The Gift

 

 

 

CHAPTER TEN -- A SECRET REVEALED

NOVEMBER 6, 1821

THE DE LA VEGAS HACIENDA

 

Don Alejandro was sitting at one of the patio tables with Diego's wife Moneta on a slightly cool but overcast November morning. She had been unable to sleep, even with the aid of the ‘hot milk’ drink that Diego had asked Bernardo to prepare for her. Her new husband had been getting to bed well past midnight every night for the past two weeks. They would retire around nine or nine thirty each night. But soon after Moneta fell asleep, Diego would arise and not return to bed until two or three hours later. Yesterday at breakfast, he had appeared not to have gotten any rest at al. His vibrant hazel eyes were red and puffy from fatigue. He even fell asleep in the middle of a discussion with Don Alejandro regarding the latest shipment of a considerable amount of Gruyere, which was Diego’s favorite cheese.

Choosing a neutral subject, Moneta decided to seek Don Alejandro’s advice. “Father, do you think that it will rain today and thus the break the drought?“ she asked quietly.

Don Alejandro smiled warmly at her. “One can only hope, but sí, I would say that there is a good chance that the pueblo might get some rain today.”

She frowned slightly and fidgeted with her linen napkin. “Actually, father, I ...”

He looked up at her then.

“What is troubling you, my child?”

“I know that Diego keeps ah--unusual hours, but ...” Moneta hesitated again, unwilling to appear nosy. “He never misses having breakfast with us ...” But the wonderful sound of her esposo amado’s voice halted all of her questions.

“Buenos dias!” Diego said as he bounded down the hacienda‘s stairs to have breakfast with his father and his new wife.

Don Alejandro used his handkerchief to wipe the perspiration from his forehead while his son greeted his wife. By my patron saint’s beard! he sighed inwardly. The tone and subject matter of our conversation is becoming uncomfortable!

“Ah, there you are Diego!“ Don Alejandro said as he winked at the new Senora de la Vega. Moneta decided to have breakfast in the patio but I think that it is too cold for her! And, Moneta forgets that she must eat for two people, not just herself! Why your lovely wife eats like a bird!”

“Honestly, Father Alejandro. the way you coddle me, it is a wonder that I am not getting as fat as a porco! If I continue eating ‘for two,’ it will take the both of you plus Bernardo to help me in and out of the carriage!”

“I am only thinking of the child,” Don Alejandro said in mock severity.

“Really, father?“ Diego winked at him and then bent down to kiss Moneta on her sensuous lips. “Why, querida, you are growing more and more beautiful daily!” He said as he pulled his chair closer to her. “Being enceinte [pregnant] definitely agrees with you!”

“Flatterer!” Said Moneta. “You certainly do know how to treat a lady! By the way, Diego, you came in rather late last night, or should I say perhaps very early this morning?“

Don Alejandro and Diego exchanged worried looks. Each man was thinking the same thing. [Moneta has finally discovered that Diego and Zorro are the same person!]

Diego pursed his lips before answering. Perhaps the time is ripe to have a serious discussion with my beloved wife, he thought. “I.. uh..”

Moneta crossed her arms over her chest. “ Sí, you were about to say something, my dear husband?”

Don Diego spoke first. “Exactly so, querida. I have something very personal and private to discuss with you. Please, let us retire to our room.”

She had meant her question to be humorous, but the seriousness of his voice alarmed her.

“Why, Diego, I only meant to be --”

“I know mi preciosa. But we do need to discuss this matter, por favor?” He offered her his arm and when he focused his entire attention on her, she was oblivious to everything and everyone around her. Bernardo was just about to pour more hot chocolate for Don Alejandro when they all heard a commotion at the patio gate. Diego and Alejandro looked up to see Ricardo del’Amo shoving aside Don Alejandro’s mozo, Felipe Lopez.

“FELIPE!” Don Alejandro yelled when he saw Lopez fall to the patio floor. Somehow Felipe got back on his feet and foolishly tried to grab Senor del’Amo. But he was no match for the young caballero.

“Filthy Indian!” Ricardo del’Amo spat at Felipe as he backhanded the elderly servant. This time when Alejandro’s mozo fell, he remained unconscious.

“Buenos Dias, Señores y Señora de la Vega!” Don Ricardo said sarcastically. “Well Diego, your little trick did not work - indeed perhaps it has backfired!” Ricardo taunted Diego as he threw a piece of paper onto Don Diego’s lap. “I know that you are the author of this vile outrage!”

Moneta and Don Alejandro rushed to see if Felipe was seriously injured.

Ricardo snickered. “Such touching concern for an Indian!”

“FATHER!” Diego yelled as he flew across the patio where del’Amo had started toward Don Alejandro.

“Not to worry Diego,” Ricardo smirked. “You are the one I am after--”

<THUD! > Diego toppled del‘Amo with a left cross and when Ricardo tried to rise, both Don Alejandro and Diego bodily threw him off their property.

But Ricardo was not yet finished with Don Diego. “‘WHAT DID YOU DO, HIRE THAT COWARDLY BANDIT EL ZORRO TO SEND WHAT YOU WERE AFRAID TO DELIVER YOURSELF? Del’Amo shouted as he stood outside pounding on their patio gate.

Diego suddenly had an idea. He whispered to his father to count to three. As they held the gate shut, Diego finished his mental count, and quickly swung open the door. He stepped aside as Ricardo’s momentum caused him to stumble into a couple of chairs.

“Ricardo, I ordered you to stay away from our home and us! Please excuse my haste, but I have a lot of business to attend to! Buenos dias!” Diego said angrily as he again threw the now breathless Ricardo - hard-- from the patio onto the dusty dirt road.

Del’Amo hastily brushed the dirt from his clothes. “YOU HAVE NOT HEARD THE LAST OF THIS INCIDENT, DON DIEGO! My revenge will be public and swift!” Ricardo yelled over his shoulder as he stalked down the road leading back to his rented hacienda.

After she made certain that Felipe was all right, Moneta retrieved Ricardo’s note and read it to herself. RICARDO DEL’AMO IS NO GENTLEMAN! ALL OF HIS EVIL DEEDS AND TRICKERY WILL SOON BE REVEALED.” It was unsigned. This is El Zorro’s work! Bravo, Señor Fox! she thought. “Oh, my sweet husband, we do indeed have much to discuss! Moneta glanced at her beloved Diego.

Suddenly, tears spilled unashamedly from her eyes. Moneta suddenly no longer cared whether or not that miserable toad, Ricardo told everyone in Los Angeles that she was a ‘loose woman.’ For Moneta, it was sufficient that her father- in- law and her husband, Don Diego, knew the truth. When she heard the both of them chuckling behind her, she quickly thrust the half-crumpled and torn note in her dress pocket. Besides, now her idol, Zorro, had intervened in her behalf. But now she must speak with Diego regarding his all too frequent evening absences.

 

[[[[ZZZZ]]]]

 

Diego sat at his small dressing table in their bedroom fully prepared with answers to any and all of Moneta’s queries regarding his nocturnal habits. At least I hope I can offer credible answers he thought nervously.

She handed Ricardo‘s note to him. “I must say, my husband, Zorro is such a fine gentleman for writing this.”

“Bur how do you know it was he, querida mia? His eyes searched her face for clues to her true feelings, but she turned away from him.

“What I do not understand, my beloved, is WHY you did not trust me enough to tell me that you are Zorro before writing this!” She gestured at Ricardo‘s note that she just threw onto his dressing table.

“WHAT? Surely you can not be serious--.”

Moneta sighed heavily. “Honestly, men!“ she exclaimed. “ Diego, I have known ever since the night that odious Señor Basilio was shot by his own Captain Mendoza!”

Diego groaned aloud. He peeked at her face through half lidded eyes as he lit up a cubano. [Ah, somehow I am relieved that Moneta finally knows]! “I see...you must have guessed the truth when I appeared in the sala right in front of you and surprised His Excellency during one of his threatening tirades!“

“Sí!” Moneta’s eyes twinkled merrily as she reached out for him. “My sweet husband! You know, both as a child here and later when I went away to school in Spain. I constantly dreamed that one day I would become your wife! And now---”. Moneta started crying and he wisely rocked her gently while she let great sobs shake her body until Moneta felt all the fear for herself and her baby’s future dissipate.

Diego was perplexed. “Just why are you crying?” he anxiously inquired.

“I cannot believe that I am Señora de la Vega! When I kissed you in the garden that day I thought you were shocked--”

“’Shocked’ is much too mild a term, my dearest Moneta! On the night before our wonderful betrothal, I dreamed of the pleasant days you, Rosarita, Joaquin and I spent together as children! I was your hero, El Cid and you wanted, no, you DEMANDED that I stop allowing Rosarita to constantly be the princess El Cid rescues!“ Diego smiled at the pleasant memory.

Moneta gazed into his wonderfully sexy hazel eyes. “Ah, sí! “Well, I was and still am prettier than Rosarita!“ Moneta exclaimed teasingly.

Diego’s laughter bellowed throughout the hacienda. “Are you jealous? You should not even bother! Did you know that she considers me to be a major disappointment and advised me to seek Zorro’s aid to turn myself into a real caballero?”

Now it was Moneta’s turn to laugh. “Rosarita could not see the truth if it raised itself before her and struck her on her pretty, but empty head! Too dumb to see past your ‘indifferent’ facade and realize what a fine and brave gentleman you really are!”

Again Diego roared with laughter. “I wish” ---I am laughing so hard that I cannot breathe--!”

“You wish what, Señor Zorro?”

“‘That day in the patio -- I would have paid--in gold, to have seen you poke Rosarita with your sewing needle when you and Rosarita had your little cat fight and ... “

“IT WAS NOT A CATFIGHT!”

More laughter followed as they both fell down on their bed. “You should have seen yourself, pulling Rosarita’s hair!”

Moneta’s said mischievously, “Well, she deserved it! Believing that no one could play the princess except her! Harrumph! The very idea!“

“Ah, my lovely jealous one. Now that I will show you the secret cave--”

Moneta giggled. “I am afraid I have spoiled your surprise. You see Tornado and I are already fast friends!” She squeezed him even tighter. “And speaking of one other very important matter, I assume that neither you nor El Zorro have finished toying with Don Ricardo.”

“Señora de la Vega, you can count on that!” Diego replied in all sincerity.

Mi corazon, I--”

Diego lowered his head and he covered her mouth with his own. Then he gently pushed her further back on their bed. Diego pulled her silk dress down past her slender shoulders to the swell of her bosom and proceeded to show her just how deeply he loved her...

 

[[[[ZZZZ]]]]

 

Don Ricardo sat in the Posada de Los Angeles and brooded over his next idea to have his revenge on Diego and his hired henchman, Zorro. “And I shall have it, my former friend, Diego de la Vega!” he announced to the few patrons left in the Posada after ten p.m. “I hate the de la Vegas!” Ricardo shouted as he repeatedly slammed his mug on the table. “Mas vino, por favor! MAS VINO!” he yelled as he tossed utensils and mugs all over the posada floor.

Corporal Reyes was just entering the tavern when he overheard Don Ricardo’s outburst. Ay yi yi! I must get the Acting Comandante!

“Sergeant Garcia!” Reyes shouted as he entered the Acting Comandante’s office. “Don Ricardo is causing trouble in the tavern again!”

Garcia slapped his hands against his face. “Dios! That one is determined to make my life miserable!”

Reyes nodded. “He certainly is doing a good job of that, Sergeant.”


“Thank you for that much needed information, baboso! Bring Pepe and Lugo, immediamente!” Sgt. Garcia wiggled his index finger for the corporal to follow him. When they entered the Posada, they found that the caballero had fallen asleep on his table.

“Come on, Don Ricardo,” Garcia said as Reyes and the other two lancers struggled to get him across the plaza and into a jail cell where the Acting Comandante wanted him to spend a week as his guest.

When Don Ricardo awakened late the next day he demanded to be released.

“SERGEANT GARCIA! LET ME OUT IMMEDIAMENTE! DO YOU KNOW WHO MY FATHER IS? HE IS THE MOST POWERFUL MAN IN Alta California!” Del’Amo hollered as loudly as he possibly could.

Corporal Reyes’ mouth fell open. “No, he is not, Don Ricardo! Don Alejandro is!”

Ricardo’s face purpled with rage. “So, it was Diego de la Vega who told you to arrest me! Sergeant, when my father comes to Los Angeles you will regret ever crossing paths with me!”

“Too late for me to worry about that,” Garcia said. Seven thirty in the morning and already I have a throbbing headache! What a miserable excuse for a caballero! he thought disgustedly. He nudged Corporal Reyes. “Idioto! See what a mess you have made this time! You would have to mention the de la Vegas to Don Ricardo!”

Reyes’ mouth drooped. “Sorry, Sergeant Garcia. I was just trying to help. I have an idea!”

“ I know that I am going to regret asking this question, but what is it?”

“ Don Ricardo is from San Francisco, is he not?”

“Sí, but what does that mean regarding him and his terrible behavior here?”

“Let us ask Judge Vasca to toss him into jail in San Francisco!“

Garcia silently mumbled a prayer to the Three Marias to grant him some sorely needed patience. “Oh, sí, Corporal Reyes! I will just tell His Honor that we do not feel like dealing with Don Ricardo here in Los Angeles!“

“Then shall I release Don Ricardo and get some guards to escort him to the Presidio of San Francisco?“

“BABOSO! OF COURSE NOT! As soldiers of the King, we must do our duty as it comes to us and not where and when we feel like enforcing the law!“

Garcia said nothing as he motioned for the corporal to leave him alone. “To think that eight months ago I wanted to be Comandante of the Pueblo de Los Angeles! By all the Santos! What kind of trouble have I gotten myself into?”

 

 

Chapter Eleven
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