The Gift

 

 

 

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

VINDICATION

 

 

 

Excellency, you sent for us?” Doña Moneta said in her sweet melodious voice.

“Come in my dear and asiente aqui.” Judge Vasca smiled warmly.

Don Diego helped her to a seat near the Judge. However, as Diego made his wife comfortable his gaze never wavered from Ricardo del’Amo’s hated face.

A sullen and dejected Ricardo del’Amo and an unusually quiet Don Juan del’Amo stood before Judge Romero Luis Vasca, who was rhythmically tapping his spectacles against a thick leather bound volume of the Royal Spanish Law Regarding Capital Offenses.

Judge Vasca sighed wearily as he weighed the moral character of the two caballeros standing before him and was sickened by what he saw. “Gentlemen, and believe me I am doing a gross disservice to that distinguished class by addressing you as such, I ORDER you, Don Juan del’Amo, to pay a fine of 1,000 pesos for conspiracy to bribe a public official and for conspiracy to and witness tampering.”

“And as for you, Don Ricardo del'Amo,” said Judge Vasca, his voice colored by scorn, your offenses against the crown of Spain are for more serious than those of your father. I hereby order you to pay a fine of 2,000 pesos to this court regarding your conviction for the crimes of slander and libel. Furthermore, you shall pay compensation to help restore the de la Vega family honor! Let me think. Adequate compensation for their pain and public humiliation, the fine shall be 5,000 pesos. The judge steepled his fingers together and rested his elbows atop his desk “you are also hereby sentenced to 6 months in the local cuartel. Finally, I order you to give a public apology to this Court and to Senor y Senora de la Vega in the Town Square of the pueblo of Los Angeles at noon tomorrow!”

Ricardo glared at Diego and Moneta. ”Never!” he said as he waived his hand dismissively in the air. “A del’Amo never caters to his or her social inferiors!”

Judge Vasca was incredulous over Don Ricardo’s defiant attitude. “YOU DARE to mock an official of His Majesty Ferdinand VII‘s Judiciary? Once again I ask you, will you fully comply with the above stated order?”

“No, I shall not! I KNOW that Diego masterminded this entire campaign of innuendo against me and I shall not rest until I can prove it! Nor will I serve a single hour in that despicable jail! After all, I AM A DEL’AMO!” Ricardo yelled. “Tell him, father!”

Don Juan del’Amo regarded his son and heir with revulsion. “Ricardo, what in God’s name are you doing?”

The look that Ricardo gave his father was riddled with hatred and derision. "You may bow to this woman of ill repute and to this fastidious excuse for a gentleman, BUT I NEVER SHALL!"

“Very well, young man, you leave me with no alternative! Lieutenant Gonzales, prepare the whipping post for Señor Ricardo! He is to receive twenty lashes immediately!“

“NO!“ The anguished cry escaped from the lips of Moneta de la Vega.

“What? I do not understand you, Señora!" a shocked Judge Vasca said.

Don Diego was equally amazed. “Moneta are you serious?”

"Por favor, Your Excellency, I do not wish to see the father of my child so publicly humiliated. I am begging you to suspend this cruel sentence! "

Ricardo del'Amo sneered at Moneta. "I am NOT the father of your bastard child and I do not need your help, bruja!"

Diego had had enough of Ricardo's insulting his wife. The few seconds del’Amo had to fend off Don Diego’s strong left backhand were useless. De la Vega’s reflexes were lightening quick and del’Amo soon hit the hard wooden floor of the Judge’s office.

Don Juan del‘Amo shrugged disgustedly. “My son richly deserved that, Don Diego. Thank you for doing what I should have done long ago.” The elder del’Amo turned away from Ricardo in utter shame and revulsion.

"Lieutenant Gonzales, remove this pathetic creature from my sight and bind him to the whipping post!" a furious Judge Vasca ordered.

Don Diego glanced from Ricardo del'Amo lying unconscious on the floor to Moneta’s sobbing form in the Judge’s armchair. He could no longer bear the pain he heard in her emotional outburst.

“Hush mi preciosa. All will be well, you will see. Your Excellency, may I have a word with you privately?

“Of course, Don Diego.”

“Your Excellency, I think that perhaps the sentence is too harsh.” He quietly told the judge.

Judge Vasca sighed. "Very well, I do not understand your concern, but I am not an insensitive person. If this kind and tender soul can forgive her attacker, then I can afford to be lenient. Lieutenant, carry out the sentence immediately but your prisoner is only to receive six lashes! "

“Gracias.” Don Diego said as he escorted his beloved wife away from Judge Vasca’s office.

As Don Diego and Don Alejandro were helping Moneta into their carriage they heard the cheering roar of the crowd reacting to the sound of the first blow of the scourge striking del' Amo's bare back.

 

[[[[ZZZZ]]]]

 

NOVEMBER 24, 1821

Don Juan del'Amo paced back and forth and the office of his son's attorney, Don de Sevilla. "Señor, have you already filed for the appeal of Ricardo's sentence with the Governor in Monterey? "

"Sí, I have. However, I am not all confident that Governor Geraldo Ramirez will grant my motion to appeal the prison sentence. But I have asked the governor to release Ricardo temporarily into your custody."

"That is all I can ask, Señor de Sevilla. Buenos tardes.”

 

[[[[ZZZZ]]]]

 

DECEMBER 1, 1821

It had been just over a week since Ricardo del’Amo had been sentenced to jail, and Diego felt that Moneta was finally beginning to stop worrying about that raton. Her skin was no longer the color of bleached parchment and her appetite was back to normal. Moneta was now taking her daily-prescribed afternoon nap and he decided to stay with her for a little while.

Don Diego rested on his side so he could watch Moneta’s peaceful breathing. He lay awake in their bed wondering if he really was ready to raise a family. She stirred suddenly and awoke to see a pair of the most fabulous hazel eyes in the world staring at her.

“Is anything wrong, Diego?”

“Oh, sí, he said with mock severity. “It has been nearly two hours since I have kissed my wife!”

Moneta laughed despite the seriousness of his tone. “And what are your intentions, Señor?”

Diego grasped her even more tightly in his arms. “What a woman I married, asking ‘Hanging Judge’ Vasca to spare the rod on such an overly spoiled ‘child’ such as Ricardo del’Amo! Moneta, you have been far too forgiving where Ricardo is concerned!”

He left their bed and threw another log on the fire. Diego then sat down in his favorite chair and lit up a cubano. Moneta wanted to walk over to him and began lowering her legs down to touch the floor and--

“DIEGO!” she screamed.

“MONETA!”

Too late. Diego saw and heard the thump of Moneta’s body hitting the floor. As he bent down to pick her up, he stepped into something wet on the floor. It was blood.

“SANTA MARIA!” Diego exclaimed repeatedly as he laid her slowly down on the bed. He was so absorbed in trying to determine the severity of her injuries that he did not hear that Bernardo and his father had been pounding on their bedroom door. He rushed to unlock it.

“My son, I heard Moneta scream!“

“Father, please write a note to Dr. Perez and have Bernardo leave as soon as possible to bring him here.”

“Of course!”

 

[[[[ ZZZZ]]]]

 

Two nerve wrecking hours later, Diego sat in the sala with his head in his hands. “Father if I were to lose either of them--”

“Now, Diego, you must be very strong for the three of you, and pray to the Blessed Virgin for their quick recovery. Have some more brandy. Don Alejandro looked up to see Dr. Perez approaching them. “Ah, see! Here is the doctor now!”

“Buenos tardes, señores. Doña Moneta has lost the baby. I am sorry, Don Diego. Believe me that I tried everything that I could.“ He paused to allow the pain of the shock to settle.

“Doctor, is Moneta all right?” her husband inquired in a choked voice.

“Oh, sí, Don Diego, but this time, I insist that my orders for total bed rest are not to be disobeyed! Had Doña Moneta listened to me earlier, there was a better than fifty-fifty chance of her carrying the child to term. She had been hemorrhaging for quite some time. But, what many people do not realize, miscarriage of a first pregnancy is not at all uncommon. It is nature’s way of balancing life and death I suppose. I have sedated her and she should sleep until tomorrow morning. Until then, señores, your servant.”

Don Alejandro sighed. “Why did you not tell me she had been that unwell, Diego?” his father asked in a tone just as bewildered and as Diego’s soul felt at this minute.

“F-father,” he gasped. “I did not know!”

“Go to her, my son, and then get yourself some rest!” Don Alejandro said in a gentle voice “....just be there for her now!”

“Gracias.”

He watched as a normally energetic Diego slowly climbed the stairs to his bedroom, defeat and sorrow clinging to his shoulders like an ill-fitting jaqueta. He prayed to the Blessed Virgin that his son would find strength enough for both he and Moneta. Things cannot possibly get any worse! he thought worriedly.

 

[[[[ZZZZ]]]]

 

DECEMBER 4, 1821

Three days later, Moneta was well enough to sit down in the patio with Don Diego and her father-in-law, Don Alejandro. Although was early in December, the sun was shining brightly and the temperature was slightly cool.

Don Alejandro excused himself from the breakfast table. "Diego, I must travel to Los Angeles to take care of some business regarding my efforts to start our own import/export business.” He paused to hug his daughter-in-law. “There must surely be some new shipments of silk that have just arrived from San Pedro. Perhaps, my dear, I shall bring home several bolts of different colors for you to select so that our seamstress can make you a new frock!”

"Sí, Don Alejandro, I would really like that." Moneta said cheerfully.

When they were alone, Don Diego grasped Moneta’s hands. "Mi preciosa, you certainly hid the bleeding from me all too well. Why?"

“Did you not at least suspect that something was amiss?“ she said in an anguished voice.

“Moneta, please. I am a man who has never been married before... who has never been a father before...yes, I thought you were unwell. But I sought my father’s advice and he also believed that you only needed some rest. What did you do? Swear Crescencia to secrecy?”

“No! I washed the extra bed linen myself. I was going to see Dr. Perez the day that I had the miscarried!”

Diego cupped her chin in his hands. “Moneta, explain to me again why you neglected to tell me?” he whispered.

"You have so much to worry about with the hacienda, the rancho, being Zorro and-- Ricardo del'Amo, -- that I did not want to make matters worse for you! "

Her husband sighed. “What am I going to do with you, Moneta? You are my wife! Let us leave Ricardo del'Amo to El Zorro, for the Fox can certainly handle him. In the meantime, I want you to get as much rest as possible. For me, please?” To his consternation, Moneta was frowning.

‘Querido mio, are you unhappy that I lost our son? she asked suddenly.

Diego was momentarily taken aback. “Our ...son!”

“S-sí. Dr. Perez said it was a boy.” Moneta huddled against him as if his physical presence could absorb all the heartrending pain she had been feeling.

"Oh, Moneta! Please stop shaking. Certainly not! You are the center of my universe! I want you to remember that for the rest of your life. I LOVE YOU!” Then Diego drew her to him and guided her head to rest on his shoulder while they spent the rest of the morning in the patio, basking in the gentle warmth of both the sun and their deepening love.

 

 

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