CHAPTER 5 -THE
OCTOBER 12, 1821
Moneta allowed Don
Diego de la Vega to escort her out the patio gate and through the
hacienda’s beautiful garden, a green oasis amidst Alta California’s
severe year-long drought. Although she was not visibly shaking, Moneta
felt her stomach doing somersaults. Surely, now that we are alone, he
will inform me that he cannot marry me, not only because he does not
love me, but also he because he barely remembers me from our childhood
before he went to the university in Madrid! And we have only met a
few times socially since he returned from Spain!
“Don Diego, may
I ask you something please?“ Moneta was happy that her voice was
strong and did not reveal her tumultuous emotions.
You may ask me anything you wish and your wish will be my command.“
Diego replied, as he bowed low before her with a grand flourish of his
“You do realize
of course why my father is here to speak with Don Alejandro! I can not
believe that my father is so ... transparent regarding well you know!”
she blushed scarlet.
Diego stroked his
chin and pretended to be innocent. “Hmm, I simply cannot imagine why
you should appear at my hacienda so early in the morning! Now what
diabolical purpose could bring you and your father to our home, eh?”
He said as he started chuckling.
immediately and she joined Diego in his laughter. “I guess my father
means well!” She willed herself -- an admittedly easy task, -- she
noted--to gaze into those stunning hazel eyes and was rewarded the most
tender look she had ever received in her life.
Diego reached down
and covered her small hands with his own. “Moneta, I believe what I am
now going to do will probably shock and surprise you!” He said as he
gave her his most brilliant smile.
Her eyes grew very
wide and she asked in a voice that so quiet that it was if she had not
spoken at all. ‘What are you trying to say Diego?“
And then, for
Moneta, time stood still.
He pulled her
gently against him as he looked deep into her pretty chocolate brown
eyes. “Would you do me the great honor of becoming my wife? I do not
know if you agree with me, but I absolutely abhor long engagements.”
When she lowered her chin, Diego gently raised it up so he could gauge
Moneta, cara, surely you did not hope that I would reject
complexion reddened yet again. “ Sí! I mean no! It is just that
despite our fathers’ honorable intentions, I am still somewhat
Don Diego shook
his head. “Overwhelmed?” He murmured. “How can I redeem myself in
your eyes?” He carefully searched her upturned face for any sign of
resignation or regret.
whatever gossip you have heard regarding me --- and remember that I have
heard the stories about the ‘vapid and weak Don Diego,’ many, many
times -- I promise you that life with me will never be dull!”
complete surprise, she burst into a merry laugh that truly transformed
her pretty face into an exquisite thing of beauty.
This time she
almost bent over double from laughing so hard at the look of mock
indignation on his face. “I believe you, Diego! Truly, I do!”
Her hidalgo suitor
reached again for her chin and held it softly but firmly in his grasp.
“Seriously, Moneta, will you make a lonely caballero very,
For the first time
in her life Moneta was faced with a choice that would alter her destiny
forever. Thanks to her father -- and Diego, she would not have to make
this journey alone. She said nothing but kept her gaze focused on his
resplendent hazel eyes.
Diego pretended to
release her but instead moved his six foot three frame slightly. He
positioned his left hand behind her head, then still holding her head,
put his right hand on the small of her back, leaned down and kissed her
as tenderly as he could.
favor, he whispered into her ear, please give me your answer. I
would much rather have an eager bride than one who feels that she must
obey her father’s wishes and become trapped in her own prison of
misery. Oh, by the way,“ he said teasingly, as he kissed her once
more, “I cannot permit you to leave this garden without hearing you
“I---I .. well, absolutemente,
And then he kissed
her yet again, and more deeply this time.
She began to sag
in his arms. Diego winced when he saw the chalky pallor on her face as
she collapsed against his broad chest. Then he picked her up in his arms
and yelled for his father and Don Cornelio and carried her into the
Bernardo met him
at the gate and helped him into the library. As Diego gently laid Moneta
on the couch Bernardo slipped pillows under her head.
“Hurry and fetch
Don Cornelio and some water, my friend!”
distraught Don Cornelio ran into the library, he nearly collided with
Bernardo. “Easy,” said Don Alejandro, who was right behind
Moneta’s father, and whispered to Bernardo, “send my personal
servant Felipe to get Dr. Perez.”
“Try not to
worry, mi viejo,” Alejandro said to Cornelio. “Dr.
Perez will be here shortly.” He turned to Diego. “What happened?”
he demanded impatiently.
was drawn taut by concern. “I honestly cannot say. We were in the
garden. I.. proposed to her. Moneta accepted. I kissed her and then she
... fainted.“ Diego answered without moving his gaze from her face.
Don Alejandro and
Moneta’s father exchanged worried looks. Suddenly, an odd feeling
struck Alejandro and he started to ask Cornelio a question, but he kept
silent as Moneta finally opened her eyes.
faint?” she asked in a tiny voice.
said softly. Perhaps it was lack of food or something that you ate that
disagreed with your stomach? I think that I should take you to the guest
bedroom and have the doctor examine you.”
Moneta shook her
head. “NO!” she said a bit too forcefully. I feel much better,
Diego...really I do.” She attempted to lift up her head but failed.
“Oooh, my head and...my stomach!”
Diego pressed one
of his very large hands to her lips. “No more arguments! Your future
husband insists that you will see Dr. Ignacio Perez! And, since my
father has already sent for him, he shall be here shortly!”
But Moneta was too
weak to respond and simply rested her head against the pillows.
She looks so
pale .. so fragile. I pray that she will be all right. Diego
thought worriedly as he picked her up and carried her into one of the
hacienda’s guest bedrooms.
Esperon, who had been harboring a terrible secret for nearly a month,
finally could no longer stand the strain of watching his daughter endure
her suffering in silence. And, he sighed to himself, with Don
Alejandro’s keen intellect, my old friend surely must have guessed the
nature of our dark secret.
watched Don Cornelio nervously wiping his forehead several times with a
handkerchief and, when Alejandro tried to engage him in conversation,
his old friend looked at the patio floor and said nothing.
said sternly, “it is high time that you tell me exactly what is
troubling you! As your best friend, I beg you to confide in me now!”
Moneta is in great distress,” he hesitated again, “she--”
Alejandro shot him
a sympathetic but exasperated look. “Cornelio---“
Don Cornelio could
no longer stand the strain of keeping his terrible secret. He had to
confess the truth to his old friend. With an anguished voice that almost
split Don Alejandro’s heart in two, Cornelio cried out “My Moneta
was abused, Alejandro! This porco ---this porco --
took the most terrible advantage of my darling Moneta! He ---I
just cannot bring myself to say it.. mi viejo. BY THE
HOLY TRINITY, I simply cannot inflict this horrible shame upon you,
your son, or your esteemed family!” Don Cornelio buried his face in
his hands, unable to meet the grim look in his friend’s eyes.
thought that his head would burst from valiantly trying to contain his
anger and outrage regarding the assault of Moneta Esperon and his
friend‘s deception. The abuse of a highborn Spanish senorita was
extremely unthinkable and unforgivable. Little wonder he so desperately
wanted a suitor for his daughter’s hand in marriage! But the fact that
Don Cornelio had entered into marriage negotiations while keeping this
“abuse” secret was truly alarming. Alejandro knew how deeply a
father could love his child. Oh, Bethia Elizabeth, I am forever
grateful that our only child was a boy! Of course, that fact is
of cold comfort to my dear compadre, Don Cornelio! he thought sadly.
at his distraught friend, whom the then anonymous Zorro rescued from
that odious Emissary from Spain, Senor Basilio. Perhaps this matter
could be set right by Zorro, his son.
Cornelio,“ Don Alejandro gently asked his old friend. “tell me the
name of this ganallo!“
face darkened in rage. This chichimeca rejects any and all
responsibility for the consequences of his ‘romantic interlude’ as
he calls it! As for my Moneta, she blames herself for everything.”
Alejandro tried a different approach to this most delicate subject.
“perhaps we should wait until after Dr. Perez confirms your
exploded. “I-I already know that Moneta is with child!”
briefly taken aback by the anguish and despair in his old friend’s
Dios! What a
relief it is to have finally shared my terrible disgrace with someone!
Cornelio said to himself as he rubbed his throbbing forehead.
“Alejandro, there is no questioning that fact. The caballero
she named as the father absolutely denies paternity and therefore
refuses to marry my daughter. If I were 20 years younger I would tear
the raton to pieces! Cornelio looked forlornly into his
friend’s eyes as he began wringing his hands. “Alejandro, what am I
going to do?”
Still stunned by
his friend’s deception, Alejandro simply sat in his chair, unable to
bear looking at his friend.
Cornelio broke the awkward silence. “I shall certainly understand if
Diego wishes to void this marriage contract!” Don Cornelio then turned
away to prevent Alejandro from seeing him weep. After a few minutes of
releasing all of the tension of the past few weeks, Cornelio sputtered
“Oh, m-my b-beloved child, Moneta! Alejandro, an old man can only
h-hope that a handsome and kind caballero like Diego
will.. find it in.. his heart.. That an old friendship such as ours can
endure such humiliation...” Overcome again by his emotions, Don
Cornelio wept uncontrollably.
gestured to Bernardo to serve the Jerez he had earlier
requested. Diego’s father pressed a glass of the Jerez into
Cornelio’s hands and ordered him to drink all of it. When his friend
emptied his glass, Alejandro refilled Don Cornelio’s glass and then
poured one for himself. Seeing that his master’s needs were taken care
of, Bernardo discreetly retreated to the porch.
Cornelio sat quietly in the patio pondering how such a cheerful day that
had begun full of promise now had descended into sadness and despair.
“For the love of
God, Cornelio, I shall ask you once again, tell me the name of this raton
and I shall personally see him handed over to the Viceroy’s
justice to be heavily fined and publicly flogged!”
When Don Cornelio
identified the father of Moneta’s child, Alejandro sneered. “By all
the Santos, the man is a scoundrel and certainly no gentleman! Rest
assured that Diego will do the honorable thing!” Alejandro exclaimed.
‘Why don’t you go see how Moneta is doing, while I have a talk with
started toward the hacienda. However, he still needed to tell his old
friend one last thing.
Alejandro sighed wearily, “what is it?“
confronted Ricardo and his father, Don Juan del’Amo, admitted that his
son has a rather .... wild reputation with the ladies, but said that his
son would certainly never resort to assaulting a woman, and especially
not a lady of such gentle upbringing as my daughter!”
disgustedly. “By all the Santos! Did Don Juan then offer financial
compensation for your ...”
Don Cornelio said angrily. “Even if I were not a wealthy man, what
is money compared to my daughter’s shattered reputation?” He
looked directly into Alejandro’s eyes. “Before we arrived here this
morning, both Moneta and I vowed that we would tell you and Diego about
her pregnancy before she accepted his betrothal!”
lightly touched Cornelio’s arm and reminded him that Cornelio should
check on Moneta.
nodded sadly and started to enter the hacienda.
waved to Bernardo and whispered to him. “Bernardo, Please tell Diego I
wish to see him now. “
The elder de la
Vega closed his eyes and silently prayed. Bethia Elizabeth de la Vega
y de la Cruz, my beloved wife, pray for our son Diego. I truly want him
to lead a normal life as a husband and father! How can I find the
strength to worry him with yet another serious matter, especially since
I know how much grief he suffered from that amnesty prank! Ay, yi yi!