“Santa Maria!” Don Alejandro
exclaimed as he gingerly stepped into the secret room “I had forgotten
about these concealed passageways my father specifically built into this
hacienda!” Alejandro then noticed some black clothing laying
atop a low dresser in one corner. He picked it up, and nearly dropped
the piece of fabric as he realized it was a mask. Oh Bethia, my late
dear wife, our son is Zorro! My heart is bursting with pride. Diego,
my son, I have been so blind in many, many ways. He looked around
the gloomy and sparsely furnished room and was amazed at Diego’s
devotion to obtaining justice for the perpetually mistreated peons. My
son, where are you? he said to himself. Are you injured and being
held prisoner in the commandante’s hellhole known as the Cuartel? Then
Don Alejandro forced himself into action. He must find Diego as soon as
possible. Finally, he remembered how to exit the secret room and turned
the iron ring attached to the stone wall. When Diego’s father returned
to the bedroom he held up the mask for Bernardo to see.
“Where is Diego, Bernardo?” Don
Alejandro asked again this time in a gentle voice.
Forgive me, master, I have
failed you miserably. I know how desperately you wanted to be the one to
tell Don Alejandro you were the Fox. Bernardo rebuked
himself. When he looked up at Diego’s father his cheeks were wet.
Without thinking, Bernardo began using his language. Then Don Diego’s mozo
froze, realizing that he had responded to Don Alejandro’s voice.
“So, you can hear me, eh?
” Alejandro sat down in a chair across from Diego’s valet as his
entire body sagged from both relief and guilt. “I should have guessed
Diego was the Fox, and I should have also known my son was no coward.
Now, Bernardo, the most important thing is to find Diego immediamente.
Did he say where he was going last night?”
Diego’s mozo at first
looked resigned, but his expression brightened as he suddenly remembered
his master‘s last words to him. Ah, Selena. Bernardo dutifully
signed for Don Alejandro “Si.” He made curvy shapes in the
air to indicate a woman.
“To see a woman in the Pueblo des
Los Angeles? Not at La Casa! Surely Diego would not go there for
companionship!” Don Alejandro was mortified. “You can not be
Bernardo scratched his head in
frustration and pulled at the tufts of hair that remained on each side
his nearly bald head. “No.” He redid the sign for a woman and
then touched his face and smiled. He pressed his thumb and
forefinger to his lips and then blew an exaggerated kiss.
“’A lovely señorita,” Don
Alejandro testily guessed. “Slow down, Bernardo. Unlike Diego I am
unaccustomed to your sign language or whatever form of communication the
two of you call it.”
Bernardo continued signing.
“Very, very young ...” the
elder de la Vega guessed next.
The mozo waved his hands
wildly in the air. “No.”
Diego’s father sighed wearily.
“What then? Ah ... an older señorita whom ... I know?”
Bernardo shook his head excitedly
Don Alejandro rubbed his beard.
‘”Young, pretty and I just became acquainted with this mysterious señorita.
Oh, sí. Señorita de Rojas! Come Bernardo we must go to her father’s hacienda
at once and pray that the commandante was not successful in his hunt for
the Fox!” Diego’s sire spoke silently to his departed love. Bethia,
if that animal Glorioso does have our son in his custody, I shall take
the law into my hands.
Diego felt much better the next
afternoon. His head still ached considerably but the pain was more
bearable now and he had earlier finished one bowl of soup and some hot
chocolate. But he had to leave the hacienda. Señorita de Rojas
was in real danger. Now all he needed to do was to convince her that he
felt strong enough to leave.
The door to his room opened as he
was about to put his feet on the stone floor. Selena de Rojas entered
with a tray of shredded chicken and tortillas. It smelled delicious.
“Bueno dias, Selena,” Diego said in that husky male voice.
“Oh, you are awake!” Selena
jumped and almost dropped the tray. Her heart fluttered as rapidly as a
hummingbird’s wings. She had assumed Diego was asleep and was looking
forward to watching her corazon’s profile while he was resting.
“I did not mean to startle
you.” Diego said softly, not feeling at all contrite regarding
the effect his words had on Selena. He enjoyed observing the pink flush
of embarrassment that spread over her porcelain skin.
You have succeeded Diego, she wanted to say to him. You intoxicate my senses. Aloud
she said, “Señor Zorro ... I mean ... no .. Diego ...I do not mean
... about your mask.. the bullet ... severely damaged it and I could not
clean the wound without removing.it.” she said in a self-deprecating
He was astonished that she would
even think of blaming herself for this situation. Oh, querida mia. Then
Diego said gently, “Señorita. Selena, come and sit beside me.
S’il vous plait?” his hazel eyes warmly pleaded with her.
Those gorgeous, enticing eyes, she thought while he spoke to her, I can not resist that
spellbinding gaze.... Selena gingerly deposited his food on the
night stand next to his bed. Then she briefly raised her eyes as she
shyly did as he wished.
Diego lovingly gazed at her,
wordlessly admiring her beauty. Then he reached out and covered her
delicate hands with his. “Selena, I want you to know ...”
Suddenly her head bobbed up as she
seized upon the word “know.“ Selena nervously bit her lip before
speaking. “O-only I and my personal maid Amontildar know you are
Zorro, Señor. I took extra measures to keep your face covered as much
as possible.” For some inexplicable reason Selena’s entire frame
“You can call me Diego--” he
gently prodded her.
“Diego, I insist, Selena,” he
teased her as he attempted once again to swing his legs over the side of
the bed. “Not a smart move, Diego,” he muttered sotto voce.
The stone room began to spin around him.
Selena immediately became alarmed
“Diego! Where do you think that you are going? You are still quite
weak--” She helped him reposition his legs on the bed and spread a
blanket over him.
“Home ... uhhhhh.” Diego’s
head fell back against the pillows and he closed his eyes. “Lo siento
mucho,” he moaned. “Perhaps I should remain here for a little while
longer. Dios mi! My head aches so.”
When he reopened his eyes, Selena
was bending over him, concern coloring her normally light eyes a smoky
gray. “You must drink some of this Creole pain killer. It will only
relax your muscles and not make you so sleepy that you will be unable to
“Bueno.“ Diego opened his mouth
to accept the cool liquid and closely scrutinized her features. Long
neck ... full lips... lush eyelashes.. lovely alabaster skin,
which he knew from experience was feather soft. His eyes strayed to
her chest. Diego was pleased that he could see the heaving of her
breasts with each breath she took. How could he ever have considered
Selena to be plain and unattractive? He was entranced by her gentle
manner and especially Selena’s courage. This was a real woman who had
intelligence. He could cherish her for eternity.
Selena caught him staring at her in
open admiration. “Diego?” she said softly. “Do you need
anything?” She locked her eyes with his and realized Diego really
wanted her to stay with him.
“Si,” he replied, “you.”
With great care he pulled her chin down to press his lips against hers.
Diego’s kiss was like liquid fire burning away all her resistance in
seconds. His large masculine hands enveloped her entire face and Selena
felt incredibly safe beneath their touch.
“I-I must go, Diego,” Selena
stuttered her response, betraying the unnerving effect he had on her.
“I have to prepare for Commandante Glorioso’s visit. It is only a
matter of time before he comes to search. He is confident that he will
find you somewhere nearby.”
He grimaced. “Si, that por...”.
Diego hesitated as Selena arched her eyebrows. “Forgive me Selena,
I was going to use some rather ungentlemanly language regarding the
“Señor! You insult the entire
Grandee class by even intimating that he is a gentleman!” Selena
scoffed. “If you are still hungry I can arrange this lap tray across
“I would not dream of wasting
your delicious cuisine, señorita,” he chuckled at her humor. “Your
wit is as sharp as I have heard! Seriously, tread lightly with the
Commandante. He may be very
charming but he is no fool. Promise
me that you will be careful,” his elegant hazel eyes were full of
worry as he began to yawn.
“Querido, try to eat
something and then rest easy. I can handle Glorioso!” Selena reassured
Don Alejandro and Bernardo rode
like madmen towards the Señorita de Rojas’s hacienda. The
elder de la Vega prayed the entire journey. Please let my son be
safe, dear God. If he has been injured, I can only hope that she or one
of her vaqueros discovered El Zorro and are now hiding him.
At the de Rojas hacienda,
Mam’selle Amontildar Perrileaux chanted some ancient French hymns as
she sat in the patio. The Creole octaroon was writing some ideas
for the day’s menu when she heard the approach of riders. Amontildar
crossed herself with her rosary beads, for she sincerely hoped that the
“guests” were not the commandante and his soldiers. The dueña
inhaled deeply and proceeded to greet the visitors, whoever they were.
To her pleasant surprise, she saw Don Alejandro and Bernardo, Diego's mozo,
tying their horse’ reins to the hacienda’s railing.
"Bon matin, gentlemen.
It is good to see you again, Don Alejandro de la Vega. Amontildar nodded
briefly to Bernardo and smiled at him. “You please come into the sala,
oui? I will tell Señorita de Rojas that you are here."
Selena’s maidservant rushed
upstairs to her mistress’s bedroom. She knocked on the door and Selena
opened the door with a questioning look. “I heard riders approaching
the hacienda. Who is here, Amontildar?" the señorita inquired
"Bénisse le Bon Dieu, Señorita!
It is Don Alejandro de la Vega and Bernardo, Don Diego's manservant.
Shall I serve dem coffee au lait in the sala?"
Señorita de Rojas was greatly
relieved at this news. "Of course, please do so. Tell Don Alejandro
that I shall be downstairs shortly."
By the virgin! I forgot to ask
Diego whether or not his father was aware that he was El Zorro. This
should prove to be an interesting conversation. I can only hope that
Commandante Glorioso does not come “calling” on me while Don
Alejandro is here. But she again heard the unmistakable sounds of horses out in the
courtyard. Selena parted the rose and white laced silk drapes covering
her bedroom windows to investigate. She jumped back from shock. OH
NO! NOT NOW! Glorioso and his lancers! After she pulled on the chain
that would summon a pair of the housemaids, Selena frantically wriggled
into one of her more elegant “receiving frocks.“ When the Indian
maids arrived, she instructed one of the girls to finish helping her
dress and the other servant to run downstairs and inform Capitán
Glorioso that he was to join Don Alejandro and Bernardo in the sala.
In the sala, Don Alejandro
had also heard riders coming into the de Rojas’s courtyard.
“Bernardo,” he walked over to Diego’s mozo, “ who is
Bernardo saluted and drew a line
across his chest. “Commandante Glorioso!”
“BY ALL THE SAINTS!” Don Alejandro slapped his forehead. He turned around as he heard
Señorita Selena Teresa de Rojas
glided down the stairs into the sala wearing a navy blue raw silk
dress with a modest neckline as befitting a lady still observing a
period of mourning for her recently deceased father. “Don Alejandro,
how nice of you to visit me--” she started to greet him.
Señorita de Rojas, time grows
short. I regret my bluntness.” the elder de la Vega paused, “Señorita,
quickly, before that porco comes inside, is my son..?”
Holding her fan to her lips, she
wordlessly communicated to Don Alejandro that they would discuss
personal matters -- later. His eyes grew wide with indignation until
Selena pointed to the patio. She whispered to him from behind her fan.
“I have to welcome him into my house you understand?”
Don Alejandro bowed, “of course.
I apologize for my rudeness. Blast that man!” he could not help but
adding. Diego is here, is he not?” he asked in low tones.
“I perfectly agree, Señor
believe me! And si, Diego is safely hidden.”
Don Alejandro gave her a grateful
look. “Gracias, señorita, gracias.”
Before the Indian girl could
introduce him, the capitán stalked into the de Rojas sala. “Señorita,
your servant,” he saluted stiffly and impatiently waited for his
reluctant hostess to acknowledge his presence. Glorioso stared
directly at Selena, not noticing Diego’s father and Bernardo standing
in the far corner of the sala.
END OF CHAPTER 17