SELENA DE ROJAS
de la Vega has plans for Diego ....
“Diego,” said his father to him over breakfast,
“have you heard the latest news regarding that despicable Capitán
“No, what has the dastardly gentleman done now?”
Diego asked without looking up from his book of romantic poetry, a
ruse which the young hidalgo hated to use in his efforts to
maintain the fiction that he was a studious wastrel, for at heart Diego
was a man who relished action as many men his age did.
Alejandro sighed in exasperation. “Diego, could you at
least feign a passing interest regarding the events in your community?”
But to his father’s surprise, Diego was scowling as he casually flipped
through the poetry book.
to his father’s stare, Diego worriedly thought, what has the sadistic
fool done now?
“Ah, then you do not approve of that dishonorable
man‘s enslavement of poor and uneducated women?”
Alejandro responded, searching his son’s face for the reason
behind Diego’s strong and out of character reaction to the mere mention
of Capitán Glorioso’s name.
“Sí, father I do not approve.”
“One would think otherwise, Diego.” Alejandro noted quietly.
“Why do you say that father?” Diego said as he
finally met his father’s gaze.
Alejandro walked up to his son. “Diego, such a fierce
look came over you when I asked your opinion of
the commandante’s behavior. Exactly what is troubling you? Surely
you can confide in me.“ The elder don stood there with his hands behind
his back clearly expecting a response to his question.
Diego closed the book he had been toying with and
frowned again before answering. “Bernardo and I saw ... we saw young Don
Stefano Alvarez ... with one of the ladies of La Casa de Hospitalidad
“Did you speak of this incident with either Don
Stefano or his uncle, Don Alfredo?”
lowered his gaze but his forehead remained lined from concern.
“I thought that I would inform you first regarding this sensitive
matter and perhaps you could
ride over later today to see Don Alfredo and discuss Don Stefano’s
behavior with Don Alfredo.”
“Diego, I am glad that you broached this subject.
I had already planned to see Don Alfredo anyway on another matter.
Of course, I shall discuss his nephew’s
conduct with him.”
“Gracias. Oh, father?” Diego asked.
Diego?” Alejandro asked irritably.
is the ‘latest news’ you were about to tell me?”
Don Alejandro’s face contorted in anger. “Crescencia
went shopping in the pueblo
earlier today. Apparently, Capitán Glorioso released Señora Suarez from
the cuartel without food or water on the road leading to the San Gabriel
Mission. The people believe that she perished somewhere on the Camino
Real. Some of the péons and shopkeepers formed a search party but have
found nothing. Glorioso is responsible for her death, Diego. He could have
slit her throat and that would have been far more merciful than to throw
her out on the Camino Real as if she were a piece of unwanted goods!
was Diego’s cryptic response.
Alejandro‘s temper finally exploded. “’Indeed’?
That is all you have to say regarding this despicable waste of life?
Diego, really!” His father ran from Diego’s bedroom and slammed the
door behind him.
As soon as Alejandro left, Diego hurled his glass of jerez
to the floor. Dios, mi ...
Don Martino de Rojas returned to his hacienda in
relatively high spirits. He
had just received some good news from his old friend, Don Alejandro de la
Selena maintained that both of her recent suitors were
“addled” and did nothing but amuse themselves by horseracing with the
other wealthy young hidalgos and were always displaying their sartorial
splendor by attending innumerable parties. Don Martino glanced at the oil portrait of his late wife. I
dread this conversation, but I suppose I can not blame Selena for telling
those two caballeros that Hell would freeze over first before she would
marry them! Well, it
was time to break the news to her.
“Selena! Please come into the library we have
something very important to discuss.” Her
father said as he met her at the foot of the sala’s staircase.
“Sí, papa,“ she replied uneasily, knowing perfectly
well that another engagement was forthcoming.
Don Martino paced the flagstone floor in his library.
“Selena, I have made one final marriage contract for you and you
have no choice in this matter, for if you refuse this suitor you will be
sent to a nunnery in Madrid.” He stopped his stride long enough to gauge
A convent! Selena
thought dejectedly to herself. A dull, spiritual death or humiliation at
the hands of a husband who was marrying her only for the more than
generous dowry that she was certain her father had negotiated out of
“Sí, father?” she asked in a choked voice.
“Your husband to be is ...Diego de la Vega.”
“Sí?” Selena almost fainted from joy. Father
must not suspect I have loved
him so for the past several years, but I do not really know him.
She struggled to keep her face neutral as her father continued his
standard betrothal speech.
“Diego is handsome, nice and very wealthy, Selena,”
Don Martino said gently, trying to ease the fact he was not going to give
his daughter any room to maneuver herself into scuttling this betrothal,
“and he .. “
“.... he has all of his original teeth, ten fingers,
ten toes and hair also.” Selena retorted.
Martino grabbed his daughter and shook her as hard as he could. “You
will obey me in this matter, comprende?”
When her head finally cleared, Selena whispered her
“Excellente. Although Don Diego has never met you, I
am certain that as the years pass and you give him many male children, you
and he will come to develop affection for each other. Now, go and select
something pretty to wear, perhaps the rose silk dress.
We shall have the engagement lunch tomorrow afternoon.”
Selena cried herself to sleep. Dios, mi! Diego de la
Vega! She had loved Diego the first time that she had seen him at King
Ferdinand VII’s court in Madrid three years ago. Even at eighteen years
of age Diego possessed a certain savoir faire that the other sons and
nephews of the Grandees and Hidalgos lacked. She learned
from her fellow ladies in waiting at court that Diego was a true gentleman
and did not take himself too seriously. She moaned softly. Often she
dreamed of what a gentle yet strong lover he would make. But there
was a fly in the ointment. Señorita de Rojas also had learned from her circle of
friends that Diego could not abide arranged marriages, and she was just as
determined not to enter a loveless marriage as Diego was. How ironic, I
am to marry the man of my dreams and he does not have any amorous feelings
for me. To Selena, her future looked to be very grim indeed.
Diego rose earlier than usual the next morning and was
dressed before ten o’clock. He
needed time to think because today was the day that his father would
betroth him to Señorita de Rojas. To
a female almost three years older. Sweet Virgin, at least let her be
charming and somewhat attractive. Don Martino de Rojas has a reputation as
a tough marriage negotiator. I
suppose I could accept her ... later, much later. But how I will
juggle my marital obligations with my duty as Zorro?
Diego looked at his mozo and shrugged in resignation.
smiled as he noticed Diego nervously pacing back and forth in his bedroom
and made his sign in the air for a lovely lady, meaning Diego’s yet to
be announced fiancée, Selena de Rojas.
Diego laughed, "my opinion of her physical attributes remains to be
mozo grinned broadly. I am
happy to see you in such pleasant humor.
my friend. .. . I think!” Diego bowed his head, deep in thought.
“Bernardo, it was Señorita de Rojas who sent men with a wagon to pick
up Maria. How she knew of
Maria's release so precisely is quite a mystery."
Don Diego rubbed the back of his head. "It seems that El Zorro
has a new friend and ally against the commandante.
We also know that Maria Suarez had children.
Have you had any results from your discreet inquiries at the church
in Los Ángeles?"
Sí, my master. One of the Indian servants in the
local church heard the Friars discussing "a rich Spanish lady” who
gave a large donation of pesos to Father Felipe for the care of the Suarez
"Ah, most interesting. You have done well,
Bernardo. This morning I get to meet Señorita de Rojas in the flesh. Did
you not tell me earlier that the lady in question usually travels heavily
Bernardo shook his head. I do not remember telling
you any such thing my master! Remember a gentleman never listens to gossip,
he added, furiously twirling his hands in the air.
Don Diego chuckled aloud.
"We shall see what today brings.
If the local gossip is correct then my friend, I am in serious
trouble because my father is most insistent regarding this marriage due to
my refusal to accept Magdalena,"
His mozo looked concerned.
You still have some feelings regarding her?
It shall take some time or a most extraordinary woman for me to
completely forget her, if I ever can."
Mentally shaking himself, Diego checked his pocket watch.
"Eleven fifteen. Don Martino and his daughter are due to arrive at
any time now.“ He motioned
for Bernardo to open the bedroom door and peek outside.
Sí, the de Rojas carriage just pulled up to the patio
Bernardo mimed to his master. No, I cannot see her face because
it is heavily veiled!
Bernardo hid a smile with both hands as he closed the
Don Diego's eyebrows rose in mock horror.
"No, but that will make no difference in any case,"
was Diego’s exasperated reply. “Dios! So she is heavily
His manservant touched his arm. A woman with such a
Diego nodded. “You are correct as usual. Come on, now
I believe am ready to meet to my future bride."
Have courage, my master. Can an arranged marriage really be that awful? Bernardo
“Yes, my friend. To me it would be a fate worse than
death,“ Diego replied with the same haunted look on his face Bernardo
saw the night he returned after Zorro saved Magdalena’s life on the
Camino Real. I suppose Don Martino ordered his daughter to disguise her
unsightly appearance before she emerged from their carriage, was the
caballero’s last thought before leaving his room.
END OF CHAPTER SEVEN