SENORITA SELENA DE ROJAS PART II
DIEGO finally meets his betrothed....
Although Diego had told Bernardo he was prepared to meet
Selena, he balked at the last moment by sending his mozo with a
note to his father disclosing the reason for his tardiness. Diego had used
the pretense of changing his clothes to watch unseen from his bedroom
doorway as Don Martino introduced his daughter to his father. From his
vantage point Diego discerned the señorita was fairly tall, probably
taller than Magdalena. He noted the grace of her bearing, as she appeared
to glide rather than walk across the patio. If I could see her face
.... well, I shall in a minute or two. I suppose it is time for my
Bernardo ascended the stairs and gestured to him with
upturned hands. What is wrong? Your
father is quite upset with you.
“All right, I am coming, I am coming,” Diego reproached himself as he
failed to conceal his dismay at having to invent another reason, which his
father would label an excuse, not to enter into a prearranged marriage.
Don Alejandro had greeted Don Martino at the patio gate.
He had tried to talk Diego into welcoming his guests with him, as was
proper, but Bernardo reported to Don Alejandro that
his son insisted upon changing his chaqueta for the second
time that morning.
Don Martino was roughly Alejandro’s height but there
the resemblance ended. Señor
de Rojas was heavily muscled and his beard was a dull red.
His broad face bore the look of a man who was accustomed to getting
what he wanted regardless of the obstacle or cost.
Bernardo looked askance at his master. You are
wearing the same jacqueta. But
you said in your message ...
“Si, mother,” Diego replied as he rolled his
eyes. Together they descended the stairs leading into the patio. He could hear the pleasant sound of feminine laughter as they
entered the sala.
Señorita de Rojas was seated with her back to the
entrance when Don Diego made his appearance. From his stiff demeanor,
Alejandro saw Diego’s discomfort regarding his attendance at this
meeting. Don Martino saw the icy expression on Diego’s face and coughed
nervously. Then Selena saw
Don Alejandro’s angry glance directed at Diego and she sighed deeply.
“Ai yi yi! Alejandro gasped inwardly.
Privately he was livid with Diego’s conduct, but he somehow
recovered his composure. “Ah, Diego there you are. You of course,
remember Don Martino de Rojas,” his
father said affably.
“Certainly,” Diego archly replied, careful to avoid
glancing in the señorita’s direction.
Señor de Rojas returned young de la Vega’s respectful
bow. “And here is my ah...
daughter, Selena Teresa Alvar de Rojas y Perez.”
then did Diego dare to concentrate his attention on the señorita. As he
reached out to kiss her proffered right hand, he nearly gasped from
surprise. She had pushed back her mantilla and smiled up at
him. Señorita Selena
was quite lovely ... for a woman her age, he said to himself.
nodded her head fractionally. “Diego, how charming to see you again.
You have certainly grown up in more ways than one since your years
at the Spanish Court,” she replied gaily.
than release her hand, he found himself unable to move. Belatedly, he
realized that he was staring.
pardon, señorita!” Diego managed to say at last.
waved her fan to and fro across her chin.
“I am not ...what you expected, Diego, eh?”
he whispered as he continued grasping her fingers.
Her skin seemed to glow from some secret inner beauty. Selena’s
eyes were a smoky shade of gray and her hair was a dark shade of
brown/black, somewhere between deep chestnut and charcoal. Her lips
were full and begging to be kissed. he
thought suddenly. Diego’s eyes continued to focus on them.
are most definitely not what I expected! You are ...very lovely, Señorita
smiled languidly up at him. “For
a woman my age,” Selena replied mischievously.
what a fine thing to say!” Her father protested. To Don Martino’s
surprise, Diego laughed.
senorita. Please excuse my boorish behavior.” Don Diego bowed to her. Oh my ... she is very nice. Hmm. Very intriguing. He mused
chuckled also. “Of course,
Don Diego. No offense taken. You are most assuredly a gentleman.”
Alejandro’s manservant, Jorge Paco, announced that luncheon was served.
immediately offered his arm to Selena and escorted her to the luncheon
table. The meal proceeded smoothly and afterwards Don Alejandro asked Don
Martino to join him in the library for some jerez. Then both dons
suggested that the “young people take a stroll in the de la Vega
young caballero was extremely happy to oblige their wish but he resolved
to be honest with Señorita de Rojas first.
But as they headed for the patio, Selena turned to him.
I must be frank ...” the señorita began
hurried her out into a quiet spot in the garden.
“A-and, Senorita?” he
sputtered for he was of the same opinion. Diego kept thinking how
beautiful she was and how boorish his earlier behavior in the sala was.
She attempted to avert her head but Diego reached down and gently turned
Selena’s chin up toward him.
Selena remained silent, Diego said haltingly, “T-there is something you
should know about my feelings ...”
you realize that we are now engaged,” she whispered.
this is one thing that I do not joke about. I loathe arranged
marriages!” Diego emphatically replied. “I find myself compelled to be
completely honest with you.”
body slumped. “But you know
why my father is here! Diego, he is now literally begging Don Alejandro to
accept me as his new daughter-in-law.
Don Martino is telling your father that he is desperate to
marry me off. Never mind our feelings in this matter!” she
bitterly replied. “Don Diego, I am perfectly aware of your sentiments
regarding me. I know what a handicap a wife of my age would be to a
hidalgo of your exalted social standing.”
can I possibly say to counteract the truth?
he said to himself. Have I not said, as much to my father
regarding the impossibility of a marriage with a woman I do not love?
his attraction to her Diego found himself saying “Yes, I knew our
fathers had already concluded a marital contract. But as I have just
stated ,surely you realize that I do not ...”
me? But how could you? You do probably do not remember when I was
introduced to you in Madrid.” she said, still whispering. “How often
had I dreamed that I would be betrothed to someone whom I loved and who
would give his heart to me in return.”
Diego gallantly replied as he lightly brushed his lips once again
across the back of her right hand.
Diego. Our marriage would be a terrible mistake.”
uttered her words with such sadness and despair that he was moved to
comfort her further. He tenderly kissed her hands.
wedlock with me be so...unbearable?” he inquired, suddenly intrigued by
their newly discovered common ground.
“No! It is the circumstance by which we would be joined
together. I could not abide
an arranged marriage with a caballero that does not love me!”
searched her gray eyes for any sign of untruth. He found none.
“Señorita, I crave your pardon. I confess I have done you a
terrible disservice because I believed all of the gossip about---”
’old maid‘ of the Pueblo de Los Angeles, with the face of a
Medusa.,” she quietly added
... sí,” he reluctantly admitted.
will you do if your father commands you to marry me?” Selena
glanced over her shoulder. “I
honestly do not know how I will react. Like your father, mine only has my
best interests at heart.” He
craned his neck towards the garden entrance. “My father is obviously
striking a hard bargain since I do not see him angrily striding through
the garden,” he said in a lighter tone.
later, as if on cue, Don Alejandro appeared at the garden gate. “Diego?
Selena? Where are you?”
comes one of the bridges that we have to cross,” she muttered.
nodded. “In ways that neither of our fathers would expect, senorita.
Over here, father!“
Don Alejandro abruptly stopped talking and looked at the quite unexpected
sight of his son’s arms around Señorita de Rojas.
“Ah, you two look positively charming together!”
we definitely need to talk...now!”
His son urgently whispered to Don Alejandro.
bien, Diego, but afterwards in the library. Don Martino and the señorita
are also staying for dinner. But now,” Don Alejandro said
emphatically, “I believe that there is plenty of time for the two of you
to take a carriage ride into the country, eh? Señorita Amontildar will
serve as dueña.”
can I refuse my father’s request without appearing to be churlish?
decided to surrender to good common sense and asked Bernardo to gather the
carriage for them.
shook her head. “Did you notice the eager look in his eyes, Diego?”
We shall work something out, señorita. We have not yet lost the
Whatever do you mean Diego?” Selena inquired.
lightly squeezed her hand. “The battle to control our own destinies.”
reality of their de facto betrothal suddenly evaporated his joy
upon finally meeting the lovely Selena de Rojas. Belatedly, he remembered
an ancient Chinese curse that stated “may you live in interesting
times.” That Chinese
philosopher must have meant his words for him, for both he and Selena were
indeed caught in a most interesting situation.
OF CHAPTER EIGHT