The Promise

by

 

Gail Manfre

 

 

 

CHAPTER THIRTY

 

SACRIFICE’S CONSEQUENCES

 

 

“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 hero!”

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 whispered.

“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 already 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- pitying state!

Driver, please take us to the de la Vega hacienda, pronto!” She ordered the vaquero.

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

 

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, beside you.

Don Alejandro began to say, “I will come with you, my son.”

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 fils [your son.] We promise you, yes, indeed, we do dat for him.”

“Come, Alejandro,” Alfredo held him, “let us have some brandy..”

“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 in agony.

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 ancestral spirits.

“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.”

ZZZZZZZZZZZ

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 other equally foul produce were thrown at him. By the time he settled down at his table to eat lunch, his uniform was kaleidoscope of red, green and yellow garbage. He yelled for Teresa to get him a fresh uniform jacket.

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 became.

“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 could you?

 

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

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 tossing rocks at La Casa, and a large one shattered the window close to Capitán Glorioso’s table.

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. “Sergeant Garcia!” the Visconde yelled, “Bring Lancers Peldar and Hugo and follow me!”

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

 

 

 

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