Zorro & the Old Comandante



Eugene H. Craig





Chapter Thirteen


Sebastian Pérez was irritated. Salvador Muñoz was running late and he wanted him to be there when the captain arrived as they had planned. When Margarita opened the front door with De las Fuentes at her side, he voiced his displeasure at where she had been for the past four hours. He began to imply that perhaps she had gone off with the officer but the look he received from the comandante was so icy that he stopped in the middle of the sentence. At the same time he also noticed the officer’s right hand had subtly moved to the hilt and that the saber had left the scabbard about two inches while they were speaking. He had to satisfy himself with her claim that she had merely been walking and sitting in the garden all that time. Wrapped in her black shawl and in a black skirt, she was hardly visible, she said. He did not believe her.

María Pérez welcomed the captain warmly and asked him if he would like tea. He accepted and sat down next to Margarita as he had done the previous evening. Her mother then told him that she was very interested in his travels. "Could you tell us where you traveled to in Italy besides Venice and Rome?" she asked.

"I was in Naples for a few weeks," Francisco told her. "It was during the time of a popular holiday and I was at the piazza of the palace of King Ferdinand, the brother of His Majesty, Carlos IV. The holiday is actually a Royal procession which celebrates the victory of the Neapolitan and Spanish armies over the Austrians at the battle of Velletri. In honor of this day, all the available troops of the kingdom, usually around twenty thousand or more, are marched into the city and before the Royal family in the piazza of the palace. Then they proceed to line the streets from the palace to the Church of Pieddigrotta. At about four in the afternoon, His Majesty and the Royal family in all their carriages, set out in procession through these lines of the soldiery. They are attended by Ministers of State, the great officers of the Court, and flying footmen. The uniforms of the soldiers are bright and colorful. Each prince drives in his own carriage. The coachmen and footmen wear powdered wigs, but no hats, as in the Spanish tradition. After attending to devotions at the Church of Piedigrotta, the Royal Family returns to the palace, all in the same order. The rest of the day is a celebration by thousands of peasants from all over the countryside who wear gaily-colored clothing and who are happy to attend all such festive events. Despite all the pageantry, I loved seeing the collections of art there that one may compare even more favorably than those of France."

"Were you in France, too?" Margarita asked. "Did you see such things in Paris?"

"I remember on a trip to Paris, just before the revolution, seeing the Duke of Orleans Palace. It had an incredible collection of paintings – mainly from the School of Titian. The longer you stare at a painting of his, the more you admire it because of all the detail. There were numerous sculptures and other antiquities, from the Head of Parthian engraved in stone to the Head of Hannibal in Onyx. We went to the Luxembourg and the King’s Museum with their marvelous collection of art paintings of Rubens, rare gems, and many curiosities of the natural world. Despite all this, I loved Italy the best because of the people’s candor and true good nature. In Italy were to be found the finest English, Scottish and Prussian painters as well. There was a gallery in Rome where you could meet the artists and see their works. Famous painters like Jacob More, Gavin Hamilton and Jacob-Philippe Hackert did fabulous landscapes and decorated the palaces of princes and other notables. At Saint Peter’s in Montorio we saw Raphael’s famous ‘The Ascension.’ At the Convent of Santa María delle Grazie in Milan was the painting of ‘The Last Supper’ by Da Vinci. It is an amazing painting, for it covers the whole end of the room of the refectory."

By then even Sebastian began to believe that De las Fuentes had actually been to all the places he described. "I hear that the old Roman ruins are to be visited," he remarked.

"That is true," responded Francisco. "Most intoxicating of all were the hikes, natural scenery and places of antiquity to be seen, although the old structures have often fallen into great disrepair. After viewing such mild scenic falls at Tivoli in the Sabine Hills near the ruins of Hadrian’s Villa – that was an ancient retreat for Roman poets - we became more ambitious. The apex of our achievements was climbing up to see Mount Vesuvius and the environs of Naples. It erupted quite often, more with show than with substance, but it sent the tourists scrambling down the sides in great fear for their lives. As a matter of fact, a group that came after ours had to flee when it engaged in a minor eruption. How amazing it was to peer down into what is called ‘the yawning volcano’ with its mists and mysterious folds. We men liked to travel the mountain trails ourselves, but many would travel by coach and then be carried in a chaise a porteurs. The mountain precipices were beautiful as well as frightening. There is nothing like traveling which is the road to enlightenment."

"I, too, would like to travel some day," Margarita said enthusiastically. "The world sounds like a wondrous place."

"Traveling abroad is good for the mind," he told her. "It gives us perspective in order to inspect, compare and analyze. Those who are kings or princes need to do this especially, for often their lives are overly protected and their minds can become as small as the rooms they occupy. We become more civil and sensible the more we see of the world. To converse with men of science, literary accomplishment, or of wit is a fulfilling journey. To exchange with all classes makes us wiser whether we convene conversations with kings, mechanics, farmers or artists. Either way, we gain. As a matter of fact, most enlightened men will admit that practical needs, such as the applied sciences, modern languages, and manual skills are glaringly absent in our education overall."

"I disapprove of the idea of women traveling," Sebastian interrupted. "It gives them all the wrong ideas and makes them dissatisfied with their role in life. I would hardly want a Spanish ‘bluestocking’ in this family. You need to give up such foolish ideas, Margarita."

Margarita flushed in anger at his words as her mother clasped her hands to her breast in dismay at this outburst. Why did her husband keep on attacking his eldest daughter so?

Francisco watched Margarita’s reaction and he turned toward her, taking her shaking hand into his own right hand and smoothing it with his other. He decided that as a guest in their home, he would employ the diplomatic expression of dismay. He gave Pérez a disapproving look. "Life is truly full of vigor and intellectual wonder if one will open one’s mind to it and the wondrous people who live in the world and its sundry provinces," he commented. "This is true for men as well as for women."

Pérez grunted in reply and looked up at the servant as the elderly Martín made a timely entrance into the room. He carried a pewter tray with a carafe of wine, two wine glasses and a pot of tea. "Here is a fresh pot of hot tea, Doña María. I trust the first was satisfactory?"

"Yes, Martín, thank you," María answered, grateful for the interruption. "I’m so glad you brought the wine. Don Sebastian thought our guest would enjoy a bottle from Spain even though we have very good local wine."

"Yes, I would," De las Fuentes responded. "That is most thoughtful of you." He placed a hand on Margarita’s shoulder and squeezed it gently. Her mother watched as she gave him a grateful smile.

Martín began to pour a glass for both of the men. "I also have some fresh confections. Would you like me to bring them out, Señora?"

"Yes, please do," the woman answered. She wrung her hands despite the letup in tension.

There was a sudden knock at the door. "I’ll get it," Sebastian Pérez insisted, leaving the room. He went to the front door and opened it. Outside stood Salvador Muñoz. He was holding a guitar in his hands. "Good evening, Salvador," he said. "What took you so long? I thought you had decided not to come." He looked at the instrument in the man’s hands. "What do you have in your hands? I thought you did not know how to play a guitar."

"I don’t," replied the younger man softly. "Is De las Fuentes here?"

"As expected," muttered Pérez. "What did you have in mind?"

"To call his bluff, of course," smirked Salvador. "Let me put it in the front hall until I need it."

"Good thinking," replied Sebastian. In a louder voice he said, "You are just in time, Salvador. Wine is being served in the sala."



She wasted no time in sitting down at the piano and arranged the musical scores in front of her. She wiped her hands on her skirt to dry them from her nervousness and looked up at the Spanish officer with a smile. "Ismaida, Juanita, and I practice together here or at Ismaida’s," she told him. "I hope you will like this. Can you tell me if you know it?" She placed her hands on the keys and began.

The piece completely changed the mood of the room. It was light and playful. De las Fuentes watched her hands glide expertly over the keys, giving emphasis at the right time, and sensitivity throughout. Mozart, he thought, would have been pleased. She looked up at him and smiled as she played - just as Isabel used to do. She did not even look away from him when her father and Salvador Muñoz entered the room.

Salvador placed himself at the other end of the piano opposite the officer who nodded politely to him. Salvador stared at the young woman until the song ended. When it did, he startled her by applauding and saying "Bravo, Margarita. Your playing is excellent."

She turned toward him. "And what is the name of the piece I just played, Señor Muñoz?" She smiled in great amusement at his silence. She turned back toward the officer. "You know, don’t you, Francisco?"

He nodded. "Mozart’s ‘Rondo alla turca,’ a charming piece. Some of his music expressed an almost boyish wonder and sense of fun, enticing us to marvel at the simple and joyful moments of life. His music was not at all simple, of course, but did convey his own gift for making it seem that way. He wrote over two dozen piano concertos."

"I can play the opening bars of his ‘Rondo in A minor’ for piano," she said, "from memory."

"Please do so," he responded with enthusiasm. When she finished, De las Fuentes remarked to Muñoz, "This is one of the noblest works Mozart wrote for the instrument. Bravo, Margarita, and bravo again for a lovely performance."

"You mentioned this afternoon that you could play some piano," Salvador began aggressively, staring at the blue and white uniformed officer only a few feet away. "Let’s see how you do - compared to Margarita, of course."

Margarita looked up at Francisco in alarm. She understood what Muñoz’s motive was, but the officer only smiled.

"Very well," he assented, "but I did warn you that I have not practiced in a while." He waited until Margarita rose and took her hand lightly to help her move away from the seat. "Pardon me a moment," he continued and removed his scabbard and saber from his belt. He presented them to Muñoz who took them silently.

Francisco de las Fuentes sat down at the piano, rather ceremoniously flipping his blue and red coattails loose behind the seat. He was silent and thought a moment. Margarita leaned close to him and whispered, "You don’t have to do this, Francisco."

"It’s all right, dear," he responded in his deep baritone.

The house was quiet until his hands touched the keyboard. He looked up to the scenic painting on the wall over the piano and mused, "I used to play this one quite often, so I shouldn’t need to practice it much." He turned to Margarita and smiled "Now it’s your turn to guess." And he began to play. The tune was slower than the one she had played, but its style was unmistakable. His right hand did most of the work while the left supplied the supporting and complementing accompaniment.

As he played, Margarita’s expression changed from one of apprehension to one of triumph. Her eyes shone. She had not expected him to play so well. As a matter of fact, his piano playing greatly surpassed her wildest expectations. When he finished and looked up with a twinkle in his eyes, she gushed "I thought you said you only played ‘a little’."

She looked around the room - at Muñoz, at her father, and to her mother. "Wasn’t that marvelous?" Her mother smiled happily for her sake. Her father appeared a bit stunned. Salvador looked quite sour. She put her arms around the small man’s shoulders and pressed her face to his cheek a moment and then pulled back. "That was wonderful, Francisco, simply wonderful." She beamed.

"Ah," he responded, pleased to invoke such delight in her, "now what was the piece?"

"I’ve heard it before," interrupted Salvador, jealous and irritated at her open demonstration of affection for the officer, "but I don’t remember the composer."

"It’s Beethoven - his Minuet in G," Margarita explained. She turned back to Francisco. "I recall you said that you heard him play in person and even spoke to him."

"Yes, I did," he replied. "You remember very well."

Something banged at the door jam and Margarita and Francisco looked over toward the entrance of the sala to see Salvador re-enter the room. In his hands he held a guitar that was the source of the noise. The officer winced as if struck a body blow when he saw the beautiful guitar handled so carelessly. He looked up at the younger man who extended the guitar to him with one hand.

"What can you tell me about this guitar?" Salvador asked brusquely. "It belongs to a friend of mine."

The comandante rose and took the guitar from Muñoz with both hands, ignoring the man’s rudeness. He looked it over carefully, turning it over and examining it minutely. He smiled as he walked over to his chair opposite María Pérez and sat down. Margarita joined him. As he cradled the instrument in his lap, his hands practically caressed the wood with its inlaid and finely painted floral designs. "This is a very fine instrument," he commented, "although a bit neglected." His hands strummed softly while he tightened or loosened each string appropriately. "Implore its owner to get some new strings."

"Do you play this as well?" asked Sebástian in surprise.

"A little," he replied. "I know a few old-fashioned pieces that my father and mother enjoy."

"I love old-fashioned things," María piped up and smiled at her daughter who looked so proud of the small man’s talents.

"This piece would be best presented by dual guitars," he said as if talking to himself. "Nevertheless, let’s see what it can do." The melody was lighter than the piano piece and moved rapidly. Margarita watched the fingers of his left hand move up and down the neck of the guitar while the fingers of his right hand plucked at the strings. The piece was short, only over two minutes. "Handel’s Fugue in G" he commented as he finished. He then launched into another piece. "This is of more recent vintage." It was also more versatile and playful and he smiled into Margarita’s eyes as he played. "Its repetitiveness makes it an easy piece to remember." He played on, seemingly with his own variations. He finished with two more short pieces, one only over a minute and the other much longer, and started a third, then a fourth as if really enjoying playing. "My tribute to those who prefer the Spanish –Italian style," he said humorously as he continued. "A short piece by Marella, his Rondo ‘from Suite Number One.’ The last one was by Soler, his Sonata in D minor."

When he finished, his small audience applauded in appreciation, even Pérez and Muñoz clapped, though reluctantly. De las Fuentes stood up and handed the guitar back to Salvador. "Your friend is most fortunate, Señor Muñoz. I would like to hear him play, for the owner of such an instrument must undoubtedly be discerning."

"He’s a very old man here in Los Angeles," Salvador remarked rather indifferently.

"What is his name?" asked the comandante. "I should like to make his acquaintance."

"Don José Mario Escobedo," answered the young man. "But he probably hasn’t played it in a while. He’s getting senile."

"Music is for all ages," De las Fuentes commented. "Señor Escobedo may be losing his recent memories, but music is forever and he will love it no matter how old he gets."

"What was the second piece?" asked Margarita. "All of them were delightful, Francisco."

"Ah, Scarlatti, Sonata in E," he responded. "Thank you, dear. My younger brother plays quite well. I used to practice with him. We would conduct a ‘duel’ of guitars with an older cousin. We were absolute fanatics in our practice and wished to win our grandfather’s favor. He was a most accomplished musician in his own right and directed my father and us children. He knew many talented musicians and had them tutor us at various intervals." He paused. "As a matter of fact, I’ve been meaning to ask you where you learned piano so well. With whom have you studied?"

"I play with Ismaida. Her parents come from a musical family and her father taught her piano," she told him. "When I was little I began playing with her older sister and brother who all play. Her father has helped us. Aside from that, it has just been me by myself. Señor Rodriguez works with me twice a week. He is very enthusiastic and his wife plays the harp which she learned from her mother."

Sebastian was very bored with all the chatter. "Let’s switch the topic from music, shall we? The rest of us are rather uninitiated in these matters. Why don’t you let Salvador enter into this conversation?"

"My apologies, Señor," Francisco said. "It was not my intention to exclude anyone from our discussion. Please feel welcome to join our discourse at any time. Perhaps Señor Muñoz has an interest in philosophical ideas, the natural sciences, or even architectural design?"

Salvador looked stumped for a moment. He glanced at the painting over the piano and said, "Well, I like looking at paintings," he began.

"Ah, an excellent endeavor," De las Fuentes smiled. "So, how would you compare the artistic styles of Goya, Tiepolo, and Mengs?" he asked. "I found their applications of pigments for frescos, not to mention their contrast in subject matter, quite imaginative."

"Uh, well, I know who they are," Salvador began. "They painted the Royal families and other portraits of members of the aristocracy. Tiepolo and Mengs were foreigners."

"That is true," Francisco continued. "Goya painted the portraits of Carlos III and the family of Carlos IV, along with portraits of his current Majesty, Ferdinand. All three of them did frescos for churches and the royal residences. Giovanni Tiepolo, who was Italian, decorated the Throne Room of the Royal Palace in Madrid. His specialty was depicting scenes from antiquity, such as the ‘Capture of Carthage’ or depictions of Venus, Mars, Neptune and Mercury, griffins, humanlike lions, and doves. In the throne room he created a vast allegorical, ‘The Apotheosis of the Spanish Monarchy’. There was much theatricality and grandeur in his subject matter. He was exuberant and imaginative. He loved color and the illusion of motion. He was a master at the use of light to accentuate the dramatic features of his paintings. He used lighter pigments to create an illusion of playful or imaginary scenes. His paintings can also be found in Milan, Bergamo and Vicenza as well as in Wúrzburg. He did portraits on canvas as well as drawings."

Everyone else in the room was silent. The mother looked interested, Margarita enchanted, Salvador nonplussed, and Sebastian irritated at having nothing to say.

The comandante was in his element. "Anton Mengs was from Bohemia and worked in Dresden and Rome. He painted the famous fresco Parnassus as a decoration for the Villa Albani. He was also commissioned by His Majesty Carlos III to do paintings and he became far more popular than Tiepolo, though only God knows why. Poor Tiepolo ran afoul of the King’s confessor who denounced his paintings in a church near the Aranjuez palace as course and pagan. Tiepolo was then replaced by Mengs whose very different style paled in comparison, although he was very precise and deft in his work. He was a perfectionist and would work on a portrait long after most people considered the product finished. He spent many of his early years at the Vatican and understood what was required of him. He supervised Francisco de Goya at the royal tapestry factory, the Santa Barbara, in Madrid. When he died he was buried in the Pantheon."

"Goya studied in Italy, copying the worst and the best, as all art students do. He has done frescos in churches and monasteries. He dislikes landscapes and painting animals. Painting styles changed and he changed with them, the mark of a successful artist. He went from painting religious subjects to hunting scenes, picnics and the like. He had good contacts and advanced through a mixture of opportunism and good fortune. He was commissioned to paint the Conde de Floridablanca who was not particularly pleased with the results. It took Goya almost a year to get the payment for the portrait. Not everybody thought it was the greatest art and it isn’t."

"You don’t sound too impressed with a man who is considered Spain’s greatest artist," Sebastian rebuked him.

"Ah, in order to judge art, one must have a basis of comparison," the officer replied. "Even the Academy of Arts said that the colors he uses are not true to life. But colors aside, if you have ever seen the works of Jacques Louis David or the Englishman, Sir Joshua Reynolds, his contemporaries, there would be no comparison. If he would have taken my commission, I would much prefer a Reynolds portrait to one by Goya."

"You would doubt an artist chosen by both King Carlos as well as by His Majesty, our Ferdinand?" Sebastian continued on the offensive.

"You don’t know His Majesty," commented Francisco. "Goya may have painted his portraits, but Ferdinand only tolerates Goya. The Inquisition had him arrested in 1815 for past sins. He barely escaped with his skin. His Majesty told him that he deserved to be garroted, but decided to pardon him because he was a great painter. Goya is a good cartoonist, but his works could be more inspired, less coarse. Carlos IV, sad to say, had no basis of comparison and took the least road of resistance in determining an artist for official favors. I suppose the best thing I can say about Goya is that he is bold to paint people as he sees them. Most people are flattered just to have a portrait and they look more at the exact portrayal of their dress, wigs, sashes, jewels, and other possessions rather than at their own depiction. If Queen María Luisa had had any artistic sense, she would have jailed Goya for his portraits of her."

Margarita burst out laughing, shaking her head. Her father frowned as she covered her mouth with her hand.

"But many people, even famous people, have had Goya paint their portraits," insisted Sebastian.

"That is true, but they have no more sense than the rest," Francisco explained. "Look, you need to understand something. If the king has his portrait painted, why, then all the sycophants line up after him and commission the same artist to do their portrait. Why do they do this? Because the artist is good? Not at all. They do it solely because His Majesty used the artist. He named him Painter to the King. His excellence or lack of it is never questioned. Ah, it’s quite a boon for the artist. Much of Goya’s work borders on the primitive. He isn’t even very original. I suspect that if someone in the future were to research his technique, he would find that Goya has copied every master from Velásquez to Raphael, not to mention Mengs, and of course, the mediocrities. How sad, that after all these years, he still has not developed much imagination."

"You seem very opinionated, Capitán," Señor Pérez commented as if to end the conversation.

"My opinions, like my use of the blade, are based upon extensive experience, Señor Pérez," Francisco remarked easily. "I do not take either one lightly, but give much time and reflection into their formulation and use. Opinion needs to be based upon facts, not on whims or fancies of the moment. When one has studied the subject matter extensively, then one is entitled to be opinionated."

Margarita was smiling. She was exuberant. She loved how "her captain" handled both men. She had never seen anyone ever do it with the calm and skill that Francisco de las Fuentes did and she admired him even more than ever. "That’s exactly how I feel about music," she declared. She saw the disapproving looks from her father and Salvador that her comment generated. Her mother looked petrified. Only the small officer in blue and white nodded in approval at her words. She continued. "It is also how artists and composers judge each other - and learn from each other, if they are willing to learn, and the great ones do learn from each other, don’t they? I can’t help but recall your story about Mozart and Beethoven."

"This is true," he acknowledged, turning toward her. "It may amuse you to know, however, that artists are among the most opinionated people in the world. When they bask in royal favor too long, they begin to think of themselves as immortal as the gods they paint. Most either are, or become, consummate actors, feigning affectations, airs, and are often insufferably arrogant. One might almost forgive Goya, though, as he was practically deaf by 1800."

"’Almost?’" she teased.

"Almost, but not quite. He never learned anything other than to satisfy popular whim," Francisco responded. "I find musicians, however, much more amendable." He gave her a wink. "Once they stop composing for royal favor and become independent of sponsors, they write the kind of music that pleases them as artists. To continuously subordinate one’s creativity to masters other than themselves, they become enslaved. I hope that in the future we will find kings who will enact laws where the state pays for musicians and artists so that they may give full reign to their talents and not fear for their health or their heads."

"They should have to earn their way," commented Salvador, looking disdainfully at the officer. "Let them sell their products and if they succeed or fail, that is their reward."

"As you do, Señor Muñoz?" asked Francisco with mock irony. "It may be all fine and well for those born to money, but most artists and musicians are born with the misfortune of belonging to the lower classes. They have no means to buy even the canvases to paint or the paper upon which to compose. Why should they be forced to prostitute themselves to those with money? How many thousands have died without anyone ever knowing of their talent and being inspired by it? I came across a young boy during the War of Liberation who drew in charcoal on pieces of scrap wood. His name was Juan. We found him in a hovel. His mother told us that he seemed to have a natural talent for drawing but that they had no means of helping him further the great pleasure he took in drawing. The poor lad was illiterate, his parents dirt poor. Had he survived the war I believe I would have guided him into the hands of an artist. The poor boy died at the age of fourteen of starvation and disease. There was nothing we could do for him. It was too late. I wish I could convey to you the great sadness I felt as I looked over the scraps his mother showed me. I can only say that I took his hand in mine and told him that he was a fine artist. If it helped his last moments, then I am grateful."

The room was silent. "That’s a very sad story," María sighed. "We’re very fortunate in comparison to them."

"I would like to show you one of these pieces that his mother gave me on that day. I kept one for myself in his memory and turned the others over to a friend in the Royal Academy of Arts."

"I would like to see it, Francisco," Margarita said softly. "We should have a sensitivity to the sufferings of others instead of being wrapped up in our own closed world of comfort. It traps us."

"I’m glad not to have to worry about all that here in California," commented Salvador. "Let’s talk of less serious things, shall we?"

"Certainly," nodded the officer. "Since philosophy and the arts do not seem to be your forté, would you like to discuss the recent explorations to the lands of the infidels , for example, to Mecca, or perhaps the search for the Northwest Passage? How about the installation of gas lights in the city of London or the recent invention of the Fire Extinguisher by the English?" His eyebrows were raised in expectation and his manner was like a teacher trying to encourage a shy student to speak up.

When his questions invoked no immediate response, the officer continued. "We live in an astonishing century, Señor. In the last one hundred years our view of the world has changed in amazing ways especially in the natural sciences, vitalism, medicine, instrumentation, mathematics and methods of travel. Does the invention of the stethoscope capture your imagination? How about the technological advances in breech-loading rifles or steam-powered warships? The Hobby Horse? Now there's a bit of fun! Have you seen one before? The Prussians patented it already. How about the discovery of Chlorophyll in plants? Literature? Poetry? No? What are your interests? Let's hear your views."

"Why should we not speak of fashion, card games, or business?" the younger man replied at last in an irritated manner. "Most people enjoy such amusements."

"Ah," responded Francisco thoughtfully. "I suppose there is something to be said about such games. His Majesty spends an inordinate amount of time playing cards and billiards. I prefer subjects of substance because it expands our facilities rather than atrophies them. Tell me, have you ever seen a hot-air balloon? It was a French invention and caused quite a sensation in Paris. The masses thronged to see it. Bonaparte used it for military observation purposes. We never had anything like it in our army. If people traveled more and paid attention to inventions in other lands, what we couldn’t do to improve the lives of everyone. Could you imagine people traveling in hot air balloons as they now do in stagecoaches? How far we could travel in so short a time, and without all the potholes in the roads."

Salvador fumed while Margarita was thrilled at everything the officer had to say. Finally, unable to speak on anything of substance, Muñoz left in a huff. He was so rankled at his inability to compete with the officer, that he forgot the guitar.

Sebastian sat in silence, practically overwhelmed by the thoughts and images conveyed in the captain’s conversations. It was true that the image of people traveling in hot air balloons sparked his own thoughts, but that was not the point. His entire plan to make Salvador the center of attention had fallen apart. He was beginning to recognize that the captain was a formidable opponent in dealing with his daughter. But Sebastian was determined that money, not personal happiness, would be the key to his financial ambitions. Salvador was the fifth son of a prosperous merchant and although he did not have much in his own right, just the family connections alone would mean a great deal. Perez saw no profit from any relation with a man like Francisco de las Fuentes. Well, he would begin phase two of his plan to cement his relationship with the Muñoz family and he would not let this eccentric officer stand in his way. It was almost midnight before he closed the door on the officer and began to berate his daughter for her open display of affection for him in front of Salvador. Another argument ensued and she went to bed in tears. It would not be the last of them.



Chapter 14
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