The Promise

by

 

Gail Manfre

 

 

 

CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR

 

ARRESTING DEVELOPMENTS

Problemos for Selena ...

November 11, 1821

 

 

Commandante Glorioso took even greater pains with his military uniform regarding his personal grooming today, because this was the most important day of his career. His decision to arrest Selena de la Vega was his opportunity to determine the fate of his most lethal enemy, El Zorro. His valet, Lancer Gomez, helped him pull thigh high cavalry boots, which Gomez had polished so much the Visconde could almost see his reflection in them. Glorioso paused to admire his appearance in the full-length mirror in his private quarters. The blue wool jacket with the gold sash, made weighty with the scores of medals commemorating both his military experience and social status as the Fifth Visconde of Estrada, was perfectly tailored to flatter his broad chest. As Gomez fitted the red dyed ostrich plumed bicorn on his head, he dreamed of what he would do with the combined confiscated wealth of both the de la Vegas’ and the de Rojas’ estates.

To spare his beloved wife the humiliation and scandal of a public trial for treason, Glorioso was certain Diego and Alejandro de la Vega would pay a considerable bribe to prevent such a spectacle from ever taking place. And if the de la Vega men refused what the Visconde considered to be a most generous offer, he would proceed with the full prosecution of Selena de la Vega as a traitor to the Spanish Crown. Then he would play his trump card and inform Diego he would prevent his wife’s exile from Alta California and possible execution only if Selena de la Vega would betray El Zorro to him. And if she refused, well, there would be one less arrogant female left to cross him in the pueblo. If that scenario came to pass, then Glorioso would still be able to seize Selena de Rojas’s dowry of 70,000 acres, more than 1,000 head of livestock and the splendid de Rojas hacienda. I have everything to gain and nothing to lose. And, my dear Selena, I will make whatever time you spend in my custody memorable for you in more ways than one.

When he finished dressing, he told Gomez to fetch Sergeant Garcia pronto. He had decided last night not to inform Garcia of the nature of this morning’s expedition outside the pueblo. I can not wait to see the surprised expressions on the de la Vegas’ faces, especially Don Diego’s! Being the law-abiding citizen that he is, he would not jeopardize his social status and family honor by trying to obstruct justice. He snickered to himself. And to finally possess Selena de la Vega! The sublime visions Glorioso had been imagining of her in his bed was the only thing that had made his sojourn in Los Angeles bearable. As for Diego de la Vega, your “noble sacrifice” of taking Jose

Tiñtero’s punishment in the plaza was anything but that...it only accentuated your other weakness ... your misguided concern for the lower classes of this pueblo. His wonderful daydream was rudely sidetracked by a knock on his office door, Ah, sí; that must be Garcia.

“Entrar, sergeant!”the capitán called out.

“Buenos dias ...” Garcia hesitated when he noticed Glorioso dressed in his special uniform. “Capitán ...I mean Your Excellency!” The sergeant then rigidly snapped to attention and nearly popped his own uniform’s buttons as he “sucked in” his enormous stomach.

“Gracias, sergeant. I am pleased you noticed my elegant attire, for today is indeed a special day. Today we are going to arrest a person who has aided and abetted the Fox for quite some time. And, in the process of incarcerating this person, we will be much closer to unmasking Zorro himself!”

Oh, no! The sergeant thought as he tried to appear enthusiastic. “Very good, Your Excellency! Who is the person we are going to arrest?”

The Visconde de Estrada chuckled, although to Garcia it appeared as if he were frowning. “The identity of the traitor shall be revealed to everyone shortly. For now, call out the entire garrison and bring along the cart normally used to transport prisoners immediamente!”

“At once, Your Excellency!” Garcia saluted and was about to leave when the Visconde’s sharp voice stopped him.

“Just one more thing, Garcia. The person being arrested today will probably offer us stiff resistance, so your lancers must be prepared to execute that person or persons presenting resistance. Am I making myself perfectly clear?” Glorioso slapped his bullwhip against his thigh to emphasize his remarks while scrutinizing the sergeant’s face for any sign of weakness or revulsion at obeying such an order.

“O-of course, Your Excellency!” Garcia nervously responded, while praying to the Virgin that such a thing would be necessary.

“Fine, dismissed. Be prepared to leave the Cuartel in fifteen minutes.”

In less than half that time, Glorioso saw that the lancers were ready. After mounting his horse, he turned to give the sergeant their destination.

“We ride for the de la Vega hacienda! Andelante!”

Garcia and Reyes exchanged puzzled looks. The de la Vega hacienda, but why? But neither lancer wanted to ask the Visconde and spoil his obviously good mood.

ZZZZZZZZZZZZ

 

“Selena, querida, you seem a little pale this morning.” Diego noted worriedly. “Surely Dr. Avila did not find anything wrong with you yesterday afternoon. or did he?” Her husband persisted when he noted she avoided his eyes. “Selena,” Diego crossed his arms over his chest as he towered over her as she sat in a chair at her dressing table.

“Oh, nothing much, just ...” Selena intentionally did not finish her thought.

He bent down and pulled her up to him. “Beloved, what is wrong, please tell me!” His hazel eyes searched her pale gray ones for whatever information she was hiding from him.

“Well,” Selena began, as she paused to look up at Diego, “we have been married for only three weeks, correct, my love?”

“Si, but what does that have to do...with anything...” Diego’s eyes widened considerably. “You can not be....”

“Perhaps I should inform Dr. Avila’s his medical opinions are faulty and that he ...” his wife nonchalantly replied as she began to giggle.

“QUERIDA!” You are pregnant, no?” Diego crowed.

“I am pregnant, YES!” Selena playfully retorted.

“Selena, my darling Selena, is with child!’ He playfully twirled her around their bedroom. “Come we must tell father we--.” Diego saw her head roll slightly to one side and scooped her up in his arms.

“Just a little dizzy... and hungry.” She managed to say. “Diego, tell Amontildar to prepare some of her ‘women’s special tea,’ she will know what I want. Please ... and some plain tortillas.”

“Of course. And while I am gone, you are to remain in bed, young lady!” Diego said as he sat down on their bed and kissed her firmly on the mouth. “Promise?” He tenderly caressed her forehead and then placed one of his hands over her stomach. “The both of you remain right here!’” he added.

Selena’s eyebrows skyrocketed. “Promise. I am ravenous and I do not think I can move until I have some food and drink some of that tea.”

But when Diego opened their door to leave, he saw Bernardo and Amontildar walking towards him. Both servants were carrying trays of food.

“Mam’selle, the Señora wishes a cup of --”

“Oui, ze especial thé [tea], Amontildar know what she needs. Her mistress is with child. Me, I notice de signs straight away. You lucky man, Monsieur Diego. Lucky man.”

After Bernardo and Amontildar left them alone to eat breakfast, Diego shook his head in amazement. Selena’s intellect and the dynamic force of her personality continued to intrigue him. One moment she was a charming conversationalist exchanging interesting theories regarding philosophy with him, and then she would make an apropos witty remark about their discussion and cause him to dissolve into uncontrollable laughter. Diego looked heavenward for thanks. Oh, si, Selena could keep me puzzling over her and women in general for the rest of my life. I am so delighted she is my wife.

"But how did Amontildar possibly know you were pregnant? Surely you did not inform her before you told me!" Diego said to his wife when they were alone again.

Selena saw the amused look on his face and could not help but giggle. "Of course not, beloved, but you must realize that Amontildar is a Creole voodoo priestess from New Orleans. Her family has had secret knowledge of potions and spells for hundreds of years. Oh and by the way, she is convinced that I am going to have a son. Now are you happy?" Señora de la Vega replied quietly.

Diego threw up his arms and sighed in defeat. "Never mind. Of course I am happy Selena! Does this prove how happy I really am?" He covered her tender mouth with his own until she was gasping for air.

"Señor de la Vega, please allow me to drink my tea, and I must put something in my stomach or I will never be able to leave the bedroom today. I have good old-fashioned morning sickness, and I must say I am not enjoying this stage of pregnancy one little bit at the moment!" She looked up at Diego and winked. "My husband, please let me eat now and I promise you that I shall be a different person once the tea has had some time to work its magic."

"Well, Señora de la Vega, let us have breakfast together and then we shall discuss what you can or cannot do for the rest of day." Diego poured her a cup of her servant’s special tea and then proceeded to feed her some tortillas with his own hands. "Delicioso?" He asked as he watched the tea take effect in settling her stomach and some of her natural color gradually return to her cheeks.

"Much better, mi caballero."

“Drink another cup mi corazon, and then it is back to bed for you and the little one,” Diego insisted.

Soon Selena dozed and Diego was determined to remain at her side to insure that his pregnant wife obtained she needed and deserved.

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

 

Don Alejandro de la Vega was sitting at a patio table composing a letter to his solicitor, Señora Montero, regarding his calculation of the profits due to the de la Vega estate from the latest sale of cow hides. So intent was his concentration in writing the letter that he failed to hear the loud knocks at the patio gate until Bernardo tapped him on the shoulder. He instructed Diego's mozo to see who their early morning visitors were.

Bernardo opened the patio gate slowly and when he saw the identity of the visitors he became very frightened. Before he could turn around and warn Don Alejandro, Glorioso marched in with a quartet of armed lancers, rudely shoving Bernardo aside.

Hearing the clatter of military boots, Don Alejandro leaped up from his chair as the Visconde strutted around the patio, his stern gaze continuously sweeping the area.

“Buenos dias, Don Alejandro,” said Glorioso coldly as he finally settled his attention on the elder de la Vega

Alejandro tried to stem his rising temper. “To what dubious honor do we owe this visit so early in the day Commandante? I must insist upon an answer.”

“You, Señor de la Vega, will address me as ‘Your Excellency.’ I am here to see Señora Selena de la Vega. Please inform her that my business with her is important and I that I am a very impatient man.”

Upstairs, Diego and Selena had just finished eating breakfast when Diego heard strange noises and then his father’s voice raised in anger. “I had better investigate querida. Wait here.”

Diego stepped out onto the balcony and gasped inwardly. The Visconde! Dios, mi, but I must be hospitable to him.

“Buenos dias, Visconde de Estrada. How may I help you?” Diego announced.

“You may help me, Señor de la Vega,” he replied sarcastically, “by sending Selena de la Vega downstairs. My business is with her, not you!”

“Your Excellency,” Diego said, setting his jaw firmly to control his temper, you may discuss whatever ‘business’ you have regarding my wife with me!” The caballero then bounded downstairs to confront the madman. I pray Selena’s rest is deep enough so that she will not hear this conversation....

Visconde de Estrada slapped his bullwhip on a patio table. “No amount of argument will prevent me from seeing ...”

“Forgive our manners, Your Excellency,” Selena said loudly as she descended the staircase to chill the heated conversation, “please, would you like some hot chocolate?“

Diego went instantly to help her negotiate the descent. Oh, Selena, dearest, you should have remained in our bedroom. Well, what’s done is done. But he noted with alarm that there was only the merest tint of color in her cheeks and her gray eyes were unnaturally bright.

Glorioso was a momentarily stunned by her graciousness, then he grimaced. So much the better my dear! Your despair will be that more poignant when I lock you up away from your precious husband! he acidly thought.

“Thank you, no. I am afraid that I have come here on official business, Señora. You see I am compelled by certain events to place you under arrest for aiding and abetting the known outlaw, El Zorro. Lancers, arrest her in the name of His Majesty King Ferdinand VII! Surround her to prevent her from escaping!”

Diego stepped between her and de Estrada’s lancers. “Please, Your Excellency, the Señora is ill! Leave at once, Your Excellency, and I shall forget this display of odious behavior!”

Selena pushed Diego aside to face de Estrada. “Si, I must confess I am not myself today, Your Excellency. Could we not discuss this matter rationally here in the patio or perhaps in the sala as civilized beings?“

The Visconde snapped his fingers and his lancers aimed their rifles solely at Diego. “If anyone resists her arrest, then I will shoot that person! Now, Senora,” he said as he reached for her wrists, “you will come with me!”

From his position in the sala, Teodores could not believe his eyes as he watched the hated Glorioso try to take his mistress from her husband. He

clenched his fists. The selvaje [savage] has returned and again he wants to hurt my mistress! Stifling tribal curses, he boldly stepped into the patio, slowly advancing towards Glorioso.

Corporal Peldar saw the giant Indian first and yelled “’Alto!’” But Teodores cared nothing about his personal safety. All he wanted to do was to get his massive hands around the Visconde’s neck! Peldar fired and the Indian fell to the stone floor.

Selena screamed and tried to run to the injured man. “Teodores!” Teodores, no!” but Diego held her tightly against his chest while she sobbed. “Murderer!” she yelled. “Murderer!”

 

 

END OF CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR

 

 

 

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