The Promise

by

 

Gail Manfre

 

 

 

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

 

REVELATIONS

 

“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 serious, Bernardo.”

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 “Sí.”

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.

 

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

 

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 tones.

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 began shaking.

“You can call me Diego--” he gently prodded her.

“D-don Diego.”

“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 eat.”

“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 Capitán.”

“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 the bed.”

“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 him.

 

ZZZZZZZZZZZ

 

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 worriedly.

"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 it?”

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 Selena’s voice.

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

 

 

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