always enjoyed hearing the laughter of children around him. Diego was
now even more precious to him ever since the untimely death of his
beloved wife, Bethia Elizabeth de la Cruz. He chuckled softly as he
watched Diego and his friends playing in his hacienda‘s garden. There
he stood in the middle of a “battle” he had concocted, barking
orders! “Oh, my son, must you always be the
leader, the hero?” Don Alejandro once asked him.
papacito!” Diego indignantly replied, “I must fight to protect the
weak...the innocent ... just as you and Mother taught me!”
Diego was wearing
a wooden saber he himself had made and he was defending Spanish
womanhood’s honor, said honor today being represented by Rosarita
Lopez and Moneta Esperon.
friend Joaquin Roberto Alvarez shouted. “I refuse to be the enemy
again! I do not want to be a Moorish Prince! I want a chance to be El
Cid, the hero!” He tossed aside the Arab headdress his mozo
had made for him. I want to...”
Joaquin behind a couple of rosebushes. “Amigo! Did you know that one
of a hero’s responsibilities is that after he rescues the lady, he must
marry the fair maiden!“
The horrified look
on Joaquin’s face was priceless ...at least it seemed so to Diego.
“B-but, I do not
wish to marry - at least not yet!” Joaquin yelped loudly enough for
Don Alejandro, Don Cornelio and Doña Imelda Lopez to come running into
Moneta are you both all right? What is this nonsense I overheard about
‘marriage’?” Don Alejandro demanded.
“It is nothing,
father.” Diego said nonchalantly. Don Alejandro rolled his eyes
heavenward. He prayed to himself Ayi yi yi! Mi Bethia Elizabeth, it
is a time such as this that I really miss your wisdom and patience!
think that all of you should go inside and clean yourselves up for
lunch, vamoose! And as for, you, my son, we shall have a
‘gentlemen’s discussion’ after dinner tonight!”
When lunch was
over, the children returned to the patio, where their respective
teachers gave them their reading lessons. Estrellita Huerta and Juanita
Gomez, were the duennas of Rosarita Lopez and Moneta Esperon
respectively. Their lessons today were problems in simple bookkeeping
and translating French poetry. However, they began their studies by
reading a History of the Lives of Spanish Saints. Moneta whispered to
Rosarita. “I am so bored reading about such perfect people. Surely,
they must have had played games as children, and ...”
attention, et tais-toi! [Pay attention and be quiet] “ Senora Gomez
chided Moneta, “or I shall fetch the switch!”
Joaquin and Diego
were sharing Joaquin's tutor, Profesor Geraldo Diaz y Donario, who
yesterday ordered his young charges to read medieval Spanish poetry and
philosophy. In addition to these subjects, on Tuesdays and Thursdays,
they also studied algebra, French and the elements of composition.
had been a history professor at the University of Madrid and Don
Alfredo, Joaquin’s father, had hired him to tutor all three of his
sons. His name was Geraldo Maria Tremontar Diaz Y Donario, and he had
inherited an ancient title from his father but nothing else. The Ninth
Condé Diaz y
Donario had had to feed and clothe five sons and three daughters, and
Don Geraldo was the youngest child. He was sent to be educated at a
Dominican seminary in exchange for some land the Condé would grant to the monks for a new orphanage. Don
Geraldo genuinely loved children and teaching, and he had made a very
profitable living from tutoring.
he began, “HOY VAN A ESCUCHER LA LECTURA SOBRE LA POEMA EL
CID!” El Cid, [“LORD”] whose story
was first told to noble and upper class Spanish children in the early
part of the thirteenth century, was considered to be their country‘s
supreme example of the classic hero. Every male hidalgo child
dreamed of becoming a warrior like this legendary defender of Spain.
Diego remembered his father relating to him the tale of El Cid when he
was barely four years old.
“Have both of
you read today’s assignment? Bueno!“ Joaquin, what is
the true hallmark of a hero?”
Profesor, he performs good deeds, such as rescuing ladies from
Moors and slaying
dragons!” Joaquin said. “And also a Spanish hero must...”
Don Geraldo could
scarcely believe his ears. “SLAYING DRAGONS?” His voice boomed
throughout the patio. “Dios! Whatever shall I do with you, Joaquin!
Diego, can you correctly answer the question?”
shut his hazel eyes before responding. “A true hero not only performs
good deeds but he must also be pure in heart, mind and soul. And he must
always obey His Majesty the King of Spain.” When Diego opened his eyes
Don Geraldo was frowning.
“Once again my caballeros,
you have only have partially understood the Song of El
Cid. A hero must have compassion, a deep empathy for his
fellow man. There are no perfect heroes, my fine young men. “
paused briefly before continuing. “And Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, El
Cid‘s real name, disobeyed King Alfonso VI of Castile by carving out a
kingdom of his own -- the Province of Valencia. Our Cid did dearly covet
wealth, lands and titles. When you read more of the Canto del
Mio Cid, remember the hero whom you earnestly worship was
all too human. That is all for today!”
Moneta enjoyed being invited to the de la Vega hacienda because both
girls were secretly “in love” with the already charming Don Diego.
Each girl always wanted to be the “lady fair “ whom their beloved caballero
would rescue from the centuries despised Moors. The other girl was
relegated to portraying a Moorish Princess whom the gallant Spanish hero
would first “save” and send to his castle to be his servant.
time, Rosarita! I want to play the Lady Regina Isabella Hernando---”
Moneta whispered between her embroidery stitches.
siento mucho, amiga mia, but Diego has declared me to
permanently play the part of his Lady Regina ...” “OUCH!
“ Rosarita was shocked that her friend stuck her with a sewing needle!
“Mamacita! Mamacita!” Señorita Lopez yelled.
“I do not
believe you!” Moneta shouted as Don Alejandro and the other adults
arrived to separate the two clawing and hair- pulling girls.
But Rosarita was
determined to stake a claim on her hero. “And, Doña Imelda, Diego de
la Vega has formally promised to marry me when we reach the age of
Doña Imelda Lopez
was mortified. ”ROSARITA! You shall be confined to your room
indefinitely when we return home this evening. Now apologize to Don
Alejandro, your host!”
“I-I am sorry,
Don Alejandro. But Diego did promise!”
Don Alejandro had
reached the end of his rope regarding the children’s antics. Never
mind how inappropriate the idea of 12 year-olds discussing (at least for
the present) taboo subject of marriage was! He wearily
here this instant!”
Diego at least had
the grace to look chastened. “I can explain, father Doña Imelda.... I
overheard both of you talking about ... marriage...between our families
and I really like her... Rosarita, I mean.” He
straightened his shirt tie. “I thought.... I truly meant no harm. Señorita
Rosarita Lopez, Doña Imelda I crave your pardon. Your servant!” And
then he bowed.
Rosarita shot a
victorious look at Moneta, who felt tears sting her eyes. Oh, Diego!
She thought sadly as she bit her lower lip. It is I who love you! I
know we are too young, but I know how I feel!
thrilled that her father, Don Cornelio, decided to remain at the de la
Vega’s hacienda until the following morning. Although her duenna
sat between her and Diego on a garden bench, she was very happy to be
able to speak with him at all.
“I believe that
I can let you play the heroine once in a while.”
At least. once or twice a month...’” Moneta batted her tiny silk fan
to and fro in front of her face.
But her duenna
noticed her flirting and confiscated Moneta’s fan. “Honestly,
shall not behave in such a fashion! Now I am going to fetch some water
and you two MUST behave or I am afraid that it is the switch for
you, Señorita Moneta and, Diego, I shall certainly inform Don Alejandro
you were encouraging her to behave so outrageously!”
Juanita’s round form disappeared from her view, Moneta lightly rested
her hand across Diego’s knee.
Diego turned to
face her. When he did, she leaned closer to whisper into his ear.
Diego, I SHALL ALWAYS LOVE YOU. Never forget me, Moneta Maria Esperon
Lopez, your one true love!” She then boldly kissed Diego on his cheek
before she scurried back to the sala.
When Diego later
faced Don Alejandro for their ‘gentleman’s discussion, ‘ he found
it somewhat difficult to concentrate on his father’s words. I
may have promised that I would marry Rosarita but Senorita Moneta never
bossed me around and Rosarita never kissed me like Moneta did!
he thought to himself.
remember Diego, a gentleman never eavesdrops on his father’s private
conversations!” His father said as he concluded his lecture and gave
Diego permission to go to bed.
Diego sighed. Later that night before he fell sleep, he was preoccupied
with but a single thought. A señorita kissed me, Diego! It felt
.. good. No, it felt wonderful!
El Zorro touched
his face. It was wet. Something warm and soft nuzzled his neck.
Bewildered, he leapt up with a half-drawn saber. “Diego!” He yelled.
“Where are you? We must return ...” Tornado snorted in alarm,
breaking his train of thought.
in the world?” He quickly scanned his surroundings. The Fox was once
again alone. I dreamed everything! He quickly mounted and
spurred Tornado back to the secret cave. Diego has returned to his
rightful place --as part of me not as a rival. I feel refreshed and
renewed--and at peace with myself!
When the Fox
returned to the secret room, he quietly began undressing. As he pulled
the black silk shirt over his head, one of ‘Diego‘s‘ lace
kerchiefs floated to the stone floor. “I left that home, I am certain
of it. I was positive that it was all a dream. Yet here you are!” he
The secret door
whooshed open to reveal a half asleep Bernardo. “Oh, Bernardo! You
should not give up your precious sleep for me! He heartily slapped his
hands on his mozo’s shoulder.
Eh? What are you
trying to say? “Oh, my father wants to see me in the library. Very
well, later this morning! I shall see him after I have rested.”
Bernardo shook his
head vigorously and he pointed down a few times.
wants to see me now?” But it is after one o’clock in
began tugging on Diego’s arm.
sighed as he pulled on his dressing gown and robe.
Bernardo, I am going, I am going!” and he turned to go down the flight
of stone steps to the first floor.