magnificent animal hesitated briefly but knelt down. Selena tied one
bandage around the Fox’s wound and then ripped a large piece of cotton
cloth to drape over his face. She then tied this bandage in the back so
it would not fall and reveal his identity. Slowly, she eased the Fox’s
torso upright and rolled/pushed him closer to Tornado. With both arms
Selena grasped his legs and managed to pull his lower extremities onto
Tornado’s back. As the Fox’s stallion carefully rose to his feet,
the señorita positioned Zorro on his saddle.
she was certain the injured Fox was secure on his horse, Selena used the
lantern’s light to try to eliminate as much evidence as she could that
Zorro had ever been inside the cave. Selena de Rojas gathered up her
belongings and replaced everything in her saddlebags. She then carefully
guided Tornado to the cave entrance. Cielo was waiting for her at the
waterfall’s edge and she quickly remounted her steed. Together the
little party crept back at a snail’s pace to her hacienda.
was pacing the stable porch waiting for Selena as she fingered her old
ivory rosary beads Mon Dieu and Le Diable! Mais s’elle ne
retournerais pas a bientot, ah, je m’en fou! [If my mistress does not
come home soon, oh I am being foolish! Of course the Mam’selle
will return to her bonne amie.” Nearly two hours had passed since
her mistress had left to search for Le Renard [the Fox]. The tall Creole
heard the familiar sound of Cielo’s hooves beating a steady rhythm on
the hard packed dirt path leading to the de Rojas hacienda. Oui! Elle
rentre chez soi. [Yes, she is home!]
please get Teodores to help you bring El Zorro upstairs to the secret
bedroom. Vite, vite! [Quickly but carefully!]”
passed the lantern to Amontildar and picked up El Zorro quite easily,
for he was a Chumash Indian almost six and a half feet tall and weighed
nearly 300 pounds. Her trusted manservant carefully brought the wounded
man to a secret bedroom hidden behind the hacienda’s sala within a
maze of carefully laid out twists and turns. After she dismissed
Teodores, Selena and Amontildar began tending to Zorro’s head injury.
"We dare not trust Dr. Avila with this secret. As you can
de Rojas carefully removed the bandages that she had applied to his
head. "Mon Dieu!" Amontildar sighed when she saw the identity
of the Fox. "Me, I cannot believe my eyes. El Zorro he really be
Don Diego de la Vega,” she whispered to the Señorita.
can I my friend. Now we must quickly dress his wound and make him
comfortable for the night.” Selena said in happy surprise. “ I will
remain with Monsieur Le Renard for the remainder of the night.
Please remember that you must never reveal what you have seen in this
vous can depend upon me.” Amontildar promised as she crossed
her heart three times with her right hand. “But now, first you go wash
your lovely face, my petite, while Amontildar, she clean up zee Fox and
put some night clothes on him. Allez-vous, maintenant!” [now, go!] she
chided Selena. “Den vous can return to see your beau!“
lifelong maidservant concentrated on checking Selena’s care of
Zorro’s head wound. ”Ah, ma chere, you done well,” the
Creole lady murmured aloud. As Amontildar examined the torn skin nearest
the injured man’s right ear, she realized she had to surgically mend
the skin or the wound would never heal properly.
cher Zorro, you do need Amontildar’s special medicine and me, I
promise you dat you no feel anyting, pas de tout [nothing at all.”] She
gingerly elevated Zorro’s head and coaxed him into swallowing a couple
of teaspoons of her special pain elixir. When his breathing become
regular and more relaxed, she fetched her sewing kit from the nightstand
drawer and proceeded to close up his wound. Finally, Amontildar removed
Zorro’s dirt and dried blood-encrusted clothes, bathed him and with
Teodores’ aid, pulled a nightshirt over his head as gently as
Satisfied with her ministrations, Amontildar picked up the lantern and returned to the kitchen where she supervised the preparation of hot soup for her mistress. I sincerely hope señorita does not get in much trouble because she has such a kind heart. God only knows what dat bête noire of a capitaine would do if he discovered that she be givin’ aid to his worst enemy, El Zorro, Amontildar sighed inwardly.
in her room, Selena dutifully scrubbed her face and upper torso as she
worried about her beloved Diego ...who was in fact, the “outlaw”
known as Zorro. Sacre Coeur de Jesu, she scolded herself, you
can not settle down until you see him. Mon cher, I can not bear watching
you suffer. I should have shot the commandante when I had the chance to
do so last night, but Glorioso had relieved her of the pistola when his
men mistook her for El Zorro and had failed to return the weapon to
her. Sometimes I wish I could thrash the commandante myself!
Selena pushed aside these unpleasant thoughts and concentrated
her toilette. After rapidly exchanging her filthy riding clothes for a
casual dress, she hurried back to Diego’s side.
was relieved that Diego’s face had regained ia measure of its normal
color and his fever was breaking, for this meant that he would live. She
believed implicitly in her Creole friend‘s potions and poultices would
effect a rapid recovery. Despite her best intentions to remain awake,
Selena closed her eyes and was asleep in a chair beside Señor de la
Vega’s bed. When Amontildar checked with Señorita de Rojas an hour or
so later with the hot soup, she laughed silently.
petite, if you could see yourself now,” she whispered. “How lucky
you two young people be to have each other!” The maidservant threw a
blanket over her mistress and smiled once again as she looked down at
them. Selena had fallen asleep while holding Diego’s right hand. Her duena
exhaled softly. I wonder if El Zorro knows how much she loves him or
should I say both the Fox and Diego de la Vega?
Garcia wished he had been ordered to escort Señorita de Rojas home the
previous night after hearing Corporal Reyes incessantly repeat what he
ate at the de Rojas hacienda early last evening. The señorita
had an excellent reputation in the Pueblo de Los Angeles for serving
fine food and wine. He also wished they were back in the Cuartel doing
anything but searching for El Zorro in this blistering heat. The only
good point regarding this expedition was the lancers were back for the
second time at the Rica Luna waterfall since Peldar claimed to have shot
the Fox. At least the sergeant could remove his boots and soak his sore
feet in the cool refreshing water.
held up his hands in mock defeat. “No more, Corporal Reyes, I beg of
you. Roast chicken, a whole one for each of you,“ the sergeant
marveled and saffron rice ....ahh. You are making my stomach growl very
time you tell me the story of your wonderful dinner!”
Corporal rolled his eyes. This makes up for all the times that you
tricked me into loaning you “only a peso or two!” Reyes thought
as he smiled at the exasperated Garcia and smothered another laugh by
covering his mouth with his hand.
you please shut up Corporal!” Garcia said, “that is an order and
Garcia, report!” the Commandante’s voice assaulted his ears.
found nothing, mi capitán and we have searched everywhere!” Garcia
saluted as smartly as he could.
spurred his pie-faced gelding onto the final patrol route. What a waste
of time. I could be back at the Cuartel having a decent meal and waking
up with an enticing bed partner rather than fruitlessly running around
this dry and dusty countryside.
Capitán! I have found some blood!”
said that?” Glorioso asked as he narrowed his eyes.
Peldar reporting, Commandante. I discovered this bit of black silk far
back in the cave behind the waterfall. See it is full of blood!”
it is!” the Capitan was reenergized by this stroke of luck. “I think
that we shall search every hut and hacienda in this area! And
we made this discovery on Señorita de Rojas’s estate. Very
interesting that she claimed not to know El Zorro was on her land. I
almost hope she is truly ignorant regarding her disapproval of that
outlaw’... Then he ordered, “Lancers, andelante!”
Amontildar made her patient comfortable at the hacienda, Teodores
followed Senorita de Rojas’s instructions to the letter. She had told
him to find the hoof prints her party had made last night and erase them
as best as the Indian could. She realized Commandante Glorioso was
certain to find the trail she had taken home. Teodores set out an hour
before sunrise to carry out her orders. He cut some branches from
the scrub brush and meticulously scratched the road as his Chumash
Indian grandfather had taught him. Teodores then used a trail through
the rocks known only to his tribe --and the señorita -- to return home.
The Indian had sworn to Don Martino he would do everything humanly
possible to protect his mistress from harm and intended to honor that
oath with his life if necessary.
understood vaguely that he was in a bed, a real feather stuffed bed. But
how I did arrive here ...from damp cave ...someone pushing me atop
Tornado. but who? He felt around his bandaged head and then probed
with his fingers further down to his jaw. Dios, mi! Mask ..is.. gone!
He glanced around the stone wall, which seemed so familiar yet so alien.
Since his head still throbbed painfully, he was careful to keep
relatively still and move only his eyes. His gaze zeroed on someone who
was sitting next to his bed. SEÑORITA DE ROJAS? NO! Diego winced
as he was determined to get up. The commandante is sure to come here
to question de Rojas and search her hacienda. She will be imprisoned...
jerked herself awake and noticed the candle next to Diego‘s bed was
almost burned down to its holder. As she lit another large fresh candle,
she watched silently as her patient attempted to speak. By the
Blessed Mother! Her heart felt as if it were turning over in her chest.
Fox, you must rest. You, sir, are not going anywhere for quite a
while,” she replied as she eased his head back onto the pillow.
...listen well...Capitan Glorioso will hang you ...my fault I am
smiled tenderly at him. “Señor, it is an honor to serve a hero.
Besides, how did you think that you arrived at my door?” She arched
her right eyebrow.
briefly closed his eyes. “ How did .. you get Tornado to ...” Diego
never finished the sentence for he again lost consciousness.
“Rest, mi corazon,” Selena whispered as she stood in the doorway with a small lantern. Now she had a new worry. Does Don Alejandro know that Diego is Zorro? Surely Diego will be missed at the de la Vega hacienda! But the immediate problem is Commandante Glorioso. He certainly will come calling later today...
Alejandro finally lost patience with Diego’s disgusting habit of
sleeping until nearly noon. Bernardo had tried to make him understand
that Diego had taken a sleeping potion. Something in the mozo’s eyes
bothered Don Alejandro. Well, enough is enough. We must go into the
Pueblo to settle the rancho’s tally of cattle hides with the exporter.
Señor Montero will only be staying in Los Angeles two more days.
His father pounded on the door. “I am sorry to awaken you but you have
to accompany me into town! Diego! BY ALL THE SAINTS!” Don Alejandro
saw Jorge Paco in the patio and yelled down for him to bring the keys to
Diego’s bedroom. When Don Alejandro finally unlocked the door, he
received a shock. His son’s bed was empty!
saw his master’s bedroom door was open as he was coming up the stairs
with Diego’s morning hot chocolate. Dios! Now what
should I do?
father emerged from the bedroom his face flushed dark red.
“Bernardo!” Don Alejandro yelled. He was so angry that he forgot his
son’s mozo was deaf. He did not care and ran over to
the mozo’s arm. Diego’s father spun Bernardo around. “I am
going to somehow make you tell me why my son did not return home last
night! He marched Bernardo back into Diego’s bedroom and closed the
my friend, you are not going to leave this room until we reach an
understanding!” He pushed Bernardo into a chair and pointed repeatedly
from Diego’s bed to Bernardo. ‘Where is Diego?” Don Alejandro
folded his arms and glared at the manservant.
was at his wit’s end. Where could his master be? Was he injured,
lying somewhere unconscious, or worse, been captured by that porco
Glorioso? He was sweating profusely and could no longer look at Don
Alejandro’s face. Tears welled up in his eyes at the thought of Diego
being captured and cruelly suffering unbearable tortures at the
Alejandro stood up and paced the highly polished floor of Diego’s
room. He paused and glanced at Diego’s fireplace. Bernardo tried not
to stare him. Don Alejandro wondered... Since returning from Spain
Diego has also shown little or no interest in obtaining a wife to
continue the de la Vega line. After that Diablo Monastario wounded me,
Zorro saved my life. When the Fox was tending my wounds the outlaw
seemed so familiar that I told Zorro if I had the courage I would have
reached out and removed his mask, only to find my son Diego’s face
beneath the disguise.
reproved himself, think. In his mind’s eye, he could see the
Fox’s warm hazel eyes. The color of those eyes had haunted Alejandro
since that day. Hazel eyes ... so memorable ... yet still undecipherable
Then there was the time Diego told the Eagle that he valued his life
over my own and Bernardo’s and when Señor Varga released him, he went
to Don Alfredo for help. Zorro then appeared ahead of Don Alfredo and
disappeared again once the Eagle was dead. Minutes later, Diego arrived
to see how the battle turned out. By the Blessed Virgin! Now that
Alejandro had seriously considered the matter of Zorro’s true
identity, he had never seen El Zorro and Diego together at the same
time. Diego is Zorro? Bah, but that can not be! Diego is a scholar, an
artist, and a composer of music and poetry! The elder de la Vega
shook his head and continued leaning closer to the fireplace, his
fingers almost touching the hidden switch to the secret room.
cringed at the sight as he crossed himself. No, please por Dios! A
few inches more and then ...
Alejandro signed audibly and unwittingly moved his left hand to the
switch. Both men felt and heard the whoosh of air that swept into
OF CHAPTER SIXTEEN