heart in your passion for optimism." A loud knocking at the door of the hacienda interrupted his words.

Bernardo hurried out to see what the commotion was. Alejandro and Diego rose to their feet when the mozo reappeared followed by Sergeant García.

"Begging your pardon, Don Alejandro, I have some very important news for the Comandante," García said, breathing heavily upon entering the room. He saluted the officer as De las Fuentes rose to his feet.

The captain noted at once that the sergeant’s expression did not bode of good tidings.

"What is the matter, Sergeant? What brings you all the way out here?" he asked.

"I regret to report that one of the prisoners escaped, Capitán," García told him with great apprehension in his voice. "It happened suddenly and no one expected it."

"Señor Enríquez?" asked De las Fuentes.

"Sí, Comandante," García nodded. He looked over at the De la Vegas as he spoke. "I am sorry, Capitán, he acted like a wild man and climbed over the roof to make his escape."

"Gentlemen, I suggest that you ask your servants to be very vigilant until Señor Enríquez is apprehended. He made threats against you and against some of your neighbors both here as well in town," the officer said. "You may wish to carry a firearm with you. Not knowing whether his madness is upon him, I’m afraid we must assume the worst." He turned to the sergeant. "Did you bring any of the soldiers with you?"

"Sí, Comandante."

"Good. You need to ride out to the residences of Don Leon Santos and Don Juan Villa to warn them of what has occurred. When you have done this, return to the pueblo. We will need to warn the three men there as well. We cannot search the countryside in this darkness but we can secure the town. Go now, Sergeant, and make haste."

"Sí, Comandante!" García saluted, then spun on his heel and hurried out of the room.

De las Fuentes turned to his hosts. "Gentlemen, I regret that I must return to the cuartel. I am very honored to have been a guest in your home and to have discussed with you our mutual concerns for Spain and for our person. There is no greater honor for me than to have shared this with you and to regard you as our friend. I hope that someday I may return the courtesy." He bowed low, as the de la Vegas did likewise, and departed.

After escorting their guest to the front door, Alejandro and Diego turned back to finish the last of the wine in their glasses.

"You know, Father, Capitán de las Fuentes personifies the very kind of prince who could make a real difference in Spain for all men," Diego observed. "I understand exactly what Padre Felipe told me this morning when he said that he feels so deeply for Don Francisco. Despite his courage, he has had to endure much that would have broken other men."

"I agree," Alejandro nodded. "However, we must turn to other matters. Let us inform the servants what we will need to do based on Señor Enríquez’s escape." He paused, "Oh Diego, will you be up late tonight as usual?"

"No, Father, I am going to turn in early tonight." He smiled almost apologetically. "I drank a little too much wine this evening,"

"Be vigilant and keep Bernardo close by in case of trouble. Good night, son," his father advised.

Bernardo joined his young master in his bedroom a short while later. Diego had already shed his blue and silver-decorated ranchero attire for a black shirt, pants, cape, mask and hat. "You know, Bernardo," he told the mozo, "I think it would be a good idea for El Zorro to shadow our comandante back to town. I want to keep an eye on him. I think it would be very bad for us, and for Los Angeles, if anything unfortunate were to happen to him because of Señor Enríquez."

With those words, Diego de la Vega passed through the secret door by the fireplace and vanished into the darkness of the secret passageway.

 

 

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