The Promise

by 

 

Gail Manfre

 

 

 

Chapter Two

 

ALEJANDRO’S VENTURE

NOON THE NEXT DAY

 

But, my master, you cannot fault yourself for the Capitán’s deeds in your absence, Bernardo mimed to Diego as they “conversed“ in his master‘s bedroom just after Diego arose later that morning. The mute continued, Please...

“All right, all right, Bernardo, I know that you are only trying to help.  I must find a way to rescue the local women from that den of iniquity that Glorioso has established.” Diego responded sadly as he pulled on his rust colored suede chaqueta.

Bernardo placed his hands on his friend’s arms. You  ... have you no faith in yourself ... or in Zorro?  His mozo assumed a mocking pose.  For shame!

Diego chuckled aloud, a most pleasant sound to Bernardo’s ears.  “What ever would the Fox do without you, eh, my friend?  Come, Bernardo, we have lots of work to do.” The tall, handsome caballero then vowed silently, Oh, my twisted enemy Glorioso, you shall live to rue the day that you took command of the Cuartel of the Pueblo of Los Angeles.

Both men’s heads turned as they heard a knock on his bedroom door. 

“Diego? I know that you are awake!” His father said loudly. “Open this door!”  

Diego threw up his arms in mock despair. “Si, father,“ he called out, while gesturing for his mozo to answer his father’s summons.

Before Bernardo could obey Diego’s command, Don Alejandro pushed his way inside.

“And buenos dias to you also,” his son said wryly.

“Diego, please! Sarcasm ill suits you.” Besides, we will have soon have company...” but his father stopped speaking when he saw the incredulous look on the younger man‘s face.  

Today? Whom have you invited to our hacienda for my inspection as a suitable bride this time?” Diego asked with a smile playing at the corners of his mouth.

“I shall ignore that insolent remark,” Don Alejandro replied.  “Señor Martino Alvar Perez y de Rojas is bringing his lovely daughter, Selena Teresa, with him next week for a short visit.”  Alejandro paused momentarily to permit that information to register with Diego.  

“But Father, is she not almost forty years old?”  Diego replied uneasily. “No one in Alta California seems to know much about the señorita, except for local gossipers, and  ...”

Alejandro waved aside Diego’s protest. “You have never even met the señorita! She will be a guest in our home and you will accord all the proper respect, my son.” The elder de la Vega sighed in exasperation.  “My son, por favor ...”

Diego knew that it was safer for him to humor his father. “After all, I am a de la Vega. I know how to treat guests  ... especially female ones.”

Excellente,” Alejandro breathed a sigh of relief.  Remember, one week from today. We shall discuss their visit over lunch, which will be served shortly. See you in the sala in twenty minutes!  His father added in an ominous voice.

As Don Alejandro descended the steps into the patio, he wondered to himself why Diego had barely shown any interest in the lovely -- and -- available -- señoritas here in Los Angeles since he had been home now for almost three months. Alejandro’s hopes for grandchildren in the near future had been greatly raised by his son’s more than obvious interest regarding Magdalena Maria Rodrigo Colon at the fiesta Don Alejandro had given upon her return to Los Ángeles from Mexico City.

And my plans were dashed just as quickly as one extinguishes a lamp before retiring. For that very same night Magdalena and her father were waylaid by banditos and Don Francisco told him had Zorro not intervened both he and Magdalena would have been killed.  Suffice it say when they returned to the de la Vega hacienda to have Don Francisco Colon’s wounds bandaged, Diego treated Magdalena as if she had suddenly contracted the plague and his son refused to hear anything further regarding marriage to that particular señorita.

 

 

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

 

 

Diego disgustedly paced in his room after hearing the news regarding the impending demise of his bachelorhood. “My father must be joking, Bernardo. Señorita de Rojas must be nearly thirty years old ...”

His mozo arched an eyebrow in disbelief and shot Diego a doubtful glance. A spinster, eh?  Bernardo signed, but his master continued his diatribe.

“Although I have never seen her, I have had heard tales about her.  Why it is said that she has the face of a cow with a figure to match!” Diego now was practically shouting.    

Bernardo shook his head. You have never met her?  And you do not know how old she really is?  His mozo frowned slightly.

“Never, but everyone in the Pueblo de Los Angeles says that she is ...old ... dull.... unattractive ...” Diego countered.  

Come my young master, she cannot be as bad as the stories say.  Judge not a book by its cover. His manservant animatedly finished brushing the air with his fingers.  

“I think, Bernardo, that this is one occasion where I shall welcome a duenna’s presence as a safeguard for my reputation!” Diego retorted petulantly as they both headed downstairs to the sala.  

 

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

 

 

“There you are Diego,“ his father sighed again, “late as usual. Jorge,” Don Alejandro said to his manservant, “after you have served the food and wine, please leave us alone.” The Indian servant performed his duties quickly and then disappeared into the hacienda.

Turning back to Diego, Don Alejandro said, “Now regarding Don Martino and his charming --and eligible daughter-- you WILL be on your best behavior, will you not my son?” Alejandro searched the young caballero’s face for any sign of rebellion, but Diego merely shrugged.

Alejandro sighed. “As you may have guessed, Don Martino has granted you permission to court Señorita Selena de Rojas.”  Before Diego could utter a biting remark, his father continued. “And for your information, she is barely twenty-five years old.”  

His son did not look up at him.  “Ah, you have had the pleasure of meeting the señorita in question?  What color are her eyes and hair? Is she fat? Skinny?  Clear skin with strong limbs ...” Diego continued in a mock inquisitive mode.  

“DIEGO, REALLY!“ Don Alejandro angrily raised his voice. “Enough, we are not discussing livestock!  No, I have not met her and ... ” he halted in mid sentence, “and you are no doubt wondering whether or not the stories regarding her appearance are accurate?” Alejandro added in a gentler tone.

Diego raised his head and his father realized that the young man’s eyes were full of remorse. “I apologize my father.  I do realize your sincere concerns for my future. Forgive me, por favor. But then, you would never propose a marriage between a homely maiden and me.”  Diego added mischievously.

Alejandro slapped his forehead. Ai yi yi! Sometimes my son, you are impossible to deal with,” his father retorted but he was touched by Diego’s heartfelt apology. “You will feel differently once you meet Señorita de Rojas.”

“Perhaps this time you are right, father. With your permission, I think I will retire to my room to read some poetry.”

“Diego?”  Don Alejandro said. “Tonight will you promise me one thing?”

“Certainly.” The younger de la Vega replied as he halted at the sala’s door and waited for his father to speak.  

“Por favor, do not practice your guitar music tonight.  I really need my rest.”  

Diego chuckled.  “Of course, father. Buenos tardes and buenos noches.”

May the Saints give me strength! Alejandro prayed silently as he lay in bed later that night. Especially the patron saint of the impossible, Saint Jude. Oh my beloved Bethia, I fear this marriage contract is sailing into deep and troubled waters!

 

 

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

 

 

After telling Bernardo he wished to be alone, Diego entered the secret room and retrieved his saber to give the weapon a much needed cleaning and to do some soul searching. I certainly was not on my best behavior with my father tonight. He chided himself.  Perhaps I am being somewhat juvenile, but how can I tell him what really happened regarding my decision against  an engagement to Magdalena without revealing I am El Zorro?  Dios! I do regret that I could not permit my father to conclude a marriage contract with Magdalena. She was so beautiful; from the moment I saw her I wanted her.

How often did I imagine Magdalena to be my wife?  he leaned back and sighed with pleasure. I still dream about her. By the Virgin, I should not have permitted Sergeant Garcia to interrupt our kiss.  My lips barely touched hers and I swear, I thought at that moment my body and soul would have burst into flame.  I can even remember her perfume.  Musk, and other exotic spices ... their hypnotic power nearly overwhelmed me as I helped her down from the carriage.  Diego smiled to himself as he poured a glass of jerez that Bernardo had earlier brought into the secret room.

I wanted to declare my love to her right there at the lake.  Magdalena and I discussed how much we liked to swim, and since we were no longer children, we now must be chaperoned. I could not take my gaze from her sparkling eyes, those beautiful lips reddened with desire.  I pulled aside Magdalena aside and leaned her against a tree. Ah, si, sweet Magdalena, I had but a brief taste of your nectar. But I soon discovered she was agent of the Eagle and sadder consorting with those corrupted men who desired power as an end in itself.  He brushed unexpected tears from his eyes. Put her memory to rest, man! The “romance” is and was over, finished.

Diego yawned, surprised he was sleepy since it was barely seven o’clock. Now is not the time for my father to learn the truth. Soon, but not now. The peons in Los Ángeles always say that when the time comes, El Zorro will know what to do and he will do what is right. I wish I had their confidence in me.  But an hour later Alejandro de la Vega’s son climbed into bed with a clear conscience and slept the sleep of the contented.

 

END OF CHAPTER TWO

 

 

 

Chapter Three
Chapter One
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