Book III: The Journey Home
Answers but More Questions
As the days passed, sightings of sea birds
became more numerous, and Diego, with the captain’s permission, had
taken to spending more time in the watch’s seat.
One morning, even though the sun was shining brightly enough to
bring tears to his eyes, Diego spotted a dark spot to the southeast that
indicated they were approaching land.
Pulling his hand down from in front of his face, Diego leaned
over and called his discovery down to the helmsman.
Soon he was climbing down through the ratlines.
“Thank you for your report, Señor de la Vega,” the
helmsman, Torizan said. “It
is about time we made landfall.”
Diego knew exactly what the sailor was talking
about. Even the water was
stale by now. But he
ignored that in his excitement. “Sandwich
Islands?” he asked.
“Sí, that is what it is,” Señor
“Bueno, and after that only a few more weeks until the
beautiful shores of home appear on the horizon,” declared Diego.
“If the winds and our luck hold out.”
Early that afternoon, the Isadore
anchored just beyond the reef of a peaceful harbor, the same one, Diego
noted, that the China Star put in to.
Soon natives paddled out to greet the ship and were clambering
aboard with their trade goods. Diego recognized Maleakeanu and his
daughter paddling close to the ship.
“Aloha, Maleakeanu,” Diego called
out. The native gazed
at him in bewilderment, not recognizing the young man.
Laughing, Diego pulled off his boots and climbed on the railing,
quickly executing a fairly smooth dive into the ocean near the
native’s canoe. Maleakeanu’s
daughter clapped her hands in recognition and her father shouted a
hearty, ‘Aloha’, reaching out to help the young caballero
on board the small craft.
As before, Diego gently kissed her hand.
Signing, the islander indicated the difference in ships.
Also signing, Diego explained that he was going home.
He then indicated his desire to barter for some fruit.
Maleakaleanu gathered a basket while his daughter paddled close
to the ship. Both men
clambered up the rope ladder and were soon standing on deck.
The capitán gazed at Diego and sighed.
“I suppose there is a story behind this escapade, too, Señor
de la Vega?”
“Sí, Capitán Valdez,” Diego
said with a grin. He
quickly bartered and paid for enough fruit to give to Carlos and George.
He tried to temper his euphoria, but it seemed a useless
endeavor. It was as though
the Sandwich Isles was a benchmark of his return.
After these islands there would only be another three or four
weeks and then he would be home. Home!!
With silent deliberation, Diego also realized
that these islands had been a benchmark on his outward journey as well.
Then they had represented a severing of hope, a building of the
quiet desperation that had finally climaxed in China.
Even though Diego still felt that making it home would not end
his trials, even though he felt the tingling of great danger ahead of
him, he could not shake the sense of near euphoria that gripped him now.
Danger or not, he would at least be home.
Biting into a particularly ripe fruit, Diego
felt the warm sticky juices run down his chin.
Throwing gentility to the winds, he finished the fruit, and then
wiped his chin with his sleeve. Turning,
he saw George doing the same thing.
“Excuse me, but I am going to take a moment to change and then
I plan on going ashore,” Diego told his companions.
Carlos just laughed.
“Very well, Diego, we will be waiting.”
Soon the trio was sitting in Maleakeanu’s
canoe, swiftly skimming toward the shore.
The heady smell of green growing things pulled at Diego and,
although it was a lush green smell and not the drier air of his
homeland, it was still heady to the homesick caballero.
As they walked along the row of beachfront establishments, Diego
looked with a new eye. He
was not a servant, he was not assistant supercargo, he was simply an
observer, someone passing through without worries or cares.
The trio ate in a small tavern and walked some more along the beach. The warmth of the sun-heated sand felt good and Diego took off his low cut boots to enjoy the moment even more. Even though it was grittier and of a darker, almost black color as opposed to the sands on the beaches near his home, it felt soothing and also tied him a little closer to his homecoming. That and the heady scent of flowers raised his sense of well being even higher.
“Don Diego!” a voice called out behind him,
jerking the young man from his languid torpor.
Diego turned toward the voice and saw someone he
had never expected to see, at least not in this place, “Roberto!”
“The saints be praised!
You survived the storm,” Roberto cried out as he caught up with
the small group. Carlos
and George both had questions in their eyes.
“Sí,” was all Diego could say.
“I prayed for your survival, but held so
little hope,” Roberto said. “But
Diego thought furiously, trying to come up with some kind of reasonable explanation. “It was Zorro,” he finally said.
“Zorro?” Roberto asked, excited.
“Sí, Zorro pulled me on board a boat,” Diego elaborated.
“Ai, Zorro would do that,” Roberto said with
a grin. “But did he say
how he came to be on the China Star?”
Diego remembered what Victoria had told him.
“He said the angels took him to help us,” Diego responded,
wishing he didn’t have to play on the young man’s faith and
“And what happened to him?” Roberto asked.
“After saving me, he simply vanished,” Diego
stated evenly, trying hard to give explanations without telling more out
and out lies.
“Vanished?” Roberto asked, his face falling
in sorrow. “You mean he
“No,” Diego said quickly.
“He simply vanished.” And,
Diego thought, that was true to a point.
During the storm there had been no Zorro.
There was only one lost and desperate Californiano trying
to stay alive, and it was only by the grace of God that he had
succeeded. Diego felt a bit
of remorse at deceiving Roberto this way, but there was nothing else he
could to about it. If he
could run into one of his shipmates here on an island in the middle of
the Pacific Ocean, there was a distinct possibility that they might meet
again in California. And
Zorro’s work was not done. Diego was positive of that.
During the conversation, Carlos had listened
with growing bewilderment. Finally,
his curiosity could stand no more.
“Who is Zorro?” he asked.
“He is the protector of the people and serves
them against unjust laws and administrados,” Roberto replied
promptly. “He fights
better than any soldier, is wily like his namesake and can disappear
Carlos looked a bit skeptical and puzzled.
“Is he a government official?” he asked.
“No, Señor. Government
officials curse him and call him an outlaw.
There is a reward for his capture or death. No one knows the face behind the mask.”
“Mask?” Carlos repeated.
He glanced at Diego, but his roommate was looking at Roberto and
his face gave him no clues.
“Sí, Señor,” responded Roberto.
“He wears clothes of blackest night, because that is when he
usually rides. Even his
horse is black. His mask
covers his features; his cape makes him look like a huge bird of prey.
No one knows who he is.”
Black cape, black outfit, Carlos
mused. Then he remembered
the night he had watched Diego practicing his fencing on the poop deck.
There was no cape, but he could envision that lithe form enshrouded in a
cape. He remembered the
wonder of his roommate’s graceful moves, the deadly glint of moonlight
on the cold steel blade. Carlos
remembered and suddenly realized just who this Zorro really was.
“A disguised person can do many things that,
say you or I could not do, Carlos.
Anonymity allows much,” Diego interjected, seeing the
thoughtful look on his friend’s face and wondering about it.
“But bandits and murderers wear masks,”
“Zorro is not a bandit or a murderer. He helps the people. He only shows himself when someone is in trouble,” Roberto replied, his voice strong with emotion. “As he did on the China Star.”
Carlos glanced at Diego, who simply nodded.
Grinning, Carlos threw up his hands and said, “I concede.
This Zorro is no common man.”
And he felt for a surety that such was so.
And this secret explained a little of the reason for his
roommate’s reticence to talk about certain things.
There had been gaps in his story of his journeys.
It also explained his feeling that sometimes Carlos was dealing
with two people instead of just one when he was around Diego.
Carlos thought back to the first days of their voyage across the
Pacific and the metamorphosis that had taken place within his friend.
He realized that he had only seen a small portion of the inner
turmoil within Diego de la Vega/Zorro.
While he still had many unanswered questions for Diego, some that
might never be answered, Carlos found himself looking at his friend with
new eyes. Gone was
any hint of suspicion. Now
he only wondered at the existence of this Zorro. How
did it come to be? Why?
How long? How did
Diego choose this disguise?
Diego pondered the delicate tightrope he had
just walked with Roberto, but also wondered how the other man had been
able to get this far east so quickly.
He had been sure that Senhor Batisto was going to follow
through on his request but that he would find his shipmates and send
them home so quickly was astonishing.
“Roberto, how did you come to be here?” he
“Oh, the same way you did, Don Diego.
Señora Meachem arranged for my trip back to California.
She did help you, didn’t she?”
Diego hid his astonishment behind a slight
smile. “I was helped by
the Portuguese Trade Commissioner, Roberto, but I am so glad that you
are going home, too.”
“Sí, and Immanuel is on the ship with
me, but he had to work loading cargo.
He will be excited to hear that you are alive, Don Diego.
We will have to take a coach from Monterey, but still, it is a
miracle to be going home now.” The
peon paused. “There
were times when I never thought to see my homeland again.”
“Yes, I felt the same way,” Diego said with
“Come, let us celebrate this joyous occasion with some wine,” Carlos interjected happily. Diego grinned and motioned for George to join them.
One evening east of the Sandwich Islands, Carlos and Diego were leaning against the rail, gazing at stars that seemed bright and close enough to touch.
“I have been wanting to ask you some questions
about this mysterious El Zorro, Diego.
Was he really on board the China Star?”
“Sí, or someone just like him,”
Diego answered, knowing that being too evasive with his roommate would
only result in more questions and possibly conjecture.
Carlos was very bright and Diego did not doubt that he could put
clues together and somehow come up with uncomfortably-close-to-the-truth
“But how could he do that, Diego?” Carlos pressed. “Could there have been Heavenly intervention?”
“There was Heavenly intervention, all
right,” Diego answered, his conviction sure.
“But exactly how extensive I cannot even venture a guess.”
“Where does this protector of the people
reside?” Carlos asked, heading into a different line of questioning. “When he is not helping Spanish nationals on board English
ships, that is.”
Diego laughed and rubbed his chin, which was just beginning to show the makings of a new beard. It had been Diego’s contention that if the revolutionaries were still operating, he would be quickly recognized when he returned home. And Diego did not wish for his kidnappers to have any kind of advantage over him. He wanted to be able to gather information before the bandits had any inkling of his arrival back in California. He returned to Carlos’ question. “He mainly operates near Los Angeles, although he has been seen in Monterey, Santa Barbara and north of San Diego.”
“You are also from Los Angeles, so you would know a great deal about Zorro.”
“Sí,” Diego admitted. “Although no one truly knows El Zorro.”
“No one but El Zorro himself,” Carlos
commented. He felt
Diego’s eyes on him, but didn’t respond.
“So no one knows just who this elusive bandit could be?”
“No, although there have been many guesses,”
was Diego’s response.
“I can imagine,” Carlos said with a laugh.
“Has anyone accused you?”
There was a pause.
“A couple of times,” Diego finally answered.
“I imagine that was rather flattering.”
Diego chuckled softly. “It was somewhat, but it was also discomforting. There is a price on El Zorro’s head. With capture there would be the absolute certainty of a public hanging for treason.”
“That is true,” admitted Carlos. “And just where did this bandit come from? How did he get his start?”
Laughing, Diego said, “Carlos, my friend, you are insatiably curious.”
“This Zorro is an interesting subject. I want to know more about him.”
Diego obliged, giving facts as a simple observer
might give. Every time
Diego gave a few facts, Carlos asked for more, until the tale was long
enough for the last bells of the night to sound.
Even in their cabin, Carlos asked questions until Diego threw up
his hands in exasperation. “Carlos!
My friend, I do not live with the bandit.
Please, no more questions. I
have told you all I know.”
“Sí, Diego. Gracias.” Carlos smiled in the dimness of their room, knowing the real truth of the statement. He felt that even as detached as Diego’s explanations were, the Filipino had learned a great deal about his friend and his admiration had grown tremendously in the several hours of their conversation.