“Corporal Reyes, bring some cool water quickly!”
Garcia shouted. Then the sergeant noticed everyone in the plaza was
kneeling, and the only movement he saw their lips mouthing silent
prayers. What reverence they are showing my good friend Don Diego! he
thought, pleased beyond words. After he and Reyes helped untie Don Diego
from the whipping post, Garcia announced:
“Make way for Don Diego! Your pardon, señores and señoras!
Make way for him, please! Can you not see he needs a doctor? Make
way!” Garcia and Reyes offered to help him to walk over to Selena, but
the caballero flatly refused their kind gesture.
Diego raised his head and forced himself to walk erect
as possible despite the searing pain from the muscles in his back. When
he saw the depth of respect and love in Selena’s eyes, he felt the
flogging was worth the suffering he endured. But he had only taken a few
steps from the whipping post when péons, vendors and caballeros alike
were rising up from their kneeling positions on the ground and shouting
that he was a hero.
“Viva, Don Diego!” Señores Ballarias and
Guiterrez exclaimed. “Your sacrifice will never be forgotten! Viva
Don Diego! Viva, Don Diego, hero of the people!”
“Sí, sí!” many others in the crowd echoed. “He is a
Diego paused as Don Alfredo and Selena rushed to
Diego’s side. She lightly began rubbing his forehead with the wet
cloth given to her by Sergeant Garcia, but Diego stayed her hand.
“I must say something to the crowd, querida,
just be patient ..with me ...a little ... while...longer.” He even
managed to smile, albeit from between gritted teeth. “Por favor...”
Diego was unable to complete the sentence until Selena got him to drink
some much-needed water.
“Slowly, slowly, my brave caballero,” Selena
“Beloved, for a few moments, lend me your arm. I need
... your help...”
“Señor, your every wish is my command.” Diego’s
wife responded quietly. He winced from pain but forced himself to laugh.
She tossed the water cup aside as he carefully draped his left arm
around Selena’s shoulder, trying hard to balance himself so he would
not place most of his weight on her five foot six inch frame. Diego told
her to pivot him so he could face the crowd.
“My friends ...” he began again, silently beseeching
God for a few more moments of consciousness, “por favor ... go home.
You will only make...things worse by ...remaining here.”
“And why did not El Zorro come to rescue you, Don
Diego?” asked one péon.
“Sí, where is El Zorro? asked another man in the
crowd. “He should have been here to prevent your suffering!”
The crowd picked up the refrain and chanted “Where is
El Zorro? Where is El Zorro?” until Glorioso could tolerate the
commotion no longer.
“Disperse at once, do you hear, péons? Vamoose!” He
fidgeted with his scabbard and then hastily withdrew his saber from its
sheath. “Lancers clear the plaza at once!”
Sergeant Garcia echoed Don Diego’s plea. “Por favor,
listen to Don Diego! There has been enough blood shed this day,
citizens! Please, do not make the commandante any angrier than he is
Diego saw the Visconde’s belligerent response and
raised his free hand to get the crowd’s attention.
“Por favor.... Zorro can not be ... everywhere, my
friends. Go....home..” He ceased talking and whispered to Selena and
Don Alfredo to take him home.
The crowd watched in hushed reverence as Don Diego
walked unassisted to Don Alfredo’s wagon. Selena’s husband climbed
aboard the wagon under his own power and did not allow his wife to being
treating his wounds until they had left the pueblo. Several of Don
Alfredo’s vaqueros turned Diego over on his stomach to
temporarily prevent any more strain on his back. Selena finally broke
down and cried when Diego smiled at her and murmured her name.
“I am here, my beloved. Soon the pain will disappear I
promise!” she told him between outbursts of crying. Must compose
myself! Diego will worry even more if he hears or sees me in this self-
“Driver, please take us to the de la Vega hacienda,
pronto!” She ordered the
Don Alejandro clenched his fists when he heard the news
from one of Don Alfredo’s vaqueros that the Commandante had
horsewhipped Diego. He stood at the patio gate as the vaqueros removed
Diego from the wagon. When he saw the horrible condition of his son’s
back, he gasped audibly. He reached out to touch Diego‘s arm before
the vaqueros carried him upstairs.
“My son, my son ... “ Alejandro’s normally iron
strong self-control wavered momentarily.
Diego opened his eyes. “Father ... will be fine ...
where ...is ... Selena ... Selena ...” then he lost unconsciousness.
“Here,” Selena softly replied, where I always am,
Don Alejandro began to say, “I will come with you, my
But Amontildar gently pulled the elder don away as the
omnipresent Teodores gingerly bore much of Diego’s weight so he could
bring Diego upstairs
“Señor,“ Amontildar, whispered, “my mistress and
me, we take care of votre
“Come, Alejandro,” Alfredo held him, “let us have
“Sí .. you are correct ... Señorita Amontildar.”
Don Alejandro pulled at his banda. “Alfredo, come into the sala for
some brandy and tell me everything!”
While Don Alejandro was hearing about the day’s
events, Jorge Paco and Selena’s Indian manservant gingerly brought
Diego upstairs to their bedroom. Once Diego was settled in bed, Selena
sent for Amontildar to bring her some of the Creole’s homemade salves
she had not yet unpacked to clean his wounds and one with soothing aloe
to ease the harsh pain. Selena knew both from his grimaces and the
intense muscle spasms she noted rippling across his back that Diego was
Amontildar brought some ivory colored powder and mixed
the painkiller into a glass of some watered down wine. Teodores
supported Diego’s head while Amontildar got Selena’s husband to
drink as much as he could. Mam’selle Perrileaux then helped Selena
clean his lacerations after the medication finally put Diego to sleep.
Over an hour later, the two women finished bandaging his back and had
removed the remainder of his blood soaked clothes.
“Ma chère, you be leaving Monsieur Diego to me, you
hear? Go, go and get something to eat and drink! Me, I call for you to
return in ze little while, Amontildar promise!”
“You promise, mam’selle?” Selena whispered, not
wanting to awaken her husband.
“Mais, has Amontildar ever broken a promise she made
to you! By the voodoo god Baron Samedi, non! And me, I never do dat.”
Her Creole maid crossed herself three times forwards and backwards to
seal her words before the One Christian God and her West African
“Very well, mam’selle.”
Selena trudged wearily downstairs to speak with Don
Alejandro. She felt as if she were going to collapse herself. He was so
anxious to see if Diego was resting that she nearly collided with him at
the bottom of the staircase.
”My dear, you looked exhausted! How is Diego?” Don
Alejandro asked as he helped her into the hacienda.
“Amontildar used some wonderful healing cream on
Diego’s wounds and administered an ancient Creole painkiller. She is a
miracle worker, that one!” Selena said before sipping the Jerez
her father-in-law had given to her as they sat in the library.
“Si, Selena. Amontildar is an impressive woman, much
like her mistress. Drink some more, my dear, it will settle your nerves.
Don Alfredo explained to me what happened in the plaza today. I, for
one, could not be prouder of Diego, that he chose to save another
man’s life by being beaten like an animal... words are not sufficient
to express the profound respect and love I have for him!”
“Amen, father.” Her face contorted with rage.
“Alejandro, were I man, I would challenge the raton Glorioso to
a duel with sabers!”
Don Alejandro smiled. “Spoken like a true de la Vega!
He kissed her on the cheek. “Don Alfredo said that you were very brave
today, my dear.“
“Father?” Selena asked tiredly, “there is
something else that deeply concerns me.
“Si, my daughter, what is it?”
“You will tell Diego when he recovers how much...”
she began sobbing and Don Alejandro held her tightly as he patiently
waited for her to finish.
“Of course, my child,” he replied softly. “Now I do believe that you have a patient upstairs who requires some attention, eh? Come, I shall personally escort you to Diego’s bedside.”
After the de la Vega fiasco in the plaza earlier today,
Capitán Glorioso found that he could not travel to his place of
business at La Casa without an escort of lancers. As he made his
way to the Posada, several rotten tomatoes and
When Glorioso entered the Posada, several of the local
dons were drinking in La Casa and loudly discussing Don Diego’s
extraordinary act of courage in the plaza. The capitán turned to
listen. and the longer he listened to their chatter the angrier he
“Who or what can stop that tyrant now! By San Luis
Obispo! Flogging a caballero, and a de la Vega at that! Alejandro
will surely take action!”
Don Hector agreed. “I myself do not think much about péons,
but the commandante knew that the Tiñteros were in poor health! Why
create trouble for himself? Why not take Diego’s offer of the money
and be done with the péons? Fool!”
“Buenos tardes, gentlemen. Do you wish to register a
complaint?” Glorioso said behind them in a tight voice, as he flicked
his omnipresent whip against their feet.
The dons looked up and froze in mid argument.
“C-commandante! We, uh..uh..!”
“VAMOOSE!” he roared. “Before I lash all of your
miserable hides! NOW!” Glorioso waved his riding crop at the
frightened dons. “TERESA! WHERE IS MY CLEAN JACKET!” he bellowed.
“I WANT IT NOW!”
All three dons flew from the posada like so much chaff
in the wind.
Señora Soto took her time in retrieving a new uniform
for that porco, the Visconde. Teresa had overheard nothing but
insulting remarks about the commandante as soon as Garcia came into La
Casa after de Estrada finished with Don Diego’s punishment. The
bartender had waved at her to come and see the capitán make his way to La
Casa. As they stood in the doorway, the “tavern maid” and the
bartender gleefully watched Glorioso dodge refuse being thrown at him.
In her humble opinion, the capitán was garbage.
After she fetched Glorioso’s clean uniform jacket for
him, Teresa noticed Sergeant Garcia was sitting at a table in the rear
of the inn, with his back to the posada’s entrance. She delivered the
jacket to the sullen Visconde and then walked over to speak with Garcia.
She had never seen the usual jovial Sergeant Garcia so miserable.
“Buenos tardes, sergeant. Can I do something for
you?” she asked.
“No, gracias, Señora Soto. I-I wish to be left
alone.” Garcia shrugged his shoulders.
“As you wish, sergeant.” Teresa shrugged and walked
away, shaking her head. How strange. The Visconde’s second most
important enemy, Don Diego de La Vega, volunteers to be publicly beaten
like a dog and de Estrada is angry! Sergeant Garcia, always happy and
looking for a handout, is miserable sitting in a corner by himself. By
the three Marias, the world has gone muy loco!
Garcia was grateful that the bartender had suggested
that he sit at this particular table and Dons Hector’s and
Cornelio’s conversation he had just overheard drove him deeper into
misery. Since the commandante managed to publicly whip a son of a hidalgo,
then even the rich landed gentry were not safe from his bouts of blind
rage. The sergeant buried his head in his hands. My poor best friend
Diego! How kind it was of the young caballero to prevent that devil of a
commandante from maiming or even murdering the Tiñtero brothers. Tears
started to fall from his already reddened eyes. Diego’s back... Dios,
mi ... his back... As long he lived, Demetrio Lopez Garcia would
never forgive himself for not disobeying Glorioso’s order to tie Don
Diego to the whipping post. Coward. How could you let something that
terrible happen to him? Demetrio reproached himself bitterly. How
Outside La Casa de Hospitalidad the crowd was
growing larger and larger. The tailor Tomás Ballarias ran through the
marketplace, telling everyone that they needed to “do something about
the Commandante.” Someone began
“Mierda!!” Glorioso looked through the ruined
window and scowled. “So, the rabble disagrees with my interpretation
of justice, eh? He stalked back to his chair and retrieved the clean
jacket and his plumed hat.
Garcia had not noticed anything was wrong until he heard
the sound of breaking glass. Santa Maria! Has everyone in the pueblo
gone mad? The sergeant quickly obeyed the capitán's order. Garcia
drew his saber as Peldar and Hugo primed their escopetas. Glorioso
held a cocked pistola in his right hand and his saber in the
other. “Now, Sergeant! Head for the cuartel!”
Visconde de Estrada and his lancers stepped outside into
hell. Mestizos, Indians and many of the pueblo’s shopkeepers pushed
and shoved themselves up against him and his lancers. Debris and stones
rained down on them from all sides. Glorioso angrily responded to this
personal assault by indiscriminately slashing and swinging his saber all
around him. Cries of pain told him that he at least wounded some of the
troublemakers. Glorioso craned his neck to peer over the heads of the
townspeople whom he firmly believed were going to kill him. Spotting a
squadron of lancers emerging from the cuartel, he redoubled his blows.
“Peldar! Hugo! Fire into the crowd! That is a direct
order!” the Commandante yelled.
END OF CHAPTER THIRTY