Zorro & the Old Comandante

by

 

Eugene H. Craig

 

 

 

 

Chapter Forty-one

 

 

Don César was appalled by the turn of events. He approached several dons, taking their arms at the elbow. "My friends, what can we do?"

Don Alejandro shook his head. "I am not sure we can do anything. It seems His Excellency is as eager to put Capitán Monastario in his place as the Capitán is to do his worst." Alejandro watched as Diego moved toward the front door. "Diego, where are you going?"

The young man turned. "I was going to check on Bernardo. He was outside in the street when Capitán Monastario arrived. I wish to make sure he is all right."

"Do not leave quite yet, my son," the white-haired don insisted. "I most certainly will volunteer to be His Excellency’s second. There are others who will do the same." There was a murmur of assent from the men who surrounded him.

Margarita approached Diego. She was in great distress. "Diego, is there anything you can do to stop this?" She turned to the other dons. "Will anyone do anything to stop this?" She saw a general shaking of heads.

"I would like to, Doña Margarita," Alejandro responded, "but I think your husband is determined to see this through."

"But everyone knows that Capitán Monastario will not fight honorably," she said tearfully.

"Doña Margarita," Diego asked gently. "Has Don Francisco ever told you about his agility with the blade?"

The other men, his father, and Margarita looked surprised at his question. "Why, no, Diego," she replied. "Francisco has never mentioned this at all. Did he tell you that?"

Diego seemed to remember an incident. "I believe that he mentioned it in passing, but I don’t remember when," he said in a distracted manner. He joined the general movement toward the patio door as the two men began to square off. He allowed others to push past him. But, Margarita took his arm and held it firmly as she watched the spectacle. It would not be easy to leave the scene.

Enrique Monastario watched his opponent prepare himself with a few stretches and blade movements. His eyes narrowed as he recognized the style of a man quite familiar with fight preparation, but the officer was determined to give his opponent no chance. "Are you not a little old for this?" he taunted.

"Old enough to teach you a lesson or two," the small man replied. There was a small smile under his upturned moustaches as his eyes flicked over the officer, watching his every movement. He indicated he was ready to start. The two men faced off. Their blades were slightly pointing down as if each were daring the other to begin first.

The officer in blue and white decided on a volt, a sudden movement to take his opponent by surprise. He executed this by charging with his blade straight out and with a quick, one, two, three forward. His opponent side-stepped his charge and moved out of the way with ease. Monastario pivoted quickly, moving his sword with several turns of the wrist, but the small man turned as well and brushed aside his every move with grace.

Two blades continued to contact each other, then parry, time after time, then, begin a new course of attack – none of which were successful. Monastario decided upon a new strategy – to wear down his opponent, a man at least fifteen years older than himself, he guessed. He moved toward a lantern, grasped it and hurled it towards the musician. But the pockmarked man showed himself quite agile, taking the fewest number of steps to avoid the hurtles thrown his way and remaining quite calm in the heat of battle. Yet, the clash of steel quickened as the two fighters moved their way around the patio.

The crowd watched, first in apprehension, then in appreciation of the level of battle unfolding before them. This would be no easy victory for Monastario and, as of yet, they had seen no major attack by Don Francisco.

Alejandro was heard to say in delight, "Don Francisco knows the blade!" There was a murmuring of assent around him. "It seems you have also married a formidable warrior," Diego told the worried young woman at his side. Margarita felt the medallion of Saint Francis at her throat and clasp it both hands, uttering a silent prayer. She let go of his arm as she watched the two men battle, frozen in fear and dread.

The attacks came from high and low, but Francisco de las Fuentes knew all the movements. He recognized that Capitán Monastario was an accomplished swordsman as well, but he had a major weakness, among others: that was his anger and frustration. His eagerness to shed blood also made him more reckless as well as dangerous, but Francisco had faced such men before.

"Tell me, how can you, a capitán, take so long in dispatching me?" the small man remarked as if making casual conversation. "This feels more like a dance than a fight."

‘I will teach you to dance, musician," Monastario breathed as he slashed away.

"We musicians have much to teach," the other responded, parrying all the blows. "Perhaps if you had as much an aptitude for culture as you do for bad manners, you could learn to sing as well."

"My blade does my singing for me," Monastario declared. Once again his blade failed to make contact beyond that of his opponent, but he did succeed in taking off one of the gold buttons on the other’s vest. He smirked as if he would see the tide of battle now turn in his favor.

It was the closest he had come to scoring on his opponent and the very fact he had managed to get that close seemed to galvanize the small man into renewed action. Francisco barely felt the button leave his waistcoat. He was determined that no one would ever get that close to him again. With a sudden series of rapid attacks from seemingly all directions, Francisco pressed close to his opponent, his wrist moving rapidly and the point of his blade even faster. A button flew off the uniform of his opponent as well – touché! The officer was infuriated: the very movement he had used had been very cleverly used against him!

Monastario found himself moving from an offensive stance to strictly a defensive one. He had not believed that anyone, let alone a pompous musician could ever score one on him. In addition, it was beginning to become apparent that it was just quite possible that an end to the fight was in sight. He passed a table, grabbed a wine glass and hurled it at the other’s face. It sailed past. He moved behind the table but found it quickly upturned and used against him. He stumbled against a rock wall of the garden and recovered. He became angry and his wrath showed in his face. He paused and gave his sword a whirl as he contemplated his next move. His opponent noted his slight hesitation and was on him in a moment. Both men’s blades caught. Monastario attempted to use his greater height to his advantage and throw the small man off balance. When that failed, he took his left hand and punched the face of his opponent. The watching crowd gasped at the turn of events. Margarita felt as if her heart had leapt into her throat.

Francisco was stunned by the blow. He recognized instantly what happened and he knew what would follow: Monastario would attempt to run him through. With trained instinct, he turned to his right and moved his wrist in a sudden clockwise direction. He felt it catch the oncoming blade. So sudden was his movement that it wretched the sword out of Capitán Monastario’s hand and sent it flying.

A hundred pairs of eyes watched the officer’s blade sail off toward the high wall. A sigh simultaneously came from as many lips. Then the crowd was in an uproar. Many gave a rousing cheer: "Viva! Viva!"

Francisco approached the officer with his blade drawn, pointing at the other’s chest. "You understand that I demand satisfaction," Francisco told him in his deep baritone.

Monastario was stunned at the turn of events. Nevertheless, he puffed out his chest preparing to accept his fate. "Do your worst!" he declared.

"I expect not," the other replied with a certain disdain, "but one should die for a cause more worthwhile than simply being a vulgarian." He gestured with his sword. "Come this way." He poked the officer with the blade toward the open doors of the sala right off the patio.

Margarita still held her hands over her heart, grasping the medallion. Her eyes were full of tears as she watched the small man approach with Capitán Monastario in front of him.

"Halt," Francisco commanded. Monastario halted before the young woman. Francisco then came and stood at her side. "My satisfaction demands that you apologize to my wife and to myself," he declared, "And to this assembly of notables."

Monastario hesitated just a moment. He had not expected to escape with his skin and he was already planning his revenge. No musician, no matter how clever with the blade, would escape his wrath for long. Nevertheless, he bowed politely as if the altercation had never taken place. "My humble apologies, Señora, Señor, and assembled guests. My duty demands that I depart with my sergeant in service of the king." He almost smirked at that, but the small man was not yet finished.

"We will be unable to give you that pleasure as of yet," Francisco continued. "However, since you interrupted our recital, we must continue it. You will remain here as a member of the audience."

"And this is a further price you demand of me?" Monastario asked in cynical amusement. "What will you do to prevent me from recovering my blade?"

Don Alejandro and a dozen others stepped forward to offer their services. Before any could volunteer, a cultivated voice rang out above the others, "Perhaps I could be of service, Your Excellency."

Every man and woman in the room looked up and watched a tall man in black approach them from the patio. His sword was drawn.

"Zorro!" Monastario exclaimed. "Sergeant García, arrest this outlaw!" He looked around for a way to get hold of a sword. He approached Francisco. "Give me your sword! It is the outlaw, Zorro! Seize him!"

"I think not," the small man replied. "Señor Zorro, I hesitate to ask this of you since you are my guest, but perhaps you would not mind."

"Your guest?" Monastario reacted in dismay and anger.

"Not at all, Your Excellency," the man in black grinned. "As a matter of fact, it would give me much pleasure." He gestured with his sword toward an empty chair. "Have a seat, Capitán, and enjoy the show!"

 

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

 

 

"The bird catcher, that’s me

I’m always happy, whoop-dee-dee!

As the bird catcher I am known

By young and old throughout the land.

Though what I’d really like is a trap for

Girls; I’d catch ‘em for myself

By the dozen.

I’d lock them up with me at home,’

And all those girls would be mine alone.

If all those girls were mine alone,

I’d trade a few for sweets and sugar, and

Then to my number-one favorite, I’d give

All the sweets she wanted.

And if she kissed me tenderly,

She would be my wife

And I her husband.

She’d fall asleep at my side,

And I’d rock her like a child.

 

Monastario kept his arms folded across his chest and rolled his eyes as García finished the song and commented under his breath, "A bird catcher…!"

Then García smiled. "There is one final song, Comandante," but he was not looking at Monastario when he said it. "I only remember two verses:"

 

"In these sacred halls

Revenge is unknown.

And if a man should fall,

Love leads him back to his duty.

Then he is taken by a friend’s hand,

Content and happy

To a better land.

Within these sacred walls,

Where each man loves his neighbor,

No traitor can lurk,

For our enemies are forgiven.

Anyone who does not delight in such teaching

Does not deserve to be called a ‘man.’ "

 

The burst of applause at the end of this song rolled around the room. No one but El Zorro heard his prisoner mutter "That is a treasonous song!"

"Come, come, Capitán," el Zorro chided him. "Surely even you know the song of Zarastro in the opera ‘The Magic Flute!’"

Monastario only fumed in impotent rage at the rendering of a republican-inspired aria, but there was nothing he could do with the blade of the Fox at his back.

César Rodríguez stood up and thanked the sergeant for his fine performance. Then he turned toward the small man and slender woman who had resumed their places, the young woman at the piano, and the man with his violin. "And now for the second half of our recital. Don Francisco and Doña Margarita will perform some very special music. It is music both for which they are known as well as which will be new and welcome for all of us."

 

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

 

For Conchita Cortéz it was the fastest sewing job she ever did, but one she did with great pleasure. Juan Muñoz had deftly recovered his master’s gold button and gave it to Margarita. Conchita had volunteered at once to sew it back on the waistcoat. By the time Sergeant García was ready to begin to sing, everything was almost as it was before.

Margarita had given Francisco a cold damp cloth to refresh himself and worried over the blow he had received. In her relief, she finally threw her arms around his neck and gave him a heartfelt hug. Then, they made their way back to the sala where García began his solo. When he finished, he beamed at Don César for having accompanied him on a flute. All of the frowning Capitán Monastario aimed in his direction melted away with the applause. It would be an evening García would remember for a long time.

The strings of a violin sounded as a small man took up a violin and a slender woman sat down at the piano. Don Alejandro nodded as he recognized why the pieces were chosen: they allowed both players to compliment each other as well as to display their own instrument. The first piece was Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas, Op 12, 1-3, the first movement, and then the rondos. Margarita played with ease and it was clear to the listeners that they delighted in playing with each other.

Then the quintet came back together and played Flute Quintets, Op 17, Number 1 in D, Major, G419 with two violins, flute, viola and cello by Boccherini. Francisco played the flute, showing his mastery over the instrument and the delicacy with which he played.

Monastario yawned through his piece and El Zorro could only shake his head in disgust because the officer simply did not appreciate the level of musical talent he was witnessing. His mind was too full of thoughts of revenge for that. But he wasn’t the only one yawning: Monastario seemed to have his counterpart in the civilian, Miguel Cisneros.

Francisco was featured on the next piece, Mozart’s Adagio and Rondo for Flute Quartet in D, a charming piece that filled the room with its light quality. El Zorro glanced over at the native Californians and saw the expression on the face of the young boy who looked absolutely enraptured by the flute player. There was a wide smile on his face. Juan Muñoz accompanied this song with some very deft playing of the violin. A light and delightful piece, the listeners were captivated by its lilting melody.

Francisco played the latest songs from the virtuoso, Niccolo Paganini. They were his own improvisations, for Paganini rarely published, but the selections showed his own talent for violin playing – from the tenderest of moments to the most exuberant excitement possible on the instrument.

As the evening came to a conclusion, all of the players except Margarita left the quintet. She played her favorite pieces which included Bach, Beethoven and Mozart. Everyone knew that she played them for her friends and neighbors as a farewell. When she finished there was hardly a dry eye in the room. Los Angeles would never be the same. The last piece she played was Beethoven’s "Für Elise." Whenever Diego heard that tune afterwards, he would always remember Margarita.

All five musicians returned to their group and bowed deeply before the enthusiastic audience. Even Monastario applauded with the rest and attempted to rise. El Zorro kept him in his seat. "Surely, you will not forbid me to congratulate the musicians on a fine performance?" he smoothly asked the masked man.

The Fox merely gave a wide smile. "Have patience, Capitán," he told him. "You will get your chance, but later on."

 

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

 

Francisco and Margarita de las Fuentes approached the group of Indians who stood chatting with Padre Felipe. The pair was accompanied by Juan Muñoz who was very curious about what he had heard about "wild Indians."

"Thank you, Capitán," Grey Feather said by way of greeting the man in black and gold. "Thank you, Señora Capitán."

"It is I who must thank you, once again," Francisco said with great sincerity. "I would like to take this opportunity to ask you once again how I might repay you for all your kindnesses and the saving of my life."

Grey Feather thought a moment. "It is enough for my people to have received justice from you. If you wish to give something by which my people can remember you for all time, then I ask for that which we will always remember you – whenever the mockingbird raises his voice in song, whenever the river sings, whenever the breeze whispers in the leaves, whenever the bees find joy in the flowers." He pointed to an object on the piano. It was the violin.

Francisco nodded and Juan Muñoz retrieved the instrument at once, handing it to the small man. "Is this what you would like?" he asked.

"Yes, Capitán."

Miguel Cisneros was outraged as he watched the events unfold. "A heathen wanting a priceless object of our culture," he exclaimed. Others turned to watch how the small man would handle this unexpected request.

Juan Muñoz could not contain himself. With a little anxiety, he commented to the long-haired Indian, "This is His Excellency’s own violin, given to him by his grandfather. It is very valuable."

Grey Feather’s eyes were only on Francisco. He waited.

"Do you know how to play this?" Francisco asked solemnly, cradling the violin and bow.

"I will learn, Capitán," the old man said with determination.

"I have no doubt of it," Francisco smiled and handed the instrument to him. He knew the old man had saved his life and that each had given the other something of immense value – each to the other. "I give this to you in gratitude." He first presented the violin and then the bow.

Padre Felipe stepped forward. He was very pleased at the interaction between the two men. "I will be more than happy to see that Grey Feather gets instruction," he promised.

Francisco asked Juan to also bring him the flute. He then presented it to the young boy who looked it over in wonder. Then, from the folds of his clothing, the young man took a yellow reed flute and held it out.

"This is for you, Capitán," Blue Feather told him.

"I am honored," the small man told the boy. "I shall remember you and your people each time I play this." The boy smiled.

"And what can I possibly give you, Señor Juan?" asked Francisco at last turning to Blue Feather. "You took me to your people at great risk of your own life."

"You gave me justice, Your Excellency," Blue Feather told him. "That is enough for me." He paused, noting the young woman pulling at his deerskin cloak.

Margarita smiled at the young woman peeking behind Señor Juan. "I think your benefactress has a request, Francisco."

The Comandante smiled. "And what can I do for my faithful cook?"

Blue Feather leaned over and listened to the girl’s whispered words. He straightened up. "Little Sparrow wants that," he pointed at the object around Margarita’s neck. "She remembers it from your time in the cave."

Margarita lifted her hand to the medallion in a little shock. She considered it her own personal possession, a spiritual symbol of the man she loved. She looked into Francisco’s eyes and his expression told her that it was such a small thing. She did not wish to disappoint him. She pulled the medallion of Saint Francis of Assisi over her head, kissed it, and walked over to the young woman. Blue Feather moved a step and she placed it around the neck of the tiny Californian woman who was no taller than Ismaida. "This medallion is of Saint Francis, the saint of my husband," she told the young woman. "He loved animals, birds, and all people. He believed in kindness and justice. We wish to do the same." Margarita returned to the side of her husband wondering if the girl understood her.

Blue Feather nodded as the girl fingered the medallion in pleasure. "I will explain it to her, Señora. I will tell her your words. She wishes to remember forever the man who stayed with her people and shared their life."

 

Pilar Montoya watched the interaction of the native Californians with Francisco de las Fuentes and listened to his polished, gracious responses. She made her way over to the group while they exchanged gifts. After the Indians bowed and left the room, she approached the Comandante, his wife, and servant.

Francisco noticed her right away as she came forward – a woman in bright-colored skirts and long earrings. He bowed and kissed her hand.

Juan Muñoz shook his head in amazement at all he had witnessed thus far that evening. It was as if the world were stood on its head. In Spain, the Gypsy would be bowing and the Indians giving gifts, not receiving them.

"Good evening, Señora Montoya," Francisco greeted her. "I am honored that you attended our recital. This," he turned to his servant, "is my man, Muñoz."

The gypsy curtsied, giving the man with the ponytail a coy smile. "Oh, Comandante," she began. "You found the medallion I stole from you."

Juan’s eyebrows shot up. "Stole?"

The small man smiled. "But for a good cause, Señora. It helped save Margarita’s life and for that, I am grateful. I thought, at the time, that I had lost it. I discovered it around her neck on our wedding night." He smiled at Margarita who looked a little sad at its loss. He squeezed her hand to comfort her. "Now Saint Francis can help her people the way he helped us." Margarita looked up at him and smiled. He knew she accepted her loss with understanding.

Pilar decided to expound upon her exploits in front of the nice-looking man called Muñoz. "Well, it was a small thing considering that you also lost the curses of the witches and warlocks after our appeals to the angels to break their black curses upon you," she said. "I remember the days and nights you thought that you were on your way to Heaven, never to see your beloved Margarita again." She smiled at the young woman. "But Don Francisco fought against the bad spirits as well. With the magic of Grey Feather, and my own small contributions, he healed quickly and became as strong as the bear that had attacked him at the lake."

Juan Muñoz thought he had never heard such a colorful preamble to a request for a favor. He gave the grey-haired gypsy a long look.

"And I, as of yet, have not had the opportunity to ask you how to thank you for your kindness in saving my life. You were a stranger to me, yet came to my rescue," Francisco responded gracefully. He knew he had many debts to pay and did not want to neglect anyone.

"Ah," the gypsy waved her hand. "You are a good man, Don Francisco, and helped my friends, the Indians, who need a friend among the whites - an important friend who could render justice. It was my pleasure because you also answered my prayers for Joaquín who needed a good Comandante to give him justice."

"I wish Señor Enríquez well," Francisco told her. "I am only sorry that he has suffered in the past. I had hoped to see him again and assure him of his freedom."

"It was Joaquín who sent me to you," Pilar confided. ‘He said you were the only man who listened and treated him fairly in a very long time."

"For that, I am grateful," the small man told her. "But I still wish to reward you in some way."

The gypsy thought a moment, taking a long time, putting her hand to her chin and swaying back and forth a bit for the sake of Juan Muñoz. "Well," she began, "now that you mention it…"

Muñoz rolled his eyes.

"Now that you mention it," Pilar continued. "I wouldn’t mind a few coins to help restock my supply of herbs, candles, and sacred stones which are not too easy to find in California. And my saddle is in need of some repair…perhaps a local man who is skilled in such matters. My granddaughter shares these things with me. These are practical things, Capitán, and would be a great help should I find some unfortunate soul, like you, to help should he, or she, need it."

"Your request is modest and I am deeply touched by your desire to continue to do good," Francisco told her. "Please come by the cuartel tomorrow before mid-morning where I can fulfill my pledge to you in thanks."

Pilar curtsied deeply and threw Muñoz her most charming smile as she departed with a sweep of her shawl over her shoulders.

 

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

 

Capitán Monastario had watched with some interest at the unfolding of events in the room regarding the pockmarked man in black and gold. While he could not hear the conversation over the noise in the room, he watched in astonishment as the small man presented his violin and wife’s medallion to the Indians. He noted with disgust the gypsy’s appearance and the fact that the musician gave her his utmost attention and respect. How could such a man bow and kiss the hand of such a lower class woman, he thought. He did not notice the disappearance of the blade or its bearer behind him until Sergeant García approached him.

"Capitán Monastario," García began. "The Comandante has requested me to inform you that he has arranged a suitable room for you at the inn tonight."

"A room at the inn?" Monastario was distracted. He looked up and realized the Fox was no longer behind him. "Where did that bandit disappear to, Sergeant? Why didn’t you go after him, baboso?" He stood up and looked around.

"Well, Capitán," García explained. "I do not have my sword since I was a part of the presentation tonight."

"The presentation is over with," Monastario declared. He reached out and began to pull the red cloak off of the soldier. "Take off this ridiculous thing and get back into proper uniform - at once!"

"Sí, Capitán," García responded forlornly. The good times were coming to an end. "Oh, I forgot to mention that the Comandante ordered the best room in the inn for you and arranged for the men in the escort to be lodged there as well. He is paying for everyone’s breakfast."

"Good!" responded the young goateed officer. "At least this Comandante knows the right thing to do."

"Sí, mi Capitán," García continued. "And the Comandante requests that you report to the cuartel at eleven in the morning so that he can formally return command of the garrison of Los Angeles to you."

"Excellent, García," Monastario responded. "I look forward to meeting this Comandante. Now, go retrieve my sword. I will have use for it tomorrow when I give that musician a taste of what it is like to challenge the authority of the Comandante of the pueblo of Los Angeles!"

García handed him the sword and the officer resheathed it. "But, Capitán, you are not the Comandante…"

Monastario glared at the soldier. "Silence, stupid one! Tomorrow I shall only need to wait a little while before taking this fool into custody. I think I shall also charge him with the attempted murder of the Comandante. Then we can bury him in all his 18th century finery."

"Sí, Capitán," mumbled García. For once he was in no mood to enlighten Capitán Monastario and he felt no obligation to do so.

"Now, I will see where that bandit, Zorro, has gone to. Undoubtedly, he is still lurking about."

 

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

 

Monastario opened the door to the patio violently and practically ran into a man in a black mask and cape.

"You are looking for me, Capitán?" he asked with a huge grin.

"Zorro!" exclaimed the young officer. He drew his sword quickly but the Fox was already forcing him back onto the patio with his blade.

"Zorro!" shouted García and the remaining guests in the sala flooded back onto the patio. There they witnessed the fiercest battle of the evening unfold before their eyes.

Francisco de las Fuentes hurried over himself. Margarita took his arm and whispered a few moments into his ear. The small man nodded and turned to the man behind him, Juan Muñoz. "This is the famous El Zorro," he told him.

"So, you are still seeking more punishment after your defeat earlier this evening," the Fox teased the officer, parrying his most violent slashes.

"It will be you who are punished, Señor Zorro!" Monastario countered. "You will learn from one who can teach you a few lessons."

"Oh, you mean our musician friend," Zorro replied as his wrist rolled and whipped around the blade of the other. "I learned just how low you will sink in trying to kill an honorable man – throwing table ware, punching him in the face. How shameless of you."

Monastario leveled his blade and charged his opponent. Zorro stepped lightly out of the way as the other swung around to continue his attack. "There is no shame in victory, only defeat!" the officer declared. "And winning is the only thing that matters." Their blades flashed even faster.

"It is to your discredit," the man in black said as he forced the other back towards the sala, "that you have never learned what it is to have honor, for victory without honor is no victory at all. It is only the triumph of barbarism." Their conversation was overheard by everyone.

The crowd spread out to give them more room and the candlelight of the sala and torches on the patio were reflected in the flash of steel. The steps of each man, back and forth, up and down, light and quick, danced over the stones.

Ismaida, Juanita and Josefina all watched with wide eyes as their hero in black matched every move of the garrison commander. "I’m so worried," Josefina said aloud.

"El Zorro will win!" declared Juanita.

"He must win!" Ismaida breathed holding her hand to her mouth. She was distracted by the voice of a man next to her. She looked up. At her side was Sergeant García.

"Do not worry, little one," he said. "Señor Zorro always wins."

They watched as the battling men headed back toward the gate of the patio. El Zorro backed toward the door and, with a sudden movement, Enríque Monastario lunged at him. The man in black stepped aside as the sword buried itself into the wooden gate. His own sword swept upward. "Another beautiful coupé to the wall. You really must show me how you do that!" the Fox laughed. The officer fruitlessly tried to pull his blade out, but the outlaw forced him back toward the sala.

Francisco de las Fuentes brushed past the defeated officer and approached the masked man. "Senor Zorro," he said, "you are the finest swordsman I have seen in a very long time. I am grateful that we never came to blows."

The knight in black bowed low before the small man. "And I, Your Excellency, as well. Your skill with the blade took more than a few by surprise tonight. It is good to see that such a blade works in the cause of justice."

"More than one sword is necessary to assure that justice is done," Francisco responded. "It will take many such swords to ensure that tyranny by force of arms – and tyranny imposed dishonorably – will never triumph."

"I salute Your Excellency," El Zorro responded with a wide smile. He turned to leave.

"Will we not see you again?" the small man asked.

"I promise I will appear for your departure," the masked man vowed and, with a sweep of his cloak, disappeared into the night.

"I believe that you shall," Francisco de las Fuentes declared, "and I look forward to it - and mourn it at the same time."

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

 

Chapter 42
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